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Cabin In the Woods

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Story #24

 

Truemates

 

Cabin in the Woods~

 

Dean stood in front of the open spot where he planned to put the cabin and looked around.  It would be shielded on three sides by large pine trees but would give him a view of the river from the fourth.  Well, sort of.  The river wasn’t that close, but he could see it in the distance.  Maybe if he built a loft to put his bed in, he’d actually have a decent view if he put a window up there.  He liked that idea.  Overhead a shadow passed.  Looking up, he saw a vulture circling.  Birds were singing in the distance and insects buzzed about but otherwise, it was quiet. 

 

“Hey, the truck’s here with the logs,”  Sam said as he walked up the gravel driveway.  Dean had installed that first, so there would be a way to back the truck up and deliver everything he would be needing to build his new home.

 

“Have them back in.  Easier to unload that way.”

 

Sam nodded and turned to go back down the drive. Dean had laid the gravel that leveled the land where he’d be building a month ago in preparation for today.  He was excited to get started on the next step in his life, and as the truck signaled that it was backing up, his heart began to beat faster. 

 

“Ok, stop right there!” he called out. The truck stopped, and two men hopped out.

 

“Where do you want them?”

 

“Right here.  Just stack them.”  Dean pointed to the ground at his feet.

 

“Is this one of them house plans, where the kit is precut and you just put it together?”  One of the men asked.

 

“No, I’ll cut them myself. I built houses for a living, and cabins,” Dean replied.

 

“Built?  You don’t still?”

 

Dean smiled happily as he began helping them unload.  Sam reappeared to help too.

 

“No, this is the last one I’ll be building, and this one’s for me.  I’ve done well enough building houses and summer retreats for the wealthy.  It’s time I had something for myself.  I always wanted to get out of the city, live off the land and enjoy nature.  Now I can.”

 

Another truck came up the drive and Dean grinned as his best friends got out and came walking up to help.

 

“We going to build a house or what?”  Victor asked, grinning. 

 

Benny grabbed the end of one log, and Sam grabbed the other.

 

“You got the parts I asked for?  And brought the tools?”  Dean asked him.

 

“Yep.  We got everything you’re going to need,”  Victor replied.

 

Dean was almost giddy.  He couldn’t wait to actually start building.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Cas watched from one of the high branches of the tallest pine as the humans moved the fallen trees around.  His interest was piqued when one of the humans began actually building with them.  He had loud machines that cut the wood, and other tools he used to begin forming the base for a dwelling.  He’d seen the humans build these before, but none here.  This was land that belonged to the creatures of the forest, not the humans, and he didn’t understand why they would come and build here.  Still, it was interesting to watch the process.  It didn’t happen overnight though.  It took nearly 100 moons before the cabin, as he’d heard the men calling it, was finished.  He’d wondered how all of those humans could possibly fit in it, but at the end, only one remained.  The man was attractive, and without all the other scents from the other humans filling the air, he was able to smell the man.  The moment he did, he knew.  Somehow, someway, this human was his truemate. 

 

He was eager to find out what this meant, but humans tended to be afraid of his kind, so he waited until the human had left in his car before he climbed down.  His brother Gabe’s territory was just across the river, so he headed there first.  Hopefully he’d know what this meant.

 

“Gabe?”

 

The air held so many different scents, none of which told him his brother was close by.  He headed farther in, sniffing until he caught Gabe’s scent, and he followed it up to a cave in the rocks.

 

“Cassie, what brings you by?”  Gabe was lying half in and half out of his cave, cleaning his massive paws when he smelled his brother approaching.  He lifted his head, tilting his ears forward and locking his amber eyes on his younger brother when he stopped at the bottom of the cliff.

 

“I have an important question.  What do you know of truemates?”

 

Gabe hopped down from his den and walked over to his brother.

 

“Shift.”

 

Cas did as asked, and so did his brother.

 

“What’s this about truemates?  Why the sudden interest?”

 

“Well, I am curious as to how we’re supposed to find them,”  Cas replied.

 

“Mama always said we’d know the moment we caught their scent.  It would draw us in, and we’d be unable to stay away.  That they’d be ours, and we’d bond with them, and no one would ever smell as good to us as them.  Now, care to tell me why you’re asking me about truemates?”  Gabe leaned against a boulder and looked expectantly at his brother.  Cas fidgeted for a moment and looked back towards the river.

 

“I believe I have found mine.”

 

“No kidding.  When did another cougar come into your territory?  No one’s been in mine, except some annoying humans.  They were fishing a few weeks ago, before the snow began to fall.”

 

“That’s just it, my truemate?  It’s a human!  How is that even possible?  I thought the legends always said our truemates were our species.  I am confused.” 

 

Gabe frowned and pushed off the rock.  “Where is this human now?”

 

“He left in his car.  I don’t know when he will return,”  Cas replied.

 

“Humans are not our truemates,” his brother said firmly.  “It’s impossible.”

 

“But he is, I know he is!”  Cas insisted, not that he wasn’t just as confused as his brother, maybe more so.

 

“We need to go see the elders.  They’ll know what this means.”  Gabe shifted and started for the elders’ cave system up in the mountains. Cas sighed before shifting and following after him. He was afraid of how they might react.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

It was after dark by the time Dean got back to the cabin.  He carried his bags inside and was pleased to find that it wasn’t freezing inside.  One of the things he’d paid special attention to was making sure this place was sealed up tight.  He had the money to splurge on building a better, safer, more insulated cabin, so he had. 

 

After putting his bags in the kitchen, he went back to shut the door.  Winter was settling in, and it was starting to snow again.  Next week he planned to go hunting, but for now he was still settling in and adjusting to his new home. 

 

He got a fire started and threw together some dinner before settling down on the new couch he’d made.  The new cushions he’d had made for it were extremely comfortable and after taking his boots off, he stretched out to read and eat his food. 

 

The cabin was fairly large, and he had splurged on that too, building it out of cedar and making it nearly 1500 square feet.  It had two bedrooms and a bathroom with a compost toilet.  He’d had to dig his own well and he used a generator for the electric, but in the spring he planned to put in solar panels.  The land had belonged to the Winchester family for generations, and maybe 10 miles to the east, his grandfather had been born in the family cabin.  Dean and his brother had inherited the land, but Sam hadn’t wanted to live here.  At least, not yet.  His job was in the city, but he’d supported Dean’s decision to come back to their roots and had taken time off to help him build his cabin. 

 

Dean felt more at home here than he ever had living in the city.  His entire life he’d felt this pull to come back to the forest, and he knew he was where he belonged.

 

He read for a while, then got up to wash his plate and the pan he’d cooked with.  After putting everything in the dishrack, he got ready for bed.  Standing in his bedroom as he changed into a pair of fleece pajama bottoms, he looked out the window at the falling snow.  It was beautiful here.  No traffic, no rude pedestrians, no obnoxious neighbors blasting their radio at 3 a.m.  The night was silent, and he loved that. 

 

After pulling his pants on, he leaned on the window frame and took the time to watch the snow fall.  It was so beautiful, and with the pine trees that circled his cabin blocking out most of the sky, not much snow would hit the actual forest floor, so hunting would be fairly easy.  He’d missed hunting with his grandfather when he was a boy, and his father hadn’t taken him nearly enough.  Now he could hunt as much as he wanted.  There was no one living on this land for at least 75 miles, and no one to tell him he couldn’t trap or shoot his own food.  Movement in the distance caught his attention, and he spotted the cat as it moved between the trees.  As he watched, it leapt up into the branches of the pine tree right behind the cabin.  Cougar, huge, likely a male.  A flash of eyes up in the branches told him the cat was watching him too.  He liked knowing that he had wildlife here, and while the thought of having a cougar on his property might scare most people, he felt calmed by it, and…safe. 

 

When he finally climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to his neck, the cat jumped down from the tree and padded over to the window.  It jumped up on its massive hind legs to peer in the window.  Dean noticed the movement but didn’t draw attention to it.  The cat was curious, and somehow, someway, he knew it wasn’t a danger.  When he was a boy, a cougar had hung out around his grandfather’s cabin, and he remembered how his grandfather would talk to it all the time.  He called her Millie, and Dean remembered sitting on the porch with her, gutting rabbits or cutting apples, and she would lay beside him, watching quietly, accepting the scraps he offered her.  Her fur had been soft and warm.  This wasn’t Millie, he knew that much.  This was a male, judging by the size of it, but just as beautiful.  He fell asleep to thoughts of his childhood, and a friendly mountain lion named Millie.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“We told you to stay away from the human.”

 

Cas flinched at the irritated tone of his eldest brother and looked over to see Michael sitting in the tree across from him.

 

“I did as the elders asked; I did not approach him.  My instincts are to go to him, to be near him, but I am keeping my distance.  This is my territory, and I will do as I please in it.”

 

Michael growled and bared his fangs.  Cas bristled, growling back.

 

“They will move you to another territory if you cannot listen!”

 

“I will not leave.  This is my territory!”

 

Michael snarled and jumped to the ground.  A second later he was in the tree with Cas, swiping a huge paw at his younger brother’s face and knocking him right out of the tree.  Cas landed hard on his side and Michael took his moment of being stunned as a chance to pounce.  He landed on Cas, growling loudly as he swiped at his face.  Cas blocked the giant paw and rolled, sending Michael flying.  He jumped to his feet just as his brother tackled him again.  Michael was older and larger, and his hits were not done with the intention of just stunning him.  He was fighting Cas for his territory.

 

“You are not getting my territory!”  Cas roared.

 

“I will take it, and I will drive this human from it like the elders want!”

 

Cas felt a jolt of fear tear through him at the thought of his human, his mate, being driven away.  If the man left, he had no idea where to go and find him. He’d lose his truemate forever, and wither away and die of loneliness. There was no way he would let that happen. He swiped at Michael’s face, hitting him hard and drawing blood.  Michael hit back just as hard.

 

“Hey!  Hey!  Get off him!”  The human was suddenly right there, yelling and pointing a shotgun directly at Michael. The older lion growled and swiped at the human, but Cas jumped between them and tackled his brother to the ground.

 

“Leave!  Or I will let the human kill you!”

 

Michael snarled and looked at that shotgun.  He knew what they were capable of, and he wasn’t stupid.

 

“I will be reporting this to the elders.  They will demand your death!”

 

He turned and ran off, disappearing back in the direction of his own territory.  Cas breathed a sigh of relief, and then the pain kicked in.  He collapsed, realizing Michael had dug his claws into his side.  There was blood; he could smell it, and getting back up into the tree would be impossible.  He needed time to heal, before Michael or anyone else came back.

 

“Hey, boy, I’m not going to hurt you.”  The human crouched down a few feet away and looked worriedly at his wounds.  “You need to get fixed up.”

 

Cas watched him for a moment.  He was a beautiful human, and he looked genuinely concerned.  When the man shuffled closer, he stayed still.  The last thing he wanted was to scare him and get shot for it. 

 

“I’ve never seen a mountain lion with blue eyes.  Thought they all had those gold eyes.  Does that make you special?”

 

Cas sniffed and licked at the blood on one of his paws.  It wasn’t his own.

 

“You’re gorgeous.  Are you planning to eat me if I touch you?  I know you’re the one that’s been watching me.”

 

Cas laid down completely and tilted his head back to watch the man as he knelt down beside him.  The first touch of his fingers against his head sent a shock through him and a purr rumbled up from his chest.

