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Wolfbound

Chapter Text

-¤-

The day could have been like any other, just one more day full of various chores to keep their small farm going, but it wasn't any other day and Jensen sat bolt upright in bed the second he was awake.

It was the Day of Bonding.

Trying to calm himself, he took a few deep breaths before he flung his legs over the side of the bed and put his feet down on the slightly chilly floor. It was early autumn and while the days were still warm and comfortable, the nights were starting to get cold and Jensen winced slightly when he quickly stuck his feet into soft leather shoes before making his way out of the room he shared with his two siblings. The main room of the cottage was much warmer, a fire already burning in the fireplace, welcoming Jensen with warmth as he walked over to the sturdy table, sat down and reached for a loaf of warm bread.

"We're leaving soon, Jensen," his mother said as she put down a mug of fresh water in front of Jensen. "We don't want to be late for the Bonding Ceremony, after all."

Jensen could only nod, his mouth already full with bread but he couldn't agree more; there was no way he would miss the Bonding, not when this year was most likely his last with any chance of a wolf choosing him. Wolves could bond with people over the age of sixteen, but it was very unlikely and some people even stopped coming to the ceremony once they reached eighteen. Jensen couldn't imagine doing that, not even if he was never chosen; the Bonding Ceremony was much too important.

"Make sure you look your best. Who knows?" his mother said before walking towards his parents bedroom, most likely to put on her very best dress.

That had the bread catching in Jensen's throat and he had to take several deep gulps of water before he managed to get it free again. To say that he was worried would be a big understatement; being chosen to be a Wolfbound had been his highest dream since his very first Bonding Ceremony but there he was, sixteen just a few months ago, and it had never happened. Year after year he had seen people from his village, and the others surrounding Wolfhold, getting chosen by wolves but never anyone from his family.

"Who knows..." he mumbled to himself before finishing off his breakfast and making his way back towards the bedroom.

Josh was still asleep on his cot, back towards the room and Jensen hesitated before he walked over to his own bed and knelt down beside the chest where his clothing was neatly folded. There wasn't much inside it but Jensen carefully dug out his nicest clothes, smoothing his hands over the fabric to get rid of some of the wrinkles.

"Good luck."

The words surprised Jensen and he looked up to find Josh watching him, propped up on one shoulder and his hair mussed from sleep.

"You sure you won't come?" Jensen asked, standing up to pull on his tunic.

"I can't," Josh said. "It sucked to never get chosen. I'm okay with that...but I can't do it anymore."

"Watch others get chosen?" Jensen wondered, not really expecting that level of compassion from his big brother.

"No," Josh said and sat up, leaning his back against the wall. "Watch your face each time it isn't you."

Jensen sighed and stepped out of his sleeping pants, tossing them on the bed before pulling on the soft, black material of his best pants and adding his forest green tunic, the one his mother always said brought out his eyes. Neither of them spoke as Jensen fastened a belt around his waist and he pulled in a deep breath before he turned around to face his brother.

"I'm not that bad," he said even though he knew Josh was right. "And who knows...maybe this time will be different."

"I hope so," Josh said. "But I'm not coming..."

"I know," Jensen said, tugging at the hem of his tunic. "How do I look?"

Josh looked at him quietly for several long minutes before he pushed himself out of bed and walked over to where Jensen was standing and he smiled as he ran one hand through Jensen's hair, smoothing it down.

"You look like someone destined to be Wolfbound."

-¤-

Despite the long walk from his village, through the forest and then up the mountainside, Jensen didn't feel tired when he took his spot at the very front of the big mass of people gathered for the Bonding Ceremony. Just like him, all the other people were dressed in their finest clothing, soft materials that one seldom saw on the farms and small villages spread out around Wolf Peak. The sun was almost at it's highest and Jensen could feel the tension rise with each passing minute as the start of the ceremony drew closer.

Jensen couldn't stop himself from glancing up towards the mouth of the cave leading in to Wolfhold, taking in the two guards standing on either side of the cave opening. Even from the distance he could see the black wolf’s head embroidered on the front of their tunics and he longed for the day he himself would be dressed like that. He longed for the silver tunics of the Wolfbound instead of the simple clothes of his everyday life.

Suddenly the sound of a horn rang out loud and clear over the murmur of the gathered people and Jensen had to take a few deep breaths to calm himself down as his nerves set in. Nothing could help the flutter of nerves when he saw movement inside the dark of the cave though and he as well as the others gathered on the clearing all turned to look as a tall, muscular man stepped out. Even if each one of them hadn't known him by sight, the golden ring around the wolf head on his chest revealed just who he was.

"The Commander," he heard someone next to him mumble and he looked over to see a boy that he thought came from one of the villages down on the plains.

Jensen knew just who the man was, it wasn't the first time he had seen Jeffrey Morgan address the crowds and for years he had longed for the chance to speak to the man but he knew there was only one chance of that ever happening. While the rest of the Wolfbound usually were out in the villages and towns, taking care of everyday business, the Commander seldom left the confines of Wolfhold.

"We who have bonded our lives with the big wolves welcome you to this Day of Bonding."

The Commander's voice rang out loud over the silence of those gathered and Jensen knew that each man, woman and child would be able to hear the words he spoke.

"For a thousand years the Guild of the Wolf has ruled Lyaden, making it the strongest of countries. For five hundred years those of us that chose to live in the mountains have called Wolfhold our home, and we have made this area prosper!"

This was met by nods and smiles but no one broke the silence, all of them too eager for things to continue, for their Commander to speak further. Jensen had always been a proud child of the mountains, his small village tucked away between rock and forest and while it didn't make for the easiest of lives, the Commander was right and the area did prosper. And Jensen longed to be a part of the force that made it all possible.

"I'm proud to be the Commander of Wolfhold, proud to be standing here with Zane at my side."

He reached down to rest one hand on the wolf's big head and his wolf, Zane, tilted his head into the touch and Jensen was sure the two of them communicated with each other, the telepathic link that only those bonded to a wolf would ever possess.

"And now the time has come to add to our fold," Commander Morgan continued, stepping forward and looking down to where Jensen and the other youths were waiting. "Some of you stand before me for the first time, some for the last. Each one of you standing in front of me are willing to do what is best for Lyaden, to bind yourself to the great dire wolves until two are one. It's a sacrifice as well as a gift, a bond that even death can't break. But the choice is not mine, the choice will always belong to our four-footed brothers and sisters. Are you prepared to meet them and let them make their choice?"

"We're prepared," Jensen answered with the rest of those gathered around him.

A smile stretched the Commanders lips, softening his features even as it showed off the sharpness of his teeth, so much like the wolf's he had bonded himself to.

"Bring forth those searching for a bond!"

Every face turned towards the mouth of the cave and Jensen felt his heart beat faster when he saw the big wolves stepping out, their Wolfbound by their side and Jensen watched as they filed out onto the open area in front of the caves, lining up side by side before they as well turned to face the cave. Jensen was surprised when he saw the number of pups that came out hesitantly, twenty of them, more than he had ever seen at any previous Day of Bonding.

"Baly, make your choice!"

Zane turned his head towards the group of pups and Jensen wondered if he was repeating his Bonded's words to the pups as one of them broke free of the others, a chocolate brown bundle of fur that moved towards the youths and Jensen wasn't the only one kneeling down in anticipation and in respect.

He pushed away the hurt when the beautiful little wolf walked past him but he was sure his emotions were clearly visible on his face as the pup suddenly stopped, his tail waving back and forth so hard that Jensen almost expected him to fall over before he launched himself at a boy at least two years younger than Jensen and Jensen had to look away as the boy wrapped his arms around the pup and stood up, pulling in a deep breath before he slowly walked over to where the Commander and Zane were standing, watching.

"What is your name, son?" Commander Morgan asked.

"Jeremy," the boy answered, voice full of wonder.

"Welcome to the Guild of the Wolf, Jeremy. You and Baly may now join the ranks of the Wolfbound."

Jensen's heart fell for each time the procedure was repeated, each time a pup walked past him and threw itself at a boy or girl and the pair then was welcomed by the Commander. By the time only one wolf pup remained Jensen had given up and when he looked around he saw tears on several faces even though he refused to let his own fall. The last of the pups was snowy white with one lone spot of black on the chest and Jensen found it gorgeous, but his last hope shattered when Commander Morgan spoke again.

"Waya, make your choice!"

The last of the wolf pups was female and Jensen saw the girls gathered smile and lean forward slightly as several of the boys lowered their heads in resignation. He had heard rumors that female wolves could bond with male humans, that there had been Wolfbound like that in the Citadel at the very heart of Lyaden but it had never happened at Wolfhold and even the whispers about it were remnants of a time long past. But he couldn't look away as the white bundle of fur made her way closer, her eyes an unusual icy blue and Jensen longed to reach out and touch her soft-looking coat.

Never would he imagined what happened next, and from the surprised gasps around him he was sure he wasn't the only one but there was no doubt in the way Waya suddenly stopped and then let out a happy yip before she ran straight for Jensen. He didn't even stop to consider it before he wrapped his arms around her and lifted her up, burying his face in her warm fur and he laughed when a wet tongue lapped at his face.

The weight of people watching him was heavy, but with Waya in his arms Jensen stood up and took a few steps closer to the Commander, ignoring the whispers that rose in volume for each step he took.

"Well, this is highly unusual," the Commander said, making ice form in Jensen's belly. "This must mean you're very special. What is your name, son?"

"I'm Jensen."

"Welcome to the Guild of the Wolf, Jensen," the Commander said, a smile tugging at his lips and Jensen found himself relax. "You and Waya may now join the ranks of the Wolfbound."

Chapter Text

-¤-

Jensen was trembling as he slowly followed the Commander up the hill leading from the field to the mouth of the cave, walking by the stream that had its beginning somewhere inside the caverns of Wolfhold. Waya was a comforting weight in his arms, the pup still refusing to be let down even though it had been long since she had first thrown herself at him.

Hours had passed since the Commander had welcomed him and the others to the Guild but Jensen's mind still hadn't wrapped itself around everything that had happened, not even after the feast that had been held nor after the tear-filled goodbye with his parents. It didn't feel real that he had left his childhood home for good, that he wouldn't be coming back there for more than to gather his belongings and a few visits once he was settled in Wolfhold.

Stepping into the dark of Wolfhold his world was narrowed down to the sound of running water to his right and the feel of Waya shifting slightly in his arms. He could see the barely-there shadow of the Commander in front of him but he didn't know what to expect; all he knew that was from this day forward, Wolfhold would be his home. The cave turned a sharp left, the path beside the stream narrowing down for a moment only to grow wide once more as stone floor gave way to soft sand. Jensen found himself frozen in place with the other teens lined up beside him, each of them with their wolf in their arms and each of them staring slack-jawed at the sight in front of them.

The cave opened up in front of them, wider than Jensen would ever have expected it, high ceiling cloaked in shadow while the better part of the cave was bathed in flickering light from several big fires as well as torches spread out around the big open area and soft rugs were spread out between the fires, creating inviting places. Jensen could only look around in awe.

"It looks so...cozy..." a girl said somewhere behind him and Jensen had to agree.

He wasn't sure what he had expected of the inside of Wolfhold but it sure wasn't what was presented in front of him.

"Welcome to your new home," the Commander said, stepping up in front of them and Jensen knew he wasn't the only one gasping in shock as they saw the man.

"You look human," Jensen managed to get out, the only one speaking aloud while the rest mumbled quietly around him.

It was mostly true because while the Commander's ears remained pointed and his eyes had a gleam that no human would ever have, his claws were gone and his teeth weren't the sharp ones of an animal.

"This is one of the lesser known facts about us," Commander Jeff said, surprising them all with his smile. "The claws and the teeth you can choose when to show off and here, in Wolfhold as well as the area surrounding it you are free to hide those traits once they appear. It will take years for your wolf characteristics to fully develop so it's not really an issue yet. Just be careful with showing people outside of the Guild, the legend of our feral abilities is part of why we are as strong as we are and we want to keep it like that, after all.

Jensen looked down at the pup resting in his arms, the content way her tail lazily moved back and forth as well as the way he thought he could already feel her, right there at the edges of his mind. He couldn't wait until his body started showing the obvious proof of the bond that was slowly forming between them.

"The things you will never be able to change are the ears and eyes - once the bond is fully formed, those will always be a proof of what you are. Something I know you all will wear with pride to show your status as Wolfbound."

There was no doubt that Jensen would be proud, he already was proud of the tentative bond between himself and Waya and he couldn't imagine a time when he wouldn't be. The white wolf in his arms would be his family far beyond what the rest of the Order would ever be, she would be in his mind, her emotions tangled with his until the were one soul in two bodies and although he knew that some people feared that bond, to Jensen it was the most desirable thing in the world.

"It is time to solidify that bond," the Commander said and at those words his appearance changed back to what it had been outside, his claws growing and Jensen shivered as he saw the razor sharp edges of the man's smile. "Who will be the first one to step up?"

Jensen didn't know what would happen, he just knew that he was part of a ceremony that had been in place for a thousand years but as the youths around him hesitated, he took a deep breath and stepped forward, kneeling down in front of the Commander.

"Jensen Ackles," the Commander said, leaning down to lift the small wolf pup from Jensen's grip, shushing him when Jensen couldn't hold back a low noise of protest. "It's all right, son, you'll be getting your bonded one back soon. Hold out your hand."

Despite the hesitation making the movements slow, Jensen knew an order when he heard it and he reached out his right hand, palm up for the Commander, almost pulling it back when the man pulled his dagger free from the sheath but before Jensen had time to react the blade had cut through the meaty part of his palm and Jensen hissed at the sudden pain, Waya whining in the Commander's arms. Zane took a step forward, dragging his tongue over Waya's head and Jensen was sure it was meant to be soothing but he couldn't really understand why until the Commander ran the blade over the underside of the pup's front leg, drawing blood.

"No!" Jensen cried out. "Don't hurt her!"

To his surprise the Commander smiled at him, a sharp flash of teeth that would have been terrifying if not for the warmth in the man's eyes.

"Already her pain hurts you," the Commander said and Jensen knew it was true, could feel the place on his arm that mirrored the place where Waya was bleeding. "With this mixing of blood, the two of you will be forever bound together, in life as well as death. She will be you, as you will be her and your body will change to become that of a Wolfbound. Do you accept this life?"

"I accept it," Jensen said, wrapping his fingers around Waya's leg with his own wound against hers and he was sure he could feel her blood in his veins, tying them together.

-¤-

Jensen looked around the big cave they had been taken to, the roof curving high above them and beds lining the walls. Waya and the other wolf pups were roaming around the area, sniffing around the place that would be their home for the coming year, until new wolf pups were ready to choose their humans. There were more beds than bonded ones and Jensen figured that once the Wolfbound had been more, maybe before more people searched their way to the Citadel instead of staying in the outer caves. Jensen couldn't imagine it, he had lived in the shadow of Wolf Peak his entire life and it was where he wanted to be. After years of hoping, he now had his wolf, the bond already forming strong between them, but he was a product of the woods and fields, a child of the lands, and he would never want to make his wolf live in a town. It just wasn't right, it wasn't how wolves were supposed to live and even though Jensen was still human, he knew he would become something else, something more.

"Female wolves don't bond with boys."

He wasn't sure if it was meant to be a whisper, but he somehow doubted it. The other boy had clearly meant for Jensen to hear it and when he looked over his shoulder he saw a group of four other teens in different ages standing close together, looking over at him.

"They do," Jensen protested even though he knew that such a bonding was rare enough that no one in Wolfhold would ever have seen it happened

Waya could obviously feel his distress and she walked over to press herself against his legs, baring sharp little teeth at the boy that had spoken against them. Maybe he shouldn't be surprised, not when the connection was already forming, her blood on his veins and his in hers and of course she would feel the sudden tension radiating off him. He didn't like anyone talking about his bond as something bad, not when it was all he had dreamt of for years. And even if no one truly knew what to expect of a bonding like his, he hated anyone putting down what was forming between him and Waya.

"Can't imagine a little bitch like you being useful around here," the boy sneered and his gaze locked on Jensen, making it obvious just whom he considered to be a bitch.

Before anyone had time to say something, Waya let out an angry little growl, something that would have been scary if she had been fully grown and not a little ball of fur. However, the sound was drowned out by a growl that was loud enough that Jensen thought the walls would shake, no matter that they were made of solid stone, and everyone in the cave spun around to look to the door where the Commander was standing, Zane by his side and it was the great wolf that had let out the ear-splitting roar.

"There will be nothing of talk like that," the Commander said, voice cold and steely as he took in the people in the room. "The wolf chooses their human and no one, much less a fellow Wolfbound, will ever speak ill of such a bond. You will do good to remember that everyone in Wolfhold is family; we are as one, bonded by blood and loyalty and any breach against that will lead to punishment. Understood?"

Everyone nodded and Jensen thought that the boys who had spoken up against him were likely to pass out considering how pale they suddenly looked.

"You two, kitchen duty tomorrow. I am sure we will have a lot of pots and pans for you to scrub. Potatoes to peel. I'm sure you will not enjoy it," the Commander said and both boys nodded so rapidly that it looked almost painful. "As for the rest of you, take this first week to bond with your wolves because come next full moon, your training will begin."

-¤-

Standing lined up with the others, Jensen shifted nervously from one feet to the other and he knew he wasn't the only one, could see fidgeting in humans as well as wolves. In front of them several veteran members of the Guild stood with their wolves right next to them and each one of them radiated power and careful control. Jensen knew that they would be the people training them, the best teachers that Wolfhold had to offer and he really wanted to learn from them. He wanted the power and the strength and he wanted the kind of bond that even in stillness was so obvious between the wolves and the Wolfbound.

"It's time to start your training."

Jensen and all the boys and girls surrounding him jumped and looked over to the entrance to the Pup area where the Commander was standing, Zane ever-present by his side. They had all been much too focused on the members of the Guild lined up in front of them to hear the Commander approaching but he could feel the amusement radiating off Waya, letting him know that she had heard him approach.

Could have told me, he shot off to her but he got nothing but a wolfish grin in reply.

"I am not sure how much each one of you have figured out about the inner workings of the Guild," Commander Jeff said as he walked closer. "But I think you all know that we are warriors. That is how we started, all those years ago. We were then, and are now, the strongest army there is and just because we have been blessed with peace, that's not something we are allowed to forget."

A shiver of pure excitement ran through Jensen and he could feel his fingers itch with the anticipation of what lay ahead of him, a need to touch the weapons waiting for them.

"Each of you will need to learn several different weapons as well as hand-to-hand combat," the Commander continued "Once your wolves start to talk to you, the two of you need to become one unit. Work together and you will be close to unstoppable. That said, I do hope that you each choose one weapon as your weapon and remember, the choice you make might impact what your chores around the Hold will be."

Jensen looked back over the weapons and even though there were a lot of them he had never tried before, and some he had a little bit of experience in from home, there was one that got his attention like nothing else and he could feel Waya's approval as a soothing touch in the back of his mind. The bow was nothing fancy and he was sure that most of the group would gravitate towards the shiny swords and daggers or even the throwing-knives but there was something about it that drew him in. Maybe it was the smooth curve of the wood, the soft feathers of the arrows in the quiver next to it. He wasn't sure, but it was something there that called to him and he knew just which weapon he would learn to master to perfection.

-¤-

The bow fell from Jensen's hand and he winced at the thump it made as it hit the ground. Not for the first time did he second guess his choice of weapon but there was no way he could give up now. Not when it had been a month, and not when he was all too aware of several people tracking his every moment and he knew he wasn't imagining them judging him.

"Careful!"

In the month that had passed since their first training session it wasn't the first time that Stephen had scolded him and Jensen felt his cheek flush red. He knelt down to take up the bow, stroking careful fingers over the smooth wood to make sure the fall hadn't hurt it and then he plucked at the string to check it as well, suddenly worried about the damage he might have caused and breathing a sigh of relief when he found everything as it should be.

"That weapon will be a part of you and by extension a part of Waya as well and you should treat it accordingly," Stephen said sternly.

"I know," Jensen sighed. "It's just....I know. I'm sorry."

He could feel Stephen's gaze on his back, pressing against his shoulder blades but he forced himself to not move away and hide like a part of him wanted to. Instead he turned to look at where Waya was half-asleep in the corner, a few feet over from Stephen's wolf Tay. Even in her half dozing state he could feel her in the back of his mind.

"How about we go outside and practice?" Stephen asked, surprising Jensen and making Waya's head lift up off her paws.

Jensen nodded and he tried to not look over to the other boys and girls training in the big cave that was designated for the pups and their bonded. It wasn't often he got a chance to get away from all the others and even if it was a way for Stephen to scold him further, Jensen couldn't find it in himself to care. Tay and Waya got up and followed them as Stephen lead them through the long tunnel leading to the common area and the man grabbed two water skins before they made their way outside, the sounds of the trickling stream overpowering the chirping birds when they first stepped out of the cave but once they walked deeper into the woods the nature sounds soon took over.

Neither of them spoke as they walked, at least not out loud but Jensen could tell from Tay's body language that he and Stephen were talking over their bond. Waya on the other hand was nothing but a silent excitement in Jensen's mind, almost skipping down the path in front of them and more than once she was distracted by butterflies or bugs.

"Your problem isn't really with the bow," Stephen said when they were quite a bit into the forest and he took a smaller path, leading them through the thick undergrowth.

"Could have fooled me," Jensen muttered.

Stephen stopped and looked back over his shoulder at Jensen, a smirk tugging at his lips and Jensen thought that even Tay was laughing at him.

"You're a bit cockier with away from your friends," Stephen said. "I like that."

Jensen really wanted to protest the term friend because while he might spend most of his time with or around the other bonded of his year, not a single one of them was close enough that he would ever consider them friend. He had stopped vying for friends after the first few weeks and even though the outright mocking had faded away he still heard the whispers behind his back.

"Your problem is that you are always aware of the others around you," Stephen continued, turning back and continuing walking. "I think you're a natural with the bow, but your nerves keep getting the better off you. I know everyone wants to impress their friends and..."

He didn't have to say anything, not when Waya who had abandoned her chasing of butterflies let out an angry little growl at those words and pressed herself up against Jensen's leg. Stephen looked from her to Tay and once more Jensen was sure that they were communicating but for the first time he realized that Waya and Tay could talk and he couldn't really stop the jealousy that flared through him at the thought of Stephen getting Waya's thoughts told to him through the wolves.

"Waya says they aren't friends," he said, sounding slightly surprised. "I guess the bullying hasn't stopped then?"

"Only when people are around," Jensen answered bitterly, upset by the words as well as the fact that Waya couldn't talk with him yet.

Sensing his discomfort Waya walked closer to him, her nose pushing against his hands as they walked and he was focused on her so much that he almost crashed into Stephen and Tay when they suddenly stopped.

"I think I know how to stop that," Stephen said. "Give them something different to talk about. Use that bow in your hand to force them to respect you. And Jensen, Waya says she longs for the day she can speak to you as well."

Jensen felt heat rise on his cheeks at those words and he smiled down at the wolf by his side, feeling her warm presence against his hand as well as in his mind. Not until Stephen cleared his throat did Jensen look up and when he looked around he realized that they had just where the path opened up into a clearing. It was almost perfectly circular but the hard-packed dirt told Jensen that it might not all be natural. The target boards lined up on the far side of the clearing quickly caught his attention.

