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It was a quiet morning, the sun still rising above the horizon, but Invisible Shade was wide awake. The sleek, dark-colored wolf rose carefully from his place next to him mate, Boulder, and stalked silently out of the den.

The winter was absolutely beautiful in the mountains. The ground sparkled with frost, the light from the new sun reflecting off of it and refracting every which way. It made Invisible Shade's eyes dance. He would never get tired of the majesty of this place.

Parting his lips in a large yawn, his maw looking like it nearly split in half before coming together again, Shade mused on what to do with his morning. He likely had an hour or two before Boulder awoke, which gave him a bit of time to play with. So, he decided to just start walking.

Boulder and Shade had arrived to Hornfels Hollow a few moons prior, back when the world was full of color. Now it was in the midst of winter, and everything was starting to look different. Drab, but in a mystical way. Because he was still relatively new to the pack, he hadn't explored much of the pack lands. Instead, he remained close by Boulder's side as they were slowly enveloped by the family that made up the pack. It made his heart swell, but of course, he still wanted to see what was going on in the rest of the territory.

Setting off in a random direction, Invisible Shade wound his lithe body around the various coniferous trees that decorated the landscape of the hollow. Every once in a while he'd spot a wild hare, but for the most part things were silent. It gave a wolf a lot of time to think. Mostly, he ruminated on Boulder. Boulder had had a rather terrible life growing up as the runt of his litter, and his parents downright hated him for it. It wasn't fair, punishing someone for something they couldn't control (and really, hadn't he inherited it from his parents? So who were they to... nevermind). But it only brought the two pups, who were friends virtually since exiting the womb, closer together. And really, it was a blessing in disguise. Who knew what Boulder's parents would think about the two of them now, shacking up in a den together along with their adopted - real - family.

It made him happy to have Boulder around, but he was still a bit sad for his friend and mate. As much as Shade was in his own head, he knew Boulder was even moreso, which made his heart pang. There was nothing he could do but be there for Boulder as much as possible, and that would have to do. For now.

He knew what Boulder really wanted. Family. It was all he ever wanted, ever since being rejected in his own home. Really, he wanted puppies. A whole pack full of them. Luckily, they were now ensconced in a pack where everyone was treated as family, including pups - it takes a village, after all. But Shade knew that Boulder really wanted pups of his own. Pups with Shade.

Unfortunately, everyone knew that was impossible. But he and Boulder had started talking about the idea of surrogates - finding a female or two to bear their children. Preferably one within the pack, as it would be nice to have the biological mother present in the pups' lives. Pups of their own. It would make Boulder so extraordinarily happy, and that was all Shade ever really wanted. He just wanted Boulder's heart to feel as elated as his own.

While he was stuck in his own head, Invisible Shade eventually found himself at a small river. He stalked up to the bank gingerly, careful not to disturb anyone in the surrounding area, and peered over the edge. The water was bright and crystal clear - he could even see entire schools of salmon darting here and there, frantically attempting to preserve their own lives, constantly in fear of danger. It made Shade sad, really - the circle of life was really sort of depressing, but they did look good. And as a member of the pack, it was his duty to contribute to the welfare of the pack. So he decided to go fishing.

Carefully, he clambered over the river's edge and splashed his way into the water. The fish, startled, swam quickly away from the limbs of the newfound intruder in their little ecosystem. Shade waited a few moments, wanting the water to settle so that the fish would lower their guard, but his legs were quickly turning to ice. It was quite cold, something he... really didn't think about. And so he started to fish, watching the scores of salmon intently with his crystal eyes, throwing his head down in a blur and clamping his jaws down on one of the scaly creatures. Invisible Shade smiled and pulled his head from the river, tossing the squirmy, slimy fish up over the river bank, safely on land, where it would suffocate before he took it back to the main area of the pack.

He completed this task a few more times, successfully catching two more fish before he decided he really needed to get out of this freezing river. In fact, he was surprised the water was flowing at all, it was so cold. But lucky for him, as he was able to bring home a small bit of food for his family.

Shade hoisted himself back onto the land, flexing his strong front legs, and quickly collected the three fish by the tails. Slowly, he started his walk back home, noting that the sun had climbed much higher in the sky during the time he'd spent hunting, and it was likely there were others awake right now. Hopefully they were hungry for a small bit of breakfast. He figured he could go back later to collect more food, as prey was scarce during the winter months, but for now this was really all he could carry on his own. Shade smiled to himself, lips stretching over the now-carcasses of the salmon. It was really nice to be apart of something greater than himself - this large family of wonderful wolves who were so happy to have others around. It truly felt wonderful, and he was beyond grateful that Hornfels Hollow had taken in the raggedy two wolves that showed up one day, desperate for a place to call home. It was a blessing, and he decided then and there that he would work every day to ensure the pack knew of his appreciation.

This was just the start.