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A werewolf looking at the full moon in the middle of a suburban neighborhood.

 

 

 

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“Party Saturday night! And I need my boys there!”

Shane looked up, faint alarm pinging through him at the words.

Saturday? That was-

He did his best not to freeze at his realization. He made a show of thinking, frowning as he turned to look at Jen. “This Saturday?” When she nodded, he shook his head and said, with genuine regret, “Sorry, Jen. I’ve already got plans.”

“With who?” Ryan leaned back from his computer, his headphones pulled down to his neck. “The only people you know in LA are from BuzzFeed,” he teased.

“That’s not true,” Shane said, mock-affronted. “I had a life here before getting hired. I was a grip for three different companies. I have the FaceBook friends to prove it.”

“Oh, well, FaceBook friends.”

Jen waited somewhat patiently for their joking to end, obviously used to it. “Ryan? Can you make it?”

“Yeah,” Ryan replied easily. “But I’ll have to duck out early.”

“You sure you won’t be available, Shane?”

Shane just shrugged and smiled apologetically again.

It wasn’t like he could reschedule his plans.

 

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Shane truly was a skeptic.

Or at least, a skeptic in the sense that he believed in normal things and not every conspiracy theory out there on the internet. Far too many ‘unexplained phenomenon’ turned out to be misunderstandings, hoaxes, or something that science just hadn’t figured out yet.

So it was especially galling that his entire life was something from a fable.

And with his luck, it was going to turn out to be one of those German fables, where everyone died in horribly bloody, messy ways at the end.

That Saturday, Shane woke up jittery and antsy, his every movement twitchy. He went through the day in something of a distracted daze, the familiar dread building with each hour that passed too fast and too slow. As the sun started to set, he lifted his bottle of beer in a salute towards the direction the moon would rise and said,“You’re a bitch, Madam Moon. I hope you know that.”

After gulping the beer down, he made his way down into the basement, unbuttoning his shirt as he went.

Finding an affordable house with a basement in the greater Los Angeles area had been a struggle and a half. His house was so far out that it was closer to farmland than it was to downtown LA. The area wasn't great, his mortgage was terrible, and his commute was miserable, but he just didn’t trust his ability to soundproof a room better than dirt would. And basements had fewer walls to reinforce.

He carefully folded his shirt and pants and placed them on the floor just inside the door. His glasses went on top of his clothes and he hoped he wouldn’t wake up to find them broken. He still wasn’t sure how that had happened last year.

Naked and squinting to try and see, Shane walked up to the line of metal bars that bisected the basement. He tugged at each one, then carefully tested the hinges on the door. The top one jiggled a little too loosely and he made a mental note. It would be fine for this month, but he would have to fix it before the next. At least the bolts holding the chain into the floor were still holding.

One thing Shane’s life had given him was the ability to put together a pretty darn good dungeon, if he did say so himself. If his career at BuzzFeed tanked, he could probably make a living installing BDSM equipment. No one could countersink fasteners into concrete quite like he could.

Shane carefully ignored the deep scratches in the floor as he stepped into the cage and closed and locked the door behind him. Laying on his side, he stretched his arm through the bars and placed the key on the floor.

One of these days, something would happen and he wouldn’t be able to reach the key in the morning and then he would be royally screwed. But that was a problem for future Shane.

For now, he just sat cross-legged in front of the bars, too feverish to care about the cold concrete under his ass. Sometimes he waited for a few minutes, sometimes for hours. But the change always happened. Every. Single. Month.

Sighing to himself, Shane rested his forehead against the bars and waited for the inevitable.

Yeah, ghosts and demons and the Bermuda Triangle were all bullshit.

But he had empirical evidence that werewolves were real.

 

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Every month came with a brand new excuse on why he couldn’t make it to work on the day of full moon. And, if he could swing it, the day after the full moon as well. It was a song and dance Shane had been doing since he was thirteen and his aunt had died.

One month he would call in sick. The next, he would go into work in the morning, then feign a stomach bug and go home early. The next, he’d schedule a couple days off for a ‘vacation.’ He never fell into a pattern and he never, ever mentioned the moon.

It wasn’t like he thought someone would notice he was absent from work once a month and immediately jump to the werewolf conclusion, but the worry was still there. All it would take was someone like Ryan, who was always willing to entertain the stupidest of theories, to notice a pattern.

All in all, life was manageable. He had to go out of his way to avoid stressful situations, but luckily for him, he was a genuinely laidback dude and had no real interest in things that would get his adrenaline going.

No matter how much a primal part of him longed to give and surrender to his instincts.

The fact that he occasionally wanted to chase squirrels was just- it was stupid. Honestly, it was the worst part of the curse. ‘

Shane had made it into his thirties with only his family being aware of his condition and, despite the fact that he was something of an internet personality now, had every expectation that no one else would ever know.

So it was business as usual when, twenty-eight days later, he groaned at lunch time and put his hand to his stomach. “Think last night’s shrimp is trying to make a return,” he said with creditable unsteadiness.

Ryan looked up from his burrito, his eyebrows scrunched together in concern. “Are you going to throw up?”

Shane shook his head and hunched forward, pushing his own food away. “No. I think. Pretty sure.”

“Please don’t throw up on me, man. I like this shirt.”

“It would help if you’d stop saying ‘throw up’.”

Ryan grinned. “Vomit? Blow chunks? Spew split pea soup all over the table?”

“I haven’t had split pea soup in years,” Shane said, chuckling before groaning theatrically. “Shit, maybe I should go home.”

There was a slight pause, Ryan staring at him with his head cocked to the side. “Is this like the food poisoning from four months ago?”

“What?”

“Don’t you remember? We were supposed to record some VO but you called off because of food poisoning.”

He really should have known that Ryan would remember something that would postpone anything Unsolved related. Shane closed his eyes and groaned again. “Ah hell, I had forgotten about that. Maybe I need to stop eating entirely. Live off energy and sunlight, like the rest of the transplanted Hollywood hopefuls out here.”

Ryan snorted. “You mean amphetamines.” He took a bite of his burrito, chewing obnoxiously as he asked, “You need me to drive you home?”

Shane didn’t bother to hide his surprise. He had always made a point of telling everyone just how bad his commute was, just so no one would ever offer him a ride or want to come over. The fewer people curious about his house and it’s additions, the better. “I’ll just get an Uber.”

“And throw up in a stranger’s car when you could throw up in mine?”

“You’re a true friend, Bergara,” Shane intoned seriously, even as his mind raced to come up with an excuse. “It’s fine, though. I’m not going to make you drive an hour just to turn around and drive an hour back.”

Ryan studied him for a long moment, then shrugged. “Well, if you’re sure.”

Shane didn’t have to fake how shaky his sigh was.

 

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“We’re going to do an episode about your cousin!”

Shane dropped his water bottle.

Ryan laughed at him, bending down to pick it up and hand it back. “Don’t worry, it’s technically illegal to kill Bigfoot in California, so he'll be safe. It'll be cameras only.”

Shane accepted the bottle automatically, incredibly confused. Sometimes Ryan said the stupidest things. “What?”

“Bigfoot? You know? Your cousin?”

“Oh,” Shane said dumbly. Oh. Not his actual cousin. It wasn’t going to be an episode about werewolves. Relief made him grin. “We’re finally doing something believable?”

“What?” Ryan exclaimed. “You seriously believe-” He cut himself off. “No, we’ll hash this out on camera.”

“Fair enough.”

“So don’t make any plans two weeks from now, because we’ll be huntin’ a ‘Foot.”

Shane’s innate sense of time threw a warning at him. “Uh, two weeks?”

“Yeah, we’ll fly into Eureka on Tuesday, then drive up to the town we researched and spend the night. Back by Wednesday. Why, did you already have plans?” There was something oddly sly about Ryan’s expression, but Shane dismissed it.

The full moon was Wednesday night. As long as there weren’t any complications that would postpone their return…

It was cutting it far closer than he was comfortable with, but fuck it, this episode actually sounded like fun.

“Nothing important.”

“Good,” Ryan said, rubbing his hands together. “This is going to be so awesome.”

 

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‘Awesome’ was something of an understatement.

Growing up in Illinois meant that he had a fairly good knowledge of urban sprawls, cornfields, and lakes big enough to look like they had tides. Overgrown forests, on the other hand, were still new to him. He had driven through the handful of National Forests close to LA, but those could barely be considered forests. They were more dirt and scrubbrush than tree and he had never really had the opportunity to explore them, anyways. And he had always been a little leery of traipsing through the wilderness by himself.

The fact that he would finally get to wander around trees, and be paid to do so, was going a long ways towards distracting him from his worry about being so far away from his bars and chains this close to the full moon.

Merely entering the pine-filled forest that covered the mountains around Willow Creek was enough to make some animal- ha- instinct inside him sit up and take notice.

Shane could barely contain himself when he stepped out of the car and got his first good whiff of the heavy, moisture-laden air of the forest. The natural scent of pine sap and the faint sweetness of wood mulch made him take an unintentional step towards the hiking path they'd chosen, a part of him longing to take off into the woods and run.

He looked over and answered Ryan's astounded grin with one of his own, glad to know that someone else was as enchanted as he was.

Maybe not quite as enchanted, since he didn't really think that Ryan wanted to sprint off into the wilderness and become some kind of beast man. Though with Ryan, he was never entirely sure. Guy was odd sometimes.

It was hard to rein that Thoreau-esque urge in and, without Ryan and TJ there, he very well might have gone off to become one with nature. But Ryan's presence was distracting in a way that Shane rarely allowed himself to acknowledge and he didn’t want to leave the man’s side. Something about their surroundings, their banter and the quiet moments as they hiked through underbrush, and the energy tingling through his limbs meant that he didn’t shy away from the admiring thoughts he had about the coworker that was quickly becoming his best friend.

The beer may have helped.

Other than the constant pressure from inside his own mind to run away, it was quickly becoming one of the best days of his recent memory. The peacefulness of nature was only enhanced by the presence of cameras that appealed to his need to perform and the companionship of one of the best people he knew.

Getting to make a fool of himself and knowing that it was what he was supposed to do sure sweetened the entire experience.

Hunger, exhaustion, and the growing frustration of stumbling around in the dark eventually saw them making their way back down the trail, pleasantly sore and tired after a full day of hiking. Despite the overwhelming lack of evidence, even Ryan was in a good mood as they went. While he still felt a faint need to run, Shane had the weird sensation that he was more settled in his own skin than he had been in years. He was contemplating the virtues of making a few more trips into the forests around LA when Ryan did something incredibly odd.

The moan of the wind through the trees, the drip of misting rain, and the crack of branches underfoot; all of those ambient sounds around them were shattered when Ryan opened his mouth and howled.

It was a silly noise and not nearly as loud as Ryan probably wanted to make it, embarrassment making him falter halfway through and trail off into a sheepish grin.

Shane wasn't a wolf. As much as he secretly appreciated his family’s jokes and the dog puns that had plagued him since he was a teenager, he was more of a slave to rampant instincts than canine tendencies.

So it was disturbing when, without thought, he threw his head back and answered the howl with one of his own.

It was a long, ululating cry that frankly did not sound like it came from a human’s throat. It was eerie even to him and it was his own damn voice. Shane had seen a nature documentary or two, browsed YouTube clips of wolves out of morbid curiosity, and he knew for a fact that he had seen movies with wolves in them. Those recorded sounds had never inspired a need within him to respond.

The one thing he had never done was go to a local zoo to gawk at the wolves. Maybe he should have. Maybe it would have been good to have forewarning that he would do something so embarrassing in front of the guy he had a thing for.

In the panic of the moment, the only real option he could think of was to lean into it and pretend it had been on purpose, that he had been doing it for a bit like the Bigfoot call. Smiling shakily and hoping it came across as cocky, he spread his arms in a taunting gesture. "Can’t howl, can’t make those sexy Bigfoot calls. You’re hopeless out here, Bergara.”

Shane expected Ryan to return the insult or roll his eyes and drop it entirely. Everyone was tired and wet, the pleasant soreness and persistent damp becoming more of an annoyance than anything else.

Instead, Ryan tilted his head and stared. His expression was oddly blank in the washed out brightness of their flashlights when he spared a glance towards TJ, cleared his throat, then howled again.

It didn’t sound right. It was obviously a human mimicking noises that he had only ever heard from recordings. This was clearly no wolf.

That didn’t stop the need to answer from welling up from Shane’s very core. He crossed his arms over his chest as if he could hold the feeling in, gritting his teeth against the instinct, the jumbled, half-formed impressions-

Trouble-

Warning-

Danger-

“I think you’ve been listening to your family’s weiner dogs too much,” Shane forced himself to say, the words strangled and high-pitched. There was a distinctly dog-like whine in his voice that he hoped only he could hear. “You won’t be calling any wolves sounding like that.”

Ryan narrowed his eyes, his expression still intensely blank for a long moment before he broke into a grin that flashed white teeth in their lights. “But if a pack of dachshunds showed up, that would be amazing.”

Shane’s laugh was more of a bark and God how he hated that comparison right now. He turned away without answering and set off through the trees, ignoring the fact that he knew the way despite having only been through the area once before. The ambiance of nature was no longer alluring and all he could think about was the cold comfort of his cage and chains back home, which was a level of dramatic irony that was a bit much, even for him.

He didn’t relax until they were back within the streets of Willow Creek and he wasn’t able to dredge up a good smile for the camera until they were back in the bright lights of their hotel room.

As they were packing up the equipment in their hotel room, the rest of the group made noise about getting food, arguing the merits of late night pizza or bar food in a town that didn’t boast much of a nightlife. Shane excused himself from the discussion, the feverish urge to pace more powerful than the idea of food. Everyone gave him concerned looks, since he was usually one of the first people to suggest grabbin’ some ‘za, but Ryan was the only one to actually question him.

“You alright, man?”

Sometimes Ryan was annoyingly compassionate.

“Probably caught some kind of forest bug. Maybe the ‘Squatch infected me,” Shane said, shrugging as casually as he could. “Don’t feel up to getting food. I’ll stay in the hotel.”

Ryan gave him a half-smile for the joke, but it quickly turned into a frown. “Do you want me to bring you anything?”

Shane wanted to do something stupid, like pat the guy on the head, or worse, hug him for being so darned nice, but he fiddled with the buttons on his shirt sleeve instead.

“Nah, I’ll be good.”

That should have been the end of it.

And yet, it somehow didn’t surprise him when Ryan came back two hours later with a burger and greasy fries.

Shane’s stomach twisted at the strong smell of the food, and he honestly couldn’t tell if it was from nausea, hunger, or some delightful combination of both. He had spent the intervening time alternating from walking laps around the room to sprawling out on one of the two beds. Ryan had walked in to the sight of Shane sitting on the bed Ryan had claimed, staring off into nothing.

Knowing that he probably didn’t present a very comforting picture, Shane accepted the takeout container with a twitchy smile, but sat it on the bed next to him without opening it. The idea of food did not appeal to him.

Ryan hesitated, then gingerly sat on the other side of the food. He took a deep breath a few times before he was able to actually say anything. “Hey, is something going on? You’ve been kind of out of it since it started getting dark.”

“I’m fine,” Shane muttered automatically. He deliberately flattened his hands on his thighs to hide how they were shaking. “Nothing to worry your pretty little head over.”

“Shane,” Ryan said, just sharp enough that it made Shane look up. “Seriously, what’s wrong? Why aren’t you eating?”

“Can’t a guy want to watch his figure?”

Slowly, while Shane was still watching him, Ryan dropped his gaze and lowered his head. Gently, but firmly, he nudged the food towards Shane with the back of his hand.

“Ryan, I don’t-”

“Please.”

The word was quiet and oddly tentative, considering it was coming from Ryan.

Shane didn’t realize he had already picked up the container and opened it until he was on his second bite of the burger. Once he registered the taste of the beef, he was suddenly ravenous, eating the rest of the food in record time.

Ryan watched him with a calculating expression the entire time.

It wasn’t a very restful night after that. And when Shane was able to fall asleep, his dreams were filled with vivid images of running through trees, the heavy scent of damp pine, and the taste of bloody, red meat. It was as if a primal part of his psyche had woken up at the discovery of ancient forests.

Which was something of a surprise. If he had thought about it at all, he would have assumed the wolfy side of him would have been more of a plains-loving breed, considering where he came from.

Over breakfast the next morning, Ryan blithely suggested they stay another day to get more footage, citing that they had leftover budget for the season. Shane would have felt guilty about the way he snapped at the man, but the knowledge of the night’s full moon creeping ever closer meant that he still had a hard time pretending to be his usual laidback self.

When Ryan had first proposed his plan for the episode and the filming schedule, Shane had felt rather copacetic about the whole thing. Getting back by the late afternoon left him plenty of time to get home before the moon rose. It would be cutting it close, but it would be easier to blame his twitchiness and fever on the ordeal of traveling.

Now, while it felt like something was trying to claw its way out of his chest in a scene stolen from Alien, he swore at himself for agreeing to play so fast and lose with his time.

He ignored the crew’s stares as they hopped from the tiny local airport to the bustle of Sacramento to the absolute horror that was LAX, just like he ignored Ryan’s attempts at conversation. The completely reasonable layover chafed and the cramped quarters of the plane were especially taxing as they waited to disembark at LAX. He was never so aware of his height as he was in airplanes, but it was far worse when it felt like the seats and ceiling were closing in on him. There was an itch in his arms that heralded nothing good and it was all Shane could do not to snarl at the poor woman in front of him, who was merely trying to get her luggage out of the overhead compartment.

Distantly, he felt some shame when he caught a glimpse of Ryan’s expression as he rudely pushed through the line of people in the concourse, but the growing fear and restlessness was far more pressing.

Shit, it had been actual decades since he had been so far away from a safe bolthole this close to the rising moon. Nearly twenty years since that day where he had-

Shane forcibly shut that thought down, thankful for his long legs as he strode through the airport as fast as he could without actual running. The sun was setting, slanting through the windows and glass walls as he went, pushing him to move faster and faster. He fumbled for his phone and the Uber app, angry at himself for having forgotten to bring it up until he was almost at the doors out of the airport.

A sound like a growl rose in his throat that he hastily turned into a cough when he felt fingers grab his elbow.

“What?” he croaked, whirling in place and not particularly surprised to see that it was Ryan behind him, wide-eyed and panting.

“Dude, what the hell?” Ryan asked, bending over and bracing his hands on his knees to drag in great lungfuls of air. “You just ran through half of LAX.”

“I wasn’t running,” Shane protested weakly.

“Dude.”

“I wasn't.”

Ryan shook his head, drew in one last deep breath, and turned warm, worried brown eyes on Shane in a move that would have made him fucking melt on any other day. “Hey, are you alright? What’s going on with you?”

“I’m fine,” Shane said unconvincingly, shakily dragging his fingers through his hair and clutching at the strap of his bag with the other hand. This close to making it home and he was losing it. “I mean, I’m-” Think, think, think- “Diarrhea!”

That got him one slowly raised one eyebrow.

“Yeah, you know, gotta get home ‘cause- everywhere-”

Ryan carefully rubbed his hand over his face. “Shane, we both know that if that was true, you would have been loudly complaining about it for the past two hours and we would all know far too many details.”

Hmm.

Accurate.

Biting on his lip, Ryan eyed him for a second before stepping closer and once again grasping his elbow, which was far more sustained physical contact than Ryan usually initiated. “Seriously, what’s going on? Do-” He closed his mouth, obviously changing what he had been about to ask. “Do you need a ride home?”

“At this time of the day?” Shane responded, trying to tug his arm away. “Traffic is going to be a nightmare. I’ll just get an Uber.”

“Shane…” Ryan trailed off and tilted his head to the side, looking up at Shane through his lashes with a searching, almost pleading expression in his eyes. It was a weirdly coquettish move that Shane usually would have found disconcerting and completely out of character for Ryan.

But for some reason he was struck by the sudden intense need to draw Ryan closer and- What? Hug him? Protect him? Curl up around him and provide whatever it was he needed?

Shane jerked backwards, mortified at the direction his thoughts were taking. Admiration that went beyond friendliness was one thing, sexual attraction was a given, since Ryan looked like that, but the urge to take care of him? That was a step too far and felt weirdly tangled up with the same instincts that were making him painfully aware of how quickly time was passing.

It didn’t help when Ryan reached for him, his confused and hurt expression painful to look at it. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Nothing is wrong,” Shane said, smiling in a way that he could tell was sickly. “And even if there was something wrong, do you really think I’d blurt it out in the passenger pick-up area of one of the largest airports in the world?”

Ryan blinked and glanced around, as if he had suddenly remembered that they were public. He awkwardly took a step back, refusing to meet Shane’s eyes.

While Ryan was trying to think of something to say, Shane took the opportunity and- he wasn’t beyond admitting it- ran away. He slid into the first Uber that popped up on the app and didn’t look back once, clutching his bag on his lap and curling over it to take long shallow breaths in an attempt to calm himself down.

He stayed like that for what had to have been a good half hour of mindless, mental gibbering. Not once did his Uber driver try to talk to him, which he appreciated. The woman was definitely getting five stars at the end of this.

Two hours after he had escaped Ryan’s well-meaning concern, Shane stumbled into his small house, slammed the door behind him and threw his bag to the floor. He forced himself to drink a full glass of water and scarf down a frozen TV dinner, trying to pretend that his fingers didn’t shake the entire time.

The wish for a shower was almost a physical need at that point, but Shane knew he didn’t have time. And he’d want a shower in the morning anyways. So he made his way down into the basement, feeling a perverse rush of relief at the sight of the bars. He cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders, just then realizing how tense he had been holding himself all day.

There was a sense of urgency in his movements as he took his clothes off, not bothering to fold them. His shirt ended up thrown into a corner, his pants directly in the middle of the floor with his glasses, and his socks and boxers were dropped carelessly in front of the cage door.

He was going to be annoyed if he woke up to pieces of shredded sock in his mouth, but that would be a problem for later. The worry that he wouldn’t get the chain around his neck or the door locked in time was more important than worry about picking threads out of his teeth.

The click of the lock was loud and far, far more comforting than it should have been. The weight of the cold metal links against the back of his neck was nearly as good.

And not a moment too soon, because once he had laid the key on the floor, he felt the first sharp stabs in his spine.

Distantly, he thought he heard the sound of a door opening.

But the pain was soon all Shane could think about it.

 

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The cold concrete under his side wasn’t anything new.

The ache that thrummed through his entire body wasn’t new either.

Not even the pressure of a metal bar against his arm was out of the ordinary. He often tried to dig his way through the bars during the full moon.

None of those things were what made the breath freeze in Shane’s lungs as soon as consciousness returned.

What made fear rise up and his body go completely still was the feeling of a warm, sweaty hand clutched around his outstretched fingers.

Like the protagonist in a horror movie, Shane very slowly, dreading every moment, lifted his head and met wide, scared eyes.

Familiar eyes.

“Hey,” Ryan said hoarsely, his fingers squeezing Shane’s tighter. “Glad to see you’re awake.”

Chapter Text

For one long, panic-stricken moment, Shane tried to convince himself that he was in a dream.

Unfortunately, Ryan didn’t give him much time to live in that fantasy. Carefully, every movement clearly telegraphed, Ryan withdrew his hand from Shane’s fingers and clambered to his feet. He stumbled a little as he took a step forward and Shane flinched, dragging his arm back into the cage and rolling onto his knees, his first instinct telling him to back away.

Ryan hastily put both hands up and crouched back down, making shushing noises, as if Shane was-

Was a dog.

A beast.

It felt like something snapped in Shane then. Shame and tired fear filled him, making his breathing come too fast and his limbs tremble. He fell back on his ass and curled forward, the chain around his neck rattling musically as he did so. He drew his knees up and huddled into himself, too sluggishly scared to really care if it made him look pathetic.

“Hey, hey, Shane, it’s okay,” Ryan coaxed, making a slightly frustrated noise when Shane just ducked his head into his arms.

He didn’t want to see Ryan’s horror and disgust. Shane knew that Ryan would try to hide it under a mask of braveness, since, no matter what else could be said about Ryan, he was a good guy. He was empathetic to a fault and had probably already sworn to himself that he would try to act like nothing was wrong.

But Shane had known him for years now. Had seen Ryan in situations where the guy was legitimately terrified, sometimes to the point of tears. He knew what Ryan looked like when he was using his boundless well of bravery to push past his fear and do what needed to be done or what he thought was right.

And, God, he really didn’t want to see that determined, stubborn courage and fear on Ryan’s face right then. Not directed towards him. Not because of him.

“Shane…”

Shane couldn’t help the dog-like whine that worked its way from his throat.

There was the soft rasp of skin sliding down metal, a sound Shane was all too familiar with, then Ryan took a deep breath and said, in a gentle, high-pitched voice, “C’mon, boy, it’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you.”

Alright.

What the fuck.

Indignation did what fear couldn’t. Shane gathered his ragged self control, pushed away the shame and fear as well as he could, and slowly raised his head to glare at the slightly blurred form of Ryan over his arms.

Ryan slumped in relief, his knuckles going white as he briefly tightened his hold on the bars. “Oh thank God.”

