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The day after he turned eighteen Jake Jensen joined the army. He was given a set of forms to fill out about the form he took during the nights of the full moon and then shoved into an interrogation room where a nasty looking guy that reeked Alpha glared at him and pushed him into a chair.

Jake blinked up at him, already having figured out what this was about. He hadn't matured yet, didn't know if he was going to turn out Alpha or beta. This was the armies attempt at trying to figure out which side of the coin he was going to end up on. Jake didn't have the heart to tell them he'd had tougher looking interrogators in the form of social workers during his misspent youth, moving from orphanage to foster home.

“You afraid of me boy?”

“Should I be?” Jensen stared up at the man, refusing to break eye contact even as the other man growled and got into his personal space, trying to unnerve the younger man. Make him show a sign of beta or Alpha. “I mean, sure you're strong. But smell isn't everything man.” That got a half snort of amusement and then the man had turned and left.

Next came a slim woman carrying a cup of water. She offered it to him with a gentle smile and sat on the chair across from him. Obviously a beta from the way she refused to meet his eyes, fingers shifting and drawing designs on the table like she was nervous around him. Jake sniffed at the liquid, making sure there was nothing but water in it before he took a sip, smacking his lips.

“So, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” He grinned at her, nudging her chair with his foot and winking when she glanced up. “Come on honey, no need to be shy. What's your name?”

“Sarah.” It was barely a whisper and Jake narrowed his eyes, wondering who had made her so inverted. It was obvious she had a mate, from the livid bite mark on her neck that couldn't have been more then a couple of weeks old. Someone had taken the time to claim her and beat the spirit out of her, leaving her terrified to make even the most basic of contact with anyone else.

“Sarah huh. You know, that's my sister's name.” It wasn't of course, not that the girl needed to know that. “Man she makes the best chocolate chip cookies. I could live off those things for the rest of my life. But then I'd die of liver failure from all the sugar, and possibly scurvy from not getting enough vitamin C from my oranges.” Jake rambled until Sarah relaxed enough to shoot him a smile.

“Are you done with your water?” Sarah intoned quietly and Jensen nodded, letting her take it from him. If he made even the slightest move to help her it would be marked as a beta behavior. Sarah's hand was on the glass when Jensen grabbed her wrist and tugged her down to whisper in her ear. To the men watching, it looked like he was flirting, and his whispers were too low to make out, even with the bugs in the room.

“You don't have to put up with the abuse. Slit his throat while he's sleeping. Make it look like another Alpha did it.” Sarah jerked back, terror in her eyes at the idea of disobeying her mate to the extent of taking his life and fled the room. Jensen relaxed in his chair and smirked after her, letting the men in the other room take what they would from the exchange of words.

Next came a man in a lab coat. He took three vials of Jake's blood and scurried back to his lap, no doubt testing the blood to see if Jake was allergic to anything that would hinder his joining the army.

Finally, a grumpy looking Sargent stomped into the room with a pen and a clip board, slumped into the chair across from him and glared. Jake blinked for a moment and then grinned over at the other man, which made him glare harder. “Mr. Jensen.”

“Yep?” Jake popped the p, still grinning like a loon. “What can I do you for?”

“An Alpha comes up to you in a bar and tells you to go out the back door and get on your knees. Do you a) punch him out, b) comply or c) tell him your mate wouldn't appreciate you getting on your knees for another alpha?”

“I'd punch him out.”

“Why?”

“Because I'm saving myself for my wedding night.” Jake grinned, then winked at the Sargent who rolled his eyes and copied down his answer, then moved onto the next question.

“You come across a beta in heat. Do you a) see if they are mate-marked and continue on your way, b) take them regardless of a mate-mark, c) keep them safe until a suitable mate is found or d) mate-mark them yourself?”

“Most likely a mix of a and d.” Jake answered thoughtfully, stroking his chin as if he had more then a patch of barely there peach fuzz.

“Why?”

“Cause if they're fugly, I ain't marking that.” The Sargent snorted in amusement and marked down his answers.

“One last question. If the technology for male pregnancy ever gets off the ground. Would you participate and have a litter of cubs?”

“I would rather shoot myself in the knees.”

