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Warnings: Brief mentions of sexual and physical child abuse, rape, heat cycles, post-conception birth-control, injury to a wolf-shaped person, ?? (you guys generally know how I write. I don't think I'm gonna trigger anybody)



Love Will Find You


Jensen wishes he could say he left the pack of his birth on his own terms. That he fought his way free or just snuck away from their cluster of trailers in the night. Truth of the matter is he was too broken to run. Too beat down. Omegas are few and far between. Males that can carry young. Useless filth, good only for breeding the pack a few more low-grade pups if the population is low and Jensen not even good for that. Or so they thought, pairing him up with any male who wanted a turn every time he went into heat. If there’s one thing he’s proud of, it’s that he never gave them a child. No girl to be married off at her first blood, no boy to be raised as a raping monster. No Omega to be handed around and hurt and used. He’d eaten mistletoe every time they fucked him, heat or no. Because he had to be sure. Because he couldn’t give a child to them.

In the end the pack had driven him off. Kicked him and bit him and threw beer bottles at him when he wouldn’t leave. Without cubs, status or family willing to stand up for him, he’d been another hungry stomach to feed in a long dry spell between successful scams and in the two years since his first heat, even the novelty of fucking him had worn off.

Eighteen and alone he’d wandered. On four legs for most of a year. Skirting the edges of human civilization. He’d found a man for a time, tall and shaggy-haired, who left a bowl of food on his back porch and let Jensen sleep under his house. It didn’t last though. Jensen was never quite sure why, but one day there was rich food in the bowl and the man tried to put a rope around Jensen’s neck as he ate and he could never go back again. He howled long and low that night and ran again. Farms and fields and forest passing by.

When he stopped he turned. Walked on two legs again. He stole clothes and went among the people. A man offered him food and a place to sleep and Jensen thought maybe Luther was wrong. Maybe humans weren’t as dangerous as they thought. So he went with him into a house so big a hundred people could live there but nobody did. The man tried to push him down there, once he’d eaten, tried to breed him and something in Jensen broke free. He found his half-form and fought back. Tore the man with his claws. Ripped the man with his teeth.

He ran again, after. Hungry and alone and two bullets in his side. The change healed him but the wound had sapped his strength. He curled up nose to tail in the back of one of the big loud trucks and slept until he had his strength back. He kept to the cities because even with their strangeness, he knew his pack would never find him here where wolves do not go. Rats were as easy to catch in the alleys as rabbits were in the woods and pigeons plentiful.

He was in L.A. when he stopped running for long enough to chase off some boys brazen enough to harass an old woman just trying to get up the steps to her home. He would have left again but her thin fingers were strong on his wrist. “Come in,” she said and “Such a sweet boy but so thin.” And Jensen was so tired of the run. So lonely for family even if the only family he’d ever known had been hell.

He fell asleep at her kitchen table with half his sandwich pillowing his cheek. Woke with an afghan draped over his shoulder and a whispered conversation in the next room. The old woman’s voice “Of course he’s a good boy, are you blind? I raised you better than this, Christian. I raised you right, don’t you tell me I didn’t.”

“Nana,” a man’s voice tries to cut in and Jensen tenses. “Nana, I haven’t said no, you haven’t even told me what you want me to do.” Exasperated but teasing too and Jensen thinks it’s not such a bad voice.

“Look at him,” the woman chides. “The boy just needs help getting on his feet. Just give him a job, a little help finding a fresh start.”

“If he wants a job,” Christian counters. “And if he’s not on drugs. I can’t promise it’ll be glamorous, Nana, and if he doesn’t stay, it’s not our problem.”

She makes a pfff noise of derision and Jensen raises his head from his lunch. “I…” it’s the first he’s spoken in weeks. “I’m not afraid to work.” He’s not afraid of Christian either. The man looks strong for all that he’s not as tall as Jensen. Muscled and dense with long hair and the ghost of a beard. He’s only human though and Jensen has no fear of him.

Christian’s lips twitch and he gestures to his cheek. “You’ve got mustard on your face.”

And so begins the first friendship of Jensen’s life.

=======================

Jeff scents the air. The crime scene is more or less intact by human standards, even though the evidence tape is down, but by his it’s hopelessly contaminated. The aftershave of every beat cop and detective to wander through layers over the smell of shit, piss and blood from the ‘victim’, along with every stale cigarette, cup of coffee and Christ, has someone had sex in here after the killing? The ceiling of the derelict hotel is half rotted with rain water and even in the cool Memphis autumn it stinks dank and heavy of mold.

He glances around again, making sure he’s alone. There’s no legit excuse for him to be here. He’s a bounty hunter, not a PI and he couldn’t find an open warrant on anybody linked to the vic to pretend he’s hunting if someone with a badge asks about it.

He closes his eyes, tries to filter the impressions that are coming through the odors. This is too important. If there’s anything to find, he needs to find it. He remembers Gina’s voice on his phone an hour ago, calling him from her closet-sized office at the medical examiner’s. “The man’s a known predator, Jeff. His reputation is beyond ugly and he’s definitely got a type. The problem isn’t that he’s dead, it’s that some cub was backed into this corner, killed him, and nobody knows who it is. I’ve called the family Alphas and they’re contacting all their young, but we should have heard by now.” Her tone was grim. “The blood at the scene was definitely Were. I’ve switched it out for doberman, but all of our people know to give me the heads up so I can take care of this sort of thing.”

“I’m on it,” Jeff had assured her. Because they both knew there could only be a few explanations for this. A lost cub, born of a human mother and ignorant of what it is until the first change hits it or a lone wolf passing through the territory unannounced and uncontrolled. Either explanation falls somewhere between tragedy and a threat to the pack. Either way, Jeff was trusted to deal with the problem. To bring the cub home if it can be tamed or drive it away if it can’t.