“Really, Ryan? Really?” Shane’s voice was wrecked and his throat felt raw, but he was still able to aptly convey how supremely unimpressed he was.

The grin that got him was strained and broken at the edges, but it was the same, familiar, smug expression that Ryan used whenever he had delivered a joke he thought was particularly funny. For the first time since he had woken up, Shane allowed himself to feel a tiny spark of hope.

“Hey, it finally got you to respond,” Ryan said, his voice softening into something worried. “Can… Can I open this now? Is it-”

He had closed his mouth before the word got out, but Shane already knew how it would have ended.

“Is it safe?” He drawled, too tired to hide his bitter tone. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re safe.”

There was a moment’s hesitation and he could just hear Ryan’s internal struggle over what to say to that, but Ryan kept quiet and just unlocked the cage’s door with the key he must have picked up at some point.

Shane let out a thin breath, his shoulders relaxing slightly. It wasn’t that he had actually thought Ryan would keep him locked inside the cage of his own making, but he hadn’t been entirely sure. Yeah, Ryan was a good guy, but a scared Ryan wasn’t always a Ryan that thought decisions through. It would have been incredibly easy for him to keep Shane there.

It wasn’t like Shane would have exactly blamed him, either.

The hinges creaked loudly as the door swung open on it’s own weight, the sound echoing in the room.

Shane stared up at Ryan, waiting to see what he would do.

For his part, Ryan didn’t seem to have any more of an idea on what to do than Shane did. He kept opening and closing his mouth, clearly unable to decide on what to say. Shane could relate, he really could, but the constant tension was draining whatever energy he had left. If Ryan wasn’t about to start yelling, or attacking him, or calling the government spooks to come take him away, then he just wanted to sleep. Preferably in his bed.

Eventually, Shane got tired of sitting on his ass and quietly asked, “Can you hand me my clothes? “

Obviously relieved to have a goal, Ryan hurried over to the pile of clothes that he must have gathered at some point in the night, which left Shane to wonder just how long Ryan had been there. Had it been the entire time?

To his credit, Ryan barely hesitated before stepping past the bars. He handed Shane his glasses first, then his clothes so gently, so clearly trying not to startle him, that Shane would have laughed at him if he’d had the energy.

Shane stared at the clothes on his lap, abruptly exhausted. The idea of trying to struggle into boxers, let alone his pants and shirt, felt like a monumental task. “I should shower first,” he mumbled half to himself. Maybe he would drown in the spray and he’d be able to avoid the conversations that he knew were coming.

“Yeah, I didn’t want to say anything, but you’re smelling a little rank.” Ryan sounded tentatively teasing, desperate to keep things normal between the two of them.

Oh.

Shane blinked down at his arms and legs, at the dried, flaking blood that covered most of his skin, and the stains that came from the weird, clear fluid that also accompanied each full moon. Following hard on the realization of how dirty he was was the knowledge that he would have pissed in the corner at some time during the night and hot humiliation coursed through him, his chest constricting as it suddenly became hard to breathe. He had grown so used to the sheer disgusting nature of his curse that he didn’t even think about it any more. Showering the blood and weird goo off and spraying down the basement floor the day after the moon had just become part of his monthly routine.

He had never stopped to think about what it would look like to an outsider.

Mortification made him unhook the chain from around his neck and drove him to his feet, though it took him a couple of tries to do either. Ryan flinched as the chains clanked to the ground, hovering awkwardly next to him, never actually touching and always keeping his head turned away. Shane distantly wished he had the wherewithal to mock Ryan for being scared of a little nudity, but he couldn’t find it in himself to say anything.

It was a complete surprise when Ryan did touch him, lightly grasping his arm when he took a step forward and wobbled on his dangerously weak knees. Shane flinched away from the sudden pressure on his skin and Ryan made a noise like he was the one in pain.

For fuck’s sake. This wasn’t getting them anywhere.

“Ryan,” Shane sighed wearily, his flesh crawling with his renewed awareness of just how filthy he was and how much the room smelled. “Can you, for five minutes, just pretend that I’m hungover and need to get to the bathroom? You can freak out after that.”

Ryan let out a loud exhale, like he had been holding in his breath. “Right. Right, I can do that.”

Without warning, there was a shoulder under Shane's arm and a strong arm looped around his waist, half of his weight being supported easily, as if he wasn’t over six foot of limbs. He thought about protesting that he did have the ability to walk, but he frankly didn’t feel like trying the stairs by himself. Most months, he lay on the floor for a good hour after waking up, just to gather the strength to move.

He tried not to think about all the dried blood that was probably getting all over Ryan’s clothes and grimly focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

They somehow managed to maneuver up the stairs and into the bathroom without tripping each other, though it was a close call a few times. Ryan helped him lean against the bathroom door, then hesitated. “You good from here or should I… ?” He made some kind of helpless gesture at the shower.

Shane wearily shook his head in exasperation, touched despite the situation. Ryan was looking so hard at the floor that his gaze was going to end up burning holes into the linoleum. It was clear that he was uncomfortable, but it was just as clear that he was ready and willing to help in any way Shane needed.

He was exhausted, doing all that he could to keep back the soul-crushing fear and depression that had been threatening to swamp his brain since he had woken up, but Shane really couldn’t help but needle Ryan a little. “It’s like you’ve never seen a dick before.”

Ryan squawked, his head jerking up automatically to glare at Shane. “I’m trying to be polite, you overgrown giraffe. “

“Or you’re afraid of me,” Shane offered fatalistically, realizing that it was a distinct possibility even as he said it. “And you’re afraid I’m going to attack you.”

“You-”

The next thing Shane knew, he was being pushed into the shower, cold then hot water was spraying down on him, and a determined Ryan was menacing him with a washcloth. He hastily put up his hands, fending off the cloth. “What the- Gah, Ryan!” He managed to turn the shower head away from his face, spluttering water out of his mouth. “I can wash myself!”

Ryan narrowed his eyes at him, the stubborn set to his jaw doing nothing to hide his flushed cheeks and forehead. “Can you? You’re literally swaying.”

Shane made a frustrated noise and grabbed the cloth. “Out, Ryan.” And, knowing that Ryan would need something to do, he lowered his voice and asked, looking away, “Can you get some kind of food started? Please?”

“I-” Ryan shook his head, then nodded. “Yeah, I can do that. Don’t- Don’t drown, okay?”

“It’ll take more than some water to take me out,” Shane said automatically, grimly holding onto his calm facade until the door clicked shut behind Ryan.

He allowed himself one long second to freak the fuck out, then he forced himself to go through the usual routine of getting clean. The methodical motions of washing the blood and dried goo off his skin and out of his hair would have been relaxing if he had been alone, but the knowledge that Ryan was in the house made it impossible to attain his usual post-full moon equilibrium.

When the water finally ran clear, Shane reluctantly left the warmth and slowly made his way into the bedroom, using the wall to support himself the entire time. He didn’t bother to dry himself, uncaring of the water dripping everywhere and the wet spots he was leaving on the carpet. Dragging a large T-shirt and ragged sweatpants on almost felt like more than he could handle, but now that he was cleaner and the events of the past hour were beginning to catch up to him, he was belatedly embarrassed that Ryan had seen him naked. It was one more stupid worry to lay on top of the others, but it was so much easier to think about than the rest.

It took far too long to get his clothes on. Shane was so tempted to crawl onto his bed and sleep the entire inevitable confrontation and ensuing explanation away that it was a physical ache to stay upright as he tugged his sweats on. Unfortunately, he was fairly certain that Ryan would eventually barge his way into the room and he did not feel up to dealing with that.

So he took a fortifying breath, girded his metaphorical loins for battle, and marched towards his doom. Which was also known as shuffling down the hallway and falling onto his couch.

Ryan appeared from the kitchen, a plate of toast in one hand and a glass of water in the other. Shane eyed the unbuttered bread but decided not to say anything about it. The effort didn’t seem worth it.

Probably sensing that Shane was a slight breeze away from being knocked over, Ryan waited in agitated silence as he drained the glass and mechanically ate a piece of toast. Then Ryan exploded.

“What the fuck, Shane?”

There it was.

Truthfully, he was surprised that Ryan had lasted that long.

“You’re a- a werewolf?!” Ryan said the last word in a hissed whisper-yell that sounded like it strained his vocal chords.

“There wolf. There castle.”

Ryan looked like he was going to strangle him. Shane didn’t entirely blame the guy, but he would take what joy he could from this entire situation. And razzing Ryan had always been a non-guilty pleasure.

“This is not the time for Mel Brooks quotes!”

“On the contrary, I think every time is a time for Mel Brooks quotes,” Shane said philosophically, idly wondering if he could scarf down the second piece of toast while Ryan yelled at him. He glanced up at Ryan, who was rubbing his forehead like he had a headache. “You’re actually taking this better than I would have expected.”

Ryan twitched and halfheartedly scowled, muttering, “I had a few hours to get over it.”

Shane slumped down in the couch until he could rest his head against the back of it, jittery exhaustion running through him. “Just how long were you down there?” He paused, then added, “And don’t think I’m not mad that you broke into my house.”

Ryan’s guilty, squirmy silence only last for a minute before he was right back into being incredulous. “Seriously, Shane?” Here his expression fell into something honestly hurt. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

Somewhat disbelieving, Shane stared at him for a long moment. “And when was I going to do that? Over coffee on a break? While we were getting makeup done before a shoot? Just casually announce, ‘hey, I’m a creature of lore that shouldn’t physically exist’?”

“No, I don’t mean-”

“At what point do I bring that up, huh?” Shane sat up, warming to his subject. “When I first meet someone? Is there a third date rule for telling someone that I’m a movie monster? You’ve known me for two years so you get to know about my biggest secret, the one that’s going to get me thrown into a glass cage under Area 51?”

“So you do think Area 51 is-”

“Should I have been dropping subtle hints this whole time? Just casually mention my love of going on rampages on the full moon? Just-”

“Alright!” Ryan shouted, shocking Shane out of his diatribe. “Alright,” he repeated in a much softer voice. He grimaced. “You’ve made your point, okay? I just thought that you would tell-” Ryan dropped his gaze, literally cringing in embarrassment. “I don’t know what I thought. Nevermind.”

“What? You thought I’d tell you?” Shane cocked his head to the side, staring up Ryan and doing nothing to hide his confusion. “Because you’re looking for video proof of the supernatural? I think that’d make me even less likely to tell you.”

“Not because of the show! Because you’re my best friend!” Ryan blurted. “And I-”

Shane waited to see if Ryan would say anything else, but the guy was just scrubbing his hand over his face in a tired way. “I’m your best friend?” He didn’t mean to sound wondering, but he’d had no idea. It wasn’t like Ryan was inviting him over to hang out all that often. And he’d made something of a habit since high school of being friendly with people, but not too friendly, just so he wouldn’t have to deal with this exact situation. He didn’t like keeping secrets, not from the people he was close to.

It threw him off to learn that someone thought so highly of him.

“Well. Duh.”

“You can’t ‘well, duh’ this, Ryan. Just because you thought so, it doesn’t mean I knew, ” Shane said, leaning forward and planting his elbows on his knees to bury his face in his hands. His next words were muffled. “And we’re getting off track. How long were you in the basement?”

Ryan took a deep breath, as if bracing himself, then gingerly sat on the arm of the couch. Shane pushed back the automatic urge to tell him off for doing that, since he didn’t want to sound like his own mother. “All night,” Ryan muttered, looking down at his lap and the fingers he was twisting together nervously. “The door was unlocked, by the way. That’s why I came in. I knocked, but you weren’t answering, and then I heard screaming and-” Ryan stopped, his expression troubled.

Faint anger made Shane scowl, though it was directed at himself. Of course he had left the door unlocked. Of course he had.

“You were still… You were still, y’know, mostly you, but the noises-” Ryan faltered, swallowing before he was able to continue. “The noises were what made me go down into the basement.”

Shane looked away, that familiar shame welling up again. He had never heard himself, since he and his family had been too leery of having any kind of recording of what happened during the full moon, but he had heard the description of the tortured sounds he made from his brother. Apparently it wasn’t exactly peaceful to listen to.

“You wouldn’t believe how fucking confused I was when I saw you, man. I mean, you were just writhing on the floor, naked.”

“Writhing? How poetic of you, Bergara.”

Ryan glared at him, annoyed at the flippant response, then looked back down at his hands. He sighed. “I… I didn’t believe what I was seeing at first. I thought I was going crazy.” He laughed softly, gesturing aimlessly. “I’m still not sure I believe that you… That you’re- You know.”

“Oh how the tables have turned. The believer becomes the skeptic,” Shane said absently, more focused on his racing thoughts than what he was saying. Just how much was he willing to tell Ryan? He didn’t owe him any kind of explanation, since Ryan was the one who had barged into his house, but at the same time, Shane desperately wanted to tell someone. It was a wish that he had buried deep, since he preferred freedom to being able to share his burdens, but it was still a wish that he had never forgotten.

And Ryan already knew. If there was anyone that would protect his secret, it would be Ryan, right? The fact that Ryan couldn’t act worth a damn was a consideration to be saved for later.

“Shut up, Shane,” Ryan grumbled. “It’s not that I don’t believe in shapeshifters, I just thought the whole ‘turning with the full moon’ thing was bullshit.”

“You seriously believe in shapeshifters?”

Ryan hesitated, something like fear crossing his features, before he narrowed his eyes and gestured at the entire length of Shane, raising his eyebrows in a silent exclamation.

It was particularly galling that Ryan actually had a point there. Shane leaned back against the couch, listing to the side as the ever-present exhaustion of the day drug him down as surely as gravity did. This was shaping up to be a very long day and it was barely morning. He closed his eyes, not even aware he was doing it. “It’s a family curse,” he muttered, the delivery listless. Maybe he should have anticipated that this would happen. He could have made a PowerPoint presentation or something, then shoved it at Ryan so that he could rest.

There was the feeling of the couch cushion sinking as Ryan slid over to sit next to him, then a warm hand grasping his wrist. “Hey, come on, you can’t say cryptic shit like that and then fall asleep.”

“Watch me,” Shane mumbled.

“Shane, wake up.”

It was the gentle touch on his jaw that made Shane open his eyes, not the words. He turned his head, surprised that Ryan was sitting so close to him. “What the hell, Bergara?”

Ryan tilted his head to the side and dropped his eyes, his voice almost a whine when he asked, “Please explain all of this to me?”

There it was again. That odd urge to protect Ryan, to give him what he needed and to take care of him. Shane was too tired to fight it this time. He heaved a sigh. “Family story is that a few hundred years ago, an ancestor of mine pissed off a witch. Lord knows what he did, but ever since then, a member of each new generation will be cursed to turn into a mindless beast during the full moon, fated to try and kill their family.” This time, he closed his eyes so that he wouldn’t have to see Ryan’s expression. “It could be a bunch of hooey, it could be true. All I really know is that when my aunt died, I was the one that woke up a little furrier than usual.”

He could almost hear the wheels turning in Ryan’s head.

“So that means curses are real. Holy shit, witches and curses are real.”

Shane frowned. “That doesn’t- No, Ryan, it’s hearsay and an old folktale, it’s not evidence-”

“Shane, you literally turned into a wolfman.”

“You can’t use that to win all of your arguments.”

“Watch me,” Ryan said smugly.

For a moment, the banter almost made Shane forget the fear. He opened his eyes and grinned tiredly at Ryan.

Maybe it was because he had just spent the night as ‘a wolfman’, but the instinct that rose up at that moment was so sudden and nice that Shane didn’t question it until he was already leaning into Ryan, burying his nose under Ryan’s jaw and breathing deeply.

Ryan smelled like sweat and flesh and a little like pine. And under that was something that couldn’t really be named.

He smelled like home.

As soon as the thought crystallized, Shane realized what he had done.

He froze.

“Um.”

There was absolutely no graceful way to extract himself from the situation, so Shane bit the bullet and leaned back, refusing to face Ryan. If he pretended he hadn’t just done that, maybe Ryan would take the cue and ignore it.

“Um,” Ryan repeated, before asking hesitantly. “What the hell was that?”

So much for that hope.

“Don’t suppose you’d do me the favor of forgetting that happened?”

His answer was a resounding silence.

Figured.

“I don’t know, okay?” Shane sighed, running his fingers through his hair, the movement agitated. “You were right there and for some reason it seemed like a good idea to smell you.”

Ryan stared at him for a moment, his eyebrows drawn together in thought. “How many canine traits do you have?”

“Are you asking if I want to sniff butts and try to catch my own tail?” Shane asked, uncomfortable with the question and hoping desperately that Ryan would get distracted by the joke.

“Shane.”

“What, Ryan? How am I supposed to answer that? I don’t know!” Frustration made his words come out sharper than he intended, but he had just known that Ryan would have all kinds of questions that he had no idea how to answer. “I don’t know anything about any of this! I don’t even know what I look like, let alone anything else.”

“Hey, shh, it’s fine, it’s okay,” Ryan brought his hands up, the same soothing gesture he had used when Shane had first woken up.

“I’m not a dog!”

“I know, I know, I’m not saying you are,” Ryan tried, once again tilting his head to the side, and throwing in a pleading look from under his lashes.

Shane had no idea why that calmed him down and, conversely, it kind of pissed him off. The entire situation was pissing him off. He hated being emotional. He wasn’t allowed to be emotional. Given his druthers, he’d have been in his bed and not being forced to go through such a humiliating conversation with the person he was closest to. “Why do you keep doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“That head thing. Like you can’t look directly at me.”

Ryan was the one to freeze this time, for all the world like he had been caught doing something wrong. He tried to smile, but it was far too strained to be convincing. “Of course I can’t look directly at you, have you seen yourself?”

“You have the worst poker face of anyone I’ve ever known.”

That got him a glare, which was a far more genuine expression than the smile had been. But before Shane could press him on the matter, Ryan suddenly scooted closer into his space. If it had been a slightly different situation, he would have thought Ryan was going in for a kiss.

Since that was incredibly unlikely, he just watched, confused as all hell, as Ryan got closer. He had no idea what to do when Ryan grabbed his hand and snuggled into his shoulder. Soft hair brushed against his neck as Ryan got comfortable, using his shoulder like it was an impromptu pillow.

“What in the Sam Hell?”

“You’re really strange, you know that, right?”

“I have to inform you that you’re essentially cuddling me,” Shane said frankly, his trapped arm held held stiffly against Ryan's weight. “I'm not the one that’s being weird right now.”

“You didn’t growl at me.”

Shane tried to look at him, but all he saw was Ryan’s shoulders and hair. It was hard to ignore how warm and comforting the pressure of Ryan’s body was against his side and along his thigh, but he did his best. “You’re going to need to elaborate.”

“When you finished, uh, changing. You came right up to the bars and you didn’t growl at me. You seemed, I don’t know, happy to see me?”

Going still in the middle of tentatively curling his fingers around Ryan’s palm, Shane stopped and stared unseeing at the TV in front of the couch. “Huh.”

“What does that mean?”

There was no good way to say that he had always tried to attack whoever was next to his bars, so Shane just shrugged. “I’m usually not that friendly.” Something occurred to him and he incredulously asked, “Wait, is that why you were holding my hand when I woke up? Did you seriously hold the hand of a werewolf?”

“Don’t you mean paw?”

“Ryan, you idiot,” Shane exclaimed, abruptly glad that Ryan couldn’t really see his expression. “You don’t go around putting your hand through the bars of an animal’s cage!”

“But you’re not an animal.”

“I am during the full moon! Or did you just forget the past twenty-four hours?”

Ryan pressed himself closer, his words softened by Shane’s shoulder. “I know something about dogs, okay? You were calmed down then by physical contact, so let’s see if it works while you’re you.”

“Again, I'm not a dog. And that doesn’t make sense. Of course I’m going to enjoy physical contact, no matter what I look like. I haven’t gotten laid in over year-” Shit, no, backtrack. “I mean, I don’t exactly have a lot of casual touching in my life.”

Twisting his head so that he could sort of see Shane, Ryan said, “But I thought you and Sara-”

Shane looked away, frowning.

“Right. None of my business.”

The pause that followed was so awkward that Shane found himself playing with Ryan’s fingers, just to give himself something to do. He sighed and muttered, “I couldn’t ever see telling her about this. Who's going to want to be with the guy that turns into a monster once a month?”

Ryan was so silent that he could have heard a pin drop.

“See?”

With a sigh that seemed a touch dramatic, Ryan just shook his head. “I’m literally holding your hand right now, big guy. That should tell you something.”

Shane blinked down at him, his brain trying to sluggishly work out what Ryan meant by that. “What?”

“Can you sleep like this?”

“... That was quite a subject change, but alright. I’m pretty certain I could sleep standing up at this point.”

“Good.” Ryan twisted his body until his legs were on the couch, looking like he was settling in for the long haul. He squirmed around to pull his phone out of his pocket with his free hand, making an annoyed noise when he saw how low the battery was. “You sleep for a bit. I’ll let people know I’ll be late for work. You took the day off, right?”

“You want me to sleep? Like this?” Shane tugged on their joined hands to emphasize his point.

“Yup.”

“Just to be clear, you do realize this is not exactly the straightest thing you’ve ever done?”

Ryan’s smile was audible. “Sleep, Shane.”

Shane had been sure that, despite his words to the contrary, there was no way he’d be able to fall asleep while sitting up, with the guy he had a thing for leaning into him like he was a comfortable bed. The guy who had recently found out that he was a bonafide werewolf.

So it came as a surprise when he woke up a couple hours later, a crick in his neck and lingering warmth telling him that Ryan must have just gotten up.

He rubbed at his eyes and yawned, making the executive decision to stay on the couch and go back to sleep, when Ryan came back into the room, something agitated in the way he was walking.

“Shane, I’ve got to tell you something.”

It was an abrupt, forceful sentence that jarred Shane’s lingering drowsiness. Rarely was Ryan this distressed. At least, he wasn’t usually this distressed off location.

Taking in the way Ryan was shifting on his feet, unable to meet his eyes, and the memory of Ryan snuggling up to him like a favorite blanket, several things clicked together in Shane’s sleep-fogged mind.

“Good God, you like me,” he blurted before he could help himself.

Ryan paused, his brows furrowed. “What? No, that’s not what I wanted say.”

Welp.

Time to become a hermit.

Feeling like his face was going to catch on fire from how hard he was blushing, angry at himself for ever thinking that Ryan might be interested in him, Shane pushed to his feet and cleared his throat. “Well this has been an enlightening day for everyone, but I’m going to go drown myself in my sink now.” He made to walk past Ryan, hoping the guy would take the hint and leave.

“Wait, damn it, don’t-” Ryan caught his arm. “Yes, I like you, and yes, I mean that in the romantic and or sexual way, but that’s not what I-”

Shane was going to get emotional whiplash. “You- You what? “

Ryan shook his head. He looked scared, and if Shane knew anyone who could convey ‘scared’, it was Ryan. “I… I can’t.” He let out a frustrated sigh. “Nevermind. Forget I said anything.”

“Ryan… “

“I need to go, I didn’t take the whole day off,” Ryan said softly. Then, like it was something they did all the time, like it wasn’t going to give Shane a conniption fit, he went up on his toes and kissed Shane on the cheek. “I need to get some things figured out, okay? I promise I won’t-” His face twisted and he continued with, “I promise I’m not afraid of you or anything stupid like that.”

Shane could only stare dumbly after him, his hand against his cheek, as Ryan walked out of his house.

What the hell?

 

---------------------------------------------

 

For the first time since they had ended up working right next to each years ago, Shane had no idea how to act around Ryan.

It would have been bad enough if it had only been the whole ‘werewolf’ thing. For two weeks, Ryan would start to greet him each morning, then pause, his gaze dropping as his words went up in pitch. Sometimes, Shane felt Ryan staring at him, no doubt remembering what he looked like during the full moon. The easy back and forth that had marked their friendship since the beginning was strained and nearly gone. And that was rather unfortunate, considering that they filmed a show together.

Unsolved had grown to the point that they had more than just TJ and whatever cameraman they could entice for an episode. They were starting to gather an actual crew, including researchers and editors, and every single one of them kept giving him looks, as if they somehow knew that the tension between him and Ryan was his fault. Even people that he hadn’t worked with in months but still saw them daily were beginning to side eye him. Their censure was uncomfortable and hard to ignore.

He couldn’t really say they were wrong, either. Sure, it was Ryan’s fault for taking an unlocked door as carte blanche to walk into his house, but if he hadn’t been a creature of myth to begin with, none of that would have mattered.

Of course, just to make his life more confusing, some days Ryan went out of his way to touch him and watch him with a warm, gooey expression that Shane realized he had seen before but had never put two and two together. On those days, it was like Ryan had completely forgotten about Shane being a werewolf and was only remembering the way a kiss on the cheek had rendered him completely speechless.

Since he apparently had no sense of self preservation, Shane kept his mouth shut about his confusion and just accepted what affection he could get on those random days. Those random moments where he could pretend that he was just like any other dude being given goo goo eyes by another dude.