 

“You like that, huh.  My granddad had a cougar that hung around his cabin.  He didn’t live far from here.  These are my family’s lands.  I miss her.  Millie was beautiful like you, and she kept me safe from bears and other things that wanted to eat me.”  The man chuckled.  Cas looked up, staring deep into his eyes.  He wished he knew the man’s name. 

 

The snow was starting to fall again, and Cas knew his brother would bring back the elders.  He’d listened, though, and watched the human from a distance.  That apparently wasn’t good enough.  If that happened, he would no doubt be sentenced to death if he was left out here. He was safer if he went inside the cabin.  His human cocked his head, almost as if he was hearing his thoughts.

 

“I think I should bring you inside.  That’s crazy, right?  Like who brings a wild lion into their home?  But I just know somehow that you won’t hurt me.  Do you think you can get up?”

 

Cas forced himself to sit up.  From there he managed to get to his feet.  His human stood up too, and he started for the cabin with Cas limping along beside him.  Once they were inside, the man closed the door and Cas limped his way over to the fireplace.  He collapsed in front of it, basking in the warmth of the fire that was blazing.  From the corner of his eye he watched as the human moved around in the kitchen area.  When he came to kneel down beside him, Cas lifted his head to watch as he began cleaning the wound in his side. 

 

“This looks like it’s already healing.  I don’t know of any creature on this planet that heals this fast.  I mean, I heal pretty fast, but this is way faster.  It doesn’t look like you’ll need stitches.” 

 

Cas was already aching a lot less and he forced himself up into a sitting position.  He met the man’s gaze and shook his head.  The man’s eyebrows shot up.

 

“You…can understand me?”

 

Cas nodded. 

 

The man squinted, looking off into the distance.  A memory flickered at the corners of his mind, and he realized this did not come as quite so big of a surprise.

 

“Millie understood me too.  You’re like her, aren’t you, some kind of special mountain lion?”

 

Cas nodded again. 

 

“Can I touch you?”

 

Cas nodded yet again, though this time a purr rumbled up from his chest, encouraging the man to pet him.

 

“Do you have a name?”

 

Nod.

 

“Can you somehow let me know what it is?”

 

Nod.

 

“Are you really a lion?”

 

Cas wasn’t sure if he should nod or shake his head.  Of course he was a real mountain lion, but he was more than that too.  He settled for licking the hand that was scratching the side of his head.  The man smiled wide at him.

 

“My name’s Dean.”

 

Cas purred even louder.  Dean.  He liked the sound of that.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Dean got the big cat’s wounds cleaned up, marveling over how gentle it was, but also over how aware it was.  Memories of Millie tickled at the back of his mind, and he wished he could remember more.  If only his grandfather were still alive so he could ask him. 

 

He offered the lion a bowl of water and the half chicken he hadn’t cooked earlier.  The food was immediately devoured and then paw cleaning commenced.  After that, he got licked.  A lot.  It made him laugh.  A big, rough tongue licking across his face was pretty intense, but pretty damn awesome too.  Not wanting to put the cat out for the night, he let him remain in front of the fire when he went to bed a few hours later.  Sleep did not come easily though; he was too wound up over the fight earlier, and over the fact that he had a mountain lion sleeping in his cabin, and it was another hour before his brain finally shut down and he drifted off. 

 

Something during the night woke him.  He wasn’t sure what it was, but one moment he was sound asleep and the next he was wide awake.  Just as he was about to close his eyes and try to catch a few more hours of sleep, he remembered his house guest.  Tossing back the covers, he got up and padded into the living room to check on the cat.  He was worried the lion might have been hurt worse than he’d let on and had succumbed to his injuries during the night. 

 

He approached the couch slowly, peering over it, gasping at the sight on the floor.  Where only a few hours earlier a gorgeous mountain lion had been sleeping, there now lay a naked man, curled up on his side, sound asleep.  Another memory flashed from the time spent at his grandmother’s cabin, and he remembered his grandmother baking pies with him and teaching him to climb trees.  She hadn’t been around a whole lot, but when she was gone, Millie would be there…

 

“Oh my God!”  he gasped.

 

The man on the floor snapped awake, sitting up quickly.  He eyed Dean warily.  It was the same blue eyes as the cat looking back at him.

 

“My grandmother was a mountain lion!”  Dean exclaimed.  The man on the floor cocked one eyebrow but said nothing.  Moving slowly, Dean came around the couch and sat down.

 

“You understood me earlier.  Do you speak English too?”

 

“I speak it just fine.  Our parents speak it to us when we are cubs, and the elders teach us more in lessons as we grow.  I do not speak it often though.”  The man’s voice was rough from disuse, but he spoke clearly.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Castiel, though I am called Cas by most.”

 

“Cas.  I like that.  Better than what I was calling you in my head.”  Dean chuckled.  Cas tilted his head and peered up at him.

 

“And what was that?”

 

“Leo.”  Dean replied. 

 

“I do not like that name.  Call me Cas.”

 

“I will.  So, uh, you’re…what, exactly?”

 

“I am cougar, but I am more than that.  It is why I could not answer you before when you asked me if I am one.  Our people teach us that we are humans with the spirit of the cougar inside us.  For our safety, we spend most of our time in cat form.  This is my territory,”  Cas explained.

 

Dean wasn’t sure he totally got that, but he figured he’d just roll with it, learn as much as he could, and adapt. 

 

“Did you know my grandmother?  Millie Winchester?”

 

“I know the name.  She was one of the elders, a legend amongst my people.  If I tell the elders you are her kin, perhaps they will be less eager to kill me.” 

 

Dean sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees and frowning.  “What do you mean kill you?  Who was the other lion you were fighting earlier?  It looked like he planned to kill you when I got out there.”

 

Cas sat back on his heels and looked into the fire.  It had burned down so Dean got up to add a few more logs.

 

“He is my eldest brother.  I was told to leave this territory, and to leave you alone.  Michael intended to take it over and try to chase you out, but if you left, I would never see you again.” 

 

He sounded so sad and after stoking the fire and getting it going strong again, he knelt down on the floor in front of Cas.

 

“He couldn’t chase me off.  If he tried, he’d get an ass full of lead from my shotgun.  You’ve been coming around since I built this place.  I think I saw your tail up in the trees a few times.”

 

“I was there the day you began to build this place.  It is nicer and warmer than I expected.  I like it in here.”  Cas looked around the room.  Yes, he felt safe in here.

 

“Have you been watching me this whole time?”  Dean asked.

 

“I have, even though I was told to stay away.  I could not do that.  You are my truemate, and to leave you would be excruciating.  Now I know why my mate is a human.  You are not really a human.”  Cas moved closer, his movements still very cat like, and he sniffed at Dean’s chest, then his throat.  When a purr suddenly rumbled up from his chest, it surprised Dean to hear it.

 

“You smell right,”  Cas declared.

 

“Ok, back up a second and tell me, what is this truemate thing, and what’s this about smelling ‘right?’”  Dean asked.

 

“Every shifter has a truemate, one they are meant to bond to and mate for life.  Not everyone finds theirs, but those that do, we are considered blessed and the cubs produced from such a union will be especially strong.”

 

Dean quirked an eyebrow as he listened.  This just entered into the Twilight Zone territory for him.

 

“Uh, in case you didn’t notice, you’re a dude.  I’m a dude.  Two dudes can’t have kids, or cubs, or whatever.  Not without like, adopting or something, and like what the hell are you even talking about?”

 

Cas took a moment to think on how he could best explain this, in terms that would be understood by his human.

 

“Shifters are not like the cougar when it comes to having cubs.  They are not like the humans either.  We are both.”

 

Dean shook his head.  “I’m still not getting it.”

 

Cas growled in frustration and turned around, presenting to the human.  It was a sign of trust to put his back to the man who was not yet bonded to him as his mate, but he knew Dean wouldn’t hurt him. 

 

“I am both.”  He emphasized, and spread his legs.  Dean had been busy checking out the man’s impressive dick when he noticed a slit beneath Cas’ testicles.  It clicked and he realized exactly what he was talking about.

 

“Oh!  When you say both, you mean male and female!  You weren’t referring to lion and human.”

 

Cas turned back around to face him, sitting back once more on his heels.

 

“Yes.  I am both.  I want to mate, to bond with you before the elders come and try to take me away.  If we bond, they can’t make me or you leave.”

 

“Whoa, slow down for a sec.  How many elders are we talking?”  Dean asked.

 

“There are 12 currently.  And they are not forgiving.  Can you shift at all?”

 

Dean didn’t even remember until tonight that he even had shifter in his bloodline.  He ran his tongue absently over his canines.  They’d always been longer than most peoples’, and he’d never understood why.  Now he guessed that he did know.  Things were falling into place suddenly.  His agility, his speed, his desire to escape the city and come back to his origins, all combined with his heavy preference for meat, his better than normal hearing, sense of smell, and ability to heal.  But he had never shifted.  He didn’t even know how one would do it.

 

“I don’t know. I’ve never tried.”

 

“Your grandfather was Henry Winchester?”  Cas asked.  Dean nodded.

 

“Henry’s father was a shifter.  Henry could shift.  So could Millie, who was a shifter.  That means your father could shift.  What about your mother?”

 

“She was human as far as I know.”

 

Cas frowned and looked down at the scratch on his side.  Hours earlier it had been a deep gash, inflicted by Michael.

 

“I want to mate with you.  I want to be yours.”

 

Dean was excited by that, and he guessed that was his animal side because his human side was decidedly going “what the actual fuck?!”.  He licked his lips as he thought about that.

 

“So, what, we’re supposed to mate and I am supposed to only be with you for the rest of my life?”

 

“That is what it means to mate.  Only you, only me.  I will mate with you as often as you need and want.”  Cas crawled forward, and damn if that wasn’t sexy as hell, and climbed into Dean’s lap.  “Do you have a knot?”

 

“Excuse me?”  Dean squinted, not sure exactly what he meant by that.

 

“On your penis.  There should be two…”  Cas didn’t know the words to describe it.  “They swell when you mate.”

 

Ah, now that was something Dean understood.  It was also something he’d been embarrassed about his entire life, and he rarely ever had sex because when it swelled, he was afraid it would get stuck.  It started appearing after he hit puberty and he’d been scared, going to his father and asking him what was happening, but his dad had assured him it was normal and not to worry about it, but he’d also warned him not to let it get stuck inside anyone.  So he’d always hidden his dick after sex.  He’d pull out, come by his own hand, and hurry to the bathroom afterwards until the bumps went away.

 

“Y-yeah, I have them.”

 

Cas smiled wide and nuzzled against Dean’s throat.  “You are an Alpha, and you are mine.” 

 

Dean kind of liked having this gorgeous man rubbing against him like he was currently doing.  It was turning him on, and he could feel himself getting hard.

 

“An Alpha?  What do those lumps mean?  My dad said they were normal, but that I had to be careful never to let them get stuck in anyone.  Why did he say that?”

 

“Because you are only to knot your mate.  I am your mate.  Knotting me will ensure we have a litter by the spring.”

 

“Whoa, slow down here.  A litter?  You want me to get you pregnant?!”  Dean was trying to wrap his brain around what Cas was telling him, and that was hard to do when there were hands wandering under his shirt and a warm, naked, gorgeous man rubbing against him.

