SPOILERS: 1.7 and onward, quotes are all from ‘Edward’
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters belong to me, sadly. They are owned by people with a lot more money
Author’s Voice of Warning (aka Author’s Standard Note):
English is not my first language; it’s German. I've been writing for fandom for fifteen years in that language, longer in my native language. Any mistakes you find in here, collect them and you might win a prize The spell-checker said everything's okay, but you know how trustworthy those thingies are....
SUMMARY: "He had to talk to Magnus. She needed to help him. More pills. Stronger ones. Maybe injections. Maybe just knock him out and put him into a cage. Maybe a more permanent, radical solution." Yes, Henry has a problem...
“…catching up on some research that’s long overdo on my bad self. I never wanted to know any of this. I thought if I ignored it, it would just go away.”
Werewolves, by nature, were loners until they found a mate. The young males in particular roamed around, looking, seeking, testing their strengths and weaknesses. Finding a mate wasn’t a primal instinct. Finding a pack wasn’t a necessity either. Packs provided safety, but they were also a danger to those unmated. The unmated were seen as dangerous to the young and their power struggles against other unmated males was dangerous for everyone. So they stayed away. Wolves, like other Were, were perfectly able to live normal lives even without a partner or a mate.
Henry’s life had been far from normal.
Taken in by Helen Magnus who he had come to accept as a strong alpha he would follow, he had been given a deeper insight into his abnormality than most of his kind. He understood his nature. At least he had thought so until the flu symptoms and fever had started, until the changes had begun.
Earlier than that, right throughout his childhood and teenage years, Magnus had helped him understand what he was, how he was different from others – Abnormals and humans alike – and that to control his other nature, he had to get help. Since he couldn’t control himself, pills did it for him. It had been his choice back then as a pubescent teenager.
He had hit puberty unlike other boys his age. Pimples and acne and changing voices, weird morning experiences in bed and wet dreams were one thing – suddenly changing into a raving creature that was all instinct and no control was another. He had woken in one of the holding cells, frightened and out of his mind, and begging Magnus to not let it happen again.
Medication had suppressed the involuntary changes and while Helen had theorized that it should be possible for him to be conscious and in control, Henry had never taken her up on the offer to run trials. The monster in him had surfaced only once and it had been a terrifying experience as his awake mind was pushed back by a powerful creature, by the wolf, by the fierce instinct. Everything had been different, sight, sound and smell, even the sensory perception of what he touched. He had been scared shitless of what he had become and while nothing had happened, he had sworn never to let it come out again.
But as things went, never say never was rather fitting.
Sitting in his room, staring at nothing, Henry wondered why now. Why had his abilities changed? Why had the wolf overcome the medication? Why had he entered this new metamorphic change? Protein chains and all the medical talk aside, why now?
The books had been as helpful as one of those stupid horror novels. Well, most of them. He wondered why Magnus kept the more fantastic recollections and didn’t just throw them out. Then again, maybe a kernel of truth was in all of them. You never knew when nature dealt you an Abnormal that was stranger than its peers.
The really old tombs had provided him with fragments that made sense when applied to the situation, but he really didn’t want to give them a lot of thought because… they frightened him. Many so-called experts had observed and written about lycanthropes, or lycans for short. There were huge sections in many books about them and it made Henry glad that Helen had taken him in. Just reading about their wild nature, about their unpredictable behavior, had him feel sick.
Lycans weren’t primitive. Some just chose to be, going back to their roots, so to speak. They lived out in the moors and swamps, or in the mountains and even deserts, running wild even as humans. Clad in bare necessities, feeding off their kills, no more than animals in human guise. Their changes weren’t influenced by the full moon. That was a human legend. The changes were voluntary and started with puberty. After that it was up to the young to decide: be human or be wolf on the outside.
Henry had always preferred to be human. He preferred to be learned, to know stuff, to be of value. He loved computers and technology. He loved the internet. The wolf side was just a bother and he didn’t need it. Magnus had tried to teach him that he should be proud of his heritage, that even those in the moors weren’t primitives. They were a proud race. They were a culture. They were people like anyone else.
Henry only saw the uncontrollable creature that lurked inside him. He didn’t need it. He wasn’t proud of it. He lived just fine without it, within his pack made up of so many different creatures.
Werewolves joined packs out of two reasons: protection against a stronger enemy or to raise their young. He had been born into a pack and raised among his kind. He had known pack rules and like all young, he remembered them clearly. The moor pack had been vicious, wild and running on their primal needs. All were wolves, even the females nursing young. All young were human and grew up knowing lycans as they were right from the start.
Until another pack had claimed their hunting ground.
Henry remembered little, but what he did recall was blood and screams and bodies. He had run away with his equally young pack mates, hiding in the moors, waiting for his mother to find him. She had never come. Instead the rival pack had looked for survivors, especially young, and killed them off to claim their territory. Henry had run and run, hiding deeper and deeper in the moors, hungry and alone.
It was how Magnus had found him.
Helen had told him his mother had died for him. She had seen the bodies of his pack, and there had been this incredible sadness in her eyes. She had offered to take him with her. Henry, the frightened child he had been, had accepted.
Helen was now his alpha. The alpha was the leader. The alpha’s mate and her young were to be protected. The pack was family and never to be betrayed or abandoned unless the young male reached the age of maturity. Then instinct and pack rules had them leave.
So when a young Henry met Ashley, a baby of four months, he adopted her as a pack sister. While he learned about human family structures, he couldn’t shake off what his pack had taught him. It became a mixture in his head. Ashley grew up to be just as strong and independent as Helen. She didn’t need his protection, but Henry helped in his own way, the geeky way. Everything had fallen into place, perfect and safe. He had a place.
His fingers ran over the cracked leather cover of a book he had taken with him to his room. It was the book that had made the most sense and had frightened him twice as much as anything he had ever seen in his time at the Sanctuary.
It was about him.
About wolves. Lycanthropes.
About the evolution of the young male when…
Henry screwed his eyes shut and let air hiss out of his lungs between his teeth.
Despite the medication, he had changed. Despite the fact that he was mature and settled in his abilities.
Yeah, right. Settled. Mature. What a joke! He laughed brokenly and looked at the old book again.
He had gone about events chronologically and each connection between what had happened to him and their new team mate had frightened him more and more. Will’s closeness had brought on the flu-like symptoms. Will’s insistence to know what was wrong with Henry had kept him near the suffering man. And when Henry had lain in bed, feverish, cursing the bug that had made him sick, he had sat there asking questions. If Henry had had at least two functional braincells left at the time he would have made the obvious connection himself.
Right now he hated and cursed himself for it. The whole matter might have been avoided. Might… just might… Hell, one could wish.
Wolves were monogamous. Most Were-creatures were, which made it so easy to decimate the populations. They didn’t breed like bunnies. Their young didn’t grow as fast as normal wolves. It was the human factor involved. And when they found their mate, the last growth cycle set in.
Henry felt something inside of him constrict, while another part rumbled at the fact that this had now happened to him.
His to protect.
“Gawd,” he groaned and shook his head, book clutched to his chest.
Nothing had ever mentioned wolves being bisexual or even homosexual. It ran against the species’ need to survive. Then again, humans were all kinds of sexual and the wolves were abnormal humans. So that made Henry… an abnormal Abnormal.
Great. Fucking great!
All his instincts screamed to go and confront Will Zimmerman. The very same instincts that had overpowered the medication, had taken control, had pushed the giant snake – danger, hunt, kill, protect, protect! -- out of the window and saved the one he had chosen.
He had exposed his secret to Will at that very moment, but it had never been so liberating, so fulfilling, to show what he was. Naked, barely conscious, in pain, slashed open from the snake… he had still been subconsciously aware of Will at that very moment. Freshly transformed, his senses overloading with the scent, he had taken an incredible measure of comfort from Will’s presence.
