When Johnny was a kid, he always wanted to be a wolf-blood or coyote-blood or something. It was so boring to tick the ‘human’ box on forms that asked about non-human ancestry. Two of Johnny’s cousins were wolf-bloods and could run faster than anyone he knew. Their eyes went green sometimes too and they got weird and snarly at full moons. Their dad had to lock them in the house.
Johnny’s mom told him that not everyone liked being asked about their blood, so he shouldn’t until they said something first. Johnny was baffled – who wouldn’t want super strength or speed or be able to swim really fast? There was so much awesome ancestry out there. He hated that his family line was a dud.
“Things are different for a lot of people,” his mom told him.
Johnny learned that really quickly when he saw kids getting bullied on the sidewalk and at school, all because of their blood. He didn’t understand at all. He tried to stop it but then he got shouted at and shoved away and couldn’t help anyone. He didn’t stop trying though. He became friends with a fox-blood and centaur-blood and got to meet their families and ask lots of questions when they said they didn’t mind. He learned about body language and how non-humans used their bodies to talk as much as words, sometimes more. They could read Johnny’s body language too and he tried to read it himself in the mirror. He learned a lot from them.
He started reading comics and dreaming about being a mutant or an Avenger and telling people that see, that kind of blood means a superhero. Who wouldn’t want to be a superhero?
At high school he met people who really didn’t want to be non-human or superheroes; people whose blood could feel like torture because the genes in them were so strong and made them look or behave differently all the time, not just when the moon changed. They didn’t want people’s eyes on them or questions asked or anyone noticing they weren’t human. A lot of people just wanted to fit in.
There were weekly classes at school about the different kinds of non-human bloods and what their biology meant. There was a lot of interest in the mating habits section; laughing and catcalling at how some bloods marked their mates, how some mated for life, how careful humans and nons had to be. Johnny was, he dated human and non and his parents worried about him staying safe and getting home before his curfew.
In all of this, Johnny discovered wrestling. The wrestlers were like real-life superheroes. Johnny saw people that pretended not to be human for shows and people who really were non-human. Johnny had always been athletic and energetic, trying different sports but never settling on one, and his mom was glad he’d found something he wanted to dedicate so much time and energy to.
It soon became Johnny’s life. He trained with humans and non and shared the ring with people who were wolf-blood enough to change completely at full moons, coyote-bloods, even someone with cthulu blood, which was so awesome. Johnny didn’t ask questions until they said something though. He’d learned that lesson.
He met Tommaso once he started travelling the country to wrestle at any show that’d have him on the card. He learned which promotions he liked best though; the ones that didn’t make non-humans wrestle when their biology was against them. That was dangerous for everyone but some companies liked that. Johnny could spot through body language a non-human who was on edge and he did what he could to help. It didn’t always work though.
Tommaso got attention as soon as he entered a locker room, thanks to the scars on his chest and his blonde Mohican. Also his eyes, that was what Johnny noticed first, that intense stare that dared anyone to say something to anger him. Tommaso always seemed angry back then. There was no need for Johnny to read any body language to get that. Tommaso’s eyes were always gorgeous though.
He and Johnny were facing each other that night and Tommaso was terse but willing to listen when Johnny explained what his strengths were and asked about Tommaso’s.
“I’m wolf-blood,” Tommaso stated, like a challenge.
Johnny nodded and smiled, going for an easy shot to break up some of the tense atmosphere. He'd had talks like this before. “Hey, great, so you’ll be able to keep up with me.”
Tommaso raised disbelieving eyebrows and shook his head but some tension eased in his shoulders and Johnny counted that as a win. Their match wasn’t great but nothing seemed to go wrong. Tommaso nodded at Johnny as he left right after the show. Johnny wished they’d gotten to talk more but nodded back. He thought about Tommaso’s eyes a lot.
They saw each other at shows in other places, faced off in the ring a lot, and got to talking sometimes, as much as Tommaso talked to anyone. Then the announcement about the NXT Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament broke and Johnny knew this was a chance too good to miss. The WWE hadn’t shown much interest in him yet but a lot of his friends, human and non, were part of NXT’s Performance Centre, some had gotten onto TV and were even part of the main roster now. It was an incredible time for wrestling there, like the doors were open wider than ever before, and Johnny wanted to be part of it.
