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Learning Curve

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Shiro did not want to leave Keith’s shack.  Even with how overwhelming everything felt to his newly heightened sense of smell, Keith’s shack smelled like home.  Cinnamon and warm vanilla, it made Shiro want to just remain stretched out across the mattress and press his face into Keith’s pillow.  But he had invited the other wolf out for dinner, something more human, and Shiro scrambled for a piece of paper to write his phone number onto, only for Keith to look at him as if he’d grown another head.

 

“I’ll find you, don’t worry about it,” Keith had chuckled fondly, even though there was a part of Shiro that worried even more at the statement.  “Does an hour before sunset work for you?”  He asked, and Shiro had nodded gratefully.  At least with a little bit of extra time, he’d be able to ask Coran about what to expect from...Courting the other wolf.  

 

Reluctantly, Shiro gathered up his clothes, a tattered shirt and equally ragged shorts.  Keith’s gaze followed him lazily, a predator watching someone familiar in its territory, spread temptingly across his mattress.  Shiro almost felt weird, getting dressed around a practical stranger, but then - wasn’t it just as strange to chase after this skinny man, and feel as though he would explode if he didn’t touch Keith?  Wasn’t it even stranger that it felt perfectly natural to press a stranger into the sheets, growling possessively the entire time, when he’d never considered doing so before he was turned?  Maybe Coran would be able to help him figure this out.

 

Keith looked almost alarmed when Shiro turned back to him and leaned down, a warning growl in the back of his throat.  Part of Shiro wanted snarl back, but instead he smiled gently as he pressed his forehead against Keith’s, baring his neck slightly.  The growl in Keith’s throat immediately died, and his scent changed drastically - Shiro wasn’t sure what to identify it as, but.  Shiro breathed deeply as he pressed his lips to Keith’s cheek messily, a whine that almost hurt his vocal cords wavering in the now-tense air.  Keith’s tongue darted out to lick his lips, eyes wide and dark as he stared at Shiro.

 

“Keep doing things like that, and you won’t be leaving anytime soon,” Keith growled, and Shiro couldn’t stop himself from shivering at the way the other man sounded.  And as tempting as it was to stay, roll around in Keith’s sheets for all eternity…

 

“I’ll see you later tonight,”  Shiro breathed.  It felt like a herculean effort to pull himself away from the tempting scent of Keith, and to leave the little shack.  Then, after focusing for what felt like far too long after seeing how easily Keith shifted skins, he slowly gained his wolfskin, and raced away from the wolf he’d fallen way too hard, way too fast for.

 


 

Shiro anxiously shifted from one foot to the other, on Coran’s front porch.  The wooden floor creaked underfoot, and Shiro flinched as he heard the older man shuffling to the door, still not having gathered exactly what he should say to his advisor.

 

“Shiro, m’boy, you’ve been dallying out here for a good half hour,” Coran said with exasperation as he opened his front door, eyebrows raising to his hairline as he sniffed in Shiro’s direction.  “Found a wolf to lay with from the run?”  Shiro let out a low whine unintentionally, as Coran chuckled and stepped to allow Shiro in.  Coran politely sniffed at Shiro as he entered, paused, and sniffed again with wide eyes.

 

“The Kogane boy?  Shiro, as pack leader, you have to choose more wisely than that.  A lone pup like that, and the rest of the pack might think…”  Before Coran could continue with his lecture, Shiro let out an almost dazed hum as he mulled over Keith’s full name.

 

“Keith Kogane...I like how that sounds…” He mused half to himself, and Coran let out a loud groan at the soft look on Shiro’s face.

 

“That is indeed the pup’s name, but Shiro-” Once again, cut off, as Shiro’s eyebrows furrowed.

 

“Why do you keep calling him a pup?  How old is he?”  Shiro asked, uneasy from the phrasing Coran was using for his Keith.  Coran sighed heavily as he stared up at the ceiling, asking a higher power for strength.

