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Carson leans back in his chair, arching his back in a stretch that feels far too good. He’s been sitting in this chair for the better part of two hours, his co-worker Helen down the table from him. It’s new student convocation, and the Newspaper team wanted to be front and center.

So, here they are, situated behind a table in the middle of the quad.

At least the sun’s out,’ he muses to himself, his tail swishing beside him. His only reward for talking to the freshman and giving away free tote bags with their logo on it is that it’s the perfect day for a sun bath.  

On the downside, his normal sun baths are accompanied by cat naps. It’s been hard to keep himself from yawning in the middle of every sentence, and Helen, being a lion hybrid, isn’t fairing much better.

She’s talking to a shy little canary hybrid, who almost turned away from their table after seeing the two felines sitting behind it. Helen managed to coax her over, and now she’s in the middle of some discussion about their shared major.

Carson keeps an eye out on the students walking by the table. Most give them a glance, possibly take one of the newspapers off the table, and then walk away. But he’s watching for the ones whose eyes linger just a second too long.

After a few moments, he looks down at their email list again, skimming the names they’ve gotten so far.

They’ve managed to attract a nice bit of attention today. Mostly freshman in the Journalism and Photography programs that came hunting them down, eager to get experience as soon as possible (Carson can hardly blame them, that’s exactly what he did last year). A handful of strays from other departments that worked on their high school’s newspaper and want to continue. They even got a few returning students who hadn’t heard of them before to sign-up.

Just as gets towards the bottom of the page, something blocks the sunlight, casting himself and the list in a shadow.

Carson looks up, coming face to face with the most intriguing eyes he’s ever seen.

When the eyes focus on him, he feels a rush of warmth run through him. It settles in his chest, pulsing for a few beats before settling into his body in a way he can’t explain.

His mind blanks out for a few seconds. Carson’s never had that happen to him before. But then again, he’s never been attracted to anyone quite like the man in front of him before either.

So he chalks it up as the man is really, really good-looking and that his own hormones might finally be kicking into overdrive.

“Hi,” Aaron says.

Carson blinks out of his daze, facing the man.

“Hello,” he replies.

Carson catches a movement behind the man. He quickly realizes it’s his tail. A fluffy black tail that’s starting to wag back and forth behind him.

When he looks back at the man’s face, he spots the matching set of pointed ears on his head and the eager expression. The shape of his tail and ears makes Carson quickly realize it’s not just any canine hybrid, but a wolf hybrid.

Carson’s eyes run down the other man, taking in his well toned arms and tiny waist. He takes in the tanned skin that isn’t from a booth and the spiky black hair on top of his head that blends with his ears. It takes Carson a few seconds before he realizes he’s been staring at him.

He feels his face flush red in embarrassment at the thought of being caught. The man doesn’t even notice however, too caught up in looking at Carson.

“Are you interested in the newspaper?”  Carson finally asks, internally wincing. Why else would he be at their table if he wasn’t interested?

The man’s eyes turn towards the stack of papers on the table, and then to the giant sign they have hanging in front of it. “Oh,” he lets out on an exhale. His ears start to fold back, and the wag of his tail slows down. “Well, uhm not really- I-I just uh-,”

Carson frowns a bit at his actions. The guy looks like the exact replica of a kicked puppy. And really, he didn’t mean to pressure the guy.

“I’m Aaron,” The guy finally manages to get out. He sticks a hand out towards Carson in an offering, which he accepts.

Aaron’s hand feels warm against his own, and it’s like the rush from before all over again, but this time starting from the contact of their hands. When their hands pull back, it goes cold again.

Carson has to take a deep breath to calm himself, but it backfires. His nose inhales Aaron’s scent, a mix of sandalwood and spearmint that makes him want to tug Aaron over the table and-

He shakes his head minutely. Mentally, he tries to tell his own hormones to fuck off.

“Carson,” he replies.

“Sorry,” Aaron says, “I’m uh, and you j-just uh,-,” Aaron goes to say something else, but shuts his mouth quickly. He chews on his bottom lip, like he’s trying to figure out what to say next.

Carson raises an eyebrow at him.

Aaron’s eyes dart down at this, and he just shakes his head. He looks at the email sheet sitting in front of Carson. “I can just sign my name up?”

“Of course.” Carson slides the paper over towards Aaron and hands over the pen as well. He watches Aaron scribble down his information quickly, and then he sits the pen down.

