Leonardo had to restrain himself from immediately investigating all of the cabinets, boxes, doors, and panels of the kitchen. Rain had rested her cane against the table that connected to the white marble counter top. The wood was a dark brown that shined dully in the bright white light from the overhead lights. Rain slapped a panel next to the window over the sink and the coverings slanted to allow sunlight to stream through, brightening the kitchen even more.
The fluffy dog in Leonardo’s arms yapped away, paws scrabbling against the new tunic Rain had given him.
“Put her down, she’ll be fine,” Rain ordered absently, flipping her long hair back and tying it up. Leonardo thought he caught sight of some kind of mark on the back of her neck, but she turned before he could confirm what he saw.
Richard had trailed in after Leonardo, apparently leaving Robespierre’s company to the dogs. Except for one: the hound, Ava, had followed Richard in, yellow eyes fixed on him. Richard looked up at the electric lights, eyes narrowed.
“Where are the candles?” He asked Leonardo, who smiled excitedly.
“There are none! They are e-lec-tric,” he carefully pronounced the unfamiliar word. Richard frowned.
“What does that mean?”
Rain interrupted before Leonardo could explain about the tiny filaments that illuminated using the same energy as lightening.
“You’re close Leo, but actually most of lighting used these days are actually florescent, which uses chemicals instead.”
“Chemicals?” Richard said, the same time Leonardo mouthed the word, “Leo?” half amused, half dismayed at Rainbow’s impropriety.
“Yep. Became cheaper than threading copper wires. It’s also easier to make for the replicators.”
Richard sat down at the table, slumping into the chair. It was quite different from how he usually held himself, stiffly upright.
“I do not understand any of this. The chemicals, the transporter, where the food comes from.” He waved a hand around. Ava who was so tall, she could put her head in Richard’s lap even as his feet dangled a hand’s height from the ground, pushed her muzzle into his free hand. Leonardo had the feeling that admitting such weakness was not in this man’s nature. He glanced at Rain.
She scoffed. “You’ll adapt. It’s not so hard.”
Leonardo, dismayed, looked back to Richard. The man’s face had hardened into a stony expression of dislike.
“Indeed. It looks like I’ll have to,” Richard muttered, grey eyes fixed in such a way that Leonardo knew he was thinking of things other than Rain’s flippant statement. The dog in his arms whined and Leonardo finally released her to the ground, when she quickly padded away out of the room. Ava huffed, nosed Richard one more time, and followed the puppy out.
“Who are they?” Baby panted up at Ava. “The tall one, he smells strange, but nice.”
Ava huffed. “I don’t know. I can smell sad things from them both, but not from Rain.” She sat down in the living room, eyes fixed on the kitchen door.
She hadn’t expected Rain to come home so soon. If Ava hadn’t picked up the sound of her arrival, the pack would have been caught easily in the back yard. Lester and Bobby had just enough time to bury the remnants of the rabbit Lester caught before coming in to greet Rain as she expected.
Usually if Rain had another person over it was Kam, who smelled like rivers and sand and always looked at Ava like a caught rabbit. But these men were strangers, smelling of things that Ava associated with Rain, but not like her exactly.
She rested her head down on her paws, still staring at the door. Were they her mates? Ava didn’t think that Rain was the type to take a mate, she seemed like too much of a loner, but maybe she’d been wrong. Or were they part of Rain’s pack, like Lester, Bobby, Norma were to Ava? She smelled of them, but they weren’t her litter mates.
As Ava considered the mystery Pallas padded into the room, with the third and smallest male, who had a hand placed on her back. Ava huffed in surprise.
Pallas wasn’t known in the pack for being particularly friendly. She tended to be snappish, except with Baby, who was an exception from her rough tongue by virtue of being a puppy. Pallas had snapped at even Rain before, the result being Pallas being sent outside until Rain wasn’t mad anymore. Pallas definitely wouldn’t have let Rain rest her hand on her back, but she seemed perfectly at ease with this strange male stroking her dense curly fur. She woofed her greeting, raising her head. Pallas ignored her alpha, attention fixed on the male, who smiled at Ava.