"This is where I practice," Stephen explained. "I and the others with ranged weapons but since most others of your year chose close combat I think this place will mostly stay abandoned until after the next Day of Bonding."

Jensen walked round the clearing, the dry dirt making dust swirl up from beneath his feet and he could feel Stephen as well as the two wolves watching him, but Stephen remained silent, the wolves laying down side by side but not taking their eyes off him. Only when he was back where he started did he remove the bow from where he had carried it on his back, string across his chest. He reached back for an arrow out of his quiver, running his fingers over the smooth wood for a moment before he put it against the string. Even with his fingers still aching and feeling rough against the bow and string, this time he had no problems keeping his aim steady.

"That's more like it," Stephen said when the arrow slammed into the target board, barely an inch from the very center. "I think we can make an archer of you yet."

 

- One year later -

Jensen stared at himself in the mirror, taking in the feral sheen of his eyes, something that hadn't been there before and when he raised one hand to his face he stopped with the hand in front of him, staring at the claws that had made his fingertips itch for days. It took all his self control to make the claws disappear, leaving only his own human looking nails and he wondered just what it would feel like the day his teeth fully developed, something that Stephen and Allie claimed should happen soon. It was a weird change to feel, for as much as he always felt Waya in his mind, her emotions always tangled with his, it was another thing entirely to see his own body changing each day.

For all the good words that the Commander said about family, about respect, Jensen had been fighting tooth and nail to earn the respect of the other wolves and their bonded ones, and while the wolves were accepting he could still sometimes sense hesitation from the bonded boys and girls. But at least now it was laced with respect and sometimes a fearful awe.

Food?"

The word cut through his thoughts and he looked over to see Waya stand by the door to their little cave, the room that he had claimed as his own once the first year of training had ended one week earlier. While most people didn't want to live in the furthest depths of the caves, Jensen loved it and he had felt Waya's approval like a soft touch at the back of his mind. He just longed for the time when their mental bond would stretch further than just a few words every now and then. Feeling emotions was one thing, but Jensen wanted to be able to truly talk to his wolf.

"Good idea," Jensen said, reaching for his belt and fastening it around his hips, making sure that the dagger was firmly in place before he pushed the door open. "Want to go out into the woods later?"

Waya gave a small nod and he could feel her eagerness sizzling over the bond, her tail swiping back and forth a few times as they made their way through winding tunnels and up a few slopes before they found themselves entering the big main cave and Jensen was met with the wonderful smell of several big pots bubbling merrily over the open fires.

"Over here, Jensen!"

He turned around to see a woman kneeling beside one of the cooking fires, her big grey wolf half asleep by her side even though she did stir when Jensen and Waya walked closer.

"How are you settling in?" the woman asked as Jensen sat down on one of the small rugs that were spread throughout the cave.

"Thank you, Allie," Jensen said with a little smile when she handed him a small bowl full of soup that was almost thick enough to be a stew. "I'm...it's weird. It feels more real now."

Allie laughed softly at that and Jensen watched as she put down a bowl for Waya as well as one for her own wolf, Lindy, before settling down next to Jensen.

"One year wasn't enough to make it real before this?" she smiled, grabbing a loaf of freshly baked bread and tearing it in two, handing Jensen one half.

"I feel like it was a trial, " Jensen answered, pulling his legs up until he sat cross-legged, bread balancing on his knee. "Like maybe you would kick me out if..."

He swallowed down the words he had been about to say, dipping his wooden spoon into the soup and focusing down on the food instead of all the fears and worries he had battled with since the day he had arrived at Wolfhold.

"The moment that wolf of yours had made her decision, you were a part of the Guild," Allie said, shifting around when Lindy lay down behind her, presenting herself as a rest for her bonded. "Just because they don't understand you doesn't mean something's wrong with you"

"They only respect me because they fear me" Jensen said with a small shrug but he was unable to keep the pride out of his voice.

He knew he was good with the bow he had picked up that very first day of training, hours upon hours spent until his fingertips were bleeding from the times he had gripped the string and pulled it back and even the brush of the feather fletching had been enough to make him hiss with pain. In the end it was all worth it though and he couldn't regret it. Not when the bow was an extension of his own arm and not when his bow combined with Waya's speed and tracking skills were the reason they were earning the respect they did within the Hold.

"Maybe it's more than fear," Allie suggested, idly running her fingers through Lindy's fur.

"Maybe it will be," Jensen nodded. "The Commander says he'll let me join the hunting teams soon. At least then I can be of use. Then I can make Stephen proud of me, he spent so much time training me..."

"Stephen is proud of you," Allie said firmly. "And when he comes back from his days visiting the villages I'll make him tell you that himself."

Jensen couldn't hold back a smile at that, not doubting that Allie would do just that but neither of them said anything more and they fell into a comfortable silence, the two of them used to their little company of four even though it felt weird to not have Stephen and Tay there. Jensen had never expected to form friendships inside the hold, but then, maybe it wasn't so strange that he had formed a friendship with his mentor's mate. He sat there, empty bowl on his lap and even though he could feel eyes on him, could imagine the whispers right out of earshot, he forced himself to not care about it. Instead he reached out to Waya in his mind, tangling their thoughts and emotions together and she was a soothing touch in his mind.

We'll be the best Bonded they have ever seen, he told her and even though she couldn't fully respond to him yet, he could feel the reassurance of her thoughts.

-¤-

Chapter Text

- Jared interlude -

The Citadel was bursting with life, people, wolves and sounds everywhere and yet Jared had never felt more bored than he did sitting perched on a balcony railing high over the courtyard that made up the heart of the main building. He wasn't sure when life at the Citadel had stopped being everything he had dreamt of and instead become a chore, it hadn't been a turning point, more of a gradual slide.

We're never gonna find mates here.

Rafe's words cut through Jared's thoughts and he looked down at the huge dire wolf by his side, fur glossy black and teeth sharp but the voice in his mind sounded as bored as Jared felt.

Not everything is about mating, Jared pointed out, crossing his arms over his chest as he looked down to where dire wolves and humans were spread out on the courtyard far below them.

He felt the same pull as Rafe did however, the need for something else, for someone else to be there with them and he couldn't deny what his companion was saying either; they both knew that they wouldn't mate with any of the bonded pairs that called the Citadel their home. The first years he had looking for someone, even more so once he and Rafe fully matured and he popped his knot for the first time. No matter what Rafe said, not all was about mating, but the instinct to search was still there and Jared knew it was time for them to move away from the Citadel. Rafe moved up in sitting position, his height allowing him to rest his head on Jared's thigh and the two of them sat looking down in silence for several , long minutes. But the Citadel was never really silent and despite how high they were they could easily hear the low mumbles of conversation rising up to their secluded spot.

No, Rafe agreed. But I still want it, and you do as well. It's in our blood.

Jared knew the dire wolf was right, Jared had been blessed with being chosen by one of the now biggest wolves in the Citadel, but that also meant that Rafe's alpha male tendencies ran in Jared's blood as well and he wanted it just as much as Rafe did. The problem for him was that while Rafe wanted to sire pups, Jared himself had no longing for children, no matter how unnatural some might think that made him. With a sigh that was as much an agreement to Rafe's words as it was a protest against the life in the Citadel, Jared got down off the railing and he and Rafe made their way inside the Citadel. Following steep stairways and long corridors they walked until they reached down into the belly of the vast stone building, the place where a lot of the training had taken place before they outgrew the high ceiling stone rooms and instead built new training grounds outside. Neither of the spoke a word on their way down, not that they really needed to with how entangled their minds had become over the fifteen years that had passed since Rafe had first chosen Jared to be the human he bonded with.

"Want to train with me?" Jared asked, speaking aloud now that he knew that there would be no one in the abandoned rooms that could overhear what he said.

Of course, Rafe said, grinning when Jared walked through the first room and into the second one, a place where the two of them had devised their own ways of becoming the feared unit they had been for years.

Inside that room several small black and white bags of sand hung down from the ceiling in different heights and Jared walked in to the middle of them, feeling several of them bump against him as he walked but right in the middle it was an opening for him to stand. Rafe moved under the bags, even the lowest ones too high to brush against his back and Jared smiled down at his companion before reaching down into his pocket to get out a dark strip of fabric.

"White ones?" he asked, tying the blindfold over his eyes blocking out the world around him.

You always go for the white ones, Rafe answered and Jared could hear the amusement in his voice.

"It's a good colour," Jared said with a shrug before reaching for his swords where they were strapped across his back..

The weight of the two swords were familiar in his hands, a part of him almost as much as Rafe's claws and sharp teeth were a part of him. Without really thinking about it Jared let his own claws come out, gripping the swords tightly and he took several deep breaths to make sure he was relaxed enough for the exercise that lay ahead of them.

See through me.

Jared could feel Rafe twining around him, not in body but their thoughts tangled so closely together until Jared was sure that he saw what Rafe saw and he took a deep breath before he lifted the swords and started moving between the sandbags. He could feel them hitting against his shoulders as he let the swords cut through the air and he heard the thumps of bags hitting the floor as he cut off rope after rope. Rafe didn't say anything, he didn't need to, not when they were as close as they were in that moment and Jared loved the feeling of the wolf beside him, the wolf within him.

You're relaxing in to it, Rafe commented and Jared could hear him moving around even though he wasn't sure he was hearing through his own ears or through Rafe's.

This is how things should be, Jared answered silently.

The swords felt like they were a part of Jared, almost as much as Rafe was, and the sound of them cleaving air and string made Jared feel much calmer than he had all day, the drama and disputes of the Citadel court fading away with each step he took.

If only people in this place could care more about training, Rafe growled, guiding Jared's sight. If they did, maybe this training would actually lead somewhere.

Rafe! Jared scolded even though he agreed with his bonded wolf.

When he removed his blindfold Jared smiled as he took in the white bags spread out across the floor and his smile grew wider when he saw only three black among them, the rest still on their strings. It was improvement from the last time they had done that exercise. They worked hours each day, improving themselves and struggling to make their bond go beyond that of any other wolves at the court, but while Jared had heard that the outer caves valued fighting skills and hunting, the Citadel was a world at peace and it was more politics than fighting. Jared longed for the day they would be more than a glorified castle guard.

-¤-

"You're not happy here."

It was a statement, not a question and Jared saw no need to deny it, knowing full well he couldn't do so without telling a lie. Neither he nor Rafe had been able to hide their discomfort for quite some time now but Jared hadn't really expected for anyone to call him on it.

"I think city life might not be what we want anymore," Jared admitted, resting one hand on top of Rafe's head.

It wasn't often that Jared got to meet the High Commander, the closest thing to a king that their country had, and it felt weird to be sitting across from him with complaints lingering on his tongue. Even sitting down the High Commander was big enough to even make Jared feel small and his russet colored wolf Cole was big enough to suit his bonded. A part of Jared wanted to squirm away from the man's firm steel-gray gaze but he forced himself to stay in place, balanced by Rafe sitting by his side.

"Not all are cut out for life in the Citadel," the High Commander said with a nod. "You can go to one of the outer towns or caves, but as of right now there are no high ranking positions to be filled. Or any ranking positions at all if truth be told."

For all that he wanted a change of scenery Jared didn't want to start over from scratch once more. He and Rafe had worked too hard for too long to willingly give it all up, it had taken them years to climb the ladder of hierarchy in the Citadel and Jared didn't want to lose what standing they had.

"I..." Jared started but before he could get further the High Commander continued talking.

"And you're not ready for a top position, not yet."

"I know," Jared agreed.

Not yet, Rafe said and Jared couldn't stop himself from standing up straighter and he looked the High Commander right in the eyes as he echoed Rafe's words.

"Not yet."

To his surprise the High Commander threw his head back and laughed at the same time as Cole huffed out a sound that Jared knew was the wolf version of a laugh, and Rafe's thought had an amused edge to them as well.

"That's just the spirit I was looking for," the High Commander said, surprising both Jared and Rafe who looked between each other and then up at the man who held their future in his hands. "It's the spirit that has gotten you this far, so very different from the orphan boy who first arrived here."

Jared nodded and thought back to that magical day when he had stood with the other kids, hoping that one of the wolf pups would chose him, that he would get a ticket away from the orphanage where he had grown up. But never had he imagined being chosen by someone like Rafe, someone with a will strong enough to make them both rise high above what anyone had expected of them.

That's not only my strength, Rafe pointed out dryly. We wolves chose someone that fits us, someone with the same spirit as ours. You know we're one, always have been, even before I found you.

Jared allowed Rafe's trust in him and the wolves never ending strength to tangle with his own, not quite able to tell their emotions apart any longer.

"The Captain of Wolfhold has asked to be moved to another town or cave if he doesn't find a mate within Wolfhold in the next two years," the High Commander said suddenly, making Jared snap back from the thoughts of his and Rafe's first meeting.

"What?" he blurted out before he was really able to stop himself.

"Two years," the man said, him and Cole standing up at the same time. "Play your cards right and there might be a place for you there."

Chapter Text

- Two years later -

The bow was a comfortable weight in his hand, he'd spent so much time with it that it felt like a part of him and the quiver rested easy on his back. In the years since he had first picked up the bow the forest at the base of the mountain had become his home just as much as the caves themselves.

Ready? he asked Waya, keeping his mental voice low even though he knew it wouldn't be able to disturb the things they were hunting.

Always, she answered, her voice calm and sure in the back of his mind.

The two of them together made up the most prominent hunting unit in the Hold, Waya's speed and sensitive nose perfectly matched by Jensen's agility and sure aim and he knew that technically they spent too much time out in the forest but as long as no one tried to stop them, he planned to keep it like that.

Now! he called out in his head and the next moment Waya was in motion.

Big, fat birds left the big bushes where they had been hiding, Jensen's arrows flying through the air at the same time as Waya jumped high and even from the distance Jensen could hear the sound of her jaws breaking bones. She landed on the ground with a loud thump, followed by several softer ones as the birds that Jensen's arrows hit fell to the ground as well. He was reaching for one more arrow but he stopped in his motion, realizing that the remaining birds were too far away for even him to be able to hit them and he didn't like wasting arrows.

How many was that? Waya asked as she came walking back to him, dead bird in her jaws.

"Six for me, one for you," Jensen answered out loud now that the forest knew of their presence.

Can we grab a few bunnies on the way back? Waya asked, grinning around her prey and tail wagging back and forth.

Jensen smiled at his companion, for all that she was careful to act dignified when in the confines of Wolfhold, when it was just the two of them she retained most of her pup-like behavior.

"We can do that," Jensen agreed. "I could go for some rabbit stew."

He didn't used to like rabbit, but as with everything else in his life, his tastes had changed the more he and Waya bonded together and the mere thought of rabbit was enough to make his mouth water. In his mind he could feel Waya's hunger as well, tangling with his own and at times it was hard to say where she ended and he began. Waya turned to guide his way to where the birds had fallen and Jensen followed her, retrieving his arrows and cleaning them up before he gathered the birds together, tying a rope around their legs to easier carry them and together they made their way back towards the caves.

Jensen was humming low under his breath as they made their way back, Waya still carrying the bird she had taken down and a part of Jensen wanted to remain just where they were, away from the responsibilities of the Hold but it wasn't an option, not when he had been sent out to hunt for the feast that would take place that very evening. A feast to welcome a new Captain to serve under the Commander, someone sent straight from the Citadel and Jensen knew he wasn't the only one eager to see just who it would be.

"I wonder how he will be," he thought out loud.

I wouldn't know, Waya answered, as always in tune with his thoughts I am looking forward to a new wolf however, the ones we have are just...

She drifted off into silence but Jensen knew what she was talking about. It was a well known fact, and source for much discussion, that neither Waya nor Jensen had shown affection to anyone in Wolfhold and Jensen thought new blood might be good. He had even heard whispers in the common area that the new Captain might be bringing a few Wolfbound with him from the city, fresh blood beyond that of the new teenagers that had been chosen the month before.

"You do realize what people are expecting?" Jensen asked, looking down at Waya.

For one of us to show preference, Waya said with a huff. Their obsession with our mating habits are quite...uncomfortable.

Jensen laughed but he couldn't really deny it, even though he was used to the gossip it really was something he could live without. Even so, he wanted to have what the other Wolfbound of his age had; companionship beyond that of their wolves. While his body had changed in almost all the ways of a Wolfbound, he had yet to develop the knot that the other males his age had. Or males under his age for that matter. He knew that there were more than one person in the Hold that wondered if maybe something was wrong with Jensen considering he had mated with a female wolf, and his changes didn't mirror those of his fellow Wolfbound.

There's nothing wrong with you, Waya said firmly, cutting off Jensen's thoughts. Not with me either. Things will happen when they happen. Until then...

She didn't say anything more before she took off running and Jensen didn't even stop to think about it before he followed her, arrow already in hand and when her presence stirred the first rabbits his arrows were in motion, taking down three animals quickly while Waya made fast work of another one. Jensen pushed away all his thoughts and worries, instead focusing on hunting with Waya and they managed to get another two rabbits before they got back to the caves. The forest was full of life, the nature blessed and Jensen knew that people said it was because of the Guild of the Wolf, that their bond with their wolves in turn was a bond with Mother Nature. He didn't really think that was the case, not when they were more about hunting and training to fight than communing with nature but on the other hand, they did seem to be blessed at times.

-¤-

Walking through the tunnels of Wolfhold with Waya at his side, Jensen wasn't immune to the looks he got but he refused to let people see how much it got to him. No one really said anything to his face, Commander Jeffrey had more than once shown what he thought of the mumbling words and whispers the few times they had reached him. But Wolfhold was a big place and the Commander couldn't be there at all times.

"Hi girls."

Jensen straightened his back and ignored Jeremy's words, the boy had seldom passed on a chance to mock Jensen in the three years since the two of them had arrived at Wolfhold.

I still think I should be allowed to bite him, Waya growled in the back of his mind.

Didn't you accidentally bite Baly's tail last week?" Jensen asked, taking a left turn to get away from Jeremy and Baly.

Yes. Accidentally.

Despite the hurt of words and looks, Jensen couldn't help but smile down at Waya. No matter what happened he always had Waya there to back him up and with her on his side, he could do anything. He walked up the slope leading to the next level of caves and he was grateful that he didn't meet anyone else before he came up to the door leading to Stephen and Allie's home. It wasn't really a surprise when the door opened before he had a chance to knock at it, the wolves had a tendency to tell their bonded whenever someone was approaching after all.

"Jensen, Waya, come in," Stephen said, swinging the door open and letting them inside.

Waya beelined for the corner where Lindy and Tay were wrapped around each other and the two wolves welcomed her to lay down next to them. Sometimes Jensen forgot that the fact that he hadn't met someone meant that Waya hadn't and it was obvious that she needed the closeness of other wolves.

"Something's up?" Stephen asked, returning to the small table in the corner where his bow and strings lay spread out.

Allie was sitting on the bed, papers spread out around her and Jensen wondered if maybe she was drawing up the plan for the evening's feast, he and the others in the Hold knew that it was only a matter of time until Allie took over as head of the kitchen.

"Thanks for the rabbits," Allie said with a flash of a smile before she bent her neck back down to the papers.

"You're welcome," Jensen said and he could feel a nudge of pride from Waya.

"Well?" Stephen said, reaching for wax to take care of his bowstrings.

Jensen's own hands was itching for own bow that hung on his wall, strings carefully stored away and he could see how much ease it brought to Stephen to sit and care for his bow.

"It's nothing," Jensen said with a shrug, sitting down at the free chair. "Just Jeremy, agai.n"

And Baly, Waya added.

"I can talk to Commander Jeffrey about it," Stephen offered, not for the first time.

"No," Jensen said, shaking his head. "I can solve my own issues, it's not... I managed so far, haven't I?"

"You have," Stephen agreed.

In a way it was still surreal for Jensen that the mentor that had taken Jensen under his wing had turned out to be his best friend, something he had never expected when he had been sixteen and scared to do wrong in front of the other bonded. Three years down the road and Jensen wasn't the scared little boy anymore, but he also wasn't fully a part of Wolfhold even though he wanted to be and even though he really thought he had earned it.

"I had just thought that my hunting would be enough," Jensen said.

"They respect you," Stephen pointed out.

"No," Jensen denied. "They fear me because they know I'm better than them but I'm still not..."

A blush crept up his cheeks and he looked over to Allie but she was really good at looking as though she wasn't listening even though Jensen knew there was no way she couldn't hear it.

"Not mated," Stephen said with a nod. "Have you given thought to it?"

Jensen laughed, a sound that sounded too bitter even to his own ears and he could see Allie look up from her papers. He had probably spent too much time thinking about it, or more accurately spent time thinking of the knot he had yet to form. Sometimes he wondered if it was something wrong with him, if his body kept Waya from going into heat but he couldn't really see anything wrong in the bond between the two of them.

"You're something none of us know much about," Stephen said quietly. "That doesn't mean there's something wrong with you, with either of you. But...your bonded wolf is female. You do realize that means she'll mate with a male wolf?"

It was something Jensen had known for a while, at nineteen he had figured out where his preferences lay and he wondered if they had been like that before Waya or if that was something that came from him bonding with her. He wasn't sure and truth be told, it didn't really matter. They both were what they were, but Jensen didn't really like the thought of liking men, not when he knew it would be another reason for people in Wolfhold to see him as different.

-¤-

Jensen's claws were out, dragging nervous patterns against his palm as his hands clenched and unclenched time and time again and he reached down to run his fingers through Waya's fur to soothe himself and not let the tension get the better of him. He didn't know what was up with him, but the arrival of the new Wolfbound had Jensen's nerves on end, an itch under his skin that he had never felt before and it was willpower and years of training that kept him from fidgeting. In the years since he had been chosen by Waya it was far from the first time he had been lined up with his fellow Wolfbound, all in their position to present the strength of the Guild but for some reason it was different. It wasn't them showing a joint front for the humans living on their lands, or them trying to impress visitors. No, this was them preparing to welcome someone that would be second highest in command, someone that might some day rise to Commander.

I can hear them, Waya said suddenly and through her ears, Jensen could hear it as well.

Five? he asked her, trying to make sense of the sounds he heard.

Yes, the Captain and four of his men and their wolves. I can smell them now and it's...

Her words faded away in his mind at the same time as he felt it as well, a scent beyond anything he had ever felt before and not even the training could keep Jensen from looking down to meet Waya's yellow gaze, the two of them too stunned for words. They both turned back forward in time to see the group coming around the bend in the path, men on horses and five wolves that would only be matched in size by Zane and even the smallest of them was quite a bit bigger than Waya. It was only one of them that truly mattered to Jensen and Waya alike, their minds entwined like they had never been before and while they usually were connected, in that moment he felt like they were one and the same.

That wolf...

Jensen knew just what wolf she was looking at, the huge black one walking right next to the man that was clearly the leader, their new Captain, and he couldn't blame her. Not when the wolf was gorgeous and not when he could feel what she was scenting. Even from the far distance he could scent the wolf and unlike all the other wolves in the Hold, this one smelled delicious and Jensen pulled in several deep breaths as the group grew closer, even though he knew that the scent that filled him came from Waya's nose and not his own. It felt like his body was heating up, temperature raising as the group came closer and closer and Jensen felt his throat go dry when their future Captain came in focus.