It wasn’t that Shane had never thought about it. Him and Ryan together. They were two completely different people, with completely different personalities, but in all the ways that really mattered? They worked. If their circumstances had been a little different, Shane would have started hitting on Ryan with his usual, patented, awkward- and charming, if he did say so himself- way years ago.

But Shane had accepted from the get go that ‘no homo’ Ryan wasn’t interested and thinking about Ryan as something more than a friend had been relegated to a pleasant, occasionally woebegone crush.

Now he had no idea what to do or think. It was nice, in its way, to get an appreciative glance or two, to feel Ryan’s warm hand on his wrist or the small of his back, but those only happened on the days where Ryan was in a good mood. The rest of the time, he was barely acknowledged.

Shane told himself over and over again that Ryan was going through a lot, that he would give the guy space and not pressure him one way or the other. It had to have been quite a shock for Ryan to find out that Shane was something from a horror movie. God knew that if he had found out Ryan was a fucking chupacabra or something, it’d take him awhile to get used to the idea. Not to mention the fact that he would need concrete, irrefutable proof.

But the waffling back and forth from, well, flirting with Shane to acting like he couldn’t stand to be in the same room with him was a type of emotional torture that he never thought Ryan would engage in.

“You want to get dinner?”

It was nearly time for them to quit and it was the first time Ryan had spoken to him all day. It was an understatement to say that Shane was not amused.

“You going to stare at me and not talk the entire time?”

Ryan narrowed his eyes. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Shane pressed his lips together in a thin line, trying to physically hold himself back from saying anything he shouldn’t. They didn’t really get into fights and he didn’t want to be the one to start one. He breathed in once in an effort to remain calm, looking back at his computer to feign nonchalance. Calm. “Just saying, there’s been some mixed signals lately.”

Sometimes he thought he could still feel Ryan’s lips on his cheek, which was a level of pining he was not comfortable with.

“I- Yeah, sorry,” Ryan said after a second, sounding contrite. “I know this hasn’t been fair to you. I just need time.”

Shane blinked, surprised that Ryan would so easily admit it, but he wasn’t going to let him off the hook that easily. Keeping his voice as level as he could, he muttered, “It’s been two weeks, how much more time do you need?”

“Uh. More.”

This wasn’t going anywhere.

Fed up, Shane hit the buttons that locked his computer screen and stood, gathering his things. He thought about saying something snarky, something hurtful, or even something blatantly fake and cheerful. But that wasn’t really the kind of person he was and he wasn’t going to start now. So he said nothing as he unhooked his jacket from the back of his chair and turned to walk away.

“Go on a date with me.”

Shane went still, unsure if the loud voice that half the people in the room had looked up at was actually Ryan or if he was hearing things.

“Shane.”

Slowly, Shane turned. He took in Ryan’s determined stance, the nervous way he was licking his lips, and the stubborn way he was meeting Shane’s eyes. Even as he watched, Ryan deliberately dropped his gaze. “Please.”

It was a gauntlet thrown down. A challenge that was damn near pleading. And he was too tired to resist that challenge.

He had always had a hard time saying no to Ryan, anyways

Aware of eyes on them, he sighed and relented. “Dinner. You’re buying.”

Ryan’s answering grin was bright and nervous and did funny things to Shane’s ability to breathe.

Damn it.

Chapter Text

Dinner was a strained, awkward affair, punctuated more by the clank of silverware than any kind of conversation. Ryan was trying, Shane could tell, but he didn’t seem to know what to say. For his part, Shane wasn’t any better. Every neutral topic felt contrived and they couldn’t exactly talk about his monthly problem in the middle of a restaurant.

The only time Ryan showed any real interest was when Shane mentioned the stray dog that had taken to hanging out around his neighborhood. Ryan was such a dog person sometimes that it was a little comical. Which was probably good for him, Shane realized, in a fit of bitter amusement.

Neither of them had the balls to talk about romantic things over the course of the dinner, either.

Still, Ryan did look nice. That was a bonus. It wouldn’t hurt to acknowledge that.

“That shirt looks good on you,” Shane said into the uncomfortable silence. “I don’t know why you need holes in your jeans, but the shirt is good.”

Ryan stared at him for a second, clearly flustered, before smiling shyly. “Thanks. You look good, too.”

It was awkward and pedantic, but it was the most positive exchange they’d had all day. So, Shane did something he had never done before. “Come over. To my place. As much as I hate to admit it, we should probably talk.” It was seriously odd to invite someone to his house, but it wasn’t like Ryan didn’t already know about his basement.

Smile turning into something nervous but wry, Ryan agreed.

The silence between them on the drive to his house was far more comfortable than the dinner had been, but there was still a tension, and it wasn’t sexual. Which wasn’t fair in the slightest. Ryan had dressed up for him and all he could think about was how much he loathed serious conversations. Fate was laughing at him, he just knew it.

“Do you want a drink?” Shane asked as he unlocked the door, falling into the safety of manners. “Water, beer, something stronger-”

He was interrupted when Ryan shut the door behind him, strode right into Shane’s personal bubble, and hugged him.

Ryan was warm and solid; a real, living, breathing person that knew his greatest secret and was still willing to touch him. Tentatively, not entirely sure he wasn’t dreaming, Shane settled his hands on Ryan’s back. “Hey,” he said softly, giving in to the urge to rest his cheek on Ryan’s head, making it easier to catch the scent of shampoo and sweat. He was pretty certain regular people didn’t go around smelling their friend’s hair, but what Ryan didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. “You okay?”

“I should be asking you that,” Ryan mumbled, only half heard.

Shane gave up any pretense of being unaffected and let himself revel in the feeling of having Ryan in his arms. Ryan’s hands were pressed firmly on either side of his spine and Ryan’s breath was hot against the dip of his collarbone, two sensations that he carefully memorized for safekeeping. God knew when he’d be able to experience something like this again.

Eventually though, he had to give in to the inevitable.

“Why did-” He swallowed and tried again. “Why did you kiss me that morning?”

Ryan sighed quietly, tightening his hold. His words were surprisingly firm when he said, “I realized you were as into me as I was into you.”

Shane slid his hands up to Ryan’s shoulders, pushing him back so that he could look at his face. “How did you figure that?”

If he didn’t know better, he would have thought Ryan was blushing.

“Uh, well, I kind of assumed that when wolfman you liked me well enough not to attack me, human you did, too.”

“...We are friends, that doesn’t mean-”

Ryan shot him a lopsided, embarrassed, smug grin that was downright devastating. “That, and I’ve seen you checking me out.”

Ah. And here he thought he had been subtle.

“Ryan,” Shane said solemnly. “Everyone checks you out. Statues check you out. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your nonexistent ghosts are checking you out.”

It was clear that Ryan was trying not to smile, but he couldn’t entirely hide how pleased he was. He was strikingly handsome in that moment, but that wasn’t exactly a new thing. Shane knew better than to get distracted.

And he knew there was no point in trying to deflect any longer.

“I understand if me being lunar-challenged is a deal breaker, but it’s cruel of you to imply that you’re into me if you’re just going to keep changing your mind. I can’t go from flirting one day to silence the next.”

Lunar-challenged?”

Shane couldn’t help but grin slightly, despite his mood. Ryan’s incredulous expression was always too good to ignore.

Ryan’s answering grin slowly dropped, his eyes warm and wide as he earnestly said, “Shane, it’s not you-” He faltered and grimaced, realizing how that sounded.

“It’s not you, it’s me? That’s the best you can do?” Shane asked, shaking his head, disappointed. “You could at least try to be original with letting me down gently.”

“I’m not trying to let you down gently-”

“That’s sure what it looks like.”

“Shane, shut up for a second.” Ryan glared, for once sounding serious about wanting Shane to be quiet. “I have…” He frowned. “I need to tell you something but I can’t tell you for another couple weeks because it involves other people and I need to talk to them about it.”

What.

Shaking his head slowly, Shane ran his fingers through his hair, more confused than frustrated.

“Tell me you’re not married with a wife and kids.”

Ryan jerked his head back, his eyes like saucers. “What the fuck? No!”

“Yeah, I didn’t really think so. If you had kids, everyone and their dog would know about it.”

“No,” Ryan said again, scowling. “I’m single. I don’t have children. I’m not killing anyone and I’m not doing anything illegal, before you ask.”

“That’s comforting. You do get a little obsessed with true crime.” Stop getting distracted. “And this secret? That’s why you’ve been flip flopping like a fish?”

“Mostly, yeah.” Ryan gently settled his hands on Shane’s waist. “I don’t like lying to you, even if it’s just by omission.”

Shane had to ask, despite knowing it would reveal too much of his thought process, “And it’s not because you don’t want anything to do with a nightmare creature?”

Ryan gave him a heavy-lidded, sly look. “I already thought you were a nightmare, Madej. Nothing has changed there.”

Pure delight at the teasing reply made Shane grin, relief making him feel lighter than he had in days. “Quiet, you,” he groused, returning his hands to Ryan’s shoulders.

The fact that Ryan apparently had some kind of huge secret was concerning. Doubly so, if it involved other people. That secret could be anything from Ryan being allergic to dogs, which was unlikely, to his entire family being a part of Witness Protection. Maybe he was a porn star. Or a secret CIA agent. Maybe it was something as prosaic as his family not knowing that he was into men. Shane wanted desperately to ask, since he was sure that it was something mundane that Ryan was blowing out of proportion, but he got the feeling Ryan wouldn’t answer.

It wasn’t like he could throw stones, considering that he had been hiding a pretty huge secret, too. And he’d wager a guess that his secret was a bit more extreme than Ryan’s.

For now, it felt more important to push that curiosity and worry aside. He wanted to enjoy the evening.

“Can I kiss you?”

Shane huffed out a laugh, somehow not surprised that Ryan had beaten him to the punch. “I don’t know, can you?”

Ryan rolled his eyes before pulling Shane’s head down and kissing him like he thought it would work to shut him up.

The more fool him, because a little smoochin’ wasn’t going to stop Shane from making the jokes. Especially if it was a real zinger. Though for the time being, he was more than content to let Ryan think he had won, to lean down and enjoy the softness of Ryan’s lips and the teasing pressure of his teeth.

What they were doing dawned on Shane after a second, his stomach twisting in sudden butterflies as the kiss went from fun and nearly chaste to something deeper and more urgent. He felt shaky and nervous in the all the best ways, his attention split between the kiss and his fervent hope that he could make this good enough to somehow convince Ryan to stay, to keep either of them from regretting it. Ryan parted his lips and Shane took advantage of it instantly, deepening the kiss even as he wondered if he should have brushed his teeth. The wet, firm slide of Ryan’s tongue was combined with the usual self-consciousness over his height, making him bend his back a little more. How many times had a partner complained about having a sore neck after kissing him? Maybe he should have moved this to the couch, where the height difference didn’t matter, maybe-

Ryan pulled back, looking more exasperated than anything else. “I can hear you overthinking, big guy. Relax.”

“I’m relaxed,” Shane returned, though the way his voice broke didn’t lend much credence to his statement. “I’m so relaxed I’m practically putty.”

Fingers sliding from the top of Shane’s shoulder to the line of his jaw, Ryan gave him a thoroughly fond look. “It’s a kiss. Just a kiss. Enjoy it.”

Right. Enjoy it. He could do that.

Shane pushed all of his usual worries and negative thoughts away, forcing himself to focus on the here and now. This time Ryan scratched his fingernails through the hair at the nape of Shane’s neck as they kissed, and the twin sensations of Ryan’s tongue in his mouth and the scrape of nails over his skin were exactly what he needed. His shoulders dropped as he finally fell into the moment, his hands meandering their way down Ryan’s back. Muscles shifted under his hands and his breath caught in his throat.

Maybe…

Maybe Ryan wouldn’t mind if…

He tugged the bottom of Ryan’s shirt up with one hand, slipping the other along warm, smooth skin. He pressed his palm against Ryan’s spine, keeping the pressure firm as he slowly drew his hand farther and farther up. His reward was teeth nipping gently on his bottom lip. The feeling of sensitive flesh being pinched made him pull Ryan closer, needing more, needing to feel Ryan’s body pinned against his.

Ryan let out a noise that was almost a laugh as he abandoned Shane’s mouth to trail hard, wet kisses down his throat. Shane let out a shaky sigh, going completely still when Ryan stepped back just long enough to push both of his shirts up, not giving him time to be embarrassed or ashamed of the softness of his belly before sucking a bruising kiss to the center of his chest.

There was an ache growing in Shane’s fingers and toes that he willfully ignored, even as his heart beat faster and faster and his blood pressure rose. He was too distracted by the soft pressure of Ryan’s tongue and the cold spots littering his chest and neck where saliva was evaporating on his skin to pay attention to anything else.

His forearms itched and prickled, but he shoved the warnings away, closing his eyes and thinking only about how much he wanted Ryan to keep going, to do whatever he wanted. Ryan’s fingers dug into his hips, tugging and pulling at the waistband of his pants and Shane cursed the fact that he had decided to wear pants that required a belt that day.

Ryan mumbled something he didn’t catch, teeth scraping across his chest, right over his wildly beating heart.

“What?” Shane managed to ask, his voice thready and weak.

Shaking his head, Ryan laughed and said, “This is like making out with my homeroom crush all over again.” He glanced up at Shane, his eyes and smile bright, color high in his cheeks. “I want to suck you off but I’m convinced you’ll think it’s terrible. I haven’t been this unsure in years.”

Shane stared at him incredulously, swallowing thickly at the words. “Ryan, I can assure you that as long as you don’t bite my dick off, I’m not going to complain.”

“Why did you have to say that?” Ryan made an exaggerated, uncomfortable face at him, surprising a bark of laughter out of Shane.

Grinning and far too amused by such a stupid response, Shane brought his hands up, intent on cupping Ryan’s face and kissing him for all he was worth, like some kind of romantic schmuck, because that was the least that Ryan deserved.

He froze for a split second when he noticed his fingers.

Nearly twenty years of living with his curse gave him the instinct to casually curl his hands into fists and drop them down by his sides. There was a lie on his lips, one that Ryan no doubt would have called him out for, because the guy knew him a little too well, when a thought dropped into the middle of his quiet panicking.

Ryan knows me.

Ryan didn’t just know him, he knew.

Shane could, potentially, tell Ryan the truth. Show him his hands.

There was the good possibility that it would be too much for Ryan to handle, since it was one thing to know that he got hairier once a month, but another to know that it could happen at any moment if he got a little excited.

But for the first time in his life, Shane realized, he had the option. He had the actual option to tell Ryan.

“Shane? What’s wrong?

Ryan let his shirts fall slowly back down, watching him with a worried expression, lips red and hair mussed, even though Shane had no memory of touching Ryan’s hair. The combination was too much for him to ignore.

Slowly, faking nonchalance so hard that he was probably going to pull something, Shane brought his hand up and shrugged. “Maybe a BJ isn’t the best idea. You got the ol’ ticker goin’ a little fast, Bergara,” he said as steadily as he could. “Which is a shame, because I was looking forward to it.”

Ryan’s eyes went wide, his mouth falling open in amazement.

And really, Shane couldn’t blame him. The thick hair covering his arms and the back of his hands could have been dismissed, since it wasn’t quite at the stage of being fur. It was the actual claws his nails had turned into that couldn’t be ignored.

They were thick and curled, pushing up from his nail beds like- of course- a dog’s. The only positive thing he could say was that they weren’t particularly sharp. They weren’t pointed talons or anything like that, though he knew for a fact that they could cut pretty well. Shane had woken up from too many full moons with lingering scratch marks on his body for him to think otherwise.

It came as something of a shock when, instead of backing away and treating him like he was a supposed ghosty or ghoul at a ‘haunted’ location, Ryan lightly drew one finger down the back of his knuckle. His expression was more curious than scared and Shane almost couldn’t believe it. This was the guy that jumped at wind and radio static but could face a real life werewolf with aplomb?

Figured.

The urge to fidget under Ryan’s studying gaze was strong, but Shane kept his hand still, letting Ryan move his fingers back and forth and lightly manipulate a couple of his claws. Fear was growing, a nervous voice in the back of his head whispering that Ryan was going to freak out soon, that he was going to become a curiosity instead of a person, that this was only going to lead to pain.

Fear was an odd thing to add to the mix of fluttering hope and lingering arousal, but it was honestly an old companion by this point. He had lived with it for so long that he wasn’t sure what life would be like without that trusty fear locked up in a corner of his brain.

Shane breathed in carefully through his nose, focusing on Ryan instead of his scared thoughts. His heartbeat started to slow and the hair on his arm seemed to melt, relaxing into faint spots of clear liquid.

“Whoa,” Ryan breathed, leaning closer. “The hell is that?”

“I have no idea. It’s not like I could go get it tested. I think it’s salt water? That’s what it tastes like, anyways.”

Ryan threw him a slightly disgusted look. “You tasted it?”

“Everything changes,” Shane said wryly. “Including my teeth. Of course I’ve tasted it.”

“It must drive you crazy that you can’t explain any of this.”

“You have no idea,” Shane practically whined, the usual frustration of trying to figure out the logical mechanics behind his curse doing more to calm him than anything else had. The fact that the best explanation to his condition was magic was pure bullshit.

The rest of the extra hair disappeared, leaving only his normal arm hair. The claws remained, though, which had always been the hardest thing for him to get rid of.

“Can you control this?” Ryan asked, sounding like he was thinking of being impressed.

Shane paused, taking a moment just to marvel at how well Ryan was taking everything. The guy was curious and interested, but he had yet to seem scared. It wasn’t like Shane had many people that he could compare Ryan’s reactions to, since the only people that knew about his predicament were all family members that were well versed in the nature of the curse, but it felt a little odd that Ryan was being so chill about the entire thing.

“Not really?” Shane turned his palm up and curled his fingers slightly, staring at his own claws. “It just happens when I get, uh, excited?” He shook his head at Ryan’s raised eyebrows. “No, not when I’m horny.” He hesitated. “Well, sometimes then, too. But I think it has more to do with my heart and if I’m experiencing a strong emotion. The last time I actually cared about a game I was playing in, I nearly clawed up the goalie.”

“Are you saying this is why you’re not into sports?”

Shane made a horrified face. “I’m not into sports because it’s sports, Ryan. I’m a werewolf, not a neanderthal.”

Ryan gave him a look like there was something wrong with him.

“I’ll leave the sweating and manly grunting to you.”

So casually that Shane almost didn’t notice it at first, Ryan slipped his hand over Shane’s, interlacing their fingers. He could feel the pressure of his claws pressing into the back of Ryan’s hand and he froze, afraid that a single wrong move would leave Ryan with scratches.

“Maybe you’re not giving sweating enough of a chance,” Ryan said slyly, doing something that he probably thought was flirtatious with his eyebrows.

Shane wanted to mock him for the bad pickup line, but his words choked off in his throat when Ryan brought their hands up to his mouth. And wrapped his lips around Shane’s first finger, claw and all, sucking lightly before grinning as smugly as he could at Shane’s expression.

To say that Shane was surprised would have been an understatement.

He felt so floored that he could have been knocked over with a feather. Sure, he had still been a little hard, but he had philosophically accepted that showing Ryan his furry, clawed hands would put a stop to any sexy times.

Ryan was reacting to all of this really well.

Shane wanted to question it, to ask Ryan why the hell he was handling the fact that werewolves were real with such casual self-assurance, like it was no big deal. Ryan’s desk buddy, co-host, and apparent best friend was a creature that- if the myths and movies were to be believed- liked to savage and murder young women attending their flocks of sheep. And Ryan just didn’t care.

But it was hard to ask anything when Shane’s entire body was focused on how hot Ryan’s mouth was, how wet and soft his tongue was as it gently curled under the tip of Shane’s finger and along his claw.

All Shane managed to do for a long moment was make some kind of high-pitched, surprised noise that could barely be heard because of how difficult it was for him to breathe.

“Ryan,” he warned in a choked voice, almost whispering it. “You’re going to get a mouthful of fur if you keep that up.”

Ryan paused, and then, because he was a rabble-rouser of the worst kind, slid Shane’s finger further into his mouth, sucking hard the whole way before finally letting go of his hand.

“You’re a sex fiend,” Shane accused faintly in realization, watching with something like delighted horror as Ryan grinned at him in a very self-satisfied way.

“Probably,” Ryan agreed easily. “But I'm not going to let some overgrown nails and hair stop me from scoring tonight.”

The fact that he somehow found that hot left Shane a little disappointed in himself. Clearly his dick was shameless.

“There's a difference between not caring versus sucking on a claw. You little kinkster, you.” Before Ryan could respond to that, and knowing that he probably wasn’t making the best decisions in the moment, Shane threw all caution to the wind and said, waggling his eyebrows suggestively, “We can’t get too frisky. Or at least, I can’t be the one gettin’ frisky with you. No one needs pointy bits around their bits.”

A brief moment of silence as Ryan blinked at him.

“Wait, do you mean-” Ryan lowered his voice, as if he thought the walls were listening, “-butt stuff?”

It was amusing to watch Ryan’s expression go from shocked to disturbed to intrigued, followed by a mix of disappointed and determined, all in the space of two seconds. Like watching a skewed version of the five stages of grief in a timelapse.

And it also revealed more about Ryan's experience- or lack thereof- than the guy probably realized. Another thing that he most likely shouldn't have found as hot as he did.

“It’s telling that your first thought was 'butt stuff’ and not hand job.”

Actually, why was Ryan more thrown by the idea of that than the honest-to-God werewolf?

Ryan pointedly ignored him. “So what can we do?” He slid his hands down Shane’s sides, like he couldn’t stop touching. As if, now that he knew he could, he had no intention of stopping. “I’m open to suggestions.”

Well that was a cue if Shane had ever heard one. Let it never be said that he didn’t know how to accommodate an eager partner.

More daring than he had ever allowed himself to be, Shane placed his hands on Ryan’s shoulders, intentionally letting a few of his claws rest against Ryan’s naked skin, above the line of his shirt collar. It sent a thrill through Shane that Ryan didn’t even seem to notice that he had claws so close to his throat. “I suggest we take this to the couch. Or a bed. Either way. I’m easy-”

“Apparently.”

Shane grinned and winked as he continued, “-But coming while standing is just asking for somebody to fall over and hit their head.”

Ryan’s lips twitched in a grin that he quickly tried to smooth into a casual smile, as if his fingers hadn’t tightened on Shane’s waist. “Bed?”

“Bed.”

Claws notwithstanding, this was something Shane could do and knew he could do well. It wasn’t often that he was able to find that equilibrium that let him focus on his own pleasure, but he took some pride in being able to provide it.

He didn’t give either of them time to be nervous or allow second thoughts to creep in. As soon as they had passed into his bedroom, Shane pushed Ryan gently but firmly onto his unmade bed. It would have been easy to overthink this, to feel embarrassed over the messy nature of the rooms they had passed through, or worry about the future of where this was headed.

But he knew that Ryan was following his lead in this. If he started freaking out, Ryan would too. So Shane locked all of his nerves into a box in his mind and did what he could to ignore it. He focused all of his attention on what was before him.

There was light filtering in through the window, a street lamp that he usually hated, but now it cast Ryan in a warm, muted glow that made him look like something from a Renaissance painting.

Shane grinned to himself at the thought. Emotions were turning him into a sop, it seemed.

Ryan opened his mouth, probably to ask what was so funny, but Shane leaned over and kissed him before he could get the words out. Making a cute little noise of surprise, Ryan reached up and wrapped his arm around Shane’s shoulders, trying to gently tug him down onto the bed with him. Shane almost gave in, but when he sat one hand down on the bed to steady himself, a claw caught in the fabric, a reminder that he was far too hot and bothered to be engaging in any real touching.

His knees complained when he kneeled down on the floor between Ryan’s legs, but it was a small price to pay to see the way Ryan’s expression went hungry as soon as he understood what Shane was trying to do.

“Hey, you took my idea,” Ryan said, his eyes dark over the teasing smile. “I was going to blow you.”

Shane trailed his fingers up Ryan’s thighs, arching them just so he could feel the rough denim without worrying about his claws. “What can I say? I know quality ideas when I hear them.” He nodded towards Ryan’s pants. “You don’t want me trying to unbutton things right now.”

Ryan’s response was flatteringly prompt as he instantly laid back to unbutton and unzip his pants to reveal tight, black boxer briefs. The quietest shuddering inhale could be heard when Ryan hesitated for a fleeting second, then pushed both his pants and briefs down to mid thigh in one fast, wiggling push.

A thought snagged in Shane’s head- He wore nice underwear for me- but he didn’t let the implication distract him.

He knew he wasn’t the most conventionally attractive guy, but he did his best to look seductive as he hooked his claws into the waistband of Ryan’s pants and drew everything down to his ankles. Licking his lips in a way that was as comical and teasing as it was genuine, Shane let it be obvious that he was checking out everything Ryan had to offer. There was a shake in Ryan’s laugh as he sat up smoothly in an impressive display of ab muscles that was just gratuitous, but the sound seemed to be as much from eagerness as it was nerves.