So here he is, trying to sift one unknown scent from a dozen others. He paces the room and growls low in frustration. It’s no good. There’s too much here. Too many people have been through. He leaves but he’s not giving up. If he can’t catch the scent inside, he’ll find the exit point and follow from there. The kid had to have left the building since he’s not here, and there will be less distractions further from where the body was found.

By an alley door he finds it. Omega, he thinks, trying to catalog what he smells. Male, but with the faint warm smell of life, of fertility. Young if Jeff’s any judge and hurt. Bleeding. Human smells on him but no other Were. And Jeff has waited so long, searched so far. That an unmated Omega has come here, come to him, he can’t help but count that as a hopeful sign, that maybe the universe doesn’t intend for him to be alone.

He follows the blood drops, the rare smudge. Marks too faint for human senses to find. He comes across a wrinkled wad of clothing in an alley, stiff with dried blood. At least the cub knew to shift to heal some, but Jeff feels sick at how much blood there was.

He moves again, following the more lupine smell of the other’s wolf form. Harder to pick up and cleaner without the blood falling in random places. He wants to shift himself, put his nose to the asphalt and run, but it’s broad daylight and it can’t be risked.

The rumble of a tractor-trailer breaks the trance and Jeff finds himself at a warehouse. Big rigs roll off in every direction and a wave of dread clenches through his chest.

He searches. In every direction, every path a wolf or man could have possibly walked away from this place but he finds nothing. The omega must have gotten on a truck. Hurt and alone and only Mother Moon knows where that truck was bound.


=======================

Working for Christian isn’t the hardest thing Jensen’s ever done. Mostly he cleans the bar after hours. Scrubs the bathrooms and hauls boxes of booze from the back room to the bar and cases of empties out to the dumpster. One time a drunk starts to make a scene and Christian asks him to leave and Jensen stands at his back like he’s Chris’ beta instead of a useless omega. He likes the way it feels.

Christian is at the bar every night but Sunday so Jensen is too. He’s nervous when the first full moon rises. Sure Christian will fire him when he says he has to leave at 6 for the next three days. “I need… I have stuff to take care of.” But Chris just looks him in the eyes and finally nods.

“Sure man, whatever you gotta do.”

Jensen finds a place to run during the full moon. In his head he calls it the gorge, but he knows it’s more like an oversize drainage ditch behind some warehouses. The stream runs for almost a mile though before it crosses under a major road in each direction, and the unevenness of it makes it seem longer. In some of the wider patches he can run three different paths on any given night. A curling strip of abandoned asphalt winds through the wildness. Sometimes there are cars on it. Two at a time, engines roaring as they rip around the curves. Crowds of people waiting where the brush-crowned shoulders of the road give way to rounded cement and clean-line curbs. Screaming and shouting as the cars roar past.

Jensen stays far clear of them on the nights they’re there. Sometimes he cuts through the warehouse district itself instead. Man-made cliffs rising on either side. Surprise twists and turns and alleyways only a few feet wide. The fresh blood of rats when he catches them. Tiny bones between his back teeth. He feels free in L.A. Strong and wild in a way he never did among his betters.

The first time he goes into heat in L.A. catches him by surprise. He had a small hope, that being far from any werewolf males would save him from the curse. He’d missed his cycles while he’d been traveling. Too stressed and underfed for his body to try to breed. Now, with Nana Kane’s cooking and a safe place to sleep it feels like his system is making up for lost time.

He tries to tough the first one out. Thinks if he can keep himself busy it won’t be so bad. He puts his head down and works twice as hard, reorganizes the stock room and puts up those shelves Chris has been wanting up since Jensen started. He busses the tables and grabs every bottle the second it’s empty. Makes double the trips to the dishwasher that he has to. Anything to not be still.

Christian corners him in the backroom. Hand on his shoulder and Jensen is suddenly back there. Back home and the Alpha is laughing at the scent of him. Handing him off to one of the unmated males and Jensen is desperate for it. Aches for it but he hates it too and he smacks Chris’ hand away with a snarl.

“Hey,” Christian raises his palms in surrender. “Hey whoa, sorry. I just wanted to see if you’re alright. You don’t look so good.”

Jensen knows he looks like a crazy person. Teeth chewing on his lower lip, short nails clawing at his own palms for distraction. He can’t stand still. Feels the need to pace or run or fight or fuck. He shakes his head, not sure what he could say that would explain this. What would make it right.

“Take a sick day,” Chris says and even though Jensen knows it’ll be more than one he nods.

He changes in the alley behind the bar. Stuffs his clothes behind the dumpster and runs. Scares a homeless man to screaming when he comes around a corner, a hundred and sixty pounds of wolf in the city night. He stretches out and runs. Trying to burn this energy. Trying to sooth the burning empty ache inside of him.

He’s exhausted when he gets back to the one room apartment Nana Kane had helped him find. Sweat slicking his hair and his clothes sticking to his back. He still aches for it though. To be fucked. Filled. Knotted and satisfied. He’s never done this alone before. Even from his first heat there was always someone there to fuck him, hold him down, keep him from flying apart. He hates them for what they did to him. Hates them for how he misses that perfect shape in his ass. The weight of their body on him and the feeling of being finally full.

He strips out of his clothes and writhes on the bed. One hand on his cock and the other fingering at his ass. Slick a little, quivering and tight. He pushes in without teasing himself. Too hurried to think about enjoying it. Desperate to get it over with. He needs, he needs, he needs, but the angle is wrong. Can’t get there, can’t scratch that itch.

He focuses on his dick. Wishes he had a couple more hands. Thinks that if he could just get a little more sensation, if he could squeeze his balls or twist his nipple, that it would get him there.

He pulls his fingers out of his ass, wriggles the tips of all four into the loosened ring. Pushes and he’s not hitting that spot at all, but the stretch of it is as close to right as he’s felt yet. Gets his thumb in there between the others and groans as he forces it in and then he’s coming, shaking, the world is whiting out and everything spins away under the unstoppable wave of sensation.