Since he had arrived in Wolfhold, Jensen had been good. He had fought to earn the respect of his fellow Wolfbound, respect that was hard fought for just because of his bonding with a female wolf, but when he got his first clear view of the man that he would work so close with in the future. All the self-control, all the hours perfecting his posture, it all faded away when the heat inside him turned to a roaring fire and Jensen couldn't hold back a sharp gasp.

The man on the horse turned to look right at him, and even from the distance Jensen's sharp sight could clearly make out the swirl of colors in the man's eyes, the silken sheen of his hair and the frown on the man's face. He didn't even think about it, but as one he and Waya were moving, pushing away from the other Wolfbound lined up outside the hold to greet their new members. He broke each law on what to do and not to do and he didn't care about it, couldn't care when all he needed was to get away.

Somewhere behind him he could hear Commander Jeff call out for him and he heard the surprised voices of the other members of the Guild but Jensen was running without thought to where he was going. With the new bonded still blocking the path it wasn't many places Jensen could run and while he knew that it wasn't the best place to go, he ran into the dark opening of the cave. Waya was running right next to him, following his lead even though he knew that she could easily outrun him if needed but in that moment she needed him just as much as he needed her. The common area was abandoned, the few fires burning low and he quickly made his way passed the sloping tunnel leading down to the storage area and instead turned a sharp left once he reached the further side of the cave, leading the both of them deep into the cave system.

Jen!

Jensen didn't stop, but he did let his thoughts tangle with Waya's, a mess of confusion and an awareness of each other that despite their years bonding was completely new to him. The mental touch wasn't soothing as it used to be, but it was still something to focus on and it was enough to make Jensen slow down as they took a sharp right turn to go down the tunnel leading to the small cave that belonged to the two of them. Never before had he been so happy that he and Waya never had mated, he needed the comfort of a cave just to himself and he almost stumbled over his wolf when they stopped in front of the rough wooden door of their cave.

"What the hell was that?" Jensen gasped as they made their way inside and the door slammed shut behind him.

I think...that wolf. I wanted him, Waya said and her voice was as full of confusion as Jensen himself felt.

"That was the Captain," Jensen said, sitting down on his low bed and burying his face in his hands. "And I just...oh damn. What must he think of me? What's happening to me?"

Despite the confusion Jensen's body knew just what it wanted to do and for the first time he realized that he was rock hard, the rough fabric of his pants almost painful against his dick. In his mind Waya's arousal tangled with his own and there was no way to stop what was about to happen.

With a groan Jensen pushed one hand down his pants, pushing at them until he got his cock free and he groaned at the same time as Waya let out a low, miserable whine. The need was so intense and powerful that it hurt and he cried out loud when he stroked down the hard length, a rough glide of skin before he let his fingers gather the pre-come leaking from the slit and with the moisture slicking the way it went from just painful to painfully good.

This...what are...oh...

Waya's desperation was sharp claws in his mind and the scent that filled the small room came from the both of them, a thick blanket that made it hard to breathe. Jensen was just about to say something, try to soothe her, but instead a rush of heat shot through him but it wasn't aimed for his cock and Jensen's eyes flew wide open when he realized that he was wet between his legs and he could feel more wetness leaking from his asshole.

"What the hell?" he cried out, hand falling from his cock. "What is...oh my God! No. This can't be happening. This isn't happening, it just can't be. It's not real...I'm imagining it and...No!"

Jensen, Waya cried out. Do something!

He knew what she needed him to do, without another wolf there to claim her the only way for her to find release was through Jensen but his whole mind was screaming in protest, fighting the obvious responses of his body.

I can't! he threw at her, the words sharp in his mind.

Her growl was loud in the small space of their cave, bouncing against the walls, and it was enough to make Jensen jump slightly. Only then did he realize that despite where his headspace was, his body was clearly not there because his own hand was still moving up and down his shaft and he hissed in pleasure. It wasn't enough though, wasn't even close to enough but Jensen didn't want to do what his body demanded of him. Doing that would mean accepting it and Jensen didn't want to accept it, not ever. But there was one thing he wanted even less than accepting the new arousal, and that was hurting his wolf. Waya's pain was his pain but it wasn't self preservation that made his free hand slide down between his legs. It was his love for the wolf that was a constant presence in in his mind, it was the need to make her feel good that made him drag two fingers over his asshole.

It was the first time he ever touched himself there and nothing could have prepared him for the pure pleasure that exploded through him at the softest of touches, his whole body convulsing with the sensation and he could feel more slick leak out of him at the same time as he and Waya both let out sounds that were closer to growls than anything else.

If Jensen had thought it had been weird when his body first start changing, fangs and claws breaking through, it was nothing compared to what he felt, splayed out on his bed and with a desperate need coursing through his veins. He remembered the words that had been thrown after him the first few days in Wolfhold, the words that had drifted off into mumbled whispers behind his back once it had become obvious how little patience the Commander had with disrespect. Maybe they had been right after all, maybe Jensen bonding with a female wolf had truly turned him into a bitch. Humiliation made tears burn in his eyes but there was no way for him to stop what he was doing, things already set in motion the second he had seen the new Captain and he barely had the opportunity to think it through before he was turning around on his bed, struggling clumsily to get out of his clothes. In the back of his mind he could hear Waya's confusion mingle with his own, her pain and worry when she felt his humiliation but just as Jensen himself, she had no way of fighting what was happening to the both of them.

The fabric of his clothes as well as the sheets and furs on his bed felt too rough against his skin and once free of his clothes Jensen pushed himself up on all fours, reaching behind himself to push two fingers inside before he could overthink anything. A part of him knew it should hurt, that it shouldn't be such an easy slide inside, but his body opened willingly to let the digits inside and instead of pain and the expected feeling of too much, all Jensen knew was that he needed something more even though he didn't know what that something was. Over in the corner Waya had curled herself into a ball, small whines escaping her but at least she wasn't looking over at Jensen, trying to give him what privacy was possible with the two of them as connected as they were. Later he was sure that he would be grateful for that small gesture, but at that time all he could focus on was how good his fingers felt as they pushed inside, a stretch unlike anything he had felt before and no matter how confusing it was it was also the highest of pleasures he had ever felt. The position gave him no real way of getting a hand on his hard cock but when he pushed a third finger inside and a rough half-choked sob escaped him Jensen thought that maybe a hand around his dick wasn't really needed.

He tried to think of nothing at all, but the image of the Captain filled his mind and Jensen let out a whimpering moan at the thought of the man he had seen outside being right there with him. Distantly he could tell that Waya was imagining the huge black wolf they had seen with the new Captain but it didn't really register with him. Her pleasure was his, just as his was hers, but their fantasies belonged to themselves and rather than being influenced by her thoughts Jensen clung to the image that had been unwanted just a minute earlier. While Jensen hadn't reached full maturity, something that he guessed had happened now with Waya's heat in his veins, he was still one of the taller men in Wolfhold but from what he had seen of the man on the horse, he might be someone big enough to hold Jensen down, to make him take it. His mind was full with just how the Captain's hands would feel on his body, big and strong as they moved over his skin, long fingers that he was sure would feel so much better inside him than his own did. The thought was enough for him to arch his back, ride his own fingers and it took him a few long moments to realize that the keening sound he heard came from his own lips. A vivid thought came to his mind, an image of himself just the way he was, on all fours in the middle of the bed but with the Captain kneeling behind Jensen, huge body holding him still .

It was with that image in his mind that Jensen came, three fingers in his ass and pleasure made him cry out loud as he imagined the Captain fucking him deep and hard until the knot grew inside Jensen, tying them together. When the pleasure faded away and Jensen came back to himself, legs sticky with fluids that he had never expected his body to make, Jensen clenched his hands into fists, not caring about the way his claws came out to dig into his palm.

It wasn't who he had expected himself to be and he knew that when people found out the whispers wouldn't be behind his back anymore. Need and want faded away into resentment and Jensen was torn between hiding away and the urge to meet the new Captain that had turned Jensen's own body into the enemy. He didn't care what his body wanted, he had worked too long to be the hunter that he was to roll over for someone. Much less so when he still wasn't sure if it was him or Waya that the need was based in.

-¤-

Chapter Text

Jared's first view of Wolfhold was nothing like he had expected it to be and quick glances towards his companions showed confusion mirroring his own. The lines of people that they had seen when they first came around the bend was dissolving, people moving around and Jared could hear them talking and calling out to each other. It was nothing of the grandeur that the Citadel was so famous for, no perfect order even though he knew all bonded had it drilled into them from the first day they were chosen.

Something isn't right here, Jared commented quietly to Rafe, the wolf looking up at Jared and then over to the supposed welcoming committee in front of them.

Did you feel that? Rafe answered, something sharp and surprised in his voice.

Feel what? Jared asked.

I thought...for a moment, Rafe said, shaking his head slightly. Something has happened.

That much was clear, even with the lines forming again as they approached, there was so much tension in the gathered crowd that the fact that something had happened was quite obvious, somehow Jared thought that Rafe meant something beyond that. Jared and his companions pulled to a stop in front of the people living in Wolfhold.

"This is Rafe," Jared introduced the wolf by his side. "And I'm the one he chose, my name is Jared Padalecki."

It was only in the most formal occasions that they introduced themselves like that but the words had something settling in Jared's belly, the rightness of introducing them that way to the Hold that he hoped would be his home for a long time. A tall man stood in front of the other bonded and he bowed his head, accepting Jared's greeting but Jared could see the tips of the man's ears twitch, the only proof that something was wrong.

"This is Zane," the man motioned to the wolf by his side. "And I am Commander Jeffrey Morgan. I welcome you and your companions to Wolfhold."

It was obvious that neither of them would say anything about whatever had happened as Jared approached but he did hope to talk about it when it was just the two of them, but tradition came first and they both knew it. He turned to introduce the wolves and bonded that had come with him from the Citadel, a small group that he had hand picked himself and during the days of travel to Wolfhold he had been pleased with how well they all fitted together. John was easily the one that Jared got along with the best, but he hadn't brought a single person or wolf that he couldn't see himself spending several years with.

"We have a feast planned to celebrate your arrival at Wolfhold," Commander Morgan said, voice booming out over the clearing. "And tomorrow you will be appointed Captain of Wolfhold."

At those words Jared had a hard time keeping from smiling. It was what he had been working towards for the last two years after all and it felt surreal to finally have it in his grasp. The Commander motioned forward and with Rafe and Zane walking in front of them, Jared was lead up the path that followed the stream into the dark mouth of Wolfhold. Stepping inside there was a scent in the air, something that pushed at Jared's senses but he couldn't really get a grasp of it and before he could really think about it, they entered a big cave, sand floor covered with soft rugs and for all that he and Rafe had worked to get where they were, neither of them had expected to feel so at home within minutes of arriving.

It's a den, Rafe commented and Jared could only agree.

While the Citadel was a home for humans, the caves of Wolfhold had human touches, but most of all they were the natural habitat for the great dire wolves and Jared could barely wait to get to explore the caves and the forest surrounding them.

"As you see, we don't really have the kind of dinner halls I'm sure you're used to."

Jared turned around to see the Commander smile, sharp teeth hidden away and his claws pulled in and he looked much friendlier than he had outside. Beside him his big rust colored wolf was standing, ears twitching slightly and Jared figured that he was communicating either with his bonded or with one of the other wolves.

"It's a bit different," John, one of the men that had arrived with Jared agreed. "I think I prefer this."

It was obviously the right thing to say because when Jared looked around he saw several of the Wolfhold residents relax around him and smiles lit up several faces. Jared thought John was right though, Wolfhold didn't look to have any of the drama and scheming that seemed to be at the heart of the Citadel.

"We have some food you need to try," another voice said behind Jared and he turned around to look at woman standing with a bowl in her hands. "I'm Allie and this is Lindy."

Her more common introduction made Jared relax and he realized that while the Citadel would have insisted on a full day of formalities, his new home was already back to a much more relaxed attitude, one that allowed him to get to know the people he would soon be the Captain of.

"Jared and Rafe," he introduced, smiling as he took the bowl she was offering. "And whatever it is, it smells amazing."

"Rabbit stew," Allie explained. "It's..."

She drifted off into silence for a moment, a frown on her face but it soon faded away and was replaced with a small shrug and another smile.

"Our best hunter is amazing at getting the rabbits," she said, filling another bowl and putting it down for Rafe to enjoy. "And lucky that considering how much his bondwolf loves rabbit."

With that she gave a small nod and drifted away into the crowd of people and Jared was left with one of the greatest dishes he had ever tasted and he knew he wouldn't miss the cooking in the Citadel, not when the taste of freshly caught rabbit filled his mouth at the same time as the scent of warm bread filled his nostrils.

"I'm happy that I followed you here," John said as he stepped up next to Jared.

"You have barely gotten to discover this place yet," Jared pointed out.

"But it's different from the Citadel," his friend said, reaching down to touch the shoulder of his wolf. "This is...this place? It's what we should be like."

"I'm starting to see why the High Commander recommended you for this position if this is the friends you keep," Commander Morgan said with a nod. "But he also told me that you're an excellent swordsman? Dual wielding is a rare thing to master."

"Why learn it just half-way?" Jared asked and he could feel Rafe's amusement tangle with his own.

"Tomorrow, I'll get you introduced to all the trainers, although we don't actually have anyone truly skilled at dual wield here. Most prefer using just one sword even though I myself prefer the two-handed ones."

Jared wasn't really surprised by that, he should have known that unlike so many of the higher ranked men at the Citadel, this Commander was one who was trained to stand with his men if it ever came to a fight.

If a fight ever happened, the outer caves like this would be hit first, Rafe commented and Jared had to hide a smile at the tone of excitement in the wolf's thoughts.

Maybe we shouldn't start our time here with hoping our new home gets attacked? Jared suggested, resting one hand at the nape of Rafe's neck.

Not hoping, Rafe corrected him I'm just saying that it would be fascinating if it happened. It would be an adventure.

Jared just shook his head, focusing back on the Commander just in time to smile and accept a goblet from one of the many people surrounding them but instead of the wine he had expected he found it full of mead, something he hadn't had in years. When he had first accepted the new position and set the course for Wolfhold, he had done so with a plan in mind.
A plan to be the kind of man that he had seen in the High Commander but he felt that resolve fade away at the much more relaxed atmosphere of the Hold and when he swallowed down the meat he didn't bother hiding his pleased smile even though he knew that the dimples that cut into his cheeks made him appear years younger.

"There are some people here I think you and your friends should meet..."

Jared allowed himself to be guided around the caves, meeting more people than he had any chance to remember the names of and the rest of the evening melted together in a haze of people, wolves and a bit too much alcohol.

-¤-

"Welcome to Wolfhold."

Jared looked around the big cave that was the Commander's home and he was surprised to see that it wasn't that very different from the main cave. There were the same kinds of hand woven rugs warming the floor, even though the ground deep in the caves were stone and not sand.

"I think you said that yesterday," Jared said with a smile, watching as Rafe and Zane circled around each other, seemingly a bit hesitant.

"Yes, but that was official, this is personal," Commander Jeffrey Morgan said with a shrug, motioning at a pile of soft, inviting, pillows in the corner of the cave. "Please, sit down for a while?"

The rugs were soft under his feet as he walked over and sat down on the pillows, Rafe and Zane moving over to sit with them and both wolves seemed to have come to some sort of understanding as they lay down side by side.

"Is this where you plan to tell me what happened yesterday?" Jared asked, not bothering to beat around the bush. "I know something happened around the time that we arrived, I'm just not sure what."

He saw the Commander stiffen for a moment before he sighed and sat down in the cushions, nodding slightly as he turned to face Jared head on.

"It was one of our hunters," the Commander said with more than a hint of disapproval in his voice. "Something affected him and his wolf and they both took off into the caves."

"Right in an official ceremony?" Jared said, surprised.

Breaking formation in itself was almost unheard of when it came to members of the Guild, but to do so during an official greeting ceremony was never something he had expected of anyone that had spent any longer amount of time with the wolves and the other bonded.

"You say hunter," Jared pointed out. "So he can't be a new recruit."

"No," the Commander agreed. "Jensen has been with us for three years now and he's our most skilled hunter despite..."

The word drifted off into silence and Jared could see Commander Morgan and Zane trade quick glances but before either of them had gotten the chance to explain, Rafe's ears twitched and the answer reached him from his wolf.

They got a female wolf bonded to a male, Rafe explained and Jared was impressed with how little emotions his bondwolf showed at the surprising news.

"You got a cross-gender bonded pair?" Jared asked, unable to keep his own surprise at bay.

"Yes," the Commander said with a nod. "I know it's very rare."

That was putting it lightly, Jared only knew of one other cross-gender bonding and that pair lived in the far away southern caves and Jared had never met them. The very thought of his new home cave having a pair like that made a part of him want to head out to talk to this Jensen that he barely knew anything about.

"He will be punished?" Jared asked, even though he already knew the answer.

"He might be unusual," Commander Morgan said with a hint of steel in his voice. "But he's not above the laws, rules and guidelines of Wolfhold and he refused to tell me why he left yesterday. Waya isn't being punished, of course, but Jensen has been put to work in the smoking huts."

Jared winced at the very thought of being put in a place like that. While he appreciated the job of those preparing the food, neither warriors nor hunters tended to be put on that duty and the smoking huts of any cave or hold were usually a burden given to new arrivals or anyone in need of punishment.
That's cruel," Rafe mumbled in the back of his mind.

"Isn't that punishing his wolf as well?" Jared asked. "It can't be easy for her to be apart from her bonded for so long after all."

He and Rafe were seldom far apart but no wolf would come close to the smoking huts, the scents much too harsh for their sensitive noses and Jared couldn't blame them.

"In a way," the Commander sighed. "Such is the bond, it is hard to punish one without hurting the other but I think both Waya and Jensen understand why this needed to be done. Neither of them protested when I spoke to them this morning."

"Did you expect them to?" Jared asked with a raised eyebrow.

The Commander looked surprised at that question but then he relaxed and leaned back into the cushions.

"No," the Commander admitted. "Someone like Jensen would never question my word."

Jared nodded because he knew that while even bonded gossiped and plotted, no one would openly deny the word of a leader.

"I know I have a lot to deal with within this cave," Jared said slowly. "I guess you will want me to take care of some of the day to day business?"

"Mostly your work will be the fighter and the hunters," the Commander said. "I think you will be good for them or the High Commander wouldn't have prepared you for this position for years."

Jared was surprised at that, he hadn't known that the High Commander had told Commander Morgan about the conversation they'd had two years earlier and from the small twitch at the tip of Rafe's tail he could tell that his wolf was surprised as well even though his emotions showed nothing.

"I want to meet this hunter, Jensen," Jared said, choosing to change subject rather than going in to a talk that he knew would be awkward for all four of them. "He and his wolf must be the only ones I didn't greet yesterday and if he's as good as you say he is, it's only fair that I seek him out."

-¤-

I'm not going a step closer, Rafe growled and Jared looked back over his shoulder to where Rafe was standing stiffly at the bottom of the hill leading up towards the smoking huts.

Over their bond he could tell the way the heavy scent of smoke stung Rafe's nose and he walked back down, kneeling down in front of his companion and pressing their cheeks together for a moment. It wasn't often they were that tactile with each other, but on the other hand it wasn't often that they spent any time apart either and when he stood up to walk towards the huts again, each step was a forced one. He had heard from Commander Morgan that Jensen Ackles, bow-hunter, had been told to spend a full week helping in the smoking huts, a job that usually no bonded ever did for more than a day due to the forced distance to their bondwolf. Another look back over his shoulder told him that Rafe was slowly returning towards Wolfhold, tail hanging low.

I'll be in our cave, Rafe said. Or maybe I'll go looking for that smell....

How can you get so addicted to one smell you've barely smelt? Jared asked and even he thought he deserved the low growl that Rafe sent his way.

He couldn't deny that there was something in Wolfhold, something lingering beneath all other scents and feelings and emotions whirling around but neither he nor Rafe had been able to figure out what it was, and after their talk with the Commander Rafe had walked around the maze of tunnels, dragging Jared with him but they hadn't found the source of the scent that had Rafe so interested.

Jared pushed the thought aside, it wasn't like either of them would be able to smell any scent this close to the smoking huts, the air was too full of smoke and the heavy scent of meat and ash. The smoking huts were sat close together, small fires at their base and the smoke filtering up through the structure and the meat inside and despite the overwhelming scent, Jared felt his mouth watering at the memory of the perfectly smoked meat he had tasted at the welcome party.

"Hello, anyone here?" he called out as he approached and he saw a figure standing up at one of the farthest huts, hand raised to shield his eyes from the glaring sun.

As he walked closer he saw that the figure was a young man, barely more than a boy, and that his clothes were dirty with smoke and ash to the extent that the wolf head embroidered on his chest was almost unrecognizable.

"Captain," the man said, sounding shocked and Jared frowned slightly at how rough the man's voice sounded.

"Jensen Ackles?" Jared asked even though he already knew the answer.

"Yes, Captain," Jensen answered, bowing his head and not meeting Jared's gaze. "I'm sorry I wasn't at the welcoming ceremony."

Jensen didn't look up, his gaze firmly locked on the ground but even without his wolf there to scent it, Jared could almost see the tension coming off Jensen in waves. For some reason the young man didn't seem pleased to see Jared there at all and there was nothing of the open welcoming that he had been met with before. Jared watched in silence as the man reached and pulled a somewhat damp cloth from his belt and wiped it over his face, removing some of the ash and Jared couldn't help but see the hints of beauty under the dirt.

"The Commander told me me about your punishment," Jared said, looking around the area of the smoking huts. "This is quite a task for you."

Jensen shrugged and the movement sent a fresh wave of scent towards Jared and even without Rafe's senses to enhance his own Jared almost gagged as the clinging smoke made the air going down his lungs feel thick and gritty.

"This..." Jensen said, turning back to look over his shoulder at the huts. "It's needed for the Hold, we need this food for the winter."

There was no anger in his voice, nothing to even hint that Jensen was anything but fine with his punishment and yet Jared could see the obvious tension in the man's shoulders.

"Of course," Jared said with a nod. "Do you use different wood for the different huts?"

He could smell several different kinds of scents in the heavy air and he was sure that this northern cave took much more care in preparing food than the Citadel ever did, the capital not dependant on just the bonded ones like the farther caves were. Jensen's eyebrow raised in surprise and Jared saw a little bit of the tension fade away.

"We do," Jensen confirmed. "Not all meat we smoke is..."

The words drifted off into silence and all the tension returned as the man in front of Jensen straightened his back and met Jared's gaze head on.

"Captain," he said stiffly. "May I ask something, just between us?"

Whatever Jensen had in mind to talk about would be between the two of them in a way no conversations usually were but in the midst of the smoking huts, no wolves nearby, no one would ever know what was said between them. Jared hesitated for a moment, knowing that private talks with the people he was supposed to lead might not be the best idea for his very first day of his new position but he still found himself nodding.