Shane started to lean forward, with every intention of getting his mouth on the half-hard cock in front of him, but Ryan caught his face in one hand, his thumb caressing Shane’s cheek. Ryan’s lips twitched into a very familiar expression that only ever spelled trouble before he smoothed out his features and said very solemnly, “My, what big eyes you have.”

“No.”

“My, what big ears you have,” Ryan continued, breaking after only a moment. A wide grin spread across his face, far too pleased with himself.

Shane glared, though it was hard to hide his own giddy smile. “So you don’t want a blowjob is what I’m hearing.”

“My,” Ryan wheezed a tiny laugh, “What big teeth you have.”

“I should be the one saying that to you, really.”

Ryan watched him, expectant.

“Is this a thing? Are we doing role-play now?” Shane paused. “That would explain why you’re so chill about the werewolf situation.”

Shane.”

“Right, right, sorry.” Shane pulled his face into something dramatically evil, leering and folding his hand around Ryan’s wrist, deliberately pressing down with his claws. “The better to eat you with, my dear.” Then he raised both eyebrows. “This doing it for you?”

Ryan snorted and used Shane’s grip on his wrist to pull him closer, until he was pressed up against the edge of the bed. He kissed Shane with surprising urgency, considering that he had been willing to pause everything just to make a bad joke. “You’re such a dick.”

“Speaking of dicks.”

Groaning, Ryan started to say something.

Shane was too busy curling forward and mouthing along the inside of Ryan’s thigh to pay attention. Ryan’s skin was warm under his lips, smooth and soft and so very biteable. It was hard not to dig his teeth in. He kept going until his nose met the crease of Ryan’s thigh, laughing quietly when Ryan gasped some kind of garbled complaint at the feeling of Shane’s cheek brushing against his cock and balls.

It was easy to turn his head and lick at the base of Ryan’s cock, nearly nuzzling the short, curly hair around it. He wanted to bury his nose in the spot and breathe deep, but focused on teasing Ryan with his tongue instead.

God, Ryan smelled so good. Shane wasn’t usually the kind of guy that revelled in someone’s scent. Sweat and musk didn’t really appeal to him. But for some reason, Ryan smelled right.

Normal, non-werewolfy people didn’t sit there and inhale the smell of someone’s crotch, though. He was fairly certain of that.

“Shane,” Ryan whispered, the smallest quaver in his voice. “You-”

Shane chose that moment to arch his neck just right and wrap his lips around Ryan’s cock, sucking the head into his mouth. The movement made Ryan’s words fall off into a stuttering breath. It was far too much fun interrupting Ryan this way. He was going to get addicted to it.

Without use of his hands, it was more difficult than it should have been to maneuver everything exactly the way he wanted it, but Shane just took it as a challenge and sat up straighter on his knees, angling until he could slide Ryan’s cock all the way into his mouth.

Ryan swore and tangled his fingers into Shane’s hair. He didn’t pull, but his hand was a comfortable weight that quieted some of the constant tense thoughts running through Shane’s mind. Saliva was already pooling in his mouth and dripping from the corners of his lips, but Shane accepted the inevitable drooling and set to making a complete mess out of Ryan.

The slick, wet sounds of his mouth around Ryan were loud in the room, the kind of noises that only came from one activity. He didn’t bother to try and be quieter, since putting on a show had always appealed to him. Ryan wasn’t exactly complaining.

It wasn’t a surprise to learn that Ryan was noisy. Gasps when Shane pushed the tip of his tongue against the spot right under the head, grunts when he managed to fit everything into his mouth, deep inhales when he hollowed his cheeks and sucked, all interwoven with constant murmurs of praise and Shane’s name.

Despite his best efforts to keep the doubts at bay, something about hearing his name coming from Ryan’s mouth in such a breathless way made the realization of what was happening hit hard. Shane paused, the weight of Ryan’s cock on his tongue abruptly very real and very present. The soft scratch of Ryan’s leg hair against the skin of his palms was such an inconsequential little detail that it shouldn’t have even registered, but it felt suddenly overwhelming. It wasn’t a feeling he had ever considered before. And now he knew it. Now he knew the taste of Ryan’s precome and the sounds Ryan made when he was trying to keep his hips still.

What was he doing?

What were they doing?

This could ruin everything, they hadn’t even been able to talk to each other for the past two weeks, what was this going to do? What would this bring tomorrow? Would-

Ryan’s fingers dug into the nape of Shane’s neck, a firm grasp with slightly too much nail.

Shane inhaled through his nose in surprise, his eyes snapping up to meet Ryan’s intense gaze. Ryan squeezed once, his expression softening for a brief moment into something gentle as he quietly murmured, “Shane.”

That’s all it was. Just his name.

Shane’s thoughts went silent. The sudden anxiety simply floated away.

This was Ryan.

If there was anyone he could brazenly make mistakes with and come out the other side the better for it, it was Ryan.

Shane sunk back into the sensations of taking Ryan apart as if he had never had a moment of doubt; the rhythmic bobbing of his head, the tightening of his lips, the slide of firm flesh over his tongue. He had to pause to catch his breath and at the interruption, Ryan pulled hard at his hair, harder than Ryan probably realized he was doing. Shane whined at the feeling that wasn’t quite pain spreading across his scalp, nearly going limp from it.

His jaw ached from holding it at such an awkward angle for so long, but it was a good ache, and he was oddly proud of himself for being able to handle the thick, firm cock that was very nearly too much for him to handle.

There wasn’t much room between Ryan’s legs to begin with, but there was even less when Ryan squeezed his thighs together, his knees digging into Shane’s shoulders. It was somehow perfect. Shane could have stayed like that forever.

“Shane, I-”

Shane recognized the strained, urgent quality of Ryan’s voice and dared to put his still clawed hand on Ryan’s, directing him into pushing his head forward and back. Ryan couldn’t really fuck into Shane’s mouth, but he could control the speed at which Shane moved his head and after some encouragement, he got the hint that Shane wanted his mouth to be used. It was too much and he couldn’t breathe, but Shane took it with his eyes open wide to try and catch every expression that crossed Ryan’s face.

The helpless, breathless little noises that Ryan made when he came were so mind-numbingly hot that Shane had to dig his hands into his own thighs before he did something regrettable. He gladly swallowed everything he could, savoring the whimpers that Ryan kept making. If he couldn’t do what he really wanted, at least he could do this right.

Ryan fell back on the bed, landing on his elbows and panting like he had just run a marathon. From what Shane could see in the dimness of the room, Ryan looked absolutely wrecked, all from a simple blowjob. He couldn’t help but wonder what Ryan would look like after getting fucked and wow, that was not a thought he needed right then. It took all he had to stay put and not just follow Ryan up onto the bed and rut against him like the animal he kept telling himself he wasn’t.

Shane was so hard that he was certain he could hammer the proverbial nail, but this wouldn’t be the first time he had ignored his own orgasm and it wouldn’t be the last. Already he could feel the telltale prickle of growing hair on his forearms again. So when Ryan started to squirm from oversensitivity, he stopped sucking and decided to kiss his way up Ryan’s hip.

“I’m never going to let you forget that you interrupted a blowie to make a Little Red Riding Hood joke,” he blithely informed Ryan once he reached the bottom of Ryan’s shirt.

Ryan stared at him, obviously thrown and still inhabiting a post-orgasm high. Then his eyebrows scrunched together. “Never say ‘blowie’ ever again.”

Shane laughed and did his best not to obviously hump the edge of the bed. He was desperate but he wasn’t that desperate. Cracking his jaw and ignoring the pain in his knees, he crawled onto the bed next to Ryan and nuzzled into his neck. Given enough time, either his erection would go away or his claws would. Until then, he was going to stay as plastered to Ryan as the guy would allow.

“Um, do you want a hand or-”

Yes, please, God, yes-

Bite, tear, claim, rip-

Flesh parting under teeth, hot, steaming blood pouring-

“Nah,” Shane said, ignoring his body and its urges. “Neither of us want to know just how worked up I can get.” His stomach twisted in nerves before he even got the words out, but he managed to ask, “You going to stay the night?” with a fairly believable level of calm.

There was a painfully long pause, then Ryan twisted onto his side to look at Shane with big, bright eyes. “If you don’t mind.”

Shane hummed in response, carefully settling his hand on the dip under Ryan’s ribs.

“Okay, but seriously, you’re poking me with your hard on,” Ryan said abruptly. “Are you sure-”

“I’m fine,” Shane interrupted. He shifted just enough to lazily kiss Ryan, still a bit flabbergasted that he was allowed to do so and a little too interested in the fact that Ryan didn’t shy away from tasting his own come. He had to make a conscious effort to pull back and continue his thought. “You’re so sexy that you got me all riled up, Bergara. We’ll have to just keep doing this until I can keep it together.”

Ryan’s mouth twitched into a small smile. “So you’re saying we need to practice?”

“Oh, of course,” Shane said as seriously as he could. “All of the practice. Possibly daily.”

Breaking into a delighted laugh, Ryan grinned at him. It was a wonderful, beautiful look.

Somewhere in the depths of Shane’s mind, he panicked.

Ah hell.

He had caught real feelings for Ryan.

That was just embarrassing.

 

 

------------------------------------

 

 

“Let me come over.”

“No.”

“I’ll bring beer.”

“No.”

“I’ll bring snacks?”

“And what, teach me tricks? No.”

“Shane…” Ryan’s sigh made the mic crackle slightly and Shane had the sudden epiphany that Ryan had somehow become one of the few people he willingly talked to on the phone. He hadn’t even hesitated to answer the call. Soon they’d be FaceTiming and sending ‘did you remember the beer’ texts and oh God they were a couple.

“You still there?”

Shane startled, realizing that he had been staring at nothing and completely ignoring whatever Ryan was saying. “Yeah, sorry, I-” Maybe it wasn’t the right time to tell Ryan they were a couple if the guy didn’t already have that tidbit figured out. “Spacing out.”

Ryan made a noise that somehow conveyed both amusement and concern. “Seriously, dude, let me come over. You won’t-” He hesitated, since they had agreed to at least try to be subtle while talking over the phones that could be recorded. Shane’s paranoia was probably unfounded, but it was still very real. “-You won’t do anything I don’t want.”

“One night without me gnawing on you does not a good argument make, Ryan.” Shane sighed, rubbing at the back of his neck and frowning at the feel of sweat-soaked hair. The afternoon sun slanted in through the kitchen windows, but it was one of those fun full moons that rose while the sun was still up. It always depressed him when he had to lock himself up in the daylight hours and the idea of having Ryan there was altogether too tempting. But he wasn’t going to risk Ryan’s safety. “I’ve been doing this by myself for years, I don’t need you holding my hand now.”

“Paw.”

Heh. And if there was a government spook listening in, they probably just thought he was into some kinky shit.

“Ryan,” he chided, though even he could hear the smile in his voice. “That was an old joke the second time you made it. Now you’re just running the bit into the ground.”

“Yeah, but you know how comedy works. Eventually it’ll be hilarious.”

A wave of shivers went up his back, followed by a line of sharp fire along his spine, like he was being jabbed by needles in each vertebrae. He bit his lip against the gasp of pain, then cleared his throat. “I’ve got to go get ready. Time’s a wastin’.” Heeding his own words, he opened the door to the basement and started down the stairs.

“I’m coming over.”

“Don’t you dare. I already locked the door and I had better not wake up to broken windows.” Which was a lie. Like the idiot sap that he was, he had left the door unlocked. He could lie to Ryan about wanting him to stay away, but he couldn’t lie to himself.

“No promises.”

Shane thumped his fist into the railing of the stairs in an effort to distract himself from the pain sweeping through his joints. “Seriously, I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow.” It took effort to keep his voice even, but he thought he managed fairly well.

Ryan sighed again. “See ya. I-” He paused, then said in a strangled voice, “Uh, bye,” and hung up suspiciously fast.

Shane stared down at his phone, wondering for a moment if Ryan had nearly dropped the big L. He shook his head and dismissed the thought. There would be time to think about that later, after the moon.

Feeling a little bit like a pining lover from a period drama, he plugged in his phone in the basement, far away from the cage. It was something he hadn’t done since he had first moved into the house and his mom had made him call to prove he had gotten through the full moon alright. He tried not to think about how cheesy it was that he wanted to be able to text Ryan as soon as he had enough energy to crawl over to his phone in the morning.

Sweat dripped off the end of his nose and he grimaced, wiping at his forehead. Full moons during the day always left him more feverish than usual. He was going to have to invest in a dog bowl for water. Ryan would probably find it hilarious.

He stripped in something of a daze, hooking the chain around his neck and locking the cage door on autopilot. For once, the cold concrete under him felt good against his heated skin, so he lay spread out flat on his back for as long as he could. The pain didn’t let him stay like that for long, though, and he soon found himself curled up on his side, staring at the stairs up to the first floor.

Hair prickled its way out of his skin, an itching sensation that drove him crazy on the best of days but felt somehow more torturous than normal. Maybe he was getting too used to having Ryan around when it happened.

Around ten minutes had passed when he dimly heard a faint knock, then the sound of the door opening upstairs.

Why wasn’t he surprised?

Ryan was a stubborn ass, sometimes. If he had made it to the house so fast, that meant he had called while driving and already on his way. Shane was going to have to have a talk with Ryan about that sometime.

He let out a strained huff of air that could have been considered a laugh in better circumstances. Ryan was such a brat. But it took one to know one and Shane honestly thought he wouldn’t have Ryan any other way.

The sharp agony of his spine twisting, the cracks and pops of bones all over his body breaking and reforming made Shane cry out weakly. Still, he drug himself to his feet, clutching desperately at the bars to keep his balance. He curled one arm around his stomach, the burbling and sloshing of his organs rearranging giving him that familiar fear that he was going to throw up his own intestines.

He had once looked up the anatomy of a wolf. There weren’t all that many differences between a human and a wolf. So why did so many damn things have to change?

Rarely did he try to hold onto his consciousness for so long, but he wanted to see Ryan. There was as much need as there was dread in the longing to know for a fact that he wasn’t alone. What was a little extra pain?

In what seemed like a direct response to that thought, there was the sensation of someone driving nails into his sinuses, then Shane’s nose was flooded with so many smells that he had to lean his head against the bars, closing his eyes against the onslaught of sensory information.

A complex weaving of scents came to him, both old and new, from the room and the clothes on the floor to a whiff of something that smelled somehow comforting. The sweat of a man, faint pine, something indescribable-

Ryan.

Shane’s moan of pain turned into a deranged laugh halfway through that barely masked the footsteps of someone coming down the stairs. Of course he was sappy enough to know Ryan’s scent. Of course he was.

“I told you not to come over,” he called out in a voice that was barely recognizable as his own, his vocal chords stretching and twisting even as he spoke.

The footsteps paused. “Shane? You’re… awake?”

Ryan sounded off. Scared? That would make sense, though it would be the first time Ryan had really reacted correctly to the whole werewolf situation. Maybe-

That was more than one pair of feet.

Shane jerked his head up, squinting through the tears to see three people standing at the bottom of the stairs.

Three people.

Watching him change into a werewolf.

It didn’t make sense.

His vision was blurred without his contacts and from his eyes watering so much, but he could recognize Ryan. And Ryan’s father and brother.

All he could do for a frozen moment was stare. Disbelief twisted sharply in his mind. There was no way. No. No, Ryan wouldn’t stab him in the back like this, no it couldn’t-

Fear, despair, and pure betrayal slammed through Shane when he was able to seperate what he was smelling into three distinct scents, proving that he wasn’t just seeing things. That really was Ryan’s family standing there. Watching him.

His body was in too much pain for him to really think through the implications. All he knew was that Ryan had told someone. Had brought them here to his sanctuary, his den, the one place he was supposed to be safe.

Stumbling backwards on legs that could barely hold his weight, Shane bared a mouthful of sharp teeth in an instinctual snarl of fear. “Get out!” he shouted in a growled yell that was nearly a roar. “You fucker,” he managed to hiss through a lengthening jaw that made the words end in a whimper. “I trusted you!”

The blur he could recognize as Ryan practically ran closer. “No, Shane, no, it’s not what it looks like, I promise-”

“Get out!” he tried to shout again, but the sounds became mangled, ending in an animal growl that rumbled from his chest.

Loud snaps echoed in the room as all the bones in his legs broke and reformed, shifting into new positions. The bones in his feet lengthened and tore through his skin, the smell of blood hot in his nose. He screamed and howled, falling to the floor, writhing and twisting as the pain built and built and built.

The pressure of his skull slowly, agonizingly changing shape was finally enough to drive him into the darkness of his own mind.

He welcomed it.

There was no betrayal there.

Chapter Text

Pain

Fear

Need

The beast lay on his side, panting harshly as the fierce ache in his limbs slowly receded. There was fear coursing through his veins, but he only had attention for the need, a hook in his belly that pulled and pulled and pulled.

It was a constant pressure. One that told him to hunt, to -find the prey and rend and savage, leave nothing but bone and scattered flesh.

With a groan that echoed in his strange den, he scrabbled to all fours, weaving on his feet.

A tantalizing scent registered.

A chorus of strained breaths that were not his own.

He wasn’t alone.

His ears pressed back against his skull as he rose to his hind feet, but stayed low, wary and prepared to attack.

Through the bars that kept him in- always kept him in- were three people. People shaped like those he needed to hunt.

One smelled familiar. Safe. But he was with two others that were wrapped in foreign and unknown scents. Strangers. Strangers weren’t safe.

He slowly edged backwards, growling softly in warning. Fear grew, overtaking the ever present need to hunt.

Fear, confusion, too many sounds in the den, too many scents

The beast didn’t know why these people were there and he didn’t care. He just wanted them gone.

The familiar one took a step towards the bars. He crouched lower in response, the growl growing louder.

“Hey, whoa, it’s okay. It’s fine, it’s okay, we’re not going to hurt you.”

The voice was soft and pleading. It made the fear falter. He stopped growling, his ears pricked forward to better hear the soothing sounds.

“It’s me, it’s Ryan. You remember me, don’t you?”

Falling into a whisper, the voice drew him a step forward.

“Wait-”

“Ryan, don’t-”

Sudden loud words that startled the beast, making him jerk backwards into a corner, his growl returning at a higher pitch.

“Fu- Damn it. It’s just Shane, he’s not going to hurt me.”

“I don’t think he's really all there, right now.”

The familiar one smelled like fear, marring the green scent with a bitter tang. He didn’t like that. The beast didn’t want this one to be afraid.

After a moment of watching to see if they would make a move, he crept along the wall towards the bars, keeping the familiar one between him and the strangers.

“He didn’t hurt me last time.” The man turned back towards him, threading his arm through the bars. “C’mon, Shane, it’s okay.”

The beast tilted his head to the side, curious.

Bite

Rip

Gnaw and tear

Saliva dripped from his muzzle, hunger waking under his instincts. It merged with the need to hunt.

But this one didn’t smell right. This wasn’t one he needed to hunt.

Keeping one ear turned towards the strangers, the beast cautiously sniffed the very tips of the man’s outstretched fingers. They smelled salty and astringent. Like food and something chemical. He licked them once, but didn’t like the taste.

“Ryan-”

“Shut up, Jake,” the man said. He lifted his hand and gently stroked the fur between the beast’s ears.

The beast froze, trembling at the soft tug of fingers pulling through his fur.

“See? I’m fine, he’s just- gah!”

He whined, pressing the length of his nose against the man’s chest, craving more of that addictive feeling. The bars pinched one of his ears from where he was trying to force his head in between them, but he could ignore that if the man would just put his hand back.

“Shit, what happened?”

“I’m okay,” the man said, the sound of the words shaking. “Fuck, he moves fast. Never seen him move that fast as a human.”

He whined again pointedly.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to pet the damn werewolf.”

“Jake,” the third stranger said, his sound stern. “You know better.”

The beast twitched at the command in the voice. He knew who was the leader of the three, though he felt no need to recognize that dominance himself.

“Sorry. I’m sorry, Shane.” There was a pause. “Don’t tell me you’re going to pet Shane.”

The man, the familiar one who smelled safe, made more noises, more words, but the beast paid no attention. The fingers that were buried in the ruff of fur around his neck were far more important.

It was wonderful.

He couldn’t remember ever feeling such relief. Those clever fingers were scratching the absolutely perfect spot under the chain, reaching a persistent itch that he hadn't known was an itch.

Voices flowed around him, growing louder and annoying, but unimportant.

The scratch, the tug of fur being pulled the wrong way, the weight of the man’s hand that was somehow better than the weight of the chain, it all came together to drown out the need.

For once, he didn’t want to hunt.

He wanted warmth. Comfort. This safe man’s fingers to keep doing whatever it was they were doing.

It was strange.

Good strange.

“Shane, I can’t do this all night.”

The beast grumbled and rubbed his head along the bars, pressing his neck closer to the man. His eyes had closed at some point, but he could hear one of the strangers pacing back and forth, and he idly tracked the movement with his ears.

“I don’t like this. But he’s a good man.” The leader sighed. “You can tell him. But you know the rules.”

The fingers in his fur tightened briefly. “Thanks, Dad,” the man said softly.

A brush of a footstep. Someone getting closer.

He growled quietly. It was a clear warning.

“Wait, Jake, don’t-”

Another step.

Closer.

Too close

Stranger, not safe, fear, danger, GET AWAY

The beast snarled and lunged, snapping his jaw around one of the bars, barely missing the hand of the stranger. His teeth ground on the metal, making noises that hurt his ears as he shook his head back and forth, the bar rattling in it’s casing.

“Fuck!”

“Jake!”

There were loud noises, shouting and yelling as all three figures clustered together, the bigger two comforting the smallest. The beast slunk into the corner on all fours, growling the entire time. He kept his attention focused on them.

He didn’t want the strangers getting closer.

Only the familiar one.

After more loud voices, the strangers finally left. The beast waited to see if the man would leave as well, but felt some peculiar contentment when the man stayed.

“I keep forgetting you’re not really you right now, are you, big guy?”

He looked towards the hole where the strangers had disappeared.

“They’re gone now. It’s just us. You want to come over here?”

The beast hesitated, but the gentle voice and the idea of those clever fingers was too much to ignore. He slowly picked his way back towards the bars.

Moving just as slowly, the man sat down on the floor and stretched his arm through the bars. His hand trembled. “You uh, you won’t bite me, right? You were just startled, right? I hope…”

The beast bumped his nose into the fingers.

“Okay. Okay, good, just keep not biting me, I’d appreciate it.”

Huffing, he pressed the top of his head insistently into the man’s hand.

The man laughed quietly and dug his fingers into his fur. “Alright, alright. You’re never living this down, by the way. The mighty werewolf is tamed by some petting. I can’t wait to tell you about this tomorrow.” A long sigh that the beast didn’t like the sound of. “If you’ll even talk to me tomorrow.”

The beast whined.

“Yeah, you say that now. But I don’t think you’ll be this forgiving when you wake up.” A laugh that shook. “And fuck, I don’t even blame you.”

A whisper so low that that he had to flick his ears forward to hear it.

“Please don’t hate me.”

 

 

----------------------

 

 

Sometimes Shane woke up confused and groggy, unable to place his surroundings or remember the night before for a handful of seconds. The concrete, bars, and chain would all come as a surprise he was too tired to explain.

He didn’t have that luxury this time.

As soon as consciousness returned, the memory of Ryan’s father and brother staring at him was right there, an image painted on the back of his eyelids.

His back was to the bars and the stairs, but he could tell there was only one other person in the basement with him. It didn’t take a genius to guess that it was Ryan.

The sound of nervous pacing could be heard behind him. A restless one-two-three-four-pause rhythm that he listened to for some time. Which each step, the anger, fear, and despair grew. It was a continuous drip of negative emotion that began to outweigh even his exhaustion.

People knew about him. Knew what he was.

This was no longer his best friend stumbling onto his secret.

This was multiple people outside of his family, knowing exactly what he turned into every full moon.

Fears that Shane had harbored since he was a teenager were seeping into his mind, fears that had been born while he huddled alone in his room at night, watching werewolf horror movies on a portable DVD player. Scenes that played out in his imagination, of impenetrable glass cages, sterile labs, and faceless men in lab coats. Scenes that left him unable to sleep for days at a time. Countless nightmares of restraints and drugs and nothing but pain.

But those nightmares didn’t compare to his true fear. The fear that drove him to work himself to the bone so that he could afford a house, that made him shy away from personal relationships and memorize the lunar calendar down to the minute. That made him lock himself in chain and behind steel every month.

The fear of bodies reduced to nothing but meat by his hand. An idea that haunted his every change and made him dread the periods of time where he could remember nothing.

And Ryan had brought people into his house.

Fragile, breakable, innocent people.

It didn’t matter what Ryan’s reasons were. It didn’t matter that Ryan seemed to think he was some kind of tame monster.

Ryan had put people in danger, had put himself in danger, and Shane didn’t think there was any way he could ever forgive him for that.

God, he really didn’t want to face Ryan. Not then, not ever. The idea hurt too much.

But his body wouldn’t let him hide. The hollowness of his stomach and the dryness of his mouth didn’t care about his emotional turmoil.

No matter how tempting it was to try and wait Ryan out, to try and pretend he was still unconscious, Shane knew that he needed to get upstairs eventually. If he didn’t eat something, he would pass out and be in even worse shape.

