"Drake," Dr. John Lupin called from the front yard, excitement clear in his voice, "Drake! Come take a look."
The blonde nine year old leaped off his front porch and raced to his father's side. Behind him, he could hear his mother's sigh of disapproval as she joined them.
"Not now, Mandy," her husband interrupted her, his baby blue eyes lighting up, "come here, son! Meet the newest member of our family."
Drake watched as a rusty old pickup rattled into their driveway, a large box in the bed.
"That's all we need," Mandy scowled, "Archie."
The pickup stopped and out hopped Archibald Liggins, or Archie to his friends and co-workers. He was taller than John by a good two inches with salt and pepper hair that was cut military style. He wore a graphic t-shirt, jeans, and boots. A large scar ran down the side of his face. Drake knew better than to stare. If he did, Archie would launch into the same story about how he got it in the war. Having heard it enough times, Drake was able to act along as his father's partner gabbed on and on.
"Hey John! Mandy," the two shared a scowl, "Drake, my boy! How you been, kiddo?"
Smiling, Drake peered at the box. Archie followed his gaze and proceeded in dragging the box out of the be and laying it carefully on the ground. Small whimpers and tiny barks could be heard from the air holes in the top.
"Did we get a dog?," Drake asked.
"Not exactly," John explained, smirking, "you see, I've discovered a serum that will revolutionize the medical industry for years to come! Archie and I will be working on a very special project."
"That's right, kiddo," Archie spoke loudly, giving the box a small kick, "and this little fella right here is going to be our practice dummy."
"John," Mandy exclaimed, bringing her son close to her side, "you know how I feel about animal testing."
"That's why Archie and I renovated the barn out back," her husband soothed, "you won't be anywhere near them."
"Would you quit your whining for two seconds and be supportive of something I'm doing," Drake jumped as his father's voice rose, "honestly, Mandy, sometimes I wonder why I married you! All you ever do is whine and complain!"
Drake looked up to see his mother just as surprised as he was. Speechless, Mandy rushed back into the house. Ignoring her increasing sobs, John turned back to the box.
"Come here, Drake," his joy had returned, "take a look."
John placed a firm hand on his son's shoulder as Archie pulled the top of the box off with a crowbar. The whimpering inside began to increase.
A yelp sounded from the box. The moment Archie removed the lid, reached in and pulled out a squirming bundle of black fur. Drake watched as his father began to cradle the tiny creature.
"Isn't she beautiful,Drake?"
Leaning in closer, Drake soon found himself nose to nose with the animal; a tiny black wolf pup with the brightest blue eyes he had ever seen.
"Yeah," he smiled, reaching out to pet her, "she sure is. What's her name?"
Pulling a manila folder out of the front seat, "Let's see....says here the reserve named her Cleopatra."
John nodded with approval, "A good strong name. Cleopatra...the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Yes, the name certainly will suit this pup. She will be the lead of our experiments, eh Archie?"
The man nodded, "If she survives, that is."
"Oh, she'll survive," John gazed at the now calm pup, "I can feel it. This animal is going to revolutionize the world! And she won't be the only one, I guarantee it!"
Two years had passed since Cleopatra came to the Lupin residence. Drake enjoyed watching his father work, but wasn't as appreciative of the injections he gave the wolf daily. John and Archie began spending night after night in the barn out back. Mandy would often go into town with her friends for dinner or to see a movie. Sometimes, she wouldn't come home. Drake had learned to cook for himself, as well as keeping the house in order. After everything was done and his father (exhausted from days and nights of work) collapsed on the couch, he would sneak into the barn to talk with Cleopatra. The wolf, now a young juvenile, would lay beside the bars of her cage and listen to the boy as he read her stories out of newspapers and comic books. As the third year began to creep by, he started reading out of books like Planet of the Apes or Felidae. Cleopatra seemed to enjoy those books, for she sat up and peered over the boy's shoulder when he leaned back against the bars. Often times, she would stick her muzzle through and lay it on his shoulder. It was quite obvious the boy and the wolf shared a strong bond.
Around December of that same year, Mandy Lupin disappeared. Her body was found Christmas morning at the bottom of a ditch, inside of her car. She had been drinking. John barely noticed any difference, and Drake consoled in Cleopatra. The wolf would sit there and lick away his tears. Drake began finding odd jobs around town to help pay for the bills. For an eleven year old, it was hard but he soon found work preparing food for the wolves at the reserve where Cleopatra had come from. The days were short, but the pay was good.
Three more years passed and one day, John Lupin came running into the house in hysterics.