"Are you only here to talk to me because Waya choose me?" Jensen asked bluntly.

The directness of the question surprised Jared, not many would dare to speak like that to anyone higher ranking than them and Jared couldn't stop himself from being impressed.

"It's not the only reason," Jared said honestly because while it wasn't his main reason it was high up on the list.

"I promise you I'm quite capable of holding my own," Jensen said bitterly, gaze falling down to the floor again.

"So I've been told," Jared agreed. "I've heard that you're one of the best hunters that Wolfhold has ever seen."

Jensen's head snapped up and even through the grit on his face, Jared could see surprise written clear there. It was only then that Jared understood some of what must have happened to Jensen because of the wolf he was bonded to. While a cross-gender pairing in the Citadel would have been something to be celebrated, he knew that many of the outer caves had never seen a pairing like that and fear colored much of their thoughts. Jared himself was unable to see anything wrong with what a wolf chose. If this Waya thought Jensen was the human for her, then no human should question it. And even apart from that, the hunter standing in front of him had clearly proven himself since he was chosen and even if some people in Wolfhold hadn't understood that, Commander Morgan clearly had.

"That's... you've talked to Allie," Jensen said with a small smile, voice turning softer for a moment.

"Among others," Jared said, smiling himself and a part of him couldn't help but feeling he needed to get to know this bonded man that had most likely been forced to fight harder than anyone else to prove his worth.

"It's time for lunch," Jared said, looking up towards the sun high above them. "Would you mind accompanying me? I'm sure the huts can manage themselves for an hour?"

Jensen seemed to hesitate but then he straightened his back, shoulders pulled back and his head held high as he nodded and took a step forward.

"Food would be good," he agreed and Jared lead them back down the slope, for some reason all too aware of the man walking just a few steps behind him.

It wasn't until they were almost at Wolfhold, walking through a clearing where some target practice boards were set up on one side, that he understood why though, and only because he was assaulted by a barrage of feelings and emotions from Rafe as well as another presence that he had never felt before. Beside him Jensen gasped, one hand raised to balance himself against a tree and he looked up at Jared with a shocked expression on his face. Jared wanted to ask, but before he could do anything the realization of what was happening slammed into him and was in motion before he could stop to consider it.

He barely had time to react to it before his lips were on Jensen's, tasting him and it was a surreal feeling to have that warm body up against his own at the same time as he felt Rafe pushing up against Waya's soft fur. There was no way of telling where he ended and Rafe began, no way of knowing just what was what and from the way Jensen's hands grabbed at his shoulders he was sure that he wasn't the only one affected like that.

Jared's wolf had found his mate and Jared and Jensen had no choice but to feel what they felt, arousal building for four and it was too much to even attempt to fight against. Rafe had found his mate, and so had Jared.

-¤-

Chapter Text

Jensen walked behind Jared, head down and struggling with all the emotions warring inside of him. He almost wished that he had stayed up at the smoking huts instead of forcing himself to return to Wolfhold together with the man that had caused his body to betray him. It was humiliating to know that the Captain had only sought him out because of Waya and because of Jensen running out on the welcoming ceremony. It wasn't the way Jensen wanted to start things off with Jared, but on the other hand it didn't seem like there was anything to start really. It was obvious that Jared didn't share the feelings that had nearly incapacitated Jensen and Waya the previous day, his body language nothing but calm and precise whereas Jensen was fit to burst with the nervous tension building by the second.

They walked the path that lead through the target practice clearing and Jensen lifted his head to watch the bullseye boards on the farthest side, fingers itching for his bow even though his punishment also required him to not hunt for an entire week. He didn't really have time to think about it any more though, not when Jared stopped in his tracks, body stiff and Jensen could hear him sniff the air, searching for some scent that Jensen hadn't felt yet.

He was just about to ask about it when suddenly Waya's mind tangled with his and the emotions that slammed into him made what had happened the day before fade into nothing. Waya was aroused, that much was obvious but there was something else there, a scent that pushed away the smoke from the smoking huts, something deep and rich that had Jensen hard in an instant and he almost felt his legs give way under him before he managed to balance himself with one hand against a tree-trunk.

There were questions on the tip of his tongue, words that wanted to come out but before he could get a single sound out he felt Waya's feelings once more and he could feel her being pushed down by a big, strong body. And he could feel her go down willingly, wanting the other wolf that was there with her.

Looking up he saw Jared's eyes locked on him, hunger and need in his eyes and Jensen knew whose wolf Waya was with, had known it was something likely to happen since he had first seen Jared come around the bend the previous day. He didn't really have time to think about it before Jared was on him and a mouth covered his. It was impossible to stand against the barrage of feelings crashing into him from across the bond, he and Waya tangled together even more than they had been when Jensen turned and ran from the welcoming ceremony.

"Get...off..."

The words were nothing short of a growl and it took a moment before Jensen figured out what Jared was talking about, big hands coming up to tug at his soot-covered clothes and Jensen realized his own hands were struggling to get Jared out of his clothes as well. His nostrils flared when he scented blood and looking down he realized that his claws had come out and Jared stood with his tunic half off, four long claw marks down his belly and his chest heaving with deep breaths. Somehow they managed to get off the belts keeping their tunics in place and there was the sound of heavy thuds as the daggers hanging in their sheaths fell to the ground and for a moment Jensen felt guilty that he didn't treat his weapons better. That thought faded away with Jared's hands still tugging at the rest of his clothes, however.

"I'm..." Jensen said but the words died on his tongue when another wave of heat washed over him from Waya and the wolf she was with.

Rafe.

The name was nothing but a whisper in the back of his mind but at least Jensen knew the name of the wolf that meant so much to Waya and therefore would mean a lot to him as well.

"God, I can smell you," Jared groaned, hands gripping Jensen's hips tightly.

Jensen could smell it as well, could feel how his and Waya's combined arousal made his body produce slick enough to dampen his soft pants. When he felt the sharp sting of Jared's claws against his skin he felt more slick leak out his body and he needed in a way he had never needed before. He wasn't small in any way, but pressed up to Jared he almost felt fragile and despite the lust between them, he hated that thought even as it was wiped away with another kiss.

"Need..." he managed to get out and he didn't even recognize his own voice, broken and rough and there was no denying how much his body wanted it even though his brain fought against it.

"Yeah..." Jared agreed and the next moment Jensen heard fabric tearing and the humid air against his skin.

It was only then that Jensen's legs finally gave way and he sagged down on the ground, Jared following, still tugging at clothes as they went. Jensen had thought about finding a mate, of course he had when it was such a common topic in Wolfhold but he had never imagined it to be the way it played out now, with Jared's huge body pressing against him in a mirroring of how Rafe was pushing against Waya.

"Move," Jared ordered and Jensen did without thinking it through.

Jared's hands felt almost scorching hot against his skin and he easily moved Jensen into the right position, the position that Jensen himself wanted to be in even though it was something he had never imagined before. The ground was hard beneath his hand and knees but it still felt so right to be like that and in the back of his mind he could feel Waya, Rafe mounting her at the same time as Jared knelt behind Jensen.

He pushed back against the man behind him, feeling heat against the back of his knees as Jared got into position and Jensen moaned out loudly as he felt strong hands on his hips and the press of Jared's cock against his hole. There was so much Jensen wanted to say, so many thoughts swirling around his mind but there was no time for any of it. He could feel Waya howl in pleasure as Rafe took her, and at the same time Jared pushed inside Jensen.

With his own slick easing the way there was nothing but a short burn as the man entered him, enough to make him hiss but not enough to stop him from pushing back, desperately needing more and harder and he knew that the sounds spilling from his lips were more animal than human.

"Jensen...fuck..." Jared gasped behind him, leaning in forward and Jensen felt the man's hot breath against the back of his neck.

There was nothing soft and sweet in the way their bodies moved, just hard thrust of hips and deep moans filling the clearing, mingling together with the mental calls of their wolves. Jensen was almost crying with how good it felt, Jared's hard cock pressing against parts of him that had never been pressed at before. Jared's speed as he fucked into Jensen didn't match that of Rafe's mounting of Waya, but it was still fast and hard enough that Jensen knew he would feel it for days.

"Oh...oh...oh..." Jensen got out, each snap of Jared's hips pushing another grunt out of him.

Jared's claws scraped marks over Jensen's hips at the same time as Jensen's claws dug into the ground in front of him. It wasn't until Jared's movements slowed down, his hands on Jensen's hips pulling him back, that Jensen remembered something that should have been obvious from the start; Jared had a knot.

He wasn't sure how he could have forgotten something like that, not when he had spent three years waiting for a knot he was now sure would never come. The bulge of it was already pressing up against his rim, each grind of Jared's hips pushing more slick out and even though it felt impossibly big already, Jensen knew it would grow even further. The need from earlier was growing even stronger as he felt Jared's knot push against his hole and he wanted it inside him as the same time as the very thought terrified him.

"Do it," he told Jared, trying to keep the need out of his voice but he didn't think he really managed it.

Through the bond he could tell the very second Rafe tied Waya to him and to his own surprise, her pleasure was enough to make him relax and with one sudden, sharp thrust of his hips, Jared slammed his knot inside.

The orgasm that rushed through Jensen's body was more intense than anything he had felt before and he cried out in pleasure, arching back against Jared, never wanting the pleasure to end. He could feel Jared's cock pulse inside him, knot swelling inside him as the man pumped him full and they were both practically writhing in pleasure. Jensen screamed when Jared's teeth bit down hard on his neck, pain making the pleasure soar even higher and Jensen felt the sharpness of Jared's teeth, neither of them able to keep their wolf parts at bay. It was unlike any orgasm he had experienced before, the overwhelming feeling of his and Waya's combined pleasure made the orgasm build higher and higher until his entire world exploded into white light.

-¤-
-¤-

Jared looked at the man sleeping next to him, even though he thought it might be more of Jensen having passed out than him actually being asleep. The man's face was still smudged with dirt but their mating had made sweat cut marks through the soot and for the first time Jared could truly see some of Jensen's face void of dirt.

"Huh," Jared mumbled to himself when he realized that the man pressed up close to him wasn't just good looking, but was in fact gorgeous.

His voice made Jensen stir slightly, muscles moving under Jared's hand where it was moving over warm skin. In the back of his mind he could tell that Rafe was stretched out beside Waya, his head resting on top of Waya's and Rafe's contentment matched Jared's own. He watched as Jensen moved, lips parting on a soft exhale before his eyes blinked open. Jared wished he could sense Jensen the same way he sensed Rafe, he wanted to know if his new-found mate felt the same sated lethargy that he did.

"Hey," Jared said softly.

Jensen flinched, turning around and staring at Jared with open mouth and Jared realized that the man still wasn't fully awake, not really aware of where he was or what had happened.

"What..." Jensen mumbled, voice barely more than a slur, but then his eyes went wide. "Waya..."

Jared watched as Jensen's eyes went slightly out of focus and he was sure the the man was trying to speak to his wolf even though the distance to their wolves reduced them to feelings and emotions and not words.

"Oh god," Jensen whispered, his eyes focusing back in on Jared. "We...you..."

"We mated," Jared said, letting his hand slide down to the bare curve of Jensen's hip.

He wanted to pull the man close because while he hadn't been looking for a mate, he couldn't deny how good it felt to have one even though they weren't even close to what they would be in time.

"No," Jensen said, pulling away from Jared and wincing as he moved. "This can't....no...I'm not.... This isn't me!"

Jared blinked in confusion, not really understanding what had made his mate so upset and he tried to reach out for him but Jensen scrambled away further making Jared's knot come free and they both groaned in pain as Jensen got up, standing in the middle of the clearing, naked and gorgeous.

"I'm not a bitch," Jensen said, making Jared flinch at the words just as much as the tone of them.

"What?" he said, only realizing too late that it was not the right thing to say.

"I'm not a bitch," Jensen repeated angrily. "Whatever they told you about me... Waya chose me but that doesn't make me a bitch. It doesn't make me your bitch."

For the first time since he and his companion arrived in Wolfhold, Jared felt completely lost and he could only stare at the man standing in front of him. He didn't want to think of the way Jensen looked, the way he reached up and swiped more dirty from his face or the way his body was all lean muscles and tanned skin.

"Jensen," he started, pushing himself up off the ground.

"No," Jensen snapped. "I'm not... you stay away from me."

With that he reached for his clothes, scowling at Jared when he took in the torn fabric but he still pulled them on, using the belt to keep the torn frays together. Jared could see the skin as the man in front of him moved, dirt and soot and freckled paleness and with it all put together it was enough to make his mouth go dry. It seemed as if Jensen caught his thoughts though, because Jared could see the way his jaw clenched and the way his hands balled into fists.

"I'm not doing this."

Jared didn't even have time to reach for his own clothes before Jensen was gone, disappearing into the trees with barely a sound and he knew right away that there was no way he would be able to catch up with Jensen. The man wasn't only faster and more graceful than Jared, he also knew the woods well and if he didn't want to be found, there was no way for Jared to find him. And it was very obvious that Jensen didn't want to be found.

-¤-

"What on earth..."

He wasn't more than a step into Wolfhold's main cave but he could see people looking at him, could hear the low whispers and he wasn't really surprised by it. He knew that his clothes were in better condition than Jensen's, but that wasn't saying much. A man that Jared vaguely remembered from the welcoming dinner stepped forward, looking him and and down with a raised eyebrow.

"Stefan?" Jared asked even though the name felt wrong on his tongue.

"Stephen," the man corrected him.

"Jensen's mentor," Jared said with a nod.

He shifted uncomfortably, all too aware of the eyes still on them and all the ears listening carefully to each word they spoke.

"Jensen's friend," Stephen said and there was something in the way he said it that made Jared think that Jensen didn't have many friends. "I thought you were going out to talk to him; he didn't return with you? He always comes back for lunch, to spend some time with Waya."

Jared could hear protectiveness in the man's voice and it made him bristle, both that it wasn't him there to protect Jensen but also that Jensen needed it to begin with.

Rafe, he called out in his mind. Where are you?

Our cave, Rafe answered, his words coming slow and with the same contentment Jared had felt earlier, before Jensen had taken off. You should come, there's someone I want you to meet.

Usually the two of them were so closely entangled that Rafe knew each of Jared's thoughts, but through the bond Jared could tell that his bondwolf was wrapped tightly around the female he had mated and considering their own arousal combined with the distance, he was sure that neither of the wolves had realized that Jensen had taken off.

"Captain?"

"Jensen took off," Jared said, pushing the thought at Rafe as well. "After we mated."

The entire cave went shock silent, not even Stephen saying a word at the news but Jared's mind was full of sound anyway because he could tell that Waya was in motion, Rafe's thoughts coming across the bond to him.

Waya will find him, this will all be alright.

Jared breathed out a sigh of relief, Waya would be able to find Jensen and once they had talked Jared was sure things would work out.

-¤-
-¤-

The branches of the tree reached out far over the river and Jensen knew that hidden within the canopy of leaves it would be impossible for anyone to see him. Waya didn't need to see him to be able to find him, however, and he could feel her coming closer even though she wasn't speaking to him. What threw his already frayed emotions for a loop though was that he could feel something else as well, or maybe it was someone. He could tell that the same way she was always lingering in the back of his mind, there was someone there in hers and he knew that must be Rafe.

Waya.

She wasn't answering but she wasn't far away and Jensen moved down the branches, lowering himself down on the ground and sitting down mere moments before she came out from the trees and he swore he could scent the other wolf on her.

Why would you take off? she growled, stopping a few feet away. You knew this would happen, sooner or later.

"Not like this," Jensen said out loud. "I can't... Waya. My whole body is changing and this is... This isn't who I am, I'm a hunter."

Waya let out a low growl, baring her teeth at Jensen in a way that she had never done before and he was left startled, staring at her in surprise.

And I'm not?" she asked.

"Of course you are!" Jensen assured quickly, getting up on his feet and walking towards her. "How can you even ask that?"

We both are hunters, we always have been. You're the one questioning yourself and if you're questioning you, then you're questioning me as well.

"Never!" Jensen protested. "But this...I was supposed to... Fuck. Males get knots,we're not... I'm not a bitch."

Waya growled, so loud and angry that it had Jensen taking a few steps back until he was standing with his back towards the tree. His snow white companion walked closer, claws scraping up dirt as she went.

And just what is wrong with being a bitch? she snarled.

"It's..."

Jensen found himself lost for words as he stared at Waya, taking in the raw power of her strong body, the sharpness of teeth that he knew could so easily take down any pray. She was his strength personified, never allowing anyone to look down at her and for three years she had been the very centre of his world. A world that had suddenly grown to four instead of two. There was nothing about Waya that made her weak, nothing to diminish her in any way.

"It's not me," he got out only to have Waya lunge at him, big paws coming to rest at his shoulders as she pushed up on her hind legs and looked him right in the eye.

It's us, she said. I choose you because we are one. We are not one because I choose you, Jensen.

And maybe she was right, maybe he wasn't weak. The problem was that he knew that the rest of Wolfhold wouldn't see it like that.

-¤-

Chapter Text

Each step felt heavy as they made their way back towards the hold. Or at least it felt like that to Jensen because he could feel Waya's lingering anger in the back of his mind and together with her excitement at getting back to Rafe, Jensen's own emotions were a complete mess.

It'll be alright, Waya said soothingly and it meant the world for Jensen to have her support even though he could feel how upset she still was.

"You don't know that," Jensen said quietly, not even looking up when his voice scared two birds up from some low bushes.

It's us, we always land on our feet.

"We're not cats," Jensen said but he couldn't hold the smile back as he rested his hand on the back of Waya's neck.

She might still be upset, and worry was coiling into a hard knot but at least he knew that she was still on his side and that whatever happened, that was where she would always be.

"Tell me about Rafe?" he asked as they turned in on the path leading up to the Hold.

Waya's step slowed down and she looked over at him and for a long moment Jensen had no idea what she was thinking but then approval seeped across the bond and she allowed her feelings for her new-found mate to be felt by Jensen as well. It was very different from what he had felt in the throes of passion; that had been animalistic and desperate in a way that Waya's emotions now weren't. There was a calmness to her that he had never felt before and he realized that she had found something she had longed for, while for him it had been something that he had feared.

He's black, Waya told him as they walked up the path. With this white spot on his chest and...he's a warrior. Here, most of the wolves are hunters but he's...different.

Jensen was happy for her. She might not really know her mate much more than he knew his, but at least they had gotten some time together and Jensen felt a bit guilty when he realized that he had robbed himself and Jared of that as he took off.

He's our Captain, Jensen said, choosing to keep his words between the two of them as they closed in on the cave. That will be...hard...

They are our mates, Waya answered and Jensen swore he could hear the shrug in her voice. I think it's supposed to be a hardship, but I also think it'll be worth it.

Her bright look on things made his spirits lift as they walked into the dark of the cave, the water on their side and they both fell silent and Jensen tried to not think of the fact that there was another presence in the very back of his mind. He knew that with time he would feel Jared almost as well as he felt Waya, but at the moment that wasn't a comforting thought.

Do you... he started but before he could get further they stepped out into the main cave and Jensen realized right away that something had happened.

He could feel the eyes on him and there was a hush over the big cave that usually was impossible to get there. Even the wolves were watching and they usually ignored whatever had their bonded humans so interested.

Waya?

"Congratulations on mating with the Captain."

Jensen's whole body froze up and he knew that his eyes went wide in shock. It was the last thing he had expected and he knew that each second he didn't say anything just made things worse.

"Who told..." Jensen started but then he saw Jared from across the cave and he knew just who had told them.

He also knew that whatever people had thought about him, they had all gotten it confirmed because while he could see approval on Stephen and Allie's faces, he could also see the sneers on the faces of the people that had made his life a struggle for three years. With Jared standing so far off and the Commander nowhere in sight, Jensen wasn't really surprised when he heard the low murmurs of bitch as he slowly made his way towards the tunnel leading to his own room.

"Jensen," Jared said when Jensen got closer, his voice sounding all too loud in the otherwise silent cave.

There were so many words Jensen wanted to say, or scream, but he refused to show all the hurt and anger that filled him up and he moved to push past Jared and in to the darkness of the tunnel behind him.

You can't ignore them, Waya told him and only then did Jensen become aware of the huge, black wolf that stood by Jared's side.

The white spot on Rafe's chest matched the snowy white of Waya's fur perfectly and Jensen knew that the two of them would make for the most striking mates in Wolfhold. A part of him, the part that wasn't fighting tooth and nail, also knew that he and Jared would make for quite a couple but he was far from willing to think too much about that. Keeping his head down he continued walking, sand floor giving way to stone as he entered the tunnel.

"You had to tell them?" he asked when he had come some way down the tunnel, knowing full well that both Jared and Rafe were following them.

"I didn't really think about it," Jared said. "Jensen, this wasn't something I planned for to happen, and...I talked to Stephen and it just slipped out."

Jensen let out a low huffing sound, turning a corner without really thinking about it; he had walked that path so many times in the two years since he and Waya got their own place instead of the shared rooms of the pup cave.

"So you told my best friend that you fucked me. Perfect," he said bitterly.

"We mated," Jared said firmly. "And I know you're not pleased with it but....I think I am."

That surprised Jensen enough for him to stop in his tracks, suddenly enough that Jared actually walked into him and he balanced himself with one hand against the tunnel wall and the other one around Jensen's waist, holding their bodies close together.

"You're pleased with it?" Jensen asked.

He refused to look up at Jared, instead he looked over to where Rafe had walked close to Waya and she pushed up against him, her head under his chin and Jensen felt a surge of comfort when the big, black wolf carefully licked over his bondwolf's head in a soft and intimate gesture.

"Rafe always wanted to find a mate," Jared said, looking at the two wolves. "For me, it wasn't that important and I didn't really think it would change anything."

"It changed everything," Jensen said and he couldn't hold the bitterness out of his voice.

-¤-
-¤-

Jared flinched at the tone in Jensen's voice but he couldn't really fault the young man for it. While so many in Wolfhold seemed to look the other way, Jared hadn't missed how some of the younger members had murmured words to Jensen as he walked through the caves and he could only imagine what those words had been.

"I don't want to force you into anything," Jared said softly. "But we both know that is what done can't be undone."

"I know," Jensen sighed, his shoulders slumping and Jared's hands itched with the need to reach out and soothe.

"Don't," Jensen said, his gaze shifting to look at Jared's hands where it was slowly lifting up.

"Fine," Jared said and took a step back, pushing a hand through his hair. "Can we at least talk? Will you and Waya join us for some food? I never got to take you back here for the lunch....before..."

For a moment he thought that Jensen would say no but in the end Jensen nodded and the four of them walked in silence down the corridors lit by flickering torches. The scent of the torches stung Jared's nose but even then there was no denying the almost intoxicating scent coming off Jensen and Jared knew that not all of it was what he felt through Rafe.

They live in here, Rafe said when they walked past a wooden door.

Jared was slightly surprised that Jensen and Waya lived that deep inside the cave. Most bonded got rooms closer to the entrance with mated pairs living in the top caves and no one usually chose the deepest of the caves. Both the Commander and the Captain had quarters in the very depth of the Hold and for some reason it made Jared feel slightly better to know that Jensen was just down the hall from the cave that was now his home.