The frantic pounding of his heart is the next thing Jensen is aware of. His own ragged breath. His shoulder aches, his elbow is probably sprained and his fingers are cramping. With a groan he pulls out. Tries to ignore the empty feeling that’s left behind.

Thoroughly spent, he lies on the bed panting but already he can feel the slow build of need creeping up on him again.

======================

Jeff has made a life and a living finding people who don’t want to be found and he brings those skills to bear in finding this lost cub. He pulls a warrant for a drifter and uses that and a hefty bribe to get in with the shipping head of the warehouse the omega disappeared from.

He can’t tell her who he’s really looking for. Doesn’t know even, beyond a scent. But he gets a list of all the destinations of their trucks for the day of the murder and she looks through the reports for sightings of a big dog.

He hits the road. Dallas, Denver, Atlanta, L.A. His secretary Julie earns a hefty raise by keeping him in work, jobs where suspects crossed state lines avoiding trial or sentencing. She’s awesome at reading a paper trail and his income suffers but he won’t go bankrupt.

In every city a truck went to, he searches the receiving address, the local bars and shelters, the places where the wild has reclaimed the city and people don’t go. He runs out of destinations after three months. He wants to go back. To search them all again, to widen his sweep in every city, but the scent has to be cold by now.

While he searches, Gina does what she can. Contacting the Weres in other regions. Nobody seems to have lost an omega though, or found one either. As few and scattered as they are though, it’s no surprise to anyone.

Jeff always knew he was likely to die unmated. His own sexuality is attuned to males, to Omegas, and the only Omega he’s ever met had already paired off before they even moved to Memphis. He has dated human men. More as experiments than anything, and at one time he thought he could couple with another male Were if one was interested, but the chance has never came up.

He feels himself sliding into sorrow, not even able to properly mourn what might have been his only chance. Every day that passes cuts into his hope. Anything could be happening. The omega could be hurt or killed, could be wooed and claimed by another. There’s nothing Jeff can do if he can’t find him and it’s driving him mad.

Julie brings him coffee his first day back in the office. She’s a tiny little thing with dishwater blond hair and pale eyes. Not a Were, but Jeff cares for her anyway, considers her part of his informal pack.

“Jeff…” her soft voice is hesitant as she sits down in the chair across the desk from him. “Jeff, you look like shit.”

“I know, darlin’,” he tells her. “It’s been a rough couple of months.” He knows she worried, when he wouldn’t tell her why he had to leave or what he was doing.

“Jeff.” Her hand is cool on his forearm. “Have you seen a doctor?”

Jeff thinks of the image of himself in the bathroom mirror this morning, down fifteen pounds from before he found the omega’s scent. Bags under his eyes from not sleeping.

“I don’t need a doctor,” he says, “There’s nothing they could fix.”

Her eyes go wide and one hand rises to her lips. “Oh, Jeff. Is it cancer?” The last word is whispered with horror.

He coughs in surprise, shakes his head. “No, no. Nothing like that.” But he realizes then, now thin he’s been wearing himself, how hard he’s been pushing, and he decides. Not to give up, not to quit searching, but to pace himself for the long job. To take care of himself so that when he finds his potential mate there’ll be something left of himself to give.

“Hey,” he says and puts on a smile he doesn’t quite feel. “I’m taking you out for breakfast. Steak and eggs?” And even though he’s never seen Julie eat anything bigger than a muffin for breakfast, she says yes.

====================

(villian intro)
(I had no idea who the villian is)

====================

Nana tries to give Jensen Jesus. He goes with her sometimes to church. Sits at her side with his head down and his hands in his lap. When they open the red books he pretends to follow along. Sometimes Nana catches him faking it, when he has the wrong page or his finger is on the wrong part of the song. It’s easier to follow the marks that mean the sounds than the marks that mean the words and sometimes he’s on the wrong line.

New books show up at their daily lunches. Big letters and short words. He tries to tell her not to waste her time. “I’m not smart for this,” he says and then, because he can’t tell her he’s Omega, “I don’t matter enough for this.” And she looks so hurt by his words, like he said them about her and not himself, that he tries anyway.

The first time See Spot run makes sense it kind of shakes him. If he’s Omega, useless, hopeless, worthless, then he is at the pinnacle of what he can expect of life. But if he’s not—if he can learn to read and to do numbers and be useful in some way besides sex and bearing cubs, then he needs to think about his future.

He leaves Nana’s house and walks. On two legs and he feels he’s heading towards something instead of away. A woman in a short skirt meets his eyes. “Hey, baby,” she says and runs her hand over his arm. She smells like disease though. Like the bar’s bathroom. Sex and alcohol and vomit and he pulls away, walks faster.

But it makes him think. About the humans the pack used to bring home to add to their numbers. Not true mates, not for a lifetime. Like Jensen, used to breed when the bloodlines get too tangled. They’d never known they were among Weres. Not until it’d been too late. He tries to imagine it—a woman soft against him, not knowing what he is. Long hair against his face. Her perfume smell and fragile skin. He might be the least Werewolf, the last and lowest, but among humans he’s not weak, not vulnerable. He could protect her, could provide.

Nana gives Jensen words and religion and Christian tries to give Jensen women. Like he knows the day Jensen begins to question the possibilities. Danneel is the first. “You’ll like her, she’s fiery and not looking for anything serious.” Chris says and Jensen isn’t sure he’s looking for feisty.

He meets her at Lucky’s though, like Chris planned. “You look pretty,” he says on the sidewalk outside because apparently it’s what you do and she laughs, bright like the spring.

“Aren’t you the cutest thing?” she says and Jensen isn’t sure what to say to that so he puts his hand on her back (above her belt like Christian coached him, eyes on hers, never get caught looking at her boobs). And they walk together to the restaurant, the smell of garlic and tomato wrapping around them and drawing them in.

She likes to talk and Jensen lets her. He doesn’t have much he can say back. Mostly about the bar or Christian or Nana. He thinks the date is a failure until she asks “So you’re coming back to my place?” and he nods and pays for the food and they go.