 

“I want my mate,”  Cas said firmly.  There was fire in his eyes, and Dean felt something shift deep inside himself.  It was some kind of instinct that told him this was right; he was meant to take a mate, and to ensure the continuation of their species. 

 

“Do you guys believe in love?  Cause I remember my grandparents being in love, and my dad loved my mom very much.  I want that too, to be in love.”

 

“Yes, we believe in love.  I want to fall in love with you, Dean, but I want you to mate me now.  Please, is that what I need to be saying to get you to bury your knot inside me?  Please?”  Cas shoved up the edges of his shirt until they were bunched under his armpits.  He relented, lifting his arms and letting the man take it off him.

 

“You desire me.  Your penis is ready.”  Cas pulled down the edge of his sleep pants to marvel at his cock.  It was huge.

 

“Dude, don’t say that,”  Dean laughed.  Cas looked up curiously.

 

“Say what?  I want to mate.  Please remove the clothing on your legs.”

 

“They’re called pants, Cas.”

 

“Pants.  Please remove the pants.”  Cas shoved them down, but kneeling, they didn’t get much past Dean’s butt.  He was incredibly turned on right now, and he guessed the shifter in his DNA outweighed the human right now because the freaked out voice in his head was gone, replaced now with the instinct to take his mate, right here, right now.

 

“Have you ever mated before?”  Dean asked. 

 

“Once.  I had a litter, and they were killed by coyotes.  I refused to mate again until I found my truemate.  That was some 16 winters ago.”

 

Dean frowned.  “Cas, you must have just been a cub yourself.  That was too young to be trying to birth and raise cubs. Were you raising them on your own?”

 

“When our people mate with anyone that is not their truemate, the father leaves and the mother is left the raise the cubs on her own.  But you will not leave me.  We will raise them together.”

 

Dean ran his fingers through the man’s hair, grimacing when they came away feeling almost slimy from grease.  “Do you ever wash your hair?  Take baths?”

 

“In the river, yes, but only when the weather is warm,”  Cas replied.

 

“Ok, hold on, sexy.  I’m going to give you a bath, then we can mate in my bed, where it will be a hell of a lot more comfortable.”

 

Dean pushed Cas back gently so he could stand up.  He held out a hand and Cas took it, letting himself be pulled to his feet. 

 

“You are taking me to the river now?  There’s snow.” Cas pouted.  “I will freeze.”

 

“No, sweetheart, I have a bathtub and shower in here.  And the water will be warm.”  Dean didn’t want to get into the specifics, but he had two generators that he used for electric when he needed it, and there was electric that ran out here.  He had also installed a tankless water heater.  That meant oodles of hot water with which to wash the man’s hair and body.

 

He led Cas into the bathroom and got the water turned on in the tub.  Once it started to fill, he stepped in.  Cas followed, sighing at the warmth of the water.

 

“You will stay with me?  You will not leave me?”

 

“I’ll stay right here.  I’m going to wash your hair and then your body, ok?”  Dean grabbed the bottle of shampoo and began washing Cas’ hair.  His skin wasn’t really dirty, and Dean was betting that was due to his cleanliness when in lion form.  His hair was harder to clean, and he probably only did it a few times a year. That wouldn’t do if he planned to be around the cabin very much, or more specifically, around Dean. He liked to stay clean himself, and he liked his partners to be clean.  There was something special about Cas, and he wondered if that had to do with the whole truemate thing.

 

Cas purred as Dean lathered up the shampoo in his hair and scrubbed at his scalp.  It took two washings to get rid of all the dirt, but he sat quietly, letting Dean do what he wished.  Then his body was cleaned, methodically, starting at his neck and working his way down all the way to his feet, Dean cleaned every inch of his body.  He liked being taken care of by his mate.  The thought that Dean might let him shift and sit in the warm water sometime in the future, and then dry by the fire was a wonderful thought.  It left him smiling as Dean guided him out of the water so he could dry him off.  He took the towel and used it to dry Dean too.

 

“Now we mate?”

 

Dean smiled.  “I haven’t even gotten to kiss you.”

 

“What is kiss?  Can we do that while we mate?”

 

“Impatient, aren’t you?”  Dean teased as he took the man by the hand and led him out of the bathroom and over to the bedroom.  Cas looked around, his eyes bright and alert.  He’d been peeking in the window most nights, and he was very familiar with the room.  Without being told, he walked over to the bed and climbed up into it.  He dropped to all fours and spread his legs wide, presenting for his Alpha.  Dean’s dick had flagged during the bath, though it had never fully gone soft, but seeing Cas like this, and seeing the golden fluid that dripped from between his legs, it had him painfully hard within minutes.

 

“You know, humans…mate…differently.  I’m not opposed to doing it like this, but maybe in the future, we could go slower?  Take our time and mate simply for the pleasure of it?”  He asked as he climbed up into the bed.  Cas looked back over his shoulder and nodded.

 

“I would like that very much, but you see, the reason Michael came to chase me off tonight was because I am in heat.  When I am in heat I need to mate often, and it hurts when I am not knotted.  Do you understand this?  I need your knot.  Only yours will truly ease my heat and give me what I need.”

 

Dean moved up behind the man, bringing his hand up to catch a few drops of whatever was dripping from between Cas’ legs.

 

“What is this stuff?”

 

“We call it slick.  It is for easing the Alpha’s way, but also to arouse.  Does mine arouse you?”

 

Dean brought his fingers up to his nose and sniffed.  Fuck it smelled good!  Like honey and clover.  He dabbed a bit on his tongue and groaned.  It even tasted good!

 

“Yeah, you could say that.  When your heat is over I’m going to lay you on your back and eat you out.  Do you know what that is?”

 

“No, but you cannot eat me.  Will it hurt?”

 

Dean laughed as he smoothed a hand down Cas’ back.

 

“No, sweetheart, it will feel absolutely amazing.”

 

“Then yes, I would like that.  Please, Dean.”  Cas wiggled his ass and more slick dripped down onto the sheets.  Dean realized he’d have to change it before they went back to sleep.  He wanted this to be good for them both, even if he was being driven by some primal need he hadn’t been aware of before tonight.  There was a part of his brain telling him this was his mate, and they would bond after this, making their union permanent.  That excited him more than anything, even if he didn’t completely understand that part.  He caught a drop of the slick on his finger before sliding it inside.  Cas was hot and wet, and his dick was aching to be inside the man. 

 

“If I’m an Alpha, what does that make you?”

 

“I am your Omega.”  Cas keened as Dean added a second finger, moving them in and out slowly.  He brushed something that had the man crying out in pleasure.  It was bringing him close to bursting, so he withdrew his fingers and replaced them with his cock.  Already the “knot” was starting to swell, but this time he wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed of it.  Cas knew what it was and what it was intended for.  That was more than his own father had ever told him. 

 

He slid in easily, and Cas growled low as he shoved back.  Dean grabbed his hips and thrust in deeper, feeling the way his knot swelled bigger than it ever had before.  It had been years since he’d tried to have sex with another person, and he was already so close to coming it was ridiculous.  He grunted as he pushed in deeper, feeling his knot beginning to catch.  Sex had never been this intense, or this animalistic.  A growl escaped his throat, a sound he’d never heard himself make, and Cas responded by going even more submissive, mewling and squeezing around his knot until one final thrust locked them together.  He understood now what his father had meant, though he was angry that he hadn’t been told why.  Cas was purring and Dean knew he was content without having to ask.  Carefully, he maneuvered them until they were lying on their sides.  He wrapped his arms around the man and pulled his upper body against his chest.

 

“So, I’m your Alpha, and you’re my Omega.  Is that how dynamics go?  I don’t have to leave your territory, do I?  Cause honestly, this feels like my territory too, and I don’t want to leave.”

 

Cas took Dean’s hand, bringing it up to his lips and inhaling deeply of their mingled scents. 

 

“You are my Alpha, and I am your Omega, or mate.  There are Betas, but there are not as many anymore.  We will share this territory together.  Pure cougars do not share their territory, except during mating season.  It is not so for our kind.  The human in us gives us the desire to share with our truemates.  Many eons ago, our kind could shift into many different creatures.  We were the bears that fished in the rivers, and the eagles that soared in the skies.  We were the lions, the bobcats, the badgers, and the wolves.  As the years passed, some shifted only to one species or another.  Our kind, we became the cougars, and others, they became the wolves, or the bears.  But once, long ago, we walked as many.  Humans came, bringing in new blood, as the elders say, and our native ancestry became diluted, but we always bred back to the cougars, and our kind has continued to thrive.  My brothers Michael, Lucifer, and Gabriel are from our parents first litter.  My sisters Anael and Rachel are from their second litter.  My sister Hannah is from my litter. My mother has passed away, but my father is an elder now.”

 

“I didn’t move out here thinking I’d have a mate.  I thought I’d live alone, hunting, fishing, and getting visits from my brother and friends from time to time.  It just felt like I was being pulled back here, ever since I was a kid.  I never felt at home in the city.  These woods always felt like they were where I belonged.  I guess that’s because I’m not really human?”

 

“That would be correct,”  Cas agreed.

 

“So let’s say we have cubs.  Are they going to be actual cubs?  And how do we teach them?”

 

Cas chuckled.  “Our kind, they grow slower.  They are not adults and ready to seek out their own territory in a single season like the pures do.  Our cubs will take 8 to 12 winters to fully mature.  If the elders accept them, they will teach them our history, but we will teach them the basics of language, of hunting, and of avoiding humans.  Full humans are dangerous.  They come with guns and traps, and they kill our kind every year.  Anna, Rachel and Lucifer were all hunted and shot.  They are dead.  We need to protect our cubs.”

 

“We will,”  Dean promised.  It surprised him how, with as swiftly as his life had suddenly just changed, he took it all in stride, accepting everything he was being told.  He planned to call his dad though and bitch him out the first opportunity he got.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Cas’ heat lasted three full days, and by the end he was purring almost nonstop, and not leaving the bed at all.  He was certain he was pregnant and Dean had a momentary panic attack.  How would he explain this to Sam?  What if Sam came and saw a cougar lounging on his bed?  Or what if he came and Cas was just…Cas?  How would he explain his “mate”?  His dad would get it, but he was pretty sure Sam was as clueless as he had been.  It was unlikely his brother remembered Millie at all, or their grandparents.  And what if there were cubs bounding about?  The thought of his brother showing up while his kids were running around in their cougar form was enough to make his stomach clench.  But then he’d look at Cas who was all smiles, rolling around in the bed like a giant cat, even in his human form, scent marking the sheets, the pillows, and anything that belonged to Dean, and that panic would ease up.  Cas was awkward, yes, very formal in his speech, and quite literal, but he was sweet, and he was cuddly, and damn if he didn’t love his baths. 

 

For more than a month they enjoyed one another’s company, taking the time to get to know one another, and Dean found himself falling in love.  While Cas loved mating, he continued to push for them to complete the bond before the elders came.  Dean didn’t know how to do that though.

 

“What exactly is it that you need from me?  I’m knotting you constantly.  You’re probably already carrying my cubs, and I’m adjusting to life living with a shifter.  How do I complete this bond?”

 

Cas climbed into Dean’s lap where he sat on the couch and placed the Alpha’s hand over his belly.  Dean gasped when he felt the change in the normally flat surface.  His mate was indeed pregnant.  Holy shit, he was going to be a father!

