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Burn Our Fingers and Change Our Names

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Tyler keeps one hand on the wall to keep himself from falling over as he goes down the hallway. He doesn’t know where he’s going, just that he needs to be…away. He starts to go into the living room—but no, he’s naked and covered in come; he can’t sit on the couch. So he ends up in the kitchen, hands braced on the counter, staring vacantly at the toaster oven.

Jamie thinks he’s a wolf. And Jamie should know. But Tyler’s twenty-two years old, and he would know, too, and…

The guy in the club tonight. Matt. Was that why he was hitting on Tyler? He thought Tyler was an omega. And Allison, in the park yesterday, talking about representation. Maybe she meant Tyler, too. Have other people thought that over the years? Did they—did they think it in Boston?

He feels like he’s concussed. Like nothing in the world is adding up right.

If he’s…if he’s really a wolf. If that’s even possible. He should be able to shift, right?

He feels the damp coldness of a memory. He hasn’t thought of it in years, but it comes back to him: the woods at night, dark, chilled. Not being able to find his mom. Stumbling along and hurting his feet on pine needles. Falling down and curling up in some wet leaves, so scared he can barely think, and then…falling asleep, maybe, or going into shock, because his skin isn’t skin anymore and there’s something soft like animal fur between him and the leaves and the world smells strong and strange.

But that—that was a dream, wasn’t it?

He has clearer memories of the next morning: waking up to voices calling his name and his mom pulling him into her arms. Everyone making a fuss because he doesn’t have clothes on, and him feeling bad about it but not being able to explain. Just having a vague impression of lying down in the leaves, the world going fuzze around him.

Because he turned into a wolf.

Tyler’s breathing too hard. He feels like that little kid again, half-paralyzed with terror. It was a dream. It must have been a dream. If it wasn’t a dream, he would have changed again.

If it wasn’t a dream, he’d be able to change now.

Tyler takes one hand off the counter and stands up straight, dizzy. He’ll—he’ll try it right now. And if he can’t, well…maybe that won’t prove anything for sure. But it’s something he can tell to Jamie, tell him how it doesn’t make sense.

He doesn’t really know how to go about it. If he were a wolf, he’d already know, wouldn’t he? But—but he has to try. He has to know.

He closes his eyes and thinks about being a wolf.

Right away it feels totally dumb. He’s just, like, standing in his kitchen, imagining what it would be like to have fur. And paws. And, like, four legs, he guesses? Yeah, wolves have those weird back legs that bend in the opposite direction. And a snout, with, like, huge teeth. The teeth would probably be cool. And big pointed ears, and a tail, a waggy one like Marshall’s—

And then the ground is rushing towards him, and his body is prickling all over, a weird grinding sensation in his bones. He feels like he’s falling, and it’s terrifying to be this out of control. He wants to cry out, but something weird is happening to his throat and he can’t say anything. His eyes, too: a bunch of colors are gone, and he’s standing on four legs, and this isn’t a dream and what the fuck.

There are suddenly a million smells flooding him. He can tell that humans have been here: mostly just himself, which is super weird to recognize, but also a dog, and there are food smells everywhere. And then there are the smells from the outdoors, and some weird chemical things, and he doesn’t know how to process any of it and he’s a fucking wolf and—

“Tyler?” Jamie’s voice comes from the hallway, and Tyler spins around just in time to see his eyes go wide. He yips in distress—panic—and Jamie rushes over and he’s burying his hands in Tyler’s fur and smelling fucking amazing and Tyler doesn’t know how he does it, but he’s human again, shaking in Jamie’s arms.

“I didn’t know,” Tyler says. His voice is wobbling all over the place. “Jamie, I didn’t know, I never—I never knew, I…”

“I’m so sorry,” Jamie says. “Fuck, Tyler, I didn’t realize.” He’s sitting down now, pulling Tyler into his lap. He’s wearing pants again, and Tyler doesn’t like that, but it makes it less complicated to press against him. Tyler sags against Jamie’s chest and turns his face into Jamie’s neck. Just like he did when he was a wolf. A wolf. A fucking wolf.

“I’m so sorry,” Jamie says again. “I had no idea. You must be so mad at me.”

“No. What?” Tyler lifts his head so he can see Jamie’s face. “Why—why would I be mad at you?” His heart pounds in fear that he should be, maybe, that Jamie did something he’d be mad about.

“I knotted you.” Jamie’s voice sounds strangled. “I knotted you, and you didn’t know what it meant.”

“I…wanted you to. It was, um.” Tyler’s cheeks go hot at the memory of how it felt: Jamie’s knot swelling inside his ass. “It was really good.”