The other man had been shocked, but more by the revelation than by what Henry truly was. He didn’t look scared shitless or reeked of fear. He was just… amazed.
“I’m screwed, I’m screwed, I’m screwed,” Foss whispered.
The wolf in him begged to differ. It wanted to seek out Will, wanted to be near, wanted to… court and prowl and prove it was worthy of the young male. There was no hesitation on its part, no doubt. It didn’t see the same gender, a male, it saw the mate and partner. Henry knew he was about to make a fool out of himself in the days to come. Instincts were hard to control and these had broken through the chemical haze that had served him so well in the past years.
He had to talk to Magnus. She needed to help him. More pills. Stronger ones. Maybe injections. Maybe just knock him out and put him into a cage. Maybe a more permanent, radical solution.
Henry groaned softly.
How could he work with Will when the very thought had him want to…? He shut down on that immediately.
He could do this. He could. He had survived so far and he would survive this – one way or another.
“It’s not a disease, Henry.”
Helen didn’t have to ask if Henry was sure. There was no doubt about it. Instincts never lied and what had happened was proof enough. The fact that the young man had decided against the surgery was another small fact that only strengthened his fears.
“You need to tell him, Henry,” she said calmly.
“And then what? Watch him run screaming? No way! You need him here. If he leaves…”
“He won’t leave.”
“Having a love-sick monster drooling all over you would make me run,” Henry muttered.
Helen smiled. “He won’t. You’re not a monster, Henry. You don’t even know if he might return the feelings.”
Henry stared at his alpha in shock. “No way! Will? He’s not the kind. And I would have seen it, smelled it…”
“Your abilities changed abruptly and before the medication took care of the abnormality,” Magnus reminded him. “Since the attack you were in your room. You don’t know what he might feel, Henry.”
“And you do?” he challenged. “Sorry, Magnus, but you’re not a wolf.”
“You don’t need to be one to see subtle signs. Talk with him. Let him know.”
“And watch the disgust?”
Subtle signs? What subtle signs?!
“You think Will would be disgusted?”
He sighed. He didn’t think a lot of good stuff lately. All the horrors came back and with the experience of the years here, seeing how Abnormals were treated and viewed, he had erected that wall and was hiding behind it.
“Dunno,” Henry muttered.
“Will has seen a lot and he has helped many, whatever they looked like. Look at how much time he spends with the patients, Henry. Watch him work. Witness what he does. He doesn’t see them differently. He won’t push you away, even if he doesn’t return your feelings.”
“The wolf’s,” Henry corrected automatically.
“You are the wolf,” Helen pointed out in turn. “You’re not two separate entities. What you feel, it feels, and vice versa.”
“If he doesn’t have those feelings…”
“You will deal with it when you know,” she finished.
Another sigh. Henry fidgeted. He didn’t want to deal with it, especially a rejection. Henry Foss was really bad with rejections. Childhood trauma, he told himself. Whatever worked. He wanted this to be forgotten, to be buried, and if medication helped, he would take it. It was just that Helen didn’t look like she would dose him up and leave him with deadened senses.
“Talk to him, Henry,” she said again, compassion in her voice.
He hated the compassion. It made him feel good and right now he didn’t want that. He wanted it over, dealt with, and shoved into a handy drawer in his mind, in his screwed up, abnormal mind.
The problem was, in the Sanctuary it wouldn’t happen. He was Magnus’ patient in that regard. She would help him, even if he didn’t want the confrontation and the emotional rejection.
Helen’s eyes pinned him down, ancient and filled with the things she had already seen. “Talk and listen, Henry. Will isn’t all that he shows to the outside.”
He almost snorted. Who was anyway? And Magnus knew about her new protégé. She had watched him ever since his abduction by a creature. She knew his favorite food, his preferred color, his shoe size, probably when he had had his first kiss, about his grades in school, about his taste in books and music. So why not his sexual preferences?
“’Kay,” he heard himself agree.
Just to get her to leave it alone, leave him alone.
Helen nodded and did just that; she left. Henry remained behind, plagued by the knowledge of what had happened, what he had to do, and the fear of what could come of it.
the way the kid looked at me and if he can see it, it’s not far from surfacing
again. I want this thing gone.”
The idea with the surgery had been a bad one. Really bad. Henry knew that now. His abilities were useful and he really didn’t want to end up a drooling vegetable if things went wrong. Or forget who he was, who the others were, or have to relearn to speak and walk and even pee.
No, it had been a dreadful idea.
Everyone had told him that and it had finally settled in his mind to believe them.
But now he was back to square one. He was still a lycan, he was still pining after Will, and Will was still oblivious to it all. Magnus had come up with a better pill and while it screwed with his lycan senses, it also kept the need in check.
That Will was spending time away from the Sanctuary helped Henry gain some control over his emotions. He had had only brief contact now and then with the Nautilus, and then it had been fun and banter and quips and trying not to let his pining get the better of him. He hated himself for this weakness, for the cheap way of dealing with the changes. Magnus hadn’t said a word, hadn’t tried to talk to him again, but the expression in her eyes was enough to have Henry curse himself again and again.
Wimp! Idiot! Weakling!
That both came back worse for wear, almost killed by some freaky parasite, didn’t help, though. Not at all. The wolf was clawing at its enforced cage, demanding to check on Will himself, make sure he was only a little banged up and not half dead.
Ashley was casting him curious looks, coupled with thoughtful frowns, and Bigfoot simply knew. His looks had been more to the point, almost like he was just one step away from manhandling Henry into a room with Will and locking the door.
Might be the quickest and dirtiest solution, he thought morosely. And then he could watch a friendship crumble.
But what if Magnus’ hints to Will’s possible acceptance were right? What if Will was bisexual? What if there were feelings?
He hadn’t smelled anything on him. Then again, he had tried to keep away from the potential mate, buried in his lab or room. And Will had been on the submarine.
Henry had reached the end of his emotional rope by the time Will received that fateful call from his friend Danny’s wife. He was avoiding the other man like the plague, trying to not make it look like he did. He slept badly, the wolf was surfacing again and again, and the dreams were getting worse. Wet dreams. Very primal wet dreams.
Geeezus! Get a grip! I’m not an animal in heat! I’m human! Human!
But Will was everywhere.
Yeah, okay, so he lived here, but he was still everywhere! It drove Henry crazy. Zimmerman had no idea what was going on inside the other man and on the few occasions they spent more than a minute in the same room he didn’t treat him any differently than before – which made matters even worse.
The wolf was prowling, watching, keeping tabs on his potential mate. The wolf also picked up on the small things. A smile, a look, a gesture, a smell. Especially the smell. His nose might not be as good as that of an uninhibited werewolf, one that didn’t take the dampening medication – and Henry still took it obsessively – but he had started to pick up on things. Things exclusively Will.
It was frightening and confusing and embarrassing the way he stalked him with his olfactory senses. When Henry caught himself sinking into an armchair in the library that Will had sat in this morning, reveling in the faint scent of the other man, he knew matters were spiraling out of control faster than he had believed possible.
Helen continued to give him encouraging looks and smiles, but he didn’t act. He couldn’t. The wolf kept pushing against the chemical inhibitor, growling at him, wanting him to act. He couldn’t. And the Big Guy and Ashley had by now started to pick up on the no longer subtle changes in the team dynamics.
Henry raked a hand through his already tousled hair. He had sought refuge in his lab, with his computers, and aside from Bigfoot bringing him food, no one had disturbed him all day. Privacy was a big thing and the Sanctuary was enormous enough to assure him that. Sure, he was in his usual place, but the others respected it.
He wanted to slam his head onto the table.
Everyone but Will. Damn the man! And he hadn’t even heard him coming.
“Hey Will,” he greeted him in what he hoped was his usual manner.