 

“I will have your cubs when the snow is just beginning to melt.  You will provide warmth and shelter for us.  To finish the bond I need you to bite me.  You must draw blood.  Then, I must do so in return.”

 

“Cas, that scares the shit out of me.  Are you going to shift to do it?  Cause I don’t want your huge fangs biting into me, you’ll kill me.”

 

“No, look.”  Cas peeled back his lips, and Dean could see how the Omega’s fangs elongated.  That…was pretty neat, he had to admit to that.

 

“Ok, but look at mine.”  Dean pulled his own lips back to reveal his normally slightly longer canines.

 

“Shift them.  I need you to.  Your bite must go deep.  I will heal quickly, but I need the bite to be deep for us to bond correctly.”

 

Dean tried, but he wasn’t sure he was doing it until Cas suddenly got excited.

 

“You did it!  All you have to do is think about shifting, and it happens.  Let’s mate and we will bond.”

 

“We have to be locked together first?”  Dean asked. 

 

“Yes, for the bond to properly work.  I saw a cougar out the window this morning.  I believe it was Uriel.  He is a messenger to the elders and if he is here, they are coming.  We don’t have much time.  I’m surprised they’ve waited a month to come.”

 

Dean hooked his hands under Cas’ thighs and moved him over so he was dropped onto his back on the couch, and then draped himself over his mate.  He was already hard, and he slid in easily.  Cas moaned and clawed at his back, begging him to move faster, so he did.  He’d come to really love mating with his Omega.  His feelings for his mate ran deep, and his instinct was to protect their den, and his mate.  He growled as he thrust in, and Cas spread his legs further, willing his Alpha to go even deeper.

 

Once Dean’s knot locked them together and they both came, he sat up carefully, bringing his mate up with him.

 

“Now, we do it at the same time or what?”

 

Cas tilted his head and touched a spot on his shoulder, right where it met his neck.  The soft slope of creamy white skin was tempting, and he felt his teeth elongating with very little effort on his part.  He ran his tongue across the spot, tasting his mate’s honey and clover scent.

 

“Do it,”  the Omega begged.  He clenched around Dean’s knot, causing his Alpha to growl.  Instinct took over and he bit down, making his Omega scream loudly.

 

“Oh God, did I hurt you?  Are you ok?”  Dean cupped Cas’ face and lifted it so he could look into those beautiful blue eyes.

 

“No, that was wonderful.  Clean it, it’s dripping.”

 

Dean looked at the blood spilling down his mate’s shoulder but he had no paper towels to do as he was asked.

 

“How?”

 

“A cougar uses their tongue.  Use yours,”  Cas replied.  For a moment Dean was horrified at the thought, but since Cas had come into his life, he’d been going a lot more on instinct, so he decided to do that now.  He started with the blood that was dripping down the Omega’s chest, threatening to land on his couch cushions.  It wasn’t nearly as gross as he’d expected, and it only took a few minutes to clean his mate up. 

 

“Come down here.  My turn.”  Cas pulled him down and nosed against his shoulder for a moment.  “You smell so good.  It is nice from a distance but it is much, much better to hold you close and smell it.”

 

Dean shivered and when his mate bit down, the shock of pain mixed somehow with pleasure, and another burst of come spilled into his Omega.  Cas was methodical in his cleaning, and he nuzzled against the bite, inhaling the new mingling of their scents.  He purred before pulling Dean down into a kiss. Once the Alpha had told him what a kiss was and taught him how nice they could be, he’d become addicted. 

 

When his knot finally went down, Dean went to fetch a towel to clean them both up.  Cas was standing at one of the living room windows looking out, his hand rubbing absently at the gentle swell of his abdomen.  It was obvious the Omega was pregnant.

 

“Babe?”  Dean crossed the room and began wiping down his mate’s legs and stomach, but Cas’ attention was locked on the outside.

 

“They are out there.” 

 

Dean stood up and looked out the window, catching a glimpse of a lion passing just beyond the tree line.

 

“Uriel?  Or an elder?”

 

“That is Joshua, one of the elders, and the one that is jumping from tree to tree is my father, Charles.  The others are here too.”  Cas lifted his head, standing up taller.  “Michael is here as well.  So is Gabriel.”

 

“They’re not elders though.”  Dean was searching the night-covered landscape, but all he saw now were footprints. 

 

“No, but Michael believes himself to be their enforcer.  The elders do not need an enforcer, they do that themselves.  Gabriel is just nosey.”  Cas turned away from the window to look at his mate.  “You will protect me?  Our cubs?”

 

“With my life,”  Dean promised.

 

“I wish you could shift.  They would be much more accepting if you could.”  Cas sighed.  “I love you in this form, you are beautiful, but to make them happy, it would be easier.”

 

“Should I get my shotgun?”  Dean asked.

 

“No.  But, put it by the door, just in case.”

 

Dean did as asked, and then shrugged on a pair of flannel pajama pants and a thermal top.  He shoved his feet into his slippers and looked down at his hands.  He’d been trying lately to shift.  Something moved inside him each time he tried, but it never seemed to stick.  Even now, his fingers shortened, and thick, sharp claws began to stretch out from his nail beds, but it took effort to do even that much.  Cas had come to the bedroom doorway and was watching him.  He smiled when Dean looked up.

 

“Keep practicing.  It is in your ancestry. You should be able to eventually.  This is what I will tell them.”

 

Cas shifted and padded out of the room.  Dean took a deep breath and followed him to the front door.  Nails on the porch told him there were lions right outside the door.  He glanced at the shotgun before he unlocked the door and opened it.

 

“Castiel.”  Joshua stepped out of the shadows and walked up to the bottom of the stairs.  Cas looked to his right and saw Michael lying on the porch.  Warily, he looked at the other elders who came to stand beside Joshua.

 

Dean is not human.  He is a descendant of Henry and Millie Winchester.”

 

There were murmured thoughts among the elders before his father stepped forward, climbing the porch steps to look at Dean.

 

“He smells mated.  But…I smell cougar in him.  Can he shift?”

 

“Not completely.  He’s trying though.  I’m trying to teach him.”

 

Charles shifted and Dean found himself facing a scruffy looking man with bright blue eyes.

 

“You lived in the city?”

 

“I lived here as a kid.  For a while my brother and I lived with my grandparents.  I know my grandmother was a shifter.  She shifted in front of us.  My grandfather’s cabin is only about ten miles east of here.”  Dean pointed in the direction of the old cabin.  It wasn’t in good enough shape for him to rehab that one, so he’d moved in here.

 

“I knew Millie.  I knew her cub.  John is your father?”

 

Dean nodded.  “Yes.”

 

“But your mother was not a shifter.”

 

Dean shrugged.  “To be honest?  I have no idea.  She never shifted in my presence, if she was, but neither did my father or my grandfather, that I can remember.”

 

“Where is your father now?” Charles asked.

 

“He has a plot of land in South Dakota.  He doesn’t like living in the city any more than I do. This is my family’s land, so I came home here.  I felt the need to return to my roots,”  Dean explained.  Charles looked at his son and waited for him to shift.  He pursed his lips when he saw the swell of his son’s belly.  His eyes drifted up to the bite on his shoulder.

 

“Will you need to punish me?  I knew he was my mate.  I needed to be with my mate.”  Cas moved closer to Dean, and the Alpha slipped an arm around his shoulders, holding him against his side.

 

“Millie said the same thing.  Except her mate had one shifter for a parent.”

 

“So does Dean!  John is a shifter!”  Cas exclaimed.  “He is a good Alpha.  He takes care of me and feeds me well.”

 

“I see you are expecting cubs.  I am disappointed that you ignored a direct order from the elders but…I understand why you did it.  I will talk with the others and we will return when the cubs are born to assess them,” his father said.  Cas clutched the front of Dean’s shirt and moved closer.

 

“What do you mean by ‘assess’ them?”  Dean asked.

 

“He means that if they can’t fully shift, they will be euthanized.”  Cas replied before his father could.  Dean bristled at the thought of his kids being killed because they couldn’t go full cougar.

 

“Like hell!  My kids aren’t being killed!”

 

“Dean, shifters have laws, and staying in this territory means abiding by them.  These are the ancient ways.  But our cubs will be perfectly fine.”  Cas smoothed his hand over his mate’s chest.  “Let us go inside, I’m cold in this form, and there is snow on the porch.”

 

Dean looked down to see his mate scrunching his toes up.  They were red and he didn’t want his mate getting sick, so he lifted his Omega up and cradled him to his chest.

 

“Are we done here?” He directed the question to Charles.

 

“Yes.  But in three months’ time we will return.”

 

The man shifted and growled at Michael, who slunk down from the porch.  He looked pissed, and Dean didn’t want that particular cat in his territory ever again.  Brother or not, he was a jerk.

 

The cats dispersed, save for one.  It shifted, revealing a scruffy looking blonde man.

 

“So.  You’re my new brother-in-law, eh?” he asked. Dean quirked an eyebrow.

 

“I guess?”

 

“I’m Gabe.”  Gabe climbed the steps, rubbing his hands together before crossing his arms and shivering.  “Mind if I come in for a bit?  It’s cold as balls out here.”

 

“Yeah, sure, come on in and warm up.”  Dean carried Cas in and once Gabe was in the cabin, he closed the door and set Cas down.

 

“I’m going to go take a bath,” the Omega announced.

 

Gabe watched him disappear into the bathroom before he spotted the fireplace.  He perked up and hurried over to sit down in front of it.

 

“Where is your territory?”  Dean asked as he sat on the couch.

 

“I live across the river. I’m the next closest relative.  It’s only Michael, Cas, and me left.  And our dad.  Did Cassie tell you that?”

 

“He told me your folks had three litters, and he was born in the last one, with Hannah.”

 

“Yeah.  Two of the girls were hunted and killed, so was our brother Luc.  We’re very careful to avoid humans.  That’s why the elders tried to keep my brother away from you.  It was for his own protection.  If you got scared you could have shot him.  We fear hunters, and you need to watch out for them, they will come onto your lands illegally hunting.  How much of this do you own?”  Gabe turned around to look at him.  The fire was too nice to move away from.  Cas had it good living here!

 

“Well, I bought up extra land so I could keep it pristine and safe from hunters, so I own everything for 25 square miles.  I already owned 12 of that though.  My father gave me the deed when I told him I wanted to move back here.  I have money, though, so I bought more land.  I’d like to buy even more now, to do what I can to keep shifters safe,”  Dean replied.

 

“You’re aware we’re not the only shifters in these woods, right?  There are other species that shift too.”

 

“Cas said in the beginning all shifters were the same, and that they could shift into many species, but then they began to split, some shifting into only cougars, or only bears, stuff like that.  I remember there being bear and coyote here when I was a kid, but bobcat, fox, rabbit, and some other stuff too.”  Dean cocked an ear, listening.  The bathroom was quiet, which meant Cas was probably in the water, soaking by now.

 

“There’s more than that, but they’re not all shifters.  Bears, yes.  Wolves, some coyotes, and what the humans call Bigfoot, though they don’t shift, exactly.  They’re sort of in a permanent state of half shifting.  It’s doubtful you’ll see any though; they’re pretty reclusive.”  Gabe laid out on his stomach, stretching and purring.  He could get used to this.