Her apartment is bigger than his. All smooth and clean. Pale wood on the floors and white paper on the windows. She kisses him as they step through the door, her lips sweet with tiramisu and soft. It would be so easy to hurt her. To hold too tight or push too hard. He lets her push him instead. Walk him backward to the edge of the bed. She falls on top of him, so light. Rubs against him through his jeans and he’s hard.

It’s quick. Her hands sure on his belt, pulling it free, opening his pants, pulling them off of his hips. She pulls a small foil wrapper from a drawer, tears it open and slides the condom cold and damp onto him. His hands float above her skin and she pulls her skirt up, crawls over him and slides down onto his cock. Makes a moan like he’s hurting her and he can’t help pushing up into the warm slick of her. She flashes him a quicksilver smile, half-feral, and then groans and grinds down onto him.

She knows what she wants and she takes it. Twisting her hips and arching her back. Hands on her breasts over bra and shirt. He feels her tremble, spasm around him. Harsh pants and ragged cries.

And then he’s coming too. Slamming up so hard he almost dislodges her, again and again. Teeth on his lip trying to hold back. Trying to be gentle. She collapses on his chest as he’s finishing and he thinks he’s hurt her until he hears her laugh.

“Oh Jesus,” she says, “It’s always the quiet ones.”


=================

Julie’s voice is sweet as a child’s, coming from the hand’s free speaker in Jeff’s ear. “Looks like the bus is right on schedule. Is it possible this guy’s too stupid to live?”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” he tells her. “If he’s here, I’ll let you pick out the new paint color for the office.”

She laughs and Jeff thinks that even if she was shitty at her job he’d keep her around for that voice on the other end of the line at four in the morning, tired but there for him.

As it is, Jeff might be the one who’s going to take this skip into custody and return him to jail to await his new court date, but he counts this as Julie’s win. She might be human, but she’s a damn good tracker in her own right—following the paper trail and getting copies of receipts for an escort service in Vegas. Her idea to call the wife and explain what her husband was up to while she was losing her home to keep him from behind bars.

From there it was one of the easiest cases Jeff’s had. GPS on the wife’s cell-phone that the idiot was using still, tracked with her permission. Her credit card too, buying a bus ticket to his old girlfriend’s home town. Jeff glances at the photo tucked up behind the truck’s visor one last time, wishes he’d been able to get something with the guy’s scent, just in case.

The Greyhound’s headlights sweep across the darkened station like the world’s smallest lighthouse and Jeff finishes the call with Julie and closes his door behind him. Cuffs and gun snug in the holsters at the small of his back. There are other cars, other people waiting for loved ones or drug deliveries or who-the-hell-cares what, but they don’t open their doors. Jeff can feel their eyes on him across the parking lot. Wonders if any of them are going to be a problem.

The bus hisses to a stop, wheezing tired and leaking diesel fumes into the night air. Shudders finally and is still. Seconds pass and the door opens. Pregnant woman coming off first, ashen-faced and carrying a bag too heavy for her. A white-haired man gets out of an ancient Olds and hurries up to help her. Walks a wide path around Jeff while he does.

After that two teen guys, and a grandma with a cane. Tired and dull-eyed from the road, all of them. Shuffling to cars or to the lobby of the station to wait for the next leg of their journey.

And then the face from the photo, handsome 10 years ago but worn now, lined and sallow. Meth teeth and staggering drunk coming off the bus.

“Jason Wilkins?” Jeff asks and the stupid fuck looks up. “I’m taking you into custody.” Jeff’s hand already on his wrist, spinning him into the side of the bus. Not rough but enough to let him know he’s got no chance, no reason to fight.

“Huh?” the guy asks a beat too late, “I ain’t him, you got the wrong guy.” And does the stupidest thing he could, whipping his head back and catching Jeff across the cheekbone, a crack hard enough to make him see stars but not enough to drop his grip and he wrenches the wrist in his hand up between Jason’s shoulder-blades, inches short of tearing the joint. Leans in and lets him shriek and beg for a second while Jeff gets his temper back under control. God-damn embarrassment is what it is, low-life like this getting a move over on him.

And then…it’s faint. So faint Jeff half thinks he’s imagining it. Under the stale sweat and rest-stop peanuts and the rancid smell of vomit half-cleaned off of the skip’s denim vest. There. Alive. Hard to tell how long ago. Maybe just a casual brush in a crowd an hour past. Maybe someone he sat next to in a bar a week ago. He turns the guy so his back slams against the bus, holds his hands above his head and leans in closer.

From the corner of his eye he can see the last of the passengers scurrying off. Nothing to see here, nothing to be done about it. He guesses Mr. Wilkins didn’t exactly ingratiate himself with his fellow riders. The driver steps out, takes one look and speed-walks for the office.

“The fuck are you doing?” Jason squeeks at him, more afraid now than at the man-handling, and Jeff ignores him. Searches in the folds of his jackets and the tips of his hair for more of that scent. He’s sure of it. Sure that he can smell the kid he’s been searching for.

“Where have you been?” Jeff asks and his voice is rough with the struggle not to change, not to shift. He feels his lips ripple, his teeth aching in their gums and too large for his mouth. “You’re going to tell me everywhere you’ve been or I’m going to rip your arms off and leave you in a shallow grave.”

Wilkins pisses himself but he talks. Drunk or high for the past weeks he barely can make it make sense no matter how much he wants to tell Jeff enough to make Jeff happy, to make him stop growling like that, to make those damn eyes stop glowing.

He’s crying by the time Jeff dumps him in the passenger seat of the truck, snaps the handcuffs through the oh-shit bar and starts the engine.

Jeff ignores him and calls Julie.

“I need to know everywhere this asshole has been since he skipped town,” he says without preamble. “I need to know where he’s drank, where he’s eaten, where he’s taken a piss.”

