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Soft and Tender

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Simple preenings were not supposed to be so erotic. They were supposed to feel good, yes. The way that your mate’s fingertips brushed against your quills, rubbing your oils into your feathers was supposed to help bond you. On a mere survival level, it was supposed to feel good because a mate’s touch was far better for preenings and groomings than any other’s touch was. Scientists liked to claim it was hormones combined with other chemical reactions, but Jared preferred to think of it as something more.

He could easily remember how his feathers had felt before Jensen - the way that they had started to ache and snap off at inopportune times. The memories of being without were not so far in his past that he still didn’t wake up with nightmares about them, and the less said about his separation from Jensen and subsequent severe molting, the better.

Refusing to leave the nest because of the way his wings continued to look was possibly childish of Jared. Still Jensen obliged him and coddled his vanity about it, so Jared refused to let it bother his conscience too greatly. There were more troublesome thoughts warring for space in his head anyway. The distant look that Jensen sometimes got when he stared out the window was not something that Jared liked noticing. It gave his mate the appearance of a caged animal, and Jared couldn’t help but worry that Jensen was missing his human freedom when it came to relationships.

Much as Jared had very carefully arranged their nest to please his mate, Jensen had been raised human. He had very human concepts on the subject that being in love with his seraph couldn’t completely erase. Their nest sometimes felt like a cage to Jensen. He didn’t need to tell Jared that. The part inside of Jared that was in tune to his mate did just fine in informing Jared of the unwanted emotion.

Oh, Jared wasn’t so stupid as to think that he and his neediness were the only things keeping Jensen put. He knew that Jensen loved him, and there was a loyalty that came with that that was ingrained in Jensen’s basic character. That knowledge helped to abate the worry and guilt that festered right behind Jared’s eyeballs, making his head ache.

But what eased that ache more than anything else was Jensen’s careful attention to their morning preening sessions. They weren’t necessary yet. The few scraggly quills that had poked through were hardly a problem for Jared to reach himself, and the softy downy feathers that had started to take up residence along the rest of his naked skin were easily taken care of by a few swipes.

But the way that they looked still bothered Jared even in the safety of his home. The fluffy softness of the down was almost more embarrassing than the nasty, crepe like mess of skin that had hung off Jared’s wings not even a week before. Cherub’s wings were adorable on little ones. They were mortifying on an adult.

“Jared,” Jensen’s low, rumbling voice made Jared shiver for no good reason, “I can feel you worrying, and it’s too early.”

The smile that tugged at Jared’s lips wouldn’t be welcome if Jensen could see it. But he couldn’t, so Jared didn’t bother hiding it. His mate was, as was his norm in the early morning hours, adorably disheveled and half awake. His glasses were precariously perched on his nose, and his hair was sticking up in rumpled spikes from where he’d carelessly finger combed it, using his reflection in the microwave door as a mirror.

For all his inability to show signs of sentient life in the early morning, Jensen’s fingers were very adept at working the base of Jared’s quills. It had to be an instinctive talent, because it was obvious that Jensen’s brain wasn’t coming up with it on a conscious level. It was proof that Jensen was just meant to be a mate, Jared’s mate. This was a fact that Jared’s dick most heartily agreed with.

The damned little organ had long since slipped out of its sheath and was merrily pressing against the front of Jared’s sleep pants. Even his worry and distracted thoughts hadn’t deterred it from its mission of making a gentle morning preening seem like some sort of dirty and tawdry foreplay.

Not that Jared wouldn’t like to reacquaint himself with Jensen’s body in very hearty and carnal ways, but there was being horny and then there was feeling sexy. Jared most emphatically did not feel sexy at the moment. He looked like he had baby wings. That was decidedly a turnoff. Add to that the fact that he nearly crushed Jensen during their one attempt at reunion sex, and Jared had a sum equaling “Do Not Attempt.”

“Do I have to take you to bed and blow that just to get your brain to shut off?” Jensen grumbled. He sounded cranky, but Jared could feel pure amusement fighting with the desire to just cuddle up and sleep whirling around in Jensen’s being.

Still, Jared flushed a horrible shade of red at the realization that Jensen knew that he was having inappropriate erections. Not that a seraph shouldn’t be aroused by his mate, but Jensen was practically comatose. Finding his bleary state adorable was one thing, taking advantage of it was another. They had just recovered from their first fight. The fact that it had also been a major one that had almost ripped them apart was still close to Jared’s thoughts.

Being careful with his demands on Jensen would be prudent. Sure, humans liked sex too, but it would be best if both parties were fully awake for coupling. It would be even better if Jared didn’t look like some twink playing fantasy ‘cherub’ seraph to his kinky mate, but that couldn’t be helped.

“And we’re back to worrying,” Jensen mumbled as he pressed a soft kiss to the nape of Jared’s neck. His morning stubble rasped against the skin there, and Jared couldn’t help but shiver in appreciation.

It was very possible that he was a hormonal wreck.

“College boys,” Jensen mused out loud for him, and Jared flushed even harder.

“It’s nothing,” Jared croaked out.

“Yeah, I’ve had ‘it’ in my ass, so I’m going to have to disagree with you there,” Jensen told him as he rose from the stool he was sitting on to stumble around so that he was in front of Jared. “I’ve also had ‘it’ digging into my hip and humping on my thigh every night that I’ve spent over here.”