Carson tries giving Aaron an encouraging smile when he looks back up. “Thanks!” Carson picks up one of their flyers and a tote bag, and hands it over. “You’ll be at our first meeting?”

Aaron takes them gently from his hand, looking at Carson directly for a few seconds before turning his eyes away. “Yeah, I’ll uhm, be there.” He gives him a weak smile and his tail starts to perk back up, before Aaron turns away from the table.

He watches Aaron walk away, specifically the small of his waist and the curve of his ass.

Helen coughs beside him, and Carson quickly turns to look at her. She’s looking at him with one eyebrow raised and her tail flicking back and forth. He can feel his face flush at being caught staring.

Fuck off,” he mutters, moving the email list back towards him. His eyes immediately dart down to Aaron’s messy handwriting at the bottom of the paper.

Name                            Email                                    Major        Journalism Experience?

Aaron Christopherson achristopherson@nwu.edu      Biology     No

Carson grins just a little to himself.

 

xx

 

Aaron swears he really was going to go to the newspaper meeting like he told Carson.

His mate might not of jumped for joy at their meeting, but hey, everyone has different experiences, right? There can’t be any other reason.

By the time he’s walked back to his dorm, he’s worked himself into a frantic mess. What if he’s not Carson’s mate? That’s a thing, isn’t it? One-sided matings?

He’s never met anyone like that but, it’s possible.

Aaron sweeps into his room, letting the door swing shut with a loud bang. He grabs his laptop off the desk and throws himself onto his bed with it in hand. Immediately he goes to Google and types in ‘what to do if my mate doesn’t recognize me?’.

The first link that pops up is an article on one-sided mating. So is the second. And the third.

The fourth, an article on fake recognition of your mate.

And knows that can’t be it because he has spent years listening to his parents talk about finding each other. The hot, burning feeling in his chest the first time he saw Carson’s eye and the warmth of Carson’s hand in his was just like they always said.

He reads the first three articles. There have apparently been cases across the world of people having a mate that doesn’t recognize them. And even if they do get together, the other person always finds their real mate, and someone is left heartbroken.

He knows Carson is definitely his mate. But it’s very likely that he is not Carson’s.

He slides his laptop shut with a definitive click, and rolls over on his bed to face the wall. It only takes a few moments for the reality to set in.

The forever he might have hoped for is gone.

Aaron clutches at his pillow, and he can feel the tears welling up behind his eyes. HIs tail is tucked up in between in his legs, and his ears are drooped as low as they can go. There’s nothing he can do, and he can’t even tell Carson because Aaron’s sure he’s a great guy.

A great enough guy that might pity him enough to date until Carson finds his real mate.

And if Aaron is positive about anything, it’s that his heart couldn’t take that.

 

xx

 

Carson’s gaze sweeps across the Journalism room again. The lack of wolf ears among the students there is all too noticeable.

When the clock strikes five past three, and Helen starts her yearly opening speech, he sighs to himself.

Aaron really must not have been interested in the newspaper.

He tries to replay their conversation in his head and he quickly realizes, yeah Aaron wasn’t at their table for the newspaper. And Carson basically acted as if he had no time for anyone who wasn’t signing up for it.

Great.

Carson tries to settle back in his chair. He pulls his tail up into his own lap, grazing it gently with his fingers in a soothing motion, trying to relax himself.

He doesn’t know why it’s bothering him so much that he accidentally pressured one freshman into signing up. Hell, he’s sure that half the email list didn’t end up coming anyways and just wanted the tote bag.

Either way, he wishes he knew how to get a hold of Aaron again, but Helen confiscated the email list and Carson didn’t bother memorizing Aaron’s last name. He needs to at least, apologize or something for making him sign up.

Really, he just wants an excuse to see Aaron again.

 

xx

 

Two days later sees Carson trudging into his science class for the first time.

It’s never been his favorite subject, and not having to take it every year was definitely one benefit of majoring in Journalism. Just two science classes during his entire college career.

His tail flicks around angrily as he enters the room, taking in the all too familiar surroundings. Every science classroom is exactly the same. The posters plastered across the wall, the two person bench=desks that are perfect for partner work. Even the random collection of creepy knickknacks and the foul smell that comes from dissecting one too many times in the same room.

Carson huffs, sliding into one of the empty benches towards the middle of the room. Not too eager, but not a slacker.