It turned out he didn’t need to find a tag team partner since WWE accepted his application and suggested, well pretty much decided, that Johnny should team with Tommaso. Apparently tape of one of their indy matches had made its way to NXT and they’d liked the chemistry they’d seen. Johnny always liked working with Tommaso so he wasn’t surprised.
It was great to reunite with friends once Johnny actually got to the Performance Centre. There were several with mating marks on their necks or wrists, which was news to Johnny in a couple of cases. None of them covered their marks.
Johnny was glad to see Tommaso. Tommaso nodded at him and sort of smiled; which gave away how excited he was about this whole WWE venture. His eyes were still gorgeous and his scars still made people stare. He could still look angrier than anyone Johnny had ever known and he was just explosive in the ring, the way he moved, the savage way he hit. Johnny liked watching him work. He thought that together they’d be great tournament winners, holding that gold trophy high.
Johnny was self-aware enough to recognize that for a while now he’d had a crush on Tommaso. That was okay, Johnny was used to crushes sliding away just as quickly as they started. He rarely had time for anything long-term thanks to life on the road and he didn't expect it anymore. Also he didn’t want to make Tommaso uncomfortable or put their team in jeopardy. Tag team chemistry was really delicate and Johnny knew just how many teams violently split because of personal reasons. He didn’t want to ruin this chance for him or Tommaso.
So he locked down that part and hoped Tommaso couldn’t smell anything that’d make him mad or weirded out. They worked together every day and Johnny could quickly tell that there was something about their team that was really going to work. They worked, together. It was a good thing too, seeing as their first round match came up quickly and the crowd was really loud for them, which was a great surprise. They knew who he and Tommaso were! Getting supportive Tweets was one thing but this was unbelievable. Hearing the Full Sail crowd chant ‘Johnny Wrestling’ was flooring but Tommaso kept him focused. They ended up winning decisively.
Tommaso wasn’t as tactile as any of the wolf-bloods Johnny had known before but Johnny knew enough from Tommaso’s body language to know that Tommaso had to be the one to initiate any contact between them. He liked Tommaso’s touch when it did come; Johnny could recognize scent marking and totally understood. He was Tommaso’s pack here. Who was Tommaso’s pack back home? Tommaso never called anyone or had any visitors.
They didn’t win the tournament but they did both get a contract. And Johnny’s crush didn’t slide away.
They could have both gone into singles careers at NXT but Tommaso was the one to bring up continuing to team together. Johnny couldn’t help his shocked look.
“Sorry, I mean, I’d love to but I figured you were solo at the first chance,” he quickly explained, not wanting Tommaso to think he was against the idea at all.
Tommaso rolled his shoulders, not looking tense or offended. Johnny couldn’t look away from his gaze. “We’ve got a good thing. And there’s opportunities for us as a team.”
True. Johnny smiled, his heart thumping heavily. Could Tommaso hear it? Did he know what it meant? Maybe he did and he could see past it. Maybe he was okay with it or more than okay. Johnny didn’t ask. He’d learned what questions to keep back.
They ended up getting an apartment together, it made sense money-wise, and Johnny kept track of when full moons hit so that he could stay away from the apartment. Most wolf-bloods he knew were private about that time and Tommaso didn't share anything about his blood. He thanked Johnny after the second month and eyed him but didn’t say anything more. Maybe there were questions he wanted to ask too.
Tommaso talked more now, sharing space with Johnny. He didn’t talk about family but he did talk about training and some of his travels, how he wanted to get to the top of NXT, prove a lot of people wrong and win gold. Johnny liked listening to Tommaso’s rasp and how he saw the world. Tommaso mocked him for his comic books and love of Disney but he watched the movies with Johnny and Johnny listened to the music Tommaso liked and they trained together for hours. Tommaso’s body language was more open with Johnny now, wrapping an arm around Johnny’s shoulders or touching Johnny’s waist as he passed him, manhandling him when they sparred. Johnny had no complaints, at all. They were pack, right?