 

“I’ve known of Keith all his life, and he will always be a pup to me.  He is just about sixteen years, since you asked,” Coran watched Shiro carefully out of the corner of his eye; he knew that humans had a different view of age and what was considered appropriate than wolves did.  Shiro dropped down into one of Coran’s rickety chairs heavily, ignoring the groaning from the chair, face slack with disbelief.

 

“Sixteen.  He’s.  And I…”  Shiro muttered, running his hands through his hair in shock.  Even Coran could smell Shiro’s distress with his duller nose, and Coran couldn’t help sighing at his leader.

 

“Shiro,” He said sharply, gaining the alpha’s attention.  “In our culture, Keith is as much an adult as you or myself.  I’m unsure how human culture feels about it, but his age is not the reason I and the rest of the pack would ask for you to choose more wisely.”

 

Shiro just stared up at him askance, apparently unable to form the questions he wanted to ask.  Coran was pretty sure he knew what he wanted to ask, though.  So he pulled up a chair as well, and settled in with a heavy sigh.

 

“Shiro...I knew of him as he grew up.  Kogane wouldn’t be able to adjust to pack life.  Our pack’s laws state that our leader’s mate must be at least from another pack, if not Altea.  There would be an outcry, wondering if you were fit for leadership if you couldn’t follow the laws, and you would definitely be challenged.”  Coran tried to reason with Shiro, earnestly leaning forward on his elbows as he gestured empathetically.  Shiro frowned at him, setting aside his shock at Keith being a goddamn kid.

 

“No one else in the pack is strong enough to be a leader, let alone the leadership skills required…” Shiro started to protest, but Coran slapped his knees in frustration.

 

“Exactly my point!  But there would be dissent, and that could lead to a fracturing of the pack!  There are plenty within who want to see you fail, and would jump at the chance if there were a challenger.  Altea’s existence could be at risk if you continue this... Thing with a loner.  Though, a mate who was born a wolf would definitely be beneficial to keeping the pack together…”  Coran muttered to himself, leaning back in his seat.  Shiro stared at the older beta pleadingly for a moment, before dropping his head into his hands.

 

“Coran, I...I can’t.  I can’t not stop this.  Keith is just…”  Shiro blew out a breath, searching for a way to describe how he was feeling.  “It’s like...I woke up next to the sun.  And I’ve never felt so at ease, since being turned.  I felt like I was at home.  I can’t just give that up, after everything else I’ve given up for this pack,” He pleaded, slipping onto his knees to beg if he had to.  

 

Coran groaned loudly, covering his face in his hands to avoid looking at Shiro’s pleading face.  Altea’s laws were unyielding, with no compromises in sight.  As the pack’s advisor and lawkeeper, Coran couldn’t let it slide if Shiro continued with the Kogane boy...Unless...Coran sat up slowly, eyes skimming the worn books on his shelf that he rarely had to pull down.  Ignoring his leader at his feet, begging for a reprieve, one of the smallest books on Coran’s shelf pulled him forward.  An old book that was barely remembered, the only copy still existing the one that was now open in Coran’s hands.  He flicked rapidly through the pages, before settling in on the middle of the book, quickly rereading its contents before giving his leader any sort of hope until he was certain.  

 

“Would you say.  That it wouldn’t be possible for you to continue leading the pack, to continue being a wolf .  If you could not have Kogane?”  Coran asked haltingly, staring down at Shiro intently.  If he answered -

 

“Yes, Coran, I couldn’t -” Shiro whined, exactly what Coran needed to hear.

 

“Then it seems we may have found our loophole.  That is, if the boy feels as you do,” Coran murmured, striding back over to Shiro’s still kneeling form.  Wordlessly, Coran knelt next to his alpha, and pointed out the sentence from one of Altea’s oldest laws, and let out a slight huff that could be mistaken as a relieved laugh.  Shiro’s eyes widened as he read, glancing between Coran and the book.

 

“Is it possible…?”  Shiro asked hesitantly, not wanting to allow himself to hope.  Coran smiled solemnly, and nodded as there was a hesitant knock on his door.