The fact that he had to consider how weak he felt, that he had to strategize if he could face Ryan or not, the fact that he didn’t feel safe in his own cage- his safety net, his den, his strange little cave- only added to his anger.

Anger was so much easier than the pain and fear.

“Get out.”

He could hear the scuff of gym shoes on cement as Ryan quickly turned. “Shane? You’re awake?”

Shane gritted his teeth, intentionally counting each breath in an effort to remain calm. “Get out.” His voice was rough and low and scraped as it went through his throat. Soon it would be a growl.

The cage door creaked as it swung open, then there were warm hands at his neck, unhooking the chain and throwing it away from his body with a loud, jangling clatter. Fingers threaded through his hair in a gesture that could only be considered petting. “I made bacon and toast and I’ll make some eggs once we’ve gotten you showered. I thought about doing the eggs before you woke up, but who likes cold eggs, right?” Ryan didn’t pause or take a breath once as he spoke, his voice shaking. “You have cereal, too, but the milk smelled a little off, so I wouldn’t recommend it. I could probably pick some up, but did you know you live in the middle of a store desert? Houses all around you and not a single grocery store.”

Shane had known Ryan long enough to know that the guy was nervous. Probably guilty.

He fought away any sympathy. He tried not think about how much he hated the pain of others.

“I thought, since, you know, we’ve already seen each other naked and done the sex things, I could actually help you shower this time. Make it easier and then I don’t have to worry about you fainting and going down like seven feet of timber.”

He kept quiet. The words washed over him. They meant nothing to him.

“Come on, man,” Ryan said, almost like he was pleading. “You’ll feel better once you get all this weird goo and blood off.”

Refusing to open his eyes, Shane curled in on himself, away from those warm hands, and whispered, “Get out of my house.”

There was a moment of silence, then Ryan gulped in a deep breath like he was trying to hold back a sob. “Fuck, Shane, I’m-”

“Don’t you dare say you’re sorry.”

This time the silence was so painful that Shane nearly gave in, just so he wouldn’t have to deal with any of it any more. Surely it would be fine. Surely Ryan wouldn’t pull something like that again? It had only been Ryan’s family, it’s not like he had brought a reporter or something, right? Hell, they worked for a media company, Ryan could do the article himself, with video evidence to prove it. The fact that he hadn’t done that had to mean something.

But even as he had those thoughts, a deep anger roiled far beneath the surface of calm that he was trying so desperately to hold onto.

“It’s not what it looks like.”

With strength that Shane hadn’t even known he still possessed, he rolled to his feet and stumbled towards the line of bars. He had to catch himself on one bar as a knee gave out under him, but he kept his back to Ryan. “I don’t care. Get. Out.”

“Shane, listen to me-”

Tightening his hold on the bar until his knuckles went white, Shane growled, “I won’t say it again.” He idly noticed that his claws were pressing into the flesh of his palm.

How odd.

He usually never had to worry about his various bits changing on the day after the full moon.

“I wasn’t trying to show you off or use you or whatever you’re thinking.”

He hated how Ryan’s broken voice made his heart ache.

“Then what, Ryan? What exactly were you trying to do if you weren’t making me the starring attraction of a circus sideshow?” Shane spat the words, ignoring the tears that were slowly trailing down his cheek. “Did you at least charge admission? Or was there a family discount?”

Ryan made a noise like he had been struck.

“I thought you breaking into my house was bad enough, but I told myself you did it because you were worried. Were you worried this time? Is that it? Is that what you’re going to tell me? Worried about the poor little monster and that’s why you had to bring company along?” Shane’s voice got lower and as he spoke, his anger hardening with each word.

“Damn it, Shane, stop,” Ryan cried out. “Listen to me! I didn’t want to do this, okay! They wouldn’t have trusted you and the only other way I could tell you is marriage and not even my mom knew until she was pregnant with me so even that isn’t a guarantee, but I needed to tell you.”

Nothing Ryan was saying made any sense. He got like that sometimes, when his brain was racing faster than his words. It was a trait that Shane usually found endearing.

Now he just wanted Ryan to stop talking and go away.

When Shane said nothing, Ryan walked up behind him and tugged at his shoulder to get him to turn around. “Please, let me explain-”

The heat of Ryan’s body was a tangible presence, blocking him in against the cold of the bars and Shane felt- cornered, trapped, no escape-

For years, Shane’s control had been absolute. Two full decades where he had never allowed himself to feel true anger, fear, despair, or even passion. He had vowed to himself that he would never hurt someone else, that he would never truly be the monster that he was cursed to be.

Right there, in that moment, the hard won, iron control he had kept day after day, month after month… Slipped.

Faster than Shane could ever remember moving, he had Ryan by the collar of his shirt and up on his toes, slammed against the bars. His lips curled up in a snarl that felt far too natural over teeth that no longer fit right in his mouth.

Shane wasn’t sure what his intention was as he leaned in. Most of him just wanted to make Ryan leave, while a vindictive, furious part of him wanted to yell in Ryan’s face until he ran out of breath.

Under that was a surge of buried instincts, a thirst, a hunger for violence, for flesh.

Dripping blood, tendons snapping, gristle and bone and-

Latching onto the anger with horrified desperation, Shane bared his teeth a hair's breadth away from Ryan’s nose and growled. It was not a human sound.

In the dim light of the basement, Ryan’s wide, bloodshot eyes gleamed brightly, unshed tears gathered at the corners. There were dried tear tracks on his cheeks and his hair was a mess, as if he had been tugging on it all night. He looked scared and miserable. He smelled like salt and exhaustion. The tantalizing scent of pine was nearly covered by the sweat.

Ryan breathed his name.

Shane hesitated.

This was his… Best friend? Boyfriend? Partner in crime? He didn’t actually want Ryan to be scared. No matter what he had done or how he had betrayed him.

He just wanted Ryan to leave him alone.

All he wanted, so badly that he could practically taste the desire, was to curl up in his bed and pretend that none of this had happened. That Ryan hadn’t betrayed him and shown him off like a five cent oddity. That he wasn’t a monster locked up for other people’s amusement.

Before he could decide what to do, Ryan took the decision out of his hands.

Slowly, like he was afraid any sudden motion would set Shane off, Ryan ducked his head down and awkwardly tucked his nose right under Shane’s jaw, pressing Shane’s fist between them. Then he whined; a high-pitched, pathetic noise that sounded more miserable than how he looked.

Again, that damned need to take care of Ryan rose up in Shane. He had never figured it out and he still wasn’t sure, despite the anger, sorrow, and exhaustion, why he wanted to drop everything just to fix whatever was wrong.

Suddenly the anger no longer felt important.

Making it even weirder, Ryan tilted his head just enough to lick once across Shane’s lower lip.

Shane dropped his hold on Ryan’s collar and backed away, immediately missing Ryan’s warmth. “What the fuck?”

“You’ve never looked up wolf behavior, have you?” Ryan asked, every word shaking. He played with the hem of his shirt, rolling it over his fingertips and pulling like he was thinking of taking it off. “Or canines of any kind?”

Shane could only stare.

“That- that’s shoddy research work right here, big guy,” Ryan said with a sad kind of humor. It looked like he was trying to put something off. “Maybe you could have figured out why I always know how to calm you down.”

When Shane still couldn’t think of anything to say, Ryan threw him a nervous, sick little smile, and actually did pull his shirt off. He unbuttoned his pants and stepped out of them and his underwear in brisk, efficient movements that did nothing to hide how scared he was.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Shane finally managed to choke out. Ryan was so obviously scared that it was starting to make him scared, the anger morphing into fear and confusion. This wasn’t being afraid of creaking floorboards or static on a radio. This felt real. “What is going on?”

“I know if I told you, you’d never believe me. You’re the kind of guy that needs proof.”

“Proof of what? The mole on your thigh?”

Ryan didn’t even acknowledge the poor attempt of a joke. He just pulled his socks off and dropped them to the side. “I didn’t bring my dad and Jake here on a whim. It wasn’t- I wasn’t trying to show you off. I was-” He grimaced and glanced away. “I was hoping you’d already be all growly and not you by the time we got here, and then you wouldn’t have ever known.”

“That doesn’t make it better-”

“I had to betray someone,” Ryan said. He looked Shane dead in the eye, as if they both weren’t naked and trembling in fear. “Your or my family. And I could never betray them. I’m sorry.”

“What… “

Ryan bounced once on his feet, the same way he did before he was about to go in front of a live audience, and muttered, “Alright. Fuck. Here goes.” He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and-

Shane’s already blurry vision unfocused completely, the area around Ryan wavering like a shimmering heat wave above pavement before everything snapped back to normalcy.

He stared.

Stared some more.

After a moment, Shane started to laugh. It was cracked, ugly, and strained. It was not a happy laugh.

Because standing right where Ryan had been, with a somehow familiar, nervous expression, was a large, fuzzy, far too cute-

Dog.

Chapter Text

“What?”

No, that didn't properly convey the situation.

What?”

Better, but it was missing something.

“You- You're a fucking dog?”

The dog that couldn't be Ryan, what the hell, nodded awkwardly, then shook his head, then shrugged as well as canine shoulders allowed.

“Great, that definitely clears things up.”

Dogs couldn't really roll their eyes, but this one was sure giving the impression he wanted to.

Shane laughed shakily, his palms muffling the sound as he covered his face, his claws pressing into his cheek. “This is-” He rubbed his hand over his mouth. “This is insane. A goddamn turn up for the books.”

The dog came to his feet and paced towards him. Despite the fact that Shane was pretty certain he was in the middle of a bad drug trip, he took a step backwards, abruptly nervous in the face of rather large dog. “Ryan?”

He couldn't bring himself to be embarrassed by the way his voice cracked. He had bigger things to worry about.

Like the gosh darn dog. And the way the dog tilted his head and started wagging his tail.

Shane stared in disbelief.

Alright, more disbelief.

“Really? You’re trying to look cute? Are you trying to do puppy dog eyes on me?”

The dog barked once in way that sounded suspiciously like a laugh.

“Okay. Okay, I-” Shane took a deep breath and tugged at his hair. “Am I going crazy? Did the pressure of living in Tinseltown finally get to me and I snapped?”

Before the dog could try to answer in any way- and the fact that he was expecting the dog to answer was just bonkers- Shane took a weak-kneed, sideways step towards the stairs. “I need pants for this.”

The dog waited for him to get to the stairs, then casually picked up Ryan’s pants in his mouth and followed after him, every movement slow and careful, tail wagging the entire time. Shane had never seen a dog try so hard to look non-threatening in his life.

Adrenaline from anger and pure confusion had fueled Shane to the point that he had forgotten just how exhausted he was until he tried to get his foot on the first step and swayed into the wall. He clutched at the railing, then yelped when soft fur brushed against his leg. He looked down to see that the dog was right next to him on the step, bracing him from falling over.

“Oh, a hallucination that’s helpful. That’s handy.” A thought struck him and he let out a strangled chuckle. “Handy. Except not ‘cause you don’t have hands.”

The dog sighed.

Alright. Fuck it.

“I’m embracing that I’ve gone crazy,” Shane informed the dog. “So I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone what I’m about to say.” Taking the silence as agreement, he said as casually as he could, “Ryan, this would be easier if you had opposable thumbs. And could talk.”

The dog took a step back, then the world went out of focus for a second. And yeah, there was Ryan, crouched right where the dog had been. He looked a bit out of it and incredibly sheepish as he dropped the pants from his mouth. “Uh, so I guess you have questions,” he said as he slowly stood up.

Shane made an executive decision.

“Shower. Pants. Food. I-” His voice broke again, the sheer improbability of the entire situation hitting him hard before he was able to force the feeling back. “I can’t handle anything else right now.”

“Right,” Ryan said, nodding too fast. “Let me just-” He looked down at his pants, grimaced, and deliberately stepped over them and grasped Shane’s arm. “You’re right. Shower. You definitely need it.”

Shane didn’t have the wherewithal to reply. He just let Ryan help him to the bathroom and said nothing when Ryan manhandled him into the shower and followed through with what had been threatened the month before; being cleaned with more enthusiasm than competence.

It was fine, though. Being annoyed at Ryan’s insistence in ‘helping’ him was better than thinking about the last twenty-four hours. Distantly appreciating the opportunity to see Ryan covered in only running water was a good distraction, too.

He was shocked from a pleasant daydream of a different situation, one where there weren’t any weird, supernatural secrets or backstabbing between the two of them and they were just two dudes naked in a shower together, when Ryan shoved his shampoo into his chest. “I’m not washing your hair.”

The knee-jerk response was to say something sarcastic. But when Shane saw the worried, nervous expression that Ryan wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding, he just silently took the shampoo and listlessly washed his hair.

While he was doing that, Ryan padded out of the bathroom with only a towel wrapped around his waist, dripping water as he went, the heathen.

Once again, Shane was hit by the parallels from the month before; shocking revelations and wanting nothing more than to hide away from everything by falling asleep in his bed. What the hell would the next month bring? Learning that the Easter Bunny was real, too?

Knowing that, just like last time, he wouldn’t be able to escape Ryan by cocooning himself in blankets, Shane wearily pulled on his sweats and a shirt and wobbled his way to the kitchen, intentionally passing up the living room with it’s all too inviting couch. If he sat down on something soft, he’d be out like a light, no matter how confused and shocked he was.

When he stepped into his kitchen, he was greeted by the sight of two plates of breakfast food sat out on the table he rarely used and Ryan, still wearing only a towel, busily burning eggs. Shane was struck by three very different thoughts.

Ryan is cooking in my kitchen like we’ve been together for years.

Ryan is a dog.

Ryan still betrayed me.

Shane blinked and sat down heavily in front of the plate that had his glasses next to it. He slipped them on and began to eat automatically, more because he knew his body needed it than because he wanted to. The room temperature water he chugged like a man dying of thirst, but the food could have been sawdust for all he paid attention to it.

He couldn’t keep his eyes off Ryan.

And it wasn’t because of the opportunity to watch the muscles in Ryan’s back move under his skin. He just couldn’t believe that he had actually seen the guy turn into a dog. A mutt, if his memory was correct.

But what if his memory wasn’t correct?

A weird kind of hope surged in him. Maybe he really had dreamed it up, maybe the stress had made him see things. It was probably unhealthy to hope that he had had a psychotic break, but it was better to think his brain had betrayed him than to think that magic was real. Or whatever would cause someone to turn into a dog in the blink of an eye. The world was crazy enough as it was, already vast and unknowable without adding the impossible to the mix.

Shane might have kept going down that path of thought if a voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like Ryan hadn’t yelled at him.

You’re a goddamn werewolf, buddy.

And that-

That was something he couldn’t refute.

He couldn’t really sit there and tell himself that shapeshifters didn’t exist when he himself did something that should have been physically impossible once a month.

“More things in Heaven and Earth,” he muttered to himself.

Ryan paused in the middle of putting a plate of eggs down in front of him. “What?”

Shane shook his head. “Nothing, just… being pretentious.”

There was something nervous in Ryan’s chuckle. “So business as usual?”

“You know it, baby.”

Ryan’s smile was quick and strained as he sat down in front of the other plate. He didn’t even bother pretending to eat. “So, uh. Questions-”

“I want to see it again.”

The words were out of Shane’s mouth before he realized it was even a wish of his. Ryan didn’t look surprised, though. He just let out an amused breath of air that wasn’t quite a laugh and stood up, unwrapping the towel from his waist. “Yeah, I figured. You’re predictable in your skepticism.”

Before Shane could reply, the air blurred, the world shifting to the side, then the dog was back in Ryan’s place.

This time, Shane took a moment to look at the dog and not just stare in disbelief. He wasn’t ridiculously large, the dog- fuck, Ryan wasn’t the size of a St. Bernard or anything like that, but he wasn’t a tiny chihuahua either. Stocky, with pointed ears and short, fuzzy, mottled black and gray fur, he looked like a mix of two or three breeds.

So he really had chosen to look a little like a mutt. If Ryan was able to choose what he looked like. Wait, could he change into something else?

Ryan slowly moved towards him around the table, his demeanor hopeful. It was instinct to reach out and start to pet him, since that was just what one did when approached by a friendly dog. As soon as Shane’s fingers brushed fur, he jerked his hand back, weirdly mortified. “I suppose I shouldn’t do that-”

With a huff that sounded exasperated, Ryan shoved his head into Shane’s lap, which answered that question. Tentatively, half expecting to get his hand chomped on, Shane stroked two fingers over the top of Ryan’s head.

Yep, felt just like petting a dog.

“I’m still not sure I believe this is happening. How the hell are you doing this?”

Ryan tilted his head to look up at him and made some kind of grumbling noise.

“I have no idea what that means. Can you, uh-” he waved his free hand, “-change back?”

The world blurred and Shane’s hand felt distinctly like the physical embodiment of static for one confusing second, then Ryan was his normal self, sitting on the floor with his head on Shane’s thigh. His sigh was filled with a ton of emotion that Shane didn’t have the energy to figure out. “I can’t keep doing that, big guy. It takes a lot out of me.”

Shane's fingers were tangled in Ryan's hair and for a second he froze, unsure if he was allowed to keep touching. But no matter how much anger still lurked underneath the exhaustion and shock, he still cared too much for the idiot not to want contact. And he knew Ryan wouldn’t have revealed such a huge secret if he didn’t, well...Love him. Which was a heady realization and one that he was not going to think about right then. Not on top of everything else.

So he kept his hand on Ryan’s head, taking what pleasure he could in being able to touch so freely. “How do you do that?” His fingers paused. “Is it- I mean. You’re human, right?”

He was expecting a laugh, but instead Ryan said, “Uh…” for an uncomfortably long time before adding, “Yes?”

“You don’t sound very confident about that.”

“I don’t… know? We don’t really- the lore is- Look, I can’t exactly go online to research this.”

Because he couldn’t stand to hear Ryan sound so nervous and worried while sitting naked on kitchen floor, he slipped his hands to Ryan’s shoulders to encourage him to stand up. Ryan took the hint and awkwardly retrieved the towel before sitting down once again in the other chair, which Shane was thankful for. He could just feel his mother’s disapproving stare at the idea of a naked ass on the kitchen furniture.

Ryan had angled his chair so that he was facing Shane, but Shane couldn’t quite meet his eyes. That well of anger had yet to go away and Shane thought maybe it never would.

“I’m not really sure where to start.”

The usual, cliche response would have been, ‘Start from the beginning.’ Shane knew his tropes.

He didn’t really want to know the beginning, though. Later, perhaps, when he had had time to calm down and process. When his curiosity would rear its head and demand to know every detail. But that wasn’t what was important.

“Tell me why. Why you being an Animorph meant you had to betray me like that.”

Ryan flinched, his expression torn between guilt and a split second of delighted offense. The guilt quickly won out. He dropped his gaze and rubbed at his forehead with one hand, grimacing. “It’s… Okay.” He took a deep breath. “There’s always been people who can change shape. Different words are used in different cultures, but what I grew up with was just ‘shapeshifters’ or ‘shifters’.” Shane could tell he was trying not to dip into Theory Voice. “And there’s a, uh, shifter community? Sort of? It’s not like we’re living next to each other in the same neighborhood, but we meet up and exchange information, maybe do some activities. Help each other out. But in secret.”

Shane raised an eyebrow. “Like a furry Kiwanis?”

“What? No.” Ryan shook his head. “This isn’t some club you join. You have to be born into it to know about it.” A deep breath. “It’s- Well. You can probably guess that it’s something everyone wants to keep secret.”

“I might have an inkling,” Shane allowed, thinking of the lengths he went to keep his full moon exploits under wraps.

“We can’t even tell romantic partners,” Ryan said, nearly whining the sentence. And Shane could just imagine a young, sentimental, wide-eyed teenage Ryan, pining after some crush and longing to share his secret. “Only if children are going to be born, since you can’t really hide it when the baby suddenly turns into a puppy.”

Shane desperately wanted to ask if they could only turn into dogs, but kept his mouth shut. There’d be time for that later.

“And- uh- well, if you do tell someone-” Ryan went so far as to turn his head away, fidgeting with the frayed end of the towel. “Measures are taken.”

Alright, no, Ryan couldn’t be implying what he thought Ryan was implying. “Is this a Mob situation? You end up in the lake with some brand new cement shoes?”

“Not… anymore?” Ryan’s voice went up so high at the end of the word that it cracked. Then he sat up straight and said vehemently, like he was trying to convince himself more than Shane, “No, it’s not like that now. I’ve heard stories that it was like that a few decades ago, but now you’re just completely cut off from the community. No contact at all.”

“And I’m guessing that would include your family.”

Ryan jerked his head in an abrupt nod.

Shane sighed, rubbing at his mouth. Ryan loved his family. It was a simple, irrefutable fact about the guy. If something happened to stop him from talking to them, he’d be devastated. That alone would probably be enough to keep him from saying something. But the way Ryan clearly thought that some shadowy shapeshifter organization would murk him if he blabbed only added to the impossibility of being the one to say something.

So Shane understood. He did. Understanding why Ryan felt that he couldn’t betray his family didn’t make betraying him any easier to swallow, though.

“So you decided that you needed to tell me, but since we’re not exactly going to be having kids, you couldn’t. And the only thing you could think of was showing your family that- what? I have just as big a secret? If I told on you, you’d tell on me? Mutually assured shape-changer destruction?”

Ryan nodded again, his eyes focused on where he had wrapped loose towel strings around his finger.

Shane leaned forward and waited until Ryan made eye contact. “Why?”

Ryan slowly frowned. “Why what?”

“Why was it so important that you told me? You’ve successfully kept this a secret for years. And I, for one, am shocked that you were able to do that. But why now? What does me being a werewolf have to do with it?”

There was an uncomfortable pause that was so long Shane thought he was either going to have to repeat himself or watch Ryan leave. Finally, Ryan freed his hand from the towel and gently lay it on top of Shane’s. “I didn’t want you to think that you were alone,” he said with such painful sincerity that it was hard to look at him.

Shane had no idea how to process that statement. It was the kind of heartfelt, overwrought sentence that, in his personal experience, people didn’t actually say in real life. Leave it to Ryan to take something worthy of a romance movie and mean it.

He still couldn’t forgive Ryan.

No matter how warm his hand felt.

“Ryan,” Shane said as steadily as he could. “I trusted you.”

Ryan slumped. “I know, I know what I did was wrong, but-”

“The least you could have done was trust me.”

“But- But I just-” Ryan’s expression was growing stricken and frustrated. “I just told you that I couldn’t do anything without my family’s permission, without the community’s permission, I-”

“I get that. I do.” Shane looked away. “You still could have asked me. You could have explained that it was important without revealing anything. You could have asked me to let your father see the whole show.”

“You would have said no, of course you would have said no-”

“You underestimate how much I’m willing to do for you.”

Ryan’s mouth hung open, shock making him stop mid-word.

Regretfully, Shane drew his hand out from under Ryan’s. “Yeah, I probably would have said no. At first. But you never gave me the chance. You took the decision away from me. And telling them was bad enough.” He grimaced, looking down with no real surprise at the dark hair that was sprouting up from the back of his arms. “You brought strangers into my house.”

“They’re not strangers.” Ryan’s voice was small.

“They are to me. You brought innocent people into my cage, my-” Shane faltered. There was only one word that felt right and as much as it galled him to use it and made him feel crazy, he had to explain it. “My… den. Someone could have been hurt.”

The way Ryan’s eyes skittered away and the way he shifted in his chair made Shane sit up, alarm thrilling through him. “Wait, did something happen?”

Ryan brought both hands up in a quick, placating gesture. “No! No, nothing happened! Everyone is fine.”

“Ryan.”

“No, seriously, it’s okay.”

Ryan.”

“You went for Jake’s hand,” Ryan mumbled. Seeing Shane’s expression, he nearly yelled, “You didn’t even touch him! It’s fine!”

Shane stood and started to walk away.

He couldn’t deal with all of this right now.

“Wait, Shane, please-”

Despite his own physical and emotional exhaustion, Shane hesitated. “What?”

Ryan, a man who always wore his heart on his sleeve, looked like he was trying desperately to keep it together. Like he was one second away from hearing the worst news of his life and only stubborn determination was keeping him from breaking down. “Do you-” He swallowed. “Should I leave?”

It was tempting to say yes.

Not because he wanted to hurt Ryan. But because he longed to have some kind of space. Peace to work everything out in his head. And if he could have taken the words at face value he probably really would have asked Ryan to leave.

This was more important than Ryan wondering if he was welcome for the rest of the day. Shane felt like he could read what Ryan wasn't saying loud and clear.

“Come on,” he said, holding out his thankfully claw-free hand. “I'm knackered. Bed.”

Ryan stood up and tentatively grasped his fingers. “Are you sure?”

“It’s going to take me some time,” Shane warned, even as he pulled Ryan closer. “But I’ve agreed to do some pretty stupid stuff with you. And for you. It’ll take a little more than some friendly backstabbing to keep me out of your hair.”

Ryan narrowed his eyes. “That was weirdly comforting and guilt-inducing.”