"Drake, my boy," he exclaimed, "I've done it!"
Fourteen year old Drake looked up from where he sat at the kitchen table, crouched over a stack of bills. He glared up at his father.
"I have done it, Drake," John said, grabbing his son's shoulders, "I have completed the serum! A cure for cancer! I've done it! One injection and that's it! This is brilliant!"
"And what about Cleopatra," his son asked, "what happens to her now that you're done?"
"Done," the man looked at his child in shock, "Oh no, Drake, I'm not done yet! Because not only have I found the best cure for bone cancer, but I've also created something remarkable! Come take a look for yourself!"
The boy followed his father out to the barn. A great roar caused him to freeze in the doorway. He glanced over at Cleopatra's cage, nearly feinting in fright. Inside the cage was the biggest wolf he had ever seen. Nearly the size of a full grown grizzly, the black creature paced the small confinements. Her glowing blue eyes filled with hatred. Catching sight of Drake's father, Cleopatra gave a howl of anger.
"Cleopatra," Drake cried out, rushing forward, "what did you do to her?!"
John grabbed his son's arm, "Don't get too close, Drake. She's vicious. More so now than ever."
"She was never vicious, dad," Drake explained, "I came in her almost every night to read to her. I'd lean right up against the cage and she was fine with it!"
John gazed at his son with a look of mixed horror and anger, "I told you to stay away from her when I'm not in the barn, didn't I?"
"Just as stubborn as your mother was," he snapped, "well, Drake, I am very happy to announce that I have gotten in touch with a colleague of mine in the city and he has agreed to fund the rest of my project. I'll be relocating to my new lab in the morning. Meaning, Cleopatra is leaving tomorrow."
"Try to understand, Drake," John continued, shoving his son towards the door, "she was never a pet. She's merely a tool for science. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you'll get over this whole mess."
Six years passed by in the blink of an eye. Drake Lupin was now twenty years old and living on his own.
He continued to work at the reserve, only now as a full time caretaker. He loved observing the wolves as they romped or napped beneath the shade of the trees. Often times, he would sit beside the black wolf habitat and watch them. Six years may have passed, but he had not forgotten Cleopatra. He and his father had stopped talking two years ago, so he wasn't sure how she was. From the news reports, however, Dr. Lupin had also found a cure for brain cancer. He, of course, tried it out on Cleopatra and found it to be a success. Not only that, but it appeared to make Cleopatra smarter than the average wolf. Smart enough to find her own way to communicate with his father. Of course, the professor didn't listen.
"Hey Drake," the blonde looked up from where he sat to find a ginger boy his age jogging towards him, "what's up bro?"
Drake smiled. He and Austin O' Neil had become good friends after years of working together. Austin was a hard worker and an even harder smoker. Though he may not have been as big a fan of wolves as Drake, there was no one who knew them better. Everything from diets to hunting patterns, Austin was a wolf genius.
He took a seat besides Drake, "How's Moona," he asked, gesturing towards a pregnant white wolf with a crescent shaped gray mark on her forehead, "any change in diet?"
"Eating everything we give her," the blonde nodded, "I suspect another three...four days tops. And with how much she's eating, it's going to be a big litter."
"How's Brawn taking it?"
Drake turned to look at the large gray wolf laying besides his mate, keeping a watchful eye on a grizzled gray and white male who lay a few yards away.
"As expected. I think we should relocate Fang during the pregnancy, though."
"Worried about the pups?"
He nodded, "Wasn't it you who told me that males will often try to kill off the next generation to gain control?"
"Those are lions, dumbass," Austin laughed, "wolves are the parents of the year. Every wolf pitches in. These pups are safe as can be."
Drake looked back at Fang, who had begun to snarl at Moona as she arose to her paws.
"I'm not too sure about that."
"Say, Drake," Austin hung his work shirt in his locker and pulled on a deep blue hoodie, "didn't you say your dad had a wolf?"
"Yeah," Drake nodded as he pulled on his own casual clothes, "her name's Cleopatra. Why?"
"I was thinking that maybe you could introduce me sometime."
Slamming his locker door shut, Drake walked away.
"We've been through this before, dude! My father and I are dead to each other."
"Who says we'd be going to see your father," Austin pressed, "he's probably so busy anyways, that we'd just be hanging out with Cleopatra the whole time. Come on, man. What's the harm? I know you want to see her again."
Drake didn't speak again until they arrived at his truck, "Fine. Get in. We're going to see Cleopatra. But if my dad shows up, expect me to walk out!"