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Wild is the Wind

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Jared had heard about mating for as long as he could remember.

It was way more complex than just falling in love; for his kind, it was the single most important event in a person's life.

The exact combination of factors that went into forging that bond was hard to pin down. Part of it was pheromones, part of it was intuition, and part of it was pure chance. The traditionalists in his pack – mostly the older generations – still held to the superstitious idea that it was all about fate, and there was one perfect person destined to be mated with every other. The one thing everyone could agree on was that you never knew when it would happen, but there was no mistaking it when it did.

Except it didn't happen to Jared.

His dominance in the male ranks was firmly established, but at age twenty-six he was one of the oldest unmated members of his pack. He felt the restless, anxious desire to breed – to stalk a female's scent, hold her down and mate her until she was dripping and full and claimed – but it was never directed at one bitch in particular. There was no connection, no preternatural call to bond with one other wolf for life. Year after year, he watched weaker alphas pair off with their mates while he remained alone.

He was almost tempted to think the whole concept was just a fairytale, some hold-over from the days when their kind lived apart from humanity and had to find reasons to not intermingle – but no, that wasn't it, either. He saw the way mated pairs behaved; the protectiveness they felt for one another, the way they could pick that wolf's scent out from the mixed musk of the entire assembled pack. That couldn't be faked. It was as intense as the bond between a bitch and her cub.

And apparently Jared wasn't going to find it in his own pack.

He didn't tell anyone the real reason he decided to take a semester off from law school and travel. Mating outside one's group wasn't entirely unheard of, but it wasn't common, either. He was pretty sure the whole thing would have sounded ridiculous – yeah, I've decided to road-trip around the country in search of the person I'm going to share the rest of my life with; I'll send you a postcard when I find her – and he didn't need to see the pity in anyone's eyes as they tried to tactfully tell him he was being stupid.

Maybe he was being stupid. Maybe he was desperate. He just knew he had to try, because he wasn't ready to accept the idea that destiny screwed him out of the best part of being a wolf.

***

Jared roamed for almost a month before ending up in Riley, and it was impossible to say what led him there.

The route he'd taken up to that point was lazy and aimless, since he didn't have a real destination. He'd wandered through Idaho and down into Wyoming before looping back up. He knew the layout of pack territories like he knew the states, and he'd already passed through six of them, but for some reason he'd strayed into the unclaimed wilderness that made up most of Montana. Werewolves liked to like to gather around civilization, priding themselves on their ability to lead normal human lives; there was no reason to think he'd find his mate in neutral, isolated territory. No reason to pull off the highway in the middle of nowhere, take an exit for the first smattering of civilization he'd seen in hours.

Somehow Jared just knew this was where he needed to be.

He could sense it more than he could smell it, although there was a definite thread of something exciting and strange in the air. His whole body ached and throbbed with inhuman energy – a feeling he'd come to associate with the flux of the lunar cycle, or impending danger. His wolf-mind picked up on things he couldn't always consciously grasp, and it knew. This was the place.

The town could barely be called a town at all – it was little more than a layover for the occasional trucker or traveler taking the scenic route. The only lodging was on the outskirts, a rustic and hap-hazard collection of cabins tucked between the trees.

"Don't get many visitors this time of year," the clerk said when Jared booked one for the night. "You just passing through?"

"Not sure yet," Jared said. "I might be a few days. Looks like a nice area."

The clerk eyed him, almost like he was sizing him up.

"If it's the outdoorsy experience you're looking for, you'd do better heading on up to the Falls."

Jared raised his eyebrows. "We're in the middle of a national forest, aren't we? It doesn't get much more outdoorsy than that."

The man chuckled as he held out Jared's receipt.

"True enough. These parts just aren't real friendly for hikers and whatnot. Not real safe, if you know what I mean."

"Are there a lot of bear attacks, or something?"

"Wolves," he said, meeting Jared's gaze. "There's one nasty sumbitch out there in particular, like to tear a limb off as soon as look at you. I'm not trying to scare you – just telling you what the locals already know. You don't have anything to worry about as long as you stay close to civilization. Just don't go wandering in the woods."

"I'll keep that in mind," Jared said politely.

He didn't bother unpacking the bags he hauled into the little cabin. There wasn't time for it. With every passing minute, the urgency he'd first felt on the road got more intense. It settled low in his belly, filling him with a sweet, unfamiliar tension that radiated all the way down to his fingertips. Her presence was calling to him, and it didn't matter what else what else was out there in the woods – the animal the clerk described had to be a full-blood wolf, and they were nasty in a fight – Jared couldn't turn back now. He couldn't do anything until he found his mate and made her his own.

Before he could think it through, he was clambering down the cabin steps and heading out into the trees.

Jared made it about a mile away from the cabin before shifting into his wolf form. He was faster on all fours, his senses sharper and more refined; when he took a deep breath, the mingled smells of the forest adding a deeper texture to everything surrounding him.

He could smell dozens of different animals – some afraid, some nesting, some dead and decaying on the ground. There was a source of water not too far away, fresh and cold and clean. Much of the fallen brush on the forest floor was dry enough to burrow in if he couldn't find other shelter.

And beneath all those smells, like a single bass note held under a wild and sprawling symphony, was the scent of his mate.

It had its own complexities, but they were tangled around each other and came to him as a single thing -- like the different features of a face he'd only glimpsed.

The presence of a savage, dangerous wolf didn't seem to have stopped Jared's mate from wandering all over the forest. He caught traces of that strange, delicious scent everywhere he roamed, and it took most of the afternoon to track it to its source; by the time he was close enough that it overrode all the other smells of the woods, the sun was hanging low in the sky.

His pulse quickened as he closed in on his prey, his body thrumming with excitement.

When the wolf came into view, Jared almost didn't believe his eyes. It was an alpha. And judging by its appearance, it was the very one he had been warned about.

Physically the wolf was no bigger than most alphas Jared had seen, but it was clear he was strong. His broad frame was thick with muscle, his movements were smooth and powerful, and his muzzle was criss-crossed with black scars that spoke of countless battles fought and won. If Jared couldn't detect something faintly human about his scent – and if he wasn't overwhelmed with the need to hold him down and breed – he'd have no problem believing this was a true wolf.

He froze when Jared leaped into the clearing, and for a moment the two regarded each other.

The scent was overwhelming at this close proximity, leaving no doubt that this was the wolf Jared had been stalking all afternoon. He could pick up much more detail now, smelling fear and surprise -- and even stronger than that, arousal. It was sharp, pungent, so sweet it made Jared's cock swell and push free of its sheath.

This wolf knew it as well as Jared did: they were going to mate.

Jared knew exactly how this would play out with a pack bitch. He'd seen it at least a hundred times before. The alpha would pin her, dominate her, and she would submit. The first round of breeding, the one that established the claim, could happen in human or wolf form. All that mattered was that coupling.

He'd heard stories of it happening between two alphas, but he'd never seen it with his own eyes. It never occurred to him how difficult it might be to mate when neither wolf was hard-wired for submission.

When the tension between them finally snapped, Jared had no idea which one of them made the first move; they crashed into one another in a tangle of teeth and heat, both instinctively fighting for dominance. The other wolf was aggressive in a way that bordered on feral, more like a true wolf than the weres Jared grew up sparring. He countered each of Jared's attacks with sharp nips and snarls.

It was little more than luck that finally let Jared win. His mate clearly wasn't used to fighting other animals with human sentience, and he didn't think to hide it when he began to feel fatigue. Jared was trained to look for those tells and exploit them whenever possible, and he'd as good as won the moment he spotted the slight shake of his opponent's legs. He simply held back his own strength, let the other wolf tire himself a little more with pointless wrestling, and then pounced swiftly, pinning him to the ground with his jaws fixed carefully around his throat.

Despite his forced submission, Jared could smell a sudden spike his mate's arousal. He couldn't help but want this. It was beyond their control, and far beyond any human ideas of top and bottom – they were already in the process of mating, and now they knew what roles they were going to play.

It was just a question of how to actually play them.

Jared's wolf-brain wanted nothing more than to fuck – to force his way inside and take what was his – but now that he'd established his dominance he was left with some practical problems. Namely the fact that he couldn't fuck another alpha in this form; that would require preparation.

He nipped at the other wolf's neck again, frustrated, and just like that it shifted into human form beneath him.

It was an incredible show of submission, but maybe he had realized the same thing Jared had – if they were going to finish this, they could only do it as men.

Jared followed suit immediately, and suddenly he was straddling a solid, smooth-skinned man who smelled like every good thing Jared could imagine.

Jared spat on his fingers and shoved them down into the crack of his ass, finding his hole and rubbing the tip of one finger right into it. The man tensed, but spread his legs and tipped his ass up like he welcomed the invasion. It made Jared's blood boil – yes, yes, of course he wanted it; this was his mate, his bitch, and he was going to take everything Jared had to give.

He kept one hand between the man's shoulder blades as he leaned in to spit right on his hole, working that finger in to the second knuckle. It was hot in there, hot and smooth and made for Jared's cock to fill.

"Shh," Jared muttered nonsensically, popping his finger out from that ring of muscle and pushing two back in. He tried to move carefully, but instinct made him scramble to get deeper inside that tight, slick heat. "Shh, now, I know what you need."

The man under him squirmed and writhed, his sweet little hole squeezing Jared's fingers rhythmically, but for all his bucking his scent was still heady with arousal. He smelled like the ripest bitch ever to go into heat, and every cell in Jared's body ached with the need to bust his little hole open and fill him with seed.