"Why did you chose a cave down here?" Jared asked, slowing down but not stopping.

"It's as far away from anyone else you could come," Jensen answered. "The old Captain never had anything against me so being here was...the best choice."

"I know you're not ready yet," Jared said as he turned in to the short tunnel leading to his own cave. "But when you are, I would love for you and Waya to come live with us."

He pushed the door open and even though Jensen didn't as much as answer he did still follow Jared inside and he heard the other man close the door behind them.

How does Waya feel about all of this?" Jared asked Rafe.

She's not overly pleased with Jensen, Rafe informed him. But she wants this. I'm sure that my mate will make your mate see reason and accept what is happening. Your mate is a strong one, you should be proud.

I am, Jared said, looking at Jensen as he walked through the cave with Waya at his side. We did good, coming here. John said that being mated suits me, but I don't even feel mated. Not yet.

We'll get there, Rafe assured him before walking over to walk right next to Waya, their bodies pressed together and tails entangling.

"How old are you?" Jared asked, realizing how very little he knew about the man he was now tied to. "You've been here...three years, right?"

"I was sixteen when I was chosen," Jensen said, his back still towards Jared. "So yes, I've been here for three years now."

"And from what I've heard you're one of the main hunters. That's quite a road to travel in just three years."

Jensen turned around at that, his back straightening and Jared could see pride in the movement, could see the strength in the other man and he felt a surge of pride as he watched his mate.

"Two years," Jensen said. "The first year was training, me and Waya living with the other newly bonded in the Pup Cave. It's how it's done here, is it different in the Citadel?"

"Yes," Jared said as he walked over to the low and sturdy chairs at the far side of the cave. "For us, there's no group bonding like that. Each to their own and...too much politics from the get go. But we also don't judge..."

A low scoff left Jensen's lips but Jared forced himself to not react, instead sitting down and motioning for Jensen to do the same. The wolves walked over and lay down beside an empty chair and while Jensen looked surprised, he did walk over and sat down in the chair in question, his hand absently drifting down to stroke over Waya's ears.

"Everyone judges," Jensen said, his shoulders moving in a barely there shrug. "People think they don't, but they do. What did you first think when you saw me, Captain?"

The use of his title stung but Jared was sure that it was Jensen's way of distancing himself from anything that made him feel too much of anything and he was also sure that he would be on the list of things that Jensen would want to distance himself from.

"I thought that you needed a bath," Jared said as he thought back on the dirty man he had met on the hills of the smoking huts.

Jensen laughed, a short and surprised sound that made Jared feel like maybe he had done something right.

"I guess I can understand that," Jensen said but the humor in his voice was tinged with something else that Jared couldn't really put a name on. "This just isn't...what I expected."

It wasn't what either of them had expected but Jared didn't point that out and the two of them drifted off into silence, watching their wolves wrapping around each other and Jared thought that Rafe was the lucky one.

"You know they see me as weak," Jensen said suddenly, making Jared jump slightly. "This, us, it isn't a common thing and they thought I was weak before but now..."

"Not all of them," Jared said. "And you have showed them that you aren't...you became hunter on your own."

"Doesn't matter when you're the one on all fours," Jensen snapped bitterly.

The mere thought of Jensen like that had Jared's cock throbbing and he tried to not think about it but it was hard. He could too easily remember how Jensen had looked just like that, naked and presenting himself to Jared and the memory was one guaranteed to make Jared hard in no-time. He could see that Jensen knew it as well, could read it in the way Jensen's whole body tensed up and in the flaring of his nostrils as he scented the air.

"Captain.." he said quietly.

"I'm..." Jared started but he couldn't say that he was sorry, not when it would be such an obvious lie.

He didn't know who was moving first, could just sit there in silence as their scents mingled together until suddenly it got too much and something between them snapped. The very next moment he found himself with his arms full of Jensen and the taste of his mate on his tongue. They should be talking, so much things between them still left unsaid but Jared's arousal was soaring, magnified by Rafe's emotions as the wolf reacted to Jared. Together they filled the cave with the heavy scent of lust and it mingled together with the much softer scent of Jensen and Waya, an inviting scent that had Jared tugging at Jensen's clothes before he could really think about it.

So good, Rafe rumbled in the back of his mind and Jared didn't know if it was because of Waya, or because of the wolf's own emotions but in the end it didn't matter

He and Rafe were one and the arousal between them pushed higher and higher as Jared got Jensen free from the torn clothes from before and he knew full well that this time there would be no salvaging the clothes as Jared tore them to shreds. Jensen's body was firm and solid against his own and he could feel the hard length of his mate's cock as well as scenting the thickness of his slick. There was no denying how utterly male Jensen was, hard muscles moving under warm skin and the hard line of his dick pressing up against Jared.

The residual hormones from their first mating meant there was no way for either of them to take things slow, not when it felt like their emotions had triggered a landslide of raw lust. But at least this time Jared wanted to see Jensen's face as he pushed inside and he managed to get his cock free and Jensen pulled up on his lap, the press of the other man's cock a hot line between their bellies.

"C'mon," Jared mumbled, grabbing Jensen's hips firmly as he lifted the young man up and slid him down the hard length of his cock.

He heard Rafe roar in lust and approval, could tell the very second that the big wolf pushed inside Waya and the doubled pleasure made Jared feel like his entire body was on fire.

-¤-
-¤-

Jensen wanted to keep silent, didn't want to show how good it felt when Jared's cock pushed inside him but there was no way he could hold it back. He could feel Waya's pleasure as well, could feel what she felt when Rafe claimed her at the same time as Jared claimed Jensen.

His head fell back and a deep moan left his lips as Jared pushed him down until their bodies were pressed together, Jared buried so deep inside him that Jensen thought he could taste it in the back of his throat. His body opened willingly to Jared's, letting him inside and no matter how much his mind was fighting against it, Jensen couldn't deny how a part of him felt complete with Jared inside him.

"Please," he whispered but he didn't really know what he was asking for, if he wanted more or if he just wanted for it to not be so much.

"Anything," Jared promised him, hands gripping tighter on Jensen's hips.

There was already bruises on his skin and Jensen knew there would be more, combined with other marks as a huge hand cupped the back of his head and tilted it to the side, his mate's mouth a scorching heat against Jensen's neck. He knew there would be more bruises, marks the shape of Jared's mouth but he also left his own marks on Jared's body. The air was thick with the scent of sex but also the scent of blood where Jensen's claws had come out to drag over Jared's shoulders at the same time as Jared's teeth sharpened and drew blood from Jensen's neck.

The hint of pain just made it all much more intense and Jensen felt himself go boneless in Jared's hands, allowing the captain to move Jensen up and down his cock, circling his hips to meet each slide down and Jensen swore he could feel each ridge and vein of Jared's cock against his inner walls.

"Not gonna...fuck...." Jared groaned and Jensen gasped when he felt a hot tongue drag over the scrapes on his neck, the sting of the pain oddly soothing.

"Knot...me..." Jensen pleaded.

He shouldn't want it, shouldn't take as much pleasure from Jared being inside him but his entire body craved the knot and maybe this time he would really be able to relish in the feeling of it filling him up. Jensen moaned when he felt the swelling knot pushing against his rim each time Jared pushed up, it stretched him with each thrust and Jensen felt close to tears when it tugged at his ass, sliding through the slick.

"Let me…" Jared gasped, sharpness of his claws digging into Jensen's hips. "Relax…"

It wasn't an order, but the pleading tone was enough for Jensen's body to open up, Jared's knot going in with a wet sound and Jensen cried out when he felt the knot stretch him wide, tying Jared to him.

"Fuck, fuck," Jensen gasped. "Uh…fuck…. God, so good."

He felt like the world around him faded away with the swell of Jared's knot pushing against his prostate and in the back of his mind he could feel how Waya felt when Rafe knotted her, the sound of her claws scraping the ground loud even over the sound of his and Jared's heavy breathing and the sound of skin on skin. It felt intimate in a way their first time hadn't, something beyond the need and desperation of their first mating. Trembles ran through him and his cock was rock hard between their bodies and he knew that the press of Jared's knot would be enough to bring him over the edge.

The sound that left his lips when he came was closer to a howl than any human sound and even without a mirror he knew that all his animal traits were out, teeth and claws and the sheen to his eyes more pronounced than it usually was.

"You're...gorgeous like this…" Jared groaned before he pulled Jensen down and when their lips met, Jensen could taste blood where their fangs cut through skin.

A part of him wanted to pull away, get back to his own cave and close himself away from everything that was happening but with Jared coming inside him, cock throbbing as he filled Jensen up with come, they both knew that they would be stuck together for quite some time and Jensen had no choice but to lay there with Jared's body a firm wall of heat against him.

"I guess…" Jensen said slowly, watching as claws faded back into nails. "We should talk…"

"That would probably be a good idea," Jared agreed, gripping Jensen's hips and easily shifting them until he could reach a few pillows to make their talk somewhat more comfortable.

He could understand why his mate did that, Jensen was smaller after all but he hated how everything seemed set on reminding him of just that. At the same time it felt good, Jared's body strong beneath him and he could feel the scent of his own semen on Jared's belly and chest, something that shouldn't feel right, but it did.

"You should stay here," Jared said, his hands sliding down to cup over Jensen's ass and shifting him into a better position.

Jensen groaned when the movement made Jared's knot shift inside him, pulling at his rim and it made a shiver run down his spine.

"What?" he managed to get out.

"You and Waya," Jared said as he looked over to where Waya and Rafe had shifted, tied together just as Jared and Jensen were. "I know you aren't really ready for it but we are mates, the four of us, and you should live here, with us."

The cave that Jared lived in was several times the size of Jensen's small home, soft cushions and big carpets keeping the warmth in but he knew that wasn't what tempted him to take Jared up on the offer. No, the tempting part lay in Jared himself and all the things that Jensen's body told him that he wanted.

"People will talk," Jensen said quietly and he could feel Waya's eyes on him.

Does it matter? she asked. I want to be here.

There wasn't anything Jensen wouldn't do for Waya, even more so when he knew she was still upset with him from earlier.

He makes you happy, doesn't he? he asked even though he could feel the answer from across their bond.

Jared could make you happy, Waya pointed out. And we'd live much nicer than Jeremy and Baly at least.

Jensen couldn't hold back a small laugh, hissing when it made his muscles clamp down around Jared's knot and when he turned to face Jared he wondered how much of that discussion Jared had heard through Rafe.

"I'm not...really okay with this," Jensen said in an obvious understatement. "But...I can come live here."

Mates lived together, that was just how things were and when it came down to it, Jensen was happy that Jared had given him the illusion of a choice in the matter. People would talk, but they would talk even more if Jensen stayed away from Jared.

He had a mate now, even though it wasn't by choice. A mate that he knew very little about and a mate that would bring Jensen into the focus of every person within Wolfhold. In fact, he was rather sure that news of their mating would reach all the way to the Citadel and the High Commander himself.

Being knotted with Jared wasn't so bad, not when the option was going back outside to face all the people that now must know just what position in the mating Jensen would have. Jensen was grateful for Waya being strong because he was sure he would need every ounce of that strength in the days to come.

-¤-

Chapter Text

Jared watched the bed, taking in the way Jensen was sprawled out on top of it and the way Waya was pressed up right next to him. Rafe was standing by the door but his eyes were on his mate and Jared knew his bondwolf was as hesitant to leave as he himself was.

We’ve got work to do, Jared sighed. No matter how much we want to stay right here.

I know, Rafe answered. But...I wish we could stay here.

The cave was heavy with the scent of sex, the night of bonding with their mates hanging in the air and Jared could only agree with Rafe. He wanted to stay with Jensen, wanted to get to know his mate and make the man realize how good their mating could be. But instead he had to go meet with Commander and he knew that was a meeting that wouldn't be altogether comfortable. Walking out of the cave he sighed when the door closed behind him and the scent of Jensen was cut off from him.

What do you think Commander Morgan will say? he asked Rafe as they walked deeper into the caves. I mean, I've only been here...god, two days, it feels like more.

It's not like we had a choice, Rafe pointed out dryly.

The words made Jared flinch and he looked back over his shoulder to where he had left Jensen behind. He knew that it hadn't been a choice for either of them, but he also wished that it could have been. On the other hand he didn't know if Jensen would ever have chosen him if he did have the choice and that was something Jared didn't want to think about.

Biology is a fascinating thing, Jared muttered as they reached the Commander's door and he knocked on it even though he knew that Rafe must have informed Zane that they were there.

"Come in, Captain," the Commander called out and Jared pushed the door open, walking inside the Commander's cave for the second time.

Zane was sprawled out on the floor beside the sturdy table where Commander Morgan was sitting, several parchments resting in front of him and he stood up to greet Jared.

"Welcome, Captain Jared. Please sit down, I'm sure we'll have quite a bit to talk about," the Commander said and Jared sat down, Rafe by his side and the big dire wolf rested his head on Jared's thigh.

"I'm not sure that we do," Jared answered even though he had walked into the cave knowing just the kind of questions that the Commander would be asking of him.

"Excuse me?" Morgan said and Zane sat up as well, tail twitching curiously.

"I know what you want me to talk about," Jared said. "But I won't, there should be two others here for us to have that discussion, don't you think?"

He didn't want to talk about Jensen or Waya when they weren't there to speak for themselves and he could see the surprise on the Commander's face morph into something that looked a lot like respect.

"I can really see why you were chosen for the position you hold," the Commander said slowly and Jared shrugged.

In truth he thought it was more that he had worked and earned his position than the personal traits but on the other hand, those traits might have been why he had been given the opportunity in the first place.

"Why haven't you done anything about how people here are treating Jensen?" he asked, leveling a firm gaze on Commander Morgan but he was sure that the man could see how annoyed he was.

They don't like that question, Rafe informed him, even though that much was obvious from the way the Commander and Zane both tensed up at the question.

I don't really care Jared answered and he could feel Rafe's approval across their bond and far in the distance he could feel Jensen start to wake up.

"We have punished it the times we've heard of it," Commander Morgan answered stiffly.

"How many times?" Jared asked. "He and Waya bonded three years ago, how many times has punishment happened?"

He remained in his seat when the Commander stood up and started pacing the floor, his steps almost soundless against the softness of the carpets warming the room. Jared kept silent, waiting for the man to answer and he wondered what he had just stirred up. Zane stayed in place, his yellow eyes flicking back and forth between Jared and Commander Morgan but there was no way Jared would keep quiet and continue to watch his mate suffer.

"It's not as easy as that," Commander Morgan said when Jared started feeling like the silence was something thick and suffocating. "We tried in the beginning, wanted to keep them off Jensen but we can't always be there and when we weren't…"

It took pure willpower to keep quiet but Jared could tell that the Commander still had something more to say. After several more long minutes he walked back to the table and sat down across from Jared once more, though he remained silent and Jared itched to ask questions even though he was sure that wasn't the best thing to do.

"No one would respect the coddled one," the Commander said finally. "I know it's different in The Citadel but here we have hunters; it's all about proving who you are and not about politics. We couldn't treat Jensen different."

"But he is," Jared pointed out. "He's not weaker, but he is different even if you chose to ignore it."

"You disagree with the choices I made?" the Commander snapped. "This was my cave to run and I had to answer to more people than Jensen."

"Well, as long as everyone else is happy," Jared frowned.

They fell back into silence and Jared wasn't sure what he should be saying. Anger simmered inside him no matter what the Commander said. A part of him could understand the thought behind it but he couldn't forgive the fact that his mate had been hurt in a foolish attempt to keep others at peace.

They let our mates get hurt because it was easier? Rafe asked and there was anger in the wolf's voice, anger to match Jared's own.

"We wouldn't have been doing him any favors by keeping him safe. He has proven himself. Just like everyone else here has to prove themselves on their own."

Jared stood up and he could feel the sharpness of his own fangs and the way his claws dug into his palms when he clenched his hands into fists.

"Captain," the Commander said, standing up as well and taking a step closer to Jared.

"Don't…" Jared protested, holding up one hand to stop the other man.

The Commander didn't stop and Jared was moving before he could stop himself, his fist connecting with Commander Morgan's jaw and he watched in shocked surprise as the man's had snapped to the side.

Zane flew up and Jared thought the wolf would attack but Rafe was already standing in front of the bigger wolf, teeth bared in a vicious snarl. It seemed as if the wolves were mere second from being at each other's throats when the Commander Morgan put one hand on Zane's head and Jared was sure the two of them spoke to each other as Zane slowly stopped growling.

"I can't fault you for that," Morgan said, rubbing at his jaw. "Had it been my mate I would probably have done the same."

The confession surprised Jared and he flexed his fingers, looking down at his hand rather than looking at the Commander.

Maybe he isn't all bad, Rafe commented but he still glared at Zane. You might want to not do that again though, I'm not sure I can take Zane in a fight.

I'll try to remember that, Jared answered. But I won't let them hurt Jensen any longer.

Speaking of…

Jared spun around at those words and he swore out loud when he saw Jensen standing in the barely open door, eyes blazing with fire and claws and fangs fully out.

"I don't need you to fight my battles," Jensen said, his voice cold and hard as stone. "I never asked for it. I can take care of myself."

"Jensen," Jared said.

"And the next time you plan to talk about me, it would be nice to be invited."

The man turned around and slammed the door hard enough that Jared almost expected the very cave walls to shake with the force of it.

"You might wanna tell that young man that you didn't want to talk about him," Commander Morgan said and Jared spun around, for a moment he had almost forgotten about both Morgan and Zane.

"Like he'd believe me," Jared sighed. "Do I still have my position here?"

Commander Morgan looked honestly surprised at that but then he reached up and rubbed at the reddening spot on his chin.

"Hitting your leader might not be the wisest of ideas, but I think you might have been justified in this," the man said with a shrug. "We'll forget about it and… I hope that with your help, maybe things can change for Jensen here."

"Maybe," Jared said, already following Rafe towards the door. "But I don't think he needs me for that."

-¤-
-¤-

Jensen sank down on his own narrow bed, leaning forward until his head was between his knees and he pulled in several deep breaths. Waya was pushed up right next to him and once he managed to calm himself down he reached out and wrapped one arm around her, pulling the white wolf even closer.

"I can't believe he punched the Commander for me," Jensen groaned into her fur.

I guess he thought he was doing the right thing? Waya suggested but Jensen could feel the undertone of annoyance in her voice.

"We've been fine for years without him and he comes here and...everything is different."

Waya jumped up on the bed, laying down with her head in Jensen's lap and Jensen ran his hands through her coarse fur. It meant the world to him that she was right there with him, even more so now when they were already back in the small room they should have left behind. He jumped slightly when he heard someone knocking on the door but to his surprise the voice on the other side wasn't Jared's.

"Jensen," Commander Morgan said, voice reaching loud and clear through the thickness of the door. "I need to have a few words with you."

That's unusual, Waya said, sitting up on the bed.

So is the Captain punching the Commander, Jensen answered quietly but he pushed himself up and walked over to open the door.

"Commander," he greeted with a bow of his head, letting Commander Morgan and Zane into the room and the both of them showed more tension than Jensen had ever seen before.

Jensen walked back over to the bed, resting one hand on Waya's side but not wanting to sit down. He felt small enough compared to the Commander as it was without drawing attention to it.

"I think we can cancel your punishment for breaking formation," the Commander said, making Jensen look up in surprise. "We all know what mating does to us, and I know neither you nor Waya would have done what you did had it not been for the first onslaught of mating."

"We never meant to," Jensen admitted. "It was...intense."

"Why didn't you tell me right away?"

Jensen looked down at Waya at those words because he knew all too well why he hadn't said anything and he still felt guilty towards Waya for what he had said. He thought that the Commander might know why, or if nothing else maybe Jared had gotten to tell him before Jensen had arrived just in time to see his mate slam his fist into the Commander's face.

"You know what everyone thinks about me," Jensen said and when it looked like the Commander was about to say something Jensen held up one hand to stop it. "No, I know why you never intervened, I've always known but that doesn't stop it from being true. Most of the Bonded here have always seen me as weak because I'm a male bonded with a female wolf."

Waya let out a low growl at that, making it perfectly clear what she thought about that and Jensen couldn't keep the tiniest of smiles off his lips.

"I'm not, though," he continued but he spoke more to Waya than to Commander Morgan and Zane. "Being bonded with Waya is… I couldn't have asked for a stronger wolf but...it threw me a little, bonding with Ja….the Captain."

"I think you're allowed to call him by name, Jensen," the Commander said with small huff of laughter. "And I want you to know that…I'm sorry if I did wrong by you. I know you're strong and you know Stephen and Allie feel the same way. I prefer if this didn't leave this room but...I'm not surprised to see you mated to someone like Jared and I don't think you realize how much of that mating lies with you and Waya. You didn't mate with the Captain because of some fluke of biology, you mated with him because both you and Waya are strong enough to stand next to a leader."

Jensen felt stunned by those words and he just stared at the Commander. For all that he was a father figure to everyone he very seldom showed what he thought of the people he led, much less so on such a personal level as he did in that moment. The words still hadn't fully sunk in when Zane and the Commander walked back towards the door and it wasn't until the man was just about to close the door behind him that he turned around to face Jensen once more.

"Oh, and Jensen?" he said. "I think you should know that your mate didn't want to talk about your mating without you present."

The door closed before Jensen got another word out and it left him and Waya in a ringing silence, neither of them saying a single word and the thoughts were moving like whirlwinds in Jensen's mind, never really touching ground before they took off again.

-¤-

"Can I come in?" Jensen asked, standing just outside the door to Jared's cave and that small question was one of the hardest he had ever asked.

He nervously fingered the edge of his silver gray tunic, not feeling as comforted by the wolf head on his chest as he used to before Jared came along to stir things up for him.

"This is your home now," Jared said slowly. "At least I hope it is. And even if you don't want to live here, you never have to ask permission to come in."

The words surprised Jensen and he smiled softly when he stepped inside, Waya staying at his side rather than moving over to where Rafe was standing and watching them calmly. From the small twitches of her ears and tail Jensen could tell that the two of them were talking but it warmed his heart that she remained with him throughout it.

"So," Jensen said, turning around to face Jared. "You punched the Commander. For me."

Jared shrugged and closed the door, one hand coming up to push through his hair.

"In a way?" Jared said and there was a hint of a question in his voice. "And for me. Don't you get it yet, Jensen? What happens to you, happens to me and I won't..."

"Stop," Jensen interrupted.

Please, go to Rafe, he asked Waya. After a quick glance between the two humans she walked over to where Rafe was waiting and the black wolf licked a comforting stripe over her head before they lay down side by side, watching their bonded.

"You… I can't believe you did that but… Thank you."

The words weren't really what he had meant to say but when they left his lips they felt strangely right. Even Waya was surprised by it but she didn't say anything and Jensen was grateful to her for that.

"Why are you thanking me?" Jared asked, a frown on his face.

"I don't need you defending me," Jensen said with a small shrug of his shoulder. "But that was something… I couldn't have done it myself and...I know you didn't want to talk with him about us."

Jensen knew that he might not really make sense, the thoughts still a jumble in his mind but he knew that as much as both Stephen and Allie had always been supportive, they had never really been as defensive and protective as Jared was.