“No, but.” The furrow between Jamie’s brows is really deep. “You don’t get it. Knotting, it’s—it doesn’t always lead to a bond, but if there’s already groundwork…” He bites his lip. “We might not be able to undo it. I’m so sorry,” he says in a rush.

Tyler feels his shoulders drawing together, even though Jamie’s arms are still around him. “Do, um.” He worries at his bottom lip. “Do you want to undo it?”

“No!” Jamie says quickly. “I just thought, I mean, you didn’t know you were agreeing to it, and if you didn’t want…”

“I do,” Tyler says. This is one of the few things all night he’s been sure of. “Fuck, Jamie, I really, really do.”

All the tension goes out of Jamie’s face. “Oh, thank God.” He leans forward and presses their foreheads together.

“I thought you were gonna bond with someone else,” Tyler whispers. “You kept saying, a wolf.”

“Oh my God.” Jamie breathes out a long stream of air, ends in a little puff of laughter. “And you kept—I would say it, and you would just turn away. I thought you didn’t…”

“I did.” It feels so good to be saying this inside the circle of Jamie’s arms. “It was all I wanted, Jamie, fuck.”

Jamie slides their cheeks together and buries his face in Tyler’s neck. Tyler tucks his head into Jamie’s shoulder, nuzzles in as close as he can. Feels the relief of doing so, like he can finally let go of a weight he’s been carrying for months. Years, maybe.

“You know I would have wanted you anyway,” Jamie mumbles into his neck. “Even if you weren’t a wolf.”

Tyler startles a little. “But—you said…”

“I was trying to tell you I wanted to date you,” Jamie says, and Tyler—Tyler wants to laugh, or cry, or he doesn’t even know what. He can’t believe he missed that for so long.

“I wanted you from the first minute I saw you,” Jamie says softly, and the words send a tingle down Tyler’s spine. “That all-star game in 2012.”

“Really?” Tyler says.

“Yeah. It was dumb, because I didn’t really know you,” Jamie says. “But I saw you, and you said hi and smiled at me, and I thought, yes.

Tyler shivers again at that, partly at the words, partly at the way Jamie’s breath is brushing his neck as he talks. “I. Wow.”

“I’d dated, I guess, some before that,” Jamie goes on. He shifts, rubs his cheek against Tyler’s hair. “And when I got back from the game, Jordie wanted me to keep doing it, but it kind of felt like—like I was going through the motions, I guess. Like I was just biding my time until I ended up with you.” He presses his nose against Tyler’s neck. “I guess that sounds pretty dumb,” he says, muffled.

“No,” Tyler says. “The, uh, the guys I picked up all had a lot in common with each other, after that weekend.”

It’s crazy how he can feel Jamie’s smile growing against his neck, and even crazier the way it makes his nerves skitter. “Yeah?”

“Mm-hm.” Tyler lifts his head, and Jamie looks at him, eyes dark, and their mouths fit together perfectly.

“You know,” Jamie says a couple of minutes later, when they’re both breathing hard, “they say our chances of bonding double if we knot twice in the same night.”

“Do they really?” Tyler presses his cock against Jamie’s leg, and Jamie growls and lifts him off the ground.

***

It all feels different this time. Jamie slides into Tyler, and Tyler can feel how much Jamie wants him. How this means forever to him. His knot swells inside Tyler, and Tyler feels owned.

“You really never had any idea?” Jamie asks after, when they’re lying in Tyler’s bed, chests heaving and sweat cooling on their skin.

“I guess…I guess I don’t know how I would have known.” Tyler’s splayed across Jamie’s chest, Jamie’s arms tight around him and Jamie’s cock snug in his ass. “No one ever, like, mentioned it to me.”

“Not even your parents?”

Tyler shakes his head. “I don’t think my mom knows anything about wolves. And my dad left when I was really little, so.”

Jamie gets his hand in Tyler’s hair, cups the back of his skull. “He shouldn’t have left you to deal with this alone.”

Tyler kind of wants to speak up, defend his dad—maybe he wasn’t even a wolf—but his dad doesn’t really deserve it, and anyway Jamie’s pulling a little at the hair on the back of his head, and it feels so good. Makes him drop his head down and close his eyes.

“The thing I really don’t get is, like.” The fingers of Jamie’s other hand skim down to trace the edge of his hole, making Tyler shiver. “You get so wet. None of your sex partners ever said anything to you?”

Tyler’s mouth falls open. That…never occurred to him. “I just always thought gay guys were weird for wanting to use lube,” he mumbles, and Jamie laughs.