This was his mate, even if it was an alpha – biology be damned, Jared was going to fuck him full of come and rip the throat out of anyone who sniffed around him.

Jared's cock was already so hard the knob was flushed dark red, all the veins standing up under the skin. He ground it against the curve of the man's ass as he drove another finger in, loving the way he gasped and arched in response. It was that sweet, needy noise that made Jared yank his fingers back, spread him open, and shove the fat head of his cock right into that little hole.

It had to hurt. There were no two ways about it, but pure instinct was urging Jared on, whipping his thoughts into a frenzy. He bottomed out in one push, barely pausing before his hips rolled and found a jerking, needy rhythm.

The man's hands scrabbled in the dirt and leaves, his ass flexing tightly as he hauled himself onto his elbows. He wasn't struggling, Jared realized after a moment – he fucking himself back on Jared's cock, meeting each rough thrust so each one landed deep. Their bodies smacked together loudly with each push, Jared's tight, full balls knocking against the other man's sac.

"Fuck," Jared snarled. "Fuck yeah, take it. Gonna breed you so full—"

His mate just grunted in response, hot little groans and guttural noises that seemed to get shoved out of him with every rut of Jared's cock.

It was nothing like the sex he'd had with humans. His body knew it in a way his mind could barely comprehend; the rhythm they found seemed to sync with the pulse in his veins and the shuddering breaths of his mate. Something was tying them together, connecting them beyond the physical act of sex. It was that smell, Jared realized; it was intoxicating, so rich he was half-drunk off it, and it was letting him read this man like a book.

He could smell the precome dripping out his slit and the sweat prickling in his pits. He could smell the blood coursing through his veins, trapped in his cock. He could smell his need, his desperation, his shock and pleasure at being claimed.

It made Jared wish they were in pack territory just so he could know other weres smelled this coupling, this claiming – knew that this strong, powerful wolf was giving it up to him and getting mated like a bitch.

"Fuck," he breathed again, hand scrabbling around to grab the other man's cock.

It only took a few jerks before he came, spattering his load right there in the dirt. The smell of it hit Jared in a rush, making his own cock throb and drool as his mate's body squeezed around it.

His mate nearly went limp when that orgasm faded, but something – Jared sensed it was dignity, or a last glimmer of defiance – kept him on his knees, pushing back against Jared's short, demanding thrusts.

He still said nothing, only letting out a sharp, keening noise when Jared bit his neck and shot his load. It came out in thick, heavy pulses, each little rut of Jared's hips nudging it deeper into him, pushing it up where it belonged.

Jared slumped on top of him, pressing the other man down against the forest floor and rubbing his face against the side of his neck. He didn't care if his mate was getting smudged with dirt and his own come – the combination of those earthy scents made Jared's cock twitch pleasantly. He wanted to see this man covered in his own jizz, and covered in Jared's, too. He wanted to fuck him stupid.

Long before Jared his fill of nuzzling and smelling and indulging those thoughts, the man came to life and all but threw him off. He flipped them over easily, pulling himself off Jared's cock and pinning an arm across Jared's chest.

For a moment Jared was struck dumb by the face he was staring at. It was both rugged and beautiful; the features were delicate, almost pretty, but there was an angry sharpness in his eyes and the expression that tensed his features. The scars Jared had noticed on his wolf form were even more striking now, carving across his forehead, cheek and the bridge of his nose. They did nothing to diminish his good looks; if anything they accentuated them, made him even more beautiful by contrast.

A warm, liquid heat slid through Jared's veins, making his cock perk a little. This was his mate. Jared didn't need to know anything about him to know that he was going to love being his alpha; he already felt a bone-deep affection for him. He wanted to lick him all over like a cub, roll around in his scent and then breed him with another load.

When the man finally spoke his voice was gravelly and stilted, as though he rarely had occasion to use it.

"Who the fuck are you?"

Jared blinked a few times, trying to overcome the sex-crazed cotton of his brain.

"Uh, I'm—" He tried for a smile. "I guess I'm your mate."

The man's eyes – they were strikingly green now that he was human – narrowed sharply.

"I don't have a mate."

Jared couldn't help but raise his eyebrows incredulously. "Then what do you call... that?"

The man swallowed and studied Jared's face. He was still pinning Jared to the ground, and the silence that stretched between them was stony and resentful.

"What's your name?" he finally said.

"Jared."

"Your pack?"

"Washington."

His mouth twisted up in a surly smirk. "You're a long way from home."

"Yeah," Jared said hesitantly. He had the feeling this guy didn't want to hear that Jared had be on a road-trip, searching for… him. "What's your name?"

"Jensen."

"And your pack?" Jared pressed.

Jensen's gaze dropped away, his full mouth pulling tightly at the corners. "I don't have one."

Jared wasn't sure how to take that. Every were had a pack; that was just how they operated. He'd heard stories of packs that drove members out for major, unforgivable infractions of their code, but he always assumed they were urban legends. The longer he stared at Jensen, the harder it was to believe he could have done something like that. Even he did have a reputation for scaring tourists.

"A lone wolf, huh?" Jared said dryly.

Jensen rolled his eyes and stood up in one swift, graceful movement.

Even with the oddly antagonistic tone things had taken, Jared couldn't help but marvel at his beauty. It was understandable that Jensen had developed that reputation for being a ferocious, dangerous predator. His entire body was muscular, but not in the bunched, tight way that came from lifting weights – it was all natural, lean and sinewy. He looked like he could rip a herd animal apart with his bare hands. His skin was fair, burned pink in some places and lightly tanned in others. There were a few more scars on his ribs, and Jared's mouth watered with how badly he wanted to put his mouth on them, trace them with his tongue.

"Get up," Jensen said shortly.

Jared obeyed, intensely aware of the way Jensen's gaze raked over his body and feeling a slight flicker of embarrassment at his nakedness. It felt like he was being sized up and grudgingly admired at the same time.

"Why are you here? This isn't your territory."

Jared dusted his hands off and pulled himself up to his full height. He kind of liked Jensen's brusque, no-nonsense attitude, but he wasn't about to get bullied into beta status after all that. He smirked a little when Jensen reflexively tensed.

"This is neutral territory," he said evenly. "It doesn't belong to anyone. Which I'm guessing is why you're here."

A muscle in Jensen's jaw ticked. "Guess whatever you want."

They stared at each other in silence for what felt like several minutes.

It was strange, Jared thought, to feel so connected to someone who was a perfect stranger. He could tell Jensen longed to bound off into the woods and leave him standing there, but he could also sense that Jensen couldn't bring himself to do it.

Like it or not, he was as caught up in Jared as Jared was in him. He'd caught his mate's scent, and he would never again be able to rest without knowing that Jared was safe.

"Follow me," Jensen finally said, walking past Jared and heading into the brush.

"Where?"

Jensen paused, the muscles in his back tensing as he looked up at the sky.

"It's nearly dark," he said stiffly. He glanced back at Jared. "You won't have the energy to shift after – that. I have food and a place to sleep." Jared grinned at that, and Jensen made a small, impatient noise. "What?"

"Nothing," Jared said. "It just kind of seems like I should be the one to buy you dinner."

Jensen's eyes narrowed, but Jared thought he saw a faint flash of amusement on his face before he took off through the trees.

***

The cave Jensen led him to was warm and dry, spacious enough that Jared didn't need to stoop once they got past the entrance.

It had the feeling of a mostly-human dwelling, which Jared hadn't expected. There was a well-dug fire pit at the back, near a large crack that presumably let out smoke. A smooth, wide log next to it seemed to serve as a bench; behind it, a bundle of various-sized animal pelts formed a sleeping area. Several strips of dried meat hung from the far wall, along with some carved wooden bowls.

"This is where you live?"

Jensen lifted one of the pelts from the pile and draped it over his shoulders.

"I said I'd feed you. I didn't ask for your thoughts on the decorations."

Jared raised his hands apologetically. "No, I mean, I like it. It's cozy. Not really what I was expecting."

Apparently mollified, Jensen grabbed another pelt and held it out; it seemed to be made of several rabbit skins that were held together by fine rows of hand-stitching. Jared took it gratefully, wrapping himself in the warm fur and sitting on the bench.

They fell into an almost companionable silence as Jensen moved around the cave, pulling bowls from their hooks and sorting through his food supply. It gave Jared a chance to take in the smaller details of his surroundings, which revealed more about Jensen than their conversation had – he spied a small stack of books next to the bedding, a pair of wire-rimmed glasses on top of them, and a tinderbox next to the wood pile.

It was clear this man, Jensen, wasn't entirely feral. He had some connection to civilization, which made his presence out in the woods an even greater mystery. Most weres made a point of distancing themselves from their base animal natures, taking pride in their ability to integrate with humans. He'd never met one who willingly – and happily – lived as though the wolf were his natural state.

Jared leaned over to pull a few logs off the pile and arrange them in the fire pit, not wanting to seem entirely useless. Jensen turned around abruptly when Jared knocked the flint against steel, looking surprised.

"What?" Jared said, blowing on the ember that formed when the spark landed in the smaller twigs. It took a minute, but it caught hold, sending up a spiral of smoke. "This isn't my first outdoors experience, you know. I am part wolf."

Jensen looked dubious, but he grunted appreciatively when flames began to lick at the logs and crackle quietly. He handed Jared a bowl of dried meat and berries, then sat on the ground next to the log.

