Moon And Rain
(Two Blood ATF)
by Sammy Girl
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Thanks to Joe Lawson and Firefox for all the beta work, ideas, editing - oh hell all of it!
Pairings: C/V, B/E, C/B/V/E
Warnings: Sex, violence, bad language.
Status: Complete, AU open - within the established guidelines.
The sun finally dipped below the mountains, the rich fire sky it had illuminated began to fade into soft rose hues as darkness finally claimed the day.
"Reckon there'll be a storm before morning," Vin commented lazily.
"Reckon so," Chris confirmed from the doorway as he came out and sat beside Tanner on the step in front of the house. Lazily he lent over to kiss his lover on the neck. "Damn but it's hot," he breathed, as he nuzzled the warm damp skin.
As darkness fell the heat haze coloured the low full moon a soft peach colour, it didn't shed much light but that only made it stand out in the sky all the more beautiful. The heavy, sticky, oppressive heat had been building for days, so unpleasant was it - even in an air-conditioned office, that many offices, including the ATF had sent workers home early on Friday. Chris had invited Vin out to the ranch for the weekend, his house didn't have air-conditioning anymore than Vin's apartment in Purgatory but at least there was shade and out of the city Vin would feel more relaxed. Everyone's tempers had been frayed and they were all in need of some space.
The two agents sat in silence, drinking cold beer and just watching more importantly listening to the sounds of the land around them. They were just about the go inside when the night was brought alive with the howl of a wolf, not plaintive, this cry was deep and rich and full of feeling. Chris turned to his lover, seeing the look of rapture on his face.
"Wondered when he'd be back," Chris commented softly.
"You've heard him before?"
"On occasion, some how I always assumed it was a he."
Vin nodded in agreement as the listened to the hunting, almost tuneful notes rise and fall on the heavy still night air.
"He seems to like the full moon," Chris explained.
The wolf howled to the moon for nearly an hour before he fell silent. Inside the house Vin asked Chris if he had ever seen the wolf. "No, never, not even any tracks, he's never come close to any of the buildings, that I can tell. Old man Flintoff has it in for him mind you."
Kurt Flintoff lived on the property immediately to the north of Chris. His was a working cattle ranch, though not a particularly large one. He was of the old school, to him a wolf was a threat to his stock and as such had to be eliminated.
"He's tried to hunt it a few times, never got so much as a glimpse, mind you he told me he did once find some prints, reckons this is one big wolf."
"Well he must be a loner, if there was a pack around here you'd know it," Vin speculated.
"Yeah I know, sometimes I feel sorry for him, reckon he's a might lonely."
The rain came as predicted just before dawn, great torrents, accompanied by thunder and lightning. The rain filled the gulches and gullies, instantly turning dry creek beds into fast flowing rivers and small streams into rushing torrents. The open yard of Chris’ ranch became a lake in minutes, the rain so heavy you couldn't see the barn from the house. Woken by the storm they found themselves on the porch, coffee in hand watching Mother Nature's fury and power. Vin suddenly groaned as he watched the deepening pool of water on the soft top roof of his old jeep, it wasn't getting any bigger which meant the water had to be draining into the vehicle, soaking the interior. The thunder passed over but not the rain. The local Channel Seven news reported flooding all over the city and outlying areas, power was also out in various places, sub-stations flooded and shorted. Several rural communities were cut off, including they discovered, themselves. The road that ran passed the ranch crossed two creeks, both of which had burst their banks.
Several phone calls later, some on landlines and some on cell phones, established that Ezra was fine but had no intention of leaving his second floor apartment. Josiah had water in the basement but was coping. Nathan and Rain were fine but keeping an eye on the large puddle in the garden that was threatening to come in through the sliding glass doors in the living room. JD was also fine, he had managed to get hold of Nettie Wells and she and Casey were also alright, much to Vin's relief. JD told them Buck was out on a date the night before; he wasn't back so must be holed up with his date some place.
"Reckon ol' Bucklin's in the best place t' wait this thing out," Vin commented. "Not that I don't reckon being stuck here with your is exactly roughing it," he added with a lopsided grin.
Eventually the two men had to venture beyond the porch and see to the horses, getting drenched in the process, not to mention covered in mud, despite their protective clothing and boots.
"Reckon we need a shower," Vin commented.
"Reckon so." Chris ran a hand through Vin's tangled wet hair. Shedding wet muddy clothes in the laundry room they padded through the house to the bathroom. Sharing the roomy shower they quickly washed each other, as Chris stood behind Vin, working shampoo into his long hair, Vin felt a hard cock brushing against the small of his back. As Chris began to rinse his hair, Vin reached behind him, wrapping his hand around his lover's shaft.
"Mmm," Chris sighed as the hand around him rubbed and massaged.
Slowly Vin turned to face Chris, capturing his lips and kissing him deeply, his hand never leaving his lovers cock.
"Please," he gasped as Chris pulled his lips away and began to map out Vin's shoulders with his lips. "Need you."
Chris stood back, gazing deeply into Vin's sapphire eyes.
"Now Chris, hard 'n fast."
Chris nodded as Vin turned is back, bracing is hands on the tiled wall in front of him. Chris ran one soap and shampoo slick finger between Vin's firm cheeks, pressing home, opening Vin up. Though this caress was making him shudder it wasn't what Vin needed.
"Hard and fast Chris, please," he gasped out.
Vin nodded, dropping his head and spreading his legs further. Unwilling to leave and collect some lube, Chris soaped his now aching cock thoroughly. Then in one swift, sure, well-practised move Chris pushed himself into Vin's tight hole. He felt the deep shudder as he pushed home then he began to move, faster and faster, pounding Vin into the wall."
"Yes!" Vin shouted. "Come on Cowboy, harder, I need it harder. Oh God yes!" he shouted.
Chris reached around and grasped Vin's hard and aching cock, pumping in time to his own pounding cock. "Oh yes Vin, take it, take it all, so gorgeous, so beautiful, so hot, all mine!"
When they came it was almost together, gasping and shouting, Chris all but collapsing on to Vin, whose trembling arms were threatening to give way under him. Finally Chris gathered his wits and pulled back. Vin whimpered as Chris pulled out of him. Tanner turned around and draped his arms over Chris’ shoulders. "Hope we get cut off here all week," he said with a lecherous grin.
Buy lunchtime they were dressed in clean clothes, feeling nicely relaxed and sleepy, as they enjoyed a sandwich and a beer for lunch. That was when the phone rang.
"Hello, Larabee," Chris answered.
"Oh, hello Mr Larabee, it's Mrs Winston, up at Circle W, on the White Creek road?"
"Yes ma’am, I know the place, what can I do for you, are you alright up there?"
Florence Winston lived alone most of the time, a widow, her children were all grown up and only visited occasionally, she no longer ranched her land, preferring to lease it out, the money from the leases, her husband‘s life insurance and her teacher’s pension kept her comfortable.
"Yes I'm fine, it's just, well I went to check on the back paddock, where Kurt Flintoff has his new heifers, I wanted to be sure none of them were down in the mud, and, well there's this truck."
"A truck?" Chris repeated.
"Yes, on the far side of the paddock is an old trail, it runs up that far and then stops, you need a horse after that, it wasn't there yesterday evening. I was worried someone's lost in the hills, in this rain, I called the sheriff's office but they're over run and besides it seems we're cut off at the moment. So I thought of you, I know you are a lawman yourself."
"We'll come out and take a look ma’am he assured.
"Oh could you? I hate to drag you out in all this but it's been preying on my mind all morning."
"It's no trouble I assure you. We'll see you in about two hours."
Vin wasn't too keen to go out in the rain but wasn't one to disappoint a lady. They rode up to the Circle W on Pony and Peso, wearing long cattleman's coats against the rain, but it was so wet the rain got in under their collars anyway. Florence gave them hot coffee and pointed the way to the old trail and the truck. It took only fifteen minutes to reach it, as it became visible through the torrent both men stopped dead. There couldn't be that many 1950, red Chevy short bed trucks in Denver. Spurring the horses on they got close enough to see that indeed the licence plate was Buck's.
"Shit!" Chris swore. "The idiot must have taken some girl up there to view the sunset and indulge in a little alfresco sex, man's brains are in his dick I swear it!" he fumed.
Vin dismounted, peering into the truck’s windows, then he opened it - which in itself was odd, Buck was almost obsessive about locking his prized possession if he ever left it, he even locked it at gas stations when he went to pay. 'She's irreplaceable boys, you don't take risks when it's a one of a kind,' he would say. Inside, Vin spotted something on the back seat.
"Well wherever he is, he's naked," he looked up at Chris through the rain.
"You find her clothes as well?"
"Nope, just Bucklin’s, shorts, boots an' all."
Chris shook his head, unable to work out what the hell his old friend was playing at. "Come on mount up, let’s go see if we can see him at all, there's a few caves and overhangs up there he might be sheltering in."
It was no easy task, the trail had turned into a stream, water flowing down it like so many small cataracts and miniature waterfalls. Once they reached the top, where the ground flattened out into a high meadow. Chris led them to the north, toward the high bluff and rocky outcrops, the only place you could find shelter and the best vantage point to view the sun setting behind the mountains behind them. The rain was just beginning to ease up and the light beginning to fade, as they struck out along a slight ridge that would lead them to the summit of the bluff, when Pony pulled up suddenly, throwing his head up. It was true the land dropped away to their right very steeply and Chris was keeping an eye on it for slippage but it looked okay to him, at least as far as the turn up ahead. However Pony was not to be moved. So Larabee dismounted and ventured up the trail on foot, leading Pony behind him.
As he turned the corner he stopped dead. The ridge had indeed been washed away, but that wasn't what held him still. There below him was a wolf, a huge dark wolf, soaked to the bone, held fast by his left forepaw in an evil looking trap. Worse, the collapsing ridge had swept the poor creature away, down the steep, near vertical slope, but not the trap's anchor chain. The trapped wolf was all but hanging from his imprisoned leg, even with the rain constantly washing the slope he could see the marks were the poor animal had tried to scrabble his way back up, tried to reach the trap. The other three paws, splayed out for maximum purchase, were dug into the soft crumbling slope, trembling with the effort of supporting his weight.
"Oh God!" Vin breathed in horror behind him.
At the sound of his voice, the wolf lifted his huge shaggy but bedraggled head and looked at the two men, he even managed to flick his tail once, yellow eyes pleading with them for help, for release.
"Flintoff," Chris muttered. "Sick bastard." He turned to Vin. "How do we help him?"
"We can't," Vin admitted. "Only one thing we can do." Tanner walked back to Peso and pulled out his rifle, checking it was loaded.
Chris nodded sadly, it was the only practical and humane thing to do, he stepped back to let Vin get into the best position. That was when it happened, as Vin raised his gun both men felt the air around them change, it was as if it became charged, as if the electric storm had suddenly returned, and the wolf was gone, in it's place, trapped by his arm, bloody, dirty, naked, Buck Wilmington clung to the slope below them, his dark matted head lifted enough to look them in the eye.
"Please," he gasped out. His fingers were loosing their purchase and with a gasp of pain he slipped, the evil trap, which had surely broken his arm, dug deeper. And as fast as he had appeared, he was gone and the wolf was back.
Chris just stared, then he turned, ashen faced to Vin. "I saw it too Cowboy, let‘s get him out of there and worry about it later," he advised, trying to keep his voice calm.
Chris' ranch wasn't a working one; it wasn't even a hobby ranch, just some land and the horses, so they didn't routinely carry lassos. Nevertheless, Chris made it a rule that when ever they rode out of sight of the ranch buildings they carry a cell phone, a gun, a small first aid kit and a rope - just in case. He had never been more grateful for that little precaution as he and Vin each pulled a rope from their saddlebags. There was no verbal communication as Chris secured his rope to a sturdy looking tree and began to lower himself down the slope parallel to the wolf, who was trying to wag his tail and look unthreatening.
**It's Buck it’s just Buck,** Chris silently repeated to himself. **He won't hurt me, trust your gut Larabee.** Once beside and below the creature he moved over so he was directly behind it and - with hands trembling in fear, fear he was for once not ashamed to admit to - he wrapped his arms around the wolf's rain and mud sodden body.
"Vin's gonna toss another rope down and I'm gonna tie you to it - okay?" he asked the wolf. In response the huge animal whimpered, which he took for a yes.
It took some doing, the ground was increasingly unstable and it took huge effort on both men's part to accomplish the task. But eventually the wolf - Buck - lay on what was left of the ridge on his side panting, his left paw stretched out in front of him still held captive. Chris approached cautiously.
"Buck is that really you?" he asked in a small, hesitant voice that was very un-Chris like. The wolf wagged its long shaggy tail a few times. "Fuck!"
"Yeah," Vin agreed, "but we still have to get down from here. "Buck we can't take the trap off here, you'll bleed too much - you know that don't you?" Pleading yellow eyes just stared at him.
Vin turned away and pulled out his big clasp knife, then he picked up a handy rock. The anchor chain was attached to a heavy spike that was itself driven into a thick tree root, there was no way anyone was just going to 'pull' it out. Using the knife and rock as a hammer and chisel Vin worked the spike loose. Each pound of the rock sent vibrations down the chain to the trap and ignited new waves of pain. Chris could see it all too clearly. If it had been Buck lying there he would have sat beside him in the mud, held him, told him to hang on, be strong, help was here - but it wasn't Buck it was a wolf and he just couldn't seem to move. His eyes told him one thing but his brain told him what he saw, what he knew, wasn't so, couldn't be so, it just couldn't be.
Finally the spike came out, and Vin carefully carried it back to Buck and Chris, all too aware of Chris’ inertia. Then he found two small stone chips, he wedged these into the jaws of the trap, relieving just a fraction of the pressure, and preventing more damage.
"Buck?" Vin squatted down, "We need to get you down off the mountain. I already tried t' call fer help but I ain't gettin' a signal, must be the mountains or the storm, most likely both. We're gonna have t' ride down. Reckon you'll find that easier on two legs."
Buck didn't want to change, the teeth of the trap bit more fiercely into his thicker human arm, but he knew Vin was right, so he steeled himself and made the change. As soon as it was Buck before him Vin was pulling off his long waterproof coat and wrapped it around the naked man.
"Chris," Vin called over his shoulder, there was no response, Chris just stood there. "Chris I need help here, Buck needs help t' get up on Peso with me.
Finally Chris seemed to come alive, to realise it was a man in Vin's arms, in Vin's coat.
It took some doing, there was no way to do it with out causing the injured man more pain, but he never complained, he never made a sound other than the occasional hiss of pain. He rode in front of Vin in Vin's coat, his trapped and mutilated arm supported inside the coat, the capacious pockets accommodating the chain and spike. Peso might be an evil and ill-tempered horse but he was sturdy and reliable. Pony on the other hand could be skittish and unpredictable if he was even slightly spooked, which was what happened when the rain picked up again and the thunder once more rolled around the valley. By the time they reached the trail that would lead back to Buck's truck, Pony was playing up.
"Go ahead," Vin advised, "…get things organised."
Chris looked over at him, unsure what to do, just then Pony skipped sideways and almost slipped as lightning lit the unnaturally dark sky. Finally he nodded and pushed the black on down the trail ahead of the steady Peso. Vin had been talking constantly, soft soothing words to both man and horse, keeping them concentrated on him and not the storm or the pain. When they finally reached the truck, Chris was standing there with no horse and a huge pair of bolt cutters. They removed the chain and spike and got Buck settled in the truck, where Mrs Winston had provided some blankets, candy bars for Chris and Vin and a canteen of water - slightly warm.
"The phone is out and the power, we have to get him back to my place." Chris explained, "Put Peso in the barn with Pony, Florence will board 'um 'till we can come and get them.
There was no way they were going to struggle to get Buck's tight jeans on, so they just settled him in the cab as he was, in Vin's coat. The drive down the rough track in the elderly truck was bone shaking at the best of times. For Buck it was pure torture, but he said nothing, sat between the two men as Chris drove, grateful for Vin's steadying arm around his shoulders, giving him what support he could.
Once they reached the ranch Vin helped the taller man inside and settled him on the sofa while Chris tried to see if he could contact anyone, but his phone and power were as dead as Florence's had been. He watched almost detached as Vin pulled an old pair of his sweats on to Buck and a pair of sneakers. Vin looked up from his position kneeling in front of Buck.
"Think the Ram can make it through the creek?" he asked.
Chris shrugged. "We won't know 'till we get there. Better start out I guess."
"No." Both men turned to face Buck, other than the one word plea for help when they found him, this was the first thing he had said.
"Bucklin, we have to get you to a hospital, please, we'll just say you fell and got caught in the trap, you've been to the hospital before, you…" Vin pleaded.
"No, I know I have t' go, but need t' talk t' Chris first - please." His words were just a little slurred and they came out in a slow halting fashion. He lifted his eyes, deep blue and imploring to Larabee. "Please, Chris."
Vin stood. "I'm gonna go get the Ram warmed up, okay?" He crossed to the door and picked up the keys from the hook by the door.
They were alone, and yet Chris still didn't move toward his friend. "It's still me you know?" Buck said softly.
Chris shook his head. "No, no it isn't, what do you need?" He didn't miss the look of hurt that crossed the other man’s face.
"Get the power of attorney…please."
Chris nodded, it was in his home office safe and only took a minute or too to retrieve. This time he came closer, sitting on the coffee table opposite the sofa, in his hand a plain manila envelope with the words 'Buck W Med Att' on it.
"What do you need it for, we're going to Mercy, they know us there – you’re not gonna die." Then a thought struck Chris, what if Buck was going to die! After all, everything he thought he knew about his oldest friend had just flown out of the window! "Are you?"
Buck shook his head. "Please Chris, I don't know how long I can keep it together. Look at the 'Special Clauses', at the end." Chris obediently opened the document, read it and looked up, puzzled and concerned. "Please, promise me, don't let them cripple me. Please Chris, I'm begging you."
Luck, just for once, was with them. They had to go the long way, because the creek was shallower that way but the Ram made it through. The rain was now torrential again but the roads were almost deserted so they made good time. Not unexpectedly, by the time they got to the ER Buck had lost his battle to say conscious. By the time he was on an exam table on a room in the ER, nurse Kelly, an old hand with Team Seven, had been summoned to handle the non-wounded members.
"What did Vin do to himself this time?" she asked a little amused.
"Not Vin, Buck, and it's bad," he explained tersely. Instantly she saw the tension in him and an undercurrent of something approaching panic. "They're X-raying," he stated, to explain why he wasn't beside his friend.
It didn't take long, there was no option but to take Buck to surgery to remove the trap and set the shattered bones.
"I have to speak to the surgeon," Chris announced.
"Mr Larabee, there is no need, we have one of the finest orthopaedic departments in the country," the young ER doctor explained.
Vin had come back from parking the Ram now stood at Chris’ side, hoping his lover could keep a lid on his temper.
"I have Buck's medical power of attorney and there are special provisions for this kind of surgery. Now, who do I speak to?
Had it been anyone else they would have tried to talk him out of it, but the staff of Mercy Hospital were well used to Team Seven and their ways, it was easier to let them have the rather 'hands on' contact with their comrades carers, than to try and stop them.