 

“You’re not serious, Bigfoot are real?”  Dean asked.

 

“Yes.  There are things in these forests the humans have never seen, and things they won’t live to talk about if they do see them.  Hunt with caution.  You really should work on shifting, for the sake of your mate and cubs.  Our dad wasn’t kidding, he’ll have the cubs drown in the river if they can’t fully shift.  But I don’t think that will be an issue.  If you can learn to shift, so can your cubs.”

 

“How come your English isn’t as formal as Cas’?” 

 

“Because I left when I was 17, moved to the city for a while.  I hated it, but I learned a hell of a lot.  Do you have a television here?  I miss watching shows and movies.”  Gabe looked around, his eyes lighting up when he spotted the television mounted to the wall over the fireplace.  “Can we watch something?”

 

“I don’t have reception out here for shows, so all I have are movies, but sure.  Movies are over there, on those shelves.”  Dean pointed to a built-in cabinet on the far side of the fireplace.  Gabe jumped up and hurried over to it.

 

“Does my brother watch movies?  He’s never been out of the forest.  He’s missing out on so much.”  Gabe flipped through several movies as he talked, checking each one out.

 

“Do you guys read as well as speak English?”  Dean asked.

 

“Yes, to a degree.  The elders aren’t the best teachers.  I found that out when I got to the city and could only read about half the signs.  I went to the library and taught myself the basics.  From there, I mastered the language fully.  Stayed til I was 22, but by then I missed the forest too much and I needed to come home.  I fought Uriel for my territory, and I took it over.  I’ve been home ever since then.”

 

“How old are you?  And how old is Cas?” 

 

Gabe set one movie back on the shelf and carried another over to Dean for him to put in.

 

“You must know, full shifters, we have much longer lifespans.  A hundred years to 40 human years.  I am 52.  Cas turned 40 this past summer.”

 

“I’m 35.  My birthday is in January.  I’m wondering how long I’ll live.”  Dean knew his own father was in his 60s, but he looked like he was 40.  John Winchester also didn’t move around or act like a man in his 60s.  That gave him some hope.

 

“You need to jumpstart your genetic link to shifters. If you can shift, you will kick in that part of your DNA that will make you live longer.  You and my brother can have a long and happy life together.” Gabe watched as Dean got up to put the movie in the DVD player. 

 

“I’m working on that.  You ok for a bit if I go and check on Cas?  Sometimes I swear he’s a fish, not a cougar.”  Dean turned the television on and felt confident as he handed Gabe the remote that the man could figure out how to press play. He headed for the bathroom, knocking on the door frame before walking in.  Cas was in the water, only his eyes peeking out from the still surface. He peered up at his mate.

 

“You really like the water, don’t you?”

 

Cas slid up until he was sitting again.  “I like warm water.  It is never this warm in the river.  And it does not smell like fish.”

 

“This is true.  Say, your brother wants to watch a movie.  You up for that?”

 

Cas ran his fingers through his wet hair before nodding.  “Yes, but I am hungry.”

 

“I have rabbit, squirrel, and elk.  What do you want?”  Dean asked.

 

“Elk, but can I have some of those berries you have in the freezer?  The little blue ones.”  Cas stood up and Dean handed him a towel.  The Omega didn’t mind air drying, but Dean wanted his floors to not warp before he could seal them properly, so he was trying to get his mate into the habit of drying off before he got out of the tub.  While Cas worked on his hair, Dean leaned over to empty the tub. 

 

When they returned to the living room, Dean went to get food for his mate, and presumably for Gabe as well while Cas stretched out on the couch. 

 

“What is this?  Why are they wearing such strange clothing?  Is that what humans wear in the cities?”  Cas was asking his brother.

 

“No, these are superheroes. They’re not like normal humans. They have special powers, and these ones use them to protect people,” Gabe was explaining.

 

“I don’t understand, why do they need protection?”

 

Dean chuckled as he pulled meat from the fridge.  “Do you want it raw, or should I cook it?”

 

“Raw,” was the response he got from them both.

 

He pulled out the blueberries and placed some in a bowl to warm up before he decided to make himself a steak.  Raw was tolerable, but he liked his meat cooked at least a little bit.  When he was finished, he carried everything over to the couch.  Cas was polite and ate on a plate when he was inside the cabin, and Dean was glad Gabe was just as polite.

 

They watched the movie as they ate, and when the movie was over, Gabe announced that he was leaving.

 

“Can I come back and visit?”  he asked as Dean walked him to the door.

 

“Sure, it’s ok with me.  Cas?”

 

“Yes.  Gabe is the brother that I am most comfortable around.  But when my cubs come, you are not to come near them.  You may visit, but stay out of my nest,”  Cas warned.  Gabe nodded.

 

“I’ll see you guys soon.”  He shifted and ran out the door and down the stairs.  Dean shut the door and returned to the couch.  His mate looked gorgeous all stretched out like he was.

 

“I’m going to bed.  You coming?”

 

Cas looked up at him for a moment before standing up.  “Yes, I have come to prefer the soft bed to my cave.  I like warmth and softness.” 

 

He shifted and headed for the bedroom.  Dean turned the television and DVD player off before following. 

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Cas’ pregnancy was much quicker than a human’s, but it still lasted nearly until the beginning of spring.  He became antsy and irritable the closer it came to birthing them, and he spent most of his time in his cougar form, not that Dean minded.  It was the second week of March, after the snows had finally started melting away, that Dean got a surprise visit from his brother.  He was chopping wood in the side yard when he heard the crunching of tires on the gravel, and he came around the front just as Sam was getting out of the car.

 

“Oh, hey, Sammy.”  Dean leaned the axe up against the house and walked over to greet his brother. 

 

“Hey.  I came out to see how you made it through your first winter.”  Sam was grinning as he got out of the car.  Movement on the porch caught his attention, and he jumped back when he noticed the mountain lion lounging on the porch. 

 

“What the fuck!  There’s a lion on your porch!”

 

“Yeah, it’s cool, that’s Cas.  Cas, this is my brother.  You be nice, you hear?  He’s not challenging you.”  Dean directed his words back towards the cat whose tail was flicking irritably.

 

“Cas.  You named a fucking mountain lion?!”  Sam stayed by his car, staring up at the cat who stared right back.

 

“It’s…”  Dean scratched at the scruff on his jaw.  “Hard to explain.”

 

“Is…is it…friendly?”  Sam was still eyeing the cat, who finally looked away in boredom.

 

“Yeah, he’s a sweetheart, most of the time.  A bit cranky lately though.  I gotta talk to you about something.  Come on inside.”  Dean motioned for his brother to follow him as he started for the stairs. 

 

“He’s not like, going to attack, is he?”  Sam sidestepped the cat as he climbed the stairs.  When Cas stood up, he flinched and jumped backwards, almost falling over the side railing.  Dean just laughed.

 

“You, stay out here.  I need to talk to Sam first.”

 

Cas turned and went down the stairs.  The direction he went told Dean he was heading to see his brother.  Good, that meant Cas would be safe, and he’d have the time to break the news to Sam that he was going to be an uncle, just…not in the traditional human sense.

 

“That’s wild.  Is he like, a pet or something?  Are they supposed to be that fat?  What are you feeding him, burgers and potatoes?”  Sam joked as he followed Dean inside.

 

“Oh, Sammy, I have so much to explain.”  Dean ushered his brother into the cabin and closed the door.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Sam took a sip of the tea his brother had made for him.  It had surprised him not to be offered coffee.  “Since when do you keep tea in the house?  This can’t be because you knew I was coming.  You couldn’t have known.”

 

“Cas likes tea.  Especially in the winter when it’s cold.  He’ll take a cup and sit in the tub.  Dude loves his baths.”

 

Sam frowned at his brother.  “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, you have to know that.”

 

Dean looked at him for a moment before sighing.  “It’s not what you think.  I’m not inviting wild mountain lions into my home to sip tea and take baths.  Sammy,”  He turned a bit to face his brother more.  “How do you feel when you’re here?  In the woods, I mean. Does it feel like you’ve finally come home?”

 

Sam mulled the question over while he sipped his tea.  He’d never quite fit in back in the city.  The peace and quiet of the forest had always felt much more inviting.  He’d been planning to make more trips out here to visit Dean because…yes, this did feel like home.

 

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

 

Dean smiled wide.  “That’s cause it is home.  I learned some pretty fascinating stuff since I moved in.  Like for instance, do you remember Millie?”

 

Sam cocked his head as he tried to remember if he ever knew anyone by that name.

 

“Not that I can remember.”

 

“Ok, do you have any memories of coming out here to stay with Grandpa Henry?”   Dean asked.

 

“Vaguely.  I was little, so while you and Grandpa went hunting, I stayed back at the cabin with Grandma.”

 

Dean nodded.  “Right, and there used to be a mountain lion.  Used to sit right on the porch when we played.  Her name was Millie.”

 

A memory flickered at the back of Sam’s consciousness, and he saw flashes of tawny fur and a raspy tongue licking his face.

 

“She…licked me.  Am I remembering that right?”

 

“Yeah, she used to clean us up when we got all dirty.  She’s watch over us when we played in the yard, but she kept watch when we were inside playing too.  Millie was our grandma.”  Dean held his breath and waited for his brother to figure out what he was saying.  Sam’s eyes narrowed.

 

“Are you messing with me?  I’m pretty sure grandpa wasn’t into bestiality.”

 

Dean rolled his eyes, suddenly wishing Cas was there.  He felt his mate across their bond and realized his Omega had heard his thought, but had seen it as request.  He was on his way back.

 

“No, you’re not getting it.  Millie?  She was our grandmother, and she was a shifter.  She could shift and become a cougar.  Grandpa was one too, and so is dad.  Don’t believe me, track him down and ask him.  He married a human though, and mostly raised us in the city, so we were never taught to shift. I’m still trying to figure it out.  It’s not easy.”  Dean pointed at his mouth as he curled his lips back.  “See my teef?”

 

“You’re weird.”  Sam laughed.  Dean groaned and pointed at his mouth again.  Sam watched with an amused smirk as his brother curled his lips back again.  The smirk disappeared though when he saw Dean’s canines elongate and the rest of his teeth became razor sharp.

 

“What the hell?!”  Sam nearly lost his cup of tea in his shock.  Dean’s teeth returned to normal.

 

“I’m working on actual shifting.  I’m getting better at it.  I really wish Dad would have taught us,”  Dean said.  “Anyway, they’re cougars, but not really.  This was Cas’ territory that I moved into, and it turned out that I’m his truemate.  He’s a little stiff and formal with his language skills, and not entirely friendly towards humans, but he’s wonderful.”

 

“This can’t be real.  I’m in the Twilight Zone, right?”  Sam shook his head.  “This cannot seriously be real.”

 

Dean snorted.  “I thought the same thing at first, when Cas first shifted and began explaining things to me.  It sort of blew my mind, but once I really started to think about it, I realized it all felt right.”

 

The front door opened and the cup slipped from Sam’s hand, dropping to the floor, but he was too busy staring at the man that had just walked in.

 

“You wanted me to return?  Is everything alright with your brother?”  Cas asked.

 

“Yeah, he’s a little freaked out.  I’ve been trying to explain things, but he tends to be pretty stubborn,”  Dean explained.