From the mild frown on the other’s features he was failing miserably. Must be the psychoanalyst in Zimmerman. The guy picked up way too much that others didn’t want him to know. Sometimes Henry wondered if Will wasn’t an Abnormal, too. He had scary observation abilities. He was brilliant in his very own way and Henry liked being around him, felt comfortable – had so from day one.
His lycan side almost purred. Wolves never purred! If he was sliding into schizophrenia now, great! Just what he needed. Having conversations in his head with the creature inside him that was pushing them toward Will, drawn to the other man because of some stupid genetic defect that had Henry want to… mate. Not just sex. Sex was okay. No, this was more serious. This was it in a big way.
“You finally been released?” Henry continued, ignoring the emotional uproar inside him, smiling through the fear of what had brought on this visit.
Will rubbed a hand over his neck and winced immediately. The scar was still sore and the wound had been rather deep. Henry had kept himself up to date on his potential mate’s condition and he knew all the gory stuff.
“Yeah. Magnus finally deigned me healthy enough. Last treatment was yesterday.”
The injections had reversed the abnormality and turned Will back to his human self. Henry had seen what the bug had made of him and it had been frightening. The other Abnormals knew at least what they had been born with. Being forced into it… Henry wanted to kill whoever was behind it.
Protect his mate.
Keep him from harm.
He fought the instinct to rise and inspect the scar, make sure everything was okay. Instead he forced the smile back on his face.
“So what brings you down here into my den?”
Now Will fidgeted a little. “I wanted to say thank you. For stopping me.”
Henry shrugged. “Hey, all part of the job description.”
“It wasn’t,” was the quiet reply. “I could have killed you.”
Of course he could have. Will, the Will who had looked nothing like the man now standing before him, had been strong and primal and fearsome. Henry had been afraid for his life, but another part had howled at him to stop his mate from doing any more damage. The wolf hadn’t forced its way out, but Henry had been very much aware of the possibility… that he could release it with enough fear and adrenaline and willpower. Instead he had fought to get through to the human part in Will, calm him down, make him understand who and where he was. The plea for help had touched something deep inside him, had had the wolf whine and whimper in sympathy, and another part had been ready to rip those responsible to pieces.
In the end he had stayed with his potential mate. Mutated beyond what Henry had ever thought possible, a terrible fighting machine with killer instincts, who had been unable to let go. Henry had stayed with Will for the whole time, touching, calming, talking to him. Those large, strong hands had held on to him, gentle and without harming him.
Until they had been down in the labs and the surgery had begun. Even then, Henry had been present, looking into the black eyes, looking into the deformed face, talking softly. He had no idea what he had said, but it had calmed the creature down. And it had calmed him in turn.
“You didn’t kill me,” Henry now said.
“No.” Will looked at him with a strange expression in his eyes. “I didn’t.”
“For which I’m very grateful,” Henry joked, unnerved by the look. “Would have sucked.”
Will gave him a brief smile.
“Hey, that wasn’t you,” Foss added. “I know that. No hard feelings and all.”
“It was me. We all have the violence within us. The bug let it out.”
And I got a wolf inside me, pal.
“Why didn’t you just stun me?”
Henry blinked. Good question. At the time he hadn’t given the idea even a thought. He had just acted.
“No clue. Jumping you seemed the better option.”
And the more stupid one, too.
Will chuckled a little. “Idiotic, too.”
At least we agree on that. Even the wolf seemed to grumble that. Lycans tended to fight until the weaker part surrendered. Henry hadn’t been the stronger one in their confrontation; he had been the weaker fighter. He could have died. But he didn’t see himself as a wolf and had simply tried to get Will to stop fighting.
“Hey, it worked. There was enough of you in there to stop yourself.”
“From hurting you.”
Henry felt his hairs rise at the soft tone. He looked into the now again very much human eyes, unable to say anything.
“Henry… when I realized it was you… This thing inside me… it wanted to…” Will stopped, looking torn.
“Kill me?” he hazarded a guess. Because that’s what it had felt when the lycan in him had attacked the snake. Kill the enemy. Tear it apart.
“I… no… If it was something that’s always inside me, if the bug let it out…I’m not sure Magnus or Ashley could have stopped me,” Will finally blurted.
He was making less and less sense. Henry opened his mouth to say something, then his brain finally caught up with his ears and he blinked.
“Not without a stun gun anyway,” Will added.
Henry stared at the other man. “What?” he managed.
“When I realized it was you, when I saw you on the ground, when you touched me, there was another instinct.” Will’s speech was faster than normal, words blurring into another. “And if not for the pain and the adrenaline and the bug that told me to kill… I remember the feeling, Henry. And I remember seeing something else. I saw you. The real you. I saw the wolf. And…” He breathed hard. “I wanted you to be there. I wanted you to stop me. I wanted you to stay and… God, this is all so messed up and I shouldn’t be saying this. I’m the one who’s supposed to know about emotional responses and control and I should…”
Henry was on his feet now and he grabbed Will in the same manner he had in that warehouse. He forced the man to look at him. Will’s eyes were dilated and he looked… afraid. Of himself.
“Will,” he intoned softly. “You’re only human. What happened…”
“I know what happened.” Zimmerman was breathing hard, trembling a little even, but he wasn’t trying to force Henry to let go. “I know what I felt.”
“The bug enhances what’s inside humans. Violence. Killer instinct. Destroying what threatens us,” Will went on, hands clenching into Henry’s shoulders. “And it lowers all the necessary barriers, all the inhibitions. So what I felt was real, Henry. It was part of me, still is.”
He swallowed hard.
“You still have the violence?” Henry prompted, his stomach feeling strange and unsettled. He was trying to make sense of all of this and the more he interpreted, the queasier he felt.
“No. Yes. Not the violence of the fight.” Will shook his head, sounding desperate. “The treatments purged me of the abnormality, and what it had done to me, but my original feelings are still there. I wanted to kill Danny because he was my opponent… and I wanted to protect you, wanted you to help me, never to leave,” Will breathed, panic rising again. “I needed you…”
He looked vulnerable, defenseless, not at all like the forensic psychiatrist Henry knew. Zimmerman was out of his depths at the moment, rattled by the events in the last days, and his near-miss.
Henry’s stomach did flip-flops and the wolf pricked its ears, rumbling.
“When you touched me, it was like a lifeline, like cold water and safety and my best gift all together,” Will went on. “And I shouldn’t tell you, but I need you to know. Because it’s still inside, not controlled by the bug, and it’s stronger than before. The barriers are down and I can’t…” He drew a shuddering breath, sounding terrified and desperate. “I can’t keep it locked away any more. It’s too strong. I should… I should be able to… I was trained… I might do something rash and I want you to understand where it’s coming from, and that I’m already sorry, whatever I might say or do… I’m myself, I know, but I can’t… It’s like trying to censor myself. The whole hormonal mess… and then there’s you, everywhere, and it’s so damn hard. Harder than the first time, harder than the last months…”
Henry cupped Will’s face, unconsciously stroking his thumbs over the smooth cheeks. Freshly shaven, still smelling of aftershave.
“I need you, too,” he said softly, breaking through the haze of panic within the other man.
Henry plowed on, risking it all, opening up. “I thought you were cute from day one. Chemical barriers and all left me blind when it came to my senses, but the instinct was there. And I don’t need my abnormality to realize you’re a really handsome guy. You didn’t need me running after you, tongue out and ogling your ass. You didn’t need some freak on your tail. I can control those urges, I didn’t make a fool out of myself… I’m human and humans can hide their feelings. We’re not a pair of randy teenagers.” Henry gave him a brief, weak grin. “Until the snake.”
“The snake?” Will managed, transfixed.
“It was a threat against you. I had to save you. You, Will. It was all because of you. Part of me… the abnormal part… recognized you, and it initiated the final change. Not the transformation, but the whole hormonal crap involved.”
“What am I?” Will asked, eyes wide.
Henry hesitated. Will’s focus was suddenly shifting toward him, drawing itself out his misery, and alert.
