Spring had arrived for three companions on a quest for the hand of Franklin. At the southernmost point of their travels they saw plants emerging from the cold ground, wildlife was more abundant and . . .

"Hey Fraser, can we stop for a sec? I gotta pee." Ray Kowalski begged.

"Very well,Ray. I'm sure Diefenbaker needs a break too. Since he hasn't had his fix of junk food in weeks, the lack of sugar in his system has left him in a weakened state."

Lupine eyes rolled in exasperation at Blackpelts teasing. Grinning he loped after Lightpelt. This human often used the excuse of marking trees or rocks as an excuse to escape Blackpelts vigilance regarding his eating of the sweets that Lightpelt would give him.
Ray grinned as he saw Fraser shake his head at the wolf's antics and headed to the trees several meters away.  Fraser knew very well what went on when Ray went to the trees. By unspoken agreement between him and Diefenbaker, for the wolf to help keep an eye on Ray in his novice adventures in the wilds of the Canadian, Fraser decided it was worth turning a blind eye to the occasional snack that Ray snuck to Dief.  Besides, it made Ray feel better to think he was one up on the Mountie in this.

As they reached the trees Ray pulled out a box of animal crackers.  Ray figured if Fraser ever caught him sneaking the crackers to Dief, he would say that he was merely trying to reinforce Fraser's edict that Dief should eat animals. Fraser never specified that the animals should be the flesh and blood variety.  Semantics at best but that would at least give the Mountie pause before giving him and Dief a hard time.  He bit off the head of a lion cracker and then offered the rest to Dief who gladly consumed the treat.

After finishing his business at a tree, Ray then picked up a handful of snow to clean his hands.  He then ate another cracker with the wolf looking on in expectation.

As Ray reached in the box and offered a bear cracker to Dief, he noticed the wolf sniffing the air and looking past Ray into the trees.  Ray turned and saw a small bundle of dark fur moving towards him.  

Ray's first thought was "Aawww, what a cute little guy" but then Fraser's training kicked in and Ray looked around.  Where there was a baby bear there was usually a mama bear nearby.  Ray did what he was told to do and backed, slowly away from the animal.  The bear cub let out a yelp, calling for his mother.  The hairs on the back of Ray's neck stood on end as he heard the answering call from the mother behind him.

"Oh shit, how'd I get between these two" Ray wondered in fear. He saw the big bear rear up on her hind legs to threaten the interloper who kept her from her cub.  Ray backed away from the path between the two bears and tried to call Fraser for help but his throat was dry and all he emitted was a loud croak.  The noise annoyed the big bear and she came down on all fours and ran towards Ray.  Out of the corner of his eye, Ray saw a gray blur launch itself at the bear.

Meanwhile Fraser had heard the sound of the cub's call to his mother and her response.  Grabbing the rifle, he quickly and quietly moved to where he thought Ray to be and saw the situation. Before he could squeeze off a shot to stop the bear from reaching Ray, he saw the same gray blur that Ray saw.


"Diefenbaker! No!" two voices cried in unison.

Fraser reached Ray's side as they watched the wolf lock his jaws onto the throat of the bear.  His strength was no match for the bear's maternal fury. Claws extended, she knocked him to the ground.  As she raised the massive paw to strike the wolf again, Fraser took aim and fired. As she dropped her paw the bullet missed her head and struck her shoulder.  Bellowing in rage, she charged toward her cub.  They disappeared into the trees.

"Diefenbaker!" cried the Mountie as he rushed to his fallen friend.

The wolf lay unmoving.

Fraser and Ray tried to staunch the bleeding wrought by the slashing claws but there was too much. 

Dief looked at Blackpelt. "It hurts."

Fraser saw the look and tears formed.

Dief looked at Lightpelt and with another lupine smile, "Cookie?"

Ray finally understood the conversations Fraser had with this special being and placed a cookie on the tongue of their friend, who weakly chewed and swallowed.

"It hurts." The wolf looked at them both, hoping for release. Fraser took the rifle, put it to his shoulder, aimed and stopped.  Tears blinded him and his hand trembled on the trigger.  Ray moved behind him, put one arm on his shoulder and placed his finger over Fraser's on the trigger.

"Love you, Dief."

Three gazes lock.
Two fingers squeeze.
One soul rests.



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