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Big Red was sleek-looking, his fur shining like hellblaze from the sun’s fiery gleam, as he popped out of his den. It was almost time. The sun was so close to Earth, as though the planet would be swallowed up by the light. The fox entered the thickest part of the woods just as the sunlight died. The anticipation of the hunt, the adventure that was waiting, exhilarated the seasoned chasseur as he stalked around the trees - searching for his first victim. Just a few paces more… He jumped, miraculously twisting in mid air to land in a pounce on top of his prey. There was a frightened squeak, a strangled scream. The fox pulled his every muscle to a stop before he could end the life of the small, gray fox he had just pinned. Little Gray’s eyes were huge with fright and Big Red’s with surprise. He did not want to harm this cute little thing. his hesitation gave Little Gray the opening needed to slip out from under him and bolt. Big Red started giving chase - startled by her sudden movements. The two raced around the autumn trees. Their paws crunching the dead leaves scattered across the cold dirt without a thought to being quiet. The need for silent steps was mute. They were no longer hunting, rather, being locked in The Chase. Everything was to be decided any moment now. If Big Red could catch Little Gray, then he was victorious - though she did not seem willing to give up. Not just yet. The red fox, a blazing ball of fur burning everything in his path as he anxiously tried to catch up to the gray blur flying ahead. Her paws seemingly never touched the ground Big Red noticed. She seemed an angel, truly flying. Being chased by a devil who was truly damned. Little Gray's altitude grew as if she found footing on the air and jumped. Big Red's pace quickened, showing his desperation to its fullest. She jumped across the ravine! Once more, the small fox caused the red demon to mercilessly yank his muscles to a screeching halt. Big Red growled under his breath, how was he going to catch her now? She had been running for her life, her speed greatly exceeding his own, giving her enough momentum to barely leap across the large gap in the cold ground. There was no way he could follow. Big Red was dejected. He gnashed his teeth, howling in rage when it suddenly struck him. why was he so intent on catching that little gray fox? He had never seen her before and had never taken interest in anyone else except his prey. He was becoming more frantic by the second; his heart pounding like the rabbits’ he hunted. Big Red began running along the ravine - trying to find a way to cross. As he ran, the dirt beneath his claws began turning soft from recent rains. Not watching where his paws touched down caused the fox to sleep and go crashing into a nearby tree. As he lay on the forest floor, dazed, a thought crept into his mind. She was pretty. Big Red went back to his den as the sun started to rise. He had not realized how late he stayed out pursuing the gray mystery. His strong muzzle grazed the sediment dejectedly; his elegant tail drooped in sadness. Little Gray intrigued him - why had she not fought back? The other animals he had captured in such a way grappled for their lives yet she chose to disappear like the fog. His white paws, pads toughened from years of use and wear, carried him into his den as he pondered the events of the night. Was Little Gray simply a dream; too perfect to exist in reality? Big Red stayed in this state of forlorn thought for a week. Seven days - that was how long it had been since he left his home. He had not eaten or drank - had barely even slept - the entrancing spirit haunted every nook of his skull. On the eighth day, the fox heard a noise from behind him. His head turned half-heartedly to see Little Gray standing at the den’s entrance - a fish in her mouth. Big Red sprang up, flying out of the hole, tackling the delicate fox in his excitement. she barked in surprise and even a little fear at his sudden behavior. Her offering of food fell out of her mouth, forgotten - utterly unimportant compared to the feelings flowing through their very makeup. Oh, how joyous Big Red was to be able to see her again; to know the beauty was not a mirage. His head dipped down and his soft, pink tongue flicked out, just for a second, and licked Little Gray’s cheek sweetly. She stopped struggling and looked up at her captor. He seemed pleased to have caught her; to be the victor of the hunt, once again. Little Gray’s fur stood on end. She looks even cuter now. In his enthusiasm, Big Red had forgotten how skittish the small girl was the last time they met and quickly hopped back with the realization - freeing her. The fox with the pelt of fire sat, leaving a few paces gap between himself and the lady in hopes that she would not bolt again. Big Red’s eyes never left her, though they sat in deafening silence in wait of a next move. The few leaves left on the ground were starting to turn a muddy colour and were more slippery than crunchy from the temperature’s steady decrease. After what felt like three moons had passed, Little Gray’s faded, ice blue eyes met his copper ones as she stood and began stepping closer to her fellow of the forest - stopping right in front of him. she hesitated, but, her thin muzzle lifted and exposed her blush-pink tongue, which daintily danced across the top of his head before darting back to hide behind her sharp, white teeth. Can foxes blush? After that day, their souls lost track of time. Whatever time it was, snow fell in great sheets. The landscape became heavily coated in the powder, to where it even covered half of their den’s door. Curious about this new substance, the fox lovers’ four, young kids were eager to explore. Their drive kept Mama Gray busy in efforts to keep them inside and warm. They were too innocent still to think on the world’s harshness. Papa Red gave a low, fatherly bark to warn his mate of the youngsters and their plight for escape into the cold world outside. Mama Gray sighed as she eased herself to her feet - starting to retrieve the troublemakers. She picked them up, one by one using their scruffs and brought them to the far side of the den - where they knew to stay. First, came a strong boy who looked just as his father did - the proud parents were sure he would grow to be a great king. Next was a beautiful boy, whose fur was a brilliant weaving of red and gray with eyes two different shades - emerald and gold. The third male pup was the largest of the group, already strongly built with black pelt and smart, chocolate eyes. The final little one Mama Gray scooped up tenderly in her jaw was the runt; her tiny body half the size of her siblings’. She was the spitting image of her mother, down to the dainty nose and knack for slipping out of even the toughest situations. Once the last of the babes were brought to the spot by the far wall, their mama lay down in between them and the rising dirt - her tail wrapping around their new bodies to keep them safe and warm just as all good mothers should. Papa Red stood up then, walking the few steps to stop in front of the five piled together. His whole world was able to fit in such a small corner. Bending his neck, the four kids’ papa gave each of his joys a soft lick. Goodnight, I love you. Papa Red’s face then titled towards Mama Gray’s, caringly licking her muzzle and nuzzling her shoulders - feeling the soft fluff his mate was decorated in meld with his own, coarser fur. And I love you, my pride.

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