“Passive aggressive guilt is a time-honored Midwestern skill.”

“Oh God, I’d rather you yell at me.”

“Nope,” Shane said with tired cheer that was only a little bit false. “I’ll be bringing this up at opportune times until we’re both dead.”

“Fuck.”

 

---------------------

 

By all reckoning, Shane’s life should have changed at that point. Yet, for all intents and purposes, everything stayed the same. He still went into work every day and paid his bills and never folded his laundry. He still watched too many movies, called his mother once a week, and bought his socks at the grocery store. It was so normal, it was almost insulting.

In every future he had ever imagined where multiple people knew he was a werewolf, the sheer mundanity of reality had never occurred to him. He spent one day more worried about the odd hissing noise his air conditioner was making than the fact that, presumably, an entire community of shapeshifters knew what he was.

He kept waiting for the inevitable other shoe to drop, but it never did. It just kept hovering.
In the end, he just stopped thinking about it.

The only real difference in Shane's life was Ryan. Their switch from 'that annoying couple of friends’ to plain ol’ 'couple’ had been gradual, but it didn't take long before Shane was expecting Ryan to go home with him every other day and they spent half their weekends together without discussing it. They weren’t attached at the hip, since Ryan’s life was a never ending whirlwind of work, friends, and family, with some fun slipped in for good measure. Shane had never met someone that went to an amusement park as often as Ryan did. But more often than not, they found ways to end up together.

It was nice.

It was also hard, because sometimes Shane would wake up curled around Ryan and be hit all over again by the sheer disbelief and terror that had flooded his entire body when he had realized Ryan had brought people into his basement. Knowing Ryan’s reasons helped him to an extent and made it easier for him to compartmentalize the event, but the lingering sense of betrayal never fully went away.

Eventually, he did manage to forget about it. Mostly.

The most frustrating part of the months that followed Ryan’s big reveal ended up being that they still couldn’t really do anything naughty. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Shane had hoped that an X-rated version of exposure therapy would help him keep his control, but as soon as things started getting a little saucy, out came the claws and the extra body hair. It was enough to give a guy a complex.

After awhile, Ryan took it as a personal crusade to get Shane so wound up that he came before any claws or fur could come out. Which resulted in more than one claw-torn sheet and at one point Shane had hidden in Ryan’s bathroom for a half hour because his mouth had been more muzzle and fang than tooth, but he was shocked to realize he was having fun with the entire endeavor.

It was remarkably freeing to be able to admit that he wasn’t chasing after his own orgasm because he was turning into a special effects example. Ryan had merely remarked that Savini had nothing on Shane’s natural transformation abilities and Shane had nearly declared his love on the spot.

Thank God he had taken a shine to a film nerd. One who didn’t seem to mind the claws or the fact that Shane couldn’t ever fully participate in the fun stuff. At least his oral skills had drastically improved. Silver linings.

The fact that Ryan could turn into a dog came up surprisingly rarely. Sometimes Ryan would pause and offhandedly tell Shane some little fact, which was how he learned that shifters could only turn into one animal and they never knew what it was going to be until they did it the first time, but other than those tidbits, it was never really a topic of conversation.

Shane was beginning to realize that the only reason Ryan had been able to keep it a secret so well was because Ryan himself seemed to forget sometimes.

Though he was a mite suspicious that Ryan was sneaking into his cage during full moons and playing with him as a dog. It had become a tradition for Ryan to be there with him each night of the full moon, both to keep him company and, though neither of them admitted to it, to reassure Shane that Ryan wasn’t going to show up with more strangers. He appreciated it.

He did not appreciate waking up to find the chain off his neck. Or a well-chewed bone in the corner of the basement or the stray gray hairs on his folded clothes. He knew his fur was dark, so that meant somebody had been a dog the night before.

“You’re sure you’ll be fine? You won’t be lonely?”

Shane leaned further into Ryan, ignoring the man’s indignant huff as he let his weight rest on him. They were cuddled up on the couch, watching something or other, but Ryan was too concerned about the next day’s full moon to let him watch in peace. He sighed, amused. “It’s not like I would know if I was lonely. I’m disturbed that you treat my fuzzy self as a dog we only see once a month.”

“It’s just- You were almost happy last month, dude,” Ryan said, scowling and obviously embarrassed that Shane was teasing him. “You’re just a giant fuzzball after I pet you. I don’t want you like… Missing me. Or whatever.”

“And this has nothing to do with you enjoying shifting and playing keepaway with a werewolf?”

Ryan froze. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Disgraceful,” Shane muttered fondly, turning just enough to nuzzle into Ryan’s shoulder. When it was just the two of them, he found himself smelling Ryan so often that he didn’t even bother to question it anymore. He just chalked it up to being one more werewolf thing.

After a pause, Ryan said, “You cheat, anyways. It’s unfair that werewolves still get to have thumbs.”

“Them’s the breaks, furball.”

Ryan elbowed him gently. “Seriously, I can cancel.”

“I’ll be fine,” Shane said for the umpteenth time. “You haven’t seen all of your furry buddies in awhile. I can handle one full moon alone.”

One thing Shane had learned about the shifter community was that full moons were culturally significant and the night held a traditional importance that bordered on religious. It was common for shifters to meet up someplace in the wilderness to hang out, chat, exchange news, and hell, recipes for all he knew. They weren’t forced to change shape during the night, but there was an urge to do so.

It turned out that was why Ryan had become suspicious of Shane in the first place. He was always absent or took the day off during the full moon, like quite a few shifters that couldn’t always control themselves did.

Of course, Ryan had assumed Shane was a shifter like himself and not a werewolf. He had thought Shane being new to the area was why he hadn’t known where to meet up. Because secrecy was so paramount, it wasn’t something he could just ask, in case he was wrong. So he had thought if he followed Shane home, on a day where the moon’s pull was strongest and the itch to change was hard to ignore, he would be able to trick him into revealing something.

The realization that Shane was a werewolf must have been a doozy. He kind of wished he had seen Ryan’s face during that little moment.

This particular full moon, five months after that delightful day of good intentions and the roads they paved, Ryan had decided he wanted to go this shindig. It had been too long since he had seen some of his shifter friends and it sounded like it was important to him to be able to see his family, as well. Shane wasn’t exactly going to stop him.

“Promise me you won’t put the chain on.”

“It’s there for a reason. You know that.”

Ryan turned to him with his eyes wide and so very earnest. “I don’t like seeing it on you.”

Shane closed his eyes, pressing his forehead against the side of Ryan’s face. “I am literally a monster. I’m not a high school mascot about to play some great B-ball.”

“You’re too tall to be Michael J. Fox.”

“Just because I don’t attack you-”

Ryan pressed his fingers against the back of Shane’s neck, his fingernails scratching lightly. “Please, Shane.”

He really didn’t want to argue. And the idea of not having to take so many precautions was deliriously tempting. He didn’t like thinking of himself as a potential threat. Knowing he’d probably regret it, he nodded against Ryan’s head, unable to make himself agree out loud.

“You know what? I really don’t have to go. I-”

Shane nibbled on the bit of Ryan’s shoulder that wasn’t covered by his shirt in an effort to get the guy to stop worrying, once again ignoring how good it felt to have flesh between his teeth. “Go, Ryan. Be free,” he mumbled.

Ryan snorted. “Okay, fine, I’ll go be free. And wild.”

The taste of Ryan’s skin was too tempting to give up, and soon, the topic was completely forgotten for the night.

 

-----------------------------------

 

Shane stared at the chains looped in his hands.

He sighed.

And set the length on the floor.

For the first time since he had become this creature of myth, he met the full moon without links of steel wrapped around his neck.

 

----------------------------

 

Something was different this time.

The beast came to his senses confused and missing something.

He looked around, taking in the familiar bars, the dimness of his little cave and the dark hole that led outside.

Where was the man? The man that was sometimes shaped more like him?

The aches and pains were ignored as he came to his feet, sniffing the air and whining. He could smell the man. But it was an old scent. It wasn’t recent.

The need started to seep into his bones, a need that he had all but forgotten about.

He didn’t want to hunt.

He wanted the man. He wanted his playmate that gave him delicious crunchy treats and scratched the itch under the chain.

Whining louder, he paced along the bars.

It was too easy to move.

He paused.

There was no weight around his neck.

There was no chain.

More confusion made him stop, growling softly to himself as anger grew.

He didn’t like being angry. He wanted soft petting and playing.

Where was the man?

Find

Hunt

He sniffed the part of the bars that let the man in and out. Nudged it with his front paws.

It rattled.

He nudged it harder.

The top hinge rattled louder.

In a flash, quicker than the idea had fully formed, he backed up and ran at the bars, slamming his shoulder into them.

Metal shrieked, some of the bars wobbling in place.

He did it again.

The top of the door popped, bits of metal pinging around. Now the door hung crookedly, only one hinge keeping it up.

The beast gathered himself and ran at it again.

With a tortured noise that pierced his ears, the last hinge gave way. He tumbled to the ground on top of the bars.

Outside of the bars.

Outside

He was outside the bars.

The beast raised his head. Found the scent.

Hunt

Chapter Text

The beast’s claws clacked as he padded up and up until he came to a large room that held so many scents he had to pause just to register them all. His need to find the man- his prey- wasn’t forgotten, but he couldn’t help but wander around for a minute, sniffing everything in reach. He could recognize the most prominent scent as belonging to him, a second to the man, but there was an entire array of other, new scents that he’d only ever caught hints of before.

It was all so fascinating.

It wasn’t what he wanted, though.

Hunt

He could smell a trail where the man had last been, the faint scent still lingering in a path towards a door.

Some buried knowledge made him grasp the handle awkwardly with his front paws. He turned it, letting the door swing open on its own weight towards him. He crouched down on all fours, nose working overtime to take in all the scents that came in on the fresh air.

Cautiously, nervous excitement running through him, he edged past the door. Outside.

Outside!

It was still and quiet in the area, pools of light highlighting street corners and houses. But when he pricked his ears forward, he could hear faint sounds from all around him. Voices inside the buildings, machines he didn’t know, the rustlings of creatures he couldn’t name.

The beast had never known such a mix of fear and curiosity. He swung his head back towards the place he had come from, whining softly to himself.

The need rippled through him.

Resolute, he left the house that had been his sanctuary for so long that he could barely remember the first little cage. He crouched and put his nose to the ground, searching for the trail. It disappeared quickly, the faint hint of pine getting lost amongst the dozens of other scents that were outside.

He paced forward, the pavement under his feet still warm from the day’s sun. The scent was completely gone.

He was alone.

Right there, in the middle of the street, he tilted his head back and howled. It was a long, eerie cry, warbling before trailing off on a single, mournful note.

There was a moment of dead silence.

Howls and barks erupted around him, a cacophony that made him cringe and back up towards the house. It was too much, too many noises, too-

Hunt

Snarling and snapping at nothing, the beast lunged forward at an unsteady trot, following the tug in his belly.

The moon shone down on him. It highlighted the road, a beckoning path.

There was a faint sound behind him, the click of claws. He looked over his shoulder in time to see a dog that reminded him of the man peek out from behind a car, watching him warily. He wanted to follow his curiosity and go over to meet the new creature, but the need that plagued him was more pressing than mere curiosity.

The road ended in a circle of houses, but he didn’t let that stop him. The instinct he hated pulled him in a straight line, ever forward. He easily scaled one fence, then another. His ears twitched in every direction as he loped, more and more new sounds coming to him.

He wanted desperately to go investigate each sound. And the smells. So many, all of them interesting. But none of them were the man. None of them were strong enough to completely distract him from what he was born to do.

The farther he went, the more fear began to creep into him and outweigh the curiosity.

He was so far away from his den. Everything was strange, loud, and too bright.

Where was the man?

Weakly, he growled at the tug, the need in his core that pulled him forward. He didn’t want to follow that instinct. He just wanted the man back. Soon, he would want his den back, as well.

As he jumped down from a parked car that had been in his way, someone screamed.

His head went up, the sound far more intriguing than anything else that he had heard that night.

Down the street, the figure too distant and blurry for him to see well, was a figure next to a house. A person clawing frantically at the door, screaming louder and louder as he crept closer.

The acrid, bitter smell of fear drifted towards him.

Prey

Hunger

He was so focused on the terrified figure, he didn’t notice the lights coming around a corner.

There was a screech of tires, an impact that startled more than hurt, and the beast went sprawling across the pavement.

He lay stunned for a long moment, unable to do more than whine pitifully as a car door opened.

“Fucking hell! Fuck, what the fuck did I hit?”

Footsteps.

Yelling.

The yelling and the continued screaming of the other person roused the beast, making him climb shakily back to his feet.

It was too loud

Too much

The stranger scrambled back into the car, the slam of the door making the beast jump forward onto all fours and run. He had never run before, not like this. Muscles bunched and stretched, the burn of true effort one he had never felt before. At first it was fear that drove him, made him dodge buildings and leap over objects like they weren’t even there. But as the fear slowly drained from his body, he began to enjoy the pound of his heart of and the harshness of his breathing.

Joy completely replaced the fear as he sailed over a slow moving car, easily overtaking it. It swerved away from him and he yelped happily, loving the new game. He thought about going after it, but the need had never actually gone away. Soon he left the islands of light and roads, running up hills and over dry grasses, dirt and tiny rocks digging into his paws as he went.

Wind rushed past him, ruffling his fur and bringing new scents with each step. He felt fast. He felt free. Truly free for the first time in his memory.

He would have kept going like that until the moon had set and the sun risen, if he hadn’t run straight across an orchard, following a line of carefully regimented trees and inhaling the deep, fruity scent with each heavy pant for air.

There, huddling right next to a trunk, was a small, furry creature that had not expected him to run towards it. His movement was too much to handle. Scared, the animal jumped, twisted in midair, and took off in powerful leaps through the trees.

Chase!

The instinct to run after the fleeing prey was stronger than the instinct that had been guiding him. He turned on his heels and followed after the devious little creature, easily keeping up with it’s agile turns. It flung itself across a small ravine and the beast followed after, swiping with one front paw.

He skidded to a stop, breathing harshly and aching where he had overextended his muscles, but oh so proud of himself for the wiggling creature that was shrieking in his grip. Curious, he sniffed at it.

It smelled good. Like food.

Saliva dripped from his muzzle, his stomach rumbling in sudden protest at how empty it was.

The shrieking ended in a crunch of bone.

It was delicious. Hot blood, juicy meat, and the savory heaviness of offal slid down his throat in a primally satisfying way. He coughed out a bit of fur and started to take a second bite when something made him pause. Share

He looked up, for some reason expecting the man to be next to him. He wanted to give him the rest of the treat, to offer some of what he had chased down.

But the man wasn’t there.

The joy of the hunt faded, the beast crouching down and swallowing the rest of the meal in a desultory way. He turned in a full circle, whimpering to himself, missing his playmate.

He wanted so badly to find the man. Would the man be proud of him for catching such a twisty little creature?

Once again, he threw back his head and howled, hoping for an answer.

In the distance, the howl was picked up by a myriad of voices. They didn’t sound right. He knew they weren’t the man. But the majority of them came from the direction his instincts wanted him to go, anyways. So he licked the blood off his teeth and started forward, farther away from the lights of the cities.

He continued into the hills, picking his way through brown grasses and spiky plants that smelled so sharp, they made him sneeze when he sniffed them. At the top of a bluff, he howled again.

The answering cries were all around him.

Close.

He sat up and tilted his ears forward, cautiously hopeful.

A dog slunk out from behind an outcropping of rocks. It moved with a limp and it's fur was patchy and crusted. It's dirty teeth were bared in a snarl that turned into a low growl when it stopped out of reach. It’s eyes gleamed in a crazed way.

The beast responded in kind, confused, but instinctively knowing to not show it. The man sometimes looked like this dog. His only experiences with creatures shaped like this were good. Fun. He didn’t know why it was different now.

His growl got louder when he saw movement to his side, three more dogs coming from the darkness. They had been downwind, undetected by his nose.

They were growling as well.

He hunched down on all fours, keeping his throat and soft belly covered. His fur bristled, the same way the fur on the dogs did.

Everything was happening too fast. He snarled in warning, a rumble that was far deeper than anything the dogs could produce. One whimpered, but held it's ground.

He could smell it. Their fear.

It smelled good.

A fifth crept up behind him, but he side-stepped as soon as he heard it, until they were all in front of him.

It was a pack. A dirty, hungry, mismatched pack. But one nonetheless. Defending their territory from an intruder. Every single one looked twitchy. Rabid.

There was a distant noise, one that did not match the nature of the night in desert hills, and he flicked his ear back to catch it, wary of any more enemies.

At his distraction, the largest dog lunged for his side.

The beast reacted without thought and batted at the dog. His forearm connected with a meaty thump and the dog flew through the air. It landed with a yelp, skidding across the rough ground until it was slowed by a tangle of dry grasses. Whining, the dog struggled back to it's feet, determined despite the pain.

And the beast realized something.

He was more. More than a pack of rangy, feral dogs.

Bigger.

Stronger.

Better.

The fear that had haunted his entire night, that had shadowed his every move as clearly as the moon had, completely disappeared.

Anger took its place.

Yes, he was outnumbered. He knew the danger he was in. But that meant nothing. This was his territory to claim if he chose, his right.

His claws ached and his teeth itched, the ever-present need to hunt urging him forward, urging him to tear, rip, claw

The beast roared; a challenge, a declaration of his supremacy.

It was a challenge that was met with snarling fangs and crazed, manic howls.

The pack charged, splitting up to converge on him from all sides. They nipped at his heels and his flanks, darting in when his back was turned, getting their teeth past thick fur and drawing blood.

At the pain, the scent of his own blood, the beast lost himself.

It was a frenzy.

Flesh ripping, tendons snapped, skin torn to flap in the wind

Blood splattering in great arcs

Whines, howls, cries

Crunch

Snap

Hunger

A sound like thunder tore the air.

The beast flinched and jerked his head up, dropping the whimpering dog from his grasp. It scrambled away on three legs, collapsing a few feet away, but the beast was no longer paying attention.

A few yards away, far closer than they should have gotten without him noticing, were two large vehicles, filled with people. One stood outside an open door, a long object in his hands, pointed up.

Something told the beast to be wary of that object.

He stared at them.

They stared at him.

The whimpering dog pulled itself back onto its feet, drawing his gaze. The rest of the pack had fled, but this one dog was still here. Still his prey. He stalked towards it, ignoring the people. His stomach rumbled and the pain from his wounds urged him to take his fill of meat and blood.

Yelling started from the people, but he merely snarled at them and crouched over the dog that was still trying to limp away.

Hot gushing blood and raw meat filling his mouth, sating the constant need, ripping through fur and flesh

“Wait!”

The voice made him freeze.

“Shane, stop!”

The beast slowly straightened to his full height.

He knew that voice.

Dodging the grasping hands of the other people, a figure wearing only shorts ran towards him.

A breeze blew past and some of the anger and the need wilted away. He could smell sweat mixed with familiar pine.

It was the man.

Simple happiness began to replace the anger, his ears pricking forward as the man got closer.

The dog found some last reserves of strength and began to run, capturing his attention once again. He instinctively started after it, not wanting his food to get away. And this time he could share! The man was here!

“Shane, no! C’mon, over here, Shane!”

Curious, the beast looked over at the man, who was tripping forward as he walked while pulling his shorts off.

“You want to chase me? Look at all this space, you could chase me for hours, it will be fun.”

“No, Ryan, don’t-”

The man ignored the shouting from the people and kept moving closer. “What do you say, big guy?”

He tilted his head, confused by the teasing tone of the man’s voice. He glanced back towards the dog that was slowly getting away.

He whined, a questioning noise.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Then the man was a dog, a shape that darted away as a pale streak in the moonlight.

He was torn with indecision. Hunger clawed at him. The pain urged him to eat. But the man was fun.

With a sharp little bark, the man that was a dog turned and stretched his front legs out, playfully bowing like he was about run at any moment.

The beast was hungry. Anger still burned. Instinct still pulled.

Playing was better.

He went down to all fours.

And ran.

 

--------------------------------------------------

 

Waking up to sunlight after the night of the full moon was one of the most terrifying experiences Shane had ever had. The warmth on his skin and the light behind his eyelids were both objectively pleasant, but the meaning behind feeling that warmth was horrifying.

He didn’t want to open his eyes.

The only reason he had the courage to face whatever situation he found himself in was the soft fur brushing against his back and the faint breathing he could hear right behind his head.

“I’m getting tired of waking up to surprises,” Shane croaked through a dry throat as he forced himself to open his eyes, squinting into the bright morning light of the-

Wait.

Desert?

Movement behind him, a feeling like fizzy static against his spine, then Ryan sat up next to him, frowning in worry. “Thank God, you were sleeping forever.”

Relief that it really was Ryan that he had been spooning with and that he wasn’t alone made Shane relax back onto the lumpy, uncomfortable ground. Judging by the sun-warmed smell of dirt around him, he didn’t want to know how many rocks he was laying on. There weren't many natural lawns in California. “Ryan, why the fuck am I outside?”

There was no way he could have hidden the wavering of his voice and he didn’t even bother to try.

“Uh, well.” Ryan looked away. “You got out.”

I can see that.”

Ryan leaned over him, gently touching his shoulder. “It’s okay, no one got any footage of you.” He winced. “There might be some recordings of you howling and dogs going absolutely batshit, but I doubt anyone will think ‘werewolf’.”

Shane could appreciate what Ryan was saying, but grainy footage that no one would believe wasn’t what he was worried about. He started to sit up and gasped in surprise, the pain of overused muscle making him flop back down onto the ground. Now that he was aware of it, there was far more pain than usual after a full moon, both from his muscles and bones and what felt like actual tears all over his arms and legs.

What the fuck had he gotten up to? Did he run through someone’s rose bushes? And just how far had he gone? The closest population-free desert was miles away from his house.

More and more questions began to pile up, not the least of which being how the hell Ryan had found him.

And if he had somehow found Ryan in some stupid, werewolf-magic-fueled true love shenanigans, he was going to find the supposed witch that had cursed his family and have words.

“Be careful, you had quite a night,” Ryan said, helping him sit up with an arm around his shoulders. Shane groaned. He was used to being sore, but this was different. This was the soreness of transformation layered on top of the ache that came from a good workout.

Fuck, he hadn’t felt like this since the last time they had done some kind of crazy workout routine for Test Friends.

And what the hell was that taste in his mouth?

He forced his tired mind back on track. Delaying the inevitable wouldn’t do him any good and thinking about how much pain he was in was just a distraction.

“Did I hurt anyone?”

If Ryan hadn’t been so close, Shane wouldn’t have been able to see the way his eyes quickly went down to his chest. “No,” Ryan said, too enthusiastic to be believed. “No, you just chased me around all night. It was fun. Exhausting, because you have approximately two miles of leg, but fun.”

Shane knew Ryan too well. The man wasn’t entirely lying, but it wasn’t the complete truth, either.

Bracing himself, he craned his neck down to look at his own chest.

He was covered in dried, brown, flaking blood.

Far too much blood to have come from him.

The weird, gross taste in his mouth was abruptly all he could think about.

“Ryan-” he tried to say, his voice cracking.

“Shane, no-”

“Ryan, Ryan, Ryan,” was all Shane was able to say, the name repeating on a loop in his own head, higher and higher pitched until he was whining, a single wordless sound that perfectly conveyed the white noise of horror and disgust his thoughts had become.

He was snapped out of it by a strong hand cupping the back of his neck and a thumb digging into the flesh under his jaw, forcing him to look up into Ryan’s eyes. His whining fell off into a pathetic whimper.

“I know how much you hate not knowing for sure, but you have to trust me. You didn’t hurt anyone,” Ryan said in a low, hard voice.“No people were hurt.”

Shane caught the implication instantly. Despite the relief that he hadn't eaten-That he hadn't hurt a person, nausea made his stomach churn.

“No people. But something else.”

Ryan’s eyes were damnably sad and comforting when he said, “We think you ate something before we got to you.” There was a beat before he reluctantly added, “Something alive.”

Shane was barely able to turn away from Ryan in time before he threw up all over the ground.

Chapter Text

Shane had been in a lot of awkward, embarrassing situations in his life, some worse than others. Sometimes he enjoyed it. Being the tall comic relief was a fate he could embrace cheerfully. Awkward was fun.

And yet, he had never quite anticipated the horror of being crammed into an old, rusty, POS Ford two-door truck with two other men. While naked.

Technically, some kind soul had loaned him a blanket, so his bare ass wasn’t directly on the seat that had been around since the Carter Administration, and he wasn't flashing his bits to any semi driver that cared to look through the window, but that was the only thing keeping him from finding a way to self-combust. Ryan was no help, since he seemed blissfully ignorant of how awkward everything was. He had greeted the large, bearded, older man driving the truck with a casual, ‘Hey, Marcus,’ and climbed into the middle seat wearing only a ratty pair of basketball shorts without flinching.

Usually Ryan was one of the first people to recognize the inherent embarrassment in a situation, so Shane could only assume that catching a ride with a man that looked like an extra off Sons of Anarchy was old hat for him.