Jensen didn't seem to be interested in small talk, so Jared entertained himself as he ate by studying his companion's movements and body language. Jensen was more subtle about it, but Jared could tell he was doing the same thing – he kept darting looks at him from the corner of his eye, catching Jared in a stare more than once.

He finally turned and stared back, eyebrows lifting. "What."

Jared shook his head and smiled slightly. "Nothing. I just like looking at you."

Jensen eyed him with an amused expression, then tilted his head slightly, like he was giving Jared permission. "Okay."

"How long have you lived out here?"

"A long time. Years. I don't know exactly how many now."

"Years?" Jared repeated. "All by yourself?"

Jensen shrugged. "You make it sound like a bad thing. I'm not totally alone. The woods are full of animals, there's just no people."

Jared tried to imagine a life that isolated, but his mind could barely grasp the idea. He'd run with his pack his entire life. It was an extended family in some ways, and a community in others. Their numbers totaled in the low thousands, but that was comprised of several smaller groups throughout the territory. Jared knew his own by scent, which gave him a sense of familiarity and kinship with any pack member he encountered, no matter how distantly they were related.

And the friendships he had with other weres – those were precious to him. He grew up tumbling through the woods with Sandy and Chad as cubs, shared their human lives in high school and college. There was a time he thought he would one day take Sandy as his mate, but he was present when his two friends felt that call for one another and succumbed to it. He was happy for them, sharing in their joy at being mated, and he regularly visited them now that they had their own brood.

Pack was everything.

"Aren't you lonely?"

"No," Jensen said simply.

Jared didn't hear any defensiveness in his tone, or sense wariness in his scent. Jensen honestly seemed to have no interest in the idea of human interaction, which made their current situation somewhat complicated.

"You get what this means, right?" Jared ventured. "What happened between us?"

Jensen cocked an eyebrow at him. "Do I strike you as particularly innocent?"

Jared's face warmed slightly, and he shrugged.

"No, that's not the word I'd use. I just – you don't seem very happy about it."

Jensen looked at the fire, falling silent for so long Jared thought he wasn't going to answer at all.

"I take care of myself. I don't depend on others and I don't have dependents. It's survival. If you're asking how I feel about suddenly having a mate, the answer is no, I'm not happy." He paused again, glancing over at Jared. "But I'm at the mercy of instinct as much as anyone in our situation. Towards you I feel – attachment. And that alone is alarming."

Jared wasn't sure if he should be relieved that these new, overwhelming feelings were reciprocated, or upset that Jensen clearly didn't want to feel them.

"I was looking for you," he admitted. "That's why I'm here. I sensed that I had a mate, and that I was never going to find it back home, so... I dropped out of school and hit the road."

Jensen looked at him curiously, almost in spite of himself. "School?"

"Law school. I go to U-Dub. My pack's right outside Seattle."

"Law school," Jensen echoed. "So you don't just live the human life. You're making it your job to uphold their codes and customs."

"Well I'm not exactly a choir boy," Jared said, pulling the rabbit pelt tighter around his shoulders. "And I'm no flag-waver, either. I'm just good at debating. I, uh—" He grinned sheepishly. "I have a knack for telling when someone's lying, or when a certain line of questioning makes them nervous. It's uncanny."

Jensen snorted. "Yeah, I'll bet." He shook his head and looked down at contents of his bowl. "So you're the knight-errant, on a quest for his lady. I hope our situation here has taught you to be careful what you wish for."

Jared chewed a strip of meat slowly. "Why do you think it happened between us? I mean, of all people, why – us, for each other? I've never even really been attracted to guys before."

"I was taught that it's... providence. Determined by the same power that gave us our gift of change."

"Destiny," Jared said quietly, remembering his own pack's myths. He frowned suddenly. "Wait, who taught you that? I thought you said—"

"I said I don't have a pack," Jensen cut in smoothly. He held up his last berry, studying it in the firelight before popping it in his mouth. "That doesn't mean I was hatched."

"So who raised you? How did you end up out here?"

Jensen set his bowl down on the floor of the cave and shifted, folding his legs gracefully and resting his elbows on his thighs.

"My father was human. He forced himself on my mother. Her people were strict traditionalists, and she didn't think they would accept a child that didn't come from a true mating. So she ran. Raised me to live this way. I was ten when she died. I tried to live normal for a while, but—" He broke off and gave a jerky shrug, leaving Jared to fill in the blanks: as hard as life would be for an orphaned teenager, it would be ten times harder for one learning how to control the ability to turn into an animal. "I'm no stranger to civilization, I just don't like it. I enter it on the odd occasion when I need supplies – thread, medicine, tools I can't make. And I like books."

Nothing could have prepared Jared for the intensity of the feelings that burned in his chest right then. He could feel every mixed emotion Jensen experienced as he related that story – the anger, the shame, the resentment. He even felt the warm flicker of fondness that came when he mentioned books. It was like there was an open channel between them, exposing everything Jensen hid with his short, blunt sentences and flinty tone.

Perhaps the strangest thing of all was the answering emotion sparked in Jared, for hot on the heels of that empathy was an overwhelming sense of protectiveness. He wanted to lock those private parts of Jensen away for good, make sure no one else ever saw them or sensed them; he wanted to protect Jensen from ever being hurt again – and even more, he wanted to snap the bones and taste the blood of anyone who dared try.

It was crazy. Like Jensen, the solitary predator who had no need for human contact, couldn't take care of himself just fine.

"I'm sorry," Jared said quietly, looking down at his hands.

He didn't need to glance up to know that Jensen's hackles suddenly raised; it made a frisson of tension cut through the air.

"The person here to be pitied is you, I think," Jensen said neutrally. "I'm used to this life. I enjoy it. You've been mated to the one who lives it."

"Doesn't matter," Jared argued. It was true, even though the rational part of his mind was surprised to hear him say it. "I wanted to find my mate, and I did. That's all that matters."

"You have a strange way of looking at things," Jensen said, prodding at the fire with a stick. He shot Jared a wry look. "I can't decide if you're romantic or just stupid."

Jared couldn't help but grin ruefully. "Maybe I'm a little of both."

Jensen's mouth twitched into an answering smile. "That's my current theory."

"Anyway, it could be worse," said Jared, encouraged by the return of Jensen's good humor. "You could have been some crazy religious extremist. Or addicted to those home shopping shows. Or someone who collects dolls."

Jensen chuckled. "That would just be creepy."

"Exactly," said Jared, tearing another bite off his last meat strip. "Freaky hobbies are way worse than living in a cave and letting the local townspeople think you're a vicious, bloodthirsty animal."

Jensen looked amused. "Is that what they think?"

"Afraid so."

Jensen shrugged. "I make the occasional appearance when campers stray too close to my den. I've never attacked humans, though."

"I know," Jared said quietly.

They looked at each other for a long moment, drifting into silence as the fire snapped and popped in front of them. It was strange to feel content just studying the face of a stranger, but Jared thought he could probably do it happily for hours, maybe days.

It was Jensen who finally broke the spell, reaching out to take Jared's empty bowl and rising to his feet in one smooth, fluid motion.

"I don't know what kind of schedule you keep, but I turn in early on nights I don't need to hunt." He set the bowls near a small basin of water and moved to the sleeping area, shaking out the pelts to make it larger. "We're safe from predators in here. The fire won't die for a while, and this location is isolated. The animals around here know this territory is claimed, anyway."

"Right," Jared said absently.

A swift twist of heat blossomed in his belly as he watched Jensen arrange the pelts. Maybe it was the implication of sleeping there together, or maybe it was just the way he carried himself – his movements were deliberate and swift, but Jared could tell he was a little sore from their previous mating.

It had only been an hour, maybe less; Jensen's hole was probably still leaking Jared's come.

The thought crashed over him, making his pulse spike and his vision swim. He wanted to see it, he realized perversely. He wanted to see his load drip out of Jensen and then put another one in there. One round had been enough to claim him, but instinct stole over Jared's senses, whispering that once hadn't been enough. No amount of claiming would ever be enough, not with Jensen. Not with his mate.

Jensen suddenly went still, freezing where he knelt on the floor of the cave. It took Jared a moment to realize that his thoughts made his cock swell hard, that his scent must be broadcasting his burst of arousal.

"Come here," he said lowly.

Jensen darted a glance at him, his eyes shadowy; he knew exactly where Jared's mind was at. He was probably even feeding off Jared's desire, picking up on the flare of possessiveness that licked through Jared's limbs.

The more Jared looked at him, the more it grew. His cock bobbed stiffly between his legs as he shrugged off the pelt and slid to the floor of the cave.

Jensen's whole body tensed, but he didn't move away. He met Jared's gaze, holding his ground as a dark, smirky expression flitted over his face.

"You think you could take me again, boy?"

"I think you want me to," said Jared, glancing at Jensen's cock. It was already thickening, flushing full and hard, and it twitched under Jared's gaze.

There was something teasing about the way Jensen rocked back on his haunches, clearing inviting Jared to take his best shot.

So he did.

As soon as he got a hand on Jensen's shoulder, they were tumbling down in a flurry of elbows and muscle, wrestling across the pelts and the soft dirt floor of the cave. It was the kind of play Jared hadn't indulged in since he was a cub, but there was a new edge to the nips at his skin and the weight of the body and jabbed and shoved and pinned him.

