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The Wolf and His Boy

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It was the smell more than anything else that caught Jared’s attention. One sharp inhale and his head snapped up, eyes narrowing to fix through the woods, ears twitching for the slightest sound. The snap of a twig and Jared was off, ducking his head down to easily weave through familiar brush. He had to track that smell - a hint of spice, the twinge of sweet, and something else he could not begin to name or identify.

Curiosity was not something Jared was accustomed to. Fear he understood - fear of the town outside his forest and the humans who would want him dead. Necessity was commonplace - hunting, hiding, curling up alone in a dark cave night after night, struggling to stay warm. But this, curiosity, was like being bathed in something warm, like stepping into the hot springs he occasionally made the trek to.

Just ahead through the break of trees Jared caught the flash of red and his steps slowed, his body crouching down to slowly crawl forward through dead leaves and pine needles. Music was filling the air, the quiet soft notes falling from the lips of a boy walking along the path. People didn’t walk through his part of the woods often; it was rare enough that Jared was honestly surprised. The last he’d seen a real human it had been men, with guns, undoubtedly trying to track him down.

This boy had sandy brown hair that splayed messily across his head, and light skin that disappeared under the bright red of his sweatshirt. He was beautiful in a way Jared had never thought a human could be, young enough to be innocent, old enough to give off an air of barely tapped confidence. As Jared continued to edge slowly closer, trying to determine which of the scents he caught belonged to the boy exclusively, everything in him hummed with something alert.

It was risky, getting closer to the human when all humans were taught to loathe any creatures such as him, but Jared had never felt this rush of emotions before. Interest, desire, need, like these pulsing waves of sensations that caused his frame to shudder and nearly give for just a moment.

Then a twig beneath his paw cracked loudly as he stepped and the boy froze, slowly turning to peer back into the woods. Jared slid further away, hiding behind the thick growth, and watched as the boy sighed loudly.

“Josh you stupid a-hole, if you’re fucking with me I’m so telling mom!”

Naturally, there was no response, and the boy continued to stare for a minute longer before shaking his head and turning back to continue his journey.

“Not that she’d actually care,” the boy muttered quietly as he kicked at a rock.

Jared’s heart clenched with something possibly a little terrifying. He wanted to know more of this boy, wanted to bound out onto the path and pin him down just to inhale his sweet scent. But he didn’t dare get closer, instead simply watching with sad eyes as the boy traveled farther and farther away, until Jared was alone once more.

~~

“Now if you’ll all turn in your books to page thirty-three.”

The class as a collective groaned as the pages turned and Jensen ducked his head down just a little lower. Usually when his classmates were unhappy about their current lesson subject, they looked for ways to lash out. More often than not, Jensen was their target of choice. Now, just looking down at the open page before him, he was already plotting the fastest route home to keep the usual pack of bullies from ganging up on him to take out their frustration.

“I know you’ve all covered the Non-Human Reformation Act of 1982 in your previous classes over the years but we’re going to take a more in-depth look at the law and the actions that led up to its creation. This was a very critical time in our world’s history and, since none of you were even alive during that time, understanding the why behind it is vital.”

Jensen scowled and slid his arms over his chest. There wasn’t a person in the entire world that didn’t know about the Non-Human act. It was one of those things you were just born knowing or something and also the only law ever to be created that applied world-wide. He didn’t need any sort of in depth study because he already knew all its ins and outs.

Actually, it was kind of an obsession of Jensen’s, but not for the reason a lot of people would think. Jensen was... fascinated with those now forbidden non-humans. Shapeshifters mainly. The race that had grown and built its numbers then rose up to threaten the standing world order. According to history books, those creatures nearly destroyed humanity but Jensen didn’t think that was true.

After all, shapeshifters had been exiled, hunted down, rooted out, killed. Humans were still living. It didn’t seem like humanity had been all that threatened if they’d come out so clearly on top and caused the extinction of a race.

If Jensen was completely honest, he actually kind of related with the no-longer-alive species. Or well, the supposedly no-longer-alive species. There were rumors after all. Those rumors that Jensen sort of drank up, sank in, desperately hoped were true. Because maybe if those creatures still existed, there was really a place for Jensen out there. It certainly wasn’t the world he was stuck in now.

“The existence of non-humans has been written in our world’s history as long as we’ve had documentation. But it wasn’t until the mid 1900’s that the creatures began their uprising. Beforehand, the governments of individual countries were always willing to work with those non-humans, giving them equal rights in the eyes of the law.”

That wasn’t entirely true. At least not according to the things Jensen had read online. Ms. Webster was a teacher though; she could only give them one sort of truth. The one the government wanted them to know. But Jensen had done his research and he knew just how much prejudice reigned down upon non-humans. Even before they were outlawed, people would shun them, kick them out of public places, go out of their way to give those that were different a hard time.

It was unfair and if Jensen had been alive back then, he would have befriended as many non-humans as he could have. If he was thirteen and could be that grown up about the issue, he wasn’t entirely sure how other people had failed so badly.

“The first real act of resistance on the part of non-humans happened in 1978 when a clan - as they called themselves - attacked the White House, attempting to shake up the government order. Can anyone tell me why the non-humans finally came to such drastic actions? What do you think led them to something so vicious?”

Jensen slowly looked up as Ms. Webster finished speaking. Unsurprisingly, his classmates appeared only bored or annoyed by their current topic and Jensen bit down hard on his lip. It wasn’t his norm to raise his hand but this was a subject Jensen was actually passionate about, so it seemed like a decent time to start speaking up.