He also had no idea where they were going. Not that he expected anyone to tell him. Ryan was the only one to have said more than word to him since he had woken up.

After he had finally gotten over the fact that he had eaten something the night before- something small, judging by the fur and bones that had been in his vomit- Shane had realized that he and Ryan were only a few yards away from a small group of incredibly dissimilar people, all politely pretending he wasn’t having a breakdown.

Too tired and shaky to do more than accept their help, it had taken one of them turning into some sort of bird of prey right in front of him before he had gotten the hint that they were all shifters like Ryan.

Shifters that were clearly afraid of him.

It had been been hard to accept when the woman that reminded him of a school teacher had flinched after he tried to thank her for giving him the blanket. He didn’t like the idea of complete strangers being too scared of him to even look him in the eye.

All he could do was ignore their justified wariness and stick close to Ryan. Which had led to the truck and the mysterious 'Marcus.’

Shane fell into a light doze ten minutes into the trip, despite his lingering fear and nerves, while Ryan and good ol’ Marcus’ chatted. It sounded like a normal round of gossip at first, but at one point his exhaustion-fogged mind caught ‘Charise’s baby turned into a mountain lion cub last Saturday’ and he fell into a deeper sleep out of sheer desperation.

When the truck came to a rattling stop, he opened his eyes to find himself at a small ranch house that felt like it was even more in the middle of nowhere than the nowhere he had first found himself in. At least he recognized Ryan’s car parked next to a handful of other vehicles.

There were the faint sound of barking coming from the other side of the house and he pushed down the unusual urge to answer it. Damnit, the morning after the full moon was supposed to be when he was at his most human.

He fumbled open the door and stumbled out of the truck, clutching his blanket and wincing when his sore feet landed on sharp gravel. Since Ryan would probably try to carry him or something equally absurd, he did his best to keep the pain off his face. He shuffled after Ryan towards the house, but before he could get very far, he was stopped by a gruff ‘Hey.’

Looking over his shoulder, he wasn’t surprised to see that Marcus was watching him through his rolled down window.

He had known the threats would come eventually, so Shane just waited for him to say his piece.

The man stared at him for a moment, then inclined his head towards Ryan, who had stopped to see what the hold up was. “Bergara is one of ours.”

Shane stared back. He was too tired to muster a good response and the man’s probable glare lost something when he was too blind without his glasses to really see it.

“Anything happens to him, well…” The man’s laugh was not friendly. “I’m a bear.”

“I believe it,” Shane blurted before his mind could catch up to the meaning of the statement.

Marcus nodded and drove off, satisfied that his threat had been delivered.

Shane turned back to Ryan, eyebrows up in confusion, and asked, “Why did I need to know what he gets up to in his free time?” But Ryan was already curled over, hands on his stomach, wheezing so hard that his laughter was completely silent.

“No-” Ryan gasped. “That’s not-” He started laughing again. Shane wanted to be annoyed, but it was good to see and hear Ryan enjoying himself like that, even if it was at his expense.

Who was he kidding, it was always better when he was the reason for Ryan’s laugh.

“Shifter,” Ryan finally managed to say in a strangled voice.

“Oh.” A second passed. “Oh…”

That just set Ryan off all over again.

Shane started chuckling himself, though he was afraid that if he really let himself go, he’d fall over and never get back up again.

Ryan wiped tears away with one finger, his face red and scrunched up as he tried to force himself to stop grinning. “Jesus, the look on your face.”

“If you’re done,” Shane said, pointedly hitching up the blanket around his hips. “Either get me some clothes or take me home.”

Sobering quickly, as if he had just remembered that this wasn’t a normal situation, Ryan opened the screen door of the house and walked in without bothering to knock. Raising an eyebrow at the surprising lack of manners, Shane slowly followed after him.

What he walked in on would have been a stereotypical scene of a large, happy family at breakfast if it wasn't for the sheer variety of people sitting at the huge kitchen table. Most of them wearing very few articles of clothing.

Usually, in the general course of things, Shane would have assumed that his height plus his blanket ensemble would have made him stand out like a sore thumb in someone’s kitchen. He had apparently been terribly wrong. When one scrawny teenage boy elbowed his friend and nodded towards their entrance, prompting the rest of the table to fall into a distinctly nervous hush, Shane got the feeling that their uncomfortable stares had nothing to do with how close he was to flashing them.

Being covered in scratches and dried blood was one way to make an entrance, at least.

A tall woman with short, bouncy curls and some kind of twisted body wrap that looked like it was about to fall off at any moment strode towards them, greeting Ryan with a wide smile that was only a little forced and a quick hug. “It’s good to see you after so long. I set aside some clothes in the second floor bathroom that should fit your-” she cut a glance towards Shane, hesitating slightly, “-friend. But don’t take too long, I’m not sure how long I can keep these hooligans from eating everything.”

“Thanks, Becca,” Ryan said, returning the hug easily. He raised his voice. “There had better be pancakes left when we get back.”

The assorted people at the table broke into various laughs and friendly insults at that, the sound of conversations starting up again behind them as they walked out of the room and through a house that had just enough knit blankets and tchotkes to make it comfortable. It reminded him a little of the home he had grown up in. As they were climbing the stairs, muscles protesting the entire time, Shane tried to think of a way to politely ask what was going on, but all he could come up with was, “What’s with the nudist colony?”

Ryan threw a look at him over his shoulder.

“What?” Shane asked. “The ‘peace and love, man’ vibes are pretty strong.” He waved one hand around in a peace sign to emphasize his point.

“A lot of us meet here after the full moon,” Ryan said sharply, opening a door to reveal a bathroom that was clearly used by multiple teenagers. Shane was certain he had never seen that much Axe body spray in one place. “You may have noticed that our clothes don’t magically change with us. So there’s no point in wearing a lot if you’re going to be taking it off again in a few minutes.”

Shane had to admit that was a good point. It probably wasn’t fair of him to judge how shifters lived when they were the ones that had tracked him down and were treating him like a person to be cautious of instead of a monster. He frowned at himself in the mirror, rubbing his fingers over his nose and cheek. Even without glasses, he could tell he looked haggard. And dirty. Most of the blood had flaked off or been rubbed onto the blanket, but there were still streaks of it all over his body. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “Been a long day.”

Ryan sighed and nudged him out of the way so that he could close the door. “I know, big guy.” In a move that surprised him, considering how dirty he was, Ryan slid his arms around Shane’s waist, leaning into him in a tired hug. “Long night. Long day.”

“I’m sorry I ruined your shindig,” Shane murmured into Ryan’s hair. God, he smelled good.

“Don’t apologize. It’s not like you did it on purpose.” Ryan leaned back, giving him the stink eye. “You didn’t do it on purpose, right?”

“Well…”

At Ryan’s glare, Shane laughed tiredly, drawing him back into a proper hug. Ryan was warm and solid and Shane wanted nothing more than to forget that anything had happened and simply exist in the moment.

He had almost managed to fall asleep on his feet by the time Ryan stepped back. “C'mon, get dressed before Becca accuses us of getting up to something in here.”

Shane wiggled his eyebrows just to watch Ryan laugh.

The clothes that had been left folded next to the sink were a t-shirt and a pair of sweats, both so big they nearly fell off him. And socks that he had to stretch just to get them over his heel. Ryan did absolutely nothing to hide his amusement over how he looked, but Shane was just grateful to finally be covered. Maybe shifters were used to running around naked, but outside of the privacy of his own home, he vastly preferred keeping covered.

He quickly washed his face and hands in the sink, watching the swirl of brown water going down the drain with sick fascination. It would have been nice to have gotten a shower, but he wasn’t going to do that to a stranger’s bathroom.

By the time they made it back downstairs, only Becca was left in the kitchen, stacking dishes into the cupboards. Shane could hear cars driving away and he pushed away the thought that dozens of people now knew his greatest secret and many of them were escaping his reach. It wasn’t a thought he wanted to have.

The fact that he had even thought of it as ‘escaping’ was discomforting. Just what the hell was he going to do? It wasn’t like he could threaten them-

The imagined feel of bone crunching between his teeth and blood gushing down his throat hit him so hard that he had to clutch the back of a kitchen chair to keep his feet. Realization that it might not be an imagined sensation but a remembered one nearly made him throw up again. It was only luck that Ryan was too busy putting together two plates of various breakfast foods to notice his moment of crisis.

Shane sat down heavily in the chair, pressing his hands into the tops of his thighs to keep them from shaking. He didn’t realize he had zoned out until a short, young woman walked in, saw him, then froze.

Her eyes were so wide he could see them despite the blur and they could have rivaled Ryan’s when he was at his most scared. Shane wanted nothing more than to slink away and hide. Everyone had been doing a fairly creditable job of pretending they weren’t afraid of him, but he should have known that would be too good to last.

So he was surprised when Ryan sat a plate in front of him and said with a wry smile, like an older brother teasing a sister, “Want to have breakfast with me and Shane?”

If anything, her eyes got wider. “I-”

“Sit,” Becca said. “There’s enough for you.”

What followed was an uncomfortable ten minutes as both Shane and the young woman pushed food around their plates and Ryan and Becca blithely ignored how uncomfortable they were to exchange pleasant conversation. No matter how much he knew he would need the food, he couldn’t eat while there was someone so painfully nervous of him right in front of him. Just as Shane was about to throw something at Ryan for being so oblivious, the guy randomly announced, “Amy is the one who tracked you after we were told that you had, uh, gotten out.” Ryan’s tone dropped at the end of the sentence, but he quickly rallied. “Once you went off the streets and four feet couldn’t keep up with you. She was eager to watch you, I hear.”

Shane firmly sat aside the knowledge that Ryan just oh-so-casually dropped. He would deal with the fact that he had apparently been watched for later.

The woman’s gaze was now firmly on the table. Becca snorted and explained, “She’s an owl. She usually doesn’t do night surveillance for us, but in this case…”

Shane knew that he was missing something, judging by the amused expressions going on, but he was too sluggish to really understand. All he could do was wonder if she had seen everything he had done the night before. If she had seen him eat… whatever it had been.

Fuck, if she had, no wonder she was scared of him. But if he could get her to tell him what exactly he had done, maybe he wouldn’t feel quite so lost. It was a good idea. If only there was a way to convince himself to actually ask.

Unfortunately, he just couldn’t get himself to do more than dredge up a sick smile and mutter, “Thank you.”

“Thank you?” she asked softly, her eyes darting up once to look at him.

“Yeah. I appreciate being found,” he said with completely honesty. Ending up in the hills outside of LA, alone and naked, would have been a nightmare. Though he couldn’t make himself express gratitude for being watched.

There was a strained moment of silence, then-

“Can I get a selfie?”

Shane blinked once. It took a bit for the words to make sense.

Ah. She was a fan. Was that why she had been so nervous? Was it possible it had nothing to do with him being a monster?

“Not now, Amy,” Becca chided. “Put your plate in the sink, then come help me wrangle up the rest of the boys outside.”

After they had left, Shane said, in a tone that bordered on wondering, “I had completely forgotten that I have a normal life outside of this.” He pushed his plate away and rubbed his hand over his mouth before letting out a small laugh. “My God, we have shifter fans.”

Ryan smiled at him, soft and teasing all at once. “You have shifter fans. Or at least one. She’s known me for years, so she couldn’t care less about me.”

Every once in awhile he was hit all over again by the sheer diversity of the people that watched their little YouTube show and liked it, but never in a million years would he have thought ‘people that can turn into animals’ would be among that number. Knowing that the woman who had actually seen what he had gotten up to the night before still liked him well enough to want to get a selfie went a long ways towards bringing his appetite back. Shane abruptly felt ravenous as he started his way through the food that had gotten cold.

“How did you get out?”

“I didn’t put the chain on,” Shane answered absently through a mouthful of eggs. “I don’t actually know, since werewolf-induced amnesia is a real and lovely thing, but I’m guessing I figured out the doors and didn’t have a chain to stop me.”

The following silence was strained but he was too tired and hungry to really notice. He was greedily eyeing the bacon left on Ryan’s plate when Ryan abruptly whispered, “I’m so sorry.”

Shane darted a confused glance up at him, most of his attention still on the meat. He idly wondered if he could convince Becca to cook him a rare steak, despite having just met him, if he asked politely enough. Fuck, he could really go for something meaty and juicy.

Then his exhausted mind caught up to the twisted, downcast expression on Ryan’s face. Shane sighed and sat his fork down. He had known it was coming, had seen the guilty glances Ryan had kept sending his way when he thought he wasn’t looking, and Shane didn’t want to deal with it. He shook his head. “Don’t be. Please.”

Ryan chased a piece of pancake around with his fork, focusing intently on his mindless task instead of looking Shane in the eye. “But I’m the reason you got out. I know that’s one of your biggest fears, not having control over yourself and not knowing what you’re going to get up to and-”

Shane tapped his fingers on the table, letting the words wash over him. He didn’t mean to ignore Ryan, but he was just so goddamn tired. Working through Ryan’s guilt in a stranger’s kitchen wasn’t something he was equipped to handle at the moment.

“It isn’t your fault,” he said into the middle of Ryan’s increasingly harried speech. He shrugged. “I’m the one that made the decision, Ry-guy, not you.”

“But if I hadn’t asked, you wouldn’t have even entertained the idea. You wouldn’t have gotten hit by a car-”

What?”

“-You wouldn’t have eaten whatever-”

Shane held up his hand, interrupting Ryan. “Rewind. I got hit by a car?”

Ryan shifted in his seat, cringing slightly. “Uh, according to Amy, yes?”

“And you didn’t think to tell me?”

Scowling, Ryan folded his arms over his chest defensively. Since he was still only wearing shorts, it was an action that would have distracted Shane on any other day. “There’s been a lot going on. It slipped my mind.”

“Jesus, no wonder I feel like I got hit by a truck. Because I did.”

Ryan’s face did something interesting as he instinctively smiled then tried to stop himself. “It was a car, not a truck.”

Shane waved that way. “Semantics.”

This time Ryan did nothing to stop his small smile, the one he wore when he didn’t want to admit that he thought Shane was funny. It was probably one of Shane’s favorite expressions.

To be fair, most of Ryan’s smiles were his favorite expressions. Which was annoying, because it made it hard to stay mad at the man.

After a moment, Ryan’s smile dropped into something very earnest and miserable. “I am sorry. We’re pretty certain you ate a rabbit-”

For fuck’s sake, let me forget about it.

“- and not like someone’s pet or something.”

“Great, thanks, I hadn’t thought about that. Now I have to wonder if I ate some little old woman’s prized Bichon.” And because he had to needle Ryan if the guy was going to keep harping on the subject, “Or a certain couple of wiener dogs.”

Ryan gasped. “Don’t even joke about that. I would end you.”

“Going to take on a werewolf?”

End you.”

Shane reached across the table, gripping Ryan’s hand and smiling at him in a way he knew was ridiculously dopey. At least with Ryan, he could have a sense of humor about the entire situation.

Ryan turned his arm over so he could clasp Shane’s hand back, their palms sliding warm and smooth together. “You want to go home?”

“God, yes,” Shane said with no grace whatsoever, longing to sleep in his own bed. And the longer he could put off having an emotional crisis, the better.

After finding and thanking Becca for her hospitality and the clothes, they were almost to Ryan’s car when Shane saw the short, young woman from earlier walking back towards the house. “Wait. Amy?” he called, stopping her in her tracks. He hurried towards her, ignoring the pain from his muscles and Ryan’s questioning noise.

She stared at him as he got closer, obviously taken aback.

“You aren’t-” he frowned and ran his hand through hair, annoyed at how dramatic he was about to sound in front of a complete stranger, but he needed the confirmation or he would worry over that night for years. “You’re not afraid of me?”

“No?” was the slow reply. “Why would- Oh. Is this because of the werewolf thing?”

As if it could so easily be summed up as ‘the werewolf thing.’

She shook her head. “You didn’t really do anything a wolf wouldn’t do.” Her eyes shifted away from him. “It was fun. A chance to stretch my wings.”

Shane got the vague impression that she was hiding something, but he doubted it could be that big, or Ryan would have spewed it out already, since the guy couldn't keep secrets worth a damn. He sighed in relief, his shoulders relaxing. “Ah, well, thank you again.” Remembering something, he gave her a small grin. “Say something to Ryan and we’ll get that selfie some time. When I’m not covered in blood.”

“Oh,” she said faintly. “Okay. That. Yeah, okay.”

Again, it felt incredibly good to remember that he had a life outside of being a horror movie monster.

That feeling didn’t last long, however. With food inside him, his brain was awake enough to continuously return to the questions that kept plaguing him about the night before, worrying at each one over and over again like a dog with a bone.

He let out a faint breath of exasperated amusement at his own pun, then glanced over at Ryan, who was frowning in concentration as he tried to edge forward into the next lane in stop-and-go traffic. It wasn’t exactly the best time to spring a question on Ryan, but if he was distracted, he might answer more truthfully.

“Did you know? That they were watching me?”

Ryan visibly startled and snapped out a quick, high-pitched, “No!” Then he grimaced, aware of how intensely dishonest he sounded. “Maybe.”

“What does ‘maybe’ mean?”

“Do you want me to look it up in the dictionary?” Ryan groused. When Shane continued to stare at him, he swore under his breath. “I’m not surprised, okay? They-” He cut himself off to throw a glance at Shane, his entirely body language screaming how uncomfortable he was. “After I told my dad about you, I know they had someone watching you then.”

Shane thought about the dog he had seen at the end of his street once in awhile. He had assumed it had belonged to a neighbor that didn’t have the common sense to fence in or leash their dog, but maybe he had been seeing a shifter this whole time.

No wonder the dog had ignored him when he had tried to call it closer.

“Why? Why would they watch me?”

“We take our secrets seriously,” Ryan said, gently chastising. But Shane didn’t have time for that.

“And you think I don’t take mine seriously? Have I been under a constant watch this entire time? It’s been months since you found out about me.” Anger was growing and he was too tired to fight it off. The idea of eyes always on him wherever he went was creepy in a way he wouldn’t have expected. He liked showing off and having the attention on him. When it was called for. When it was something he was paid to do and he knew it was happening. Apparently not when some dog or owl or what-the-fuck-ever was covertly watching him like some kind of peeping Tom.

Ryan bit his lip, his eyes firmly on the road. “I don’t think so. Seriously, I thought they were done. Maybe-” His voice went so low it was almost a whisper. “Maybe it was because I wasn’t there with you for this full moon.”

Shane rubbed his hand over his face, sighing. It made sense. It made a lot of sense. Keeping an eye on the werewolf was a good idea. For the past few months, Ryan had been that eye, but with him visiting his friends, he couldn’t really blame them for putting someone else on guard duty.

And it was a good thing they had, because God only knew what he might have done or where he might have ended up if they hadn’t found him and distracted him with Ryan. As it was, he still didn’t really know where he had gotten all the scratches from.

That didn’t mean he had to like that they had been watching him.

When they finally made it back to his house, Ryan gently took hold of his wrist, stopping him from getting out of the car. “Hey,” Ryan said softly, his eyes so big and worried Shane could see it despite his lack of glasses. “Are you mad at me?”

Shane leaned over the gearshift and kissed him, a slow kiss that was more of a brush of lips than anything else. It was nice that he could do that. That he had the permission to casually kiss Ryan in reassurance like that. The last year had been a huge fiasco, but he couldn’t entirely hate it. Not when it had led to Ryan being more than just a friend. “I’m mad at myself,” he murmured against the corner of Ryan’s jaw. “At the situation. Not at you.”

Ryan kissed him on the forehead. “Glad to hear it, big guy.”

“You’re glad I’m mad at myself?” Shane asked, laughing tiredly.

“Yes,” Ryan said as he opened the car door. He grinned, that familiar teasing expression. “Not about the werewolf stuff, but there are so many other things you should be mad at yourself for. Your fashion sense-”

“Don’t be jealous.”

“The Hot Daga-”

“A masterpiece already!”

“Your hair.”

Shane blinked as he got out of the car, swaying slightly. “What’s wrong with my hair?”

Ryan walked around the car, wrapping an arm around his waist to support him. With his other hand, he reached up to ruffle Shane’s hair. “You always look like you just got fucked and it’s incredibly distracting.”

“Wishful thinking on your part.”

“About that…”

 

-----------------------------------------------

 

Shane couldn’t say that the ‘breaking out and running through half of SoCal’ incident was exactly forgotten about. There were far too many tweets, recordings of dogs going crazy, and one five second, dark, shaky clip of something that could have been a running werewolf or could have been a large dog for that to be the case. He just managed to ignore most of it under the guise of being a complete skeptic that didn’t have time for ‘local cryptid sightings.’ The small uproar eventually died down.

Still, it was incredibly disconcerting to hear himself howling. It was eerie in a way that he didn’t like believing in. He hated that the supernatural was real. Or at least to the extent that shifters and two Chicago werewolves were real.

Unfortunately, while the public and the media soon forgot about it, his own damn psyche had taken his little field trip as permission to let the instincts he’d kept ahold of for years run rampant. It wasn’t too bad at work, since he could focus on whatever his task for the day was, but going out with friends was turning into a nightmare of hiding his hands and keeping his mouth closed at all times. As soon as alcohol was involved he was completely shit out of luck. It was good thing he was already known for wearing long-sleeved shirts, because for weeks he hadn’t felt comfortable with having his possibly furry arms exposed.

Sex was… Well.

He was starting to think the real curse wasn’t the lycanthropy but the enforced celibacy. Made all the worse by having a boyfriend that insisted on looking like that.

“Wait, wait, wait- oh shit, Ryan, wait-”

Ryan looked up at him from where he was on his knees, his mouth red and slick and incredibly tempting. He lazily stroked Shane’s cock, which wasn’t helping matters any. “What? Too fast?”

Shane bared his teeth at Ryan to show him the fangs, the ache in his jaw telling him that if they didn’t stop, he wasn’t going to be able to talk coherently any longer. “Gonna have to raincheck.”

“Again?” Ryan groaned, letting go of his cock with an expression that was comically disappointed. “Can’t we just ignore it?”

“You really don’t want me going full werewolf on you in the middle of sex.”

“Eh...”

“No,” Shane said with finality. At this point, he tentatively believed that he wouldn’t willingly hurt Ryan, even in the middle of being a mindless monster, but something about mixing that lack of control with sex didn’t sit right with him.

“You don’t know how much I want to see you come, dude.”

“You don’t know how much I want to come, dude.”

“Then-”

“Nope,” Shane said, hooking his claws into Ryan’s shirt and urging him up onto the bed. “But if you drop it now, I’ll do another video for you.”

Ryan closed his eyes and shuddered. “I do have the first one memorized,” he mumbled without an ounce of shame as he pushed Shane onto his back and crawled up his body.

“That’s flattering.”

“Yeah, well, I thought I’d never get to see the stupid faces you make in the middle of coming.”

Shane laughed, trailing his claws lightly through Ryan’s hair. “Only the stupidest for you, baby.”

Ryan said something against his neck, nipping at the skin in the way made Shane shiver, before sighing and relaxing his entire body against Shane’s.

“Hey, I’m not a pillow. And you’re heavy.”

“It’s all this muscle,” Ryan said. Then he took a deep breath and blurted, “I have an idea for how I could fuck you.” There was smallest pause before he added, “If- if that would be something you’d be into.”

It took Shane a second to parse the fast words. “I think we’ve discussed just how much I would be into that. But if I can’t even handle a blowjob-”

“I’ve got a plan.”

“A plan, he says.”

“A good plan,” Ryan insisted, kissing right under Shane’s cheekbone. “It’ll work, I promise.”

“Well consider me intrigued,” Shane admitted. The fact that Ryan was warm and smelled like pine probably had something to do with his easy acceptance.

“Tomorrow night?”

“You’ve got yourself a date, buckaroo.”

Ryan snorted, his breath ticklish against Shane’s neck. “I hate you.”

It was amazing how much that sounded like ‘I love you.’

Chapter Text

The problem was that this wasn’t the first time Ryan had come up with a ‘plan’ for sex. Beer, THC, waking him up in the middle of the night; all were things that Ryan had tried. It never worked, and every single time, the claws and fur came out. It was like the werewolfy side of him really liked Ryan.

Shane had to give the guy credit; he was stubborn as hell. It was occasionally exhausting and more than once Shane wanted to sit Ryan down and tell him it just wasn’t going to happen. Despite the annoyance and the fact that their sex life was distinctly one-sided, Shane was still happy with what they had. Knowing that he was allowed to draw Ryan into a hug or touch the small of his back when they stood next to each other or even just curl into his warmth at night meant more than sex.

And he had called off for the day, so his time was spent in a haze of ‘what-ifs’ and obsessively checking Twitter, half expecting some joker to mention him in a tweet about the new LA cryptid. That didn’t leave room for looking forward to the night. He did wish Ryan was there, but that had more to do with the fact that Ryan was a great distraction from his own thoughts.

Thoughts that too often ran towards sick, morbid curiosity.

Had he been starving himself every full moon? Should he be leaving a slab of raw meat in the cage? Would his system be able to handle raw meat when he was back to being human?

Just what did a raw rabbit taste like?