He found himself laughing when Jensen tackled him down, the fat length of his cock grinding warmly against Jared's hip. Adrenaline smashed headlong into his arousal, leaving his whole body buzzing and alert, his senses all attuned to Jensen. He lifted his hips, rutting against Jensen's cock and using the momentary distraction to flip them over.

Jensen chuckled against his ear, low and rough. "Not bad for a domesticated animal."

Jared panted lightly, rubbing at the dip between Jensen's collarbones. "Bet I could domesticate you."

The noise Jensen made then was sharp – a throaty growl that had Jared's cock throbbing even as he was grappled over onto his back.

There was no getting out of Jensen's hold this time; his grip was vice-like, pinning Jared with a strong, capable arm over his chest and a knee against his thigh.

He flashed his teeth in a grin, eyes glittering dangerously, and his point was all too clear: Jensen's submission didn't extend any further than the act of sex. Physically he was equal – maybe even superior, because right then Jared had no choice but to show him his belly, entirely at Jensen's mercy.

For some reason that thought did nothing to diminish the steady throb of arousal under Jared's skin. He liked it, he realized with hazy surprise – he liked that his mate was this strong, strong enough to pin Jared down and take him.

Jensen seemed more interested in studying him, though. His gaze flickered over Jared's face like he was taking in every detail; he tilted his head to the side after a moment, then leaned in to sniff curiously at Jared's neck.

Jared shut his eyes and waited for the tight press of teeth that would drive Jensen's point home, and startled when it didn't come. Instead Jensen simply pressed a warm, dry kiss against Jared's pulse, his mouth unnervingly soft.

Before Jared could do more than swallow, Jensen dragged his nose over to the crease of an armpit, across Jared's chest, then down to the heavy, warm weight of his cock. It was so stiff that it swayed between them, and there was already a pearly smear of precome where Jensen's weight had pressed the head of it against Jared's stomach. Jensen nuzzled at it without hesitation, breathing deeply as he nosed down around Jared's balls.

That alone was enough to make Jared's mind unravel, but in that same moment he could smell Jensen's arousal spike in the air around him. Jensen was getting turned on from the smell of Jared's cock. The smell of Jared's cock still musky from their last fuck.

"You want that inside of you again?" Jared said lowly, reaching down to rub the soft bristles of Jensen's hair. His cock throbbed under the damp gusts of Jensen's, losing another dribble of precome.

Jensen gave a rough, feral little moan and nipped at the inside of Jared's thigh. It wasn't a gesture of aggression, Jared could tell; it was a helpless acknowledgment of how intense he felt and how badly he wanted exactly that.

He tensed nervously when Jared moved to flip them back over, meeting Jared's gaze with dark, flinty eyes. He wasn't big on talking at the best of times, but when instinct took over he seemed beyond words entirely.

"Come on," Jared coaxed, rubbing a hand over Jensen's shoulders. "I get it; you could rip my throat out. Just let me touch you."

Some of the tension went out of Jensen's body, enough that Jared could ease him over on the furs. He stroked a hand down Jensen's side, petting him gently. Jensen still seemed wary, like he couldn't quite tell if he was giving up control of the situation – or maybe he just couldn't tell if he liked doing that.

"God, you're so—" Jared didn't have a word for how Jensen looked laying there in the fire light. He wasn't just hot, or sexy, or any other word that could be applied to a million other people in other situations. He was Jared's mate, and he was wild and powerful and practically in heat over Jared's cock. There was no way to describe what that did to him, or how the desire it stirred in Jared's chest was uniquely tailored to Jensen.

Jared's hand strayed over to rub at Jensen's stomach, tracing the line of dark golden hair under his belly-button and then sliding up to pinch one of his nipples.

Jensen sucked in a sharp breath and made a quiet noise of surprise. His cheeks slowly flushed as Jared watched, fascinated, and gave it another squeeze.

"You like that, huh?" he marveled, and leaned in to lick at the other one. He traced his tongue around the stiff little peak before giving it a warm suck, fighting the urge to grin when Jensen's hips jerked upwards. "Guess so."

He scraped his teeth lightly against the underside, and Jensen's fingers suddenly threaded through his hair, holding Jared there as he arched up towards his mouth. It was all the instruction Jared needed; he rubbed his tongue back and forth over that nipple until Jensen gasped again, his chest jerking under Jared's mouth, then tugged at it with sharp little pulls of teeth.

When he finally pulled back, Jensen's entire face was faintly pink and damp with sweat.

"Roll over," said Jared.

Jensen's mouth curled up on one side, his eyes suddenly seeming to focus on Jared.

"That a command?" he said, voice gritty and rough.

Jared smiled, knocking the back of his hand against Jensen's stomach in a playful slap.

"Think of it as a real friendly request."

Jensen's smirk deepened, but he flipped over, letting Jared spread his legs and slide down between them.

"Show me that mated little hole," Jared muttered, spreading Jensen open and breathing in deep.

It was a rich, powerful smell – the scent that was uniquely Jensen mingled with what Jared recognized as his own. It was the evidence of their mating, the proof that Jared had claimed Jensen for himself, and it made Jared's skin flush and his balls ache.

"I can smell my come inside of you," he breathed, swiping his thumb in over Jensen's slick hole. It was still stretched, enough that it opened easily under that gentle pressure. "Can you? God, I creamed you so good."

"Yeah," Jensen said, his voice low and harsh. "I want—"

He didn't seem able to finish that thought out loud, but he made a wounded noise when Jared popped his thumb free and licked him there, right where his cock had been. The taste was bitter and salty and washed over Jared with the same intensity that smell had – flooding his mind with layers of meaning, with mine and mate and protect and always.

Before he could process any further thought, Jared slid up on his palms, mounting Jensen quickly and nudging his cock back into that sweet, hot hole.

Jensen sighed when Jared settled inside of him, groaning lowly when Jared didn't pull back out. He just spread his knees wider, forcing Jensen's legs apart so he could get the head of his cock as deep inside of Jensen as possible.

"That feel good?" he whispered, leaning over Jensen's back to breathe the words just behind his ear. "Getting mated?"

The groan that came in response was deep and drawn out, almost like Jensen was drunk. He kind of was, Jared realized – they were both awash in pheromones and raw, irrational instinct.

They moved without parting, Jared's hips gently rolling with Jensen's while his cock stayed buried deep. He was teasing them both, but he wanted Jensen to savor the feeling of getting speared open, deep and unforgivingly; this is how they would mate as wolves. Jared's cock would tie off inside of Jensen, keeping him open and plugging up every shot of Jared's seed.

He bit Jensen's shoulder as he finally began to move; it was slower this time, the load of come already inside Jensen making each stroke smoother. Jared had already claimed him, and his inner wolf was calmer now, savoring that victory. He had his mate, a safe shelter, and all the time in the world to explore and care for him.

"God, I wanna get you like this under the moon. Give you my knot. You'd take it for me, wouldn't you?"

"Fuck," Jensen hissed, arching sweetly. Jared growled and moved faster, giving him sharp, deep stabs of cock.

"Yeah, you'd take it," Jared sighed, straightening and gripping Jensen's hips. "You'd let me tie you to my cock all night, breed you for hours – give you that big load. That's all you want, huh? To feel me coming – right here?"

Something Jared couldn't name, something buried deep in the recesses of his mind, knew just how to angle his thrusts the way Jensen craved. If Jensen had been giving it up before, that was nothing compared to the downright slutty way he suddenly fucked himself back on Jared. His spine stiffened and his hole clenched around the base of Jared's cock, a wounded, ragged noise tearing out of him each time Jared hit home.

The scent of Jensen's come hit Jared's nose suddenly, rich and bitter as his untouched cock shot off under him. It made Jared's balls throb sympathetically, pulling up tightly as Jensen gasped and groaned.

He leaned in, sliding an arm under Jensen and hauling him up on his knees. Jensen slumped back on Jared's chest bonelessly, his cock losing another spurt of come that landed on Jared's arm and smeared up his own stomach when Jared reached to pluck at a nipple.

Jensen groaned and turned his face against the side of Jared's neck, his lips moving in words that he couldn't quite give voice to; Jared thought he could make out his own name between Jensen's raspy breaths, and it was that thought that made the tension in his body finally snap.

Time lost all meaning as he bred Jensen with another load, moving with sharp, desperate thrusts that pounded against that sweet spot and had Jensen shuddering and keening in his arms. There was no thought in Jared's mind but how necessary this was, how much Jensen needed to be filled and made whole, marked up and claimed.

When the immediate, blinding intensity of it finally passed, he could feel a dribble of come already slipping out, sliding down to his balls; that's how full Jensen was.

Jared glanced down at him and found Jensen already staring back at him, slumped back with his cheek against Jared's shoulder. He looked a little shell-shocked, his face flushed and glistening with a sheen of sweat, but that flinty, guarded look still shuttered his eyes.

"Hey," Jared said weakly. He skimmed his hand down Jensen's chest and rested it low on his belly, right over the place he'd just unloaded in him.

Jensen made a small, vaguely impressed noise, his hole flexing sensitively around Jared's half-hard cock.

"I think I know why you got mated with an alpha male," he said hoarsely, lifting his eyebrows.

"Why?" said Jared. He was surprised to hear that his own voice was just as shot.

"'Cause you'd break a female." He touched Jared's wrist, letting their hands overlap for a brief moment, then straightened up. "Get off me."