“Part of my pack,” he said softly.
And more. So much more.
It all made so much sense now. The wolf hadn’t chosen the unavailable. Subconsciously Henry had picked up on Will’s signals, his interest, even though the other man had tried not to be so obvious.
Those alert eyes were now sharp and reminding Henry of the few times he had Will seen work his magic, had seen him put clues together.
“Part of the pack,” Zimmerman repeated.
“But you’re not the alpha.”
“No. Magnus is. Wouldn’t want to fight her over that position.” Henry grinned, trying to move the conversation back into safe waters.
“She has no beta.”
“Not my position either.”
They were still touching, Will still holding onto him like a lifeline.
“Who is yours?” he suddenly asked, catching Henry completely off guard.
“I read about lycans. After… you saved me. Who is your mate?”
“Unmated males never join packs.”
“We’re talking humans here, Will,” Henry said quickly. “I’m the only lycan around.”
“Your changes…” Will leaned closer, or maybe Henry was meeting him halfway. The wolf expressed its pleasure at the closeness. “You said I’m cute.”
“I know what I felt when I was that thing, without inhibitions, Henry. And it frightened me. Because I didn’t know if you felt the same. I didn’t just want to fight. I would have killed anyone coming close to us in that moment, yeah, but I also wanted to…” Will broke off, flushing.
Henry felt his brain malfunction. “Will?”
“When you touched me, I was drawn between finishing off Danny, who I perceived as a threat, and following whatever you said. They demanded a kill of me, but you were more important. I needed you, Henry.”
Henry remembered that moment. Will looming over him, all muscle and primal instinct and raw power. He could still see those distorted features, those bared teeth, and he recalled how Will had wanted to turn back to kill his opponent, but had turned desperately to Henry.
“The bug…” Henry heard himself say.
“Only enhanced what was already inside. Violence, killer instinct… emotions,” the other told him again.
Neither man was saying it and Henry knew it was a cheap way out, but he was too scared to read too much into this.
“You said I’m cute,” Will repeated softly, suddenly smiling.
“And I read the books, too. I know what triggers change, even in medicated lycanthropes. I talked to Magnus. She confirmed it.”
Henry tore away, panic rising. Magnus had told him?!
“I asked. I needed to know.”
The panic clashed with the wolf that was growling to stop being such a wimp and take what was offered.
“Henry, I feel the same. I told you.” In a messed-up, panicky sort of way. “And I don’t care about you being an Abnormal.”
“That’s not it!” Henry hissed, feeling the instinct to claim what was his bubble closer to the surface, now that it was offered so freely. “You have no idea what this means!”
“From books?” He knew he sounded hysterical.
“Where do you get your own information from?” Will challenged.
He clenched his hands into fists. “I know what’s inside me, Will. I know what it wants!”
It was a simple statement that held so much truth.
“This isn’t just a fling,” Henry pleaded. “This isn’t for a good time, don’t you understand?”
Henry groaned. “No…”
And then Will was in his face, crowding his personal space in a major way. Forget personal space, there was no room left between them! The wolf howled to take what was his, to act and claim, but Henry fought. He fought against it all. Will didn’t help, though.
“I know what I want, Henry.”
“You don’t… understand. This is… mating.”
“Henry, I know.”
“We’re both male…”
“Know that, too.”
“Pairs with two dominants… don’t work,” Henry breathed.
Will smiled. “We’ll figure it out.”
The wolf was dominant because of its power. Will could be a dominant human; control was part of his job. Getting together… it would be more of a fight than whatever else… Neither was an alpha, but both weren’t pure betas either.
Henry felt his breath catch in his throat at the image of what those fights might be like, what pleasures could be derived from making Will his. There was no doubt in his mind who would top who. And the challenge that Will Zimmerman presented was an intoxicating thought.
From Will’s expression he knew his eyes were changing. Yellow and canine.
Their mouths collided in a kiss that was far from gentle. It was possessive and spiraling out of control, like the whole encounter.
Not so fast.
Henry’s brain was melting with the heady smell of aroused Will, of the wolf’s insistence to let this run its course, and he groaned as hands stroked over his bare skin.
“I know what it means,” Will whispered harshly into one ear, sounding breathless.
All? Henry wanted to ask. Do you know all?
Probably. It was in the books. Especially the first claiming. It would be hard and fast and pure instinct and raw sex combined with the power struggle.
The wolf snarled at him to finally get with the program.
His inhibitions went out of the window fast when Will gently bit his neck. He grabbed his future mate and pushed him against the wall, growling, pinning Will’s hands against the concrete. He took in the scent, nostrils flaring, and he knew there was no hesitation, no fear, no second thoughts. Here was a ready offer, and he would take it.
The next thing he knew, Will had pushed him against the wall rack in turn, the contents clattering dangerously around, and his mouth was thoroughly ravaged by the other man. Henry curled his fingers into the waistband of his future mate’s pants, drawing him closer, his tongue battling against Will's for dominance. His whole body was high strung, on the verge of overpowering the scientist, showing him what he was dealing with – what he was about to let loose. It was a primitive need, something from very deep inside him, something that targeted Will Zimmerman as its victim, its prey, while also recognizing it as a fellow hunter and dominant. It was confusing and simple in one.
They separated, breathing hard, eyes wild and dilated. A flush covered Will’s skin and his hair looked unruly. He had never looked more desirable and a longing rose with the desire, a longing so primal it shut out everything else. Their bodies were pressed together and Henry’s hands were splayed over Will’s tight buttocks. Something seemed to fizz through him, sizzle along his nerves, settling way down south.
The wolf growled demandingly, wanting to be lose, to get what it needed.
Henry drew the other into a searing kiss that grew more demanding with every second. He was acutely aware of Will's body against his, so perfect, so familiar, but still very new and exciting. His desire rose several notches and a small part in him told Henry to get a room before he completely lost it.
Good idea. Great, actually.
Thoughts collided with each other, tumbling around in his head.
They were still kissing, clawing at each other, then suddenly Will tilted his head back and the wolf howled in triumph at the simple gesture of surrender. Henry felt rational thought blend into the background, instinct taking over, and the wolf was free. Raw need merged with primal power to mate.
He thought he heard Will cry out with the same need, then he was drowned out by his abnormal side.
sleep. Smells are out of control. Food tastes terrible...”
Henry woke to the feeling of safety, warmth and completion. In that order. He looked around the room and found that they were on the floor, on top of what had to be an old mattress, in one of the storage facilities around his work space. How he had made it here with Will was anyone’s guess. After Will’s surrender to the wolf, things were a blur. A very pleasant blur.
Henry felt himself smile, snuggling closer to the warm body next to him, completely aware of who it was. The smell was unmistakable.
The wolf was satisfied and docile, rumbling softly as Henry ran a gentle caress over the naked form and admiring his mate. His eyes fell on the obvious signs of the claiming, but there was no rush rising inside him to apologize. Nor was there regret.
Will moved and blinked his eyes open. He didn’t look panicky or like he had no idea where he was. If at all, he appeared just as lazy and relaxed as Henry felt. A slow smile spread over his features.
“Hey,” he whispered.
“Hey,” Henry replied.
Memories of the claiming were hazy. He recalled raw need and arousal, mixed with the knowledge that Will was his, topped by the sensation of making him his. By the way his mate moved, he still felt the remnants of that fact.
He smelled no blood, except the faint traces of where the wolf had bitten down. Not hard, not deep, but it had broken the skin. The thing, the wolf, had come to the surface, but without physical changes. He had been lycan at that moment, but not in shape or form. His mind had been the wolf’s, the body that of a man.
He had had control. Control enough not to hurt Will, not to maim him, leave permanent marks, terrify him with his true form.
“Yeah. I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
Henry let a hand glide over the smooth, hairless chest, over the still reddish nipples, then leaned over and kissed the abused area on one shoulder. The bite mark was unmistakable.