He could admit to himself that it wasn't just that for him and that this wasn’t just a crush anymore. But he didn’t say anything to Tommaso, who was still the very definition of a lone wolf. Tommaso had opened up more to Johnny, which was awesome, but asking for more wasn't a great idea. Pushing Tommaso, even slightly, never was. Johnny didn’t want to lose Tommaso as a friend or teammate. He didn’t want to lose Tommaso.
So he still kept those feelings locked down and focused on how awesome teaming together was, how the NXT crowd reacted, how they were getting more matches on TV and great feedback backstage. This was more than a chance and Johnny could see how it was affecting Tommaso, how hungry he was for more, how he was believing amazing things could happen. Johnny wasn’t going to screw that up.
The first sign that something wasn’t right when Johnny got back from a late meeting with Mr. Regal was the roaring sound coming from behind the locked bathroom door. Tommaso’s shoes and keys were still where he always dropped them when he was in. The moon wasn’t close to full, so why was Tommaso’s blood up? Johnny had never heard a wolf make that kind of noise before. What the hell..?
Heart racing, he reached the bathroom door and laid a hand against it. It was shaking. Johnny swallowed. This was very new.
There was a pause, then the shaking and roaring started again and God, Johnny could hear real pain in it. He was sure he wasn’t imagining things. He pressed both hands to the painted wood, wishing he could do something. Hearing Tommaso like that…
“I…I’ll be right here.”
He remembered his lessons – that he should keep a wide distance from anyone whose blood was affected, that he should vacate the building immediately. But hearing Tommaso’s pain, Johnny’s heart squeezed hard, answering pain blooming through his chest, and he couldn’t leave. The lessons couldn’t have mattered less. So, decisively, he set himself up watching a movie on his laptop, in the lounge right across from the bathroom. He put the volume high, maybe it’d help Tommaso.
The noise went on a long time and Johnny’s hands clenched hard enough to hurt. Was this what Tommaso went through every month? Wait, more than once a month, seeing as it wasn’t a full moon? The pain was still answering in Johnny’s chest and while the movie played, his eyes stayed glued on the bathroom door, still shaking. Tommaso.
It was hours later that silence actually fell. Johnny waited, heart thumping loudly. Could Tommaso hear that? Was Tommaso hurt? Was that why he’d been roaring like that in the first place? Johnny was getting to his feet when the door swung open and Tommaso walked out slowly. He froze when he saw Johnny. Were his eyes yellow?
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he barked out, his voice even raspier than usual.
Johnny felt a shiver that he couldn’t squash in time and licked his dry lips. Tommaso didn’t look hurt; there was a sheen to his skin and a set to his jaw that was madder than Johnny had seen in a long time. He went to reach out but stopped himself. Body language; no. The pain hadn’t left Johnny’s chest yet. He couldn’t look away from Tommaso and Tommaso wasn’t looking away from him either.
“The door was locked when I got here. There was a lot of noise and I was worried and I-.”
Tommaso reared back like he’d been hit, and without a word, grabbed his keys and left the apartment, barefoot, so quickly that Johnny didn't have time to stop him or even say anything. Johnny stared at the closing door, his heart hammering. Was Tommaso going to come back? What had Johnny said? He thought about texting his wolf-blood cousins and asking but Tommaso really wasn’t like any other wolf. Johnny didn’t want to lose him.
The pain in Johnny’s chest was growing. On auto-pilot, he put away his laptop and checked the bathroom – it was a mess and the mirror was nearly off the wall. One of the windows was open and something was smeared across the sill. Johnny didn’t touch it. It was all Tommaso’s.
He paused outside Tommaso’s room; he’d been in there before. Sometimes they talked in one of the bedrooms instead of the lounge or kitchen, on account of how tired they were. Tommaso had kept his room impersonal – dark shades on the window, nothing hung on any wall, no photos out. There were clothes in the wardrobe and boxes shoved under the kingsize bed, a lamp with a crooked shade on a unit beside it. Johnny stepped inside and sat on the bed. He’d sat on it before; Tommaso usually sat at the head, doing something to his phone, muttering about someone who was supposed to deliver something or talking about a match he’d worked in San Franciso. Johnny remembered lifting his hand and looking at how the light from the overhead had poured through the gaps. The feeling in his chest had been warm then.