“Oh, yes? Mr. Ackles? What do you think?” Ms. Webster sounded more than a little surprised to be calling on Jensen and he tried not to squirm when his classmates looked his way, maybe just as surprised. Or even more annoyed than before.

After all, someone speaking up meant more time spent discussing the topic and they were likely all ready to move on. Still, he cleared his throat and forced himself to voice his opinion. “They were opp- oppressed. All they wanted was equal rights, to be treated fairly, and they were tired of being cast out like second or th-third rate citizens.”

Jensen dared one little look around, not really shocked to see his classmates staring at him in disbelief. It wasn’t like he didn’t know how few people shared his thoughts and opinions on non-humans. When he lifted his gaze to Ms. Webster her face was flushed with color and Jensen knew that look. She was angry, annoyed, clearly displeased with Jensen’s answer. Which was enough to make Jensen’s gut twist unpleasantly.

“No, Jensen, that’s wrong. Where would you even get an idea like that?” The teacher all but scoffed and shook her head, turning away from the class as she continued. “Non-humans were given plenty of rights, they certainly weren’t oppressed. The truth of the matter was, they were given the rights they deserved. They were not humans and though the official start of their race has never been discovered, that one fact is something we can remain sure of. They did not deserve the rights we have and they attacked and killed for no reason.”

All the arguments that had built on Jensen’s tongue slid away as Ms. Webster fixed him with a final hard look before continuing with her lesson. Jensen sank down further in his chair and ignored the boys snickering at him. His life kind of sucked like that.

~~

“Hey douchebag!”

Jensen ducked his head down and stuffed his hands into the front pocket of his sweatshirt, quickening his steps. If he just moved fast enough, maybe the boys would leave him alone. But then, of course, that was just wishful thinking. As they proved when a moment later a rock connected hard with the back of his head.

“Have you gone deaf or something? I’m talking to you!”

There was no one at Jensen’s school that really liked him, that was something Jensen accepted a while ago, but there were just these three boys that hated him. There was really no logic behind it. They just hated, teased, mocked, bullied. And Jensen had learned to deal with it because what option did he have? He was short for his age, too thin, not proud and strong like his older brother - who was an asshole anyway.

“You’re a fucking pussy,” Theo growled right behind him before lurching forward, snagging Jensen around the neck and dragging him down into a hard tackle.

Jensen swallowed his cry of pain and tried not to struggle too much. Yeah, it didn’t really disprove the pussy thing but he’d long since learned the boys tended to give up easily if he didn’t fight all that much. One of these days he’d probably snap and whale on them or something but not until after he’d learned some moves. Maybe he could do some research about that.

“What’s your drama anyway?” Theo grunted and shoved a knee up into Jensen’s middle then shoved him hard, sending him tumbling to the pavement. “All that shit about those fucking mutts? You get a hard-on for dog dick or something? Sick perv.”

As Theo sent another kick into his side Jensen kept his gaze turned away. Mainly because his cheeks were burning with shame. Maybe the boy wasn’t all that off the mark, but Jensen tried not to think about those times he’d been researching non-humans and suddenly found himself turned on, reading about their mating habits. It was a part of Jensen he didn’t openly address, but really, that was a lot of Jensen’s life.

The boy’s left a few minutes later, sharing laughs, and Jensen curled together in a ball on the cold cement. At least if he were a non-human he could transform and even being short and scrawny, he could win.

~~

“Hey mom-”

“Shut up Jenny, I was showing Mom my new dance move!” Mackenzie stuck her tongue out at him before spinning on her toes, causing her tutu to fly out in a circle around him. “Are you watching Mom? Watch me!”

“I am honey, go ahead.” Their mom waved at Mackenzie to continue but she didn’t look up from the bank book she was currently poring over.

Jensen sank back against the kitchen wall, trying not to flinch as pain shot up his side. Sometimes - all the time really - it was hard to fight for attention between his siblings. After all, Mackenzie was the baby of the family, the only girl, Mom and Dad’s little Princess. Josh was a high-schooler and a football player, Dad’s pride and joy, popular and smart and all those things that everyone always wanted to be. Jensen was just... Jensen. Which in his family really wasn’t good enough.

“See? See Mom! Wasn’t that pretty? Miss Lea says if I keep working on it I might even be able to get a solo in the Christmas recital!”

That was enough to finally pull Mom’s attention from the bank book. After all, Mackenzie getting a solo in her recital was something for his parents to brag about to their friends and there was nothing they loved more than that. Once upon a time they’d tried to get Jensen into music, sent him to lessons and everything, but Jensen hadn’t ever wanted to learn to play the piano so he’d never practiced and eventually his parents gave up on him. Now he was just the disappointing middle child, even if they never said that out loud.

“Wow, Mackenzie, that is so great! I am so proud of you!” Mom beamed at her and tugged her close, kissing her temple lovingly. “You just make sure you practice, practice, practice!”

“I will, Mommy. After I do my chores of course,” Mackenzie sighed heavily and Jensen’s shoulders tensed. He had a pretty good idea where this was going.

“Why don’t we ease your chore load for the next few weeks before tryouts? Jensen can take some of the burden.” Mom, naturally, did exactly what Jensen expected. She pulled back to give him a smile, that was probably a little forced, but the action faded quickly. “Jensen? You’re bleeding! What on earth happened?”

Jensen hadn’t realized there was a cut on his forehead but as he reached up the blood smeared sticky and warm against his fingers and he frowned, turning to head to the bathroom before Mom could question him further. The last thing he needed was a lecture or something.