He had eaten some pretty rare steaks in the past and he could down good sashimi like it was going out of style, but he had never eaten anything that was still warm. That still had fur and organs. God, he hoped it had been dead before he had-

Shane stood up from his couch and walked away from the TV and the show that had been doing nothing to keep his attention, desperately pushing the thought away. He checked the time and decided that two hours before Ryan was supposed to show up was a great time to take a shower. That wasn’t early in the slightest.

One good thing about owning a house by himself was the water heater and the sheer amount of hot water he could use if he wanted to. He felt vaguely guilty about using so much when the area was always in a semi-permanent drought, but it was a small luxury he decided to indulge in.

The fall of the water on his back was relaxing, as was the echoing noise of the shower in the enclosed room. It gave his brain something to focus on that wasn’t pain, or exhaustion, or worry. The automatic movements of cleaning himself were a ritual that made him feel more human. That reminded him that he wasn’t an animal. No wolf was indulging in indoor plumbing or the blandly pleasant scent of cheap, generic shampoo and soap.

By the time he made it out of the shower and into a pair of lose sweats, Ryan was already knocking on the front door. Shane slouched his way over and opened the door with a tired ‘hey’. Then he paused.

Ryan looked good. He was wearing a button-up shirt that barely fit around his shoulders and arms, tucked into a pair of black slacks. His hair had been styled up and he was wearing his contacts. He looked like he was on his way to a date.

Shirtless, sockless, in sweats that had holes, and glasses, Shane felt distinctly underdressed.

“Did you have a shoot I didn't know about today?” Shane asked. Hoped.

Ryan raised his eyebrows, his assessing gaze both amused and appreciative. Which always threw Shane for a loop. He knew what he had to work with, and being shirtless didn’t warrant that kind of appreciation. Not that he’d say that to Ryan. He didn’t feel like getting into an argument.

“No,” Ryan said slowly, doing nothing to hide the way his eyes lingered on the cut of Shane’s hip. “I wanted to look nice for you.”

Christ Almighty, he was never going to get used to how easily Ryan could say stuff like that.

“Well slap my ass and call me Sally,” Shane exclaimed, leering with all the ridiculousness he could muster, hoping to hide just how much that had touched him. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

Ryan snorted and pushed past him into the house. “I’m wooing you.”

“Oh pitch that woo at me.”

Putting down his messenger bag, Ryan shook his head and held out a plastic bag filled with containers that Shane hadn’t even noticed. “Part of the pitching is bringing takeout.”

Shane put his hand on his heart and affected his best ‘southern belle’ accent. “You have me all aflutter, sir. But maybe we skip food for now if we’re going to do this thing?”

Ryan hesitated. “Ah, okay. If you’re sure?”

“Very sure,” Shane said, taking the bag and absently kissing the side of Ryan’s head as he shut the door. He didn’t expect this mysterious plan to actually work, and he knew the frustration and possible blue balls could be somewhat fixed by eating too much food.

“What, no lead up? No foreplay?”

“Last week you practically jumped me as soon as you walked through the door, since when do you need foreplay?” Shane asked over his shoulder as he stuffed the containers into the fridge. It smelled like some kind of red meat and his stomach grumbled, his thoughts skewing once more to blood.

He growled to himself, annoyed. The last time he had been this obsessed with the idea of raw meat had been when he had first started changing. It had been years since then, he knew he had a better handle on his psyche than this. Too many changes in his life were absolutely wrecking his self-control.

“Shane?”

Shane twitched, realizing that he had been staring blankly at the fridge door. “Yeah?”

A warm hand slid around his ribs, drawing him back into Ryan’s chest. “You good?”

“I’m peachy keen,” Shane answered, closing his eyes and sternly telling himself to pay attention to the here and now. “Are you finally going to tell me what this nefarious scheme is?”

There was a moment of hesitation, a small pause where he could tell that Ryan wanted to keep questioning him, but eventually there was a brush of a kiss against the back of his shoulder and a sardonic, “You make it sound like I’m trying to get you to agree to a bank heist.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you.”

Ryan snorted softly and tangled his fingers in Shane’s, pulling him along towards the bedroom. “We’ll pull off a DB Cooper but without the probable death.”

“I would rock those shades,” Shane agreed, raising an eyebrow when Ryan grabbed his messenger bag on the way.

As soon as they were in the bedroom, Ryan pushed Shane towards the bed with a playful, “Strip.”

“Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?” It was something of a blessing that he no longer had to worry about what Ryan would think, that they had seen each other naked often enough that he felt completely comfortable with pulling his pants off and throwing them towards a pile of clothes.

“Later,” Ryan muttered absently as he started to dig through his bag, bringing out a towel and two clear bottles. Shane recognized the one as lube, which made sense, but he couldn’t figure out the other one until he snatched it off the bed as soon as Ryan set it down.

“Massage oil?” he read out loud, shooting Ryan an amused glance. “Really, man? A sexy massage?”

Ryan grabbed the bottle back and pointed at the bed, his chin up and shoulders back in a stubborn stance. “Lay down on the towel.”

Shane did as he was told, chuckling to himself as he threw his glasses onto the nightstand. “Thanks for thinking of my sheets.”

“Since I sleep on them half the time anyways, I’m sparing myself.”

A warm feeling of contentment at those words made Shane smile into the pillow as he stretched out on his stomach on top of the bed. “I bet you’ll last ten minutes before it goes from massage to groping,” he said, twisting his head to make sure Ryan could hear how intentionally goading he was being. If he could rile Ryan up and get a few more minutes of some sweet massage action, the inevitable later frustration might be worth it. Once he had hit his mid-twenties, his back always felt a little sore.

Considering his bones broke once a month, it was a miracle that he wasn't in worse shape.

“Ten minutes,” Ryan repeated incredulously, the bed dipping as he kneeled next to Shane. “Give me some credit. I’ll last fifteen.”

Shane laughed softly. “Impressive. A whole fifteen minutes.”

There were the quiet sounds of Ryan moving around, doing something that Shane felt too lazy to lift his head to see, then soft music began playing from somewhere. He snorted and shook his head against the pillow, recognizing the song as one he liked but Ryan hated. It seemed the guy really was going all out. Ryan muttered a fond 'shut up' and strong hands grasped the top of his shoulders. The oil slicking Ryan's palms was a little cold, but Shane wasn't going to complain about that while fingers were kneading into sore muscles.

He hummed happily and relaxed into the mattress, determined to get as much out of this 'massage' as he could. It felt like he was always carrying tension in his back and shoulders, and the last couple of days had made it even worse.

Ryan's hands were sure and steady as they moved across his shoulders and down his back, firm pressure that was just on the right side of too painful. Shane let out a little moan when Ryan dug his thumbs into the tight muscle under his shoulder blades,

Shane had given and received enough massages from partners over his life to know how it was supposed to go. A few minutes of nice, relaxing touching and rubbing that quickly became nothing more than an excuse for rubbing. There was a script to this kind of encounter and, while he appreciated Ryan’s enthusiasm, he wasn’t expecting anything different. When ten minutes rolled past, he expected to feel clever fingers drift towards naughty places that no professional masseuse would touch. When fifteen past, he figured Ryan was just trying to prove a point. Ryan had moved from his shoulders to his lower back to his upper arms, which wasn’t a common area to get that kind of attention, but it felt remarkably good.

At twenty minutes and five different songs, Shane was perplexed. And well on his way to becoming a puddle of a human being, considering how relaxed he felt. But still mostly perplexed. He turned his head towards Ryan, blinking slowly and blearily at the frown of concentration he glimpsed. That was an expression he usually only saw on Ryan while there was a ton of work to be done. “Hey,” he said softly. “You trying to put me to sleep over here?”

Ryan’s glance flicked up towards him, his frown turning into a small smile. “Not quite.”

“Gonna molest me in my sleep? Is that your plan?”

His answer was a soft, amused huff of breath. Shane felt his cheeks get hotter as he made himself add, “Putting it all out there- Or more out there-” he paused to wiggle his bare ass. “I wouldn’t actually mind if that was a part of your plan.” Who knew? Maybe that would actually work.

Ryan cleared his throat, his fingertips digging firmly into Shane’s forearm, rubbing nonsensical patterns. “I’ll uh, keep that in mind. But I want you completely coherent right now.”

Considering that his voice was on it’s way to slurring and he felt just this side of stoned, ‘coherent’ wasn’t really the right word for Shane’s current state of mind. He had had no idea that a simple massage that lasted longer than a handful of minutes could leave him such a boneless mess.

Ryan pressing his fingers into Shane’s palm and then tugging lightly on each knuckle felt far better than Shane would have ever imagined. He couldn’t help the long sigh of contentment, the sound muffled by the pillow.

Maybe Ryan took that as some kind of cue, because he abandoned Shane’s hands to sweep his slick, warm palms down Shane’s back, over his ass, and began to knead the backs of his thighs with hard pressure that made Shane shift in place. This was the first time that Ryan had strayed near anything interesting, the first time the entire experience had felt actually sexual, but the realization that Ryan’s hands were bare inches away from his ass and the subsequent arousal felt oddly distant. Shane’s mind was in a whimsical enough state that he dared to think he felt like he was floating above his own body.

Ryan leaning forward to press a kiss to the small of his back was a surprise, but Shane didn’t have the wherewithal to really react. He just sighed again, making a noise that could have been a word or could have been a moan.

Strong thumbs dug into the meat of his ass, rubbing and kneading and spreading his cheeks apart. He wanted to make some kind of joke, some acknowledgement that he didn’t exactly have much of a butt to be groping, but knowing that Ryan was looking at him, was seeing everything was a heady thought. Shane pressed his face into the pillow until he could barely breathe, his embarrassment and arousal both immediate and far away. He shifted his hips, rolling them down into the mattress in an aborted effort to gain some kind of friction for his thickening cock, dimly aware of a smear of wetness under his stomach.

With a faint chuckle, Ryan bit him on the top of one cheek, more of a real bite than a nibble. Dimly, like watching someone else from far away, Shane felt a part of himself sit up and take notice. A part of himself that liked the idea of teeth.

Too mixed up in a tangle of want and relaxation, he did nothing to push that curious part away.

The telltale ache of nails turning into claws made him curl his hands into fists, but all he could really focus on was the teeth leaving imprints in his skin, the warmth of Ryan’s tongue as he soothed over the spots, and the chill of rapidly cooling saliva.

Ryan drew in a shaky breath that sounded almost nervous, then hooked his hands under Shane’s hips, pulling lightly. “Hey,” he said softly. “Can you get up on your knees?”

The request took awhile to process, but Shane managed to draw his knees under himself and brace his arms under his chest. His limbs were shaky and he was shocked that a simple massage could leave him feeling like he was made out of limp noodles. He was a little proud of himself for managing to get to all fours without falling over.

Only to fall to his elbows when Ryan licked a stripe from his balls to his hole. He might have shouted or he might have whimpered, he wasn’t sure. Shane just knew that he was making some kind of noise through his slack-mouthed panting. He had never thought that Ryan would even think to put his mouth there, but he had clearly underestimated how adventurous Ryan was.

There were a few hesitant kitten licks at first, just the tip of Ryan’s tongue dancing along the edge. It didn’t take long for him to grow more confident, emboldened by the breathy, strung out, desperate noises Shane was making, and he started to lick and wriggle his tongue against sensitive flesh with more enthusiasm. It was warm and wet, soft and firm, and so good that all Shane could do was take it.

Ryan proceeded to lick and suck and fuck him with his tongue for so long that spit began to drip at a steady pace down the back of Shane’s balls, falling into a puddle onto the towel. He could tell that he was getting beard burn in very delicate places from Ryan’s stubble, but it only heightened the moment. A moment that was the strangest mix of lassitude and need. It was sex while drunk, but he was drunk off the natural high of endorphins. He had no idea how much time had passed, but when Ryan finally drew back, he felt tongued loose and sloppy.

He couldn’t help the despondent little whimper he let out with the loss of Ryan’s warmth, but he stopped himself from begging for more when he heard the click of a bottle and the hasty noises of a belt being undone and pants being unbuttoned.

Slick fingers circled his rim, one pushing inside, but that wasn’t what he wanted. The fact that they were so close, that maybe for the first time he could actually be with Ryan was such an overwhelming, looming realization that Shane could barely process it.

“Just fuck me,” he practically commanded through an aching jaw, a rough whine in his voice that was more canine than human.

“Are you sure-”

“You know I can take it,” Shane interrupted. He had recorded enough videos for Ryan at that point for the guy to know exactly how much he could take.

“Fuck, okay, just-” Where Ryan had been mostly quiet before, now he was at a full-on ramble, muttering swears and absent praises as he took Shane at his word, wasting no time in lining up and pushing inside of him.

The stretch burned in a way that made Shane grit his teeth, and if he hadn’t already been so bonelessly relaxed, it would have been too much. But that wasn’t what made Shane whisper a hoarse, “Wait, wait a sec-” as soon as he had taken all of Ryan’s cock, the two of them pressed flush together.

They were both trembling and covered in sweat, nervous and exultant at the same time. It was stupid and embarrassing. Both of them had had sex before with other people, plenty of times. But this felt different. This wasn’t just sex, it was sex with someone they loved, and Shane wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell Ryan how important it was or smack himself for having such cheesy thoughts.

Either way, all he wanted to do in the moment was to feel everything. To focus on the drag inside him whenever Ryan shifted slightly and to feel the way Ryan’s hands gripped at his hip or petted down his ribs.

He clenched around Ryan without thought, gasping at the fullness and the sudden pain prickling up and down his arms.

“Are you oka-”

“I can’t last,” Shane said, eyeing the sweep of hair that was very definitely fur springing up on his arms.

“I mean, I’m not exactly going to judge you.”

“Ryan,” Shane growled hoarsely, fighting back a laugh even as he tried to force himself to relax back into that feeling of lassitude from earlier. “That’s not what I mean.”

Fingers scratched through hair on his back and he had never known until then that he had fur on his back. “Talk to me.”

“About what? The latest Hollywood scandal?”

Ryan kissed the middle of his spine. “Just talk. Distract yourself.”

Just talk? About what? He wasn’t the type to say whatever came to his head if it wasn’t a joke. And what the hell was he supposed to talk about while Ryan was fucking him and he was trying not to turn into a damn werewolf? “Ryan…”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to fuck me until I can’t walk right,” Shane said bluntly. He grinned, pleased with himself when Ryan jolted forward, pressing further into him.

“Fuck,” Ryan whispered, his fingers tightening to the point of pain on Shane’s hip. “Think about what you want, not about how close you are to shifting.”

What did he want?

He wanted to come. He wanted to orgasm with Ryan right there, inside him, and to feel Ryan’s in turn. He wanted the afterglow and the giggly, mushy, ridiculous pillow talk and to fall asleep in a tangle with Ryan, taking up only one half of the bed because they were both too lazy to clean. He wanted-

A shift in his thoughts, a blending of two personalities that were one and the same.

Blood

No, that wasn’t right.

Meat

That was even worse.

Biting

That wasn’t too odd.

“Biting,” he said, not recognizing his own voice.

Teeth ripping, muscles bunched, skin tearing

“Hunting.”

Ryan smoothed his hand down Shane's hip, slowly pulling out a couple inches, then just as slowly pushing back in. Shane groaned at the sensation, the slide and tug and fuck, it was good to feel Ryan like this, stuffing him full. “Running” he gasped, unaware of his words as flashes of chasing prey danced through his mind. “Catching.” The image of a pale dog darting in front of him made him smile. “Playing.”

A harder, faster thrust, one that jolted him forward. He didn’t notice it, caught up in the pain of his sinuses popping and the sudden flood of smells. His own scent, the pine of Ryan, the sweat and distinctive smell of sex, the faint lingering smell of the different oils coating Ryan’s hands.

God, his teeth hurt.

Ryan slid his hand up the length of Shane’s back to cup his shoulder, pulling, urging Shane to change the angle. But all Shane could think of was the need to relieve the ache in his jaw. One moment Ryan’s hand was on his shoulder, the next there was a wrist in between his teeth.

Shane froze, uncomfortably aware of the weird stretch in his neck from twisting to reach and the way his tongue was pressed up against the tendons in Ryan’s wrist. What made him let go was the hint of surprise in Ryan’s voice as he whispered, “ Shane, c’mon, give me my arm back.”

Dropping Ryan’s wrist, Shane stared down at his own clawed hands that were tangled in the towel and sheet under him.

He could still taste Ryan’s skin on his tongue.

“I- I- Oh God, I-” Shane wasn’t even sure what he was trying to say. An apology, a plea for forgiveness, a call to stop, something.

There was a sudden hand on his throat, pulling him backwards, a body toned with muscle and slick with sweat plastered along his spine and teeth clamped hard into the back of his neck. Shane had a second to register the feel of his flesh indenting under Ryan’s blunt teeth, then he simply stopped caring, going lax and limp.

It was as though a flip had switched in his mind. All of the fear and guilt went away. He sank down under Ryan’s weight, his breath coming out in a long sigh as Ryan rode him down. His jaw and nose still ached, but those pains were buried under a blanket of calm and distant, nebulous lust. It was an arousal that did not spark or burn, but gently pervaded every inch of his body, like a spreading fog.

When Ryan pulled his mouth back, Shane whined at the sense of loss, tilting his head down to offer up his neck, begging without words to be bitten there again. Ryan laughed softly, dragging his tongue over the sensitive skin. “I can’t believe that worked. You’re going to be so annoyed later,” he whispered.

Shane made a questioning noise, gently rolling his hips, idly chasing the twin sensations of Ryan’s cock moving inside him and the pressure where his own was trapped between his stomach and the bed.

Ryan wrapped his arm around Shane’s chest, maneuvering them until they were on their sides. Shane went with it easily, his body pliant and his mind drifting.

“Look at you,” Ryan murmured in Shane’s ear, starting a slow, smooth rhythm that was more like rocking their bodies together than fucking. “I can’t believe I finally get to watch you. Get to-” His breath stuttered as he pushed in as far as he could go. “-Feel you.”

Shane barely understood the words, but the soft cadence was encouraging and wonderful to hear. He lazily wrapped his hand around his cock to give himself some kind of friction, panting quietly as the pressure built and built and built.

“That’s it, just like that. Let me see.”

He wanted to respond, to say Ryan’s name, but it was as if language was beyond him. Shane could only whimper deep in the back of his throat, once again bending his head down in the hope that Ryan would bite his neck.

Ryan let out breath of laughter, then gently nibbled the skin at the nape of his neck. And that was exactly what he needed. A final push that tipped him over into an orgasm that unraveled slowly through him, prolonged by the feel of Ryan falling over that edge with him. He came quietly and messily, all over his hand and the bed, but what presence of mind he had left was focused on Ryan’s guttural, stuttering sounds.

For a long moment, everything was peaceful. Both sides of him were content.

Shane closed his eyes, sinking into a zoned out state that barely acknowledged Ryan carefully pulling out of him or the brusque but gentle swipes of a washcloth. He only opened his eyes when he felt Ryan lay down in front of him.

“Lazy ass,” Ryan was saying fondly, his smile small but happy. Then he met Shane’s half-lidded gaze and he faltered. His expression turned into one of surprise and trepidation. “Uh. Shane?”

Shane sat up, looming over Ryan. He tilted his head at Ryan’s sudden worry.

“You, uh. Your eyes are a little not… human.”

Shane blinked once, the information oddly unimportant. What was important was the playmate right in front of him. He placed his hand on Ryan’s chest, a claw tapping lightly against the jut of a collarbone. “Ryan,” he said simply, his voice a deep growl.

Ryan’s smile was soft and downright awestruck. “Yeah, that’s right. Hey there. Fancy seeing you outside of a full moon.”

Full moon?

Shane glanced out the window, but the sky was lit only by the light pollution of his little neighborhood. He went back to staring at Ryan, pausing to yawn so hard that his jaw popped.

“Maybe you should sleep. I don’t need you angry at me because you were like this for more than a few minutes.”

With a derisive snort that sounded more like a dog than a human, Shane collapsed on top of Ryan, nuzzling into his neck. “Mate.”

Ryan’s breath caught. Tentatively and so very gently, he brought his hand up to pet through Shane’s hair. “Yeah. Yeah, that… Yeah. I love you, too.”

Love?

Hmm.

Good.

 

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“And how is my favorite secret couple this wonderful Friday afternoon?”

Shane leaned back in his chair, grinning when he saw Ryan close his eyes and sigh. “This half of the not-a-couple is doing great. You?”

Curly casually leaned on the table in between their computers, smiling when he caught Ryan rubbing his hand over his face. “Absolutely lovely. What are you two fine gentleman doing tonight? There’s a party I have to go to, but if I can rope enough friends into going with me, it won’t be as terrible as I know it will be.”

Ryan sighed again, with the air of someone who had completely given up, and said, “We’ve got plans.”

“Ah, date night.” Curly nodded sagely. “Any way I can blackmail you into skipping it?”

“I’m not sure about Ryan, but I’m an open book. There’s nothing you can blackmail me with,” Shane said. He took pleasure in watching Ryan roll his eyes.

“You’re a Midwestern white boy. You have some kind of kinky secret and don’t think I won’t figure it out.”

Shane paused, then deadpanned, “You’ve caught me. I’m a furry. I identify as a wolf.”

Ryan buried his head in his hands and groaned.

Curly leaned closer and said solemnly, with an edge of a grin curling the corner of his mouth, “ I want you to know that we all accept you. And I’m proud of Ryan for overcoming his frat bro ways and being able to accomodate you.”

“Alright,” Ryan said. “It’s after five, we’re leaving.”

“But I’m not done with work!”

“We’re leaving,” Ryan repeated, standing up and locking his computer. “Come on, Shane.”

“Heel, boy,” Curly whispered just loud enough for Shane to hear.

Shane laughed all the way to Ryan’s car.

 

--------------------------------------------------

 

The moon hung huge and pearlescent in the sky, so clear that Shane thought he could reach out and touch it.

“It’s nearly time.”

Shane downed the last of his beer, hoping the movement would mask how his hand shook. “You’ve been with me for too long if you can tell that just from looking at me.”

“You’ve sweated through your shirt and your arms are furrier than Robin Williams’ right now,” Ryan said, taking the bottle from him. “It’s not hard to figure out.”

“Ooh, nice 90’s reference.”

“Tawnya’s kids needed a babysitter last weekend, so we watched Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“Sounds fun,” Shane said absently as he pulled his shirt over his head, starting down the stairs into the basement.

Ryan groaned as he followed. “Not really. The one is at the ankle biter stage. Literally. Mountain lions.”

Shane didn’t think he’d ever get used to such casual references to shifting. “They’re not going to be here, right?”

“No, Shane, don’t worry about it,” Ryan said, briefly rubbing Shane’s back before making a face at the sweat. He accepted Shane’s glasses and phone and added, “Just Jake and couple of my friends that are large predators. We’ve gone over this. They’ll be here in an hour.”

Brain swimming under the ache in his body and the pull of the full moon, Shane mumbled, “I know, I know. Can’t believe I agreed to this.”

“You need socialization.”

“Werewolf playdates,” Shane muttered to himself, smiling at the absurdity. “How is this my life?” It was a struggle to get out of his pants, but having Ryan there gave him something else to focus on.

“Yuck it up, mister, but once werewolf-you starts learning how to talk, you’ll be thankful you have friends.”

“I was not some- some wolf version of me that night.”

“Uh huh,” Ryan said with obvious sarcasm. “So you, with a clear mind and of your own free will, called me your ‘mate’?”

Finally naked, Shane strode into the newly installed cage and swung the door shut with a clang. “Maybe. Don’t judge what I’m into.”

Ryan locked it behind him, pocketing the key. “Yeah, yeah. Kiss me before you get fangs, ‘mate.’”

Shane grumbled, taking the excuse to lean on the bars to take weight off his shaky legs. They couldn’t do much more than brush their lips together with the bars in the way, but even that small contact was so much better than the nothing he had endured for years. “See you in the morning,” he whispered. His knees buckled under him and he slid to the ground, gritting his teeth against the sharpe ache and pop of the bones in his feet breaking.

Kneeling with him, Ryan reached through the bars to grasp his hand, giving him something to hold onto. “See you in a few minutes.”

Shane snickered at the arch reply before the pain became all-consuming, forcing him into unconsciousness.

When he blinked open his eyes, he wasn’t surprised to see Ryan sitting in the cage with him, not wearing a stitch of clothing. His playmate was becoming a constant.

“Hey,” Ryan said softly, reaching over slowly to run his fingers through long fur. “You ready to meet some friends?”

Shane didn’t understand the words. He didn’t need to. He recognized that tone.

With a sharp yip that echoed in the room, Shane struggled to his aching feet, wiggling in excitement.

“Yeah, you are.” Ryan raised his voice and yelled, “Come on down, guys.”

Shane pricked his ears forward when he heard footsteps above him, but for once he didn’t feel fear of the unknown. Only curiosity. Even the urge to hunt was nearly nonexistent.

Ryan ruffled the fur at his neck and grinned. “This is going to be awesome.”

“Let’s have some fun, big guy.”