“Why?”

“Because I'm not father material. And I don't overly enjoy the thought of cleaning up baby vomit for five years after the little parasites are born.” It wouldn't do to tell them that babies made him weak kneed. That he would give anything to make his three year old niece stop crying when she scraped her knee. That he loved the quiet time when he got to tuck his niece in and read her a bedtime story. Let them think he was a hardass, that he liked the thought of a military career rather then the idea of starting a family.

The Sargent nodded, wrote down his answer and handed him a sheaf of papers and a pen. “Fill these out and hand them to the man outside. Welcome to basic training Mr. Jensen.”

XxX XxX

Jake bounced through basic as easily as any other recruit. He had a smart mouth that kept getting him into trouble. And when put on a unit to see how well he played with other children, he would follow orders only as long as he agreed with them. The moment he thought something was a dumb idea guaranteed to get everyone killed, he made up his own plans and carried them out. Usually with mixed results.

It got him noticed.

General Coleman had taken the time to observe the young recruit. Gone over his file and noted that while the boy hadn't reached maturity yet, it was noted that he would most likely assert himself as an Alpha when the time came.

Coleman called one of his Colonels aside, shoved the file at him and let Clay's fortitude for collecting misguided soldiers guide his judgment on Jake Jensen.

At first Clay wanted nothing to do with him, seeing a kid fresh out of basic and still green behind the ears. But the more he watched, the more he heard about Jake's newest attempt at insubordination that had lead to victory at the cost of yet another week of latrine duty. It didn't matter that he'd gotten through another training exercise, all that mattered was the fact that he hadn't listened to his superior officer.

Rather then come face to face with the boy, Clay signed off on a recommendation for SERE training and left it at alone. If Jake washed out, that would be that. But if he stayed, let himself be molded into something stronger then what he was. Well then, he might have what it took to be a Loser.

XxX XxX

It was roughly a year and a half after Clay had signed off on SERE training for Jake Jensen. Enough time for the Colonel to have forgotten about the young shifter that had great potential. It wasn't until he'd been handed a manilla file full of forms to sign that he'd remembered. He read through Jake's file, noting the good and the bad.

Nothing too extraordinary, though Jake showed aptitude for a more specialized line of work. Which was always a good thing. No one wanted the screamer who'd scraped through SERE.

He noted that Jake still hadn't matured, though from the notes next to that particular fact, it was stated that they felt he would turn Alpha. That was the deciding point for Clay. He didn't need a beta coming on board and fucking up his team. Considering they were all unmated Alpha's with the exception of Pooch, shoving an unmarked beta in their midst would be the equivalent of starting a war. Clay signed off on the appropriate paperwork and prepared to welcome Jensen onto the team.

Now it was just hoping Roque behaved and didn't try to shiv the new guy, like he'd done with the last techie who'd ended up mouthing off about his extensive knife collection and what it meant about overcompensation.

XxX XxX

Jake took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, then pushed open the door and stepped into the briefing room. He'd been able to feel the Alpha vibes being projected from where he'd stood in the hall, not that they affected him any. He didn't feel the need to prove himself, or to show his stomach in a show of submission. He didn't feel anything except a burning need to make a good impression.

Jake had never had any problems with being the center of attention, especially when it kept certain attention off of his sister. So he slapped a mile wide grin on his face and tossed off a sloppy salute, glancing about the room quickly to take in the faces of the men he would be working with from now on.

“Pissy, pissy, serious business, mated. Oh goodie, that makes me the prize in the bag of cereal.” Jake muttered and forced himself to stay relaxed under the laser focus of his new unit. He hadn't even known someone had been pulling for him to get through SERE. He'd gone on a few missions and had been thrown a set of forms detailing his transfer onto a specialized team utilized for extractions and other sorts of fun and dangerous work.

“Corporal.”

“Colonel?”

“We're not going to have any trouble from you...are we?”

“...Define trouble.” Jensen stifled a wince when the other pissy guy, a huge black man with a scar down the left side of his face growled loudly and pulled a huge knife out of nowhere to pick at his fingernails with.