Lucy Shore had been putting broken bones back together for nearly twenty years; yet the x-rays she was looking at made her feel sick. Traps were evil, that she knew, in theory, but now the evidence was right before her. She still hadn't seen the patient. Turning to her college, a vascular specialist, she gave him a rueful look.
"You ever do anything like this Tom?" she asked, Tom Heighway.
He shook his head. "Looks like we're gonna need the big tool kit, if you ask me," he added.
She turned from the illuminated pictures of horror to face the real thing, as her patient was wheeled out of the elevator. He was unconscious, the cumulative effects of shock, blood loss and exhaustion. Too dangerous looking men accompanied him. One was young looking, his shoulder length hair had mostly escaped the band holding it in a ponytail. He walked beside the patient, holding his undamaged right hand. The other man also walked beside the patient, on the other side, but he was making no attempt to maintain any physical contact with the unconscious man. The second man was older, taller, short cropped blond hair shown up by the all but totally black outfit. The younger man looked concerned and distressed, while the older one had a hard set to his jaw and a look of grim determination. Lucy may have been a surgeon for twenty years but most of those years were spent in Washington, so she hadn't had the dubious pleasure of dealing with Team Seven.
"Oh great, them," Tom exclaimed in a voice that was just a little too loud because Chris looked up and glared at him.
"Them? What does that mean?" she asked, but it was too late.
"You the doc in charge here?" the taller of the two men asked. His forest green eyes all but bore a hole right through her. Not that she was intimidated, the first eight years of her medical carrier had been in the marines.
"I am Lucy Shore, the orthopaedic surgeon. Can I help you?" **Always stay calm and polite, no matter what.** That was her tactic, in fact the more aggressive the other person, the more polite she became - but she didn't back down.
"I need to speak to you." He broke away from the patient and the other man and headed past her up the corridor. Lucy turned and followed. **Always listen to them, don't dismiss them out of hand.** That was something else she had learned.
Chris pulled out the legal document and showed her the relevant clause. She read it, re-read it and then read it again. Trying to make sense of it. This was not something she had ever expected to read.
"There is no way we can adhere to this," she finally stated. "Have you seen the x-rays? The only viable way to stabilise those fractures is to insert pins and plates."
"Can you give me a 100% guarantee that every single one will be removed within a few months?"
Lucy hesitated. "No, no I can't, it depends on the healing process."
"Then the answer is still no. I gave him my word." Chris had thought about it during the drive. The last thing Buck had said as they settled him in the car, just before he passed out was. 'I'd rather have three legs than two.' Chris didn't flinch. "You ignore this and we'll slam you with a malpractice suit you'll never get out from under, you understand me?"
"Why in God's name, it can't be an allergy, no one is allergic to Titanium - no one. Religious? Not one I ever heard of and he's go not objection to blood transfusions. If he's just scared or worried, I can explain it to him," she pleaded.
"How? He's unconscious, I have medical power of attorney," Chris reminded.
Lucy studied him, yes he was deadly serious. "Damn it! You're not gonna give way are you? Don’t answer, I know, I know, written instructions. Don't suppose you have any suggestions as to an alternative approach?" she asked.
"You’re the doctor, you figure it out. They told me you're good - prove it."
Once Buck disappeared through the swing doors, Chris turned on Vin. Glancing around he zeroed in on the family waiting room, a small room where families could wait together or relatives were taken aside to hear bad news. Larabee just pointed at the glass door and started to walk. Vin, somewhat at a loss to know what was going on, just followed his clearly furious lover. Once they were there, and the door was closed, Chris spun around and with lethal speed, took hold of Vin's throat and propelled him back against the door.
"Now tell me what the hell is going on?" he demanded.
"Get the fuck off me!" Vin shouted, attempting to extricate himself.
"Not 'till you tell me what you know."
"Nothing! I don't know jack shit - like you!" Vin decided to change tactics, he made himself relax. "Look I'm as freaked as you, okay? Believe me." He waited, willing the man he loved to believe him. Finally his calm patience was rewarded, as Chris dropped his hand and turned away.
"If you're as freaked as me, how come you're so calm, Mr 'let’s get him out of there and deal with it later'?" Vin stayed where he was, back pressed up against the door, not moving into Larabee's space, keeping out intruders. "Come on Tanner tell me what you know. Did you know?" Chris looked back at him.
"No, no I didn't know."
"No way, but when I saw I…"
Chris spun around and was almost instantly in his face. "What?"
"I remembered something, from when I was a kid." Vin didn't speak about his childhood that often and something in Chris told him to back off now, something that finally got past the abject fear that was driving his rage.
"Tell me," Chris finally asked, softening his voice.
"My grandfather used to tell stories…" Vin's grandfather had been a full blood Comanche, and Vin had been raised by him after is mother died when Vin was five. Vin's mother was only half Comanche and his father, about whom he knew very little, had apparently been white, but the old man raised him as if he was a full blood Comanche. "I didn't really think about it, at the time I just thought it was another story."
Finally Chris moved back and gave Vin some space; it was never good to crowd Tanner. The younger man gave a slight half smile as he continued.
"The People, they believe in shapeshifters, but see that ain't what people think it is, it ain't what we saw …what Buck… what we saw…." He took a deep breath, and tried to get what he instinctively understood into some kind of order so he could explain it to Larabee. "See, shapeshifters don't actually change shape."
"Yeah? Well Buck he did, don't say we imagined it or it was some hallucination, he changed!"
"I know, believe me I know, just listen fer once will ya?"
Larabee held his hands up and back off a pace. "Okay, okay I'm listening."
"See a young warrior would pick an animal, most times a wolf 'cause they're fast, cunning, and they work as a team. Everyday he goes out an' just sits and watches the animal. Wolves are no threat to an adult human, well so long as they ain't starvin' 'n ya don't try t' mess with the cubs, some will even come over and make friends - eventually. Every day the warrior learns a bit more about the wolf, how he moves, how he hunts, how he thinks. Then when he needs to, he can 'become' the wolf, just as silent and swift and deadly. But Grandfather said there were others, he called them…um …Sunkmanitu Tanka Wanagi, I think."
"Wolf Spirit, or something like that. He said there were tribes, or maybe he called them packs - can't really remember - anyway they had wolf spirit within them, and they could call the spirit out whenever they wanted. He said they lived apart from the white man's world, but they could be of his tribe. You gotta understand to my grandfather everyone had a tribe no matter how big or small, he just couldn't understand anyone not having a tribe. He said you should never kill a wolf unless you were in danger, because you never knew whose soul the wolf carried. I always thought it was just a story - guess not."
"Well, what else did he say?" Chris demanded.
Vin shook his head. "Don't remember."
"Damn it Vin! We need to know what's going on, he must have said more!"
"I just a little kid, the man's been dead near twenty years. I don't remember - okay?"
The two men stood and stared at each other, sky blue eyes locked on to forest green, unflinching and unwavering.
"Okay?" Vin finally prompted. He was already making an effort to speak softly, now he dropped his voice another degree. "I wish I knew more, believe me, but I don’t."
For what seemed like an age Chris just stared at him, then he let go a long breath, nodded. "Yeah I know, this whole business has me freaked, sorry."
"Ain't no need t' apologise cowboy, right about know I'm as freaked as I ever wanna be, but nothing we c'n do about it, 'cept wait until we c'n talk t' Buck."
Chris stood there for a few seconds more before nodding and turning away. He sank, suddenly drained of all energy, into one of the low bench like chairs. Giving a silent sigh of relief Vin joined him, sliding one hand along the seat and entwined his fingers with Chris' giving them a gentle squeeze.
"More things in heaven and earth, right?" Vin whispered.
"I guess. Oh shit, you never know do you? You just never know when something is going to come up and turn your world on its head."
Chris rested his head on the low seat back, which had the effect of tilting his head up exposing his throat. Vin leant over and brushed it with the softest of kisses. "Not everything that changes your world is bad, you know," he reminded his lover in a husky whisper, knowing full well that Larabee had had his fair share of life changing moments, one at least was very bad indeed, and he hoped this wasn't as dark as it currently seemed.
Pulling back again, Vin turned to more practical matters. "Ya gonna call the others? JD 'll be going nuts by now, you know Bucklin don't like to worry him, he's gonna know something's wrong."
Even before Larabee could think about how to handle the rest of the team, his cell phone rang.
"Larabee," he answered, trying to keep his voice neutral sounding.
Vin sat back, mentally filling in the side of the conversation he couldn't hear. >Chris have you heard from Buck, he didn't come home and he didn't call…<
"JD listen to me, he's with Vin and me at Mercy Hospital."
>What! Is Vin hurt?<
"No it's Buck, he broke his arm."
**Why do they always think it's me?**
>Is he gonna be okay?<
"Yeah JD he'll be fine. He's in surgery now, they have to set it."
>I'm on my way.<
"No JD wait…JD? JD!"
**Too late cowboy line's dead, he's on his way. How - in this rain, on that bike - I don't know, but he's coming.**
"Damn!" Larabee closed his phone.
**Real slick there Larabee, now you gotta call 'um all don't ya?**
"Shut up, you…you…Texan you!"
"What did I say?" Vin feigned innocence.
"You know damn well."
It was actually Josiah who got there first, they told him the story they had agreed with Buck, he had been out hiking, got caught by the rain, slipped and his arm got caught in a trap. This story was repeated to the other three, in turn, as they arrived. Nathan wanted details of the injury, JD just wanted assurance that Buck would be okay, Ezra seemed not overly concerned, his poker face firmly in place. Sanchez watched Larabee and Tanner and his profiler’s brain told him there was something else going on, some undercurrent of tension that had nothing to do with waiting for Buck to come back from surgery. Not long after he arrived, and thankfully before JD turned up, an orderly had brought the trap out, encased in a yellow biohazard bag. Neither man made any effort to take it from him. It seemed to Josiah that they were trying to distance themselves from the whole incident.
"What the hell is taking them so long?" Nathan suddenly asked, breaking the uneasy silence that had descended on the six men.
Normal Nathan was the patient one, the one who knew that medical procedures couldn't be rushed. That very knowledge told him this procedure was taking far longer than it should. After all they only needed to put few plates and screws in -didn't they?
"Brother to quote someone, 'it takes as long as it takes' right?" Josiah reminded Nathan of his oft-used advice.
Four hours after he was taken in to the operating theatre Buck was on his way to recovery and Lucy Shore was about to enter the lion's den. During the operation Tom Heighway, not to mention the anaesthetist and two of the nurses gave her the full Team Seven low-down, a mixture of fact, wishful thinking, urban legend and horror story.
"He's on his way to recovery, once he's out of there and settled in his room, someone will come and get you," she announced.
Six sets of intense eyes were fixed on her.
"Was there a problem?" Nathan asked, "I was surprised it took so long?"
"Well, considering the…" she was about to say 'restrictions' but stopped when she saw Larabee give the slightest of shakes of the head. "…difficulties, everything went well, he may need some treatment in the future to improve the look of the scars, but the bone should heal well - given time." There was a collective look of relief. "Now I suggest you gentlemen go and get a meal or something and come back in a couple of hours.
Chris stepped forward and turned back to look at the others. "Good advice boys, I'll stay with him."
"Mr Larabee, we really don't encourage visitors in recovery, patients are disorientated and often ill, it is best if --"
"I'll be there." There was finality about Chris' statement that brooked no argument, and she conceded gracefully. She always knew she would have to, the others had told her what the team were like and that they were no strangers to the recovery process, indeed in the case of Tanner it was almost essential to have one of them there.
Chris could see JD about to protest but Vin was right there beside him, placing a firm but brotherly hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"Chris is right, come on JD I'll buy you a Big Mac while we wait." JD looked undecided, to accept the offer or protest and say with his 'brother'.
"Can we not find some where else to dine," Ezra complained. "I have never seen the appeal of eating homogenous, grease encrusted, 'plastic' food, with my fingers without benefit of flat ware."
"'Cept when it's fried chicken - right Ez?" Josiah came up to stand at Ezra's shoulder. "Don't think I didn't see you in KFC last week."
"Fried chicken is part of this country's cultural heritage, there is no comparison to the food - though I think calling it food is a gross over statement - that is produced under the sign of the so called, 'golden arches'."
"Fine, then we'll go to KFC," Vin announced. "Don't bother us - right JD?"
JD was still hesitating, but one look at Chris assured him Wilmington was in safe hands, so giving a slight bob of the head, he allowed himself to be led to the door, Josiah and Ezra following. Nathan was also torn. He wasn't an orthopaedic surgeon, he wasn't even a doctor, but he knew enough to know a simple 'plate and screw' operation shouldn't take four hours. He felt very deeply that it was his duty to protect the team, to care for them and ensure they had the best care - weather they wanted it or not!
"Nate," Chris said softy, " - he'll be fine, I have faith in Doctor Shore."
Lucy, who was still in the room, watching the interplay between the men with fascination, found herself touched by his affirmation of faith in her professional skills. Jackson looked back from his leader to the middle-aged woman standing unobtrusively by the door.
"Thank you ma'am, I'm sure Chris is right to trust you, I just…"
Lucy stepped forward. "Perhaps when you have seen Mr Wilmington you and I can have a professional chat," she offered.
"Yes ma'am, I'd like that, thank you. Chris you say hi to Buck for me, tell him I'll be keeping my eye on him," he added, letting a smile crease his often sombre features.
"Oh I'm sure he looks forward to that!" Chris returned.
Buck struggled back to the conscious world slowly, and more than a little disorientated. With such a large wound, open for so long in filthy conditions, with a huge, dirty trap embedded in it, and broken bones exposed to all that contamination as well, infection was inevitable. To minimalise this threat he was on a powerful cocktail of antibionics, and on top of the anaesthetic and morphine, he was sick to his stomach. Not that he had anything to retch on, which was a Godsend at least. Nevertheless the dry heaves were tortuous and tiring. It took him some time to work out that the hand rubbing his back and the voice coaching him softly to ride it out, wasn't a nurse but Chris. Eventually when he was able to lie back and take a deep breath, Chris held a cup and straw out for him and he took some water.
"Better?" Larabee asked.
"Mmm, yeah, thanks." The normally velvet soft voice was raspy and dry. Finally he looked down at his left hand, resting on a pillow across his lap. He studied it and the evil looking contraption that protruded from the soft white bandages that surrounded it. Just below his wrist two shiny silver prongs protruded from the bandage; these ran up to a kind of hub, and from this one pin rose to be connected, much like a scaffolding pole, to a dark steel rod that ran back parallel to his arm to a point midway between wrist and elbow, where another two pins emerged from the white mummy like wrappings.
"It's called an external fixation, and it's temporary," Chris assured. "The doc 'll explain it but basically it has to stay in for six weeks, then you have a small op. to remove the pins, after which you'll be in a regular cast for another two weeks - is that alright?"
Buck nodded. "Thanks Chris, I know … I know it's a shock, and you've got questions, an' I'm gonna answer them, but not yet, I need to heal first, I …" Just then a huge yawn overcame him.
"I know you will," Chris assured, reaching out he let his hand fall on to the back of his old friend's neck, gently massaging it. Buck all but sighed, it had been a long time since Chris had touched him like that, a lots of years and a lifetime of happiness, tragedy and loss. "Sleep now, don't worry about it yet."
Needing no second bidding, Buck's eyelids fluttered closed and in less than a minute he was sleeping peacefully, Chris' hand still on his neck, warm and comforting.
Chris had been struggling with the concept that Buck was still Buck, that essentially he hadn't changed. To a degree that hadn't changed, he still wasn't sure who the man in the bed was anymore. But he had stood there and looked at his oldest friend and he just couldn't hold back any longer. It wasn't the ugly contraption attached to his friend's arm that drew him in. It was the stark white dressings on each finger and thumb, the clear scrapes and grazes on is forearm and elbow. These told him the true story of that night. Just how long had he hung there, desperately scrabbling at the decaying slope, praying for what? For help to come? Could he really have expected anyone to find him? The man who set the trap maybe? No one else, so was he really hoping to die? What was it like to hang there like that, in agony, totally unable to help himself? He couldn't even begin to imagine the pain and fear, the desperation.
"I'd rather have three legs than two." That was the last thing Buck had said, and those words had stayed with Larabee. He settled down to wait, whatever Buck was, he - Chris - would protect him, and he would give him time to explain it.
**How the hell do you explain something like that? Mind you this is Buck, anything is possible,** Chris mused to himself, a small smile escaping at the thought. **Anything is possible!**
After Buck was released from recovery and moved to his own room, the team came to see him. He had slept through most of the move and was still sleeping when the others arrived. Six men waited for him to wake up. They paced, they sat, they talked - but not much - they drank coffee, and then they drank some more coffee and finally they drank coffee. Chris or JD actually sat in the room, at the bedside, while the others waited outside. When Buck finally woke it was JD's worry-etched face beside him, even as he struggled to remember where he was and why, the worry he saw on his 'brother's' face faded to relief.
"Hi," JD greeted softly.
"Hi yourself," Buck responded.
"Glad you're gonna be okay."
"You need anything?"
"Oh, okay. I'll get the others."
"All of them?"
"Well one at a time, but they're all here."
Buck smiled, his team, his 'pack' had come to him when he needed them. They didn't know they were a pack of course, but to Buck they were 'pack'. He had lived too long without a pack, the lonely years had eroded and chipped away at his soul, and then he met Chris. Larabee was an alpha male he could trust and respect. All his life he'd been seeking an alpha, a leader, someone to give his loyalty too. Once he accepted Chris as his pack leader all Chris' family became pack as well, Sarah - as Chris' mate - was also his alpha and Adam his cub, as much as theirs. It was a small pack, but small is better than none, something his mother taught him; they never had much but what they had they cherished. To lose an alpha is a blow to any pack, to lose an alpha and the pack's one and only cub could destroy a pack. It almost did destroy Buck's, but he had given his loyalty to his alpha - to Chris - and only if he walked away from it would the pack die, and that he would never do, no matter how hard Chris tried to push him away. They were pack, the two of them, bonded forever. Then the others came onto his life; he bonded with them and to Buck it was the greatest feeling of belonging, a real pack again, a cub to protect - again. Logically he knew JD wasn't really a cub any more, he was just that little bit too old now, but he needed a cub to protect and JD filled the role.
One by one they came to see him, to joke, the offer support, to worry and fret, but mostly to just be there. By the time everyone had greeted him it was late and the doctor was back to check on her patient and shoo them away. They all offered to stay with him - if he wanted - but he said no, he was all right, just a broken arm, no big deal, so reluctantly they went.
Once he was alone Buck set his mind to imagining. He visualised the team walking down the corridor, to the bank of elevators, he allowed three minutes by the clock in his room for the elevator to arrive and another three for it to reach the first floor. Then he visualised them climbing into or onto their vehicles. JD would be offered lifts so he didn't have to ride the bike in the bad weather - thought the rain had finally eased off some. Vin and Chris would drive his truck back to the ranch. Ezra would be the last to leave the underground parking area, he would turn left at the exit, as he normally would to go home, then at the intersection he would go not straight, on but left again up to the next intersection, left and again at the next now right back were he started, he would once more park his Jag under the hospital and enter an elevator. Buck allowed ten minutes for all this and five for the trip back up to his room. The minutes ticked by as he listened for the familiar footsteps approaching. Right on time the door opened a crack and the smooth southerner slipped into the room, now only illuminated by a single low light over the bed.
"You came," Buck whispered as he watched Standish cross the room to him.