The cut on his forehead was pretty superficial but Jensen frowned anyway as he stared at it, wetting a rag to gently clean off the blood. He really wished he could teach those assholes a lesson. Hell, for that matter he wanted to teach every single person in his life a lesson. The bullies that always gave him shit, the teachers that wrote him off, his parents that considered him a disappointment, his siblings that mocked and teased. Jensen was damn tired of being kicked into the dirt.

“Jensen,” Mom sighed as she leaned against the bathroom door, watching him clean off the cut. “I thought we’d agreed you’d stop getting into fights with those boys.”

It didn’t matter how many times Jensen had tried to explain to his mom he couldn’t avoid the bigger boys, somehow it was still always his fault. That was pretty typical of his life though so Jensen simply kept his gaze on his injury and forced a small nod. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“Well, see that it doesn’t,” Mom huffed and pushed away from the wall, calling over her shoulder as she headed back to the kitchen. “I have another care package for your Grandma, Jensen, I need you to walk it to her, alright?”

Jensen wasn’t particularly all that fond of his grandma but he loved the walk to her house. Because it meant he had to cross through the woods behind his house and most people were too scared to go in there, which meant he was always alone. And well, there were always the stories.

“Okay Mom, I’ll take it right now.” Jensen dropped the rag in the sink and followed his mom back to the kitchen.

“Just try not to get eaten by the big bad wolf, little Jenny,” Josh teased as he bumped hard into Jensen on his way to the fridge.

Jensen scowled and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Stop being an ass, Josh.”

“Jensen Ross, language,” Mom hissed instantly, shooting him a look as she pulled a pan from the cupboard. “And no talk of wolves, that’s just ridiculous. You don’t need to fill your sister’s head with that nonsense.”

Jensen rolled his eyes - keeping his head down so the action wouldn’t be noticed - and curled his fingers into fists stuffed deep in his sweatshirt pocket. “So what if there was a wolf out there, or like, a shapeshifter? I mean, I’ve sometimes heard howling at night and stuff. What um, what would they do? If there was one?”

“They’d hunt it down of course.” Mom set the dish in a basket and slid it toward Jensen. “But I’ve told you dozens of times, Jensen, shapeshifters are extinct. I really think it’s about time you stop obsessing about those filthy... things. You should really join a team, maybe baseball or something?”

“As if, Mom, Jenny would probably collapse before making it to first base, the weakling,” Josh teased shamelessly, smirking at Jensen.

A flush was crawling up Jensen’s cheeks and he bit his lip, hoping it wasn’t obvious how upset this whole day was making him. He was so tired of his life. Especially when Mom and Mackenzie simply laughed along with Josh, like Jensen was the practical joke of the entire family.

~~

It had been nearly four sunsets since Jared had seen the boy in his woods and he had thought maybe he wouldn’t see him again. But that afternoon he once more caught the mixture of scents: cooked meats, something sweet, and that underlying spice that he already knew belonged to the boy. It was enough to have Jared turning and running through the woods once more. He couldn’t resist the urge to creep closer, get another eyeful.

Nearly as far back as Jared could remember he had roamed these woods alone. Since he was a boy and his family had been hunted down. Sometimes Jared still dreamed about that night, the way his momma screamed for him to run. But mostly Jared tried not to think about it. It was easier to let his wolf mind take charge.

The boy was singing softly once more but it wasn’t the soft words that had Jared tensing. No, instead it was the distinct hint of sharp, tangy blood. The boy was injured, Jared could clearly smell the blood, and instinctively a low growl rose up in him. Who would dare to harm such innocence? Jared would not stand for it.

He inhaled deeply and his growl strengthened, his paws shuffling along the leaves and twigs scattered across the hard ground. Jared wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this possessive need rising up in him. It was unlike anything he’d felt before.

Clearly the boy had heard him. But unlike the last time he didn’t yell out for anyone. Instead he slowly turned and peered through the woods, nearly looking right at Jared though he couldn’t have known.

“Hello?” The boy whispered and shifted a step closer, hesitating on the path. “Is... are you out there? I won’t hurt you, I promise.”

For just a moment Jared considered stepping out of his hiding place. Maybe he could even speak with the boy, find out who would harm him. But even without knowing all of how the world operated as of late, he knew no one would accept a creature such as himself. They were raised to loathe the very core of what Jared was.

The boy sighed and set the basket he carried down on the ground. “I understand why you’re hiding. It makes sense. But I promise I won’t hurt you. I mean, if you’re really there. My name is Jensen.” Jared watched as the boy dug into his basket then pulled out a small wrapped package. “Here’s some food, if you’re hungry. And maybe next time you might come out and let me see you.”

Jensen unwrapped the package and laid the food down on the ground before standing. Jared’s gaze lifted from the food back up to the boy, surprised by the heat pulsing steadily through him. The boy’s actions surprised him and Jared couldn’t help wondering just who he thought he was speaking to. After all, Jensen seemed so young, maybe he didn’t even know what a shapeshifter was.

“Well, um, maybe you could let me know that you’re out there. Josh always says... well. I don’t know.” Jensen laughed nervously and Jared watched his tiny shoulders lift in a shrug before he was scooping up the basket and turning once more, stopping just long enough to say quietly. “I know what it’s like to feel all alone. In case...”

The boy didn’t finish his thought but Jared was pretty sure he understood. He stayed in his hiding place behind the bushes and watched as Jensen disappeared down the path. The very idea of making some contact with Jensen was exhilarating and terrifying and Jared couldn’t resist finally slowly walking forward and sniffing at the food presented to him.