Jared rolled his eyes and released him, pulling out carefully. He didn't make an effort to hide his interest as he watched Jensen crack his neck both ways, roll his shoulders, and slide over to a cleaner area on the pelts, but Jensen didn't seem to be paying him much attention. It took him a few minutes to arrange himself in the most comfortable sprawl possible, and another minute of lying there with his eyes shut before he acknowledged Jared's presence.

"Well?" He opened one eye, peering at Jared with an annoyed squint. "Are you going to get down here and sleep?"

Jared's mouth twitched with amusement. As disagreeable as Jensen could be, Jared actually found that he liked it; watching him wrestle with his irritable attitude and his unavoidable feelings of attachment was proving to be pretty entertaining, especially when the latter won out.

Jared flopped down next to him, tossing a proprietary arm over Jensen's chest and nuzzling against his throat, where his scent was the strongest.

Jensen hesitated, a flicker of tension rolling through him, then turned to press his face against the top of Jared's head.

***

The sun was up when Jared woke, dappling the wilderness beyond the mouth of the cave with warm yellow light.

Jensen was still sleeping next to him, curled on his side with his back to Jared's chest. The fire had burned down to ash, but at some point in the night Jensen had pulled a pelt over them, and Jared's skin was warm where it pressed against Jensen's beneath it.

Jensen stirred lightly when Jared shifted up on his elbow, but he seemed to drift back to sleep when Jared merely studied him.

He really was handsome; there was no other word for it. The frenzy that had gripped Jared the night before had faded into something calm and steady, but his chest still squeezed pleasurably from the mere sight of Jensen's face. There was something about the lines of it – the sharp angle of his nose, the swooping curves of his eyebrows, the wide, plush bow of his mouth – that made Jared wish he could he could draw or sculpt and capture it forever.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about his face, though, was the way it was scarred. The widest three looked to be from the same swipe of claws, slicing diagonally across his forehead and cheek in light pink grooves. Smaller, silvery nicks were harder to make out, catching the light above one eyebrow and along the curve of his jaw.

It made Jared's heart ache to think of Jensen alone out here, holding off other predators and competing for prey. That was why pack was so important; they looked out for each other. It went against their nature to be solitary – even if there wasn't immediate danger to worry about, their kind thrived on communities and activity.

If Jared were home right then he'd be puttering around his apartment with a cup of coffee, getting ready for class. The morning news would be humming in the background, mixing with the sounds of city traffic outside; Sandy might call and make him promise to swing by that afternoon to give his thoughts on her latest home improvement project, or help her take the kids to the park. His day would be full of conversation and responsibilities, friends and classmates and loved ones, and by the end he'd only have the energy to drink a few beers and watch some TV before passing out and starting it all over again the next day.

The only noise in the cave came from a few birds outside, and the only other person for miles was the one dozing next to him.

A part of Jared still yearned to be in pack territory, but he was surprised to find that another, deeper part of him almost relished the solitude. He and Jensen weren't alone – they were alone together, which was completely different. There were no other weres around to so much as catch his mate's scent, and even though his claim was irrevocable, that idea still soothed a selfish, possessive corner of his heart.

Jared lost track of time as he watched Jensen sleep; it wasn't until the pressure of his bladder grew too intense to ignore that he finally left their makeshift bed and padded out into the sunshine.

The air was warm with Indian summer despite the early hour, and after he relieved himself he shifted into wolf form and explored the area around Jensen's cave. Several other animals were already up and about – he made out a few different kinds of birds in the trees overhead, and watched a family of deer pass by in the distance – and it occurred to him that Jensen had been right, in a way. The forest had other inhabitants and its own busy rhythm of life, even if it didn't have other people.

He was sniffing around some blackberry brambles when he caught the scent of a squirrel, and spotted it roaming around nearby. As a kid he'd loved the simple, pointless pleasure of chasing them through the woods, and after a moment's hesitation he went ahead and indulged himself, crouching low and stalking it through the bushes.

It froze when Jared finally crept into its line of sight, its tail twitching nervously, then darted away. Jared chased after it, hot on its heels all the way to the cleared-out area in front of Jensen's cave. The squirrel scurried up one of the trees there, perching on a safely distant branch and chattering down at him merrily.

Jared was tempted to change forms again and climb after it, just to really throw his new buddy for a loop, but the air suddenly shifted and a familiar, sweet scent distracted him. He turned, following it unconsciously, and found Jensen standing at the mouth of the cave.

A reddish-brown pelt was wrapped around his naked shoulders, and a breeze ruffled his sleep-mussed hair. The wry, fond expression on his face was one Jared recognized, a sign that Jensen was in good humor.

"Meeting the neighbors?"

Jared barked, short and happy, and caught a flicker of a grin on Jensen's face before he shifted into the sleek, dark-furred wolf Jared first met. He bounded over and nipped playfully at the side of Jared's neck, then bolted off into the trees.

Jared tore after him, but Jensen was far more elusive prey than the squirrel had been – he led him deep into the woods, taking a path that seemed entirely random, though Jared picked up layers of his scent at every turn. He obviously knew where he was going, and made the trip often.

When they had romped almost a mile away from the cave, Jensen suddenly veered right, stopping short on the bank of a river. It wasn't particularly wide, but it looked deep; a steady current led it over a steep, rocky drop-off a few feet away.

Jensen yipped, crouched, then broke into a sprint and leapt right over the side of the ridge.

Jared bolted to the edge just in time to see Jensen shift into his human form mid-air – arcing with all the sleek grace and muscle of a competitive diver as he landed in the pool below the waterfall.

He grinned up at Jared when he surfaced, giving a low, mocking series of whistles.

"Here, boy!" he called, splashing away when Jared dove in after him.

The water was cold but not frigid, and the shock of it felt delicious on Jared's human skin. He let himself sink all the way to the bottom before he shot back up to the surface and shook his hair from his eyes.

"So I take it this is your version of morning coffee?"

Jensen flicked water at him and shrugged, smiling. "Wakes you up, doesn't it?"

"Definitely," Jared agreed.

Jensen stretched his arms out and floated onto his back, letting the swirling water drift him around the pool. He looked younger with his hair slicked down around his face – or maybe it was just because he seemed genuinely happy and relaxed for the first time since they met.

It occurred to Jared as he ducked under again that Jensen was sharing something with him, something he obviously enjoyed. There weren't many creature comforts to be had out here, and the swimming hole was so secluded Jensen was probably the only one who knew it existed – but he'd shown it to Jared, and if the placid look on his face was anything to go by, he didn't seem to mind the company.

The thought warmed Jared to his bones, though it wasn't enough to stop him from sneaking under Jensen, grabbing his foot, and yanking him under the surface.

Jensen kicked at him as he sank down, but he grinned at Jared through the bubbles that floated between them.

"Bastard," he huffed when they came up for air.

Jared barely had time to suck in a deep breath before Jensen got a hand on his head and dunked him, the sound of his laughter muffled by the loud roar of water.

By the time they climbed out on the bank, Jared really did feel more alert and alive, his muscles all thrumming pleasantly.

Jensen shook his head, spraying water in either direction in a move that was pure canine, and flopped down in a patch of sunshine. Jared didn't wait for a gruff invitation this time – he just sprawled out in the opposite direction, resting his damp head on Jensen's side.

"Nice place you've got here," he said.

He felt Jensen's stomach move as he chuckled. "I'm glad you approve."

Jensen's fingers brushed over his forehead and down the side of his face, absently tracing the line of his jaw. Jared smiled when they wandered over his chin and lips, Jensen's thumb rubbing lightly at his bottom lip. He caught it gently with his teeth and flicked his tongue against the soft pad; it tasted like the water they'd been swimming in, but he could feel the grooves of Jensen's thumbprint.

A warm, lazy tension began to well in his stomach, and he sensed that Jensen felt it, too; his scent wasn't as strong after that swim, but Jared's nose could pick out the subtle shift that meant Jensen was interested.

He let the feeling wash over him, building in his limbs and stiffening his cock. There was a kind of hedonism in stretching it out, savoring the fact that he could satisfy that hunger whenever he wanted – that Jensen was right there, feeling it with him.

Jensen hummed, still playing with Jared's bottom lip gently. The smell of his arousal gradually thickened, teasing Jared's senses until he was fully hard and knew Jensen was, too.

He turned his face against Jensen's hip, kissing at the cut of muscle there before shifting over on his stomach to study his cock.

It was thick and heavy, so hard that the sheath of skin around the head had slid down under the ridge. Veins criss-crossed down the length of the shaft, some thicker than others, and his balls were tight and full. The tip was flushed rosy-pink, a slightly darker shade than the blush Jared saw in Jensen's cheeks the night before.

Jared wanted to suck on it.

He'd never done before, not to anyone, but suddenly it was all he wanted – he had to swallow the rush of saliva that came just from imagining Jensen's thick, blood-warm cock pushing into his mouth.

He took a steadying breath before he leaned in and traced the heaviest vein with his tongue, following its path all the way up to the tip. By the time he got there a glimmer of precome had formed in the slit, and Jared licked at it, rubbing his tongue against it gently even after the strong, bitter taste was gone.

Jensen's breath hitched, his thighs going tense when Jared rolled his tongue all the way around the smooth head. It wasn't until Jared gripped the base and popped the tip of it right past his lips that Jensen seemed to totally get what was going on, and then he made a high, tight noise that sounded surprised.