"Always." Ezra leaned over the bed and captured his lips, kissing him passionately, yet gently. "I was so scared when you didn't come," Ezra whispered before returning to the kissing. "I didn't know what to do, the storm was so bad, then there was a black out." He kissed Buck's cheek working his way back to his ear. "In the morning I tried to call but JD's phone was out of order all morning, there was no reply from Chris and my cell was affected by the storm." He nuzzled at Wilmington's ear. "I was about to try calling again when Chris called." More kisses mapped out the line of Buck's shoulder. "Thank God you're alright," Standish breathed as he finally broke away, delighting in the look of joy and utter contentment his ministrations had brought to his lover's face.
"I missed you," Buck confessed.
"Likewise," Ezra stood at Buck's right side, intertwining his fingers with Buck's, using the other hand to occasionally brush a strand of hair back or stroke his thumb over his lover’s cheek bone. "Are you going to tell me what really happened?" Standish finally asked.
Buck looked down, breaking eye contact, studying the ironwork protruding from his arm. Finally he spoke. "Not yet, I will Ez honest, but not yet, it's …well it's complicated and I need to work out how best to do it and I need to be fit again." He looked up. "Will you trust me?"
"You know I do," Ezra assured.
"Trust me no matter what, know that I would never, ever hurt you - please."
Ezra didn't like the implications of this request but he felt compelled to agree, so he nodded. "I trust you Buck, never doubt that."
Ezra settled down to watch over his wounded and clearly troubled lover as the medication began to kick in and he dozed off again. Ezra lay down on the unoccupied bed in the semi private room and eventually slipped into a light sleep, only to be woken by Buck's dreams. He looked on, as Buck whined and growled and whimpered. His uninjured hand all but clawed at the sheets, his legs twitched, and to Ezra it looked like he was digging through the mattress. Chris had told them how he had been caught in a trap for some hours. Clearly he was reliving this horrifying experience in his dreams. The strange noises Buck made in his sleep were something Ezra was used to, yet they sounded so plaintive and fear filled this time he was tearing at Ezra's heart. He wanted so much to climb on to the bed and snuggle up to his lover, hold him, let him know he was safe.
As he stood there in the eerie blue glow of the night-light, Buck's undamaged hand stretched out, as if seeking something. Almost without thinking Ezra placed his hand in his lover‘s larger one. Instantly it was gripped, and as it was the plaintive whimper on Buck's lips withered and died, replaced by a sigh of such contentment that some of Ezra's fears and worries died too. Needing to have more connection, Ezra carded his fingers through the slightly damp, inky black locks of his lover's hair. Each contact produced more sighs and it seemed to Ezra that Buck relaxed further with each stroke, the frown of fear and pain left his face, and the look of peaceful contentment that he was used to seeing on his lover’s face while he slept, returned.
**What aren’t you telling me, my love? What is really going on here? I know you have secrets, so do I. We make a good pair, neither of us finds it easy to trust, though you cover that fear so much better than me. I bet none of the others even realise - do they? They don't see what I see, they don't see the fear of discovery. I live my professional life pretending to be someone I'm not, so I know you see. I know the fear of discovery and the strain of hiding your true self. But what are you hiding so well and why did this incident cause that mask to slip enough for others to see in?**
As he stood there thinking about their relationship and caressing, oh so gently, his lover and watching him sleep, Ezra thought that he had never been so happy as he was now, and that was a cause for concern. Happiness and Ezra P Standish had never been close bedfellows and never steady partners. If he was happy ten to one there was something out there to trip him up and take it away.
Buck's recovery was to the outside world normal. Even to veteran Team Seven watchers the team were behaving as they always did. Zealously over protective, supportive to the point of smothering. But there was a tension between them that only a very few could have picked up on. As if a stranger had been placed in their midst not everyone noticed, but something was wrong, some unidentifiable piece of the jigsaw was missing and without it they weren't whole.
After a fairly rough five days in the hospital fighting off the worst of the infection, Buck was allowed home, and a week later was back in the office. He couldn't type except with his right hand, he couldn't do any filing and any kind of fieldwork was out of the question, but staying at home was hindering his recovery more than helping. So he answered the phones and trawled the Internet for unlicensed alcohol and tobacco suppliers and sights offering illegal arms. He appeared to be his normal self, loud, cheerful, big hearted, occasionally crude, always generous. And yet there were changes. He refused to allow the others to try to investigate who set the trap. Trapping wasn't illegal as such, but traps with teeth on the jaws were. Chris seemed more distant toward his oldest friend. Vin on the other hand was watching Wilmington more closely.
Josiah sat back in his chair and watched Ezra go for coffee. As he walked past Buck, his hand trailed along the desk, he let his fingertips brush over Buck's arm and up to his shoulder before he headed into the break room. When he returned and placed a coffee next to Buck's right hand, the quick smile that passed between seemed to Sanchez to be more then a simple unspoken 'thank you'.
**Well, well, well,** he mused, **I wonder?** He'd been wondering about Chris and Vin for months. Yet even if he was right it didn't explain all that he had observed.
Buck had been injured before, he had been injured far more seriously before and every time he had railed and complained and driven Nathan and the doctors crazy trying to push himself too fast and not taking his medication. But not this time, this time he was a model patient following every instruction to the letter, he didn't even try to con Chris he could go on a bust once. Josiah concluded that Buck was afraid, afraid his arm wouldn't heal. There was, as far as he knew, no reason for him to feel that way and yet all his professional training led to that conclusion. In the past Wilmington always acted as if he was indestructible, so what had changed?
Six weeks passed slowly, but eventually they came to an end and Buck was admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay to have the pins removed. He insisted on going alone; he wouldn't even let Ezra come. If the doctor was going to tell him it hadn't worked, he needed to deal with it alone. Dr Shore had spoken to him at length about his condition. She tried - unsuccessfully - to get him to explain his objection to internal fixation. She told him that the external pins and rod were not as good, there was a risk the bones wouldn't knit properly. Even though Buck knew Two Blood bones healed better than One Bloods, he was still concerned. For six weeks there had been this tension in his gut, this little nagging voice that said 'Your life might be over'. Greeting the Hunters Moon so close to human habitation was risky, especially in Colorado - why the hell he had come to a supposedly wolf free state in the first place he still didn't know. But the moon called him, like it always did. Living as a loner, he often went weeks without ever changing, but he always had to give in to this true nature eventually.
"Mr Wilmington," Lucy Shore came into the room carrying a large folder.
"Buck darlin', call me Buck." He was sitting cross-legged on the bed. His left arm encased in a temporary splint, rested on his lap.
"Very well, Buck, these are your latest x-rays." She put the films up on the light box and flicked the switch. "Do you want to see?"
Buck shrugged and joined her as she explained the pictures. "See these white dots?"
"Those are the holes where the pins were, and they are the only open fractures left, you Mr Wil … Buck have some amazing bones. I never expected this to work this well. Don't get me wrong I expected it to work, just not so well."
"So that’s it? I'm outta here?" Buck asked hopefully.
"Not so fast. You still need a cast for another two weeks to be on the safe side and give these holes a chance to start closing before you start using it fully. You may need some physical therapy after that; we'll see when the cast comes off. How does it feel now?"
Buck looked down. "Bit weak, itchy, aches a bit, that’s all."
"Good, I've put in dissolving stitches, so we can put the cast on and see you in two weeks."
"Two weeks and it’s over," Buck asked seeking conformation.
"Two weeks - hopefully, there are never any cast iron promises in medicine."
Buck and Ezra had seen each other during Buck's recovery. Buck joked that even a broken arm couldn't dampen the Wilmington 'animal magnetism'. He set out on dates, dates that led to one place and one place only - Ezra's apartment. Buck was as affectionate and loving as ever, in fact if anything he was more attentive, more affectionate, seeking and receiving more caresses. Sex was a problem however.
"Porcupines have it easier?" Buck had joked, after Ezra was nearly impaled on his 'scaffolding'.
One thing they could do and had always enjoyed was a mutual hand job. They would lie side by side, propped up on Ezra's mountain of pillows, Ezra's left arm crossing over Buck's right as they grasped each other. As their hands worked they gazed into each other‘s eyes, laughing, and kissing until the sensations became too intense, then there was just gasping and cries of ecstasy.
But the closer it came to 'Liberation Day' as Buck had dubbed the day his cast came off, the more distant he became. Once he was free, Buck had to tell the guys the truth, if he told Chris and Vin he had to tell Ezra - he had been thinking it was time to tell Ezra anyway. They had been together four months now, the longest Buck had ever been in a close personal relationship before this was two weeks. He was beginning to think he loved Ezra, and that was a scary concept! To be mated, to make a lifetime unbreakable commitment to someone was a difficult enough thing to come to terms with, to be mated to a One Blood, a One Blood of the same sex who had no idea what he was…
**Jeez Buck you're getting crazy in your old age! It'll never work, he's gonna freak,** he told himself. But then the alternative was leaving Denver and the team forever. Even if Ezra rejected him once he knew the truth, he would be no worse off. But telling Ezra was one thing, telling Vin and Chris was quite another, but now he had no choice.
The day the cast was to come off Buck knocked on Chris' door and let himself in without waiting for an answer.
"One day you're gonna actually wait for a reply before you come in," Chris commented without looking up.
"You're alone, no point waiting." Buck stood in front of Chris' desk, normally he just flopped down into a chair and relaxed. "I'm off to the hospital now, having the cast off."
Larabee looked up but said nothing.
"I've got some thinking to do, I'll come out to the ranch later, 'bout eight - okay?"
Chris felt a knot form in his gut. So this was it, he was going to find out what was going on. "Okay."
"I'll come over with Ezra. Can you invite the others?"
For a moment Chris didn't respond, he was trying to understand why Buck was going to come with Ezra not JD.
"Chris?" Buck prompted.
"Will you invite the others?"
"All of them?"
"Yup, I'm done hiding."
Chris looked into those deep expressive eyes, eyes he thought he knew just like he had thought he knew the man behind them. He nodded once. "Yeah I'll invite them - you sure about this?"
"I'm sure," Buck stated quietly and with that he was gone.
Buck paced in Ezra's living room. If they were going to be at the ranch on time, they were going to have to leave soon. Buck had told his lover he needed to talk, and Ezra had willingly sat and waited for him to start. That there was something bothering Wilmington was clear enough to everyone, but especially to Standish.
So far all Buck had done was pace. Finally he spoke.
"You remember what I asked you, in the hospital?" he asked without looking at Ezra or ceasing his pacing.
"You asked me to trust you."
"Yeah, do you?"
Buck stopped pacing, but didn't look up, or even turn to face him. "Do you really mean that, no matter what?"
"I do not say things I do not mean, my love. You know that."
Buck nodded and resumed his pacing. "When Chris and Vin found me they saw something, something I have been raised my whole life to hide, to never ever show to the world - no matter what, no matter who. Can you understand that?"
Ezra too had been raised to hide things, things like feelings and emotions.
"Yes I can understand, if you are not happy or comfortable telling me this, I understand, you don't have to."
Buck looked up, finally meeting his lover's eyes, his own expression one of total gratitude.
"Thanks, but it has gone beyond that. I have to - it's gone on too long, things have … now Chris and Vin know, things have changed." Buck want back to pacing. "The thing is I'm … I'm not like you, I'm not like other people."
Ezra frowned. He didn't think that Buck had issues about his sexuality. On the contrary he seemed to be totally relaxed about it, more so than anyone he had ever met.
"Buck is this about us, about being gay?"
"What?" Buck stopped his continuous, restless, movement and looked at Ezra.
"No, no my people, we don't have any issues with that, it just isn't a problem … to us love, sex, it's all okay no matter who you do it with. No this is much more … more … fundamental. I need to show you, I need to show the others but…" Buck moved forward and sat on the coffee table in front of Ezra. "…I don’t think I can do it more than once, if I show you now, I'll have to explain it, then I'll have to do it again for them. I just don't think I can do it twice - do you understand?" he pleaded, all but begging Ezra to understand.
Ezra was confused; who were Buck's 'people' and what was so different about him, so fundamentally different, that he could only explain it once? But one look at the pleading, beseeching look on his lover's face, made him want to instantly agree to whatever he wanted. So rarely did Buck ask for anything for himself, he was by far the most selfless lover or friend Ezra had ever had.
**Who are you kidding Ezra he's the only 'lover' in the true sense of the word you have ever had.**
"I understand," Ezra assured.
"Please remember that, because ya gonna feel betrayed, and let down and lied to. I didn't mean to, I swear. It's just the way I was raised, it's hard to change something that has been ingrained into you since you were… well forever. I didn't mean to show the others first, it just happened, I …"
"Buck stop. I understand what you are saying, whatever it is I'll understand, okay? So let‘s get to the ranch and get this over with."
"Okay." Buck leant forward and kissed Ezra very gently and tenderly. "Please," he whispered as he pulled back "…remember that I will never hurt you, that I am still me, the man you see will always be here. Whatever you are imagining is wrong, and I can't tell you what it is I have to show you, but promise me that if you can't live with it, you'll tell me - to my face, and you won’t hate me."
Ezra was getting scared now, really scared. He had been imaging some very strange and scary stuff, and now Buck told him that he was wrong - just what the hell was going on?
Ezra drove in silence to the ranch, Buck equally silent beside him in the Jag. From the vehicles outside it was clear they were the last to arrive. Buck didn't know what Chris had told the others, he just hoped they would give him a fair hearing. What he was about to do went against everything he had grown up believing, but it had to be done. This was too big a secret, now that it was out, it needed to be all the way out.
With Ezra following, he mounted the steps to the house and, taking one last deep breath, pushed open the door and strode in. Five heads turned to look at him. Ezra, slipped past him and took a seat on the sofa next to JD.
"Hi guys," Buck said in a very uncharacteristic small voice. "Sorry to drag you out here, um what did Chris tell you guys?" He looked at Josiah, Nathan and JD.
"Well, not much," Nathan announced. "Just that you needed to see us and it was important."
"And you all came?" he sounded somewhat surprised.
"'Course we came," JD said, somewhat indignantly.
"There was never any question of not coming, brother."
"Oh, well thanks guys. You see when Chris and Vin found me I wasn't … that is I didn't … I wasn't…" He started pacing. All the way there he had been rehearsing what to say, he'd been rehearsing ever since he came around in the hospital eight weeks ago. But it all evaporated as soon as he tried to speak. "Ok, that night it was the Hunters Moon - you know what that is?"
He turned to face the others.
"First night of the full moon," Josiah explained.
"Yeah, yeah that's right and it called to me. I try not to, sometimes I can resist, sometimes I just go up on the roof and do it real quiet, but it was such a warm night and it was so clear and I couldn't resist it, so I went out." He stopped speaking and looked at them, almost willing them to understand.
"What brother, what could you not resist doing?" Josiah prompted softly.
"The moon, I sang to the moon, I have to, I just can't help it. That's what I was doing, up on the mountain." He looked over at Chris and Vin, leaning up against the wall by the kitchen. "You heard?" he asked, and as the others watched both men nodded once. "Thought so, guess you weren't the only one, someone set a trap for me, and like and idiot I stepped right in it." He went back to pacing.
"Wait a sec here," JD interjected. "How did you step in a trap with your arm?" he asked.
Chris and Vin looked down, avoiding eye contact with Buck, a clear message that from now on he was on his own.
"Yeah, well that’s the thing isn't it? See I had to do it because Vin was gonna shoot me."
"What!" Ezra turned to face Vin. "Just what the hell is going on here?" he demanded.
"It wasn't his fault, he was trying to do the right thing, I mean if I had found what they did, I'd have got my gun out too."
"Look Buck." JD had had enough. "Tell us what is going on, whatever it is just tell us."
"I can't tell you, I have to show you." He pulled off his sneakers. "You just have to trust me." He stared at Ezra as he pulled off his tee shirt. "No matter what. Please?"
"We trust you Buck, you have to trust us as well, trust that we are your friends," Josiah assured.
Giving one nod of his head and a half smile, Buck began to unbutton his jeans. JD was about to speak, but was silenced by a gentle hand on his arm from Nathan. Once Buck was undressed, he stood before them, naked and unashamed. He knew they were all watching as he initiated the change. The atmosphere changed, it became charged, as if a summer storm was brewing right there in the room and as they watched, Buck dropped to the floor. Before they could react or even see what was happening a huge silver-grey wolf stood before the stunned men. He cringed, flattened his ears, tucked his tail between his legs and tilted his head to expose his vulnerable neck to them.
For a moment there was silence. The four who had had no idea what was going to happen, just sat there - open mouthed and speeches. Vin, even though he had see it three times now, was still stunned, but after a second to compose himself, he stepped away from the wall and moved stand beside the trembling lupus. Dropping to one knee, he gently ran a hand over the back of the wolf's head and down his neck.
"Hey there Bucklin," he breathed. "It's okay."
There was the slight wag of the tucked tail, Buck bent his head around and gave Vin's other hand a small lick. All the time his yellow eyes were scanning the others, trying to gauge their reactions.
"Um … that … can't happen, it just can't … I mean medically it's impossible - isn't it?" Nathan stammered out.
"There are more things in heaven and earth than are described in Gray's Anatomy," Josiah commented.
Buck gave Vin's hand one more lick, then glanced at Chris, almost as if he was seeking his permission. To the onlookers there was no reaction on Chris' face, but nevertheless Buck turned back and, still with his ears down, tail tucked and head out stretched and tilted, he crept toward the others. The first person he approached was Josiah, stopping just in front of him, he looked pleadingly.
"That really you Buck?" Sanchez asked.
The wolf whimpered.
Josiah tentatively reached out his hand and patted the wolf between the ears. "God moves in mysterious ways alright, and no mistake."
Buck reluctantly left the comforting feel of Sanchez's large hand and moved on to Nathan, he lay his head down on Jackson's knee and gazed up at him.
"This can't happen, it's a hallucination - that's what it is, or a dream or mass hypnotism," the medic tried to reason.
Buck moved his head and licked Jackson's hand, great wet slobbering licks up and down his hand.
"I think the hallucination just slimed you," Vin observed.
Nathan looked down at his warm wet hand and just stared, shaking his head gently. Finally after what seemed like and age he reached out one hand and felt the soft fur at the side of Buck's muzzle. "Well I'll be," he whispered. "Damn! You always said you had 'animal magnetism'."
Buck padded over to JD. He didn't need to be able to speak for JD to see the regret his friend was feeling. Buck and JD were as close as brothers and it had hurt Buck that he couldn't share the truth about his true nature with the young man. JD didn't hesitate, he reached out his hand and buried it deep in Buck's thick neck fur. "This is..." he gasped. "…it's so, I mean it's like… like something out of Buffy." His tentative smile became a grin. "Hell this is so cool!"
Buck gave a little jump landing with his forepaws either side of JD, then he licked the young computer whizz kid all over with unbridled enthusiasm, tail wagging frantically, next to Ezra, JD's reaction had been the one that mattered most to him.
"Yeah pal, me too, now get off before you drown me," JD joked.
Buck dropped down and walked slowly toward Ezra. The confidence and joy of just a second ago gone in an instant. He dropped his head and tucked his tail down. Even to the uninitiated Buck was clearly trying to look as unthreatening as possible, harmless and submissive. Ezra was having problems holding back tears. His Buck should never cower or cringe, his Buck was tall and strong and brave, he was not submissive, he faced life's challenges and said 'bring it on!'.