Just as he’s sliding a notebook out of his bag, the smell of sandalwood and spearmint filters through his nose. His ears flicks up, twitching in impatience.

It has to be Aaron.

He tries to head focused on his notebook, while peeking out of the corners of his eyes.

Aaron slides into Biology 101 with a grin on his face. He gets assaulted with so many scents when he steps in, of all the students and the overwhelming scent of the experiments and samples the professor has in the room.

He makes his way all the way to the front of the class, taking a seat at one of the front benches.

Carson watches as Aaron settles in his seat, tail wagging back and forth and ears trained forward. And really who is that excited for Biology 101-

Right, science major. Carson shakes his head to himself, smiling.

Carson’s own tail flicks out at that gently smacking the bench behind him. He jumps a bit, and mutters a ‘sorry’ to his neighbors.

Aaron hears the thump, and he turns his head back to look at the rest of the class.

His eyes immediately zone in on Carson, and he has to hold in his own gasp of surprise. 

Honestly, over one hundred science classes at this school, and five sections of this class alone and they end up in the same one?

Carson looks gorgeous, a blue cardigan draped over a nice light grey button up. His hair is messily swept up, like he ran his fingers through it after getting out of bed. Not to mention the cute black-rimmed glasses perched on the end of his nose.

His neck stretches so he can face the student behind him, and really Aaron had never thought a neck could be attractive before. But it is.

Aaron stares at him for just a few more seconds until Carson turns back around. Their eyes meet briefly and Aaron flushes red in embarrassment. He quickly swivels back to face the front of the class.

Carson frowns as he watches Aaron turn away. He definitely pressured him, then.

Fuck.

He bides his time during class, grateful that his spot in the classroom allows him to keep an eye on Aaron without him noticing.

Their professor eventually dismisses them.

Aaron’s been sitting like a jack-rabbit ready to bounce for the past fifteen minutes. As soon as the professor releases them, he almost darts out of the classroom, eager to be away from Carson.

Well, eager to never have to explain to Carson that he’s Aaron’s mate, but Aaron’s not his.

Carson just scoops up all his notebooks into one hand and swings his messenger bag up on his shoulder, trying to quickly follow Aaron through the halls.

Luckily, Aaron’s still a freshman who doesn’t know the building that well. He’s able to catch him when Aaron makes a wrong turn down a dead-end hall.

Aaron let’s out a shaky breath, and turns to face Carson. His ears flatten against his head and he feels his tail droop. He had hoped to just avoid Carson for the next ever, but somehow that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.

Carson doesn’t come any closer. He stays at his end of the hall.

“We should talk,” Carson says. It’s not to best way for him to phrase things but, really there isn’t a good way to phrase it.

Aaron nods. He looks even sadder still, if that’s possible.

“Can we uh go somewhere else to talk? My dorm, maybe?” He ends with almost a whisper. Aaron just can’t stand the thought of someone else walking by and seeing him humiliate himself by having to tell Carson they’re mates.

He’d be that kid with a one-sided mating for the rest of his college career.

Carson hesitates, he doesn’t know if being alone with Aaron is a great idea. Aaron’s very attractive and there’s no way he won’t end up embarrassing himself. But one look at the way Aaron keeps hesitantly glancing behind Carson makes him agree in a heartbeat. “Sure.”

 

xx

 

They make their way over to Aaron’s dorm in relative silence.  

Carson keeps looking over at Aaron. He can’t help himself. It’s like Aaron’s a magnet for his eyes.

It doesn’t help that Aaron looks like he’s marching towards his death sentence. Carson wants to press close and wrap his tail around Aaron’s waist, or even nudge their shoulders together. He just want to touch Aaron, to be close to him in a way that’s driving him up a wall. But somehow he doesn't think that will help.

Aaron slides his key card in the door, and gestures Carson into his room.

The room is much cleaner than he expects for two men. One of the beds are made, the desks are clean minus some knickknacks and their owner’s computers. There are a few posters scattered along the wall, some for comic characters and even a few scientific ones.

Aaron takes a seat on the made bed, and he motions for Carson to sit next to him.

Aaron’s tail is still behind him, and that’s never a good sign with any kind of hybrid really, but especially a canine hybrid. He’s also rubbing his thumb over his palms in a circular motion in nervousness.

Aaron inhales nervously. He doesn’t want to do this, but he supposes Carson deserves to know. Even if it might be at the cost of his own heart.