It was delicious, coating his mouth with flavors he didn’t even know, and Jared’s tail wagged slowly in appreciation. He finished eating quickly then considered how he would let Jensen know he was there, that he had heard and appreciated the gift. In the end he settled on gently pulling a lily from just beyond the trees, carrying it over to the leftover wrapping and laying it there. He then took up his hiding place once more and settled in to watch for Jensen to come back.

~~

After an hour of listening to his Grandma rant and rave about the good ol’ days, Jensen was more than ready to travel back through the woods. The sun was starting to set, the air was getting colder, and there was definitely something out there. There had always been those rumors of some creature living out in the woods. The police officers - who had gone searching for the supposed beast many times after complaints of rummaged-through garbage from those who lived on the edge of the woods - always insisted the beast was just a wolf, not anything forbidden.

Jensen didn’t believe it. He’d read a lot about wolves and the differences between them and shapeshifters. After all, shapeshifters were said to be almost twice as big as the average wolf when in their animal forms. Also, wolves traveled in packs. Any shapeshifter that happened to be roaming the woods would of course be alone, the last of their kind really. It hurt Jensen’s heart to think of a shapeshifter out there alone in the woods, terrified to make his presence known for fear of persecution.

Some websites Jensen had read speculated that there were still shapeshifters living just as humans among them, that there wasn’t likely to be one living in its wolf form in some wilderness, but Jensen was pretty sure those people were stupid. At least he could see the logic to why the shapeshifter wouldn’t want to live as a human among humans. Who would want to pretend to be the race of people that killed his family and relatives?

Ridiculous.

And well, whether the creature in his woods was just a wolf or something more, that still remained to be seen. All Jensen did know was that there was something out there. A fact that was only proven to him as he walked along the narrow foot path and came upon the place he’d left an unwrapped turkey sandwich before.

The sandwich was gone, the packaging still in place, and a small white lily rested on top of it. Jensen blinked down at the flower, his heart racing hard in his chest, his mouth drying out with the sudden swell of excited nerves. “Whoa...” he whispered, slowly bending down to pick up the flower.

When he stood his eyes roamed over the dense woods on either side of him, eagerly searching for anything. “Are you out there?” He asked in just above a whisper, his lips twitching in a small smile. “I’m glad you enjoyed the sandwich. I... maybe I can bring you some more food tomorrow? You could... maybe come out and say hello?”

There wasn’t any response, Jensen had expected as much, but he couldn’t resist a final lingering look into the woods. Whatever was out there, Jensen didn’t feel like it was going to harm him. It left him a flower, so clearly it couldn’t be horrible. At least not the way that they always tried to say the creatures were.

“Well, I’ll be back tomorrow,” Jensen said softly and shifted the basket on his arm, tucking the flower gently into his pocket. “If you’re around.”

A final look around revealed nothing and Jensen ducked his head down, smiling down at the ground as he continued his walk home. At least there was one good thing about today.

~~

It was easy to follow the boy home. Even if Jared wasn’t watching him, he could have trailed his scent. The temptation was too much to resist and Jared easily navigated the familiar path through trees and brush, his paws moving soundlessly along the twigs and branches. Jensen was singing once more, quietly, the words almost indecipherable but Jared didn’t need them. He gained a certain sense of warmth just from listening to the soft tone.

It turned out the boy’s house was just at the edge of the woods, one that Jared had seen before as he crossed out into the unsafe zones. The open space scared Jared, the idea of being caught, so he’d only ever gone under the cover of darkness in a moonless night. So for now he stayed back in the trees and watched as Jensen unlocked the back gate and headed toward the house.

Part of Jared wanted to leap the fence and peer into the window, desperate to see what Jensen’s home was like, if his family was loving, if he was truly happy. But he hadn’t survived this long by being reckless, so he stayed in place and waited.

A few minutes later a light came on on the second level and Jared watched Jensen’s small form cross before the glass. For some reason, knowing where the boy laid his head at night felt important and Jared settled in to wait out the last of the sun.

There wasn’t a lot of activity inside the boy’s house. Not by sight at least. Jared could hear the sounds of laughter though, the clinking of silverware and plates, could smell the different spices of a meal he couldn’t name. But no matter how hard he concentrated, forced himself to focus, he couldn’t pick out Jensen’s laughter through the varying voices.

As soon as the dark of night had laid a blanket over the houses Jared walked silently forward, nudging the back gate open and trailing scents through the grassy backyard. Jensen’s scent was stronger up close and Jared growled softly, inhaling deep because he couldn’t seem to get enough of that sweet scent. What was it about this boy that he couldn’t seem to get enough of?

“Jensen! Come clean these dishes!” A woman from inside called out for Jensen and Jared slid up against the side of the house, tilting his gaze up enough to peer into the brightly lit kitchen.

The family unit was moving toward the living room, a mother, father, a little girl and an older boy. They were laughing, falling together on the couch, and Jared watched with a tilt of his head as Jensen crossed the kitchen to clean as his mother had asked.

Something sharp and primal burned in Jared, unlike anything he’d ever felt before. He wanted to protect this boy, take him away from this world where he so clearly didn’t belong. Jensen was a boy that deserved to be worshipped and Jared wanted to give him just that. So before he turned and disappeared into the woods once more Jared nosed through the small recycling box along the side of the house, pulling out a few blankets.

He needed to start building up a home if he wanted to provide Jensen with a place that was better than this one.