"Come my friend…" He had to stop himself saying 'love'. "…don't cringe so, hold that wonderful head high. I cannot say I am not amazed and confused, but I am not repulsed." Then Ezra lowered his head and his voice. "And I do still trust you," he whispered.
Buck instantly raised his head and began to lick Ezra all over enthusiastically. As with JD he jumped up on the sofa to continue the greeting. Finally having been licked and nuzzled numerous times Ezra spoke softly into the wolf's ear. "Enough, people will talk, go now."
After one last lick he dropped joyfully back down onto the floor. Had he been in human form, his friends would have seen him wince, as his left fore leg protested the sudden weight it had to bear. Reluctantly he turned away from Ezra and looked at Chris and Vin. As he padded across the room toward them, he couldn't help but limp.
"You best get off that leg Buck, don't think the doctors expected you to be walking on it," Nathan advised.
Buck stopped and cocked his head in the medic's direction. It was so comforting to hear him fuss like that. No matter what he was faced with, Nathan couldn't help but fret. He shook his head slowly, but turned toward the pile of clothes in the middle of the room. There was a murmur of laughter around the room.
"What?" Nathan asked.
Josiah lay a large hand on his friend's back. "Nathan, promise me you won't ever change."
Once more the room was filled with a heavy, electrically charged atmosphere and Buck Wilmington in all his six foot three, naked glory, stood before them. Uncaring of his naked state, he rubbed at his newly healed arm, giving Nathan a shy smile. "Reckon you're right about my arm," he admitted. Then he began to dress. Once he had his jeans and shirt on he strode over to the counter were Chris kept his liquor.
"Don’t know about you guys, but I need a drink," he announced.
"Damn straight!" Chris muttered darkly and followed him.
Only when he got close to his oldest friend did he realise Buck was white as a sheet, his hands were trembling so much he could barely pour the scotch. Without saying anything or making a big deal out of it, he reached out and took both bottle and glass and poured out a large measure, which he handed back to Buck. Wilmington kept his eyes down; he closed both hands around the glass for a second, took a deep breath and then downed the drink in one go. Then he held the still trembling glass out for a refill. Chris obliged and then poured himself a stiff measure.
Quickly and in silence Chris gave everyone a drink, then they all sat down, six men forming a half circle around the seventh.
"Guess you got questions," Buck stated softly. "Well go ahead, ask, anything you want."
For a long time there was silence, the others just stared.
"Okay," Buck said. "I'll start, I'm not a werewolf, no full moons, a lead bullet will kill me just fine, no need for silver, I know who I am all the time." He looked up. "It's not a disease, or an infection, you can't catch it, not even if I bit you - which ain't gonna do," he added hastily.
"So," Chris began. "… what are you?"
Buck looked at his oldest friend, his alpha, his pack leader, and saw the hurt and betrayal. As close as they were, as closes as they had been, he hadn't been able to share this thing that was so much part of his life, with Chris.
"We call ourselves Two Blood."
JD looked at his friend, surrogate big brother and mentor. "How did you get it then, if we can't catch it?"
Buck shrugged and gave a half smile. "I was born this way, my daddy was a Two Blood, my mom was a One Blood."
"Is that us? Are we One Bloods?" Josiah asked.
Buck nodded. "Two Blood have always been around, as long as humans, maybe longer. We don't show ourselves to One Bloods, not ever, where do you think werewolf legends came from? People see a Two Blood change, they freak out - well, most do - the story is told and retold and added to, and changed."
"People demonise what they don't understand," Josiah commented philosophically.
"Yeah, so we - my people - learnt fast to stay out of sight, we learnt to blend in with the One Blood world."
"Can you do that anytime you want?" Nathan asked.
"Yes, well, so long as I don't have something attached to me that would stop the bones changing."
Now Nathan, and indeed the others, learnt why he wouldn't let a doctor place a permanent plate or screw in his arm.
"Does it hurt?" The medic wanted to know.
Buck all but laughed. "No, no, it feels wonderful, it's like an addiction, I just can't imagine not doing it, I need to be the wolf sometimes."
"My grandfather told stories about the Sunkmanitu Tanka Wanagi," Vin started.
"Wolf Spirits, yeah, that’s another name for Two Blood," Buck confirmed.
"But the way he told it, they lived with the People, not hiding from them."
"Well, living with Indians and living with white people is different, Indians were and still are more open to a different existence, a different world. And besides Two Blood are better hunters and trackers, so they were useful to have around."
"You reckon you can out track me, Bucklin?" Vin questioned with a laugh in his voice.
"I can see, hear and most of all smell better than you will ever be able to, Junior."
"Wait," JD interjected. "…you can smell as good a wolf can, that is so cool, and at the same time yuck! Oh man, my sneakers must nearly kill you!"
"Your sneakers kill everyone JD, we should class them as a chemical weapon!" Vin joked.
Even Buck had to laugh, then he tried to reassure JD. "Don't worry, kid, natural smells, human smells, bodies, that don't bother me, it's chemical smells that I sometimes have trouble with, remember that new soap Ezra got you from Italy?"
"Yeah, that was good stuff, smelled great - wait! It disappeared! Was that you?"
Buck nodded. "Sorry, JD, but it was making me wanna puke."
"You were sick as a dog - sorry wolf - at that bust in the paint factory," Chris remembered.
Buck shrugged, "Couldn't help it."
"That is something I should have known about, you could have endangered lives," Chris' anger was showing through now.
"Hell, Chris, he wasn't the only one having trouble with the smell that day, as I recall," Nathan reminded.
"If someone I am relying on, someone I place in a specific location, to do a specific job has a weakness I don't know about, it endangers lives. Why?" All pretence that what he now knew didn't bother him gone, Chris stood up and began pacing. "Why in the name of God didn't you tell me? It's been nearly fourteen years. We were as close as any brothers, you were my best man, you were Adam's God father …Oh Jesus, Adam…"
And right there Buck saw the look all Two Blood dread, the look that said 'You're a freak, you're not normal, I don't know what you are, but I don't want you anywhere near me or my family.'
"I would never have hurt him, I would never have let anyone hurt him …if …if I could have stopped it." Chris head snapped around, trying to work out how Buck knew what he was thinking. "I loved Adam, he was part of my pa… family." Only just in time did he change 'pack' to 'family'; he didn't think they were quite ready for that yet.
That the six of them were his pack he had no doubt, it wasn't one any Two Blood would recognise but it gave Buck the feeling of belonging that he so needed. He had submitted to Chris, way back when they were young cops together. To Chris it was just a bit of fun, fuck buddies having fun. But to Buck it was so much more, it was a bonding. Then Chris met Sarah, fell in love and married. Since Sarah and Chris were mated, that made her his alpha as much as Chris. Adam was a cub, automatically part of the pack. Now Chris was mated to Vin; that gave Vin equal standing with Chris and was himself mated - well at least bonded - to Ezra. The others were 'pack' by association.
"I'm not a monster, Chris, whatever you see, it's still me," Buck pleaded.
Chris stopped pacing. "But I don't know who you are - not any more."
"Why? Because I kept something about myself a secret? We all do it, believe me, I know." He tapped his nose. "I know where you have been and with who, I know what you have been doing and with who. I know what you ate, what you drank, all of it." He addressed his comments to Chris, his back to the others. "All of it, Chris, I know all of it." He glanced at Vin. "Don't lecture me about secrets, this is something that was drilled into me from birth, it isn't like 'truth or dare' here, you know?"
"I know." The voice was soft and quiet, but it made Buck spin around, this was the first thing Ezra had said since he changed back and got dressed. "You could no more stop hiding your true nature from the world than I can stop caring about appearances and money, we are what our mothers made us."
Buck turned back to face Ezra. "She was an amazing woman," he admitted to his lover.
"Of that I have no doubt. It can't have been easy for her."
Buck went on to tell them about his mother and their life together. That she had been a prostitute they all knew. It wasn't information he volunteered easily, but Chris had known for a long time and eventually he had gained the courage and confidence to share with his other friends.
"Guess the first she knew that something was different, that I was different, was when she went into labour after only six months."
"So you were a prem baby?" Nathan asked.
Buck laughed. "No way! Do I look like I was prem? Two Blood cubs are always born at six months."
"Cubs?" Josiah echoed, not entirely sure he wanted to know the truth.
Buck shrugged. "I was born human - luckily for Ma 'cause a cub would have been a shock - but it can be either way. Two Blood cubs have to be kept outta sight until they're two and a half to three, 'till they can control the change. Ma was lucky, I was an early developer."
He explained how she had kept on the move, that if anyone made any comment about her son being different or there was any rumours or stories about wolf cubs in the area or strange howling, they moved on.
"She was the best, I mean most people would have dumped a freak baby like me, or even killed it. But Ma, she was …"
"A saint," JD said softy, reminding Buck of his often used description of his beloved mother.
"Yeah, that’s right. She knew I needed help, someone to teach me. Somehow, and I never did find out how, she got in contact with an old, lone Two Blood called Sam. He taught me, about our laws, traditions, what I was capable of. He helped me come to terms with who and what I was. And he taught me how to hide it, how to live in the One Blood world."
"Wait, back up a bit?" Chris requested. "Your mom didn’t know what you were… I mean, while she was carrying you?"
"No. See, a Two Blood and a One Blood can make a baby - which will always be Two Blood - but it's rare, very rare. Guess my dad didn't think the risk was worth warning her about."
"Was he a client?" Chris enquired bluntly. Ezra suddenly glared at him, silently conveying his annoyance at Chris' whole attitude.
"No, she wouldn't have gotten pregnant if she had been working, she was a pro. The way she told it, he promised to marry her, promised her everything, and when she put out, he took off. She was a waitress at the time, no family, unmarried and pregnant. He didn't leave her many options."
The bitterness and anger at his father was there for all to hear, his head dropped, and his shoulders hunched. He had been sitting alone on the sofa, but now, and as one in perfect harmony, JD and Ezra rose from the floor and recliner respectively and crossed to the sofa, sitting down either side of Buck. JD put his arm across his shoulders and Ezra took his hand. That physical contact was what he needed, just having them close was helping to chase away the darkness the memories had raised.
"Can I ask something?" Nathan enquired, partly out of curiosity and partly to break the uneasy silence that had descended.
"I told you, Nate, you can ask anything," Buck assured, looking up.
"You got shot, year before last, you had blood transfusions, from human donors, I don't …"
"I am human, Nate, right now I am exactly what you see - a man. I have heightened senses, my bones heal better than most, my temperature is about a degree higher than yours and my immune system is a bit better than yours - but not much. What a DNA test would show, I don't know, but a blood test right now would show nice, healthy, ordinary, type O blood."
"And if we tested you when you were a wolf?"
"Not sure, wolf blood, I guess."
Nathan just shook his head, it was really almost too much for him to take in.
Buck felt Ezra's hand tighten around his. "Why don't you tell them all the secrets?" the southerner whispered.
Buck frowned at Standish; was he really saying what he thought he was?
"Are you sure?" he asked, seeking clarification.
Ezra had been trying to assimilate all he had heard and seen, trying to make sense of it all. As a boy he had once lived in New Orleans, the maid - who was acting as his nanny - used to tell him stories from the colourful city's past. One he remembered was about the Loup Garou. When Buck had pleaded with him to understand, to trust him, he had agreed, but instantly all kinds of scenarios went through his head, ranging from bizarre sexual practises to Buck being a spy or even a drug addict. But never in a million years would he have thought about Buck being a Loup Garou. Well, okay, technically he wasn't a werewolf, but it was very similar and many of the stories he had been told fitted what he now knew about Two Blood better than werewolves. JD was right about one thing, it was like something out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ezra was a closet Buffy fan, actually he was more an Angel fan these days, his main interest in Buffy being a certain tall dark vampire, though Xander wasn't bad either. Ezra had a pronounced weakness for tall and dark. Somehow the popular TV shows had made it easier to accept that supernatural stuff did happen - though to be fair the way Buck was describing it he wasn't a supernatural creature, just different.
Ezra knew about being different, and about hiding your true self. Yes, he was shocked, and amazed, and it seemed to him he should be freaked out - but he wasn't. All he had seen, in that cringing, cowering wolf, was the man he loved looking so scared and alone, terrified that he was about to be rejected; or worse that his friends would turn on him. He needed to make Buck feel if with no one else, his relationship with him was secure. He, Ezra P Standish, would embrace the wolf and hold it close. He could think of no better way to demonstrate his faith and love than to make it public - to the others at least.
"There are all together too many secrets, the fewer the better. I am sure, believe me. You asked me to trust you, but I had no idea what it was you were asking, just how much trust you were placing in me, how much faith you had placed in me. No one has ever trusted me that much - no one. Whatever comes, what ever the future holds, you will not face it alone."
Buck gazed into Ezra's eyes, seeking conformation, seeking permission.
"What's going on?" JD wanted to know.
"We," Buck began, not moving, looking only at Ezra. "…Ezra and I, we're a couple."
There was an almost surreal moment of total silence, everyone frozen, then JD exploded.
"What!" he spluttered into his whisky, all but choking on it. "No! No way - Buck is a wolf, okay, that I can except, Buck is gay? No way, uh uh, nope, can't be." He shook his head. "Ezra, yes - sorry Ez, but the clothes, the language, you never date, I just sorta figured - but not Buck!"
"JD," Buck said softly.
"No, Buck, it's a joke, it has to be I…"
"I'm sorry, kid, I didn't mean for you to find out this way, but I'm glad that there are no more secrets." Buck stared into the wide eyes of his young friend. "I've always been bi, it just wasn't something I explored much in recent years." He glanced at Chris. "But it was always there. Is it gonna be a problem?"
JD held his gaze for a long time, then he looked at Ezra. "If you hurt him I'll…" Words failed him at this point, too many emotions were flooding his mind to be able to speak coherently.
"Have no fear, my young friend, I would never hurt him and I am relying on you to help me look after him, for we both know he doesn't do a very good job of it himself - don't we?"
Buck glanced from lover to 'brother' and back. "Hello! I am here you know, I can look after myself."
"Yeah, right!" JD exclaimed. "As if!"
"I feel I must point out, that is an erroneous claim, lover."
"What about when you cut your hand on the beer bottle and bled all over the kitchen? Mr 'it's just a scratch', Mr 'ain't nothin' to worry about'?" JD reminded.
"Six stitches!" Ezra recalled.
"Don’t forget the concussion he got from the counter, when he fainted," Nathan added.
"Or the infection he got, when he pulled the stitches out playing football the next weekend." Josiah didn't want to be left out.
Vin decided to add his two-cent's worth. "Or puking his guts up, because he forgot he was allergic to that flufloxi…stuff - the antibiotics."
Chris laughed and somehow it was so unexpected and so out of character with his attitude all evening, that all conversation ceased. "You're out numbered, Big Dog."
Larabee had been watching his men, his team, his 'family', take on, assimilate, process and accept not one, startling revelation about one of there own, but two. To Vin of course the wolf bit wasn't news and neither was the gay thing to Ezra, but it was, all in all a lot to take onboard all in one go - but that was what they had done. And why not? In their work they did it all the time, busts, stings, undercover operations were very fluid things, everything could change and you and to go with it, think on your feet. Their ability to do this was what separated Team Seven from the rest. He was the leader, but they could all lead and all think for themselves, think for each other and even outsiders, more importantly they could 'think outside the box'. And if anything was ever, 'outside the box' - it was tonight's revelations!
He had been angry with his old friend; once he knew he was going to be alright, worry changed to anger, an anger that had been simmering and building while Wilmington healed. He felt betrayed, hurt that Buck hadn't trusted him, had kept something so totally central to who and what he was hidden. That look on Buck's face, when he all but implied that it hadn't been safe to leave his son with his 'Uncle Buck', now haunted Chris. Why had Buck hidden his true self from them, from him? Because he was afraid of being rejected, misunderstood, excluded. Which was just what Chris - and Chris alone - had done. He had ignored all he knew about Buck, his honesty, his loyalty, his love and friendship, his tenacity and bravery, and gave vent to his prejudice and anger. But watching how the others, who knew less going into the situation than him, had reacted to all they had discovered, shamed him. They, who had only know him a few short years, had simply added this new dynamic to his character, to what they already knew. They hadn't simply ignored what they knew of him; the way his oldest friend, the one person who knew him best, had know him the longest, had the most reason the trust him, the most reason to be grateful to call Buck Wilmington friend, had.
They talked some more, though not about Two Bloods or Buck and Ezra, they just talked, like they always did. When it came time to go home, JD cornered Buck.
"So, I guess you're gonna go home with Ezra?"
Buck looked down, shifting uncomfortably. "I didn't want it to be this way. Things just happened, I …that is, I, sort of lost control of the situation."
"Well, that is kind of an understatement."
"I don't know if we will be moving in together yet, we haven't talked about it, but…"
"But you'd like to?" Dunne finished.
Buck nodded. "Yeah," he admitted softly.
JD gave a slight smile of reassurance. "I guess I always sort of knew you'd find someone one day. I know the others - well, except Ezra obviously - think you're just a Don Juan, but I've always sort of known you were looking for that special someone. I just never figured it'd be a man."
"Are you really okay with this?"
"With you being a wolf, sure, why not, like I said it's kinda cool."
Buck had deliberately not mentioned anything about bonding and pack law concerning One Bloods in a pack. Officially they weren't a pack, so there was no point scaring his friends. Half of him hoped there would be no reason to tell them, he might lose them. And yet half of him desperately wanted the closeness, the contact, the physical comfort that he imagined must come with pack life. Living in a pack was something he had fantasised about all his life. As a boy, he used to pretend his friends were his pack. An outgoing, fun loving boy, who was good at sport, precociously mature and good looking, he was never short of friends, but he was always leaving, moving on. Then he had to make new friends and start all over again. It was all pretend and fantasy, even in the police, until he met Chris. Chris was the first person who he felt close enough to call 'pack' and really mean it. Then he joined the team and six of them became a kind of family to him. He was as close now to his life long fantasy of living like a real Two Blood, in a pack of his own, as he ever thought he could get.
"Not the reaction I was expecting, but better than I was hoping for," Buck admitted. "And the other thing?"
"You and Ez?" Buck nodded. "I can't say, it isn't a lot to deal with, all at once, but I've always hoped you'd find someone, I just kinda expected I'd be the one moving out."
"You don’t have to leave the apartment, you know that, don't you, assuming I do leave…" He lifted his head and ran a hand over his face. "…I'm getting ahead of myself here, let's…let's take it one day at a time."
JD thought that was the best idea he'd heard in a long time.
Buck and JD joined the others on the porch, as they got ready to head home.
"You coming?" Ezra asked the tall Two Blood quietly.
"If it's okay with you, I'll meet you at the end of the drive, it's been a long time since I stretched my legs," Buck explained.
For a second Standish didn’t understand what he was talking about, until Buck started to undo his shirt, and toed off his boots. The others watched with awed fascination, as once more their friend's form was replaced, by that of a truly huge shaggy wolf. The wolf turned his head toward the open country beyond the yard and sniffed, his tail waved back and forth in anticipation. He turned his head back to look at Ezra.
"Well, you better go if you're going," the southerner encouraged.