“I’m on it,” she says even though he knows there’s not much she can do at this time of night. “Did he get by you?”

“No.” Jeff hears the gravel in his voice, tries to soften it for her. “No, I have him. I just need to know, Julie. I need to know where he’s been. This is important.”

========================

Christian considers himself a tough guy. A guy who worked his ass off for everything he’s ever gotten beyond his Nana’s love and support. Always the smallest, never the brightest, he succeeds by not giving up, never giving in. He sets his eyes on a goal and pushes. Pushes through until he has it, no matter the cost to himself.

Take the bar for instance. It may just be a hole in the wall place, but it’s his. Lucky’s, not that he named it that, and not that he believes in luck. Six months out of high school with a GED, he’d started there as a bouncer on the weekends, two nights a week, checking IDs at the door. Added some hours as bar back and then on and up to bartender. Saved every dime, every penny. Stayed at his Nana’s house when all his cool friends were getting apartments. Walked to work when they were buying cars. He didn’t kiss up to the boss because that’s not his style, but he sure as hell impressed the guy with his hard work and dedication. Convinced him Lucky’s would be in good hands when he retired. Impressed him enough that he co-signed the small business loan when Christian offered to buy him out 8 years after starting.

So he’s not the kind of guy to give or take handouts, but he’d do anything for his Nana, and if giving some mangy drifter a job would keep her happy, he could damn well afford to do it now.

It takes him about five minutes that first day, to know something just isn’t right with that boy. No last name for one, and that’s damn inconvenient for an employer. The clothes on his back and not a dollar to his name and Chris doesn’t even know how somebody gets to that point if it isn’t drugs or alcohol. It feels bad to give him cash, like Jensen has just not hung himself yet because he doesn’t have the rope, so Christian gives some money to Nana instead and she gets him clothes and feeds him lunch at her house and eventually finds him a little furnished one-room apartment that doesn’t look like it’s completely overrun with rats or roaches.

Chris thinks of himself as a hard guy, but the look on Jensen’s face on seeing his new place, it cracks the stone in him. He’s never seen someone so awed by so little. Almost reverent as he touches the edge of his tiny kitchenette or moves the curtains on the windows above his narrow bed.

The rest of the cash Chris puts in an envelope in his office. Saves it up and talks to a guy who knows a guy. The ID says Jason Acres and it won’t hold up to much scrutiny, but the kid can order a beer with it and it gives Chris a veneer of due diligence with the INS.

Jensen looks at the card like he has no idea what it’s for, but his “Thank you,” is so grateful it’s embarrassing.

The kid’s so damn awkward with the world and with himself. Chris wonders sometimes who fucked him up like this. If he was an unwanted son from one of those religious cults where the old guys marry multiple teen girls and the boys get driven off or something. Maybe it was a step-dad, judging from the way Jensen avoids talking to some of Lucky’s male customers. Redneck guys mostly, trucker hats and flannel. There’s definitely a type he doesn’t like. Not so much a flinch as a tightening when one of them pays him some attention. Fight or flight held in tense check and Christian really doesn’t want to see which way it tumbles out if the boy loses that control.

He would expect someone who has been through whatever the hell made Jensen this way to be more skittish. To avoid conflict where he can. He’s only been at Lucky’s for a week the first time a patron gets irate that Katie won’t serve him another drink and Chris has to ask him to go. He thinks it’s gonna be a problem because Chris might be built, and he might be competent, but he never grew as tall as most guys and knows he gets underestimated for that, and it leads to a lot of people being stupid when they don’t need to be.

He thinks he’s alone until the guy looks over Chris’ left shoulder and starts to fidget. Says he’s gonna go now. Chris takes a look, just a quick glance away, and there’s Jensen. Body loose and balanced on the balls of his feet. Jaw clenched and hands loosely fisted. His concentration so intense on the drunk that just his gaze is enough to shut the guy down.

A shiver goes down Christian’s spine. He likes the kid, he does, but something is just not right with him.


=====================

The moon’s face is hidden but the night is bright with the glow of the city reflected off of the low-hanging bellies of the clouds. The roar of engines echoes up through the winding road of his canyon and Jensen stays along the farther edges, where broken rock and scrub brush meld into rubbish-filled alleyways and boarded up warehouses.

It feels good. He feels like himself again, another heat over and done and his body his own. His stomach growls and he aims to make a kill tonight, rabbit or raccoon or something to slake the hunger that’s been growing for days. Something red and wet and hot in his mouth, and the thought makes him slaver, lose himself in the hunt.

The first yip-yip-howl stutters his heart like a rifle-shot. He goes skittering from the trail, tail between his legs. He freezes in the brush, fur ruffled and ears pricked. And there, again. A cry of joy and greeting echoing off of stone and tin, Jensen’s worst nightmare. He doesn’t know why they came after him. Doesn’t know which of his tormentors has decided he’s worth keeping after all, but they’ve lost their chance and he’s not their fuck toy anymore.

And so he runs. Hears a sharp bark from behind him, questioning, confused but following him. Tail low and head down he runs. He knows these paths but the other wolf is stronger, faster. Gaining. He wishes he knew who was following him. Cleetus or Dale he can’t outrun but he can out-think. If it’s Luther though, if the Alpha has decided to reclaim him, he’s screwed. The thought drives him plunging faster in his break-neck dash. Jensen’s claws dig into the dry dirt, gravel flying as he jumps a place where the flash storms have carved a crevice down the face of the hill.

He can’t be caught. Won’t be. He hears the engines at the top of the hill revving at each other in challenge and then the squeal of their tires as they leave the starting line.

Desperate, he turns to a new trail, crossing the road seconds after the cars have sped past. Too late but there’s a second chance and he short-cuts the hairpin curve. Hears the scrabble behind him of the other wolf. Just has to time it so the other is too close to realize the danger he’s in, and far enough that Jensen is clear before the car crosses behind him.