~~

“I don’t really like my school,” Jensen said quietly not long after he’d entered the woods. He couldn’t say why, but some part of him just knew whoever, whatever the creature was out there in the woods, it was there now. Watching him. Jensen could feel the weight of its stare and once more it was like a warm presence, not at all as unnerving as it should be.

Which was probably why he was talking now, though every sweep of his gaze through the woods revealed nothing. “I guess... I don’t really like a lot of my life. The kids at my school, they’re really mean. They’re awful.”

Jensen’s fingers lifted to brush over the healing cut on his forehead. There was a shuffle of dry leaves to the right of him and Jensen’s head whipped to the side, eyes narrowing to peer through the brush. Maybe, he caught the flash of dark fur, or the sparkle of bright eyes, but he blinked and it was gone and all he could do was sigh.

“I guess you must know a lot about people judging you, hating you for no reason. I mean, if you are what I think you are.” Jensen stopped walking and turned to the trees, opening the basket he carried once more. “I think you’re a shapeshifter, if you wondered. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t hate shapeshifters, no matter what everyone says you guys did. I think you’re maybe just misunderstood, and a lot of shit happened in the past that maybe made you guys snap. I get it, sometimes I feel like snapping.”

Reaching into the basket, Jensen pulled out the container of chicken he’d snuck out of the fridge and gently set it down on the ground, popping the top open. A moment later he added an apple muffin, his favorite kind with cinnamon that his mom sometimes made. Sure it was the one from the batch he was allowed to have but he didn’t mind sharing it with his silent creature.

“I wish... I think maybe I could understand you. Maybe you could understand me. I don’t have anyone in my life who listens.” Jensen frowned at the prick of tears at the rims of his eyes. He maybe felt a little silly that he was virtually talking to no one. Maybe he wasn’t even really good enough for this creature to reveal himself. “I promise I’ll be really nice to you, if you ever do feel like showing yourself. I know everyone thinks I’m stupid or lame or not worth their time but I swear I can be really good.”

Jensen wiped at the tear that had snuck down his cheek and stepped back from the food, lifting his shoulder in a shrug. It didn’t seem like he was going to make any progress today. But he couldn’t help silently praying, wishing, hoping.

He was just about to turn and head down the path once more to his Grandma’s home when the brush across from him rustled. It was more than just a gush of wind and Jensen’s heart instantly skipped a beat in his chest. It took a surprising amount of force to turn his gaze back to the brush, because he wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to see and wasn’t ready to be disappointed if it wasn’t what he longed for.

Jensen’s gaze instantly fixed on bright green eyes that seemed to shift in color the moment the creature blinked. A few years before Jensen’s school had taken a trip to the city zoo a few hours away. There he had seen a wolf and it was the only way he knew this creature was no regular wolf. It was almost on eye level with him, his four long legs just slightly bent as he pressed a little forward, his golden mane of fur a matted mess in patches, smooth in others.

All the air rushed out of Jensen’s lungs and he stood frozen in place. He waited for the wave of fear that he knew should come, waited for a scream to bubble up in his throat. But the longer he stared, the more the creature edged out of the woods, the farther away that fear was. Jensen’s lips twitched in a small smile and he cleared his throat, the smile fading as the creature slid back a few inches.

“Hey wait, it’s okay,” Jensen whispered, slowly offering his hand out toward the creature. “I won’t hurt you. Trust me.”

The shapeshifter - at least, Jensen was fairly sure that was what the creature was - ducked his head down for a moment and took another step forward, his nose brushing along the muffin Jensen had previously left out. A small, surprised laugh rose up in Jensen. It caused the creature to stiffen and Jensen quickly swallowed it back.

“Wait, please. I... my name is Jensen, in case you didn’t hear that before.” Jensen watched as those ever changing eyes flickered up to him then back down, mouth parting to close around the muffin in a large bite. “Those are apple cinnamon muffins. My mom makes them. She’s a pretty good cook, not so much a good mom but you know...”

Jensen was rambling to a creature that might not even know English but he couldn’t help it. This creature was still there, he wasn’t attacking Jensen and that had to be a sign of something special. As the creature continued to slowly eat the muffin Jensen couldn’t help stepping forward, gently brushing his fingers along the top the wolf’s head. It froze as it had before but moments later Jensen’s heart quickened as the shapeshifter’s head tilted up into his soft touch.

“You’re all alone out here, aren’t you?” Jensen asked softly, stepping an inch closer and working his fingertips softly between the wolf’s ears. “That must be so lonely. I get lonely too, a lot of the time. Maybe we can-”

Whatever else he had to say was cut off as the shapeshifter suddenly jerked back, head twisting around to stare at something Jensen couldn’t see. He squinted down the road for what had broken their moment, quickly looking back when the loud shuffle of leaves sounded. The wolf had disappeared once more, gone faster than he’d appeared, and Jensen’s heart plummeted.

He had no idea what had scared his creature off but he already wanted him back.

~~

The rest of the household was already tucked away for the night, Jensen knew this. But he still tiptoed as he crossed his bedroom and slowly locked the door, holding his breath even as he watched the computer slowly boot up. This was one of those things he’d been thinking about for too long now, even before he had the image of the large shapeshifter in his mind’s eye.

He wanted to know everything about that creature, wanted to stroke his hand through the wolf’s fur and coax him back to his human form just to watch the transformation. Already Jensen was counting down to the next time his mom would ask him to make a delivery to his grandma’s, just in hopes that the creature would come out of hiding once more.

Until then though, Jensen was researching more about the creatures. Specifically, their mating habits. It was something he’d looked into before, once or twice, just out of curiosity. Looking now was likely more than curiosity but Jensen chose not to think too much about that. He’d already accepted that he was a different sort of boy; he didn’t need to analyze it all that much more.