With a glance at the others and a yip of pure joy the wolf trotted down of the porch and into the night.
"Damn!" Nathan swore.
"What?" the others asked.
"I meant to tell him to take it easy on his leg, oh well, too late now."
Vin and Chris watched the others leave, from the porch they could see the end of the drive and the lights of Ezra's Jag as it waited for its passenger. Eventually they saw the passenger side door open and a large form dart out of the trees and into the car, before the door closed and it pulled away.
"Think ol' Ez 'll kill him when he tries to get the hair out of the carpet and the dirt off the leather?" Vin asked as the lovers turned to go back into the house.
"You have a truly evil mind, Tanner," Chris commented as he put his arm over the Texan's shoulder.
Josiah sat down in the booth next to JD and opposite Nathan. The three of them had agreed as they walked to their cars, to meet at an all night diner they always passed on the way to and from Chris'. Mugs of strong black coffee steamed before each man. Now was a time for clear thinking.
"Have you ever seen or heard anything like this before?" JD asked the man beside him.
"No, never. How are you doing, JD?"
The young man shrugged. "It's weird, I feel I should be freaked but I'm not, I don't know, but Buck as a wolf, it's not that hard to accept."
"Easier than Buck being gay?" Sanchez prompted.
"Yeah. That was …I don't know? I just can't seem to get my head around it. It's not like I have a problem with gays as such, but this is Buck…"
"If you think about it," Nathan started. "It's not that unexpected. Buck is such a sexual person, so uninhibited, why wouldn't he be bi?" The serious medic looked into the eyes of their young friend. "You know what they say about the difference between a straight man and a bisexual man?"
JD shook his head.
"Six pints of beer," Josiah supplied.
JD's eyes grew wide as saucers and for a moment the two older men thought they had gone too far, but then the young easterner's face split into a huge smile, and he began to laugh. Eventually the smile died.
"It's just…I don't… that is, I hadn't expected to be living alone - not for a while yet." JD's head hung as he avoided the eyes of the other two men, very aware he was sounding more like the kid they tended to see him as, instead of the independent young man he wanted them to see. Buck might not be sure if he was moving out - but JD was. Nathan had been right, Buck was a very passionate person, and there was no way he could be in love and not live with that person. Living with Buck had given him everything he had needed - everything he wanted, even if he didn't know he wanted it. Family - a big, over protective, older brother to take care of him, watch out for him, pick him up when he fell, listen to him when he was down, help him deal with the loss of his mother, an experience he had in common with the lanky agent. Most importantly, to teach him. Without Buck he would just be a nerdy little computer geek, barley tolerated by the rest of the ATF. Instead he was full member of the most successful federal tactical team in the country, a fully qualified agent, multi skilled, confident in the field and confident with the older and vastly more experienced men he worked with. Buck made it okay to mess up, so long as you learnt from your mistakes.
The other two looked at each other and almost as one gave a slight shake of the head. There was nothing they could say to make JD feel better. JD knew full well that if Buck did move out he would still be around and getting Buck to stop protecting JD - or indeed anyone - was like asking the sun not rise. Finally Josiah decided move to a new topic.
"What about the other two?"
Buck had entered the car in wolf form, he didn't sit on the seat, where his clothes rested, but curled up on the floor under the dash, his head resting on the seat, gazing up at Ezra as he drove.
"Are you intending to stay like that?" Ezra asked. Buck thumped his tail up and down, Ezra couldn't see it but he could hear it. "What are you planning, to enter the apartment like that?" Buck yipped. "And how am I supposed to explain that?" Ezra was fully aware that it was very unlikely, in the quiet, up market building Ezra lived in, where he was by far the youngest resident, that between the basement parking garage and the apartment, they would meet anyone, especially considering it was now nearly two in the morning.
Buck did indeed intend to stay as a wolf until they were home. He didn't want to have to answer Ezra's questions yet, he didn't want to see the hurt and betrayal he believed he would face. In front of the guys Ezra had supported him, in private that might all change. He wanted to remind Ezra why they were together. If he entered the apartment as the wolf, then changed, he would be naked; hopefully that would distract Ezra long enough for him to seduce the undercover agent.
The parking garage was indeed deserted, as was the staircase and the corridor. Once the door was closed behind them and even before Ezra had dropped Buck's bundled up clothes, his lover was standing before him, tall, naked and beautiful. Reaching out his hand, he cupped Ezra's cheek, stroking his thumb over the well-defined cheekbone, gazing down with love into the jade green eyes he adored so much. He bent his head and captured Ezra's lips, kissing him long and hard and deep. He felt Ezra relax as he brought his arm up to caress the powerful back, through the soft fabric of his linen jacket.
"Need you," Buck breathed, and that was so true, never had Buck Wilmington needed another person's touch as much as he did at that moment, never had he needed the reassurance that he was still accepted and wanted, as now. He had bared his soul as he never had before, now he desperately needed to know it was not the end of his life as he had come to know it. His time in Denver was the longest time he had lived anywhere, Denver was the only place he had ever called home and he didn't want to leave it or the people he loved. Ezra had said they would stay together, but he needed proof, he needed the physical affirmation of that declaration.
"I know." Ezra relaxed into the caress as skilled hands began to undress him where he stood in the hallway. Once Ezra was bare chested and bare foot, Buck began to move them toward the bedroom, kissing, nibbling, nuzzling and stroking his lover as they moved. Claiming him, marking him with his scent - 'this is my man'.
Ezra made no resistance, he let Buck lead, knowing how much he needed this - actually Buck almost always led and that was the way Ezra liked it. Once in the bedroom, Buck sank gracefully to his knees in front of Ezra. Skilled and nimble fingers made short work of Ezra's pants and silk briefs. Ezra was already half hard, his smooth cock rising majestically from its bed if luxuriant chestnut curls, flushing darker and darker as it rose. Buck had no intention of letting Ezra become aroused without attention. He pressed his thumb to the tip, running it over he slit at the end. Ezra sighed, his hand instinctively coming to rest in Buck's thick hair.
Those skilled hands encircled Ezra's penis stroking, squeezing and pulling - gently. Suddenly Buck took Ezra into his mouth, causing the undercover agent to gasp and wave almost buckling at the knee as the incredibly capable, hot mouth worked its magic on him, sucking and massaging with an intoxicating mixture of expertise and strength. Buck sucked, licked and caressed, using his hands to stimulate the base of the shaft. Now barley able to stand Ezra tightened his grip on Buck's hair, swaying in time to Buck's oral thrusts.
"Oh sweet Jesus, love!" he cried. "I'm gonna …"
That was as far as he got, before he came, his warm, salty seed filling Buck's mouth, before the Two Blood swallowed it greedily.
Buck pulled back and stood just in time to catch Standish and ease the dazed man down onto the huge bed behind them.
"Ezra? Love? You okay?" he enquired.
"Mmm, never better," Ezra assured, finally opening his eyes, gazing dreamily up at the face of the man he loved.
That was all the assurance Buck needed, he began to rain kisses on Ezra all over again, sucking on the proud, erect nipples, his head bobbing back and forth as he lavished attention on both. Still slightly dazed from his recent orgasm, Ezra nevertheless was more than ready for more attention. The kisses began to move south, and without any conscious thought, Ezra spread his legs invitingly. Even before the kisses began to move down his torso, Buck's hands were already moving, cupping Ezra's ball sack, then moving further back to his sensitive spot just in front of his anus. Still floating and not really taking in the details Ezra was surprised that the finger caressing him became cool and slick with lube.
With a finger entering him, and another continuing to stoke his perineum, Ezra's apparently spent cock was already showing signs of renewed arousal. Already relaxed and very aroused, one finger was swiftly followed by two. He pushed his hips forward, needing more contact, and deeper penetration.
"More, more," Ezra murmured as he began to writhe under Wilmington's expert attention.
"Whatever you need," Buck assured. He removed his fingers and even before Ezra could protest their loss he placed the head of his fully erect and aching cock in the well stretched hole. He pressed home with one smooth, easy movement. Ezra's hips jerked off the bed as the burn came and passed.
"Yes, oh God, yes!" the southerner cried out, coming out of his post orgasmic haze. He needed to feel Buck inside him as much as Buck needed to be in him. No one filled him like Buck, no one made him feel loved and possessed the way Buck did. This was the final affirmation he needed that his lover was still the man he had fallen in love with.
Buck gloried in the feel of Ezra encasing him in hot tightness, in the intimate contact, the coupling, the bonding. His heart soared as he watched the expression of pure joy and lust spread over Ezra's face. If he could make him feel like that, surly Ezra would stay with him? He concentrated on his movements, hitting the smaller man's prostate, increasing the depth and speed of his thrusts, his hand caressing the now more than half hard cock before him, while his grasped one of Ezra's thrusting hips with another. Ezra's whole body arched, his head thrown back as his whole body seemed to come off the bed, hands grasping at and balling in the bedding franticly. Buck grasped him on either side, just below his ribs and leaned forward, capturing the hard as rock nipples, pressing his long torso against Ezra's ridged, arching body, trapping Ezra's now all but full erection between their sweat drenched bodies. Now as he trust forward he also added a slight sideways movement that added to the friction on the trapped cock between them.
Despite Ezra's pleas of 'more' and 'faster', Buck kept his pace steady, working on stimulating Ezra's prostate and cock, determined he would have a second orgasm, before he let himself come. His body screamed at him for release, but he denied it, holding back for Ezra's sake. Steadily Buck increased the pace, adding kisses and terms of endearment as he did, soothing Ezra's desperate writhing and pleading.
"Oh please, Buck, more, I need more," Ezra begged. "Oh dear God!"
"Hush, lover, let Buck take care of you," Wilmington whispered in his ear, as he nuzzled Ezra's neck.
Buck didn't have to hold out much longer, the powerful muscle ring surrounding his engorged cock suddenly spasmed, a sure sign Ezra was about to come. A second later he felt his lover's seed shoot forth to coat both their stomachs, and in that moment let himself come. He threw his head back, arching his spine, literally howling in triumph and joy.
Ezra hadn't come that hard - how could he that soon after his first powerful orgasm? So he recovered almost instantly. Buck was still above him, supporting his weight on what were now very shaky arms, his head hanging down, eyes closed, breathing in great panting gasps.
Much as Ezra didn’t want to lose the feeling of having Buck inside him, he wanted him to relax.
"Come on, lie down," he encouraged, placing a hand on Wilmington's shoulder. There was the slightest of head nods and Buck began to slip out of him, to all but fall to the left, coming to rest beside Ezra.
Ezra gazed at his sated lover, delighting in the vision before him; the sheen of sweat made Buck's skin shine, his face was flushed and his expression one of bliss. Ezra ran a single finger across Buck's forehead, stroking damp locks out of his eyes, he then trailed the finger down until it came to rest on the slightly parted lips.
"Better?" he asked softly. Buck lifted glazed eyes to meet Ezra's. He frowned, unsure how to respond. "I'm still here, I'm not going anywhere, I told you that, and I meant it."
Buck lifted a hand, captured the hand and the finger that still rested on his lips and kissed it.
"I'll be right back," Ezra assured as he gently pulled his hand free and slipped of the bed.
He returned with a warm wash cloth, then with great care and slow methodical movements he cleaned the evidence of their love making from both their bodies. Then he lay down beside Buck and pulled up the quilt of them both.
"So…" he started.
"So…" Buck responded.
"You're a wolf."
"You were right, I would never have guessed, and considering some of the things I was imagining, this is …"
"This is so much better."
"Oh God, yes."
"So you're okay with this, with me, what I am?"
"I told you, and please believe me, I'm not going to betray your trust, I'm not going anywhere - no matter what."
"I suspected there might be."
Buck took a deep breath and stretched out a hand to take Ezra's. "But there is something else I need to talk about first. That night - God knows it sounds pathetic now - but I was gonna tell you, that was what I was doing, up on that mountain, trying to work out how to tell you, show you." His eyes had dropped but now he raised them, seeking desperately for understanding. "You do understand I had to show you, don't you? You can't just say to someone 'oh, by the way, I can turn myself into a wolf whenever I like' it just doesn’t work."
"Have you tried?"
"No, no, not ever, that's the thing, I never had anyone I felt I needed to share it with."
"Not even Chris?"
"No, not even him."
"Were you and he …?" Ezra asked, fairly sure he knew the answer.
"Yeah, we fucked." He wasn't going to call it 'lovers', they were never that. "Before Sarah, never after."
"And now he's fucking Vin?" He asked the question, but in truth he was fairly sure he knew truth.
"And vice versa," Buck confirmed.
"Daily, nightly, repeatedly," Buck confirmed with an evil grin.
"And you know this because?"
"I can smell it on them; them two fuck like rabbits."
Ezra suddenly had a vision of Chris in a bunny suit and burst out laughing. "JD is right, this is so cool. Oh dear Lord!"
"What?" Buck asked, suddenly panicked.
"Did I just say that? 'Cool'? I called something 'cool'? What have you done to me?"
Buck just grinned. "Vin's gonna wear him out, if you ask me," he added.
"Am I wearing you out?"
Buck lent forward and captured Ezra's lips for a long, slow, deep kiss. "Nah, I'm younger and fitter than him, besides we have quality not quantity," he confidently stated once the kiss was over.
"I'm a quality kind of guy."
"That you are, Ezra Standish, that you are, and you're - that is, I'd like you to be - my guy. I love you, Ezra Patrick Standish, and I want you to be my mate, forever."
He'd said it. He'd wanted to explain about mating and bonding first, but it just came out, now he awaited Ezra's reaction.
Sheriff Joe Taylor pulled himself out of his patrol car in front of the weekend retreat of Judge Riker, with a sinking feeling. The silent alarm had been triggered at 4:10 a.m., it had taken forty minutes for the patrol car to reach the isolated property; they were too late. By the time he arrived, it was clear the house had been stripped, it was as if a plague of locusts had been through the place. Long phone calls to the judge in Helena established that, as well as the usual things missing - DVD player, CD player, computer - all the food in the house was gone, a whole larder of tinned and dried food, not to mention meat from the freezer and a cellar full of wine, beer and spirits. Tracks outside indicated that as well as a truck - possibly Ted Russell's, that had been stolen the night before - there had been a large number of motor bikes at the house. That was unusual, and he would make sure to mention it in his report.
Even with the cast off, Buck was still confined to deskwork for at least another two weeks. He sat at his computer checking his messages. He had a special program on his computer, one not even JD knew about. It had taken several tries to get it working, following the online tutorial, but now it worked perfectly. The program would check through all the online reports sent to the ATF, as well as those from other agencies, various police forces, the Forestry Service, Wildlife and Fisheries, Park Rangers, even some conservation organisations and hunting groups, not to mention new reports, and look for certain key words. Now something caught his eye in the reports the program had flagged up. His brow furrowed as he searched through the reports with growing concern. Then he left his desk briefly only to return with a map of north west of the country. Finally he picked up the phone and made some calls.
His growing concern was first picked up by Ezra.
"Is something amiss?" he asked. "Does your arm hurt?"
Buck looked up at the man now standing beside his desk. "No it's nothing like that. I … I need to go out, I have to think, can you cover for me, with Chris?"
Midnight blue eyes searched jade green for understanding, imploring Standish not to ask any more questions. After a second Ezra gave him a slight smile, the hand he had resting on Buck's forearm gave a little squeeze.
"Sure. Call me?"
Buck picked up his jacket and, returning Ezra's smile, headed out of the office.
Zac Miller sat astride his Harley and surveyed the vast vista before him. Behind him, sixteen other bikes roared up the winding mountain road and pulled into the same rest stop. A Norton with a sidecar, pulled up beside him. Kelly Downes pulled off her helmet and shook out her long black hair.
"Down there?" she asked, pointing down at the distant settlement, nestling in the valley bottom below them.
"Is that it?"
Zac looked past her and into the sidecar, where two small children slept, oblivious to the scenery around them. Kelly followed his gaze as he smiled at his offspring.
"Nah, just for a few days, get ourselves together, before we head for the forest."
"You sure about this babe?" Kelly pressed.
Zac lent over and gave her a gentle kiss. "Trust me hun, have I ever steered us wrong?"
She had to admit he hadn't, not once in all their years together.
Buck drove out to the ranch and saddled up his horse. Once high in the mountains, he dismounted and sat atop a rock, from where he could see the whole valley. Below him, he could see Chris' ranch, the small road that went past it, in the distance to his left the reservoir and directly in front of him the city - his city. After a childhood of permanent movement, living out of suitcases, in trailers and motels, he had settled in Denver at the age of nineteen, and there he had been ever since. Denver was his home, his territory and he desperately didn't want to leave it. But if he wanted to keep it, he was going to have to take a huge risk. He was going to have to risk losing everything, not just Denver, but Ezra, Chris, JD, everyone important in his life.
He sat there, staring out over the city, oblivious to the passing of time, remembering all that had happened to him in Denver, pack found, pack lost, home, permanence, comfort. He remembered the time before as well, always careful, always moving. He remembered how many times they had reached a new place, and he had secretly pleaded that this would be the last place, this would be home. In the end it was Steele, becoming restless as his feed time approached and was passed, that snapped him out of his reverie. By the time he got back to the ranch the Ram was outside the house, though Larabee didn't appear immediately. He was feeding and bedding Steele down, by the time Chris came into the barn. He leaned on the door to Steele's box, watching Buck methodically brushing his horse down. Three strokes of the brush, one on the curry comb, never varying his routine. Steele was enjoying the attention, as Buck moved to his right, the big grey bent his head around to do some grooming of his own, nibbling and lipping at Wilmington's old flannel shirt.
"I hope this was worth it?" Chris finally asked, as Buck finished. There was no accusation in his voice; if anything, the only discernible emotion was concern.
Once he had placed the feed in the loose box and given Steele one last pat, Buck stepped out of the stable, looked Chris in the eye and nodded. "Thanks for not getting all heavy about it, I have to talk to Ez, then …" he looked away from Steele to meet the forest green eyes of his Alpha. "I'll need to talk to everyone else."
There was something ominous about that statement.
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" Chris asked
Buck took a deep breath. "Probably not. Tomorrow, I'll talk to you guys tomorrow, we're all gonna be here anyway." They had arranged a trail ride and barbecue weeks ago, it was meant to be a celebration of Buck's return to full fitness.
Chris had a nasty, queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach, but this whole situation was so alien, he tended to feel like that whenever he thought about it. He didn't know what to expect, maybe it wouldn't be that bad … maybe? But as he watched Buck walk away to his truck, there was no jovial banter, no jokes, no ready smile. Buck normally moved with such an easy fluidity, that as he walked away now, the tension was all to plain. Riding out for hours had always been his friend's way to think through personal problems, make decisions, or just find his equilibrium. Though now he wondered, had those long solo rides just been a way for Buck to get away so he could change? And if they were? Could he blame him? He and Vin had spent many nights since that fateful day talking over the whole situation. Trying and failing to imagine what life for a lone Two Blood was like. There were days when Larabee thought or hoped or even prayed that he would wake up and find it was all a dream. He was living in his own personal episode of the Twilight Zone, and try as he might, he couldn’t change the channel or find the off switch.
Ezra was waiting for Buck.
"Are you alright?" he asked as he greeted his tall lover with a kiss.
"Yeah, I'm fine - hungry."