“You’re my mate,” he says in the strongest voice he can muster.

Carson freezes.

He whips his head around to stare wide-eyed at Aaron. Everything else besides Aaron and mate are just a mind numbing buzz in his head.

Carson didn’t think-, he didn’t know. How could he have known? That’s what all that was the first day they met?

Finally he manages to make out that Aaron’s still talking. Rambling, really.

“-and I don’t want your pity, okay? You just wanted to know so I-I told you-wait,” Aaron stumbles as Carson grips his jaw with his hand.

Aaron frowns. Didn’t he just tell Carson he didn’t want his pity-?

“You’re my mate,” Carson says sternly, looking right at Aaron.

A moment passes, and then Carson’s tugging Aaron towards him. Their lips crash together and Aaron’s brain short circuits. Carson’s lips are sweet, they taste like peppermint and coffee and he groans. The kiss is everything he could have hoped for, all passion and desperation of finally feeling their mate. It’s so much and not enough at the same time.

They pull back with a loud smack.

Aaron’s mind finally catches up with the full realization.

Carson is his mate.

Carson watches Aaron’s eyes go wide, he realizes what happened. His own ears slick back. “You thought it was one-sided?”

Aaron’s jaw drops a little. His eyes blink rapidly, trying to keep the tears that are threatening to fall at bay. “How could I not? Why didn’t you say anything?” He snaps a little too harshly, but he can’t feel too bad about it. He’s spent almost a week curled up in his bed and barely being present.

Instead he could of be spending it in bed with Carson.

Carson moves one of his hands down to Aaron’s waist, and tugs him closer so that their thighs are touching on the bed. He let’s his other hand drop onto his own thigh, and he looks away from Aaron.

Aaron watches as Carson’s ears flattened themselves on his head, and his tail curls around himself.

“Carson-?”

“I didn’t know the first thing about finding a mate,” he pauses, “I had no idea what the difference was between that and just plain old attraction.”

Aaron goes to say something, but promptly shuts his mouth.

Mates are not a taboo subject by any means, but often it’s information passed down from parents to children. Finding your mate is supposed to be instinct, something you just know because you’ve watched your parents and friends and family around theirs all your life.

“My parents had a one-sided mating. Or rather, my mother did. My dad found his real mate when I was five, and left my mom and I without a second thought.” Carson feels Aaron press closer to him, letting the entire sides of their bodies touch. “Mates and mating was a banned subject in my mother’s house. I only see my dad on holidays. The only other family I saw often was my grandmother, and she never talked about her mate because he had already passed by the time I was born.”

Aaron’s mind reels. He knows that there aren’t any words he could say that might make it better right now. He know they’ll have to talk later, have the long-winded conversation and maybe get to know each other.

But right now, he really just wants to comfort his mate.

“C’mere.”

Aaron moves back to lay down on his bed, head cushioned in his pile of pillows. He pats the empty space next to him.

Carson removes his glasses, setting them on the nightstand next to Aaron’s bed before lying down beside him. He scoots closer to Aaron, so that his head is resting on his shoulder. Carson exhales shakily when he feels Aaron’s hand run through the hair at the nape of his neck. The hand trails upwards until it’s scratching his ears.

Carson relaxes a little more, and moves closer to press his nose against Aaron’s neck. The scent of sandalwood and spearmint overwhelm him the best way possible, and he can feel his body drift.

It doesn’t take long before Aaron can feel Carson’s breathing even out, and he closes his eyes to join his mate in a blissful nap.

 

xx

 

Aaron wakes up to something vibrating on his chest.

He uses his hand unoccupied to rub the sleepiness out of his eyes, before cracking them open.

It doesn’t take him long to realize that the vibration is Carson. The man is purring against his chest, obviously content in his mate’s arm. Aaron grins happily. Cat hybrids only ever purr when they’re really relaxed or extremely happy. He can feel his own tail trying to break free from where it’s pinned under his body, wanting to wag back and forth in excitement.

And it’s not the only cat-like quality that seems to have been brought out, much to Aaron’s delight. Carson’s hand that’s resting on his chest is flexing in a way that’s similar to kneading.

He wishes they were in a better position so he could actually see Carson’s face. He can only imagine how beautiful he looks. But Aaron settles for rubbing a hand up and down his back instead, watching the tip of his tail flick back and forth.