Jensen slides and then jumps. Knows he’s screwed it up. Headlights bright in his eyes. Too close. Much too close. A split second of darkness as he’s between the headlights and then the sharp crack as the car hits him. There is no pain. Only motion as he flies through the air and into the brambles. He hears the car skidding and a heavy crunch. The other will be coming soon and he tries to stand, to pull his broken body up onto all fours, but his back half doesn’t budge at all and moving his front legs hurts everywhere—his head, legs, ribs and he lies down again.

He hears a rustle in the grass and then the other wolf is there. Black and gray brindled, muscular and sleek. Jensen doesn’t know this wolf and relief washes through him, that he didn’t succeed in his attempt to get the guy run over by a car. He doesn’t think Nana would approve of killing strangers for no good reason.

He chuffs his amusement at the thought and blood fills his throat. The other shifts. Becomes a man tall and strong. “No, no no,” he whispers, reaches out to lay his hand along Jensen’s ruff. “Come on, kid. You have to shift.”

And Jensen doesn’t want to. The moon calls to this form, and he feels safer on four legs anyway. He’ll just rest here a while and then run on.

“Hey.” The man’s voice is sharper, stronger. He shakes Jensen a little by his ruff. “Hey, you listen to me. This is gonna hurt like a son of a bitch, but if you don’t shift, you’re going to die. You understand?”

Jensen whines and tries to pull back, but doesn’t have the strength. And fuck this. Fuck it all. He closes his eyes and reaches for that place in him, where the young man on two legs is. If he can just heal, he can tell this guy to leave him alone.

“Come on, Darlin’,” and he doesn’t know why the man would call him that, or why he’d sound so half-broken when he did, but something in Jensen answers and he feels the ripples start to wash through his body. Small waves of change in preparation for the transformation from wolf to man.

The pain is like nothing Jensen’s ever felt before. Like burning alive and being torn apart at the same time. Hands on his fur and then the smooth skin of his shoulders and he focuses on that. Lets it ground him when he thinks the agony of it is going to rip his sanity apart.

He collapses to the ground. Realizes he’d been bowed up as every muscle tensed at the same time. The aftermath is like the silence after a lightening strike. He aches. In every inch of skin and bone and flesh, he aches, but it’s nothing like the intensity of the change had been.

A gentle touch brushes his hair back from his face and Jensen opens his eyes. The other is right here, naked and strong, taller than Jensen and broader too and his hazel eyes looking at Jensen in a way Jensen’s never been looked at before. Intense. He doesn’t even know what it means but it sends a shiver through him.

“Hey,” the man says again and cups one hand around Jensen’s jaw, ghosts a thumb over his lips.

And Jensen knows where that leads. He’s not even in heat and this guy wants a turn? Not without a fight. Jensen jerks his head back and shifts again. Into half-form and he snarls. Snaps until the other pulls back. Two steps away and then Jensen is shifting again. Onto four legs and he’s running. Weak and slow but he doesn’t hear the other wolf chasing him, only a lonely howl echoing through the gorge.

It’s almost dawn when he pulls his bedraggled self into his apartment, curls up on his bed to lick his wounds.

==================



Jeff sits on the ground, buck naked, feeling like it was himself who just got hit by a car.

Him. The kid was afraid of him. Ran from him. Nearly died to get away from him.

He doesn’t realize he’s shifted until the howl rises up in his throat, deep and mournful.

Then he’s moving. Following the scent but not so close this time. Not to catch him but to track him until he goes to his den, to make sure he finds a safe place to rest and recuperate.

He aches to do the things a mate should. To hunt for him. To bring raw red meat to replace the blood and strength burned through to heal with the change. To curl up around him, to guard him from the world. To lick the blood from his skin or his fur until Jeff’s scent covers any trace of hurt.

He follows and the kid shifts in an alley-way. Must have hidden his clothes there because his scent is strong in the shadows behind a dumpster. Follows as the kid makes his slow, limping, two-legged way through the back streets and up to a run down apartment building.

Dawn is breaking then and Jeff can’t be seen out on the streets like this so he leaves. Goes back to the rental car where he left the accessories of human life.

He knows he shouldn’t return to the kid’s apartment. Knows it feels like some stalker-ish thing that Julie’s ex would do to her but he can’t help it. Parks across the street where he can see the main entrance.

Alone in his car he closes his eyes and wonders what he could have, should have, done different. Wonders what he can do to make this right. These things Jeff knows: A potential mate is not prey to be hunted down and taken. He is not and will never be Jeff’s property. If Jeff wants a partner, an equal, a heart-mate, life-mate, lover, he cannot force himself into this young man’s trust.

What he doesn’t know is what the hell to do about it.

The last two nights of the full moon, Jeff stays far from the kid and far from the stretch of abandoned land where they met. He doesn’t trust himself to be so close when the moon’s influence is strong in him, when instinct is closer to the surface than logic.

At night he takes a cab up near the Hollywood sign, walks the rest of the way on foot and changes in the shadows. He hunts and howls but the encircling city reminds him to stay away. Once, he thinks he hears an echo across the valley. A howl low and mournful. He tells himself it’s just some dog and that he cannot go pushing himself on his mate, even if it was the other wolf crying out his loneliness.

By day he sits in his hotel room, knowing he should call Gina and tell her what he’s found. He should call Julie too, see if there’s work, but he doesn’t trust himself with the physical fight of capturing a skip. Not with the level of frustration that twists in his chest and clenches along his shoulders.

On the third day he allows himself to return to the search. He follows the scent from the dingy apartment to another sad tenement, from there to a small grocery store and finally to a hole in the wall bar called Lucky’s.

The scent is strongest at the bar. Jeff doesn’t remember smelling alcohol in his mate’s sweat or blood, so his guess is that the kid works here. He parks the rental halfway down the block and downwind from the bar, just close enough that he can watch when the kid comes in to work.

Seeing him, whole and healthy and safe, Jeff lets out a sigh of relief. He waits a few more hours and the kid doesn’t come out again and Jeff figures his assumption that he works at the bar is probably right. Night falls and Jeff finally leaves his car.