Jared shut his eyes and pushed his mouth lower, nostrils flaring around his heavy breaths. The weight of Jensen, hard and smooth on his tongue, was even better than he imagined. It was almost as good as fucking him – maybe it was as good, just different. He could smell Jensen's scent more than ever, the rich musk thick in his nose and the bitter, salty taste of precome and sweat on his tongue.

He couldn't hold back a small groan when Jensen's fingers wove through his hair, his nails scratching over Jared's scalp. When Jensen's hips began to move, rocking his cock back and forth through the ring of Jared's lips, a sharp wave of heat crashed over Jared's entire body. There was something in his mind that warned it was wrong, that he was submitting, but there was also part of him that recognized how good it felt to give Jensen this pleasure.

This was Jensen's cock – his fat, flushed alpha-were cock – but it was also the part of him that was the most sensitive, and Jared was taking it deep in his mouth. It called up the same possessive, protective yearnings he'd felt since he first caught Jensen's scent, that overwhelming desire to swallow Jensen whole and keep him for himself.

He hollowed his cheeks and made a low, hungry noise as Jensen pushed deeper, nudging the head of his cock into Jared's throat. Inexperience made him slurp around it, his muscles tensing to choke at the intrusion, but he forced himself to relax and let Jensen in.

He only pulled back when he sensed Jensen was close, pumping his fist at the base and teasing his tongue across the tip. The sweet, whimpering noises Jensen was making came faster, his fingers tightened in Jared's hair, and then the slit flared open around his first shot of come.

It spattered over Jared's lips and teeth, hot and thick; he barely had the chance to process that before the next two streaked across his cheek, his chin, and Jensen's own stomach. He hadn't anticipated liking this part, but the sudden smell and taste of Jensen's come was almost too much for his body to handle – a fierce flare of heat swept through him, leaving his nerves aglow and his hands shaking with need.

His lips caught around the neck of Jensen's cock as he gave the head a soft, cushy suck, earning himself another pulse of come that he swallowed down. He could imagine it settling warmly in his belly, the idea so hot and good that he pulled back and licked at the string of it still smeared on his chin.

"Jared," Jensen groaned. "You—"

He broke off and shook his head, tugging on Jared's hair – gently at first and then harder, until Jared had no choice to slide up the length of his body and face him.

Jensen was still breathing hard, his eyes bright and wide. He looked as blown away as he had the last time Jared fucked him, but there was something in his expression Jared couldn't place. He stared for a long moment, his gaze searching, and then pressed his mouth against Jared's in a kiss.

It was a shock to Jared's system, and at first he nearly forgot how to respond – his lips parted clumsily as Jensen's tongue darted past to lick at the taste of his own come. It wasn't until their tongues brushed together, velvety and slick, that Jared snapped to attention and gripped Jensen's face. The taste of his mouth was good in a way Jared hadn't even imagined – as unique as his scent and no less delicious.

Jensen rolled them over in the leaves until he was sprawled across Jared's chest, clutching a clumsy handful of Jared's hair as he explored him. His tongue was curious and deliberate in the path it took, flicking over the slightly uneven ridges of Jared's teeth, the sensitive inner skin of his cheeks, and the corners of his lips that still tasted sourly of come.

It was somehow more intimate than anything else they'd done, made all the more amazing because Jensen had initiated it. Each warm, damp drag of lips and tongue and teeth left Jared arching up against him, his fingers stroking mindlessly through the wet ends of Jensen's hair.

Before Jared could entirely process what was happening, Jensen slid over and straddled his hips, a knee pressed to the ground on either side. He pulled away from the kiss after a moment, panting against Jared's mouth.

"You need to mate me again," he said roughly, pressing a hand to Jared's shoulder to steady himself as he sat up.

Jared bit his swollen bottom lip, his hips jerking up just at the sound of those words. His entire body craved even more than usual – sinking into Jensen as deep as he could, touching him there where no one else had been.

"Jesus, yeah," he huffed, hands curling around Jensen's waist.

Jensen didn't move into position, though; he pushed two fingers into his mouth and sucked on them, then reached behind himself and – Jared sucked in a sharp breath, going dizzy when he realized Jensen was fucking himself open on them.

If it was uncomfortable, his face didn't show it. He stared down at Jared with the same hot-eyed, intense expression he'd given him after coming, his cheeks pink with exertion and his jaw set tightly. Jared slid his hands down until he was cupping Jensen's ass, gently pulling it open and letting Jensen get those fingers in as deep as he could.

Jensen shut his eyes as he twisted his wrist, the muscles of his shoulder and arm all flexing with the effort. He looked so hedonistic, Jared probably could have blown his load just watching him – and just knowing how badly he wanted to get fucked.

"God," he whispered, fingernails digging into Jensen's skin.

It made Jensen's eyes snap open and his lips twist up, but he didn't answer. He just pulled his fingers free with a quiet, slick pop, and reached further down to grab Jared's cock, dragging the head of it right up to his slippery little hole.

He was tighter than he'd been the last time, but he took the entire length in one easy slide, sitting on it with his full weight. Jared blew out a slow, steadying breath, his legs shaking from the effort of not thrusting up into that sweet heat. It was clear Jensen was the one in control here, no matter whose dick was in who – and seeing Jensen in control was so hot that Jared couldn't bring himself to argue.

Jensen's mouth fell open when he began to move, the flush in his cheeks spreading down his neck and chest as his hips found a deep, grinding rhythm. His ass tensed and flexed under Jared's hands each time he lifted up, just as his hole pulled hungrily around Jared's cock. It was overwhelming, how good it felt to have Jensen give it up like that – so desperate for Jared he was taking what he wanted.

"So good," Jared muttered, watching him through eyes narrowed to slits. "Just like that – getting me in there so deep."

Jensen leaned in, bracing one hand on the ground by Jared's head and ducking down to nip at his mouth. The change in angle made his strokes shorter, so the fat tip of Jared's cock was just rubbing relentlessly at the same deep place inside of him; Jared knew from the way Jensen had shuddered and growled when Jared pounded at that same spot before that he loved feeling it there.

Sure enough, Jensen's hole clenched responsively as he moaned into the kiss. It was sloppier than the ones they'd shared earlier, Jensen's tongue rolling against Jared's in a hungry, unforgiving slide. Jared's stomach began to tremble when Jensen's teeth tugged at his bottom lip, but it wasn't until Jensen gave his tongue a sweet, sharp suck that Jared's cock jerked and began to come.

Their slow rhythm didn't falter even when Jensen hissed sharply, signaling that he felt those hot, deep pulses of come. He met Jared's gaze, his eyes blazing like he felt as much pleasure at getting that load as Jared felt giving it.

When Jared finally slumped, his nerves still faintly throbbing with the last of his pleasure, Jensen eased back and collapsed next to him.

"Wow," Jared huffed, staring sightlessly up at the canopy of trees.

Jensen hummed his agreement, scratching lazily at his stomach. Jared turned his head and looked at him, amused to find that Jensen not only seemed fucked out and content, but also vaguely smug. It was a good look for him.

"I need to bathe again now," Jensen said after a few minutes, when Jared's breathing had evened out and his pulse was no longer hammering.

He sat up slowly, rolling his shoulders so his spine popped, and startled when Jared's hand flew out and grabbed his wrist.

"Don't," Jared said. He rubbed his thumb around to the hollow of Jensen's wrist, where he could feel the dips and rises of veins. "I like being able to smell it on you."

Jensen swallowed, but he raised a wry eyebrow. "Smell what, exactly?"

"Me." A faint flush rose in Jared's face, but he didn't look away. "My claim on you."

He didn't miss the slight shiver that went through Jensen's body, but he didn't miss the way his shoulders tightened, either.

"You know, you're marked the same way," said Jensen. His gaze raked down Jared's sprawled form, lingering on his spent cock. "I can smell myself all over you. Any other wolf would scent it, too, and know you belong to an alpha."

"I know," Jared said, his grip loosening and his fingers drifting up the inside of Jensen's arm. "I like that, too."

"It really doesn't bother you? Knowing that someone might think of you as another wolf's bitch?"

"Not really. I'm pretty confident I could dominate anyone who wanted to challenge me. And anyone who caught your scent – well, they'd know what kind of alpha you are. No one would be stupid enough to fuck with your mate." Even as he said it, a fresh flicker of heat licked at Jared's sensitive nerves; it was an odd combination of pride, admiration and possessiveness. He gave Jensen a small smile. "We already covered the fact that I'm stupid and romantic, but I actually like being your mate."

Jensen didn't answer right away, and they just looked at each other for a few minutes.

"We should get moving," he said abruptly, pulling out of Jared's grasp. It was only then that Jared realized Jensen had been absently stroking Jared's arm in an echo of the way Jared was touching him. "It's already mid-day."

"What, do you have an afternoon meeting?"

Jensen snorted. "Believe me, it's not all chasing squirrels and skinny-dipping out here. There's plenty of work to be done."

He shifted forms before Jared could reply, nudging his cold wolf-nose against Jared's bare side and trotting a few feet away. He looked back expectantly, giving Jared no choice but to sit up with a grumble, change forms, and follow.

***

As surly and curt as Jensen was, he made a surprisingly good teacher. Jared hadn't expected that.

The work of the day all required a level of mountain man naturalism that Jared simply didn't have, but Jensen seemed to find his clumsy ineptitude amusing. He merely smiled and showed him the right way to do the task – be it checking on the old metal traps he'd set up to catch rabbits, skinning what they found there, or preparing the meat to be dried.