“Should check it,” he murmured. “Prevent infection.”
“You want me to go to Magnus with that?” Will exclaimed.
Henry grinned. “She’s our doctor.”
“I’m all for the medical checks, but this means we have to tell her…uhm…”
The blush was endearing and had the lycan grin. “She knows.”
Will blinked, then sighed. “Yeah. She knows.”
Henry kissed him, gently at first, testing the waters, then with more demand. Will’s fingers carded into his spiky hair, holding him in place as he answered the kiss just as fiercely.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Will murmured when they parted. “But I doubt I’d get it up again. And I’m really sore.”
Henry laughed. “I’m not some kind of sex monster, Will.”
“Who knows?” was the playful answer. “Mating habits of the lycans are vastly unexplored.”
He nipped at the lower lip and grinned, snaking one hand to caress Will’s buttocks. Part of him wondered how often he had claimed his mate. From Will’s reaction, the sudden widening of his pupils as Henry let an explorative finger slide into the still slippery cleft, followed by a whimper, it had been several times. But that sound hadn’t been painful, more like slight stimulation… Either the wolf gave off pheromones and Will was reacting – he might have to look into the books again – or Zimmerman had a tendency for hard sex.
Henry fought to get his brain out of the gutter and back on track. It wasn’t the time to talk kinks.
“I think we’ll have to think of something else for the next time,” he murmured, removing his hand.
The wolf agreed. While sinking into its mate was heaven, it would never voluntarily hurt Will.
“As long as the next time isn’t right now,” Will remarked.
Henry kissed him again, running calming hands over the lean sides, reveling in the feel and taste of his mate.
“No, not now. Now I want to get somewhere else.” His room. His territory. “And shower.”
Will sat up with another wince and looked around for his clothes, which were strewn all over the place. Henry couldn’t take his eyes off the other man as they dressed. There were bruises forming where Henry had gripped him hard, like the hips and also faintly around his wrists. There was the larger bite mark, surrounded by smaller, reddish marks, and the smell. All his. Will smelled of him.
Will chuckled. “Possessive much?” he teased.
It got him a shrug. “Wolf instinct.”
They left, looking rumpled and clearly like they had had very hot sex. Luckily not many of the Sanctuary residents were around and they made it more or less quickly into Henry’s room. Henry felt his nerves calm down when the door closed, and he ran a brief eye over Will, making sure his mate was still there.
Wolf instincts indeed. The first few hours after claiming the mate were filled with anxiety and aggression toward potential rivals for a Were, and the longer they were together now, uninterrupted, the calmer the wolf became. It had all been in the books and while it was theory, Henry now knew it was also true. Whoever those people had been who had observed lycan mating and claiming, they had been rather brave. Who in their right minds would spend time among primal creatures, watch them go at it, and write it all down?
Scientists were a single-minded bunch, he knew. They needed bodyguards and baby-sitters.
Luckily for him, the authors had survived the expedition and brought back important facts.
“We should tell Magnus as soon as possible,” Will interrupted his thoughts. “What happened. We need some time, Henry. Both of us.”
He nodded automatically. The very thought of letting anyone close right now was unbearable, though.
“Shower first,” Will added. “Then we talk to her. She knows and she understands.”
Another nod. He knew that. Magnus would understand completely, but the very fact that he would have to share his mate right now had Henry bristling. The beta in him acknowledged the alpha’s superiority and her decisions. Should something come up and she had to take Will away, he would bow to that. Everyone else would have to just be careful for the next twenty-four hours or so. Bigfoot, Ashley, Two-Face, even Sally who couldn’t leave her tank in any case.
Jealous, possessive wolf. Great. Just another part of himself he didn’t want to deal with right now, but he had to.
Will was suddenly right in front of him, smiling softly, kissing him gently. Their mouths dragged over each other, tongues teasing, then Will moved away.
“Shower,” he invited.
That tone of voice went right to his groin. Despite earlier declarations, Henry thought he might be up for the next round.
“You only see the curse in it. Every gift comes with one.”
The talk, such at it was, brief and to the point, went rather well. Henry knew he had to look like some hyperactive drug-addict, barely able to keep himself from touching his mate, from standing between Will and Magnus, from warning everyone off of him. But Helen Magnus was the alpha, the wolf agreed. She wouldn’t take a beta’s mate. Magnus in turn appeared as non-threatening to the new pair as she could. She was dangerous, the wolf recognized, but she wasn’t trying to take what was his.
“You will require new rooms,” she said, all practicality and organization. “I think connecting rooms would be best. I’d also suggest you take your time, but also confront the instinctual side with the other Sanctuary patients while Will is present, Henry. I can’t have you attack anyone.”
“I won’t,” he swore. “I know it looks bad right now, but it’s just…”
“Temporary,” Will finished. “We all read the book.”
She nodded. “Ashley is out and I don’t expect her back until tonight. I’ll inform her of what happened.”
That sounded… clinical. ‘Ashely, Henry fucked Will through the mattress and is currently a bit possessive. Give them some space in the next twenty-four hours and don’t be surprised to find them at it in the elevator.’ Oh yeah, that would go over well. Ashley could be as protective of her friends as anyone, and right now Henry had no idea who she would think of as the one who had been forced into this. Will, because he was just human, or Henry, because he was ruled by instinct when it came to that matter.
Magnus smiled. “She knows about lycans, Henry. She knew about Will’s crush.”
Crush? Henry looked at his mate and found the psychoanalyst looking a bit flustered.
“You weren’t too subtle,” Helen added with a grin. She rose and nodded at the pair, then left the room.
Henry felt something inside of him relax. At Will’s amused expression he scowled.
“Possessive,” the other man simply said.
“I can’t help it!”
“I didn’t say it’s a bad thing, I just don’t want you to maul whoever looks at me or shakes my hand.”
Henry groaned and scrubbed a hand over his face. “It’s just the time after a claiming. It’ll get better.”
Will pushed him to lay back on the bed and settled over his hips, smiling down at him. “I hope so.”
“And you’re not exactly freaking over this,” Henry observed, rather liking his position right now. Will smelled of his own shampoo and shower gel, only enhancing the ‘Mine!’ thoughts.
“Why? Because you’re a man or because you’re lycan?”
“Both, I guess.”
Will leaned forward, stealing a kiss. “Before Meg, there was Paul. Twelve months of a really good time. He moved to
“Now you did anyway,” Henry reminded him. He tried not to think of Paul or Reese, Meg or Julie. Wolves were monogamous. Humans weren’t.
Will leaned closer once more. “Now I know it’s not just a fling.”
No, it wasn’t.
“So you’re okay with it?”
“Very much,” Will answered, letting more of his weight settle against Henry. “And I’m all for letting this run its course, get it out of your system, and all.”
Henry felt his heart rate speed up. His nostrils flared involuntarily, filled with the scent of Will, mixed with his own, and he had his hands up the other man’s t-shirt, running over his soft skin, before he could help himself.
“What if there’s someone else?” Henry heard himself ask.
“Lycans mate for life, Will.”
“We don’t look at others any more. Humans are different.”
“We normal humans are perfectly able to spend the rest of our lives with one partner. Ask my professor at college. She’s been married for forty years. Happily. Five kids, twelve grand-kids.”
Henry knew it was possible. He just didn’t know if he should be so lucky. Not with a handsome man like Will.
Will kissed him, purging all thought from his mind, rocking his hips against Henry’s rather prominent arousal.
Clothes were quickly dispersed of, naked bodies rubbing against each other. Henry couldn’t keep his primal side tamed much longer and when Will nuzzled his throat, leaving little bites, he was a goner. He took in the wide eyes of his mate, smelled the arousal, and he growled.