"We mated," Jared said and Jensen couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at that obvious statement. "That means when we talk about our mating, we do it together."

"We don't," Jensen said.

"What?" Jared asked.

"We don't talk about it," Jensen clarified. " They all know that we're mated, why should we talk about it, what difference would talking make?"

Jared huffed out a small laugh at that but he nodded and Jensen breathed out a sigh of relief. He didn't want to have to explain himself to the other members of Wolfhold; what had formed and was still forming between them wasn't for others to judge. A part of him already knew that they would judge, but he didn't want to think too much about that.

"There will be talk," Jared said, saying just the same thing as Jensen was thinking. "But I think you're right, no one else would have to defend their mating. I don't see why we should be any different. But that also means we can't keep hiding in our cave."

"Our?" Jensen asked.

"No matter if you live here or not, it's our home," Jared said firmly. "But really, it's time to go back out there. I don't know about you but we sort of got distracted from eating yesterday. Let's go out there and show them they can't force us into hiding."

-¤-
-¤-

They're talking about us, Rafe said when they closed in on the main cave. From what I can gather from the other wolves, it's the number one topic of gossip now.

I'm not surprised, Jared sighed. When it comes to gossip this place and the Citadel seem to have more in common than we first thought. What about John and the others?"

He looked over to Jensen and Waya, the man seemingly lost in thought and the wolf pressed close by his side, most likely in an attempt to comfort.

They're not part of it, Rafe said and that made Jared breathe out a sigh of relief.

If the bonded and their wolves that had arrived with Jared and Rafe had kept apart from the others in the Hold, maybe Jared would be able to offer his mate some sort of safe haven.

"Ready?" he asked when they were closing in on the cave.

"No," Jensen said with a bitter twist to his lips. "Let's do this."

Jared nodded and together the two of them walked out into the main cave of Wolfhold and Jared wasn't surprised when every head in the room turned to look at them.

-¤-

Chapter Text

Jensen walked through the cave with Jared by his side and he could feel the way the entire cave went silent, could feel the eyes on him and hear the low murmurs in the corners.

They're not really subtle, he commented dryly.

Did you really expect them to be? Waya answered, taking a few steps away from Rafe and instead walking close enough that she was brushing Jensen's leg.

The group of wolves and bonded that had accompanied Jared to Wolfhold sat around the fire that Allie had claimed for her own, the biggest one in the middle of the cave. Jensen held his head high when he walked by Jared's side through the pressing silence of the cave. A part of him had almost expected Jared to lead him inside but his newfound mate was careful to keep them side by side each step of the way.

"There's some people I want you to meet," Jared said once they sat down next to the fire.

He kept his voice low, but in the silence surrounding them Jensen was sure that each word they said would be heard by the other members of the Hold, some of them even leaning in to be sure to hear better.

"This is my friend, John and his bondwolf Ainot," Jared introduced a dark haired man who had been sitting next to Stephen.

"Nice to meet you," John said with an easy smile. "It's really something fantastic to meet a cross-gender bonded."

The words took Jensen by surprise because while Jared had seemed fascinated, Jensen was used to people frowning and shying away from the subject.

"We've only heard rumors of the cross-gender bonded ones but never been blessed with a meeting," a young brown haired woman said and the others were quick to agree. "It must be very different to be bonded with a wolf of another gender than your own."

"Lizzy," Jared said and Jensen could hear the warning in his mate's voice but Jensen found himself smiling as he turned to Lizzy.

"I wouldn't really know," he told her. "I don't have much to compare to."

Lizzy seemed shocked for a moment but then she started laughing and the others did as well.

"No," she admitted. "I guess you don't."

To Jensen's surprise the conversation didn't die away but Jared's friends easily fit in with Stephen and Allie and they bumped shoulders trying to get to the bowls that Allie was handing out, the wolves sitting up and obviously waiting for their own shares.

"It's nice to have so many people to feed," Allie said, handing Jared a bowl.

Jensen didn't point out that Allie was in charge of keeping most of the cave fed in one way or another, he knew that wasn't really what she was talking about. He gave her a small smile when she handed him a plate with smoked meat, cheese and freshly baked bread and for the first time he could really remember it actually felt good to sit down at Allie's big fire even with its placement in the middle of the cave.

"I wanted to explore the area surrounding Wolfhold later on," John said after a few minutes of quiet eating. "I've heard you got some expansive training grounds here."

"We do," Stephen confirmed. "Any weapon in particular?"

"Bows," John said and Jensen sat up straighter, looking over in surprise. "I've heard you have a few really talented archers?"

Somewhere in the back of the cave a too-loud snort was heard, making Jensen tense up. Before any bad thoughts could really take hold though, Stephen spoke out and it was clear that he meant for his voice to reach throughout the cave.

"Then you should really ask Jensen to show you around," he said and there was an edge of steel to his voice. "I might have been the one to teach him how to use the bow in the first place, but I'm just that, a teacher. Jensen is a true hunter."

It wasn't the first time Stephe or Allie had praised him, but it was the first time it had happened in front of people who might actually listen to what he said and not just laugh it away.

"See, that's what I heard as well," John said and that surprised Jensen enough that he almost dropped the last piece of bread he held in his hand. "Would you mind showing me around? I'm sure Jared will be busy with Commander Morgan, comparing swords and whatnot."

Jensen couldn't help but laugh and the lingering tension faded away even more, making him quickly agree to show the newcomer around the following day. Thanks to Stephen and Allie he had friends in Wolfhold, but for the first time he actually felt like he belonged.

-¤-

"It's nice to have people to talk to about this," John said the following day.

Jensen watched as the man raised his longbow and notched an arrow against the string and he could see how relaxed John was, recognized the feeling from how his own bow always managed to calm him down no matter what.

"Not many archers in the Citadel?" Jensen asked.

He was surprised by the ease with which he got along with John, the two of them quickly going beyond any discomfort. It wasn't really what he had expected, not when John must be a few years older than Jared and probably had at least fifteen years on Jensen himself.

"It's all about swords and showing off," John said, letting the arrow fly and the sound when it hit the target told Jensen that it had hit very close to the bullseye. "No one really cares about hunting there, meat is something you get down at the market."

Jensen stroked his fingers over his own bow, feeling the smoothness of the wood and the give of the string when he plucked at it. He had spent days crafting that bow and even more hours caring for it and he couldn't really imagine living in a place where people didn't understand the feeling of accomplishment of taking down prey and being the one to bring home dinner.

"I haven't seen Jared with his swords," Jensen said, wondering if he should really ask John about his mate.

"He's good," John said with a nod, reaching for another arrow. "Well, he's great but I think you know that already, it's part of why he's here after all. It's why we followed him here."

They think highly of him

I've noticed, Jensen answered Waya's words. They are so different from the people here.

And by different you mean nice?

A small laugh left Jensen before he could stop it but to his relief John only raised an eyebrow but after a quick glance to where Waya and Ainot were lounging in a patch of sunlight and he smirked in understanding.

"You can ask the things you want to know," John said, placing a second arrow right next to the first one. "I won't say private things about the Captain, but I doubt you would ask them to begin with."

"I wouldn't," Jensen agreed and got up to put an arrow to his own bow and he smiled when his arrow hit the middle of the target even though he had been standing several feet behind John.

"Well damn," John said with a low whistle. "I can see why you're supposed to be the best hunter here. We need to go hunting together someday."

Jensen grinned and made a second arrow slam into the next target and then he looked around the clearing, taking in the ten targets that were set up in a half circle. He looked over to John and then he grinned, making sure that he had all his arrows ready and before the man could react Jensen had fired an arrow at each of the target boards they hadn't used before. The feathers of the first arrow were still quivering slightly by the time the last one hit its mark and Jensen laughed at the stunned look on John's face.

"I'd love to go hunting," Jensen said. "If you can keep up."

-¤-
-¤-

Jared let his swords slide down into their sheaths, rolling his shoulders to get rid of some of the tension but he couldn't keep away the smile even though his muscles were aching. It was the first time he'd had time to practice since he had arrived at Wolfhold and tired as he was he felt better for having spent some time with the swords in his hands.

That's good, I thought you might have lost your touch.

Rafe's tongue was lolling out in a wolfish grin and Jared could feel the amusement trickling across their bond. The wolf had been resting in the shadows during Jared's practice, allowing him to focus on the swords instead of their usual combined training sessions.

"Says the one who did nothing," Jared commented dryly.

I'm a wolf, I don't really need to train. Fighting is in my genes, Rafe answered as he got up and shook some dry leaves out of his fur.

"Right," Jared huffed. "Should we head back to the Hold? Jensen and Waya should come back from hunting soon, unless John and Ainot slow them down."

Don't tell Ainot I said it, but they will absolutely slow our mates down, Rafe grinned.

Jared laughed at that, knowing full well that Rafe was right about that. In the two weeks since he had arrived in Wolfhold he had gotten to see Jensen practice and for the first time ever he wondered if maybe he should have gone for the bow and arrows instead of the swords he loved so much. Or maybe, not because he already saw the bow as being a part of Jensen. For all the times he had seen John with bow in hand, his friend had nothing on his mate when it came to speed and grace.

"Our mates," Jared said slowly. "It still feels a bit weird to say it out loud."

You never knew you wanted a mate until you found one, Rafe said. Being mated makes us stronger, calmer. Better.

"Easy for you to say," Jared sighed and the two of them started making their way back towards Wolfhold, the forest quiet around them as they walked. "Your mate is accepting of
the relationship."

It's not as easy as you think it is, Rafe answered.

Jared slowed his steps, not wanting to reach the Hold while having the discussion that had been two weeks in the making.

"Waya is happy about being mated," Jared pointed out. "Jensen? He might share my bed but he's still doubting it. Doubting us."

He could feel anger come across the bond, strong enough to shock him and Jared turned back to face his bondwolf. The two of them stood staring at each other for several long moments, neither of them speaking but then Rafe shook his head, black fur shining in the sun filtering down through the trees.

Waya is feeling bad about the mating because of how Jensen feels about it, Rafe said and his mental voice was harder than Jared had ever heard it before. It's not easy for either of us. What you feel, I feel, What she feels, I feel.

Jared winced at the words hurled at him, feeling the truth in them and he felt guilt settle heavy in belly when he realized how focused he had been on his own problems, barely thinking about how they would reflect back to Rafe. He had never meant to make Rafe feel like he was caught in the middle of anything.

Things have become better, Rafe commented, voice losing some of the sharp edge.

"I just wish he wasn't so against it all," Jared said, kneeling down in front of Rafe.

I don't think he is, not really. He's just thinking there's something wrong with him for being bonded with a female.

"But there isn't!" Jared protested.

So prove it to him. Or make him prove it to himself.

Jared leaned in to wrap one arm around the huge wolf, pulling him in close and breathing in the heavy scent of his fur and he smiled when Rafe raised one foreleg to wrap it around Jared in a canine hug. The both of them relaxed into the feeling of each other, relishing it being just the two of them for a change, none of their usual obligations to distract them.

"I guess we should head back," Jared said, standing back up. "I think we should be back when Jensen returns from the hunt, and if nothing else we need to be back before Commander Morgan returns to Wolfhold."

It'll be good to have him back, Rafe said and shook his fur before following Jared up the path. I'm really not that fond of acting lead wolf around here quite yet.

Jared could only agree with that but with Commander Morgan having been gone for a few days, it had been up to him and Rafe to lead the Hold and neither of them were really comfortable with doing so less than two weeks into their time there. He was sure that was the very reason the Commander had left, forcing Jared away from the issues with his mate and instead focusing on the people living in Wolfhold.

"They're rather influenced by their bonded humans, aren't they?" Jared said with a wince.

Afraid of anything that's different, or anyone, Rafe muttered. We'll make them see.

-¤-

He could feel Jensen approaching, the strain of their bond easing with each step his mate took down the corridor leading to the Captain's cave and Rafe was very much aware of his own mate's closeness as well, that much was obvious with the way he sat up, ears twitching and eyes on the door.

We behave like love sick pups, Jared commented dryly.

And to think, you always thought mating wasn't important, Rafe answered and Jared was sure he could hear the grin.

Before he had time to react the door swung open and Jensen came inside, closely followed by Waya and Jared smiled when he saw his mate. Jensen's bow was still in his hand and the man's usually pristine tunic with the wolf head emblem on it was matted with sweat, dirt and something Jared was pretty sure was blood but none of that could take away from the way Jensen practically glowed with pride.

"We're all set for the dinner tonight, and the wolves say the Commander should be here soon," Jared said, taking a step closer to his mate. "I take it the hunt went well?"

"It did," Jensen confirmed. "Me and John took down so many birds and rabbits, and with the help of the wolves we managed to take down two deer and get the meat back here as well. It's nice to hunt with someone."

Jared didn't really think about it, he just closed the distance between them and pulled Jensen in close, pressing their lips together in a soft kiss. He didn't know if it was because of the adrenaline that must still be in Jensen's system, or the fact that the hunting trip had made Jensen more relaxed, but for once there was no hesitation in the way Jensen's lips parted for him.

Mate, he heard Rafe in his mind and he could tell that he and Jensen weren't the only ones happy to see each other again.

"Wait," Jensen mumbled into the kiss and Jared forced himself to pull back even though he wanted to keep kissing his mate.

He expected Jensen to pull back but Jensen only put his bow down on the table before pressing himself closer against Jared once more and Jared groaned, placing his hands on Jensen's hips and pulling him even closer. Together they stumbled towards the bed, hands tugging at clothes, fumbling to get the knots open until clothes fell to the floor and he managed to pull free from Jensen enough to push his mate down on the bed.

"My hunter," Jared said with a smile, not bothering to hide how proud he was of Jensen.

Jensen looked surprised but he didn't have time to say anything before Jared leaned in and let his tongue flick out to taste the beads of pre-come already gathering at the tip of Jensen's dick. The taste of his mate was perfection and Jared thought he would never get enough of it, never get enough of having Jensen naked in his bed. If he was honest with himself, and lately he tended to be, he would never have enough of Jensen in or out of bed.

"The wolves," Jensen mumbled and Jared looked over to where Rafe had Waya pushed down on the ground.

"They feel what you feel, no matter if they are in the room or not," Jared pointed out.

In fact, considering the strength of Rafe's emotions Jared was pretty sure that there was no way for him to not be able to feel what Rafe was feeling, his and Jensen's emotions shared with and enhanced by their wolves. He could tell that Jensen was hesitating but his mate moaned when Jared sealed his lips right under the head of Jensen's dick and slowly pushed down as far as he could. When his fingers dipped down between Jensen's legs he felt his mate already wet for him, body opening up easily when Jared pushed two fingers inside and a low keening left Jensen's lips.

"You need to...hunt with me," Jensen got out. "Want you to see it… See me."

Jared wanted that as well, wanted to see Jensen where he would be the most at ease and wanted to see the skill he had heard so much about but only gotten to see at the practice range. He wanted to tell Jensen that he saw him all the time, but that would mean taking his mouth off Jensen and that just wasn't an option, not when Jensen moaned and his hips rose up to push his cock deeper into Jared's mouth. Pushing a third finger inside made Jensen cry out in pleasure and he felt his mate's hands in his hair, holding him in place.

To Jared's own surprise he found himself harden even further when Jensen held him in place, taking control and thrusting down Jared's throat before pushing back against the fingers working him open. He knew what he wanted then, knew what needed to happen and he pulled off Jensen with one last lick over the slit to gather the last of the pre-come still lingering there.

"What are you…" Jensen groaned, eyes blinking open to look up at Jared.

"Want you, like this," Jared said and before his mate had time to react he gripped Jensen's hips and spun them around until Jensen was straddling him.

"Jared, are you sure?" Jensen said, sounding surprised.

"Why shouldn't I be?" Jared asked, rubbing soothing circles over the taut skin of Jensen's hip. "I want you to ride me, I want to see how much you like it."

He could see the tension still lingering in Jensen but his mate shifted until the head of Jared's cock was resting against where Jensen was wet and his body ready and willing. Jensen bit down on his lower lip and for a moment Jared thought he might say something but instead he tilted his head backwards and pushed down, moaning when Jared's cock pushed inside.

Jared forced himself to stay still, resting his hands on the hard muscles of Jensen's thighs and watching as Jensen slowly slid down, panting softly when his body adjusted to the stretch of Jared filling him up.

-¤-
-¤-

Jensen had thought he had gotten used to being with Jared, used to the way it felt to be under Jared, but nothing had really prepared him for being the one in control. It was only when he sank down further on Jared's dick that he realized that he had been missing something he never even had realized existed. With Jared's hands resting still against his skin, it was up to Jensen to take what he wanted and he knew that Jared would let him. The power he felt rivaled that he felt when he was hunting, bow in one hand, arrow in the other and Waya a constant presence in his mind.

"Never realized that…" Jensen groaned, stilling once he was fully seated, his inner walls squeezing Jared's cock tightly.

"I wish you could see what I see," Jared mumbled slowly.

Jensen looked down at his mate and he felt his breath catch in his chest when he saw the want and need in Jared's eyes, but the thing that really got to him was something he could read as respect and understanding. A small part of him was still whispering that it wasn't right, that he shouldn't be liking having Jared inside him, but that part was growing weaker and weaker and when he pushed up slowly and saw something that looked a lot like love on Jared's face, he felt content for the first time since Jared and Rafe had arrived in Wolfhold.

He could feel Waya's emotions in his mind, could hear the sounds from her and Rafe's coupling and any thoughts of being ashamed for that shared intimacy faded away; it was how things should be between the bonded and their wolves and Jensen allowed himself to get lost in the feel of Jared, letting Waya's pleasure push his own higher.

"Jensen," Jared gasped when Jensen pushed down, grinding their bodies together and chasing the rush that only Jared could give him.

Jared felt good inside him, spreading him open and Jensen leaned forward until he could brush their lips together, circling his hips the next time he moved and that small motion had the hard cock pushing at different places inside him. The slow way their bodies rocked together was enough to drive him insane and he could tell from the way that Jared struggled to stay still that he wasn't the only one.

"Moons, Jensen, can you move already?" Jared asked and his hands moved up to take a firm grip of Jensen's hips.

"I'm the one in control," Jensen pointed out, rolling his hips. "You gave me this…"

He couldn't really tell Jared how much it meant to be given something like that, but he thought that maybe he could show him and with a small smile Jensen pushed himself up to sitting position again, tilting his head back and taking a few deep breaths. Just when he thought he had found some equilibrium a wave of emotions reached him from Waya and Jensen knew he wouldn't be able to keep it slow any longer, not when he needed Jared the same way Waya needed Rafe.

"You should always have this," Jared answered in a strangled voice.

Jensen gave a small nod and then he leaned back further, arching his back as he rested his hands on Jared's strong thighs before he pushed up slowly. He could feel Jared's eyes on him, could feel the tension building and he smiled shakily before he let go and pushed down hard, hearing Jared gasp cry out at the same time as Jensen himself did and the grip on his hips tightened even further. Jensen's body already had small bruises from Jared's hands and Jensen knew he would have more now but to his own surprise he didn't mind those marks. He might belong to Jared, but Jared belonged to him as well and for each mark Jared left on him, Jensen would be allowed to mark his mate as well.

With each time he slid down he could feel his body's own lubrication leak out to slick the way, a wet sound each time their bodies came together and he knew Jared would be able to feel it as well.

"I can smell you," Jared hissed through clenched teeth. "Damn, Jensen, you smell so good. Wish I could taste you, you would be so sweet on my tongue."

"Don't," Jensen groaned. "There's no way… I won't last if you…"

"Maybe I don't want you to," Jared answered, moving one hand down to wrap loosely around Jensen's cock.

"Fuck," Jensen moaned.

He could feel sweat dampen his hair when he picked up the pace, fucking himself up into the circle of Jared's hand before slamming himself back down on the hard cock, crying out each time the pressure against his prostate made his vision flicker with how good it felt.

"Jen, mark me," Jared said, his hand tightening it's grip for a moment. "Make me yours."

Jensen almost fell forward, needing to feel more of Jared and he felt Jared's hand fall away in their new position, but it didn't matter when his cock was trapped between their bodies, sweat slicked skin making the glide easier.

"You are mine," he agreed and without really thinking about it he sealed his lips over the pulse point of Jared's neck.

His mate cried out in surprised pleasure when Jensen bit down, his hips rocking up and pushing deeper inside Jensen and that together with the way Jared tilted his head to the side, giving Jensen more access, was enough to push Jensen over the edge. The orgasm was powerful, making his muscles clench down hard around Jared's cock and he could feel the knot swelling, pushing against his rim.

"C'mon," Jared groaned. "Wanna knot you."

"I could keep you like this," Jensen mumbled at Jared's skin.

"Tease," Jared complained with a strained laugh.

Jensen pushed up some, his body shaking with the last of his orgasm and he smiled when he saw the reddening mark on Jared's skin. He held his mate's gaze as he pushed up one more time and then pushing down hard, making the swell of the knot open him up and to his own surprise that was enough to make him come again. The second orgasm wasn't as powerful as the first one, but it still had him gasping as he felt the knot swell further, locking their bodies together and he felt Jared mark him up from the inside.

"Well, that was…good," Jared gasped, smiling up at Jensen.

"That's one way of putting it," Jensen agreed, shivering slightly but he smiled contentedly when Jared wrapped his arms around Jensen and let their lips brush together in languid kisses.

-¤-

Jensen watched as Jared sat down next to Commander Morgan, his eyes drifting down to the red mark on Jared's neck and he knew he wasn't the only one watching that telling patch of skin. As if they hadn't been staring enough when the Commander walked across the cave to Allie's fireplace, sharing a firm handshake with Jared before he took his place.

It wasn't often that the Commander ate with the people in the cave, and the few times he did he usually sat with the veteran fighters or hunters, not with the ones Allie tended to have sit by her bigger cooking fire. Hers wasn't usually one people ate by, just one where the food was made and most of the time Stephen and Jensen were the only ones there. Or so it had been before Jared and his friends had arrived. Ever since then Allie's fire had become the center of much attention for more reasons than the wonderful dishes she prepared.

"I was told you and John make a good hunting team," the Commander said, nodding at Jensen.

"We work together quite well," Jensen agreed hesitantly, surprised to be brought into the discussion. "And our wolves get along."

Waya raised her head from where she and Rafe had been pressed together, black and white fur a perfect contrast to each other. Her tongue lolled out in a wolfish grin and when Jensen looked over he saw the same grin on Ainot's face.

"I’ve got a lot to learn from Jensen," John said. "He can do stuff with that bow that I can only dream of."

"That's good news," Commander Morgan said. "With the Day of Bonding coming close I think we need more food for the feast, that will also give the people living around Wolfhold a chance to meet the new Captain. Would you two mind going out on another hunt the day after tomorrow?"

"Of course not, Commander," Jensen said quickly. "It would be an honor."

John nodded his agreement as well and the focus shifted away from Jensen, something he was immensely grateful for. He was still all too aware of the eyes on him and when he looked to the side he could see Jeremy glare daggers his way, sneering when he looked between him and Jared. Jensen clenched his hands together into fists, forcing himself to focus back on the discussion at hand but he soon found that the Commander and Jared were busy talking swords and it was hard for Jensen to keep up with them.