He tried not to think about the absence of Tommaso, that look on his face as he’d left, as though he couldn’t stay a second longer. He tried to think about all the tingling memories he had of Tommaso – how they were in the ring together, and then all the times it was just them - buying take-out and arguing over which bad late-night movie to watch, driving to so many venues, and just talking. How Tommaso’s touch had always felt special because it was Tommaso and outside of the ring he didn’t touch anyone else if he could help it.
There was a noise at the bedroom door and Johnny realized he was lying down. He’d had his eyes closed at some point and it was even darker outside now. He’d fallen asleep on Tommaso’s bed. He rubbed his eyes, switching the bedside lamp on as Tommaso entered the room. He stopped short at the sight of Johnny on his bed and Johnny felt that pain in his chest sharply again. He’d invaded Tommaso’s space when Tommaso hadn't been there.
Tommaso shook his head, his eyes glued to Johnny. They weren’t yellow anymore but Tommaso still looked restless, like there was something under his skin he needed to run off. And he was looking at Johnny like he was hungry and Johnny couldn’t look away and hadn’t pushed enough past his recent sleep to keep everything under his skin. The feeling in his chest was hot now.
“You’re here,” Tommaso stated, like he couldn’t believe it, and didn’t want to?
He practically dove onto the bed, so fluidly that Johnny’s breath got caught in his throat and that was before Tommaso crawled over Johnny so that they were face to face. He was caught between wanting Tommaso closer and not wanting to freak him out with how his body was reacting. Tommaso’s breath was hot and he still had that sheen to his skin. Johnny hadn’t showered since getting in, he had to stink, but Tommaso took a deep deliberate breath and made a guttural sound in his throat that made Johnny bite down a whimper.
“You’re here, on my bed,” Tommaso muttered, again like it was the worst thing.
“I can leave,” Johnny offered, hating the words but hating Tommaso’s tone too.
Tommaso immediately pressed a hand hard to Johnny’s shoulder, pinning him in place, but just as quickly removed it, shaking his head like he was clearing it. Johnny tried to steady his own breathing and lie still. Whatever had affected Tommaso before, it hadn't left him yet. He really wanted to touch Tommaso but he curled his hands into fists. The pain would help him concentrate.
“You should have left as soon as you heard…what you heard.” Tommaso said finally, staring at Johnny’s chest instead of his face.
Johnny shook his head now, hating how defeated Tommaso looked. “I couldn’t...”
It wasn’t an explanation but Johnny couldn’t put into words how much it’d hurt to hear Tommaso in pain and alone. At least he’d known Johnny was there and wasn’t leaving him. Hadn’t that helped? At all? Johnny curled his fists tighter. Tommaso made that guttural sound again and dipped his head, taking another deep breath. Johnny closed his eyes for a moment, wanting to remember this feeling; sure that Tommaso would get up at any second.
“It happens again, you leave,” Tommaso told him, like he was giving a command.
“I can’t promise that,” Johnny responded without any need to think about his answer, his eyes open again, his chest aching at the thought of Tommaso alone, suffering.
Tommaso made a frustrated noise, his hands digging into the comforter like a tear. “Fucking listen, all right? I’m telling you, leave.”
“I’m not just a wolf-blood!” Tommaso practically yelled over Johnny. “I’m not…I’m not safe.”
Johnny stared, completely unsure what to say, wanting to touch Tommaso more than ever. Tommaso was breathing hard and the sheen on his skin was getting brighter somehow. His eyes hadn’t gone yellow again but something was different about them.
“You’re not just a wolf-blood?” Johnny said slowly at last.
He didn’t want to push but it wasn’t like he could leave with Tommaso caging him in, not that he wanted to go.
Tommaso’s laugh wasn’t a great sound. “Oh, I've got wolf-blood but everything else is a fucking mystery my Dad took with him. Whoever and whatever he is or was, he never told my Mom. But whatever it is, it’s nothing I want you to face.”