Ezra beamed, if Buck was hungry that was at least something he could fix. "I have a Stroganoff in the oven, we can eat whenever you like."
"Well let's eat, 'cause I'm starved and we have a lot to talk about," Buck announced.
Up until that moment he had still been undecided, now his mind was made up, he would fight to keep what was his, he would risk everything to keep everything.
Ezra knew not to push, when he was ready Wilmington would explain it to him, so they ate, drank a good, smooth red wine and Ezra waited. After the Stroganoff there was a light lemon mousse which Buck polished off quickly. Ezra cleared the dishes and returned with brandy and coffee.
"My kind," Buck began, "…we live in packs, well most of us do." Ezra didn't say anything, he just smiled. "In the old days it was easier, packs were nomadic there was lost of space, not too many people, but things changed. There was less space, more people, more control, paperwork. Two Blood cubs didn't go to school, lots of Two Blood were illiterate, things got very difficult around the time of the First World War." Ezra could well imagine how much more difficult it must have been to stay anonymous in the rapidly changing world of the twentieth century. "There aren't that many of us, you know, every cub is precious, and they were dying, while One Blood babies lived."
Ezra frowned. "Was there some pestilence?" he enquired.
"No, no, on the whole Two Blood cubs are very resilient with excellent immune systems, no, we had no doctors. I mean you can't have a doctor attending a birth, when the baby might not be a 'baby' if you get me, or come to a sick child, who might turn into a wolf while he's examining it."
"Yes, that would course something of a stir in the medical community," Ezra commented.
"Yeah, so some of the packs in the east got smart, started sending their brightest kids to school then college."
"To medical school?"
"Right, they got a real culture shock."
"Fitting in with One Bloods?"
"Well, yeah, I guess, no the real problem was that in Two Blood packs women are equal, always have been, sure the alpha is usually a male, but that’s because he has to fight to become alpha and stay on top. But it never occurred to them that people would think it odd for a woman to go to medical school. And of course the whole sex thing, they weren't used to a world where people didn't touch or embrace much, let alone sleep together just to confirm a bond of friendship. Well, anyway, as soon as it became known that one pack had a doctor other packs started to ask for the chance to see him or her."
"Aren’t packs territorial?"
"Very, and there are some packs that keep their independence. But it was for the good of all Two Blood that cubs and mothers live, so alliances were made. Over the years these became more permanent arrangements, several packs would band together to form Clans. The Clan Packs realised they needed a safe place to raise their young, keep them out of sight, so they started to buy land, some place secluded, and heavily wooded, it's called the 'Home Ground'. They started to educate all the cubs, in their own school, until they were about ten or eleven, teaching them how to live with One Blood, so they could go to school, get jobs, live in the twentieth century."
"Are you saying Two Blood aren’t nomadic anymore?"
"Well kinda, but within their own territory for the most part, but the young have to go to college, and things like that. Clan Packs are the majority these days. There is one dominant pack, and between six to twelve sub packs, the alpha of the dominant pack is the alpha of the whole clan, he - it's usually a he - is very powerful, he makes the rules, judge, jury…"
Buck nodded. "If necessary, Two Blood don't live by One Blood law, a Two Blood in jail, unable to make the change, cut off from his or her pack, is a dead Two Blood. You have to remember Two Blood don't live in a democracy, a pack is a dictatorship, if you don't like it you can't vote out the leader, you have to challenge him and fight, usually to the death. The members of a sub pack have to ask permission to cross into another pack's territory, but the clan pack, the pack of the clan alpha, can go anywhere within the clan lands."
"So how many clans or packs are there?"
"Who knows? There are Two Blood all over the world, wherever wolves are indigenous, including most parts of the US, a clan territory can cover hundreds of square miles, all full of One Bloods who have no idea they are in a clan territory."
"I'm guessing Denver isn't in a clan territory?"
"No. But clans aren’t the only packs, there are still traditional packs living the old way, totally nomadic, living mostly off the land."
Ezra was incredulous. "Where?"
Buck shrugged. "Canada, Alaska, Siberia, on the margins really. And …"
**Here it comes,** Ezra thought, hearing the hesitancy in Buck's voice. "And?" he prompted.
"There are Rogue packs."
Ezra got the feeling he wasn't going to like, what he was about to hear.
Kelly sat astride her bike in one of the seedier areas of Billings and watched as Zac made his way back to her, he was smiling.
"How did we do?" she asked.
Zac bent down to capture her lips before he answered. "We did good." He pulled a huge wedge of money from inside his jacket pocket, to show her.
"How much do we have now?" she asked, running a finger over the wedge of money.
"With this year's money and all the rest we have stashed, enough to get us some land, build a cabin and support all of us through the first winter."
Buck lay in bed and waited. He had finished explaining everything to Ezra, some four hours ago. Ezra had listened and understood, or at least he hoped he had understood, then he had said he needed time to think. Stripping off, even as he walked, he had headed for the small dressing room beyond the bedroom, which Ezra had converted into a gym. After clearing up the dinner things and starting the dishwasher, Buck had showered and climbed into bed, to wait. He could hear the 'whoosh-clank' of the multi gym, it sounded like Ezra was working on his legs, raising and lowering the weights with powerful thrusts and controlled releases on the large footboard.
The Two Blood inhaled deeply; with each passing minute the comforting, deep, musky smell of Ezra's sweat increased. In his mind's eye he could see Ezra's powerfully muscled body, he could see the sweat running down his chest to pool on his hard, erect nipple's dropping every now and again in big, heavy, teardrops of salty liquid. Rivers of sweat would be running freely down his face, making him blink, and highlighting his fine cheekbones. Fine chestnut hair would be plastered down on his scalp, heavy with perspiration. A fine line of moisture would be running down his back, between those powerful shoulder blades.
The imaginings served a purpose, it helped him take his mind off the fact that Ezra had been in there for hours, working - not on his physique - but on his decision. Without Ezra's decision, there was no point taking the situation to the others. There was a side effect to his mental images - he was as hard as a rock.
Suddenly there was silence. Buck held his breath, waiting for a new sound to give him some clue as to what Ezra would do next. What equipment would he use now? But instead he heard and saw the door catch move and the door opened. Ezra stood there, just as Buck had imagined him. He hadn't bothered to put on sweats, what was the point? The low bedroom lighting enhanced the perspiration covered body, highlighting the contours. For a second or two, Buck didn't even register that Ezra was as hard as he was. Standish strode toward the bed as Buck sat up.
"I'm not giving you up, whatever happens, but let's give it a go, what's the worst that can happen?" he announced.
"They say no, we have to leave Denver forever?"
"The key word being 'together'."
By now Ezra had reached the bed, and was pulling Buck's all too eager body to him. Frantic hands explored and held on as lips were joined. Buck was all but drunk on the heady odour of his lover, seeking ever closer contact with the hot, sweat drenched body, covering himself with his partner's scent. There was no time for lube and preparation, hands found aching erections, stroking, pulling and caressing in mutual need and hunger. Bodies pressed close, adding to the friction as they brought each other off; creamy, sticky seed coating their torsos and hands, mixing together in the confined space between the tightly pressed bodies. While all the time hungry mouths devoured each other, hands roaming freely, running over backs and asses, carding through sweat drenched hair.
Buck and Ezra arrived at the ranch the next day together. Chris already had the beer chilled and waiting. As soon as everyone had a beer they settled down under the shade of the big tree in Chris' yard, on benches, chairs, fallen logs or the porch steps. Buck took a long pull on his beer, and then turned to the others. He looked once at Ezra, sitting behind him, received a reassuring smile and started to tell them all he had told Ezra the night before about Two Blood society.
"So there are these clans all over the place?" Vin asked.
"Yup," Buck confirmed. "Hey!" he suddenly exclaimed. "Chris, you remember that survivalist group we had to check, out over in Nebraska, last year, you were gonna send Josiah, but I made you send me?"
Larabee nodded, he vaguely remembered. "Well, they're a pack, right on the edge of a clan territory."
"Shit! They're everywhere," Chris commented good-naturedly.
"Well, not quite. The thing is," he hesitated. "…there is one other kind of pack, apart from clan packs and traditional packs there are rogue packs."
"Rogue?" Nathan asked, not liking the sound of it.
"Yeah. See Two Blood society, it's quite ridged, in it's own way, and some of the young rebel. Most just want to see the world, see what's beyond the clan territory."
"Can't they see that when they go to college?" Josiah asked.
"Well, not everyone gets to go to college, sending the young away goes against everything pack hold dear, if possible they will attend a local school, even if it means passing up a better school. So basically they only send the brightest and best to college."
"And some of the other youngsters want to spread their wings?" It wasn't really a question, Josiah understood the problem, other 'closed' groups like the Amish had the same difficulties.
Buck shrugged. "The modern world is mighty tempting. And there is the dominance thing. Young male Two Blood, pumped up on hormones and testosterone, sometimes try to assert dominance over older and stronger members of the pack. If they stay in the pack they are likely to end up dead, so it's better if they get out for a few years, work off some energy, gain some self-control. A few go it alone, but not many, Two Blood don't really know how to function alone."
"You do," Chris pointed out.
Buck looked up and gave a sad smile. "I wasn't raised in a pack, I'm used to being alone."
"You aren’t alone anymore," Ezra assured from behind him.
"Yeah, you got us now," JD chimed in.
Buck knew that, they had been his pack for more then two years, even if they didn't know it. "I know, guys, believe me I know, and it means more to me than I can tell you."
"Buck?" Chris voice was strangely soft and hesitant.
"Why weren't you raised in a pack?"
Buck seemed to freeze; he had been on his feet the whole time as he explained Two Blood society to his friends, some of the time he had paced; now he was totally still.
"It's …complicated," he finally admitted. Before anyone could ask him more he pressed on with his explanation of rogue packs. "See these young ones, the ones that don't go it alone, they form their own packs."
"Rogue packs," Vin supplied, seeing how much Buck didn't want to be pressed on his past.
"They're nomadic, travel mostly on bikes. To the outside world they look like any other biker gang. But they still act like a pack, there's still an alpha, the trouble is, it's very volatile, lots of challenges. People join a pack for a few years, find a mate and go back to their pack, or their mate's pack. Things are always changing."
"How do they live, pay for gas and stuff?" asked JD.
"Same way other bike gangs do."
"Casual work, thieving, extortion?" Chris offered.
"Among other things, yes," Buck admitted.
"Interesting as this is, why are you telling us all this now?" Chris asked.
Buck turned to face him; dark blue eyes held forest green for a long time. "Because there is a rogue pack heading this way and there is a good chance this pack is looking to settle down."
The pack needed to rest up and lick their wounds, figuratively and literally. They pulled off the road and headed up into the forest, below Blad Mountain. Taking the bikes as far as they could then they quickly and effectively, hid them before they made the change, the babies changed instinctively into cubs, as they subconsciously sensed the charged atmosphere the changing of the rest of the pack created all around them. Now free and unencumbered the pack roamed deep into the forest, seeking game and a safe place to rest, mourn, and play with the cubs. It had been a rare defeat, the deaths a hard lesson well learned.
Zac lead his pack with confidence despite the disaster, his strategy had been sound, his luck was bad, no one could control their luck. The pack wanted to settle down and had their eye on an abandoned territory in the Custer national forest. The plan was to settle next to an existing clan and hopefully be accepted into the clan. The local Clan however, took exception to a new pack so close to its territory. The Big Horn Clan was one of the biggest and most powerful, and despite a brave stand, the small rogue pack had no chance.
Zac stood on a fallen tree, looking down on his pack as they played with the cubs in the natural clearing he had found for them. Playing with the young always helped to heal the pack, and would serve to keep them focused on their goal. Travelling with young was difficult, his eldest was now nearly a year old. Keeping them hidden from prying One Blood eyes was increasingly becoming a problem, in a few years the cubs would need to start school, he wanted a territory and a home ground safely established long before that. Some of the pack, the youngest mostly, hadn't agreed to the change from rogue pack to settled pack, and had left. The pack that were left were loyal to Zac, he was a big wolf, at least 200 pounds, and he'd been the alpha for more than three years, this - compared to the average tenure of a rogue pack alpha of nine to twelve months - was testament to his strength, intelligence and ruthlessness. The alpha of the Big Horn clan had known this, there was no way such a powerful alpha would be content to submit to another, sooner or later he would challenge for dominance, this was the main reason they had been attacked and run out of the area by the other packs in the clan.
Chris took a moment to digest this statement, before he spoke. "Why do you think that?"
"I think we need to go inside so I can show you," Buck responded, already heading for the house.
The others, more than a little curious, followed him. Once inside he had Chris boot up his computer, into which he inserted a disk. The others gathered around, with Ezra standing behind him, hands resting on his lover's shoulders.
"Ok this is a map of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, you see these red dots here?" he pointed to a cluster of dots near Butte. "These are all ski lodges that have been ransacked, they were all hit on the same night, all the food was taken as well as valuables; motorbike tracks were found outside the houses. Here," he pointed to a red dot near Helena. "…was a weekend house belonging to a judge, also ransacked."
"So?" was Chris' response.
"See these dots? Fights between biker gangs."
Buck circled a large area on the Montana/Wyoming boarder encompassing the Crow reservation and Little Big Horn forest. "This is all clan territory," he explained.
The others leaned closer to see what he was pointing at. "All of it?" Josiah asked.
Buck shrugged. "Far as I know. See the line?"
The line of red dots led south.
"How do you know this is a pack and not just a regular biker gang?" Chris asked.
"These." Buck pulled up the police reports; he had highlighted sections of two reports. "The police reports mention that witnesses saw babies with one of the gangs. "I know some biker gangs do travel with small children. But how many?"
"Not many," Vin confirmed.
"But in this report, three witnesses who saw the gang pass through the town, reported a woman carrying a baby while a puppy followed behind her. But, one of the witnesses was a forest ranger, who says it wasn't a puppy, it was a wolf cub, a very young wolf cub that couldn't possibly have been weaned." He looked around to check that the others understood the significance of the report before he continued. "Rogue pack don’t have cubs and Two Blood don't produce cubs by accident, so this pack is looking to settle. Normally if you're in a rogue pack and you want to settle, you go home, back to your pack, where you will be welcomed with open arms. My guess is that the alpha of this pack has no intention of going back and submit to another alpha, he's tried to settle next to a clan but they won't have it, chased them off. No, he's looking to settle his pack some where in a vacant territory."
"Like Denver," Nathan confirmed.
"Yeah, like Denver. Here," Buck pointed to a red dot on the northern boarder of Colorado. "… a lone hiker reported hearing wolves. There are no wild wolves in that area."
"None of this proves they are going to settle here, they could go anywhere - couldn't they?" JD asked.
"A pack needs cover to raise the young, forest, they need running water and privacy, the Home Ground - the land they actually own - will be somewhere very remote, surrounded by public land, no power, no drainage, not much more than a single track access. But not so remote they can't get to a town or even a city. There are parcels of land, just like that, up for sale in this area - right now."
Buck stood up, leaving the map on the screen, the ominous line of red dots leading toward Denver. He paced the length of the large living room and then turned back to face them, running a hand over his face and back through his thick hair.
"The thing is, if they settle here, I can't stay - because there is no way I'm submitting to another Two Blood."
"And if he goes, I go," Ezra confirmed.
Suddenly a cacophony of voices erupted in protest.
"Guys, guys!" Chris finally cut through the conflicting voices. "No one wants you guys to leave. Besides how the hell are they going to know you're even here? I mean, you're just one man - right?"
Buck shifted uncomfortably. "Scent," he finally admitted.
"Scent? Oh come on Buck, a whole army of blood hounds couldn't pick out one person in a whole city," Vin protested.
"Um, well, see they're likely to go past this area." He waved his arm around to indicate the general area around the house. "Aren’t they?"
"Well ,I guess," Tanner admitted.
"Well, I sort of think of this place as mine, so … I … marked it," he finally admitted.
"Marked it?" Chris wasn't sure he wanted to know what was coming next.
"Um, well … scent marked."
"Wilmington, have you been pissing all over my land?"
"Well, yeah, and beyond, up into the forest and well, and …"
"Um, well, around the fed building, and the condo and Ez's place." He could see they were both incredulous and amused. "Look I was just marking out my territory, did you even notice, any of you?" He defended his actions.
"You pissed on the condo?" JD asked.
"Well, around the building - late at night, very late at night," Buck admitted sheepishly.
"Anywhere else?" Chris asked. "Come on," he pushed, seeing more hesitation.
"Okay, I have a word of advice."
"Do not tell Inez you’ve been pissing on her bar."
"Around her bar," Buck corrected.
"Is that it?" Chris prompted.
The Two Blood shifted uncomfortably, looking at the floor.
"Buck?" Chris growled.
"Coors Field," he finally admitted.
"Mighty ambitious, ain't it, Bucklin?" Vin asked, barely hiding his amusement.
"I see it as the ultimate act of support for the Rockies," Buck explained proudly.
"I'm surprised you didn't claim the Broncos while you were at it." Josiah grinned at him.
Buck returned the grin. "It was next on my list."
"Whatever, the point is this pack is gonna know you're around," Chris cut in, wanting to get back to the matter at hand.
"Yeah, I can't live in their territory and not be part of the pack."
"I'm getting the feeling there is a way out of this," Josiah ventured.
Buck nodded hesitantly. "If this wasn't vacant territory, if there was a pack here already, then no pack could even pass through the territory, without asking permission, if they try to stay, their alpha would have to challenge for dominate. There are One Bloods in packs, it's happened before."
Chris was now on his feet and approaching his oldest friend. "Tell me you're not saying, what I think you're saying."
"We could be a pack, a real pack. You guys gotta understand, if this pack comes here, and I'd bet the farm they will, and I don't leave, they will find me, and I either fight or submit. If I submit, I'm part of that pack from then on. What we have now, me and Ez, hanging out together, it's all gone."
"And if you fight?" JD asked.
Buck took a deep breath. "Dominance fights are usually to the death, I don't wanna die and I don't wanna kill anyone. I would have to challenge him, so he gets to choose how we fight, that means as humans with knives or as wolves. Two Blood don't use guns on each other - ever - only knives, they equate to claws and teeth. I have never fought as a wolf, and that is probably what he would choose."
"Well I say do it, let's be a pack," JD announced enthusiastically.
"JD," Ezra warned.
"There's a bit more to it than just say 'hey, we're a pack'," Buck explained.
They moved to the living room, where Chris, at Ezra's suggestion, broke out the whisky.
Buck explained a bit about being pack, about the honesty, the openness, the closeness of pack, before he moved to the more sensitive issue of submission.
"If we become pack, Chris becomes the alpha," he stated, looking at Chris. "You’re the boss, pal, we all know that, ain't no one else could be the alpha." Chris nodded his agreement, he had questions but they could wait, hopefully Buck would answer some of them. "And an alpha's mate is also an alpha." With that Buck very deliberately moved his gaze to Vin. There was a long silence.
"What are you insinuating?" Chris asked with that edge to his voice that said 'back off'.
"That you and Vin are as much a couple as Buck and Ezra," Josiah said simply. "And before you get all heavy, we - the three of us," he indicated himself, Nathan and JD. "… figured it out on our own."
"And it's cool," JD chimed in, "…we're happy for you."