 

“Dean, what’s going on?  Why is he naked?  And why does he look…”  Sam couldn’t stop staring at Cas’ swollen belly.  When a mountain lion slipped into the cabin, walking around Cas’ legs and right over to the couch, Sam screeched and jumped over the back of it, putting distance between himself and the cat.

 

“Sammy, relax!  This is Gabe, Cas’ older brother.”  Dean was trying to calm his panicky brother, but it wasn’t proving to be an easy task.  Gabe looked at Dean and then over at Cas.

 

“He says Sam is his truemate,”  Cas said.

 

“Hold up!  Someone better explain things to me real quick, before I lose my shit!”  Sam demanded.  When Gabe looked at Dean next, the Alpha nodded.  Gabe shifted.

 

“Hey, hot stuff.”

 

Sam passed out, hitting the floor like a ton of bricks.

 

“Your reaction was much better.”  Cas walked over to where Sam was lying and looked down at him.  “He will be hurting later.  You should move him to the bed in the other bedroom so he can rest.”

 

With help from Gabe, Dean moved his brother into the spare bedroom and dropped him on the bed.

 

“Is he always so…sensitive?”  Gabe asked.

 

“No, but I think this was a bit too overwhelming for him,”  Dean replied.  He watched as Gabe leaned down to scent the unconscious man.  When he stood back up, there was a small frown on his face.

 

“What’s wrong?”  Dean looked down at his brother, but Sam seemed ok.  He’d have one hell of a headache later though.

 

“He’s my truemate,”  Gabe replied.  Dean started to laugh and when Gabe glared at him, he covered it with a cough.

 

“What’s so wrong about that?”

 

“I didn’t want to find mine.  I’m perfectly happy alone in my territory.  This means cubs, doesn’t it?  He’s gonna want some.” 

 

Dean wasn’t 100% sure what his brother did or didn’t want.  All he could do was stare at his brother’s sleeping form.  Now there was one more thing to try and explain when he woke up.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Gabe paced the living room, back and forth, pausing every now and then to listen in the doorway to the second bedroom, but not hearing anything that indicated Sam was awake, he continued his pacing.  Cas seemed unaffected by it.  He had shifted and was stretched out, sleeping in his and Dean’s bed.  Dean went back out to finish chopping wood for the coming storm.  He didn’t need weather channel to tell him it was coming, the creatures of the forest told him.  More snow was coming, and if his cubs were about to arrive, he intended to keep them warm.

 

It was just as he was bringing his fourth pile of wood inside that he heard a startled thump in the second bedroom.  Gabe’s ears flicked and his eyes slid over to the door.

 

“Let me deal with him, ok?  Just…can you shift back and stack these neatly?  I am trying to be prepared before my cubs are here.”

 

“Your what?”

 

Dean whipped his head around to see Sam standing in the doorway to the second bedroom, rubbing his head.

 

“What, did you fall out of bed?”

 

“I hit my head on the pine headboard, not that it made much of a difference, my head was already splitting.  What the hell happened?”

 

Dean glanced at Gabe before meeting his brother’s gaze.  “You passed out.”

 

“I’ve never passed out before.”

 

“Well you did this time.  Guess it was too much of a shock for you.”  Dean decided to just stack the wood himself.

 

“What did you say before about cubs?”

 

“Uh, well, I’m…going to be a dad.  Like, any day now.”  Dean kept his back to his brother as he neatly stacked the cords of wood.

 

“What do you mean?  Are you saying…”  Sam stepped into the living room and looked into the open door of the master bedroom.  He visibly paled at the sight of the mountain lion stretched out on the bed.

 

“Sammy, you don’t understand.  They’re shifters, not full mountain lions.  Once, long ago, they could shift into any creature, but these ones, they only shift into cougars now.  We are shifters.  We just…don’t know how.  We were raised as humans, but we’re not human.”  Dean placed the last log on the pile and turned to face his brother.  “Shifters have truemates.  Cas knew I was his.  As I become more in touch with that side of me, I have come to understand how he is mine. My sense of smell, my hearing, my agility and strength, they’ve always been unusually strong.  Now I know why.  Normal people can’t hear a conversation word for word two houses away, man.  I know you understand that much.  We used to have private conversations from across the house when we were kids, and we both always had a need to climb as high as possible and look down at the world.  And all the times Dad growled at us?  Humans don’t growl, dude.  Not like that.”  Dean moved over to the doorway to his room and looked in at his sleeping mate.  Cas looked so peaceful, and just about ready to burst.

 

“So…I still don’t get how you’re having cubs.  Isn’t he…a he?  Sure looked like a man when he came inside earlier.” 

 

“I don’t know how that works, but for shifters, the Omegas have both sets of reproductive organs.  In his cougar form, he just looks like a large female, which is why I mistook him for a male when I first saw him.  He’s gorgeous though, in both forms,”  Dean replied.

 

“And you got him pregnant?”  Sam’s expression bordered between fascination, morbid curiosity and disgust.  It was ticking Dean off.

 

“Not like this, I didn’t.  He spends most of his time with me in human form.  He’s ready to burst though, so he’s spending more time like this.  It’s how he’ll deliver them.”

 

“You’re seriously about to have cubs.  Like, honest to god…cubs.”  Sam looked again at the lion in his brother’s bed.  Cas had cracked an eye open and was watching him too.

 

“Is that really so bad?  Caring for them will be much easier than caring for human kids.  No diapers, no formula,”  Dean smirked.  “No clothes til they’re bigger.”

 

Sam mulled that over.  He caught the lion in the living room shifting out of the corner of his eye, only this time he didn’t pass out.

 

“I lived in the cities for a while.  I wanted to see what they were like, and John had talked about them often enough that they sounded exciting.  I eventually grew bored, and so did John.  Shifters don’t belong in the city.”  Gabe said.  Sam was trying not to look anywhere except the naked man’s face.

 

“My dad, he has a cabin in the woods up in South Dakota.  We don’t see much of him anymore.” 

 

“That is the way of the cougar.  The cubs grow up, they make their own way, and they establish their own territories.  The difference with shifters is that we don’t let that bond be severed.  We visit our children, and they visit us.  We remain in one another’s lives.  Your father loves you.  I’m sure at some point he will visit.  I’m also sure you’ve gone to visit him and will again.”  Gabe scratched at his beard and grimaced.  “Dean, is there any chance I could use that bath of yours?  The river hasn’t unfroze yet.”

 

“Sure, go for it.”  Dean said. Gabe nodded and disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

 

This is crazy.  Next thing I know, you’ll be telling me Bigfoot is alive.”  Sam ran his fingers through his hair and headed for the couch.

 

“Actually…”

 

Sam looked up at his brother as the man joined him.

 

“No shit.  Really?”

 

Dean nodded.  “I haven’t seen them myself, but yeah, they’re real.  There are all kinds of shifters.  I’ve met bear shifters, they’re primarily still the Native Americans, and I’ve encountered wolf shifters.  They’re not as aggressive if they know you’re a shifter too, and apparently they smell it on me.  I’ve not had any problems since I’ve been here.  If anything, I feel more at home than I ever have before.”

 

Sam stared into the low burning fire for a long time before he got up to add a few more logs.

 

“So, should I move out here?”

 

Dean’s lips twitched in an effort not to smile.

 

“You should.  But you can’t live in my territory, because Cas is very territorial.  I have something to tell you though.”

 

“Something more shocking than what you’ve already told me?”  Sam asked.

 

Dean chuckled and jerked his thumb in the direction of the bathroom.  “Gabe?  He’s your truemate.  He can smell it on you.”

 

“No fucking way.  He looks like a tiny, naked, homeless man!” 

 

Dean burst out laughing.  “They all sort of look like that, Cas included, before I cut his hair and taught him how to shave.  He loves it now.  Gabe lives across the river though, and he’d want you in his territory.  I can buy the land; it’s for sale.  I was planning to buy up as much as I possibly can, so the wildlife here remains safe.  You know I just invested all the money I earned since I had no use for it in the city.  I’ve made a pretty nice profit, and I still have a ton invested, earning me more money.  Since I don’t need to buy much, I have money to buy land.  Gabe’s was next on my list.  I want him to always have a safe place to live.”

 

“I dunno about that.  But I’ll pay you to build me a cabin of my own.”

 

Cas padded into the room, tail twitching, and paced around the couch to stand in front of his mate.  He thrust his head into Dean’s hands, purring as his Alpha scratched behind his ears.

 

“Contractions are starting.  He’s uncomfortable and wants extra attention.”  Dean explained.

 

“I’m still sort of freaking out here.  What are you going to tell Benny and Victor?  They’ll show up, you know.”

 

“They’re human.  I’m sort of torn between telling them and keeping it all secret.  I don’t think they’d tell anyone that I don’t want to have know, but…this is family, and I won’t risk Cas or my kids’ safety.”

 

Cas licked the palm of Dean’s hand and he leaned down to kiss the top of the cougar’s head.

 

“Yeah, I get it.”  Sam watched as Cas laid down on the floor, half on Dean’s feet, and began panting.  Dean slid down to the floor and continued petting him.

 

“Oh, and communication between shifters is pretty freaking cool.  I can hear and speak to Cas without using words, but I’m getting way better at hearing the others too,”  Dean explained. 

 

“Where is he, uh, planning to give birth?”  Sam asked.

 

“Well, this is his den now.  He visits his old cave, to leave scent marks so no one else comes into his territory, but he’s here every night, in my bed.  So he’ll have them here.  I have some old blankets I washed and before the weather got too rough to drive, I went and got some mattress pads, so the bed doesn’t get ruined.  He’ll have them in the spare bedroom because once they’re here, he’ll become extremely protective and the only person allowed near them will be me.  He will kill anyone that threatens his cubs.”

 

“So…I can’t stay.”  Sam frowned.

 

“You can, but you’ll be on the couch.  And stay out of the second bedroom.  I’m thinking of adding on, making an addition at the back where I can put in another bedroom, and a loft that overlooks the house.  Cas likes to be up high.”

 

“I’m cool with the couch.”  Sam offered the cat a small smile, and when Cas sniffed at his hand he found he wasn’t nearly as scared as he’d thought he would be.

 

The bathroom door opened and Gabe stepped out.  He had apparently found a razor and shaved.  He’d also cut his shoulder length hair as it was now neat and short.  His amber eyes were bright as he climbed over the couch to drop into Dean’s empty seat.

 

“So, you know,” he said.  Sam was still trying to politely avoid looking at the man(?)’s genitals, but he did nod.

 

“Yeah.  If your hearing is as good as Dean says, I know you heard our conversation.”

 

“Eh, some of it.  It’s hard to hear with the water running.  I stay pretty clean, and I maintain my hair in this form, but I don’t keep very many human items, so if I want to cut my hair, I need to go into a city, or cheat and come to Dean who has all the human tools.  Sorry, Dean, I used a razor and your scissors.  I’ll bring you a turkey in the morning, or maybe a pheasant.  Whichever one I can track down,”  Gabe said.

 

“It’s cool.  Feel better?”  Dean asked, looking back at him.  Gabe grinned and rubbed at his bare jaw.

 

“I don’t look like a homeless man, but there’s nothing I can do about the tiny part.”

 

Sam blushed and looked away, ashamed. 

 

“I’m sorry; I just sort of…freaked out.”

 

“Eh, I’m probably not what you were expecting.  You’re sure as hell what I was expecting .”  Gabe was still grinning and it made Dean laugh.  Cas, however, looked unamused.  He was panting heavily and flicking his tail even more.