Finding the information he was looking for was surprisingly easy. But then, this was the internet, Jensen was pretty sure you could find anything just by looking hard enough. In this case, Jensen had stumbled across a website with photographs and drawings detailing shapeshifter mating habits. Most likely, it was for educational purposes - like studying monkey breeding or something - but to Jensen it meant so much more.

Shapeshifters could mate in their wolf or human form. If they were with other shapeshifters, impregnation could only happen in their wolf form, but they were able to have children with humans in human form, with only a fifty percent risk of their offspring being a creature. Those things weren’t really all that important to Jensen. After all, it wasn’t as if he could get pregnant.

Instead he scrolled down to the detailed picture of the wolf’s knot. It caused the breath to rush from Jensen in a steady stream, his cheeks heating up as his cock began to slowly swell in his pajama bottoms. Jensen had looked at pictures like this before, he knew what the cock of a shapeshifter looked like, and before it had just been a distinct, vague, daydream.

Now he slipped his hand under the tops of his pajamas and curled his fingers over his painfully hard cock, imagining that wolf he had met in the woods only hours before. In his fantasies now, that shapeshifter wanted him, craved him in a way no one in Jensen’s world ever would. And he planned to sweep Jensen away from his horrible world and give him a new home.

Jensen would crawl down on his hands and knees and offer himself up. He had never been touched in that way but he was sure he could be amazing for his wolf. He would be the absolute perfect mate. Just thinking about it had his hand moving faster, his fingers curling tighter, breath catching hard in his chest.

Forcing his eyes open Jensen stared at the picture on the screen, trying to picture just how that knot would feel buried in him. His wolf would be so careful, would taste every inch of him, would claim Jensen in such a way he’d never doubt who he truly belonged too. Hell, even the idea of belonging had pleasure curling through Jensen.

When he came it was painful and fast, harder than it ever had been before. Jensen slumped back in his chair and finally dropped his gaze from the computer, looking toward the window instead. It wasn’t all that weird to long for a creature that was basically forbidden, right? Jensen didn’t really belong in this world so why should the person that pulled him in the most belong either?

After clearing his browser history Jensen shut down the computer and slowly moved over to the bed. His heart was aching in a way he didn’t really understand, like he was missing something important, or someone important. And that didn’t really make much sense.

Maybe it was a sign of just how lonely Jensen really did feel, that he was longing for a creature that might not even care for him in the slightest. Knowing Jensen’s luck, that shapeshifter just enjoyed the free food Jensen was providing.

It was enough to make his stomach twist in knots and when he heard the faint echo of a howl from the woods behind his house, his eyes closed with a hiccuped breath. When had his life gotten so complicated?

~~

It wasn’t often that Jared came so close to the edge of the woods during the day. But these were special circumstances. After all, he had left so quickly the afternoon before and maybe he had hurt the boy’s feelings. Hearing Jensen speak about how lonely he was, how hard his life could be, had registered with Jared in a way human feelings hadn’t in so very long. Some part of Jared had thought the human part of him was gone but just a few minutes in Jensen’s presence had brought it all back.

Which was why he was there now, hiding just a foot back from Jensen’s family home, the tall grass and thick bushes hiding him from a cursory glance. It was just a hunch he had, that Jensen might feel the call of the woods before heading to his school for the day. If Jared could just get one good view of him, one full inhale of his scent, then he could possibly make it until Jensen came to see him once more.

Jared only marked the time by the different scents filling the air. He could smell cooking meat and eggs, toasting bread, and knew the residents of each of these houses backed up against the woods were likely sitting around, sharing meals.

It was one of those normalities of society that Jared couldn’t quite imagine just right. What did one speak of over the breakfast table? Did families spend the time bonding and sharing before parting for their days? Jared could just barely remember his own family, he didn’t think they’d ever shared in such little moments.

Before Jared could get lost in his thoughts for too long - which always made him more morose than usual - the back door of Jensen’s home opened. Jared’s ears twitched, lungs filling with the scent of the boy as he crossed the backyard, swinging a bag of trash in his hand. There was something more to the boy’s scent this morning, more than the trash, more than his usual sweet innocence.

It took a moment for the scent to register and when it did, all of Jared’s body sparked with heat. Release. Jensen had recently touched himself, gotten himself off, and Jared could smell it on him. It was enough to have him moving forward, pushing through the grass as Jensen’s steps lingered at his back fence.

“Hello,” Jensen whispered, his eyes widening as they landed on Jared. “You... I didn’t expect to see you here.”

Jared’s tail gently shifted from side to side, his blood racing in his ears. This boy had no idea what Jared could smell, he wore nothing but an innocent smile, and Jared wasn’t entirely sure how to process this side of the boy. He wondered what Jensen had thought of as he touched himself, wondered if maybe he had made enough of an impression on Jensen to linger in his thoughts even then.

“Have you been out here long?” Jensen asked quietly, glancing over his shoulder toward his house then stepping closer, just enough to reach out and brush his fingers along the top of Jared’s head. “Don’t run away again. Wait, I have something for you.”

As Jensen dug into his pocket Jared dropped to sit, tilting into the soft slide of the boy’s fingers. The touch was just as intoxicating as it had been the day before and Jared pressed just a little closer, brushing his nose along Jensen’s arm to gather his scent. That delicious scent, filled with his release, so perfect. Even when he caught the twinge of sweetness from the item Jensen produced from his pocket he didn’t stop inhaling the boy.