He didn't even seem fazed when Jared boggled at the idea of catching fish with his bare hands.

"What do you mean, with my hands?"

Jensen lifted his eyebrows and threw him a puzzled look. "I mean with your hands. Those big things at the ends of your arms? It's easy."

That had been an overstatement, but Jared soon found that there was entertainment value in watching Jensen – he practically radiated quiet, smoldering intensity as he stood in the water and waited for his prey.

"This is insane," Jared said from the river bank. "Not to mention totally fucking impossible. Can't you just whittle yourself a fishing pole, or something?"

Jensen didn't even look at him; his attention had narrowed to the water right in front of him. Jared watched, fascinated, as he suddenly lunged and pulled a wriggling fish out of the water. He smirked and tossed it on the bank, where it flopped around next to Jared.

"It's all in the fingers. Come on, I'll show you."

By the time they trudged back to the cave, Jared's arms were sore and he was chilled to the bone. The look on Jensen's face when he'd finally snatched a fish of his own from the river, though – that had been so warm and fond and proud, Jared would have happily stood knee-deep in water all night to see it again.

When Jensen cleaned the fish and built a fire, Jared allowed himself the pleasure of pawing through his small library. It was an odd collection, ranging from tattered paperback novels to sturdy hard-covered philosophy.

"Tom Sawyer?" Jared said, holding up the book that topped the pile.

"I like adventure stories."

Jared wasn't able to bite back a laugh. "Seriously? Your life is an adventure story."

"I guess it might seem like that to someone else. To me, it's just... life."

One side of his mouth ticked up as he shrugged and went back to his work, but for some reason Jared couldn't look away, suddenly struck with how much he truly liked Jensen.

He'd spent his entire life expecting to bond with a mate that was curvy and soft and smooth, but now that he had Jensen, he couldn't imagine being happy with anything else. The more time he spent in Jensen's company, the less that seemed to matter – and not because there was any mistaking Jensen's masculinity. He had a pretty face, sure, but beyond that he was all sharp angles and wiry hair; his hands were strong and blunt, his muscles were thick and toned.

That's what made it so hot; Jensen wasn't supposed to be a bitch, but he became one for Jared. He was built to fuck and fight and dominate – but instead he let Jared spread him open, shove him face-first in the dirt and fill him full of come.

As much as Jared loved having an alpha male mate, though, Jensen still didn't seem entirely comfortable with it. Jared could tell he liked getting claimed as much as Jared like claiming him, but they were still dancing around each other, still slightly unsure about what these new roles meant.

Jensen's words by the waterfall had nagged at him throughout the afternoon – someone might think of you as another wolf's bitch.

As much as he mulled them over, he couldn't quite figure out why Jensen would care about that. The man was a total misanthrope – it had taken hours of work for Jared to get into his good graces, and Jensen was biologically obligated to like him. There was no reason for him to care that another, random were might think less of him for being mated to an alpha male.

Unless, Jared supposed, it was Jensen himself who thought that.

It shouldn't come as that much of a surprise, given the way Jensen seemed to operate. For all his intelligence and dry humor, he was astonishingly lacking in self-awareness; he hadn't even realized that he was lonely, but his quiet pleasure at sharing things with Jared suggested that some part of him did crave companionship.

Being a self-reliant alpha was his identity, something he embraced to ensure his survival, and he wouldn't know what to do with his desire to get pinned down and claimed if he thought it was at odds with that. Jared had refrained from goading him too much about his submission, afraid that emphasizing Jensen's bitch status would only further raise his hackles. But maybe he needed that; maybe he needed Jared to push the issue so he could accept and admit how much he loved it.

"You're gorgeous, you know that?" Jared said suddenly. He'd been watching Jensen work for the better part of an hour, and he still hadn't grown bored with it – he was pretty sure he'd never get tired of studying the restrained power and absent grace of even his smallest movements.

Jensen made a face, his delicately curved eyebrows furrowing together. "I'm not a woman."

"I know," Jared said. "Believe me."

He let his gaze run down Jensen's body, enjoying the way he shifted his weight and colored prettily under the attention.

"You helped catch dinner," he said flippantly. "You don't have to flatter me to get some of it."

"It's not flattery if it's true," Jared grinned.

Jensen threw him a sour look. "You really enjoy the sound of your own voice, don't you?"

He shook his head as shifted up on his knees, tossing the small knife he'd been using on the fish by the water basin. The light caught on the backs of his thighs when he moved, and it took Jared a second to realize why – it was that load of come he'd left in him earlier. He'd been leaking it all day, and he was still leaking it, all because Jared to him not to clean himself up.

Before Jared could think it through, he was on his knees and sliding in behind Jensen, running his fingertips up the side of Jensen's arm.

"Can you wait until I finish this?" Jensen said, sounding both exasperated and amused. "I assume you want to eat tonight."

"Nope." Jared slid an arm around Jensen's waist and pulled him in tightly. His cock was already thickening, and that warm press of skin had him throbbing against the meat of Jensen's ass. "Now."

Jensen let himself be pulled back, resting his head against Jared's jaw and humming when Jared nuzzled him. "You're insatiable."

"And you're a little cockslut."

A bright, warm flush abruptly swept across Jensen's face, his mouth twisting into an embarrassed scowl. Jared didn't miss the way his scent shifted, though, warming the air around them as blood rushed to Jensen's cock.

"I thought we established that I can drop you like the over-sized pup you are," Jensen said shortly, ducking away from Jared's mouth. "Watch it."

Jared smiled, unfazed.

"Doesn't mean you don’t love getting fucked. Do you know how hot that makes me? How much I love just looking at you—" He nipped at the smooth, vulnerable skin of Jensen's throat, watching as it turned pink. "And knowing my alpha mate can't wait to give it up to me again?"

Jensen shut his eyes, a muscle in his jaw twitching. "Jared."

"I mean, look at you," Jared pressed, spreading one hand over Jensen's chest and sliding the other down between them to cup his ass. "You're more powerful than three other alphas put together. You should be out there breeding a pretty little pussy, Jensen – have some bitch hanging off your knot, getting knocked up with your cubs. But you're mine. I get to have you squirming on my cock, practically begging me to mate you. Giving me your own little pussy."

He pushed two fingers into Jensen's well-used hole and stroked his thumb over a pebbled nipple, smiling when Jensen rocked back against him.

"I don't – have—"

"Yeah, you do. Right here. You've given it to me so many times." He nibbled at that soft spot on Jensen's neck, then kissed it. "I thought I was doing you a favor, not making a thing about it, but I think that's what you need. I think—" Jared's lips caught on the curves of Jensen's ear as he went in for the kill, "—it turns you on, being my bitch."

The air went ripe with the smell of Jensen's sweat and precome, exposing his throb of arousal and the jolt of fear that came immediately after.

"Look at that. Your cock's getting hard for me," Jared breathed, feeling around inside Jensen and giving the bump in there a little rub. "I can smell it. I've tasted it. It's mine, the same way this place inside of you is mine."

Jensen's hole twitched around Jared's fingers even as his knees instinctively slid further apart, giving him more access.

"Jared."

He was wound up tighter than Jared had seen him, the noises coming out between his hitched breaths purely animal. It was like Jared was speaking directly to that vulnerable, sweet place inside of Jensen that loved to get pounded by cock.

"This is what you want, right? You want to bend over and give me this little hole all the time. You love being my bitch. You love getting fucked nice and deep and taking my come, and knowing you're the only one who gets it."

There was a long, tense moment of silence before Jensen gave a jerky nod.

"Shh, it's okay," Jared murmured, stroking Jensen's jaw with one hand and rubbing tight circles against his prostate with the other. He could smell each thick drip of precome that oozed out Jensen's slit, making his own cock throb. "That's what I'm telling you. I love it, too. I love you being my alpha bitch. I don't need a female – I don't want a female, I just want this."

A sweet little whimper stole past Jensen's lips when Jared yanked his fingers out and nudged the head of his cock where they had been. His hole had been stretched and slicked so many times that it opened right up, taking him deep.

Jared moved slowly, giving Jensen careful little thrusts until he writhed and pushed back for more.

"God, yeah, that's it," Jared groaned, his arm flexing across Jensen's chest and holding him in place as his hips began to piston. "Your body knows what it's supposed to do. That's why you like getting these tits played with so much, huh?"

Jensen gasped when Jared plucked at one of his stiff little nipples, making his chest jerk under Jared's hand.

"Your pussy's just aching to get mated. All ripe and ready for seed. I'm supposed to be knockin' you up—" Jared slammed into the slippery-warm grip of Jensen's hole, "—but we can't do that, so instead I'm just gonna keep filing you up with come. Over and over. Never gonna end, 'cause you'll always be in heat for me."

"Fuck," Jensen spat, the word sounding like it was torn from somewhere deep inside. He shuddered against Jared's body, fingers digging into Jared's thighs. "Yes."

Jared's eyes snapped shut, wild sparks of color flashing behind the lids. He refused to come this soon, but those words had his balls twitching and tensing, ready to pump a fresh load right into Jensen's belly.

He didn't realize how long he'd hesitated until Jensen reached back and grabbed his hair, pulling Jared in until their faces almost touched, each of Jensen's breaths huffing against his lips.

"Don't stop," he gritted out, his large eyes narrowed to slits. "I want—"

"What?" Jared demanded. "What do you want?"