“Aww leave the kid alone. It's been a while since we've had any fresh meat.” That was the mated guy. Jensen glanced at the last member of the party out of the corner of his eye. Serious business was in serious lurker mode, glaring at Jake from under the brim of his hat like the new guy was going to steal cake from under his nose. Which would have been funny and potentially awesome if there was actually cake for a promotion of this sort. But sadly, there was never any cake.

Colonel Pissy sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, then pointed to each of the men and introduced them. Like Jake hadn't spent the entire night digging through secure files to peak into things that had been redacted until all you could read was Montezuma.....with a spoon........flying.....nuns.

“Corporal Jensen, this is Captain Roque, Sergeant Alverez and Sergeant Porteous. Boys, this is Corporal Jensen. Play nice, I had to tweak some strings to get him. I don't want him broken on the first day.”

“Yes boss.” Mated, also known as Sergeant Porteous spoke up, then glanced at Jake and smirked. “And just so you don't make a total fool out of yourself, I'm Pooch, that's Roque, and that's Cougar. Clay answers to Clay or boss. Or in dire emergencies like when there's brass around, Colonel.”

“Ooookay. Good to know.” Jake shrugged and ignored the fact that the newly appointed Cougar was watching him like he was a small wounded animal. “What sort of fun things are we doing today boss?”

“It's called hazing, fresh meat.” Roque bared his teeth in something that vaguely resembled a smile.

“Is that supposed to scare me? Oh wait...you can't get a reading on me can you? Man, that's gotta suck for you.” Jensen grinned again and his dufflebag beside the door, pulling out a laptop and settling himself on the floor.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Roque snapped, pushing himself half out of his chair before Pooch rolled his eyes and threw a rolled up gum wrapper at him.

“He hasn't matured yet, obviously.”

“Wait...so he could be a beta?” Jake carefully ignored the way Cougar's eyes raked over him at Roque's exclamation. “What the hell are we supposed to do if he turns out to be a beta Clay? I ain't letting you rip my throat out over some skinny kid.”

“Been a long time since someone called me a kid.” Jensen muttered to himself.

“Relax Roque. All test results point towards Alpha.”

“Like that means anything. Smart little shit like him could probably twist the results to whatever he wants them to say.”

“I doubt it.” Clay snorted to himself and went back to flipping through a thick file. “It's hard to trick the psych evals.”

“Yep.” Jensen added, popping the last letter. “Pretty hard to lie when the shrinks get into your brain.” He glanced up when Roque stood and staked over to where he sat, radiating Alpha in an attempt to make Jensen show his true nature.

“You wanna fight me?”

“Not particularly.”

“You wanna show me your belly?”

“Why, do you want to show me yours? Is that some sort of kinky thing? Cause I didn't sign on for that level of fucked up.” Cougar snorted softly and Pooch threw back his head and cackled. Even Clay cracked a smile. Roque rolled his eyes and thumped the top of Jake's head.

“You'd better pray you end up Alpha kid.”

“Yeah, cause ending up as someone's plaything is the best thing ever.” Jake snarled in return. “Beta doesn't mean you willingly submit, asshole.” He ignored the looks of surprise at his outburst and went back to watering his crops on Farmville.

“Please, explain to us what beta means, since you know all about it then.” Roque sneered.

“It means you have to be stronger, faster and smarter then every Alpha out there. Because if they get you on your back, if they claim you, that's it. I end up beta, I'll rip out my own throat before I'd let some asshole Alpha mate-mark me.” Cougar's eyebrows rose, and even Clay looked shocked at the outburst.

“It can't be that bad.” Pooch said after a couple of seconds.

“Ask your mate how much she likes being ordered around.” Jensen sneered. “How happy she is to wake up every morning and know that her will is really yours. That every thought in her head has to be run by you first.”

“I would never-”

“Yes you would. You just don't know you're doing it.” That stopped Pooch cold. “That's what it is to be Alpha.”

“Kids gotta point.” Roque pointed out, cleaning his teeth with one of his blades. “He's also feisty. I like that.” Jensen rolled his eyes and ignored the soft growl that Cougar gave.

“In case you morons didn't get the memo, I'm not beta.”

“Yet.” Roque muttered, grinning when Jensen flipped him off.