The night had slowly given way to day. Moonmoth had been fighting to keep his eyes open for a good long while, but now exhaustion was claiming him, making him nod off and start awake again and again. With only two hands and two years to his name, staying up when the sun shone after a long night was a bit of a challenge; especially on a day such as this one.
He couldn't fall asleep. Not yet.
Behind him, his parents had made themselves comfortable, sitting so perfectly still they might have been part of the tree they were leaning against. Well, almost; Lynx had yawned once or twice (and had each time been rewarded by an elbow in the ribs from Frost, along with a chastising smile), but other than that, they were the picture of patience and relaxation.
Moonmoth's chin dropped to his chest once more. The heat of the sun through the leaves overhead was soothing; his eyes stayed closed for a good ten heartbeats this time.
That was when he felt it.
Sitting up straight, so quickly that he nearly toppled over backwards, Moonmoth widened his eyes and glued his gaze to the entrance of the wolf pups' den. There was a sensation of something brushing against his mind, like a far-off sending. It was followed by the clicking of claws against dirt and stones.
**Father! Mother!** His sending was almost a shout, howling excitement and victory to any who would hear. No one sent back to silence him, even though most of the tribe had to be in their bed-furs.
"Go ahead," he heard Frost say and glanced over his shoulder; both his parents were smiling.
Eagerly, Moonmoth got to his feet and approached the den. He stopped right outside it and squinted into the darkness. There was a small silhouette there, moving towards him.
The small shape gave a happy yip as she entered the sunlight. She looked up at Moonmoth with big eyes, her tongue lolling out of the corner of her mouth. The faint sensation of a sending brushing against his mind returned, revealing itself to be something more constant and a little different in nature.
Carefully, Moonmoth knelt down. Eye to eye with the wolf pup, he reached out with a hand and let himself be sniffed and prodded. Soon the pup had familiarized herself with his scent. She got up on her hind legs, steadied herself with one paw on each of his shoulders and licked his chin and cheeks.
Giggling in both delight and relief, Moonmoth batted the wolf pup away and got up. Yipping and yelping, the wolf pup jumped around him in circles, tongue still lolling out of her mouth.
"I told you!" Moonmoth said to Lynx and Frost as he approached them, presenting his bond-friend to them as officially has he could manage. "I said the last one was mine!"
"Yes, yes, cub," Lynx said and ruffled his hair. "Now that they've all got an elf to bother, I'm sure they'll be very happy." He paused to give the wolf pup a pat on the head too. "And even less quiet."
Frost remained where she was seated and eyed the wolf pup calmly. She gave a short nod of approval, tempered with a kind smile and spread her arms in an offering of a hug, which Moonmoth readily accepted.
Neither of his parents asked for the wolf pup's name. That would nag at Moonmoth later, fill his head with questions of 'why' and 'did they know?' For the moment, however, he was too busy feeling like a rabbit that had escaped a hawk, after having the hawk's shadow trailing him for days. He'd been ready for this since he was a hand and one year. Now, even though it was a faint connection, he had managed; he had been chosen.
Taking a deep breath, Moonmoth fought back tears of relief that suddenly burned at the corners of his eyes. He got down on his knees again and enveloped the wolf pup in a tight hug. Moments later his parents knelt down next to him, one on each side of him and the pup. When he felt his mother's hand on his back, he had to bite back a sob. The final remains of the tension that had been with him since the next-to-last pup had bonded bled out of him, leaving him feeling heavy and warm.
It felt like they sat there for an eternity. Even the wolf pup refrained from squirming, keeping perfectly still and panting rhythmically in Moonmoth's ear. His father ruffled his hair again and just like that, the moment slipped away. The relief stayed with him, but muted and pushed aside by the excitement of the bundle of fur and energy in his arms.
"Shall we go find your sister while you're still standing?" Frost asked and got up. "The others will most likely have gone to sleep, but I'm sure she couldn't help staying up."
Moonmoth gave an eager nod. Giving the wolf pup – his bond-friend – a playful shove, he got to his feet. He didn't hear the other wolf pups waking up and edging their way towards the den's entrance. He didn't notice the smiles his parents exchanged above his head. No, his mind was completely caught up in the spark at the back of his mind and the happy yips of the wolf pup walking beside him.
Again, all was right with the world.