“Sorry,” Jared whispered shamefully. He was such a horrible, horrible mate. How did he keep screwing up like this?

“Hey,” Jensen’s voice turned soft, “I’m not complaining, just observing.”

Jared snorted. “Right. Because you want it so bad. Especially when I, when I look like this.”

Jensen had the gall to roll his eyes. “I’m not the one with the wing hang up.”

Jared let his eyebrows speak for him on that one. Maybe humans didn’t get it when one of their own was drawn to one of the ‘winged ones,’ but they were right when they said that there was something odd about a human whose sex drive drove them towards the seraph. Mates had a thing for the feathers. It was necessary to propagate Jared’s own species, so he didn’t find it troublesome or worthy of suspicion or derision like some humans did. But he also knew that no mate had ever had a neutral reaction to wings.

A sleepy glower was what Jensen gave him in response. He didn’t like getting called out on his ‘thing’ for Jared’s race. It made sense after all of the trouble he’d had getting into the academy. Neither the humans nor the seraph had made life easy on his mate in that regard. Still, Jared couldn’t find it in himself to judge them like his mate did. He was much too selfish for that.

If Jensen had been admitted to the academy when he was younger, it was likely that he wouldn’t have had the same adverse reaction to the purpose of the institution that he had shown when he was older. There was also the possibility that Jared would have found and mated with him much sooner than had happened. No excessive plucking would have happened, and they’d be long since established in their relationship. But there was also a chance that Jensen would have mated with another. Jared was the exception amongst seraphs. Not all of his kind were as picky as he was, and a younger Jensen would have been even more eager to mate.

The thought, when Jared allowed himself to have it, never failed to put shivers of irrational fear down his spine.

“I meant that I’m not just interested in your pretty feathers,” Jensen said. “You, on the other hand, are obsessing over your loss of plumage.”

“I’m not allowed to be self-conscious now?” Jared snapped back. He didn’t want to fight with Jensen again, but if Jensen had suffered from an accident that left him scarred, Jared wouldn’t be pushing about it like it was no big deal.

“You know that isn’t what I’m saying. I get why you don’t want to go out there,” Jensen said with a hand wave towards the window. “I’m not saying that I want you to merrily traipse into the world and open yourself to stares and the concerned questions of gossips. I’m saying that I’m not them, okay? I was going to sleep with you when you were still doing your chicken wing impersonation, remember?”

Sympathy sex, a dark corner of Jared’s mind whispered even though he knew that wasn’t true. There was some measure of pity in Jensen’s actions towards him, but it wasn’t in their physical relationship. It was in the way that Jensen had quietly come over and cleaned up the mounds of mating feathers that Jared had just left all over their nest. It was in the way that Jensen made a point to stay over at least three nights a week even though he was clearly still uncomfortable with the idea of moving in together. It was in the way that he still insisted on grooming Jared whenever he was over at the nest even though Jared’s wings didn’t currently need such maintenance.

Then again, Jensen’s pity was mixed in with care and concern and a not so little portion of love. Indistinguishable from all of Jensen’s many emotions, pity certainly wasn’t foremost in anything that Jensen felt for him.

Soft lips pressed against Jared’s slightly opened mouth. He saw Jensen swoop in for it, of course he did. Jared’s eyesight was as sharp as any seraph’s, but his mind was just preoccupied enough to let the kiss startle him. It wasn’t a sexy kiss; it couldn’t be with how awkward it was. But it was sweet, and the laugh lines that crinkled up at the corner of Jensen’s eyes made Jared’s heart flutter.

Behind him, his wings tried to mimic his heart, and the downy softness of his new feathers tickled at his exposed back. The sensation wasn’t ‘right’ yet, but it certainly beat both the feeling and sound that his naked wings had been making not so long ago.

“Feeling better?” Jensen asked smugly.

“Mmmm, no,” Jared decided as he grabbed Jensen’s hips and tugged him in closer. “I think I need a few more smooches.”

“No blowjob?” Jensen’s question was obscured by a large yawn.

“I’m afraid you’re going to fall asleep in the middle of it and bite my dick off,” Jared teased.

“I’m awake!” Jensen protested even though his still bleary eyes said otherwise.

“Uh-huh,” Jared responded as he stood up and grabbed Jensen’s hand. “Why don’t we just go back to bed?”

Jensen’s tired smile turned just a touch smug and a whole lot dirty.

“To sleep,” Jared clarified as he started tugging his mate down the hallway. He appreciated the fact that Jensen was making an effort to come over to the nest to stay the night after he finished his shift at the Laundromat or that he tried to stop by during the day when he was too tired to come over after closing shop. At some point Jared was going to have to figure out the right time to officially ask Jensen to move into the nest.

That time wasn’t today. That time wasn’t even in the near future, and Jared was just going to have to be happy with what he had. Jensen’s acceptance of their relationship didn’t give Jared the leeway to start pushing the boundaries of it. He only hoped that Jensen would realize on his own that he should give up his horrid little apartment and move into their nest so that he could be doted upon by his loving seraph.

Until that time, Jared was going to make use of their nice, large bed to snuggle his sleepy non-morning mate. Then, when Jensen woke up, he’d make said mate fulfill his suggestion of blowjobs and sex.

Jared wasn’t an angel after all.