There was hardly a thought left in him that could stop the wolf from sinking into the offered depths. He caught flashes with his rational mind, Will on his hands and knees, his ass for offer, and then his own raw need to claim. He heard the cries, words of encouragement, of need, asking him, demanding of him, wanting him. His inhuman eyes fell on the claim mark and he snarled in renewed fervor. His hips pistoned forward, fingers digging into his mate’s hips, as he pumped deeper, as he took what was his.
There was a broken cry from Will as he shuddered and came, and Henry knew he wasn’t far behind. His vision swam as the wolf receded, satisfied and reassured of its mate, and he collapsed forward, barely coherent enough not to smother Will. He pressed his nose against his mate’s sweaty neck and licked gently over the healing scar.
Will shivered, murmuring softly.
Still buried in the tight heat, Henry waited for his heart to stop racing, for his breathing to slow down, all the while holding on to Will.
If this was what they had to look forward to in the next twenty-four hours, he’d be too sore to walk, he mused. It had him huff a little laugh. And if the Big Guy or Ashley heard them, or anyone else for that matter, he knew he’d never live it down.
With these thoughts he drifted off again.
Will had never felt so sore, and so satisfied. Past relationships paled when compared to the passion that was between them. Lycan pheromones or whatever, it was fantastic. Not just the sex. The whole togetherness. Being with Henry felt right. Henry himself felt right, no matter what he was underneath the human guise.
They had talked. No lengthy, in-depth talks, but little things. Will knew he would find out more about his friend and now-mate than before if he gave all of this time. And time they had. Henry was reluctant to go all too deeply into his past, but he spoke about little things that the psychiatrist in Will found important and revealing. He answered in turn, giving Henry an insight into his own past and his work, his hopes and dreams.
“Would you want to go back to your own kind if you had the chance?” Will asked quietly.
“No,” was the straight-forward answer.
“Because they’re not my kind, Will. I’m human.”
“I like what and who I am. I don’t need to run with a pack to know that.”
Will gazed into the expressive green eyes, those serious eyes that told him a lot more than words.
“And if you ever met a wolf through your work?”
It got him a shrug. “Haven’t in the past twenty-something years. Lycans aren’t the most visible of species. They don’t go around howling at the full moon, mauling humans or turning them into their own. That’s the most stupid misconception of all. As if a bite was enough to change your genetic make-up.”
“Good to know,” Will teased.
Henry grinned. “I like doing other things to you, though.”
And Will understood a hint. No more talk about lycans and Henry’s relationship to his own gene pool. For now.
Focusing on another object of interest, he let his fingers play over one nipple piercing. Henry licked his lips at the gentle, teasing gesture.
“Got them when I was twenty-one,” he answered the unasked question.
“The belly button one was because I saw it on the internet. Guy looked hot with it.” He grinned, a little embarrassed. “The nipple piercings followed later because the piercing studio offered two-for-one special. My own kind of rite of passage kinda crap.”
“Must have hurt.” Will was still fingering them. “Still do?”
“Nah.” Henry ran blunt nails up Will’s arm, over the tattoo. “And yours?”
“College time. Everybody had them.”
“So you got one too?”
“My best friend started it. Got himself one of those tramp stamps, then added another one in a very painful place, and finally convinced me, too.”
“Regret it now?”
“No. It’s okay. I think tramp stamps are worse.”
Henry kept caressing the tattooed area. “From my line of view… maybe not,” he teased.
Will chuckled and kissed a line up his throat while his thumb brushed repeatedly over a pierced nipple. Henry shivered.
Will knew he probably moved funny when he finally left Henry’s room and it was a bad idea to sit down, but he couldn’t care less. The Big Guy just gave him an inquiring look, almost like he wanted to know if he was okay, then added a snort-grunt and left him alone with his food. Will found it curious that Bigfoot wasn’t lecturing him on not to hurt Henry. Usually he was so protective. The ‘cold’ came to mind, the fever. And how compassionate the other had been. Now there was this intense look, like giving him a visual check, then nothing.
Henry had gone to check on the computers and Will knew he had some work to do, too, but right now he was simply very hungry and very sore.
“Soooo… You and Henry?”
The voice startled him and Will looked up, blinking at the young blonde looking at him with a wide smile.
“Ashley?” he stammered.
“The both of you? Hot. Really hot.”
“You’re both cute and sexy, and I know what you look like underneath those shirts,” Ashley teased him, grinning even more. “So, how’s sex with a wolf; our wolf?”
Will stared at her, then his braincells snapped back into place. “None of your business,” he only said.
“Ashley, it’s my private life, okay?”
She straddled the chair on the other side of the table, arms crossed over the back rest. “You’re part of this dysfunctional little family. I like you. I just want to know.”
“And I just won’t tell you,” he replied, smiling back.
“Aw, c’mon. Hot, sexy Henry? I want to know!”
“Will…” she pleaded.
“Ask Henry if you want to know.”
She pouted. “As if he would tell me anything.”
Will smiled again. “Point taken? And you think of Henry as hot and sexy?” he added, frowning a little.
There was no mistaking the sibling relationship between those two. Ashley had grown up with Henry as her older brother and they behaved like it.
“What?” She wanted to know, all innocent. “Can’t a girl think of her brother as gorgeous?”
“No,” Will answered slowly. “Normally sisters don’t think of their brothers in sexual terms.”
“I’m a good observer. And you have to agree with that observation. He’s cute, in a rumpled sort of way, and he looks… handsome.” She winked. “And technically, he’s not my brother.”
She shrugged, features shifting from the girly pout to her usual, more professional expression. “I just want you to know that I’m okay with it. Really okay with it.”
Will met the serious words with the same serious reception. “Thanks, Ash.”
“Hey, we all find happiness somewhere.”
“No warnings about not hurting him?” Will teased. “Kicking my but if I do? Threats and all?”
“Why? Henry’s lycan. He chose you and because you responded, he knew it was the right decision. I don’t see you as the one-night-stand guy, or the quick fuck guy. You like him back. It’s hard to argue with natural instinct and bonds.”
Will nodded slowly.
“So why would I have a problem? I’d have to warn Henry not to go overboard and harm you,” Ashley grinned. “He’s the Abnormal of this relationship. You’re only human.”
“Well, thank you,” Will grumbled. “Now I’m the girl.”
Ashley laughed. “Far from it. You never saw a fully changed lycan, Will. They’re immensely strong and fast.”
“I know. He pushed a giant snake out of the window and survived the fall. But he hasn’t hurt me.”
Not even in the first, rather primal moments when mating had been all that had been on Henry’s mind. The few physical changes had been nothing to scare Will off. If at all, he had been even more turned on. That silent confession alone had him want to hide in embarrassment. It had been hot. The inhuman eyes, the fangs, the piercings… hell, those were even more hot. Henry never changed any more than this, barely the essentials. No pointed ears, no snout, no claws.
“It would kill him if his lycan side did any harm to his friends,” the blonde observed.
“Yeah. But I’m not made of glass.”
And the bruises showed just that. He hadn’t broken. He had actually found that it was strangely… nice to see the evidence of the claiming. Belonging. Mates. A strange concept to a human, but Will had had stranger things happen. Bound to a lycan, an Abnormal, wasn’t that frightening. Maybe a little, when he had time to really think about it, but no different than being married.
Will almost laughed at that thought.
Ashley got up. “You two have fun.” She winked.
Will blushed hotly. Then she was gone, leaving him with thoughts of Henry and piercings.
“You’re not talking to an amateur here. “We’ve both seen the ugly of the abnormal side up close.”
“We’ve also seen its wonder. Its beauty.”
Henry was in his usual haunt, the computer lab, fingers flying over the keyboard as he ran diagnostics on the perimeter defenses and the EM field. Everything was looking good and it gave him the necessary time to go over his latest ideas for new and improved tech gizmos. Some were near completion and he had a new gun he wanted Ashley to test later this week, so he had to run that as well and…
Footsteps alerted him to a visitor and he looked up to find the object of his musings leaning against a rack of gadgets.