“It’s a cheese Danish. It’s good, if you want it.” Jensen unwrapped the pastry and held it out, nearly giggling when Jared turned to gather up the sweet item in one large bite. “You could savor it, you know.” Jensen was grinning at him as he stepped a little closer.

The pastry was good even if a bit too sweet, but his mouth simply dried out as Jensen dipped down and pressed a soft kiss to the top of his muzzle. Jared had never felt the spark of heat and pleasure the way he did now. That feeling of needing to protect, to claim Jensen as his own, his mate, exploded to a blinding point in him. He instantly tilted up and dragged his tongue along Jensen’s jaw, gathering the taste of the boy, a low noise of pleasure curling up in him as it exploded across his taste buds.

Jared’s eyes fluttered closed as Jensen’s breath hitched, a shudder rocking down his body that was impossible to miss. There was no denying the boy was affected by something as simple as Jared’s tongue gliding on his skin and that made everything in Jared burn.

“God,” Jensen gasped softly, fingers curling in the matted fur at Jared’s neck as Jared’s tongue slid along his skin in another long sweep. “I wish I knew what to call you. I... please visit me again? Or I’ll walk the path in the woods and you can walk with me?”

As Jensen’s fingers drifted down to his sides once more Jared stepped back and met the bright green of the boy’s eyes. He dipped his head in a slow nod to let the boy know he understood, that he would do what he could. Part of Jared wanted to sweep Jensen away right then and there but it wasn’t time yet. His home, their home, wasn’t quite ready.

“Please, find me again soon,” Jensen whispered as Jared stepped further back, disappearing into the brush once more.

Jared let his eyes linger for just a moment longer on the boy, that taste lingering on his tongue, that scene still filling the air. It wouldn’t be long until he saw his boy again, he was sure of that.

~~

Two days had passed since Jensen had seen his wolf but his skin was still tingling, that steady rush of heat right there and ready to boil over the moment he let his thoughts drift toward that smooth tongue gliding along his skin. Jensen was positive it meant something, that the shapeshifter had been trying to communicate through the gentle touch, but he wasn’t allowing himself to think too much about it. Mainly because getting his hopes up seemed unwise.

After all, if that creature had been living in the woods all these years, his mind might not be too linked with a human thought pattern. For all Jensen knew, his wolf was really more like a beast then a shapeshifter and Jensen knew he should tread carefully. Well, as carefully as he could allow himself.

“Hey, fag!”

Bullies. Damn, Jensen really hated those bullies. Theo was the ring leader as usual and Jensen instantly quickened his steps. Their afternoon of classes had been more dull than normal which meant these boys had some pent up energy to burn off. Unfortunately Jensen was their favorite punching bag.

“What’s the matter, pussy? Worried we’ll damage your pretty little ass for good?” Theo laughed and his friends joined in.

Jensen could hear their steps matching his in pace and his breath hitched. He tried not to let these boys scare him but sometimes he wasn’t entirely sure they would know when to stop. Maybe one of these days they’d just keep punching and kicking and Jensen wouldn’t be able to hold on any longer. A little over a week ago he probably wouldn’t have cared at that much, but imagining his wolf never knowing what happened to him - or coming looking for him and being discovered - was enough to have him start running.

“Come on, you little shitbag! You really think we can’t catch you?” Theo called and though he sounded a little winded, he was still laughing, and Jensen knew he wouldn’t be quick enough to escape.

Until of course he rounded the corner and his eyes landed on the dense, familiar forest. Jensen knew the first part of the woods pretty well and there was that secret hope that maybe his wolf would be near, maybe he would come to the rescue somehow.

The moment he broke into the woods he already felt ten times safer. But he could hear the clatter of branches and crush of leaves as the boy’s trailed him, Theo’s call rising above their loud stomping. “Come out come out wherever you are, Jenny.”

A burst of fear exploded in Jensen and he gasped in a breath, tears pricking along his eyes as he stumbled into a large tree trunk. He wouldn’t be able to take much more of this. These boys, his non-caring family, longing for that feeling of love and safety and comfort. It was too much for anyone to take, let alone a boy of his age he was sure.

Jensen was running blindly, knocking branches out of the way, head whipping over his shoulder every few steps to make sure the boys weren’t closing in. They were though and no matter how much he strained, he couldn’t seem to get himself to move faster. When the trees suddenly cleared and he stumbled out onto a path the tears that had been threatening finally began to stream down his cheeks. He was so screwed.

Each breath felt painful, his legs aching, calves and ankles starting to bleed from the hard scrape of twigs and bushes. He couldn’t push himself any further, had to bend at the waist and suck in breaths to try and ease the way his lungs were burning. So when the loud shuffle of leaves sounded beside him he simply tensed his shoulders, bracing himself.

“Fuck, you really are an idiot,” Theo growled, or panted really, and Jensen was just a little relieved to hear him just as breathless. Until of course, Theo continued his taunts. “Brought us out here in the middle of nowhere. We can do whatever the fuck we want to you and no one will know. Not for hours. Maybe even days. Hell, knowing your family, it’ll probably take them a week to even realize their pretty fag son is even missing.”

What hurt the most, Jensen thought, was how right Theo’s words were. He was pretty sure he could disappear for days and no one in his family would really notice. Not unless they needed something cleaned or the trash taken out. If these boys were to lose their heads and kill him here, Jensen wasn’t even sure he would be missed.

A hollow ache grew in Jensen and he straightened up, turning to face the boys head on because if he was going to die now, he wasn’t going out as a chicken. Theo and his two bloodhound best friends were smirking, popping their knuckles for show, trying to look more intimidating then they already were. Jensen swallowed thickly and tensed his shoulders, fingers curling into fists at his side.