He bent at his waist, teeth flashing for a moment before he held out a hand for Ava to smell.
“Hello Madame.” He rubbed Ava’s ears and the back of her neck. “Yes, you seem to run a very nice household here,” he spoke softly and kindly to her. “Nicer than your mistress, anyhow,” he huffed. He withdrew his hand and Ava whined, licking his hand. He made a rumbling sound at the back of his throat. “Yes, you are a good girl, hmmm?”
He was stopped when Pallas growled, leaning her weight on his leg, trying to move him from Ava.
“Mine, get your own human,” she snapped at Ava. Ava growled back, ears flipping back.
“He’s not your human.”
“Yes he is, I know it. He smells like mine.” Pallas drew a lip back.
The male interrupted them, placing a hand on Pallas and one on Ava. He cooed at them again, dropping to his knees.
“Shh. Enough of that.” He resumed petting them, hand soft and warm. Pallas reluctantly sat down next to Ava, still trying to get as close to the male as possible.
This one smelled of the same kind of sad things that the other two males did, Ava noted. The smell of salt and metal and bitter. She noticed for the first time however, he was also injured. He smelt of sickness, and blood. She raised her head up higher, sniffing at his mouth. She turned to Pallas.
“He’s sickly,” she woofed. Pallas rolled her eyes, before resting her head on his bent leg.
“I know that. I’ll protect him.”
Ava’s heart sank for her pack mate.
The pack had never been outside of the fenced area and house that made up Rain’s territory. Rain herself hardly stayed here for more than a couple days. It didn’t seem likely that her males would be staying either. Pallas couldn’t really think she would be able to stay with this small sickly male?
But before she could point this out to her, Rain came into the room.
“There you are, Robespierre.”
The male quickly stood, dusting himself off. Pallas got up as well, attention fixed on him, she tried to move closer to him, but the male moved away. Pallas whined, raising her paw to him.
“No,” the male snapped, and Pallas dropped back, sinking to the floor next to Ava. The hound put her nose to her muzzle.
Rain laughed. “I didn’t know you knew much about dogs.” She sat herself on the couch
The male shrugged and sat himself on one of the other chairs. He sat stiffly, every muscle tensed. Ava watched as he arranged himself on the furniture, legs neatly crossed and arms folded over his chest.
“Some things,” he muttered. Ava cocked her head, watching him with narrowed eyes.
These males, whoever they were, would need watching.
The moon had risen by the time Rain finally went to bed. Ava waited until she could hear slow even breathing before getting up and padding out of the room. She nosed her way into each of the bedrooms.
Closest to Rain was dark haired male, who smelled the most like blood and warmth, things Ava associated with being Alpha. The smell of protection, nourishment, the feeling of the pack when they were together. She watched as he stirred in his sleep, twisting and shifting. Often she could hear him mutter or yelp. When Ava rested her head on the end of the bed for a moment, his stirring ceased and his breath eased.
“Anne,” he sighed. Ava huffed and continued her rounds.
Across from Rain was the smallest male. Despite his brusque dismissal of Pallas earlier, Ava still found the poodle resting across the end of the bed. His sleep did not seem any easier than the male Alpha’s. The smell of sickness seemed thicker now and Ava moved on quickly.
The final male was the one she’d been most concerned about. He didn’t smell like anything Ava knew. There were scents she could identify, like wood, chemicals, paper, but beyond that the male smelled the same way the night sky did: big.
He wasn’t asleep when Ava crept into his room. His hands were busy and he was reading from one of Rain’s tablets.
Norma, who had the most talent at reading human text was perched next to him.
“He’s been reading and drawing now for hours. He keeps throwing the ball,” she poked it with her long nose, “and asking me to bring it back.” The Corgi yawned and rested her head on her paws. “It’s tedious really. Bobby would be better at this than me.”
“You know Bobby doesn’t speak, and he can’t read, so it’s up to you to keep an eye on this one and tell me what he reads. We need to find their connection to Rain,” Ava ordered. Norma rolled her eyes and huffed.