It’s time to introduce himself.


=====================

Jensen dreams. Knows he’s dreaming by the moon-silvered misty edge to the world, the feeling of lightness in his body. He runs in this dream, skimming over the soft mossy ground of an ancient forest. Trees surround him. Huge trunks so wide that five men couldn’t encircle them in their joined arms.

He hears the other wolf before he sees it. Swift footfalls quiet in the surreal hush beneath the solid canopy of the trees. And there. A ghostly shape, flitting between the trees. He should be afraid but he turns towards it instead. Matching his pace to the other. Yipping as he tags shoulder to shoulder before dashing away again.

Jensen wakes with the afternoon sun shining through the blinds of the small window in his room. He lies awake for a moment as the dream fades and the weight of his body returns to him. The previous night’s agony is a soft dull ache and he stretches, testing for permanent damage or weakness. He thinks maybe he broke his back, getting hit by the car, but he can’t feel it now.

His nose wrinkles. He smells like another Were for the first time in years. He should be sick. He should be terrified. He wonders why he isn’t. He remembers the shame he’d felt when he’d woken up in Darryl’s trailer, or Hank’s or any of the others his Alpha had given him to for that heat cycle. His own smell lost in the harsh muskiness of theirs. This is nothing like that. The scent doesn’t overwhelm his. Jensen sniffs at his wrist. There’s a harmony there that he doesn’t understand.

His stomach growls and he’s suddenly aware of how much energy he spent healing. He’d planned on hunting on the first night of the full moon, not running for his life and nearly getting himself killed and there’s little in his mini-fridge. He finds part of a carton of eggs, cracks them one by one and swallows them raw, straight from the shell.

As he showers, he wonders if he should run again. If this Were is a threat. He’d touched Jensen like he wanted him, with something like wonder or hunger or both in his eyes and that makes Jensen nervous. Makes him want to run away and never stop. He’d touched Jensen, but he’d stopped when Jensen warned him off, let him run away when he could have taken him as easy as snapping the spine of some pampered dog.

Jensen gets dressed and tries to puzzle this out. To see if the unknown is worth giving up all he’s made here. To run from Christian and Nana and leave it all behind. He knows there were no Weres here before him. He’d spent weeks making sure of it. So who is this guy? Wanderer or a scout like Luther would have sent ahead to a new city. Will he bring more wolves behind him, and will they be as benevolent as this one was? And what about when he goes into heat? As much as he might need to be fucked then, he doesn’t want to be. And suddenly the three months until the next cycle seems much too soon.

He imagines walking away. Leaving L.A. Disappearing into the world again. Trying to find a home and friends. Risking the unknown as much that way as staying. Here he knows there’s one wolf. Out in the world he might run across a pack, or a pack might find him.

Three months until his cycle and he thinks he can wait until closer to then to decide. To see if this stranger is going to be a problem, if others are coming.

He hides for the rest of the nights of the full moon in an abandoned lot far from his usual patch of land. There’s no game to hunt and there’s a homeless couple camping in a little clearing in the middle. It sucks and he’s pissed off at being chased away from his territory, and pissed at himself for allowing it to happen. He growls at shadows and snaps at trees and howls his frustrations to the sky.

The next day is Friday and Christian needs him at work, so Jensen goes, even though he can’t shake the prickles along his neck, even though it feels like he’s being watched all the time.

Chris knows something’s up. Jensen can tell that from the moment Chris unlocks the front door before opening to let him in. “I’m okay,” he says before Christian can ask, and he gets to work, catching up on some of the cleaning and organizing that falls behind when Jensen isn’t there.

There’s a sense of building anticipation to the night. Like a storm cloud on the horizon, building before the first lightening strike.

He’s running a late-night load of garbage out to the dumpster and the wolf is sitting beside it, like some stray dog. Jensen freezes on the back step and two days of anger suddenly roar up in him and he drops the bag.

“No,” he says, and he’s gathering himself for the change, to fight, because this bastard is too close and Jensen’s the only thing between him and Jensen’s friend. “You stay the hell away from here, do you hear me?”

He expects the wolf to rise to the challenge. To growl and bristle and charge.

The wolf whines soft. Lowers himself until his belly is almost on the ground. Crawls towards Jensen with tail hung low and his head tipped to the side.

And that—Jensen doesn’t know what to do with that. “No,” he says again but it doesn’t have the steel behind it like it did the first time. “You can’t be here.” Jensen doesn’t want to beg, but he hears it in his own voice anyway, damn it.

The wolf whines again, ears back, every line of his body submissive, vulnerable. And damn the man for coming to Jensen like this, where he couldn’t explain himself, where Jensen couldn’t demand words from him. He just stays there, between Jensen and the dumpster.

“Fine!” Jensen finally hisses. “Just—there’s an all-night diner at Watt and Davis. I’ll meet you there at three, after I get off work. Okay?”

The wolf’s tail flips up in happy response and his ears prick forward. He turns and dashes off, disappearing into the night.

Jensen has two hours to wonder what the hell this wolf wants with him.


=======================

Jeff sits down at the back booth in the all-night diner half an hour before the omega agreed to meet him. It never hurts to be early for a negotiation meeting, and that’s what this feels like. He orders a coffee for now and tells the waitress that as soon as his companion gets here he wants two hamburgers each, with everything on the side including the buns.

He waits. Watching the door and the clock on his phone. He wonders if the kid will come on time, if he’ll come at all. He thinks back at the strength and determination he’d seen in the young man’s eyes as he stood between Jeff and the door to the bar, and thinks maybe “kid” was the wrong word all along. His mate may be young, but he’s no child. He’d been ready to fight, even giving up twenty pounds of muscle and years of experience, and Jeff respects the hell out of him for that. He’d have bared his throat anyway, in apology and reconciliation, but the recipient’s worthiness made it easy.