“Good lil’ Jenny, ready to stand and take it like the pretty little fa-”

The words sneered from Theo’s lips cut off in a sudden mix between a squeak and a shrill. Mainly because, just as Jensen was closing his eyes and bracing himself for the first blow, there was suddenly the large form of a wolf - his wolf - sailing cleanly through the woods and landing between them.

Jensen’s eyes shot open just as the wolf crouched and bared his teeth at Theo and his friends, standing as a protective barrier in front of Jensen. The cocky attitude of the boys instantly vanished, replaced quickly by fear and shock at seeing the large wolf there, his growl growing louder, his sharp teeth clicking as he snapped out at them. Jensen rode out the rush of relief, swaying slightly as Theo and his idiot friends turned and took off running down the path.

Just knowing he was going to be safe now was enough to cause his legs to finally give out. They felt like jelly after the hard run he’d pushed through and the tears streaming down his cheeks picked up speed. It wasn’t even really about being safe, his tears. It was more this wolf, this creature that had likely been so hurt and alone in his life, and he still put his very life at risk to protect Jensen. No one had ever cared for him like that before.

When the wolf turned back to him, tongue sliding out to gently lap at the tears on his cheek once more, Jensen choked on a sob and lurched forward. His arms just barely wrapped around the wolf’s neck at his low angle but the large size of the wolf did nothing but stir up that heat in him once more.

“Thank you,” Jensen half gasped, trying and failing to push up to his feet on his jelly like legs. “Thank you so much.”

The wolf released a soft puff of air and nudged him gently, pushing him up and along his side. It took Jensen a few long minutes to figure out what the wolf wanted and, when he did, he couldn’t help a soft chuckle.

“You... want me to ride on you? Are you sure?” He was pretty confident that the wolf could carry him but it seemed demeaning or something. When the wolf merely met his gaze and dipped his head in a nod Jensen smiled softly and slid atop the large furry back.

~~

In the short time in which Jared had known Jensen, he’d never quite felt the rush of protective need as strong as he had when the boy was suddenly in danger. Part of him had wanted to tear those other horrible children’s throats out. But he had kept his sanity - enough to remind himself that Jensen might be terrified if he witnessed such violence - and the last thing he wanted was the boy scared of him.

It was worth it in the end, when Jensen’s slight frame slid atop his body and he could lead them off into the woods. He wasn’t entirely sure if the other boys would bring adults back with him but he wasn’t going to take the risk. And he needed to inspect his young mate because the sharp tinge of blood sparked the air and Jared would never rest easy if he wasn’t sure the boy was okay.

Once Jensen was secure on his back, Jared led them through the woods, back along the path he’d been traveling when he first heard the voices of others in the woods. He’d actually been making his way to the main path Jensen usually traveled, hoping to see the boy today, because he had a special gift for him.

Now he trotted at a steady pace, not too quick, to ensure Jensen wouldn’t lose his grip around his neck. The race of his heart eased with each step, taking Jensen further from any danger and deeper into the woods. When he stopped it was in a small clearing, far enough from any path so they couldn’t possibly be seen. Jensen slowly slid off his side and Jared tried not to shudder at the swirl of pleasure inspired by the boy’s soft movements.

“It’s so pretty out here,” Jensen observed softly, sinking down to sit moments later.

Jared wanted to investigate the scent of blood on his boy immediately but he forced himself to turn away and root through the pile of leaves, looking for the item he’d dropped. When his nose brushed metal he grasped the old worn collar in his teeth and lifted it, turning back to Jensen to offer it out.

Jensen gasped softly and reached out, taking the collar as Jared dropped it. “Wow... I read. I mean, I heard that this was once required. They made all shapeshifters wear collars before the take...” Jensen trailed off as his fingers swept along the faded blue of the collar, grasping the name plate a moment later. “Jared,” he breathed then looked up, smiling almost shyly up at him. “That’s your name?”

With a slow nod of his head Jared shifted closer, dropping down on his legs to crawl closer to Jensen. He nudged along the boy’s legs and Jensen moved obediently, whimpering softly as Jared’s tongue lapped along the shallow cuts beneath his jeans.

“I’ve been thinking about you,” Jensen confided in his quiet whisper. “A lot, really. I mean, all the time. Sometimes you’re the only thing keeping me sane I think.”

When Jensen laughed softly Jared’s slow licks hesitated, his eyes lifting. It was almost painful to see that haunting sadness on his young boy’s face. Once more Jared felt compelled to sweep Jensen away. If only things were ready. Not quite yet. Soon, though.

“This collar is so small,” Jensen sighed and traced his fingers along the frayed edges, thumb slipping along the metal name tag. “You must have been so young when everything happened. It’s why... you’re alone out here, right? You have no... family? Or um, a mate?”

Jared lifted his head and shifted closer, running his muzzle along Jensen’s neck. He wanted the boy to understand that he had chosen his mate, that Jensen was his already. But without reverting to his human form, which he hardly ever did really, there was no way to properly express it. At least, not here where he couldn’t lay physical claim to his boy.

Jensen, however, seemed to understand what Jared couldn’t stay. At least Jared thought he did, when his head tipped back and he gasped softly, curling fingers into Jared’s fur. “Me. You have me. Maybe one day... maybe you could show me your home?”

As he slid back a few inches, Jared nodded, dragging his tongue along Jensen’s jaw as he once had before just to watch the boy shudder.