After fifteen or so minutes, Carson finally starts to wake. There’s a gust of warm air against his neck as Carson yawns, and it takes a few moments before Carson seems to realize he’s purring.

Carson tenses, his hand gripping a little harder to Aaron’s shirt.

“Sorry,” Carson mutters. He can feel his face heating up. He can’t believe he was purring. It must have been years since the last time that’s happened. Maybe before his grandmother was in the nursing home.

He feels Aaron’s chest rumble underneath him. When he finally moves his head to look at his mate, Aaron’s grinning ear to ear.

“Don’t be sorry. It was cute,” Aaron says.

Carson huffs, flopping down on his back beside Aaron. He turns his head over so they’re facing each other.

They sit in silence for a few moments before Aaron finally breaks it.

“So, why did you follow me after class if you didn’t know I was your mate?”

“Oh.” Carson’s face falls into a frown. He hadn’t even thought of his own reasons for tracking Aaron down since he admitted he was Carson’s mate. Oh god, it seems ridiculous now. “I thought I had pressured you into signing up for the newspaper.”

“Pressured me?” Aaron repeats, looking at him curiously. Carson can see the edges of a grin tugging at him mouth.

“I thought I scared you into signing up, and I wanted to apologize!”

Aaron laughs, and then scoots closer to Carson. Their noses brush against each other, and Aaron can feel as Carson’s tail curls around his waist. “So you thought following me was a good idea?”

“I just,” Carson huffs as Aaron nuzzles into his neck, placing small kisses against the skin there, “I wanted to make sure I didn’t petrify you out of college forever. I know I can be a jerk and everything, but you looked like a kicked puppy and I couldn’t have that.”

Aaron lets out a ‘mhm’ against his neck. Carson’s explanation is cute and all, but he’s realized there are more important things at hand. Like all the glorious skin of Carson’s neck that needs to be marked.

By him.

Because Carson’s his mate.

He pushes on Carson’s side until he’s laying down on his back, and Aaron’s straddling him, hands on either side of his head. Aaron resumes his attack on Carson’s neck, switching between leaving light kissed or nipping at the skin. He finds a spot just under Carson’s jaw that makes his breath hitch, so he makes sure to spend a little more time there until the skin is bright red under his mouth.

It doesn’t take long for Carson to feel himself harden in his jeans. Every bite on his neck feels all too good, and they need to decide quickly how far this is going.

He puts a hand on the small of Aaron’s back, and slowly slips it under his shirt. His other hand grasp the back of Aaron’s head and pull him back away from his neck.

“I think we might need to cool down.”

Aaron giggles against his lips. “Do you really want to cool down? Because I’m all for uh-heating things up a little more?” He waggles one of his absurd eyebrows and Carson rolls his eyes.

Aaron lowers his hips so that they can finally feel each other. Carson gasps.

“Just like this,” Aaron whispers against his ear. Carson thrust his hips up in agreement.

He uses the hand on Aaron’s head to guide him back to his lips. Their lips fuse together just as Aaron start grinding down on him. Carson quickly matching his thrusts,.

It doesn’t take long before kissing becomes too much, and Carson pulls back with a pant. Aaron growls, returning to licking and biting at Carson’s neck.

“Aaron-,” he moans, “-god I’m going to-,”

Aaron trails up to Carson’s ear. “Uh, c’mon Carson, let go,” he whispers harshly, just as he reaches down to take Carson’s tail in his hand. He only manages to run his hand down it three times before Carson’s tensing under him.

Carson arches his back, hips stuttering up against Aaron’s as he comes inside pants. “Fuck,” Carson moans.

He settles back down against the mattress, breathing heavily as Aaron shifts on top of his so that their groins are no longer aligned. Aaron presses kisses against his cheeks and nose, beginning to move his hips in gentle circles against Carson’s thighs.

“Mhm, are you close?” Carson asks, running a hand down to cup Aaron’s ass.

Aaron only whines in response, starting to return to his rhythm from before. It only takes a few hard thrusts before Aaron’s gripping at the sheets beside Carson’s, panting against his neck as he comes.

Aaron rolls himself over to lay beside Carson afterwards, shuffling to that his front presses up against Carson’s side. He feels Carson’s wrap around his side as he turns to look at him.

Their eyes meet and Aaron can’t help the dopey grin that spreads across his face.

“You’re my mate,” he whispers, a little in awe.

Carson returns the smile. “And you’re mine.”