“Checking up on me?” he said in ways of a greeting, taking the edge off his words with a smile.
Ashley returned the smile. “Nah. I know you can take care of yourself.”
“Checking if I have his body hidden in a corner?”
She chuckled. “If I were you, I wouldn’t let him out of my bedroom for a week.”
“We’re past that stage, Ash.”
“How can you? Will’s hot. And I mean that in a purely observant, sisterly sort of way.”
He knew that. He felt no jealousy rise at her words. She was no threat.
“And as the purely observing sisterly person you are… you came here to quiz me?” Henry wanted to know.
It got him a shrug. Ashley regarded him both curiously and seriously.
“Are you okay?” she asked, now all serious.
“Fine. Couldn’t be better.”
“I mean, getting hit by the clue bus…”
Henry laughed and nearly threw a wadded up piece of paper at her.
“And in your case the clue bus came in shape of a giant snake, too. Sucks, huh?”
“It did. And maybe I should listen to my instincts more.”
“They’re there for a reason.” She pushed herself up onto his work table, legs dangling. “I’m also glad you want to keep them.”
The surgery. Yeah. That had been a major point of arguments between them. Henry nodded.
“I think I’ve started to come to terms with my bad self,” he heard himself say.
“Bad self? Henry…”
He raised a hand. “Yeah, I know, I know. There is no bad or evil self. There’s always the whole. But you have no idea, Ashley. You don’t know what’s inside me, what it craved and how it clawed at me to be free. At the time I didn’t know it was reacting to him…”
She leaned forward, elbows resting on her knees. “In a way I do. I’ve my own heritage. I might not turn into something else physically, but when I go into a fight, I feel these urges. Can’t say how much they’re like lycan urges, but they’re strong.”
Henry looked into her eyes. Ashley had her own mixed heritage, genes thrown together to form a fighting machine that would only develop more in time. She was just twenty-three, but she was devastating in a fight.
“I don’t have a control mechanism either, Henry, but you have one advantage now.”
She nodded, smiling softly.
Henry returned the smile. “Yeah.”
“Sleep again?” Ashley asked.
He nodded. The smells no longer overpowered him, food tasted good once more, and he slept. He slept really well. No nightmares, no bloodied bodies, no roars or cries of pain, no screams of adult lycans dying, of his pack being killed. Normal dreams, gentle dreams, waking up to Will and the safety of their room.
“So you had the happy end,” she stated.
“In a way. Thanks for being there, Ash. I appreciate it. Really.”
For kicking him repeatedly in the butt about the surgery, for giving him a piece of her mind.
“Hey, that’s what I’m here for.” She grinned and slid off the table.
Henry found himself hugged, strongly, fiercely, and he hugged her back.
“You’re one lucky guy. Will’s great,” she whispered into his ear. “Good choice on the wolf’s part.”
He laughed a little. “I want to think so, yeah.”
“You love him.” It wasn’t a question.
Lycans didn’t love like humans. Lycans had different emotions, but they didn’t take the unwilling mates either. It was a matter of two willing participants, not influenced by pheromones or a wolf in heat. Matings happened before the heat cycles.
Henry just smiled.
“And I know Will’s drooling over you,” Ashley added cheekily. “Did so for a while. I wonder what might have happened if that Nubbin had been with you… and he had walked into your room.”
Henry groaned. “Don’t remind me of those things. Allergies.”
“Oh. Yeah. That puts a dampener on the whole frenzied sex thing.”
He glared at her half-heartedly. Ashley smiled softly.
“You believe it now? The wonder? The beauty?” she asked.
Henry nodded slowly. Her features softened even more.
“I’m happy for you. Both of you.”
Acceptance meant a lot him. More than anything else.
“Now I am one of them… I’m terrified.”
The whole incident with the super-sized cockroach had been the first time Henry wanted to come along on a mission. A real mission. Not just tagging along as the surveillance guy or to keep Mutant Will from cracking open heads. Maybe because Will was coming, maybe because he wanted to prove himself to his mate. He wanted to impress Will, show him that he was worthy. Wolves apparently were just as stupid as humans in that regard. Keen and eager and ready to do whatever it took to be seen as strong and powerful.
Yeah, wolves were idiot, too.
Henry had known he was that idiot, that he wasn’t a front line guy, that he was batter as the support back home, but the Y-chromosome had overridden all logic and he had behaved like a moron.
In the end, the shock web hadn’t worked. His great solution, the quick way of earning brownie points with his mate, had failed.
At that time, in that very moment, he had wanted to hide and bang his head against a handy wall.
If at all, it had made the thing even angrier and more determined to kill them off. It had been embarrassing to fail like that, in front of his mate, knowing that they had no Plan B right away. That the female reporter had tried to, admittedly clumsily, flirt with him hadn’t helped either. Sure, Henry had answered her questions, aware of her own eagerness to prove herself. It hadn’t helped with his mate, though. And the kiss… geez!
Chicks love dudes that go on missions.
The head-banging continued. What had he been thinking?! He had failed to be impressive to Will, but he had impressed a girl he had had no interest in!
Henry groaned. He had thought being mated was easier than the whole mess before, but it was an even messier mess now. Will’s tolerance of it all made it all even worse, drove home the point that Henry Foss was an idiot. He, the lycan part of this pair; he, who had followed instinct and stupid hormones; he, who should be more secure in the whole matter.
“Screwed,” he murmured. “So screwed. Screwed up, too.”
Now that they had finally cleared the surviving creature, its eggs, and its dead mate out of the warehouse, had the survivors safely set in one of the artificial environment cells, Henry sat back and stared at the images from the surveillance camera. The creature was busy taking care of its eggs, but he wondered if it would miss its mate. They had no idea if the survivor was the male or the female of the species, and Magnus would start on the carcass of the dead one tomorrow morning.
Stretching, he felt vertebrae crack. He was sore, tired and in need of a good night’s rest. He had also been avoiding Will. He had made a fool of himself. He had tried to show off and things had severely back-fired.
Henry finally rose and padded over to the elevator. It took him upstairs in no time and he automatically headed for the old room, then stopped. Right. He had moved. New place. Big place. Shared place.
A brief grin swept over his features and he walked past the door and down the hallway to the corner room. The big, big corner room full of Will’s stuff, mixed with his own. The grin wavered and he stopped outside the door.
Go in. Face the fire. Fess up to the mess up.
Inhaling deeply, steeling himself, Henry entered. He found Will in their shared bed, out like a light, still dressed. Henry felt a fond smile coming. Shedding his own clothes, not caring where they landed, he crawled into bed, jostling Will a little. The other man cracked his eyes open and muttered something unintelligible. Henry started to undress Will.
“Tired,” Will protested.
Henry chuckled. “It’s not always about that, Will. You’re in bed, fully dressed. Get the clothes off, so we can go to sleep.”
It was more of a wrestling match than an undressing, but finally Will was almost naked, curled up under the cover, and Henry was next to him, spooned up. He kissed the scar from the bug, then rested his forehead against it.
“Done?” Will mumbled.
“Yeah. Creature’s all cozy in its new habitat. Not sure what Magnus wants with a whole family of them. Those babies will hatch soon.”
Will linked their fingers, resting their joined hands against his stomach. “Done pondering stupidity and impressing your partner?” he clarified.
Henry froze. “Uh…”
Will twisted in his hold, looking at him out of sleepy, blue eyes. “I was kinda impressed.” He grinned slightly. “With how you think you need to impress me.”
“Instinct?” Henry squeaked weakly.
“You impressed Amy.”
Panic rose inside him. “I…”
There was mirth in those now more awake eyes. “Seems like your aiming needs improvement.”
Will kissed him, dry lips brushing over his own. “I’m not a girl that needs to be impressed.”
“I know that!”
“I think the wolf knows it, too.”
“And still you begged Magnus to come along. You tried to show off.”
Henry opened his mouth to say something, but nothing intelligent came to mind.