His words were almost like a plea and Johnny could feel his chest pain and concern growing. What had Tommaso gone through, not really knowing what his blood was? How scary had it been when he’d first been affected or changed? Had he told anyone before? Had he always been alone?
Johnny lifted a hand, hovering over Tommaso’s wrist until he got a quick jerking nod of permission. Johnny's pain was joined by relief now too. He rested a hand on Tommaso’s arm before circling his wrist and squeezing gently. He watched Tommaso close his eyes and breathe deeply. Tommaso was worried about hurting him. Tommaso was worried about Johnny.
“You lock yourself in, I won’t leave,” Johnny said softly, not wanting to break the mood.
Tommaso’s eyes snapped open and Johnny’s expression was open and unapologetic, he needed Tommaso to know how serious he was.
“I was right across the room. I’m not gonna leave you.”
Tommaso stared at him, disbelief rich in his eyes that still looked different somehow. Johnny was happy to keep staring back.
“Why the fuck would you stay?” Tommaso replied, quiet and terse, like the words were only just escaping through his teeth.
It wasn’t really a question; more like a self-accusation. Johnny swallowed and gently squeezed Tommaso’s wrist again pointedly and smiled just a little bit. He hadn’t wanted to say anything, to affect what they already had together (pack), not even now, but if the alternative was Tommaso trying to force Johnny away, even it was for his own safety, there was no contest.
Slowly, he tilted his head to the side, exposing his neck to Tommaso in declaration. He couldn’t say anything, he didn’t need to.
Tommaso inhaled sharply and Johnny’s hand tightened around Tommaso’s wrist when Tommaso started to pull away. Johnny held his gaze, sure that his quick heavy pulse was obvious and needing Tommaso to really take notice of it and everything else his senses were telling him. This wasn’t a snap proclamation.
Tommaso stayed and stared and then his body abruptly dropped to blanket Johnny’s. Johnny let out a breath that was more of a moan and Tommaso buried his face against Johnny’s neck. He made a strained strangled sound and didn’t tense or twitch when Johnny settled hands against Tommaso’s back. He could feel how hard Tommaso was; it was a really obvious match for Johnny. Johnny luxuriated how everything felt, like a dream.
Neither of them broke the silence for a while, then Johnny realized, moving out of his dazed state, that Tommaso was lapping at his neck and Tommaso’s hips were moving. It was another dream. The feeling inside of Johnny transformed into pure heat again, loosening his mouth and pulling out sounds, and Tommaso was practically growling too. It was like the two of them couldn't stop, couldn't stay quiet, feeding into each other. And Johnny's senses were getting overwhelmed; he couldn’t imagine how it felt for Tommaso. Tommaso was doing this. Johnny groaned.
Tommaso pulled back to kiss Johnny filthily, pressing him down harder into the bed, biting Johnny’s bottom lip but not drawing blood. Johnny clung to him, not wanting to miss catching a second. How much more of this was he going to get? Was this just the effect of whatever had happened tonight?
Tommaso moved from Johnny’s mouth to his neck to run sharpened teeth along it. Johnny shivered. Yes, he'd meant it. Yes.
“Not until I’m clear of this,” Tommaso said, his voice still raspier than usual but with different note to it as well.
Johnny wanted to protest but yeah, it was the frustratingly right call. The paperwork would be even more complicated if they didn’t wait until Tommaso’s blood wasn’t affected. There could be accusations too. Johnny kept his neck bared though and Tommaso took a deep breath before touching blunter teeth to Johnny’s skin.
“There'll still be a mark.”
He sounded hungry. Johnny nodded so rapidly his teeth probably rattled. It wouldn’t be a binding mark; it would fade like any other bruise. Just making the mark would mean something to them both though; Johnny could tell. Yes.
Tommaso was still rutting against him. Johnny's ribs felt like they were going to melt from the heat and any pain leftover was now the right kind of fantastic. When Tommaso shifted his position up further, Johnny caught sight of yellow eyes. Only they weren’t really yellow at all, they were gold.