"I want – this," he groaned, arching until he was grinding down on Jared's cock. "I want you to – breed me."

"Jesus." Jared's fingers went tight on Jensen's hip, his mouth shoving up against Jensen's parted, bitten lips. The tongue that licked back at his was rough and demanding, as slick as the place Jared was fucking into. "Yeah – yeah, I'm gonna breed you. Fill you up with my come, keep you nice and creamed."

Jensen whimpered and nodded, his face screwing up in a grimace of pleasure. His hand scrabbled down to grip his own cock where it bobbed, swaying with every thrust of Jared's hips.

"No," Jared said sharply, reaching down to grab his wrist. "Not yet. You're not coming until you have at least one load in this little hole."

Jensen's teeth sank into his fat lower lip, his entire body going tense, and then let out a slow, shaky breath.

"That's it," Jared breathed, nuzzling at the side of Jensen's neck and drilling him with steady, even pumps of cock. He rubbed Jensen's wrist before letting it go, giving him the chance to comply. "Just take it for me."

"God," Jensen huffed, dropping his hand back to grip Jared's thigh. "Okay – okay, yeah."

Jared slid a hand up through Jensen's hair and gave it a tug.

"Say it," he whispered, yanking Jensen's head back and exposing his throat. "You're my bitch."

Jensen's lip curled, showing Jared the sharp edge of his teeth. "I'm your bitch."

Jared rubbed his mouth, open and damp, against the side of Jensen's cheek. "I'm your mate."

"You're my—" His voice cracked and his hole flexed around Jared's cock. "—mate."

"Yeah," Jared muttered, grinding in deep. "You want this load of alpha come?"

"Yes, God, please," Jensen babbled, his fingernails digging into Jared's legs, "just – give it to me."

Jared sank his teeth into the side of Jensen's neck as he jerked sharply and came, sucking an angry bruise right over the place where his pulse fluttered.

His whole body throbbed with the force of it, wild and alive with the thought that this was his – his entirely, his alone. Every shot of spunk that emptied out of his balls was landing right where it was supposed to, was made for Jensen to take and keep. It was a powerful feeling, one that had him rocking into Jensen's hole until he had nothing more to give, until he was just pushing that thick, slimy load around inside his mate.

When he finally came back to himself, he found he'd left a sharp row of teeth marks on Jensen's skin – and Jensen hadn't moved at all. His head was tilted to give Jared full access to that tender, sensitive place on his throat, and his hands were still clutching obediently at Jared's thighs, nowhere near his own neglected cock.

"That feel good?" Jared said knowingly. His voice was nearly shaking with exhaustion and the weight of all the emotion between them – his own as well as Jensen's, which seemed to crackle in the air around them – but he wasn’t going to give up now. Not when Jensen was finally giving him this, letting Jared see him raw and exposed and vulnerable. He slid his hand down Jensen's stomach and tapped his fingers teasingly against his swollen cockhead. "I gave you a big one. 'S the kind of load that would make a nice big litter of cubs."

Jensen made a high, helpless noise, his cock twitching like it was trying to get closer to Jared's touch.

"Yes. Yes, it's – so good," he blurted, totally beyond shame or dignity or reservation. He was so keyed up, so desperate to come that his words were coming out with all the ragged urgency of a sob. "I can – feel it inside of me – feel it breeding me."

Jared groaned and grabbed Jensen's cock, his thumb finding the nervy tip and rubbing at it unforgivingly. It made Jensen's hips jerk and a broken noise tear out of him.

"Is this what you want?" Jared hissed. "You want me to fuck the come right out of you, Jensen? Push it out of your hot little bitch body with my cock?"

Jensen couldn't even get out a reply; four strokes later he was shuddering and whining and striping his own stomach with thick, white ropes of come. Jared stared down at Jensen's cock as he stroked it, watching the slit flare open in rhythmic winks even after the last of his load had spattered out.

It took Jensen a long time to come down from that, his whole body clenching and coiling as he gasped out soft little noises. Jared held him carefully, stroking at his arms and letting him unwind at his own pace. He knew the steely attitude would slide back into place soon enough, but he also knew he'd just pushed Jensen towards something huge and scary – something that he wanted to experience, but was reluctant to accept.

When the tension finally faded out of Jensen's frame, Jared pressed a kiss against his temple and slowly pulled out. Jensen swayed unsteadily on his knees, slumping over gratefully when Jared eased them down on the pelts.

The cave was quiet in the wake of that coupling, silent except for the crackle of the fire and the ragged, wet noise of Jensen's breaths as they evened out.

He wouldn't meet Jared's gaze, but Jared couldn't look at anything else; the cave, the forest, and everything else in it might have not existed at all – there was only Jensen.

Jared had spent his whole life longing for something, though he couldn't quite put his finger on what – and it was this. The whole time, it had been this surly, wry, wary-eyed creature who hunted rabbits and read great American novels before sleeping on the floor of a cave. It was shocking to finally have him, and even more so to know how much power Jared had over him.

Jared pressed the tips of two fingers against the bruise he'd left on Jensen's neck, relishing the way Jensen shivered in response. He let his fingers drift down to the scar that curved over Jensen's shoulder, tracing it with a fingertip and then touching his mouth there gently.

Jensen shifted, muscles twitching under his skin.

"Shh," Jared murmured. "It's just me."

He was surprised to find that just the sound of his voice was enough to make Jensen settle. He let out a short, irritated little breath, but relaxed completely.

"What are you doing?" he said after a moment, glancing at Jared from the corner of his eye.

"Touching you," Jared said, amused. "I kind of enjoy it, seeing as you're my mate, and all. Don't you like it?"

Jensen made a noncommittal noise, and Jared rubbed his face against Jensen's shoulder and up to the curve of his neck.

"Jensen."

"Yes," Jensen said roughly.

Jared smiled and pulled him in against his chest. "You're a surly son of a bitch, you know that?"

"Yeah, well. You're friendly enough for the both of us." Jensen swallowed, his voice dropping into a low rumble that was hard to read. "Did you mean what you said before? You wouldn't rather have a female mate?"

"Yeah," Jared said. "I meant everything I said."

"That doesn't make any sense," Jensen said after a pause. "You should want to procreate. That's the point of mating. I should want that, too."

"But you don't, right?" Jared said. "You know you should, but instead you just want to do this. With me."

Jensen shifted and squirmed against his chest, like a little kid who didn't want to be picked up, but he nodded.

"Why is it so hard for you to give in to me?" Jared asked, tracing the line of Jensen's jaw. "This is a good thing. This is what our kind do. I swear, man, I've been looking for you for so long."

Jensen shut his eyes.

"I never—" He broke off abruptly. Jared's fingers kept rubbing gently at his skin until he continued. "I learned to take care of myself a long time ago. I didn't think I'd ever find... you."

Jared turned his face against Jensen's hair, breathing in his smell until his lungs strained and burned. It made his entire body throb, went to his head and made him dizzy with want and need. He couldn't imagine living without this, now that he found it. He couldn't imagine anyone catching this scent and not wanting to wrap themselves up in it, savor every detail.

"I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."

He could feel the pull of muscles when Jensen swallowed. "You have to return to your pack eventually."

"Jensen," Jared said patiently, steering Jensen's chin up so they were almost nose to nose. "We're a pack now. You and me."

Jensen blinked a few times, not meeting his eye. Apparently he hadn't considered that.

"You have a whole life that you left behind, and it's waiting for you back in your city. There's no place for me in that world. I won't live in it. I won't."

"I'm not asking you to." Jared surprised himself with the words, but even as he heard them, he knew it was true. He would never force Jensen to go against his nature.

"What, then?" Jensen scoffed, jerking his chin from Jared's hand. "You want to stay here?"

Jared let that idea take shape in his mind – not returning to Seattle, or school, or work. Giving up his car and television and music collection. Living here in the woods, hunting for food, freely changing between forms as he wished – and doing all of it with Jensen. The entire woods would be theirs to roam, and every night they would come back to this den, lay by the fire and mate for hours.

"Do you want me to?" Jared said quietly.

Jensen glanced over at him. Their eyes locked for no more than a second, but Jared saw things there that he hadn't let himself hope for – that he didn't know were possible.

When Jensen spoke his voice was thin and quiet, almost too low to hear, but Jared felt it all the way down to his bones.

"Yes. Very much."

Jared turned his face against Jensen's neck, his arm tightening around Jensen's chest and pulling him even closer. He could feel the steady thrum of his mate's heartbeat under his hand and where his mouth rested on Jensen's throat; Jensen's scent was all over him, surrounding him and quietly relating his pleasure, his presence, and his sudden anxiousness at having made that admission.

"I'm not going anywhere," Jared repeated, his words slow and deliberate.

Jensen touched his hand uncertainly, then gripped it, twining his fingers around Jared's and squeezing tightly. Jared squeezed back.

"You really are stupid and romantic," Jensen said hoarsely.

Jared smiled. "That's the rumor."

"And you're terrible at catching fish," he added, his thumb sliding up to rub at the back of Jared's hand.

"Well, it's a good thing I'm sticking around, then," Jared teased. "You'll have plenty of time to teach me how to do it right."

Jensen pulled back enough to look at him, lips quirked up in his sardonic little smile.

"Yeah," Jensen said quietly. His smile widened into a grin that Jared hadn't seen before, and couldn't wait to put there again. "Good thing."