Not all of them like to see a mark on their Captain, Waya informed him.

I think it's more a fact that I was the one marking him, Jensen sighed. But Jared liked it and that's all that matters to me.

It's all that should matter to them as well.

In a perfect world that might be the case, but the world Jensen lived in was far from perfect even with Jared in it. Jensen reached for the jug only to find it empty and a quick glance towards his mate showed him that the two leaders were still deep in discussion so he grabbed the jug and went to the cool alcove over by the pool to refill it. Waya stayed with Rafe and Jensen thought that was the only reason he was caught off guard when he suddenly heard Jeremy speak out behind him

"You really think you are something now, don't you, bitch?"

Jensen tensed up, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment but he focused on refilling the large jug from one of the barrels stored in the alcove, not wanting to bother with Jeremy at all.

"You dare to mark the leader? He must feel so ashamed to be mated to someone like you. Bet he wish he'd stayed in the Citadel now," Jeremy continued. "Don't think you're something special just because you sit with Commander Morgan now. Only reason you're there is because you go ass up for…"

"Jeremy!"

The words came sharp was a whiplash and Jensen spun around only to see Jared standing behind Jeremy, eyes dark with rage and his entire body language a threat of violence.

"How dare you speak of my mate like that?" Jared continued, seemingly unaware of how the entire cave had went silent, all eyes locked on the three of them.

"You let him mark you up," Jeremy spat and Jensen heard several shocked gasps when the young man spoke up against the Captain. "Things like that shouldn't be done."

Jared took a step closer, eyes narrowing into slits and beside him Rafe was showing teeth, muscles tense and Jensen was sure the wolf was ready to pounce.

"If my mate wants to leave a mark, he will," Jared said with deadly calm voice. "It's not for you to decide what should or shouldn't be done and I suggest you turn back to my mate and show him the respect he deserves. You better ask forgiveness!"

Jensen felt shame wash over him, cheeks heating with blood when Jared looked back at him over his shoulder.

"I can fight my own battles, Jared," Jensen forced out.

"So fight them!" Jared snapped. "Don't just stand there and take it like…"

"Like what? Like the bitch everyone seems to think I am?"

No one said a word and Jensen had no plans on staying long enough to let them and when Waya arrived to be by his side he turned and forced himself to walk calmly through the cave, holding his head high when people stepped aside and only when he was down in the corridor leading to the smaller living caves did he allow himself to run.

Chapter Text

Jared turned from where his mate had walked around the corner, disappearing into the darkness of the cave and he knew that every eye, bonded or wolf, was fixed on him and Jeremy now.

"That's how you treat the mate of the Captain?" Jared asked, taking a step closer to the young man.

There was so much more he wanted to say but before he could get a single word out a voice rang out in the cave.

"Enough!"

Commander Morgan was standing in the middle of the cave and for the first time Jared could really see the man that was the Commander of one of the most important outposts in the empire of the wolbound people. With eyes practically glowing, teeth sharp and claws out, Commander Morgan looked fierce and when Jared quickly glanced around he saw people carefully stepping aside until the three of them were standing in a big circle of bonded and wolves.

"Jeremy, I will not accept you speaking to anyone in my cave in the way you spoke to Jensen," Commander Morgan said. "Jensen and Waya are valued members of Wolfhold. They put the food that you eat on the table and now Jensen is mated with your Captain."

"Sir…" Jeremy started but the Commander raised one hand, stopping him.

"I'm not done," he said and then he turned around to look out over the people gathered around them.

He caught Jared's gaze for the briefest second before he reached down to rest his hand on Zane's head and Jared was sure that the wolves would hear Commander Morgan's words repeated from Zane as well.

"We are the last outpost against the wild beyond the mountains," the Commander said. "We will not be defending anything if we turn on ourselves like this. I should have said something before now and that is on me, but each and every person in this cave needs to realize we are a family. I will not have it you treating anyone the way you have treated Jensen, and neither will the wolves."

At those words the majority of the wolves howled their approval and Jared wanted to be happy for the change, hoping it would help but instead he was itching to get to Jensen. He knew he had said something so very wrong; he needed to do whatever it took to make Jensen realize how much he regretted the words.

"Commander?" Jared said when Jeremy remained silent, angry spots of red coloring his cheeks.

"Go to your mate, Captain," the Commander said. "I'll deal with this."

Jared wasted no time taking off through the cave, running down the corridor that Jensen had disappeared through, Rafe by his side each step of the way.

Our cave or his? Jared asked but when they walked deeper into the cave he could feel the pull of their bond.

Ours, Rafe answered and Jared thought he wasn't the only one who was relieved.

Despite everything, Jensen had gone to their cave instead of back to the cave that had been his own before their mating and while it wasn't a huge sign it was better than nothing. In that moment Jared would take whatever he could. He hesitated outside the door even though he was sure Jensen could sense him out there and when he stepped through the door he wasn't surprised to find Jensen in the middle of the room, all animal features prominent.

"How dare you?" Jensen growled.

Jared carefully closed the door behind him, taking in the way his mate was trembling with barely controlled anger. He knew he had messed up out in the main cave, but he had never seen Jensen as he was in that moment and a part of Jared thought that his mate had never looked more beautiful than he did right then.

"It came out wrong," Jared said, remaining by the door.

Very wrong, Rafe added, not very helpfully, before he trotted over to where Waya was resting on one of the soft rugs, clearly not as upset as her bonded was.

"Very wrong," Jared repeated and he had to stop himself from taking a step back when Jensen's eyes narrowed into slits.

"You think I'm weak because I don't fight back," Jensen said and it wasn't a question. "You and the others, you think I'm just taking it. I'm not."

To Jared it very much looked as he was but he decided to remain quiet, seeing what Jensen would say and he didn't need to wait long. The glow of Jensen's eyes faded some but the claws were still out and when he spoke Jared saw the glimmer of sharp teeth.

"This is my home, and despite everything, there hasn't been a single day when I've regretted attending the Day of Bonding," Jensen said firmly, looking over to Waya. "I miss my family, but this is my family now. And I can't fight with them or I would ruin my own home. I'm not gonna have screaming matches in the main cave. I can't do that, and it wouldn't help me."

Jared took a step forward then, sighing when Jensen quickly stepped away further, low growl escaping him as he glared at Jared.

"But doing nothing isn't helping either," Jared pointed out.

"I'm not doing nothing," Jensen answered "I'm proving them wrong. Each and every one of them will see me for what I am one day, and so will you."

Jared opened his mouth to protest, not liking the implication that he was anything like the rest of the inhabitants of Wolfhold.

"No," Jensen stopped him. "You do see me as weak, needing to be protected. I don't. Just because I don't fight doesn't make me weak, and fighting Jeremy wouldn't make me strong."

Jensen was strong, in that moment strength was radiating off of him and Jared nodded, allowing himself to smile at the image his mate made, hands clenched into fists by his sides.

"I know," Jared said. "I just hate him hurting you, and I fucking hate the others looking the other way when it happens."

"He's never been that bad before, not in public," Jensen said, claws disappearing as he calmed down.

"And he never will be again," Jared told Jensen. "Commander Morgan is talking to them right now."

"He...what?" Jensen said and to Jared's surprise the claws came back out. "What is it with people trying to defend my honor?"

Jared sighed, running a hand through his hair and watching his mate, the anger still coming off him in waves and he wondered just how long it would take him to change Jensen's mind and see what was so obvious to Jared and the bonded that had followed him from the Citadel.

"Is that what you think we're doing?" Jared asked. "The Commander stood up for someone in this cave, for a part of his family if you prefer to have it phrased like that. Maybe you can see it better like that. He didn't do it because you're different, he did it because you aren't."

-¤-
-¤-

The words were so surprising that the words Jensen had meant to hurl back at Jared got stuck in his throat and he stood there, mouth open and feeling as he had just been doused with cold water.

You should listen to him, Waya pointed out, far more bite to her words than Jensen was used to.

"What?" he said, turning around to look over to where she was curled up with Rafe.

You'll never get them to treat you like you're normal, if you keep thinking of yourself as different, she pointed out.

"I'm not," Jensen protested.

But you are, and your emotions are messing with my mating. I love you, Jensen, but you have to let someone besides me in. You have to let yourself be happy. Come.

The last word wasn't meant for Jensen and he could only watch when both Waya and Rafe got up and moved towards the door, only stopping for Rafe to look up at Jared. Jensen knew they were communicating, could see it in the twitch of Rafe's ears and the way Jared tilted his head to the side before he nodded and opened the door for the wolves.

Stop fighting this, Waya said when she stopped in the doorway and looked back at him. Rafe and I will leave you to yourself for awhile. And have some time alone for us.

Jared closed the door behind them and Jensen couldn't stop himself from shivering when he forced himself to let the animal traits fade away and he walked over to sit down at the edge of the big bed, hiding his face in his hands.

"I'm driving my wolf away," Jensen said, his voice cracking with the emotions.

"No, you're not," Jared said firmly and when Jensen looked up his mate was kneeling in front of him. "It's not easy for them but Waya loves you and Rafe loves me. This… us… They are happy about it; they don't have any of our doubts."

That caught Jensen's attention and he looked carefully at his mate. He had been so sure Jared hadn't doubted their mating and at times he had been angry at the man for taking it all so easy.

"You've doubted this?" Jensen said slowly.

Jared got up from his kneeling position, instead moving up on the bed and he sat close enough that their legs were brushing together.

"I never wanted a mate," Jared admitted. "Rafe used to say we needed to get mated but I never really saw the point, didn't see myself with a mate and children. But that was before I came here and before I met you. So yes I had doubts and worries, I might still have doubts from time to time but I'm sure that together the two of us can deal with things. We'll figure this out, and things will become as good for us as they are to the wolves."

He thought that Jared's words should have made him feel worse, but for some reason it made breathing easier to know that things weren't as easy for Jared as he had thought that they were. That small detail made it feel like they were more equals than he had felt before and when Jared nudged their thighs together Jensen found his own lips twitch up in a smile.

"It's not about my honor," Jensen said, leaning towards Jared.

"It's really not," Jared confirmed. "It's about family. You're my family."

Jensen was just about to say something more; the thing between them was still tender to the touch and they should talk it through but before he could say anything a soft wave of emotions washed over him. For a moment he couldn't really place it, but then it came again and a shiver ran down his spine.

"Oh," Jared said and the sound was a punched-out gasp.

It was unusual for Jensen to be distanced from Waya and he thought she and Rafe must have walked outside the cave, her thoughts no more than a whisper in the back of his mind. There was no doubt as to what Rafe and Waya were up to though, not when he could feel her pleasure spike his own arousal even from a distance.

"Their timing isn't the best," Jared groaned beside him.

"They deserve this," Jensen said even as his cock hardened and he had to restrain himself from reaching down to touch.

"Maybe we do as well."

Jared pushed Jensen down on the bed but where all their times before had been heated and turning desperate within moments, the fact that the wolves weren't close by helped to keep things gentle. A soft moan left Jensen's lips when he let his hands move over Jared's arms, slowly finding their way in under the man's silvery tunic.

"We should talk," Jensen mumbled, letting his lips move down Jared's neck, tongue flicking out to feel the throbbing of his pulse.

"Later," Jared promised. "Right now I want to have you. Just you and me."

It was the first time it was only the two of them, the first time the wolves weren't mere feet away and Jensen wanted to make the most of the time. Waya's emotions might influence him still but she was far enough away that he knew that the majority of his emotions were his own and he wanted Jared. Nothing of the first heat remained, their bond having settled into something solid and firm and Jensen loved being in control of himself.

"We can take our time, for once," Jared said, slowly reaching down to work open Jensen's belt.

Jensen raised his hips up, looking down as Jared slowly slid the belt free and threw it to the side before his hands moved down tug Jensen's pants down. In the depths of Jared's cave the air never turned chilly as it could in the main cave, but when it caressed over Jensen's warm skin he couldn't hold back the small shiver that ran through him. His own fingers were moving over Jared's shoulders, trailing down over strong arms and he allowed himself to get lost in the closeness and the feel of how powerful Jared was, pressed up against him.

Waya's feelings were a faint presence in the back of his mind, comforting him and soothing at the same time as it spiked his own pleasure and combined with Jared's hands on his skin it was breathtaking.

"I need to feel more," Jensen groaned, tugging at Jared's tunic.

"Yeah," Jared agreed, pushing his own pants down before he pushed himself up and his huge body covered Jensen's.

In the back of his mind a small voice was trying to tell him that it shouldn't feel right but for the first time Jensen had no problems pushing that voice aside, allowing himself to focus on the way Jared felt against him. He wasn't really aware of how they got fully undressed, just moaned when there was more skin on skin and he took the opportunity to run his hands over Jared's warm body. The blankets and furs on the bed were soft against him but what Jensen really focused on was Jared above him, making a place for himself between Jensen's spread legs.

"My mate," Jared groaned.

"Mate," Jensen mumbled, pulling Jared closer.

What he hadn't expected was for Jared to trace slow kisses down his neck while his fingers reached down to brush over where Jensen was wet and his body parted willingly for Jared's fingers. Jensen didn't need to be opened up, but he couldn't deny how good it felt to have Jared touch him so intimately. It was nothing like having Jared fuck and knot him, but it was still a pleasure unlike anything Jensen had experienced before and he pushed down, wanting to feel more of Jared inside of him.

"So damn gorgeous like this," he heard Jared mumble, tongue moving down his collarbone.

"Jared," Jensen mumbled, his hand reaching down to brush through the soft strands of Jared's hair. "Too much."

"I've barely started," Jared answered and Jensen thought he could feel the smile against his skin.

Jensen arched up off the bed with Jared's warm mouth found one of his nipples, teeth grazing it carefully at the same time as the fingers inside him found the spot that always felt so good when the knot pressed against it. He wished he could touch more of Jared, wanted to explore him the same way Jared explored him but there was nothing he could do but lie there and take it while Jared's mouth slowly worked his way down. He traced the contours of muscles down Jensen's belly, pushing a second finger inside and Jensen cried out in pleasure when Jared closed his mouth around the head of Jensen's cock.

"Holy fuck," Jensen gasped, his fingers clenching harder into Jared's hair.

A third finger pushed inside at the same time Jared slid down further, taking Jensen's cock deeper until he could feel the head pushing against the back of Jared's throat and Jensen squeezed his eyes shut, mumbling words that alternated between begging and cursing. With the slow pleasure trickling across the bond from Waya combined with the pleasure of Jared's mouth and fingers Jensen could feel his own orgasm building much faster than he had expected and he tugged at Jared's hair.

"Gonna...gonna…"

Jared's tongue pressed against the sensitive spot just under the head and together with the way his fingers moved inside Jensen, pressing insistently at his prostate there was no way for Jensen to hold back. He came with a sharp cry, feeling Jared swallow around him and his fingers moved more carefully, slowly helping him down from the peak of his release.

"That… was…" Jensen mumbled, unable to really string words together into something coherent.

With one last flick of his tongue Jared pulled back and Jensen pushed himself up on his elbows, looking down at his mate just in time to see Jared pull his fingers free, only to lift them to his lips and slowly lick himself clean from Jensen's slick. The sight sent a shiver of arousal down Jensen's spine and he tugged at Jared's hair again, this time to get the man closer to him and their lips came together in a deep kiss. He knew that the sweet taste on Jared's tongue came from himself and that knowledge made his softening cock twitch, straining to get hard again.

"Gotta have you," Jared mumbled and Jensen could feel the hard cock pressing against where he was still open from Jared's fingers.

"No," Jensen protested, making Jared go still. "I wanna feel you, I need to…"

He could see Jared hesitate and for a moment he wondered if his mate would just take him anyway but then Jared smiled and brushed their lips together in another soft kiss.

"You're gonna be the death of me, but I'm never saying no to your hands on me."

The next moment Jared pulled back, spreading himself out on the bed and Jensen could recognize an offering when he saw it. He pushed himself up until he was kneeling beside Jared, looking down at the body presented to him and he smiled when he let his fingers trace up over Jared's arm and shoulders.

"Damn, gonna pop my knot before I even get inside you," Jared mumbled, eyes locked on Jensen's face.

There was no way Jensen would allow that to happen, but he didn't tell his mate that. Instead he leaned in to let his own tongue circle one of Jared's nipples and he smiled at the slight hitch of Jared's breath at the small touch. This was a version of Jared that was only for him, a version that didn't exist outside the confines of their cave and he pushed all his worries and fears aside, focusing on the two of them. Jared's skin was smooth under his fingers, warm and inviting and Jensen let his hands stroke down over taut muscles, smiling when Jared let out a low hiss and a half choked laugh when Jensen's fingers brushed against a spot just above Jared's hipbone.

"Ticklish?" Jensen asked with a smile.

"No," Jared protested but he still gasped and squirmed the next time Jensen touched that same spot.

Jensen hummed low under his breath, kissing further down Jared's chest while his hands moved down over strong thighs. Looking down he could see the slight swell of Jared's knot, far from what it would be but still there and Jensen reached down to touch. Jared's cock twitched under his fingers, knot swelling further and a part of Jensen really wanted to lean in and taste.

"I swear, Jensen," Jared groaned. "If you do anything more, I'm gonna pop the knot fully."

"Not yet," Jensen said and he pulled his hands back. "I can't believe you're mine."

Jared's body was all strength, hard muscles and raw power and yet he laid himself bare for Jensen, revealing himself so easily. While Jensen wanted to feel more, explore every inch of skin in front of him, he also needed Jared inside him and he could admit to himself that he wanted Jared to take him, claim him.

"I'll always be yours," Jared said easily even as he sat up and pushed Jensen down on his back, a wicked tilt to his smile. "As you are mine."

Parting his legs Jensen made a place for Jared there and his mate moved to kneel between before he leaned in, blanketing Jensen's body and Jensen gasped when he felt the brush of Jared's cock against his entrance. Jensen wrapped his legs around Jared's hips, fitting their bodies together and he moaned quietly when Jared buried himself all the way inside until his knot was pressed against Jensen's hole.

Sparks of pure pleasure shot through his body and he arched himself up against Jared, hands sliding over warm skin and Jared's mouth closed over his. It wasn't really a kiss, more of a wet sharing of breath but it felt more intimate than anything they had done before. Jared moved slowly, hips rocking into Jensen and each time the head of his cock brushed Jensen's prostate. It wasn't enough to push him over the edge, not when he'd already had one orgasm, but while Jensen wanted more, he also wanted things to remain just as they were.

His cock was slowly hardening between their bodies, pre-come leaking down on his belly and Jensen rolled his hips upwards, grinding his dick up against Jared's belly.

"You feel so good," Jared gasped, sitting back up and dragging Jensen with him.

The new position put Jensen on Jared's lap and he cried out in shocked surprise when Jared's cock pushed even deeper inside, swell of the knot pushing against Jensen's rim. He tangled his fingers in Jared's hair, tilting the man's head back until he could look into Jared's eyes.

"Do it," Jensen groaned. "Knot me. Need you to knot me."

The knot was already big enough that he knew it would be hard to fit it inside, but Jensen was also more relaxed than before and he needed it, needed the burn of Jared filling him up.

"No," Jared protested even as his hands took a firm grip on Jensen's hips, holding him in place. "I'll hurt you… I can't… It's too late."

Jensen tried to push down but Jared's grip was too firm and Jensen let out a low sound if disappointment when he realized he couldn't push down like he wanted to.

"No, you won't," Jensen said. "I can take it. Damnit, Jared. I was made to take it."

His mate was still hesitating and Jensen needed it, knew that he'd come the very second Jared knotted him. He let his claws out, dragging over Jared's shoulders and he heard his mate hiss at the pain, hips bucking up and knot pushing harder against Jensen's rim.

"I want this," he told Jared. "I need it. Do it...knot me!"

A growl left Jared's lips and he slammed Jensen down, burying his knot inside. Jensen screamed, the sharp burn of penetration more than he had expected but even so it was better than anything else. His cock pulsed between them, painting both their bellies at the same time as he felt Jared coming inside him, filling him up and knot growing bigger and bigger. They couldn't really move much, tied together as they were, and it was a grinding together through their orgasms, clinging together and Jensen clenched his legs even tighter around Jared, keeping them together.

"That was…" Jensen gasped, hiding his face against Jared's neck.

"Amazing," Jared filled in. "Fucking incredible."

They collapsed down in the middle of the bed, Jared rolling them over until Jensen was on top of him and his hands rested loosely on Jensen's hips. In the back of his mind he could feel Waya, just as sated and content as he was and for the first time he dared to really believe that things were about to change.

-¤-
-¤-

Jared held up one hand, stopping in his tracks and the group of wolves and bonded behind him stopped as well.

"Quick water break before we move on," he said, keeping his voice low.

He kept an eye out while the warriors around him quickly drank, none of them raising their voices and he nodded in approval. It was only a standard checking of their grounds but still everyone did what they were supposed to do, even Jeremy who was careful to keep much distance between himself and Jared.

"There were some rumours over in the last village," Sam said when she walked in close. "I heard an older man speaking of seeing wolves moving in the night."

That made Jared tense up because the area surrounding Wolfhold had no packs of wild wolves, and the bondwolves didn't leave the cave without their bonded ones. Of course it could be nothing more than rumors and Jared really hoped it was nothing more to it than that. He and Sam both knew what it could mean though, and if wild direwolves had come down from mountains, it meant trouble for all of them.

"We haven't had trouble with feral direwolves in years," he mumbled in answer. "They usually keep away from the areas we control but…"

"But?" Sam asked.

"There were some pawprints some five minutes ago, they shouldn't have been there."

He could see the blood drain from Sam's face but she nodded, one hand falling down to rest on the handle of her sword and he could tell that she was talking to her wolf.

Rafe, can you smell something? Jared asked.

There's something in the air, Rafe answered and Jared looked into the woods where he could see Rafe's big black shape moving. It's hard to tell if it us or them but I think… We need to keep our eyes open here, Jared.

Jared nodded and motioned for the bonded around him to move closer, sighing when Jeremy dragged behind. He knew that the young man was still angry at having been put in place, but out on a mission Jared had no time, or wish, to tend to his bruised ego.

"I have reason to believe there are feral direwolves in these woods," Jared told them. "I know it's very rare even in a place like this. How many here have fought the wild ones before?"

A few nodded and raised their hands and Jared breathed out a sigh of relief; it was one thing to be a good warrior but he knew from experience that fighting the feral direwolves was something much harder. The mental block against hurting a wolf was always something to struggle against the first time and the fewer of his warriors that had to deal with that, the better.

"Have you?" Jeremy asked, hint of mocking to his tone.

"The Citadel doesn't have any feral direwolves," Jared answered calmly. "Luckily for me, I worked as a courier as well as doing several longer missions with the southern caves. I was
there when Stonehold fought off one of the biggest attacks a cave has ever experienced."

The words were met with stunned silence and even Jeremy was staring at Jared with open mouth and not for the first time did Jared wonder just what the members of Wolfhold had thought about him being assigned as Captain.

"There was a reason I was assigned this position," Jared pointed out. "And I hope today isn't the day I have to show you why. For those of you that have never fought the feral wolves before, it's nothing like fighting the outlaw bands of humans."