Chris wanted to ask how and when they had found out, but it all seemed a bit pointless, they knew, they didn't mind, what else was important? He looked over at Vin, who was looking somewhat unsure. The shy Texan had been very unsure about having a relationship with his boss. Actually Vin had hard job believing anyone would want to have a long term relationship with him at all. He had confessed to Larabee early in their relationship, that he had never slept with anyone, male or female, more than twice. Why this was, Chris hadn't yet worked out. The Lord knew there must have been hundreds of people, falling over themselves to bed him. Maybe that was the problem, he was so beautiful, no one was ever interested enough to get to know the man, rather than just lust after the Adonis? On instinct he stood up, crossed the room and sat next to his lover, taking his hand in public for the first time.
"So what does that mean - if Vin is also the alpha?" Chris asked.
Buck took a deep breath. "That I have to submit to him as well as you. Actually I need to show some form of submission to all of you." He looked over at Ezra, who gave him a smile of encouragement.
"What does this submission actually entail?" Chris asked, getting the feeling he wasn't going to like the answer.
"Well, basically - look, you got to understand how tactile Two Blood are and scent, scent is really how we read people."
"You explained that brother, go on," Josiah encouraged.
"Yeah, well, Chris, that is Chris and Vin, you guys, you … you gotta fuck me."
"What!" Vin spluttered.
"They have to **what**?" JD whispered in horror.
"Fuck me, first Chris then Vin, and …"
"There's more?" Chris asked, still trying to come to terms with what he had just been told.
"It has to be natural - no protection."
"Now wait a moment," Nathan cut in. "That it not okay, not smart at all."
"Has to be Nate, the scent has to be strong." Buck explained. "Me and Ez have been tested and we're fine. How fast can they get tested?"
"Well, these days, 24 hours," Jackson confirmed.
He looked over at Chris and Vin. Larabee had a vice like grip on his young lover's arm, giving him strength and support.
"It's okay, we've been tested as well," Chris confirmed.
Nathan smiled with almost paternal pride, maybe these men did listen to him after all.
Buck continued. "Me and Ezra talked about it, and we're okay, it's up to you guys," he looked from Chris and Vin to the other three, "… and you lot as well because this time I reckon it only has to be them, but …"
"Oh shit, I hate it when he says 'but'." JD commented.
"If we become a pack and we come up against a strong Clan pack, and we are challenged, if any of you are ever challenged or - God forbid - you challenge someone; I can only fight for you if I've submitted to you, individually or the pack as a whole. You understand?"
"You're saying that there may come a time when we all have to fuck you?" Nathan asked somewhat aghast.
"Yeah, becoming a pack is an all or nothing deal - I don't need you to it this time, I don't think. There's another way around it, but you have to agree to it in principal. I know this a lot to deal with and a big decision, so I - that is we - have a proposal."
Ezra pulled ten marbles from his pocket, five red and five blue. Buck went to the mantle and picked up a small wooden box and placed it on the coffee table, having removed the spare window keys that it normally held and left them on the mantle.
"Let's say midnight, you put the marble in the box, blue means yes, red means no. This is not gonna be a by majority vote, universal or nothing. No one knows how the others voted. Fair? I'm gonna stay here, you got any questions, you ask, whatever it is - okay?"
The other five nodded, picking up two marbles each. Buck and Ezra withdrew to the porch to give them some privacy. They sat side by side on the porch swing, not speaking just sitting, taking strength from the other's presence. The first person to leave the house was Vin. He strode out and across the yard toward the barn, never looking in their direction once, followed - predictably - a few moments later by Chris.
Zac folded his cell phone and stowed it back in his pocket. He'd found three parcels of land in Gilpin county, the last three in a long winding line leading deep into public and state forest. They had no power, no drainage and only a rough dirt track for access - perfect. The pack's communal savings would just about cover the purchase - this kind of land with no services, no agricultural value and, so deep in the forest not even a good view were relatively cheap, and these had been discounted after not selling after many months on the market. It was more than they would have spent in Montana, but they would just have to work hard and fast to make the money to set up a home. There were ways to make fast money - not ransacking lonely houses - not so close to the Home Ground, but there were bears on the forest, and he had contacts who would pay good money for bear liver, bile, claws and fur. There were butchers only too keen to buy cheap beef, fresh from the high mountain pastures, where they grazed all alone, and, much as he disliked the idea personally, there were legitimate jobs to be had as well. In fact, the more he thought about it, Denver was a better option than Billings.
JD sat in unnatural silence staring at Josiah, desperate for someone - anyone - to tell him what to do. Sanchez rolled the two spheres in his hand, slipped one in his pocket and, lifting the box lit a fraction, place the marble in his hand inside.
"You already decided?" JD asked in a low whisper.
"I did, John Dunne."
Sanchez had been a Marine, he'd been around, seen stuff, done stuff, he had assessed the situation, considered the options and made a decision.
"What was it?"
"I can't tell you that, you must make up your own mind."
JD looked over at Nathan. "What about you, Nate, what yer gonna do?"
Jackson took a deep breath. "I can't rightly say, I have to think on it." With that he stood up and crossed the room. "I mean, it may never happen, we might never meet one of these Clan Packs. Right?"
"But we might," Josiah reminded.
"I'm gonna take a walk."
JD watched Jackson leave before he turned back to Josiah. "I'm scared," he finally admitted.
"But you already made your mind up, you said yes."
"You don't know what I said."
JD gave him a wane smile. "Yeah, I do, I know you, you'd never break up the team."
"What scares you?"
"All of it, everything Buck said about openness, touching, but it's the sex really - I don't wanna let Buck down, I just don't know if I could. What if I say yes and then when it comes to it - if it comes to it - I can't, what would happen to Buck, to us?"
Josiah regarded the young man before him, hazel eyes looking so wide eyed and innocent and so scared.
"Well, I think there is a chance we could lose him, probably Ezra as well."
"See! That’s what I'm afraid of."
"JD, we will lose him anyway, if you don't go along."
JD through his head back and pulled in a long breath. "I know, God help me, I know." He pulled his head forward to look at the older man again. "Buck's my brother - you know?"
"I mean we may not be related by blood, we may have only met a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean anything. He gave me a home - not a place to stay, a home. He makes me feel safe - when I first came here I was so …so …lost, alone, just going to work used to tie my guts in knots and then Buck decided to be my friend and it all changed. He made me feel safe, he made it okay to fuck up, I didn't need to be perfect. I can't see my life without him around, but …"
"But you're scared."
"JD, are you a virgin?" Sanchez asked softly.
"No! Hell preacher I'm young, I'm not that young!"
"But you've never slept with a man?"
JD shook his head. "Never, never even thought about it, never felt attracted to a man. I just don't think I can - with anyone, but especially Buck, it would feel like incest."
"It might feel like it, but it wouldn't be, not really, it's just a mind set. This is just another way to show how you feel about him, to show how much you care." Josiah was well aware he wasn't being impartial, but he was sure what JD wanted to do, he just needed someone to tell him he was doing the right thing.
"I guess, but what if I can't - you know? Perform, when it comes to it, if it comes to it."
"JD, none of us can know the future or how we will react in any given new situation. We can only look so far ahead and hope that we will do the right thing, in any given situation. Life is a calculated risk, you have to weigh up the odds and take your best shot - there is nothing more anyone can do, that is all Buck is asking you to do."
Chris found Vin, not, as he had expected, talking to Peso, instead he was up in the hay loft, looking out over distant mountains from the hayloft doors.
"Hello, can I come up?" Chris asked from the top of the ladder.
Vin didn't respond, so Chris just pressed on up. Quietly and being careful not to make any sudden moves he sat down next to his lover.
"So - we're 'mated'," he started.
"It's a big ask."
Vin didn't respond. In truth it wasn't the sex that worried him. It was sharing Chris that was the issue. He knew that Buck and Chris had had a 'casual sex' relationship before Sarah. He accepted that. Chris had assured him that there had been no sex after he met Sarah. Now there would be. In all his life, thirty odd years, only two people had loved Vin, his mother, who died when he was five, and Chris - he hoped. The relationship was still new, and he was very insecure in Chris' professed love. So far he had been blissfully happy, the sex was fantastic, he did occasionally worry that he was wearing Chris out, but the other side, the emotional side, the just being together, that was something he wanted and cherished. It had come as a bit of a surprise to him how much he was enjoying it, how much it was coming to mean to him. In truth, Vin hadn't ever understood why couples stayed together after sex was no longer a major part of their joint life. In his world sex was the only reason you had a relationship with someone, however brief that relationship was. Now he was happy just to spend an evening with Chris, watching TV, talking, taking care of the stock. It felt good to wake up with someone beside him, and know that person would be there the next morning and the next. And now Buck was asking to renew his and Chris past relationship. What if Chris decided he loved Buck and not him? Logically he knew Buck and Ezra were together and seemed very committed, but at the back of his mind the nagging fear that something he cared about, someone he cared about, was going to be snatched away - again.
"You and Buck?" Vin started. "What you does he mean to you?"
Chris regarded his lover, unsure what Vin was asking, nevertheless he decided to give him as honest an answer as he could manage.
"Buck has been my friend of nearly a third of my life, every important event in my life in those years has involved him - except one. The first time I was shot in the line of duty he was there at my bedside - course I'd been shot in the butt by some over eager rookie!" Vin smiled in spite of himself, he had seen the scar, a nice little dimple in the side of the left cheek. "He was there when I secured my first solo conviction, he introduced me to Sarah, he was my best man, he was there the night Adam was born, he was his Godfather. It was Buck taught Adam to ride and hit a baseball, not me. He was with me when I found out about the bomb, he was with me in the hospital the whole time until Adam died. He arranged the funeral, he dealt with the paper work and the DPD. When I was trying to follow my family via a whisky bottle, he kept me alive, he covered for me at work, he kept this place running - and all that time he was grieving himself. I was … well, lets just say I treated him badly, pushed him away, vented my anger on him, blamed him, but he never left, he stuck by me when others would have turned tail and run. When I did finally get myself together and joined the ATF, he was the first one I recruited."
All this Vin knew already, but having it all listed like that somehow brought it home to him, just how important Buck was to the man he loved.
"The only important event he wasn't there for," Chris continued, "was you and me. Yes, we fooled about when we were young. That was all it was, fun, fuck buddies. I love that man, but I'm in love with you."
Piercing blue eyes turned on him, Chris always felt Vin could speak just by looking at you. It was all there, the fear, the love, desire, confusion.
Vin wasn't so sure it was just fun for Buck. He might not know much about Two Blood behaviour, but he knew about wolves. That Buck stuck by Chris the way he did meant Chris had always been his alpha. He didn't ask, but he was fairly sure Buck had bottomed to Chris. He had submitted and once Chris was his pack, that bond could not be broken, so what ever happened, what ever Chris did, Buck wouldn't leave him. When Vin found Chris, his life had changed, he was happy, for the first time in is life he was truly happy. Then everything changed. Part of him was angry that Buck's problems and revelations had put his happiness at risk. But it wasn't Buck's fault he was what he was. He had only revealed his true self to them to save his life, no one could be blamed for saving their own life. Buck wasn't demanding anything, he was presenting them with a problem and giving them options. And for all his fears and insecurities, Vin cared about Buck and Ezra, he didn't want them to leave, he didn't want to be the one that destroyed the team. The team were his extended family, they were a big part of why he was so content.
Chris was trying to read those eyes. And what he read there was insecurity. There was one possible solution to that, but they would need to talk to Buck. As he tried to work out how to word his proposal, they saw Nathan coming toward the barn form the corrals. He had probably walked a circuit and was now returning, whether that was because his mind was made up or just because it was getting dark it was hard to tell.
"Come with me, I wanna ask Buck something," Chris suddenly announced, getting up.
Vin looked up, thought for a moment, then joined him.
Nathan didn't really known what to think. He might have been raised in the north, but it was still a southern Baptist upbringing at heart. Yet alongside that, was his parents' passionate belief in civil rights. They had fought for them, been beaten up for them, threatened with hanging and burning, and been imprisoned for them. Buck had civil rights, he shouldn't be forced to leave his home because of his 'race' or for that matter, his sexuality. The part of Nathan that was at home in the Bible belt said it was a sin, and although he could accept it in others, it wasn't part of him. But that side of Jackson, was at war with the part of him that said he had to fight to let Buck, and for that matter all of them, continue to live their lives any way they wanted, so long as they weren't hurting others - felons not included. Then right at the back of his mind, was that annoying little scientist's voice. That driving curiosity that made him a good forensics investigator. The voice that was always seeking more information. That voice was whispering in his ear, 'this is your chance to find out what's it really like', no strings, no risk.
In the gathering gloom, he rounded the house to find Buck and Ezra had got the barbecue stoked up and were preparing to start cooking. This involved Buck actually doing all the work, while Ezra offering advice and tossing the salad.
"Are we eating now?" he asked.
"Josiah and JD are ready to eat, but you don't have to yet," Buck explained softly all the time looking deep into those chocolate brown eyes, and trying to gauge how the serious medic was going to vote.
"I could eat, in fact I'm in the mood for a nice big, fatty burger with all the trimmings," Nathan announced. With that he smiled and turned to enter the house.
Buck turned to Ezra to see if he too, believed Nathan had decided on a 'yes' vote. He received a smile of conformation.
Nathan was barely inside, when Chris and Vin strolled over from the barn. Nathan had looked relaxed, in contrast Chris looked apprehensive and Vin just plain worried.
"Buck," Chris began,"…we need to ask you something, in private."
Buck sighed inwardly. Chris still didn't seem to understand the concept of openness that went with being pack. Then he corrected himself. They weren't a pack yet; they might not ever be a pack.
"Chris, whatever you want to say or ask, you can ask in front of Ezra," Buck assured him.
The Blood Moon pack roared down the highway, approaching Denver on the back roads to the west of the city. They had licked their wounds, rested and regrouped, now they were ready to take on new territory, and a whole new life as an independent settled pack. Zac saw a diner up ahead and since it was now almost dark he signalled to the riders behind him to pull in, so they could eat. As they dismounted and pulled off their helmets, those of them who were at the back of the parking lot, the ones closest to the surrounding forest, caught a scent, something both familiar and alien, something totally unexpected. Zac cursed loudly. This was one complication he had not anticipated.
"I thought you said this was vacant territory," Franco Henry accused. He was the next most powerful dominant in the pack, the only who could ever realistically threaten Zac for dominance. Franco was happy, in the most part, to go with the flow, really wasn't that interested in being an alpha, but he knew the others tended to look to him for a lead if they were unhappy with Zac's decisions.
"It is, I'm sure of it. How many do you smell?" Zac asked, distinctly irritated, and thus short tempered.
"One," someone confirmed.
"A loner, that's what he is, a loner," the young alpha confidently announced. "We find him, he joins us - if we like him. Otherwise, he leaves or I kill him. Simple." His pack just stared at him. "Right?" he prompted.
"Right," Henry finally admitted.
"I hired a cabin, we'll stay there until the land deal has gone through. In the meantime we find this loner and deal with him." With that, the undisputed alpha of the pack spun around and strode into the diner. There would be no more discussion.
Buck didn't need to wait until midnight. After their discussion with Buck and Ezra, Chris and Vin went inside and cast their votes, leaving the lovers alone beside the grill. No more than a minute later Josiah came out and called them in.
"We have all voted, brothers," he informed them in a soft, quiet voice, filled with understanding and compassion.
Ezra glanced at Buck, then took a deep breath as he crossed to the table where the box sat. How, Ezra wondered, could such a small, insignificant little object hold so much power - power to hurt, power to heal. He stooped to open the box and, without looking at the contents, scooped up the five marbles, and returned to Buck.
"Well?" Wilmington asked.
Slowly he held out his closed fist. Then, ensuring everyone could see his hand, he uncurled his fingers to reveal five blue marbles. Buck's hand came up to his mouth, covering it, just for a second. Eyes brimming with joy and gratitude scanned the room. The others smiled back, nodding their conformation. Whatever it took; they would do it, for him, for the team, for their pack.
In the end it was Nathan who spoke. "So what do we do now?"
"Now?" Buck responded. "Now we eat. I don’t know about you guys, but I'm starving."
Buck insisted that the next move belonged to the other pack. All they could do now was wait; the rogue pack would find him soon enough. Since the next day was Sunday, they agreed to return to the ranch for the trail ride they had planned, but had never had. It wasn't just a pleasant way to spend the day; the horses were desperately in need of a good run, only Steele had had any significant exercise in the past week.
It was a good day; they all avoided the topic of pack and Two Blood, concentrating on neutral topics like sport, beer, cars and horses. A lot of the time they said nothing at all; words just seemed unnecessary. When there was the majesty of the Rockies to see and the sounds of the forest to listen to, who needed words? They were heading home as the shadows lengthened, tired, dusty, but happy, even Ezra was happy, in spite of his dust-covered state, when Buck suddenly leapt from off his horse. Steele stood still and unfazed as his master walked forward along the well-used trail, then he froze, head raised, facing the slight breeze.
"What is it?" Chris called from Pony.
For a moment Wilmington didn't respond, then he turned to face them, a small smile on his face.
"They're he-e-re," he announced.
Vin's hand went instinctively to the stock of his trusty rifle, tucked into his saddle scabbard.
"Easy, Junior," Buck cautioned as he walked back toward them. "I mean, they're in the area, it's hard to tell how far, since I don't know how old the scent is."
"So we go look for them - right?" JD asked.
Buck shook his head and swung himself back up onto the ever patient Steele. "Nope, like I told you, we wait, it's their move. Hell, they might just decide to move on; you never know."
"Duck," Ezra instructed lazily.
"Why?" Nathan enquired.
"Low flying pig," Josiah supplied, sharing a wry smile with Standish.
Nothing happened that day or the next. Chris almost wished it would, his team was next to useless they were so wound up. Only Buck seemed relaxed. After the first day, a day that saw all but one of Team Seven acting like long tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs, Chris had asked Vin his opinion.
"The decision's been made, we're gonna be a pack, reckon that's all ol' Bucklin's ever wanted. You know," … Vin rolled over; they had been spooning in Chris' big bed but now the young Texan faced his older lover. "…Buck could die, if he has to fight."
"I know, God help me, I know - except I ain't gonna let that happen, if it looks like that's gonna be how it ends, I'll stop it, no gun rule be damned!"
Vin smiled, his teeth flashed white in the moonlight that filtered in through the open bedroom windows. "Yeah, kinda thought you might feel that way, 'sept that weren't what I was gonna say. See, I reckon Buck's so happy now, he could die happy. He's in love, he's no longer alone in the world, he's got a pack - wolves they ain't loners b' nature, ain't natural fer em - and he don't have to hide his true nature any more. Must have been hell all these years, hidin' like that, even t' Ezra. Shit! - Livin' with JD must have been murder, boy's got the curiosity of the devil as it is."
Chris smiled, though it was unseen by Tanner. With his back to the window all Vin could make out of Larabee was a slight halo of golden hair. He couldn't remember the last time Vin had said so much in one go, at least not of his own volition.
"Buck invited JD into the condo, hell, he practically hog tied him and held him at gun point 'till he said yes - as I recall!" Chris pointed out, remembering the way 'mother hen' Wilmington had taken it upon himself to teach the twenty one year old rookie when he first arrived in Denver, more than a little lost, alone and still grieving for his mother.
"Yeah, I know, and why? 'Cause before JD arrived it was Buck ragging on you day and night that he was too young."