“You thought—oh my God, Tyler,” he says, and his giggles are ridiculous and adorable and that is just not fair. “That’s, like, the most omega thing in the world.”

“Shut up,” Tyler says, hitting him on the shoulder, but his mouth is curling up a little. “How did you know about yourself, anyway?”

“Well, my parents are wolves, and they would have told me,” Jamie says. “But also I first shifted when I was six months old.”

“Oh fuck,” Tyler says.

“It varies a lot,” Jamie says. “Some wolves don’t do it until they’re way older. But I’ve never heard of anyone just not doing it.”

“I think I…did, maybe,” Tyler says. “Once when I was really little. I was, like, lost in the woods, and I thought I was making it up, and…it was kind of scary. That night.”

Jamie presses a kiss to his forehead. “I wish you hadn’t had to feel like that,” he says, and Tyler tilts his face up and so that Jamie can kiss him long and hard.

It’s a couple of minutes before Tyler pulls back for air. “Shit,” he says. “That’s why you were so freaked out about the smell thing.”

“Oh. Yeah,” Jamie says, when he stops looking dazed from the kiss. He slides his thumb down Tyler’s cheek along the edge of his nose. “I’ve never heard of a wolf whose sense of smell was injured before. That’s usually, like, how we recognize each other.”

“I guess you’ll just have to help me out there,” Tyler says.

“Not just me.” Jamie’s eyes light with quiet happiness. “Our whole pack.”

“Yeah?” Tyler grins. “Really? You’re gonna have an official pack?”

Jamie nods. “I think it’s time.” And then there’s nothing Tyler wants to do more than kiss him, so he does, a lot and for a long time. He’s pretty much planning on never stopping.

***

“I’m sorry,” Jordie says the next day. ”Explain this to me again. You didn’t know you were a wolf?”

Tyler glares at him. It’s hard to glare too severely, though, because he’s curled up on Jamie’s lap on the couch and it’s way too comfortable. “You heard us.”

“Yeah, but I’m still missing the part where it actually makes sense.” Jordie’s grinning really widely. “You actually thought you were a human?

“I mean, it sounds dumb now,” Tyler mumbles. Jamie leans in and bites him reassuringly on the neck, right over one of the bruises from last night.

“Ew.” Jordie turns away, holds up his hands to block his view. “I don’t need to see that kind of thing.”

“But he tastes so good,” Jamie murmurs, and Tyler giggles.

“Can we go back to the thing where Tyler thought he was a human?” Jordie asks. “Because I’m still not over that. Oh, and the thing where he didn’t notice that you were insanely in love with him, somehow, even though everyone in a ten-mile radius could pick up on it.”

Jamie makes a noise against the side of his head. “It’s okay,” Tyler says softly to him. “I know now.” He turns his head to give Jamie a kiss, and then when Jamie doesn’t let him pull away, a few more kisses. Maybe a few more than are really appropriate in the living room, but whatever.

“Um, we do have other chairs,” Jordie says loudly. “Other couch space, even. No need to double up for my sake.”

“Definitely not for your sake,” Jamie says against Tyler’s lips.

“Uh-uh,” Tyler says, and mm, inside Tyler’s mouth is definitely where Jamie’s tongue belongs.

“Babies!” Jordie says, loudly enough that they break apart in surprise and turn to stare at him. Jordie grins. “Yeah, that’s right. Haven’t had that talk yet, have you? Thought that might ruin the mood.”

Tyler turns back to Jamie. “So I really, really like kids.”

“Me, too,” Jamie says. “Let’s have a bunch, okay?”

“Sounds good me.” Tyler leans in and brushes his lips against Jamie’s neck. “You wanna start now?”

“Mm, okay,” Jamie says, and their lips find each other again.

“That’s it, I’m going for a walk,” Jordie says, and Tyler can feel Jamie’s lips stretch into a grin against his mouth before Tyler slips his tongue in between them again.

Tyler’s phone buzzes before they can get too far into it. It’s a message from Kaner: u thought what?????

“Oh, yeah,” Jamie murmurs. “There’s a group chat I should probably introduce you to.”

***

They beat the Canucks 6-1 that night. Tyler gets a hat trick.

Jamie’s arms go around him on the ice, and Tyler’s never been so happy. There are all kinds of things he needs to figure out—like what the deal is with shifting, and does any of the rest of his family know about this, and what does being bonded mean, anyway?—but there are some things he’s absolutely sure of.

He leans up and kisses Jamie, right at center ice.