"Why not?" Jeremy asked.

"You have to remember that they hate our wolves even more than they hate us," Jared said with a sigh. "They will never forgive our wolves for bonding with humans, for sharing a part of themselves with us."

"One would think they would forget the mistakes of their forefathers," Sam said quietly, eyes nervously looking to the dark trees around them.

"They never will. Even now that they are all born wild, they still have the hate. It's why some people say they are insane: the lack of a human to bond with made them lose what little compassion they had to begin with. They don't often come inside Lyaden but when they do, it ends bloody."

Before the words had been replaced by silence he heard a pained howl off in the woods at the same time as he heard Rafe's voice cry out a warning in his head, probably one that was heard by all the other wolves as well. The next moment Rafe broke through the trees, a big wolf right on his heels and Jared couldn't stop his proud grin when he saw the strange wolf with a torn ear and blood matting the fur on one shoulder. He didn't have more time to think about it before a big group of wild direwolves exploded through the trees and it was all they could do to defend themselves.

Chapter Text

Seeing the feral direwolves was always a chilling thing, something Jared would never get used to. With Rafe and the other wolves it was so obvious that they were sentient beings but with the wild wolves nothing of that was visible. Yet, Jared couldn't help a surge of guilt when the first of his swords cut into flesh and a pained yelp rang out before it was cut out by a wet, gurgling sound.

Rafe, there are too many of them!

I'm trying to reach Waya.

Jensen and Waya were out hunting and Jared hoped that John would be with them; four more wouldn't be a lot but maybe it could be enough. Or maybe all they could do was to die together; Jared wasn't sure and it was hard to tell under the onslaught of fur, claws and fangs.

At least having fought the feral beasts before, Jared knew what he could expect and even in the chaos he found comfort in bonding his mind with Rafe until each of them could sense whatever the other saw. With both swords in his hands, Jared sliced the throat of one of the feral wolves, not stopping to think of the hot blood spattering up over him before he turned to the next enemy. Far off in the distance he could hear more wolves approaching but he knew they weren't there to save them - the sounds were vicious snarls and Jared was sure they would be in for a world of pain if they couldn't decimate some of the current threat before more feral wolves arrived.

His swords were already coated thick with blood, flesh tearing and bone crunching as he swung and landed them against a big body. Despite having done so before, Jared couldn't quite get past the wrongness in hurting a wolf, feral or not.

There are so many of them, Jared commented when thanks to Rafe he got a clearer picture of what was happening.

I know.

With Rafe's mind melded with his own it was much easier for him to fight, avoiding any attacks against his back and the two of them put down wolf after wolf even as more joined the fight. The air was thick with blood and Jared knew not all of it was from the feral wolves; there was no way they would get out of this without casualties even though he couldn't allow himself to think of that when a huge dire wolf went for this throat.

The ground beneath his feet was slippery with blood and other things that made Jared clench his teeth together, forcing himself to move forward and not look down on just what he was stepping on. He didn't know how long the fight had lasted, only knew that the muscles in his arms and shoulders were aching, his wrists shooting up hot sparks of pain each time his swords met bone and he wasn't sure how long he and the others would be able to keep it up. A slight lull in the onslaught of wolves gave him time to brush his hair out of his eyes and he winced when he realized that the sticky feeling came from the blood that had splattered up his hands and arms.

More incoming, Rafe called out and Jared groaned, raising his swords once more and preparing for continuing the fight.

A part of him really wanted to reach out to try and feel Jensen, and he didn't want to think about the fact that he might not make it long enough to see his mate again. He knew it would be a bad idea though; he needed to stay focused on keeping himself and the rest of the bonded and wolves alive. More and more wolves came through the trees and Jared wondered just what could have caused an attack of that magnitude when the area hadn't seen feral wolves for years. Something must have changed beyond the mountains and Jared hoped it wasn't the start of something bigger.

A sharp sting cut through his leg and even though the damage hadn't been inflicted to him he stumbled for the briefest of seconds.

Are you alright?

With they way their minds were connected he knew Rafe wasn't badly hurt but as he spun around to take down the dire wolf that had been hurting his bondwolf, Jared learned just how important focus was. He cried out when sharp claws dug into his arm just as his swords cut through muscle and fur. Rafe roared and threw himself at the wolf that had hurt Jared, the two of them sharing a quick grin. The wounds hurt, both his and Rafe's, but sharing his wolf's pain was only reason for Jared to fight even harder.

He could see the very moment things started to go wrong, the addition of more wolves proving more than the small group could take on and Jared knew it was only moments until they would start losing both wolves and humans. Suddenly a furious growl rang out above all the sounds of the fighting and when Jared looked across the clearing he saw that Baly had been separated from Jeremy, two big wolves between them and there was no way for him to get through them. He could see what was going to happen before it did, could see it in the way Jeremy's focus shifted to Baly at the same time as one huge wolf lunged at the hand holding the sword. Even with the commotion around them Jared could hear the snap of bone and heard Jeremy cry out, Baly howling and he knew the wolf would be able to feel the same pain as his bonded did.

Jared knew he wouldn't make it across the clearing in time to save Jeremy and even though he knew he should feel bad, a part of him wanted Jeremy to suffer for all the pain he had dealt to Jensen. Guilt flared in his belly and he tried to push forward, needing to do something. If Jeremy died, so would Baly and Jared couldn't allow something like that to happen. He cursed low under his breath as he tried to get to where he needed to be, the slippery ground under his feet not helping in any way.

Before he could get any closer an arrow slammed into the wolf closest to Jeremy, piercing the heart and the big body crumbled to the ground with a deep huff. Several of the other wolves spun around to look for the new enemy but more arrows cut through the air and suddenly Jared could see a glimmer of hope.

"Jensen," he breathed out, swinging his swords and cutting open the flank of another wolf.

Jensen and John made their way out from where they had been hidden behind the trees, bows in hands and arrows flying through the air. The addition of the two bowmen and their wolves wasn't much, but Jared could see that it would be the one thing that would tip the scales. He swore to himself that the next time they went out on a patrol, they would do so with some ranged fighters and not only swordsmen. Vicious snarls rang out when the feral dire wolves became aware of the new fighters and Jared took the opportunity to kill another wolf while its focus was on Jensen.

With Jensen in sight Jared allowed himself to try and feel him, tangling their emotions together and to his shock their minds melded in the same way his and Rafe's already had. Jared almost stumbled when he suddenly had to adjust to the way he could now see everything, feelings from both Waya and Jensen filling his mind. In that moment he felt more complete than he ever had before.

"What the…" he heard Jensen gasp, bow trembling for a moment before he regained his balance and sent more arrows flying through the air.

Our mates, he heard Rafe in the back of his mind, pride evident and Jared could only agree.

Together he and Rafe fought their way over to where Waya was making sure to keep things off her bonded while Jensen killed all the wolves closing in on Jeremy. It wasn't the person Jared would have chosen to rescue but it did make his feelings for Jensen even stronger.

-¤-
-¤-

Jensen reached for another arrow, cursing low under his breath when he realized that he was out and when he looked over to John he saw his friend had just shot his last arrow into a wolf that had tried to get closer to Jared.

The new way of seeing the world was confusing; he was used to feeling Waya as an extension of himself but to have the added impressions from Jared and Rafe as well was a lot to wrap his mind around. It did make fighting easier though, and he let his bow drop to the ground even as he reached for the two daggers strapped to his belt. That close combat wasn't the best way to fight against sharp teeth and sharper claws, but it was all he had and Jensen was dead set on fighting until Jared was safe.

We can do this, he assured Waya.

We are doing this, Waya corrected him and when a wolf tried to move away from her jaws, it crashed into Jensen, making him fall to the ground even as he was rolling, trying to get away from the heavy body.

The blades in his hands didn't even feel close to as comfortable as his bow did, but he still knew what to do with them and he let them push into flesh, wincing at the way he could feel his daggers cut through the body above him. Warm blood rushed down over him, making him gag even as he tried to get away from the wolf weighing him down.

I can smell Rafe's blood.

There was a sharp edge of panic in Waya's voice and Jensen could feel it as well, the pain from both Jared and Rafe and that realization gave him enough strength to push the now-dead wolf aside and getting back to his feet.

Mates, Jensen called out and he could feel human and wolf respond, the strength shared between the four of them.

With Jared's mind twined with his own it was easier to fight, pushing away the discomfort of the close combat weapons as he fought, more set on getting to Jared than anything else. Jared's swords cut through another body, sending up a spray of blood over Jensen but he didn't care, not when a heavy body fell by his feet and Jared was finally close enough to touch.

Just as they reached each other, a loud howl rang out and Jensen saw the few remaining wolves turn to flee, two of them falling from blades and axes before they could make it but a few disappeared between the trees.

"Let them go!" he heard Jared call out. "Take care of the wounded."

Jensen's whole body was trembling with held back tension, adrenaline coursing through his veins and he looked over at Jared and he felt his breath catch in his throat when he saw the blood matting Jared's face and covering both hands and arms.

"Jared," Jensen breathed out, trying to reach out through the bond to make sure of just how hurt his mate was.

"It's not mine," Jared reassured him quickly, picking up on where Jensen's worry was aimed. "Well, some of it is but it's not much. Just some scratches."

He really wanted to ask more, to make sure Jared and both their wolves were alright but neither of them really had time to spare and he quickly put his daggers back in their sheaths before he looked around the carnage around them. Most of the feral dire wolves were dead or dying but it was obvious that some of them were just temporarily taken out of fighting condition and Jensen knew they couldn't have that, it was bad enough that they had to let some go but each and every one remaining would be put down.

"John, will you check on Jeremy?" Jensen asked, looking up to where John was taking up both their bows from where they had been dropped to the ground.

It wasn't often Jensen was so careless with his beloved bow and he hoped it could be saved, but he didn't have time for it and when John crossed the clearing to where Jeremy was pressed close to Baly, holding a badly injured arm close to his body, Jensen knelt down on the ground to try to save as many bonded and wolves as he could.

Monsters, he heard Waya's angry voice. I'll make sure they can't break any more bonds.

Through the bond he was aware of her and Rafe working through the still-alive feral wolves, jaws breaking windpipes and tearing up throats while Jensen pressed his hands against a wound on Sam's thigh as Jared did his best to stem the flow of blood. He didn't want to think of what could happen to the wounded members of Wolfhold, didn't want to think of how two lives ended each time a bond was broken. He could feel the same worry from Waya when she came walking over, pressing against his side and pushing comforting feelings towards him even though neither of them said a word.

"We need to get these people back to the Hold," Jared said when they had staunched the worst of Sam's bleeding. "I refuse to lose more people."

-¤-
-¤-

Exhaustion made Jared's limbs feel heavy and he wasn't sure he would even be able to get himself back to his own part of the cave. The fight had cost them three bonded pairs with several more badly injured and he knew that Wolfhold would be in mourning for a long time to come. He also knew that things would have been much worse had Jensen and John not arrived when they did, together with their wolves tipping the scale in the right direction and there was no mistaking the way people had looked at Jensen since word had gotten around.

Jared was so proud of his mate, of his undeniable strength and he had no doubt that if not for Jensen, Jeremy and Baly would have joined the bodies wrapped in black and awaiting the burial ceremony.

"I need to...get clean."

Jensen was pushing himself up from where he had been kneeling next to Sam's cot, his knees dirty and even though he had washed his hands his arms and clothing were still stained with blood and other things that Jared didn't want to think about.

"Come," Jared said, reaching out for Jensen but even with everything they had been through during the last twelve hours he was surprised when Jensen stepped in under his arm and leaned against him.

Rafe and Waya close on their heels, they made their way out of the main cave and down the corridor leading to their private part of the cave, none of them speaking a word and Jared wasn't sure if it was Jared holding Jensen up or the other way around. The corridors stretched out endlessly long and it felt as if hours had passed once he pushed the door open to their room and let the wolves in before closing the door behind the four of them.

"I don't ever want to go through another day like that," Jensen groaned, leaning against the wall and Jared could only agree.

"I hope we never have to," Jared agreed, wincing when he moved to remove his belt and the injury on his arm ached.

"You said it wasn't so bad," Jensen said, pushing off the wall to walk over and look at Jared's arm.

Neither of them had really looked at what wounds they had, too busy with those in much greater need of care and Jared cursed low under his breath when Jensen's fingers touched where claws had left deep gashes on his arm.

"It's not,"Jared protested but he allowed Jensen pull him over to where the water basin was set up.

Jensen took one soft towel from where they had been piled up beside the basin, dipping it into the tepid water before turning towards Jared. The first touch of wet cloth against the wound made Jared want to pull away, but instead he remained where he was and watched in silence as Jensen carefully cleaned away the blood and the dirt. While the claw marks would leave scars, they weren't very deep and soon Jared was more focused on Jensen by his side than the pain of his body. He could still feel both Jensen and Waya in his mind, more clear than ever before and he looked over to where Rafe was slowly cleaning Waya's fur.

"They will see you now," he said after several long minutes. "All the people of Wolfhold, they have to realize what a fighter you are. You saved us."

"We saved you," Jensen corrected, putting the towel away. "It wasn't just me. I could never have done it without Waya. Without John and Ainot there with me."

Jared thought that Jensen deserved more credit than he was giving himself, but he was proud of his mate for it all the same. Reaching for a towel of his own he wet it before slowly starting to clean Jensen off, swiping away dirt and blood to reveal lightly freckled skin underneath and even with exhaustion weighing him down he couldn't stop himself from responding to having Jensen so close. His mate said nothing when Jared slowly pushed Jensen's clothes aside to get to clean him up completely, but he did reach out to get Jared's own clothing out of the way.

Silently they both reached for new towels, dipping them into water and running them over bare skin. Despite the times they had spent tangled up in each other, none of them had felt as tender as Jared carefully cleaning Jensen up and Jensen's hands moving over his skin.

He wasn't sure when it turned into something more, towels dropping to the floor and Jared groaned when Jensen leaned in to kiss him. Jensen pushed at Jared and even though he was wrapped up in the feel of his mate, he could see the merit of moving them somewhere more comfortable. Jared's body ached when they got down on the bed, bodies pressed together and even that discomfort was proof that they had survived.

"You're alive."

It was barely more than a whisper but in the silence of the cave Jared could hear it clearly and he knew just how Jensen felt. Suddenly the need to make sure Jensen was alive outweighed everything else and he pulled Jensen in closer, slowly mapping out his mate's body with his hands, reveling in the feel of Jensen's heartbeat when he ran his fingers over the places where Jensen's pulse beat strong under warm skin.

"You were fucking amazing out there," Jared mumbled once he managed to pull away from Jensen. "I'm proud of you."

"It wasn't just-"

"I know," Jared interrupted. "But you're the one that's mine."

Jensen's mouth fell open in surprise but the next moment he leaned in to kiss Jared again, slow slide of tongues that made heat pool deep inside Jared. Combined with the way he could feel Waya's tongue move over Rafe's fur Jared knew there was only so much he could take. Luckily it seemed that Jensen shared his feelings as his mate parted his legs to give Jared a space between them and Jared leaned forward, breathing in Jensen's scent and groaning at the feel of their cocks brushing together.

"I might be yours," Jensen agreed before wrapping one leg around Jared's hip, fitting their bodies better together. "But you're mine as well."

Jared reached down between them, letting his fingers trail over Jensen's cock before sliding further down to feel the spot where Jensen's body was slick and opening up for him. A low hiss left his mate when Jared let one finger push inside, only to turn to a moan of pleasure when Jared found the place inside that made Jensen clench down tight around him.

With each thrust of his fingers he could feel Jensen become slicker around him, body opening up willingly to the touch and not for the first time was Jared amazed by how Jensen felt beneath him. His entire body ached, muscles sore from the fight and the wound on his arm hurt more than he would ever admit to his mate. None of that mattered when Jensen moaned, pushing himself down on Jared's fingers.

"I need to feel-" Jensen started but the words broke off into a deep moan when Jared's finger touched the place inside that always made his mate tremble with want.

"I'll make you feel everything," Jared promised as he pushed a second finger inside.

He couldn't believe how lucky he had been to come to Wolfhold. So maybe the years of proving himself hadn't been because he wanted himself a mate, but now that he had one he couldn't imagine anything else. Nothing could make him give up the feel of Jensen, their minds entwined through the bond more intimately than before the fight.

"Oh god," Jensen mumbled. "I can feel you watching me."

Jared knew what he meant because he could feel the same thing, as if Jensen's gaze was something solid against his skin and he was amazed that things could actually continue to become better between them.

"Take me."

The words surprised Jared, even with everything that had played out between them he still couldn't fully grasp the way Jensen submitted to him. Where Jensen had previously fought every touch and every sensation, Jared could now feel his mate relax beneath him. He pulled his fingers free with a wet sound, unable to keep his eyes from the place where Jensen's body was opening and he could see clear slick making the rim glisten in the light from the lamps throwing their flickering light over the cave.

"Can't believe you're mine," Jared said even as he moved forward to let the head of his cock press against Jensen's hole.

"No more than- oh- you're mine," Jensen gasped.

He could feel how possessive Jensen was, their bond tangling together until he couldn't tell where he ended and Jensen began. But maybe he didn't need to tell that anymore, not when he pushed forward and Jensen so easily let him inside. There was no hesitation between them anymore and when Jared buried himself in his mate, Jensen reached up to wrap his arms around Jared's neck before slotting their lips together.

Jensen was perfect around him, tight heat and wetness but more than anything he was alive and Jared needed to remind himself of that. Things could have gone so horribly different and how that he had Jensen there was no way he could be without him and Waya ever again.

Mates he heard Rafe growl and the combined pleasure from both wolves as well as from Jensen was almost too much to take.

"Never again," Jared mumbled against Jensen's lips.

"Never...what?" Jensen moaned, his tongue pushing inside Jared's mouth like he wanted to taste every inch of his mouth.

"Never - oh, fuck - gonna let anyone...fucking anyone...hurt you again," Jared managed to get out, each word a hot puff of breath against Jensen's soft lips.

The heat and need that had been pulsating across the bond turned softer, a sweet tinge to it but before Jared could say anything more he felt Jensen's legs around his hips, pulling him in and that was all that Jared needed to lose all vestiges of self-control. Biting down on Jensen's neck he fucked into his mate with deep, hard thrusts that made their bodies slide over the thick furs covering the bed. He could feel the same need mirrored from the wolves, four minds tangling together and soon there was nothing between them but lust and want.

"Jay...Jared...fuck… More. C'mon - oh - fuck me."

"Mine," Jared breathed out against warm skin. "Fucking mine."

"Yours, Jensena agreed as his nails dragged long marks down Jared's back and he knew that his mate was too far gone to keep the claws in fully.

When he looked down at Jensen he saw feral eyes gaze up at him through narrow slits and when Jensen threw his head back, a keening sound leaving his throat, the sharp teeth were on clear display. Jared loved reducing his in-control mate to this, to see all the parts of being a bonded on such obvious display. The sting of the claws against his back felt better than they should, proof that they both were alive and Jared needed to know that. Needed the feeling of Jensen to wash away the horrors of the day.

"My mate," Jensen groaned. "Mine."

To have his mate lay his claim, inner walls fluttering around Jared's cock, was just what he needed to make his knot swell. With one more thrust of his hips he pushed the knot inside, both he and Jensen crying out in pleasure when Jensen's body opened up to let him inside. He could feel each pulse of come as he filled up his mate, and when Jensen came as well he knew that it must feel as good for his mate as it did for him.

They were beyond kissing, just breathing against each others lips as their bodies shake with their releases. Being tied together in the middle of their bed, Jared could finally relax. Jensen was looking up at him, a sated smile on his lips, and they were alright.

Better than alright.

-¤-
-¤-

"Jensen, could I perhaps have a few words with you?"

Jensen could see Jared frowning but he reached out across the bond to calm his mate down. This was one discussion he had been expecting ever since he had let the arrow fly that saved Jeremy's life, and by extension Baly's as well.

"Yes, of course," Jensen said, resting one hand on Jared's arm for a moment before he motioned to Jeremy that maybe they should go somewhere more private.

"No," Jeremy protested. "What I have to say I think people should hear. I need them to hear."

With Baly by his side Jeremy stood his ground, back straight and his eyes meeting Jensen's. His uninjured hand was on Baly's head while the other one was wrapped in bandages and Jensen doubted that his tormentor would ever get back full use of the hand. He had expected a talk with Jeremy, but not while the man was still healing and not with as much honesty as he was met with, either.

"I'm sorry," Jeremy said and it was obvious that this time he meant the words instead of being forced to say them. "I've behaved like a complete ass to you for years, and you save my life. I don't even know why you did that but you did and I'm…"

Jeremy fell silent, looking down at Baly and stroking his hand over the wolf's head, fingers trailing over soft ears before he continued.

"You didn't only save me, you saved Baly as well and I… Just, thank you, Jensen."

"It was nothing," Jensen said, feeling all the eyes on him and he knew that the better part of the members of Wolfhold were listening in on their conversation.

"It was everything," Jeremy said firmly. "I didn't deserve to be saved, much less by you. I saw you in that clearing and I should have known. We all should have."

"That I could fight?" Jensen asked without bothering to hide the edge of bitterness from his voice.

"We all kind of knew you could handle a bow," Jeremy shrugged. "I mean, you always brought home food when you were out hunting but I didn't want to think about that. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I you saved me and the fact that you did so proved that you're a good person. You're stronger than we ever gave you credit for. Than I ever gave you credit for. Our Captain must be proud to have you as a mate."

Jensen was left too stunned for words and he could only watch as Jeremy gave a small, shaky smile before he and Baly turned to walk away, disappearing toward the front of the cave and leaving Jensen with everyone's gazes focused on him.

Well damn, Waya mumbled and Jensen could hear Rafe echoing that sentiment.

I still claim it was a pity that wolf didn't finish him off," Rafe added as he walked to stand on Jensen's other side.

"Rafe, behave."

"I didn't expect that, not really," Jensen said when his mate stepped up behind him and he could feel the warmth of Jared against his back.

"I did," Jared said and Jensen could feel the pride trickling across their bond. "What you and John did? That mattered to people here. You matter."

"I'm no different today than I was yesterday," Jensen pointed out quietly.

Even though there were a lot of people in the cave he knew that more than one would be trying to listen in to him and Jared; he really didn't want to be saying too much.

"No," Jared agreed, surprising Jensen. "But now everyone knows and not just me. Now things can change."

Jensen looked around the cave, saw the people moving around, sitting down beside the fires and sharing plates and bowls of steaming hot food. The air was a mix of sorrow and happiness, people mourning the pairs they had lost even as they rejoiced at the ones that had been saved. He saw John sitting with Stephen and Allie, big wolves surrounding them and he hoped that some things would never change.

He leaned back against Jared, knowing the motion surprised his mate but if things were going to change, he himself needed to allow them to do so. Step one would be trusting Jared, allowing himself to lean on his mate and trusting the Captain to be there.

Step two would be showing everyone else that he would be there for them.

With his mate and their two wolves flanking their sides, Jensen let go of the last of his doubts and started to trust that his life in Wolfhold could be a good one.

- The End -