 

“Soon, sweetheart?”  Dean turned his attention back to his mate, who made a strange huffing sound that Sam assumed meant “yes.”

 

“You, uh, need me to get you guys anything?” 

 

“I think we have everything we could need for the moment.  Could you strip the top blanket off the bed in the second bedroom though?  And remove the pillow you laid on.  He doesn’t want any scent around our cubs except his and mine.” 

 

Sam stood up and went to the bedroom to do as asked.

 

“I don’t think he likes me very much,”  Gabe pouted.

 

“He has to get used to all of this.  You have to give him some time.”  Dean said.  Gabe pulled his legs up and under himself.

 

“Contractions are getting that close?”  he asked his brother.

 

“Yes. They are increasingly uncomfortable too.  Do you know when the elders will be returning?”

 

Gabe shook his head.  “No, but I’m sure we’ll see Michael or Uriel sneaking around before their arrival.  No one would blame you if you or Dean happened to get ‘territorial’ and kill them.”  He smirked, and the cougar snorted.  Dean even chuckled.

 

I don’t think they’ll buy the ‘blind rage’ story.  Though sometimes I would like to tear Michael’s throat out.

 

“Wouldn’t we all,”  Dean murmured.  “Wish I’d actually shot him that day.”

 

“He’s a jerk, but that’s because he mostly runs on instinct and has a deep desire to be one of the elders someday.  Too bad our father doesn’t agree,”  Gabe said. 

 

Sam returned with the blanket and the pillow.  “Bed’s pretty free of my smell, I think.  If you want to check, go ahead.”

 

Cas got to his feet and left to do exactly that.  Dean leaned back against the couch and scrubbed a hand down his face.

 

“After the cubs are here I’ll go into town and get the ball rolling to buy the land.  In the meantime, you figure out the design of your cabin and we’ll start building.  It will go slower though, cause this time it will only be you and me doing it.  And you’ll need to dig your well and lay your foundation first before we can build.”

 

“You’re moving here?”  Gabe asked, his eyes lighting up as he scooted across the couch until his chest was pressed up against Sam’s arm.  Oddly enough, he wasn’t finding that as freaky as he thought he would.  Vague memories filtered in of his grandparents moving about the cabin and around the woods fully naked.  He guessed that was pretty normal out here.

 

“Yeah, sure.  I guess I need to pick a spot first.”

 

“Where?  You can’t build in Cassie’s territory, this is for him and Dean.”  Gabe seemed to be continually moving closer, and his scent hit Sam hard.  It was fresh, clean, like the sky and the river had met, and were combined in this single person.  He liked it a whole lot.

 

“Dean explained that. He’s buying your territory.  I’ll be pitching in since I invested and have money too. Plus I have to pay for the cabin materials too.”

 

“You want cedar, right?  I know where there’s a thick stand of cedar trees on my property.  Maybe 300?  400 trees?  They’re old and massive.  You could use those.  It would save money.  Then you just need whatever else goes into building a house.  A roof? Windows?  That sort of stuff.  How do you make money in the cities?” 

 

“I’m a lawyer.  A very well-paid one.  Criminal defense.” 

 

“I’m not entirely sure what that entails.  When I lived in the city I mostly did landscaping and gardening.  I preferred to be there than inside of buildings.  Do you plan to live in the cabin alone?”  Gabe was looking up at him with huge, golden, puppy dog eyes.  It was distracting.

 

“Uh, I sort of have to get used to this idea.  It sounds fantastical, it is fantastical, but at the same time, it feels…right.  Like a part of me has always known I was different, that I didn’t fit in with the other people I tried to make friends with. I do feel more at home here in the woods.  Especially being around my brother.  He’s family, and I missed him a lot after he moved out here. All I’ve been thinking about since he left is coming to see him, but also about spending as much time as possible out here. So the first real break in the snow, I drove out here.  It felt like I was going mad in the city.”

 

“Do you think you can shift?”  Gabe asked.  He was rubbing against Sam, and Dean realized the Omega was scent marking his brother.  He might have thought he didn’t want a mate, but his biology said otherwise.  His brother didn’t seem to mind it though.

 

“I have no idea.  I’ve never done it,”  Sam replied.

 

“I’ve been helping Dean.  So has Cas.  I can help you too.  I bet you’d be an absolutely massive cat.”  Gabe wasn’t shy by any means, and he leaned in close to scent Sam.  A happy sigh escaped him and he leaned fully against the Alpha, even dropping his head onto his shoulder.  “You smell heavenly.”

 

Sam chuckled.  “Oh, ok.  Um, what exactly do I smell like?”

 

“Like the winter air, and something deliciously spicy.  I’ve never smelled anything as wonderful.”

 

“Maybe you can go back to the city with Sam?  Help him start packing and you two can acclimate to one another’s scents and personalities.  Gabe here’s not shy, about anything, really, but he’s fiercely loyal and protective of his land and his family.  He’s also a pretty funny guy once you get used to his sense of humor.  Sammy’s quiet, thoughtful, loves to read, so expect his cabin to be filled with twice as many books as this one, and he has a thirst for knowledge.  He has a wry sense of humor though, and he can be a smartass.  He’s also fiercely loyal and protective of family.  I think you two will get along great.”  Dean looked between his brother and Gabe, who actually looked cute cuddled up on his couch the way they were. 

 

“I’m willing to give this mate thing my full attention, but I have to get the cabin built first,” Sam said.  It just felt…right.

 

Dean perked up suddenly, cocking his head.  He broke out in a wide smile.  “My first cub is here!”  He scrambled to his feet and ran for the bedroom. 

 

“I’m an uncle again.  It’s wonderful.  Hopefully he gets to keep his cubs.  I don’t think he could stand to lose another litter,”  Gabe said.

 

“Lose another litter?  What do you mean?”  Sam asked, suddenly worried about his brother’s new family.

 

“Oh, well, Cas mated a long time ago, during one of his heats.  He had a litter, and the Alpha left him to raise them on his own.  It’s how our people have mated for centuries.  Only your truemate will stay to help you raise your cubs.  Anyway, he had two.  They were beautiful, so tiny and sweet, and it wasn’t until he began taking them out of his den to wander closer to my territory that I finally got to see them.  Anyway, we had a problem with coyotes at the time, and his cubs were barely a year old when a pack of them attacked.  Cas tried to fend them off, but they killed both of his cubs.  He sunk into a horrible depression after that and refused to ever mate again unless he found his truemate.  It’s difficult to raise a litter nowadays.  Human encroachment has pushed wildlife that would not normally be in this area, or would be in fewer numbers, into our territories.  We’ve always had coyotes, but in packs of 10 or less.  This was a pack of more than 30.  They too are shifters, but the coyote in them is quite feral, and they feed into that.  They’re the ones we cannot have truces with. 

 

“Our elders have issue with the fact that Dean cannot shift.  If his cubs cannot shift, the elders will take them and…euthanize them.  Basically they’ll be dropped in the freezing river to drown.  Newborns are helpless, their eyes are not open and they are defenseless.  We won’t know if they can shift for a few months.”

 

“I’m not letting anyone kill my brother’s kids.  That’s just…”  Sam shook his head.  “Hell no.”

 

“To save them would mean Dean needs to leave these lands completely, and take his mate and cubs with him. But there are shifters everywhere. There is not a forest in the world that does not have them, and the rules are universal.  It is how we keep the shifter species alive.  Without these rules, we’d just die out,”  Gabe explained as he cuddled even more against his Alpha.

 

“Do you really mind if I go with you to the city?  I promise to wear clothes. It will take me a few weeks to readapt to humans and their social hierarchy, but I can do it.”

 

“Do you want to come with me?”  Sam asked.

 

“If you want me to, I do.  I will miss you too much if you’re not here.  Now that I’ve found you, I don’t want to let you go,”  Gabe replied.  Sam smiled.  This was wild.  He had cougar in his blood, and a…mate.  Well, future mate.  He had to figure out what that all entailed. 

 

“Maybe I can go back on my own, but send for you after I get some of the hard stuff figured out,” he said.  Gabe nodded.  That sounded fair.

 

“Do you want cubs?  I can still have them, for another 20 to 30 years.” 

 

“I hadn’t really thought about it.  I guess maybe I need to see my brother’s first.  It sort of freaks me out to think my brother is the father to lion cubs.  I need to get used to the idea.”  Sam was actually excited to get to see them. 

 

“Mmm, their second cub just arrived.  They have one of each.  Cassie thinks there is at least one more in there,”  Gabe announced.  He picked his head up and smiled.  “I’m excited for him.  He says their spots are perfect, and Dean is fawning over each one.  He also says he’s taking a ton of pictures to show us.  Birthing is going easier this time around.”

 

Sam smiled.  This was still weird, but…he was happy for his brother.

 

“I can’t wait to see the pictures.”

 

“Me too,”  Gabe agreed.  “I’ve never seen brand new cubs.”

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

In the end, they had two boys and a girl, and Dean took roughly 300 pictures.  He was so thrilled to be a father, and by the time he emerged from the bedroom, he was grinning from ear to ear and waving his phone around.

                                                    

“They’re gorgeous!  Absolutely perfect!  I just know they can shift.  I can almost do it.  They’re so tiny!  I’m in love!”  The Alpha gushed as he ran over to show them the pictures. 

 

“This is our first boy, Nathaniel.  He has darker stripes than the other two, and this is Sarah. Look how blonde her fur is. Cas says that when she finally shifts, he’s positive she’ll be blonde. And this one, this is Ethan. He was last, and he’s the biggest.  I bet he’s gonna be real tall like you, Sammy.”  Dean pointed out each of his cubs, and the pride rolled off him in waves so strong even Sam could pick up on it.  He’d never realized that he was smelling people’s emotions.

 

“Let me guess, Cassie picked the names?”  Gabe asked as he took the phone to flick through the pictures.

 

“He picked the first two.  I always loved the name Ethan, and he liked it too.  What, uh, were the names of his first two?  The ones he lost.”

 

“Josiah and Melody.  He didn’t know what a melody even was, until I came home on a visit once and played music for him for the first time.  I explained what a melody was, and he just…he liked the word, I guess.  They were cute.  Did he tell you who the Alpha was that fathered them?”  Gabe looked up from the phone at Dean, who was frowning.

 

“Is it one of the elders?”

 

“No.  It was Uriel.”

 

Dean growled.  “And he wants to enforce them killing my cubs?  Like hell!”

 

“Uriel is not the bad guy.  He does as he is told.  He is a messenger, nothing more, nothing less.  He holds no ill will towards you, nor does he wish for your cubs to die.  It hurt him too when Josiah and Melody died.  He mourned them as well.”

 

Dean stood up straight, cocking his head again.  Sam realized Cas must be talking to him again.

 

“He’s hungry.  I need to feed him.”

 

He headed for the kitchen where he began pulling meat out of the fridge.

 

“Say, why do Omegas have both reproductive systems?”  Sam asked, directing the question to Gabe.

 

“Well, there has been so much hunting over the centuries, and our kind has been driven away or outright killed, that our numbers plummeted.  Omegas adapted to the decline of available Alphas.  We began mating with one another, producing cubs on our own because we needed to.  We’ve always been able to shift, and we’ve always been able to adapt.”