“Which is cute.”
“What?!” he blurted. Cute?! What was next? Fluffy? Cuddly?
Will grinned mischievously. Henry groaned and hid his face against his mate’s chest.
“You don’t have to impress me,” Zimmerman repeated, voice calm and reassuring. “And you don’t have to come out into the field either. You don’t have to protect me.”
“Tell that to my abnormal side,” he muttered.
“I think it knows. You just need to listen to it.”
“Thank you, Dr. Zimmerman,” he grumbled.
“You’re very welcome.”
“I don’t need someone psychoanalyzing my bad self.”
Will rolled them around, looking seriously at the other man. “There is no bad self. You’re all Henry Foss. And no part of you has to impress me.”
“No?” he asked softly.
“No. I want you just the way you are, wolf and geek. I think the geek’s really hot.”
“Cool. Because I really hate all that running from creatures stuff. I’d rather have Ashley use my gadgets instead of using them myself,” he confessed with a small smile.
“So do I.”
“I just don’t like the idea of you out there, me here…”
“It’s how it works.”
“Don’t like it,” he repeated.
“And we both know neither of us is going to change anything about it,” Will told him. “Even if I stay here, I work with dangerous creatures.”
Henry knew that, too. Still, knowing Will was at the Sanctuary, even with a dangerous Abnormal, was preferable to having him outside, in the field, attacked by whatnot. Henry fought down his instinctive response and let his hands play over his mate’s skin.
“Let’s get some sleep,” Will decided, sliding into place at his side, one arm slung over Henry’s stomach.
The wolf never slept too deeply inside him, always ready to spring up into action should something threaten them. But they were safe here. Perfectly safe.
Henry kept on running gentle patterns over Will’s smooth skin until sleep claimed him, too.
“Difference between you and me is, you can control your power.”
“And in time, so will you.”
Christmas at the Sanctuary wasn’t at all like in the world outside the protected walls. There was no exchanging of presents, no Christmas tree, no carols. Christmas didn’t exist for the Abnormals, though Bigfoot served homemade Christmas cookies and the tea hat a cinnamon flavor. Will hadn’t lost a thought about the season. The colder weather and the snow should have been a clue, but he had been too busy running after an elusive new creature that had apparently been imported and sold as a pet. Since it had killed its owner and abducted the owner’s child, Magnus had been hot on its tail. Ashley had nearly caught it twice, but it wasn’t just dangerous, it was also cunning and fast.
In the end they had it, with a few more bruises to show, and in Will’s case a mild concussion, slash marks across his back and onset of hypothermia. The thing had been rather fond of cold lakes. The kid had survived unharmed. It turned out that the new creature protected abused children and the boy’s parents had beaten the child. That had launched the aggressive behavior.
Will, clad in layers of thick clothes, still cold to the very bone, watched the now docile Abnormal as it inspected its new, sub-zero habitat. It looked rather harmless, all blue-white fur and big eyes, rather like an overstuffed toy. The long claws Will had been introduced to personally were sheathed, the canines hidden underneath the furry lips, and it actually purred.
Henry’s soft voice broke through his musings about innocent looks and deadly behavior. Will reached out and wrapped an arm around his partner’s middle, pulling him close so he could rest a head against one bony hip. He felt tired and worn.
“How is it?” Henry wanted to know.
“Like a pussy cat. Magnus is still looking up what she can find about it. It’s intelligent, but doesn’t react to attempts of communication. She wants to move it to the lower levels, give it one of the larger rooms.”
Henry nodded, fingers playing through the short, dark blond hair. “And you’ll work with it.”
He didn’t even have to make it a question. Will had been working with a lot of the residents and patients, Henry included. For Henry, therapy was different than for the others. He almost laughed. Yeah, it had included mating. So much for professional distance.
“Yes,” Will answered, sighing. “It was only trying to protect the child.”
“Still cold?” Henry queried.
“Freezing,” his partner confessed.
Falling into a lake did that to a human body.
“No. The Big Guy made me drink gallons of that stuff. Can’t take much more.” Will grimaced. He turned his head to bury his face against Henry’s stomach. “Y’re warm,” he mumbled, sighing contentedly.
Henry chuckled, still carding his fingers through Zimmerman’s hair. Having Will plastered against him wasn’t bad at all. It actually calmed his more primal nature in the face of the creature that had attacked and harmed him.
“How about a bed?”
But he didn’t move. Just the thought had Will exhausted.
“Want me to carry you?”
The teasing had Will groan in protest. “I’m not the girl!” But he was still hanging on to Henry, face mashed into the t-shirt.
Henry leaned down and placed a kiss on the tousled head. “Never said that. Think you can coordinate enough to get upstairs?”
Will mumbled something unintelligible, but he made an effort and together with Henry’s help he managed to stand. Strong fingers buried in his multiple layers of clothes, half dragging, half supporting him as they staggered to the elevator. He was careful not to come in contact with the bandage-covered injuries, something that had him angry at the creature because it had hurt Will, and angry at himself that he couldn’t protect him.
Will gave him a half-lidded look in the elevator. “Stop it.”
“Beating yourself up over this.”
“Right.” He yawned. “You are. Psychiatrist here. Know it.”
Henry kept him from sliding down the elevator wall, chuckling. “I better get you to bed, Doc. You’re dead on your feet.”
“You fall into a lake and freeze, then we talk.” Will winced when his back made too much contact with the wall.
“Not high on my list.”
They probably looked funny as hell, staggering to their rooms. Henry managed to get the slightly taller man onto the bed and under the covers. Will was already more or less asleep.
“You got work t’do,” Will slurred.
“I can stay here.”
“Watch me sleep?”
“Go. You got a job, too. Not goin’ ‘nywhere.”
Henry smiled and leaned down, kissing the dry lips. “Be good.”
It got him a mumble, then Will was dead to the world.
Henry stayed a while longer, a long while. Finally he managed to drag himself away from the sleeping man and went back down into the heart of the Sanctuary to finish his work. He only glanced at the cell holding the now docile creature. The wolf bristled a little at its presence, but that was it. His mate was safe, the threat no longer there.
“I guess you can say I’m a changed man.”
When he finally returned, Henry had to smile at is mate. Will looked adorable, curled up in their shared bed, layers upon layers of warmth around him. He had his face buried in Henry’s pillow, sleeping deeply.
This was happiness. This was what it was like, after the frenzy of the claiming, the first days after mating, when the realization of what he had settled in.
Maybe his parents had been just as happy. Living in the moors, within their pack, protected by the others, protecting them in turn. He had only hazy memories of the adults of his former pack. He knew them as lycans, never as humans, but he had been able to tell his family apart from relatives and pack mates.
Wolves weren’t ferocious by nature. They were only dangerous to those threatening them or their pack. They loved their offspring, they cared and they were gentle.
Henry’s smile grew more wistful.
He had avoided his heritage, had seen it as monstrous and dangerous, and while he was still not in control of the wolf one hundred percent, he now was certain that there was at least one person who could talk him down should he lose it. Magnus would have to stun him, but Will… he believed that Will could handle the creature.
Sitting next to his mate, studying the young, smooth feature, Henry gave the wolf a little more freedom. It rose carefully, almost gently, not as violently than before. He felt its instincts to protect what it loved and he could only agree. Laying down next to Will, he heard a soft whine coming from his throat as he nuzzled against Will’s side, content and happy.
Control. Will gave him control. He could work with that, work with their resident psychiatrist, learn about what he could do, how far he was able to go. Henry knew it was a long road, one filled with obstacles, but he was now more confident than ever before that he could do this.
Will murmured his name, slurring it mostly. He rolled closer, seeking more warmth, and Henry kissed a patch of exposed, very warm skin.
Bigfoot had been right. Ashley had been right. There was wonder and beauty in his gift, there was power and he could control it.
Maybe there was a best of two worlds. Maybe this was it.