Three o’clock, and then three-ten pass by. At three-fifteen the diner’s door jingles open and he’s there, and Jeff’s time to think and plan is over. The man’s jaw is set hard and his eyes guarded as he walks back towards Jeff’s table. He knows in his gut he’ll only have one chance at this. One chance to avoid living out his life a lone bachelor.

Jeff watches as he stalks through the mostly-empty diner, sandy hair shiny in the fluorescent lights, green eyes sharp and bright. He’s classically handsome, with strong cheekbones and jaw, full lips and a tiny cleft in his chin.

“Hey,” Jeff says, hopeful and open, but he doesn’t stand, doesn’t offer his hand. Standing might be misinterpreted as a show of domination, and forcing a touch would be just as bad.

The other Were slides into the other side of the booth without a reply. Gathers himself and stares Jeff in the eye. Jeff’s expecting “What do you want,” what he gets instead is “You can’t go back there. Do you understand me?”

Jeff won’t fight his mate, certainly not on this. He turns his gaze towards the window and nods. “Yes, Alpha,” his voice low enough that nobody else in the diner could overhear.

“What did you call me?” There’s so much anger in the young man’s voice that for a second, Jeff thinks he miscalculated.

“Are there others of us here?” Jeff asks, and he shakes his head. “Then L.A. is your territory and your law where I can go inside of it.”

The young man opens his mouth to reply, but stops short when the waitress makes for their table, a tray covered with plates in one hand and a coffee pot in the other. Jeff can think of few times in his life he’s been so happy to have a conversation interrupted. She plunks down the plates and tops off Jeff’s coffee.

“You boys need anything else?” she asks.

Jeff says “I think we’re good,” and the young man shakes his head, and off she goes again.

Before it can get awkward again, Jeff cuts in, “Can we start over?” The kid chews at his lower lip and doesn’t interrupt, and Jeff takes that as permission to go on.

“I’m Jeff Morgan, out of Memphis. I want to introduce myself, and apologize for joining your hunt like I did.”

The man frowns. Looking so damn young and confused. “I’m Jensen,” he says, and the lack of last name stirs something worrisome in Jeff’s guts. Jensen looks down, giving ground for the first time in their acquaintance. “I’m Omega. You have to be able to tell that.”

“Jensen.” Just saying the name forces a smile to Jeff’s lips. “It’s nice to meet you.” He wants to ask what Jensen being an Omega has to do with it, but there’s too much else for one night. The need to care for his potential mate overwhelms him for a moment and he gestures to the meals. “Hey, let’s eat. You must be hungry after work, yeah?”

Seeing Jensen dig in goes a long way to easing Jeff’s tension; he just wishes Jensen would calm as well. The kid eats like he expects it to be taken away, shoulders hunched and his fork held in a tight fist.

“I’d like your permission to stay here for a while in L.A.” Jeff says when the burgers are almost gone.

Jensen looks up at him through his lashes. “What if I say no?” And Jeff knew it was a possibility. He is ready for this.

“I’ll come back after every full moon and renew my request.” His voice is gentle but firm. He can’t force himself into Jensen’s life, but he can’t allow himself to be shut out forever either. To be so close only to go home alone.

A muscle jumps in Jensen’s jaw as he clenches his teeth. “What the hell do you want here?” The words are gritted out and Jeff can hear the frustration grating to the surface.

Jeff swallows hard. This is the question he was dreading. He can’t lie, but he sure as hell can’t say he’s looking for a mate either. Just a hunch, that might not work so well for him.

“Lost cub outreach,” he says instead. Still enough of the truth that it could scare Jensen off.

Color rises in the kid’s cheeks. “I’m not a cub,” he protests. “Not for a while now.”

Jeff shrugs. Not like he has much of an answer for that.

“I can’t stop you,” Jensen replies and it isn’t quite permission, but Jeff will take it that way. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough. Like buying an informant, there are times to plant a seed and then leave it to grow, and Jeff wants to quit while he’s ahead.

He lays cash on the table for dinner and tip, and slides one of his business cards over until it’s closer to Jensen than himself.

“I’m not going to crowd you, or make you do anything or go anywhere you don’t want to, but I’ll be here tomorrow,” Jeff promises. “Three AM, and every day after that until the night before the next full moon.” His fingers itch to clasp Jensen on the shoulder or take his hand. “I’ll be here to listen or to talk. Whatever you want to know. Whatever you need. And dinner, my treat.”

It’s the most difficult act of Jeff’s life. To roll his dice and let them fall as they may. He stands. Nods to their waitress. Glances once more at Jensen. And then he leaves.



==========================
==========================
==========================

The plan:

This is another one where the ideas fell off suddenly. Vague ideas I had:

Jensen's curiosity gets the best of him and he has to come back. Keeps expecting Jeff to make a move, to grab him or try to take him, to track him home and break in, but he never does. Jeff keeps feeding Jensen, keeps talking about his pack back home, keeps respecting Jensen as the Alpha of this region. Offers him Misha's number (the other Omega that Jeff knows).

Jensen goes into heat, and Jeff parks himself outside of Jensen's door to guard him, even as he hears, knows, what's going on inside. Jensen doesn't call for him, and even if he did, Jeff wouldn't go in.

Chris and Jeff conflict, Chris protective, Jeff accepts the shovel talk, 'when Jensen asks me to leave him alone, I will.' Chris finds out what Jensen is?

Conflict with the villian, Jeff offers to act as Jensen's beta and take care of it. Jensen asks for training instead. Maybe Jeff threatens V before hand, "If you win this, I'll kill you," but Jensen wins fair and square (or maybe with dirty fighting, but 'dirty' isn't really a concept that applies to werewolf fights).

Jeff's Alphas inviting Jensen to visit their territory.

Jensen goes and sees that the promises of 'how it can be' that Jeff tells aren't lies. Ends up going back to L.A., to Chris and Nana and the home he's made. Asks Jeff to be his mate?


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