 

“That makes sense.  Do you know how shifters came to be?”

 

Gabe shrugged.  “There are the stories the elders tell, but I’ve always thought they sounded like bullshit.  Their teachings are a mixture of mythology and the Bible.  My father took that to heart and named all of his cubs after angels.”

 

“You, uh, you want cubs then?”  Sam felt his cheeks burning as he asked that.  Gabe grinned up at him.

 

“I’ve never had any.  I’d like some at least once.  My heat’s coming in May.”

 

“You need to be in heat to have them?”

 

“Yep. I want cubs of my own, but only with my truemate.”

 

There was a lot to get used to, but Sam was sort of excited.  He couldn’t wait to be out here for good.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

In June, Uriel showed up.  Dean had become extremely protective of his mate and cubs, and he had taken to patrolling the area around the cabin, shotgun in hand, making sure no other cats, or shifters of any kind, stepped foot on his land.  When Uriel showed up, Dean’s entire body rippled with the need to shift.  He growled, his canines elongating and his eyes taking on an ethereal glow, like the other cougars.

 

I see you still cannot shift.” Uriel had a knack for being condescending, even in his animal form.

 

“Want to bet?”  Dean snarled.  He’d only just recently figured out how to shift, and he was having trouble staying in that form, but he’d finally managed it a few weeks earlier.  Not that he wanted to go toe to toe with a cat as big as Uriel was.  He was one humans would love the chance to trophy hunt.

 

“Dean?”  Cas stepped out on the porch, and immediately he stood up straight at the sight of Uriel.  “I sensed you were upset.”

 

“Yeah, I have a reason to be.”  Dean bristled further when Uriel dared to come closer.  Cas placed a hand on his mate’s shoulder, urging him through their bond to relax.

 

“Are the elders here?”

 

“They will be arriving this evening.  I have come to inform you of that.  Where are the cubs?”

 

“Inside.  They’re sleeping,”  Cas replied.

 

“How many did you birth this time?”

 

“Three.  Two males and a female.  The males are Alphas.”

 

Uriel sniffed and looked at Dean for a moment before meeting Cas’ steady gaze again.  “I would like to see them.”

 

“You’re not coming in my den,”  Dean growled. 

 

“It’s alright, Dean.  I’ll wake them and bring them out here.”  Cas went back inside and Dean stared Uriel down while they waited for his mate to return.  It was several minutes before Cas returned in his shifted form, with three tiny cubs awkwardly toddling along behind him.  Nathaniel spotted Dean and headed straight for him.  The Alpha set his shotgun aside and lifted the cub up to kiss and cuddle him.

 

“How’s daddy’s big boy?  You’re getting so big,” he cooed.  The cub let out a squeaky little growl as he pawed at his father’s jaw.  Cas looked over at them with nothing but love in his eyes.

 

“Can they shift?”  Uriel asked. 

 

“They can,” Cas replied.  He licked the two pups that were wrestling at his feet.  “Come, my angels, I need you to shift.”

 

The cubs rolled away from one another, and looked up at him.  Sarah shifted first, almost falling over before Cas caught her.  She still was wobbly at sitting up.  Ethan took a little longer to shift, but he did.  He flopped on his tummy and looked up at his mother with a big smile.  Cas lovingly licked them both.

 

“And that one?  He can shift as well?”  Uriel asked, looking at Nathaniel. 

 

“He can.”  Dean held his son up.  “Hey, buddy, I need you to shift now, ok?  Show him what a big boy you are, and how good you are at it.”

 

Nathaniel squirmed until Dean held him close again, and then he shifted too.  He smiled up at his father who tickled his belly just to hear him laugh.  It was music to his ears.

 

“The elders will be very pleased.  Joshua has chosen to lead their lessons.  There is much for them to learn,”  Uriel said.  The cubs had all shifted back as holding their human form was difficult when still so little, and Dean set Nathaniel down again. Cas nudged them all, leading them back inside.  In the distance, Dean spotted Gabe coming.  He approached slowly, watching Uriel warily.

 

“The cubs can shift?” he asked.

 

“They all can.  And Cas is more open to others being around them.  Me, not so much.”  Dean replied.  Gabe stopped short.

 

“Not even me?”

 

“You’re ok.  Go on in.  Cas is likely nursing, so wait for him in the living room.  He has moved the cubs to our room for now.”

 

Gabe passed Uriel and hurried up the stairs and into the house. 

 

“I will go back and inform the elders of what I have seen.  We will return this evening.”  Uriel said.  He didn’t wait for a response before he turned and left.  Dean did one more walk of the perimeter before going back inside.  Gabe had shifted and was sitting on the couch watching a movie.

 

“Cas still in the bedroom?” 

 

“Yep,”  Gabe replied.

 

“Say, when do you need me to drive you into the city?”

 

“I need new clothes and shoes.  The first time I went, I went in my shifted form and when I got there, I stole clothes off someone’s clothesline.  I visited the library a lot before I figured out how to do work and get paid.  I think the term would be unpaid.  From there, I learned computer, and I got a fake ID.  That made all the difference.  I went to school and tried to learn as much as I possibly could.  I’m no expert on humans, but I think that if I go stay with Sam in the city to help him pack up, I can pass.  I almost didn’t the first few months the last time, but I have a pretty good grasp this time.”

 

“So, we’ll go into the city next week, I’ll get you some clothes that will fit, and then I’ll take you up to Sam’s.  He put the house up for sale and he put his notice in at work already.  All you have to do is help him pack.  The trees have been cut and the parts ordered to put the cabin together.  I designed a really nice one for him.  You guys are going to be comfortable.  I showed you the blueprints and I incorporated the few things you asked for, like the garden tub and loft space.  You’ll like it.  We start building in two weeks.  Foundation goes down tomorrow.”

 

Dean passed through and went into the master bedroom where Cas was spread out on the bed.  Two of the cubs were nursing but Ethan was toddling about, pawing at his mother’s face and chewing on her jaw.  Cas had the patience of a saint when it came to their cubs.  The Alpha had figured out that the cubs did grow pretty quickly, and they were up moving about much quicker in their cougar form.  When they shifted, they were about as advanced as a six- or seven-month-old human baby, despite only being two months old.  As soon as Ethan spotted his father, he came toddling across the bed towards him.  Dean caught him before he fell right off the bed. 

 

“Where are you going, little man?  You trying to be a big, bad lion?” 

 

His cub gave another squeaky little growl and pawed at his face.  He peppered the tiny cub with kisses before setting him back on the bed.  Stripping down, he shifted and jumped up so the cubs were all boxed in and couldn’t fall off the bed.  Ethan toddled over again, this time to paw at his father’s face and chew on his jaw.  Already they were getting in their teeth.  He licked his cub until he got sleepy and passed out, curled up under his father’s chin.

 

“They’ll grow big and strong, and you can take them into the city once they’re big enough.  Maybe…you could take me too?  I’d like to see a city.  I’ve only seen them in the movies you play, and in pictures.”

 

Dean scooted closer to lick his mate’s face.  “I will take you, but you can’t be naked.  You have to get used to wearing clothes, and wearing shoes.  If shoes bother you too much, maybe you could wear sandals or flip flops.  It’s as close as you can get to walking barefoot within city limits.  In the cities, you have to abide by their laws, and theirs are much stricter.  To keep from drawing their attention, we need to follow their rules.  We’ll have fun though, but we can’t go until the kids can shift and stay human for longer than a few minutes.”

 

“I hate clothes,”  Cas complained. 

 

“I know, sweetheart, but you’ll like visiting the city.”  Dean told him.  If he had to wear clothes and shoes, Cas wasn’t so sure.

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

After nightfall, the elders arrived.  Uriel showed up first, skulking around the cabin until Dean sensed him and went out to meet him.  He made sure to step out in in his cougar form, just to make a point.  The larger lion watched him as he laid down on the porch.

 

“Told you I could shift.”

 

“I see.”

 

“When are the elders coming?”

 

“They will be here shortly.”

 

Dean laid there, twitching his tail while he waited. It was less than 20 minutes later when he spotted them coming in from the tree line to the west.

 

“I see you have learned to shift,”  Charles said.

 

“I have.  My cubs can all shift too, just not for very long.”

 

“That’s to be expected.  I’m excited to see my grandchildren.  I’m told there are two boys and a girl.”

 

“Nathaniel, Sarah, and Ethan. They’re growing big, very quickly.” 

 

Cas came out with two of his cubs toddling along and the third held by his scruff.  He set the cub down and watched fondly as he wandered over to where Dean was lying, climbing on top of him and sliding back down.  Charles moved closer, and all three cubs stopped to look up at him.

 

“They are beautiful.  Look at their spots, they’re perfect.”

 

Cas was practically beaming at his father’s praise, and he licked Sarah behind her left ear.  “They are good, and they are growing big and strong.”

 

Charles broke out in a loud purr when Nathaniel swatted at his nose. 

 

“Can you shift, little one?  Show grandpa how beautiful you are.”

 

Nathaniel sat back on his haunches and shifted.  When he listed to the right, Cas caught him and steadied him.  The baby looked up at his grandfather with eyes as blue as Cas’, and smiled.  Charles purred louder and licked his hand.  The baby squealed excitedly and flailed his little arms and legs.  Seeing her brother shifting, Sarah did too.  Cas shifted and caught her before she took a spill down the stairs.  Another of the elders, Naomi, stepped forward to observe the babies.

 

“They are beautiful in both forms.  This one looks so much like Cas did as a cub, but also as a baby.”

 

“This is Nathaniel.  Her name is Sarah.  Dean has Ethan.  Ethan looks very much like Dean did as a baby.  He has shown me pictures,”  Cas said.  Ethan toddled over to Cas and shifted.  Charles shifted and scooped the baby up in his arms.

 

“You’re a big boy, aren’t you?  Sweet baby.”  Charles nuzzled against the baby’s cheek, laughing when Ethan grabbed a handful of his beard and tried to pull it into his mouth.  He gently pried the baby’s fingers open and then kissed his tiny hand.

 

“They’re so beautiful.”  Naomi gushed after she had shifted and picked Sarah up.  “Oh, she looks like Cas too.  Will you have more cubs?”

 

“We would like more, but not until these three are ready to find their own territories,”  Cas replied.

 

“I look forward to teaching them the ways of our people, and watching them grow.”  She kissed the baby’s cheek, smiling when Sarah giggled.

 

Dean shifted and moved over to sit beside his mate.  He scooped Nathaniel up and sat the baby on his lap.  All three babies were fat and healthy, a sign that they were well fed.  They were happy too, and deeply loved. The other elders shifted, each coming over to play with the babies for a bit, and even after they shifted back, they still enjoyed interacting with them.  Cas noticed Michael lingering at the back, still in his cougar form, watching them.

 

“Come, meet your nephews and your niece,” he called out. Michael hesitated for a moment before coming forward.  He stopped at the bottom of the stairs where Joshua and Emmanuel were playing with Ethan, and looked down at the cub.  Ethan looked up at his uncle before giving a squeaky growl and swatting at him.  It melted the older lion, and he flopped down on the ground to nudge at the tiny cub.

 

“He is beautiful.  I am happy for you both.”

 

Cas smiled happily.  This was better than he could have hoped for. His cubs were accepted, as was his mate.  Soon Gabe and Sam would be mated, and their people would continue on.  It was more than he could have ever hoped for.