"Okay Sherlock, tell me?" Chris prompted.
"'Cause he needs people, he needs physical contact. That’s why he used to chase the women. I don't know about these Two Bloods, but I seen wolves in the wild, an' m' granddaddy, he used t' tell me stories about them too." Chris knew Vin was referring to Red Feather, his Comanche grandfather. "Wolves are very close, they touch, they rub against each other, they all sleep together in one big heap."
"You're saying that's what he's been looking for all these years?"
Vin reached out and ran one finger down Chris' fine boned cheek. "Don't you get it? He had it, he had a pack. He had you - you're his alpha, you always have been, that made Sarah his alpha." He felt the man in front of him stiffen. "I don't reckon he and Sarah ever … you know? He wouldn't do that without your permission, and I don't reckon - from what I've heard - that Sarah would have stood fer it."
"Well, you got that right," Chris confirmed.
"But you two was still pack to him, and Adam was his cub."
"And he lost them," Chris added so softly it was barely a whisper.
"Ya both lost them, but then he nearly lost you as well - didn't he?"
Chris thought about that, about Wilmington's tenacity, his unshakeable loyalty, his stubborn refusal to give up on him, despite everything Chris had thrown at him. No matter how often his kindness, patience, hard work and sacrifice was thrown back in his face, he never left.
"Shit, he didn't deserve that," Larabee finally admitted.
"No, he didn't, but it weren't your fault neither, we all grieve in different ways, deal with things differently. You were true to your nature, he was true to his. It's the way the world is, we have t' be who an' what we are. Yer try pretendin' t' be something yer not, it's gonna end up killin' ya, little by little. Reckon Buck was heading that way. To thine own self be true - ain't that what Shakespeare said? Smart fella Shakespeare."
Chris gazed at the man before him with renewed wonder. "Just when the hell did you get to be so smart?" he asked.
"Always been smart, Cowboy, I'm jist good at hidin' m' light under a bush is all."
"More like a whole fucking forest. Come here." Chris' hand snaked out to wind behind and around Vin's warm neck, pulling all too eager lips to his.
Eventually lips moved down, nibbling and sucking and devouring warm inviting skin. Tanner arched his head back, gasping as Chris nuzzled his throat then moved on to map his collar bone. The warm, soft, damp caresses moved on up to his ear which made him laugh and giggle because it tickled, until his whole body trembled and shook. Finally Chris whispered into his ear.
"Want you, need you, take me."
"Ain't going no place, Cowboy, I'm right here." Vin levered himself up a little, his warm, callused hand pressing down very lightly on Chris' shoulder, encouraging him to roll onto his back. Even as he moved over so he could face Larabee, his arm was reaching out to the bedside cabinet to grab the lube.
Vin ducked his head to kiss Larabee again but he didn't linger, moving down instead. Light kisses brushed Larabee's chin, throat, and chest, then Vin finally latched on to one erect and responsive nub, to suck, nuzzle, and nip it until Chris was squirming and arching off the bed in desperate need.
"Oh God," he gasped as Vin moved to the other side, giving it equal attention.
While his lips were busy, his hands quickly uncapped the tube and pushed out a generous amount of the clear gel onto his palm. He tossed the tube away and coated his now rock hard member. By now he had released Chris' nipples and his ever-eager lips were working their way down the rippled harness of Larabee's abdomen. Without ever stopping his oral ministrations, one, now well lubed, finger breached Chris, whose legs were already spread wide and inviting.
"Shit!" Chris yelled out as he felt Vin's finger enter him at the very moment his cock was enveloped in the warm wetness of Vin's mouth. In truth, it didn't take much to get Chris ready; he was more than receptive as Vin worked him open. Breaking off to lift Chris' legs up over his shoulders and line up his aching and leaking dick, he eased his way in slowly but surly. Once he was in, and displaying a degree of flexibility few men could match, Vin doubled over to re-capture Chris' long slim cock in his mouth again, even as he was gyrating his hips to pound into Larabee. Chris still had enough brain working to grab hold of his own legs behind the knees and pull them back even further. After that, he gave way to the amazing sensations the double assault on his pleasure centres was creating, bucking his hips up to meet Vin's thrusts, arching his back to push his cock deep into Vin's skilled mouth. All the time shouting a mixture of profanities, his lover's name and incoherent sounds, as his brain found it increasingly hard to hold on to rational thoughts.
When Chris came, it was so strong Vin barely managed to react in time to swallow it. As he slowly pulled up, releasing the now soft and spent member from his mouth, he gazed at his lover. Chris had released his own legs, which now rested on Vin's shoulders again; he was lying on the bed, a boneless, senseless heap. Vin smiled dreamily as he pulled his own spent cock out of Larabee and moved over so that he could lie down beside Chris. He was relieved that, though out for the count, Chris was breathing deep and even. Using one finger, he brushed a lock of sweat drenched hair out of his lover's closed eyes.
"Hey there, you?" he whispered.
"Mmm," Chris murmured.
"You with me here Cowboy?"
"I asked if you were back with me?"
"I guess - that was …"
But words failed him at his point. "Yeah, for me too," Vin confirmed. "I love you."
Chris smiled back, now finally awake. "I love you too, and that will never change - no matter what," he confirmed.
Vin relaxed down onto the bed, wrapping one powerful leg over Larabee's lean hips. He just hoped Chris remembered that, and tonight's lovemaking, when it came to the 'submission'.
Nothing happened on Wednesday, nothing happened on Thursday until they were all heading down to the parking garage at the end of the day. Suddenly Buck froze where he was, lifting his head and turning to face the exit.
"Is it them?" Chris asked, coming to stand beside him.
"Yeah, they've been here, not right now, but recently." He looked over to the others, smiling. "They're getting closer guys," he warned.
"And we still have to wait?" JD asked, praying the answer was no, JD hated waiting, he wanted to go after them, confront these interlopers that were threatening the most important thing in his life.
"Yup, this is our territory, if they want to stay they have to come to us, we don't go looking for them," Buck confirmed, he threw an arm over JD's shoulders, giving his head a playful rub. "Patience JD."
"Hah!" JD pulled away. "Patience he says, this from the man who starts looking for his Christmas presents in November!"
JD gave him a pitying look. "Yeah, right," he muttered sarcastically.
Buck was dreaming of running free, he was in a meadow, the wild flowers were sweet and intoxicating. He was running fast, paws barely touching the ground as he flew over the never ending carpet of flowers, lush grass and soft moss. Then suddenly, with one of those seamless changes of location that only happen in dreams, he wasn't running, he was curling up next to another wolf. This wolf was smaller than him, where Buck's fur was thick, shaggy and silver-grey, this wolf had the finest coat of chestnut fur, not one hair out of place. His eyes weren't yellow like Buck's; this wolf had jade green eyes. Buck and the green eyed wolf were wrapped around each other in the middle of the wild flower meadow. The breeze was cooling, air thick with scents and bird song.
Ezra had been sleeping; he was woken by the movement of his bed partner. Buck had been sprawled out beside him, spread eagled as usual, snoring softly, also as usual. Suddenly he rolled in to face Ezra. One impossibly long leg drifted up to lie over Ezra's thigh, one long arm now trailed across his chest. Buck's thick, soft hair caressed his shoulder, as his lover tucked his head under Ezra's arm. As he looked on, in the weak dawn light that filtered in past the drapes, Buck began to make those little yips and grunts, dogs make when they dream. As he dreamed, the Two Blood seemed to burrow even closer to his partner, seeking ever-closer contact. Ezra lay there a full half-hour, just enjoying the way Buck was sleeping, and dreaming, and clinging to him. His enjoyment was only ended when the phone rang. As always when they slept, the answer machine cut in on the first ring. On the machine, Ezra's educated southern drawl explained in polite, but dismissive tones that he did not wish to be disturbed.
"Buck, it's Chris, I know you're there, pick up it's urgent."
Buck lifted his head a fraction, and reached out his hand. Ezra would have left it a bit longer to see how serious Chris was, but Buck wasn't like, that so he handed over cordless hand set to his lover.
"You awake?" Chris asked.
"Some of me, wha's up?"
"Vin went out to check the stock, I swear that boy runs on energiser batteries, anyway, he's just run back in to say there's wolf tracks all along the perimeter of the yard, says they're fresh too."
"I'm on my way over," Buck stated, already hanging up and climbing off the bed.
Buck pulled up outside Larabee's house in a cloud of dust and gravel; he then sprung from the cab. Behind him, Ezra climbed out slowly, looking distinctly unhappy at the early start to the day. Vin waved at them from the front of the barn. Before he jogged over to Tanner, Buck stopped to sniff the air. The scent trail was faint but unmistakable; this was the third time he had encountered this pack's scent markers, from now on he would know them anywhere. He could now pick out a member of this pack even in a whole crowd of Two Blood. The tracks were still fresh; the pack had scouted the perimeter, and assured themselves that this was marked territory, but that the one they sought was not here.
Chris and Ezra had watched the other two from the porch, coffee in hand. As their partners returned across the yard, they retreated inside, only to emerge once more with more coffee.
"It was them, I take it?" Ezra asked, handing Buck his coffee.
"It was. If they don't make a move by Friday, I'll come out here for the weekend - if that’s ok?" Buck looked at Chris.
"'Course it's okay. You think they'll come back here?"
"I'm sure of it, they won't want a confrontation in the city if they can help it. Now they've found this place, they'll check it out on a regular basis. You got any breakfast in there?" The lanky Two Blood brushed past them and into the house.
"How does he stay so calm?" Vin asked Ezra.
"Your guess is as good as mine Mr Tanner, let us break our fast."
Work was very routine, they had no big case on and spent most of their time compiling reports and updating files. Buck insisted they do everything as normal, so at the end of the day, it being Friday, they headed for the Saloon.
"Ah," Buck inhaled deeply as he crossed the parking lot. "…home sweet home."
"I told you, don't mention anything to Inez about scent marking," Chris warned.
Buck just cast his eyes up and shook his head, but kept on walking.
Team Seven took their usual booth, and Inez brought over their usual drinks. It was an odd evening. To anyone watching, it looked like the men were having a good time, winding down at the end of the working week. But there was a nervous edge to the group, an undercurrent of tension and anticipation. They broke up the evening early, unable to sit there and not talk about what was on all their minds, but unwilling to talk about it in public, even though it was highly unlikely anyone in the bar could have overheard them, or indeed understood.
As they exited the saloon, all seven of them, Buck froze, his eyes scanning the dark parking lot and then zeroing in one dark, distant corner.
"Is it them?" JD asked. "Were they here?"
"Not were - are." Buck corrected softly, as he began to walk forward.
The others hesitated, then - led by Ezra - followed. In a few paces, Chris had caught up and was shoulder to shoulder with Buck. "What do I do?" he hissed.
"Just be yourself pal, be bad ass, pissed off Larabee. They're trespassing in our territory, remember," Buck advised.
By now, even the One Bloods could see the figures standing in the dark, four of them, dressed in black leathers. The one standing a little in front of the others, was Franco Henry.
Chris steeled himself mentally and stepped out to face him. Henry was in his early twenties, a burly man, with close cropped, dark blond hair that was wiry and tightly curled. Chris thought Josiah's hair must have looked like that, when he was young, and then wondered why he was thinking that at that particular moment in time. The apparent leader wasn't that tall, taller than Ezra but shorter than Vin, but he was stocky, and though it was hard to tell under the black motor bike leathers, Chris was willing to bet it was all muscle.
"What are you doing here?" Chris demanded, in his best 'scary as all hell Larabee' voice.
The young Two Blood looked at the men before him, he looked at Chris and then turned to Buck. "We're the Blood Moon Pack and we claim this territory."
"Hey pal, I'm the alpha 'round here! You talk to me and no one is claiming our territory."
Henry looked from Buck to Chris and back; a look of total confusion on his face. When he did speak it was still to Buck. "What the hell is this crap?"
"I told you who you talk to!" Chris snapped, stepping forward and jabbing the young man in the chest.
Instantly the other three moved forward, provoking the rest of team Seven to do likewise. With the tension rising, Chris continued.
"We're the Denver Pack and this is our territory, you tell your pack to move on, you're not welcome here." He kept his tone measured and even, never breaking eye contact with the Two Blood before him.
The young man was angry but also confused, and even indecisive.
"This is bullshit, One Blood can't be pack, and a loner can't claim a whole territory, you wanna stay here, you submit to us."
Even as he was speaking, Chris had a sudden moment of clarity. He just prayed he was right, because he couldn't exactly ask Buck to confirm his suspicions, at that moment.
"We need to get this settled, but not here and not now. You tell your alpha to meet me and my pack at the ranch, tomorrow, an hour after dawn. If you don't come and you don't move on, we'll be hunting you." He closed the gap between them even more; now he could see deep into the young man's eyes, eyes that betrayed total confusion. "Got that - boy?"
Without bothering to wait for a response Chris turned away and led his pack to their cars on the other side of the lot.
Once he reached the Ram Chris finally spoke. "They still there?" he whispered to Buck.
"Can they hear us?"
"Not at this volume, no."
Chris released a long breath. "I have never been so nervous in my life," he admitted. "Was that right - I mean about him not being the alpha?"
"Spot on, pal." Buck slapped him on the back.
"Guess it takes one to know one," Vin added, grinning with pride.
Ezra was shaking his head. "An hour after dawn - what was wrong with high noon? Is that not more traditional?"
"Ez, love," Buck put his arm around his mate. "It isn't like we're gonna be doing much sleeping tonight."
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of motor bikes being fired up. As they watched, the four Two Bloods rode slowly toward them. Franco Henry stopped next to the Ram, his helmet resting on the fuel tank of his big Kawasaki Vulcan. He was tucking a cell phone into his jacket.
"Tomorrow it is," he confirmed tersely, then he locked eyes with Buck. "You better say good bye to this place, 'cause by tomorrow morning you're gonna be homeless, or dead." With that he pulled on his helmet, gunned the bike and roared away in a cloud of dust, the other three following on behind him.
Buck watched him go and then turned back to face the others, a big grin on his face. "Guess the waiting is over boys."
JD looked positively ashen, the others not much better, even Ezra's poker face had slipped to reveal his concern.
"Don't panic, kid." Buck crossed to JD. "I'll be fine, you know what you have to do?"
JD nodded. Buck looked over at Josiah and Nathan, who also nodded. "Great, so I'll see you guys at the ranch. Just before dawn?"
"Buck, I …" JD whispered.
Before he could finish, Buck enveloped him in a huge hug. "Trust me, okay?" He looked over the young man's head toward the other two. "See you tomorrow, take care of the kid for me."
"We will," Nathan confirmed. "Come on, JD, let's go." Nathan was trying to sound calm, but mentally he was going through the contents of his emergency kit and hoping he had everything he might need.
Josiah gave Buck's shoulder a reassuring squeeze as he passed the Two Blood on the way to his car.
Once the others had gone, the four remaining members of the pack stood in uneasy silence. "Well, I guess tonight's the night," Chris said hesitantly.
"So it would appear," Ezra added.
"We'll be out at the ranch in, say, two hours?" Buck suggested.
"Two hours? Yeah okay, come on Tanner, let's go." Chris swung an arm over his young lover's shoulders. Vin hesitated for a second, then gave Buck a nod and allowed Chris to steer him toward the Ram.
Buck slid into the driver's seat of his old Chevy truck, pulled the door closed and took hold of the wheel. Ezra gazed at him then placed a hand over his mate's.
"Buck, are you alright?" he asked worriedly.
"Sure I am, I'm…"
"Buck," Ezra interrupted. "…you're trembling." He could feel the tiny tremors running through the hand under his.
"I know, I don't seem to be able to stop it - stupid, ain't it?"
"No love, no it is quite understandable. Come here." He pulled the trembling man into a hug, cradling his head against his chest. "Feel that? Feel my heart?" Buck nodded. "That’s as much your heart as mine."
Buck's arms came up to encircle Ezra's powerful torso. He held on tightly for what seemed like ages, until the tremors finally began to subside.
"Would it be an idea if I drove tonight?" Ezra asked softly.
"Yeah, it might at that, thanks." Buck gave his lover one last hug before releasing him so they could change places.
By the time they reached the ranch, it was later than they had anticipated, but Ezra considered the extra time well used. Before they set out for Chris' he had made Buck lie down and given him a massage, not the sensual massages he sometimes gave before they made love, but a real muscle tension releasing massage. The ranch looked as it always did at night, the low, soft light over the door of the barn, another over the door of the wood shed. The porch light was on and inside the softer glow of the table light by the living room window. If Chris or Vin noticed they were late, neither said anything. In order to allay some of Vin's fears that he might lose Chris to Buck, they had agreed all four of them would be present at all times. It was Chris' idea and Vin agreed. Ezra had been somewhat taken aback, but he was determined that this would work as he agreed. Buck was delighted, though he tried to hide that, simply saying he understood and would go along with whatever the others wanted.
Inside Vin greeted them, he was still dressed in his jeans and T-shirt, but was barefoot. Buck could smell Chris all over him, his lips, full and flushed, only served to confirm that the two of them had been - if not actually fucking - very actively enjoying each other just moments earlier. Chris came in from the area of the bedroom, his hair messed up, black shirt half in and half out of his pants.
"You two want a drink?" Vin asked, already pouring himself a generous shot of scotch.
"A glass of Dutch courage would not go amiss, thank you, Mr Tanner." Ezra crossed to the Texan and retrieved a glass of the amber liquor for himself and one for Buck.
"If this goes on much longer, I'm gonna have to start charging, that stuff ain't cheap, you know." Chris commented as he collected his own glass. "We, me and Vin, we thought if you guys used the shower in the spare room and met us in the bedroom?" he suggested.
"Sounds good to me." Buck downed his whisky in one and took hold of Ezra's hand. "Let's go."
"I have not yet finished my drink," Ezra complained.
"Ezra," there was a mixture of warning, excitement and frustration in that one word, and Ezra picked all of those emotions up instantly. So, he too, up ended his glass and followed his lover toward the back of the house.
Chris' spare bathroom was plain and functional. The walk in shower was a generous size however and there was more than enough room for two men. Buck noted the pile of fresh towels and the tube of lube on the shelf under the mirror. Familiar with the shower, Buck set the controls to a setting he knew to be comfortable, and turned on the water before he started to shed clothes. Ezra took slightly longer to undress because he refused to leave his clothes on the floor where they fell and what was more, he refused to leave Buck's on the floor either. By the time he entered the shower Buck had already dealt with the most intimate part of the job and was methodically soaping his chest and under arms.
"Let me," was all Ezra said. Not even waiting for an answer, he took the wash cloth from Buck and set about his task.
Ezra finished what Buck had started; he soaped, massaged and then rinsed his lover's chest and arms, then he moved to clean his powerful shoulders. He worked the soap over and back in a figure of eight pattern; watching the way the soapy water ran down the Two Blood's spine and disappeared between the twin globes of his tight ass. He continued with the back of his legs, running his hands up and down the long legs, feeling the hard muscles, letting his fingers rise up to linger just below the heavy balls hanging low in their velvet soft sac. Finally he began to wash his lover's groin.
Buck had said nothing, he just stood still, lifting and moving his limbs to facilitate Ezra's ministrations. Now he reached one hand down to stroke Ezra's cheek, making him look up.
"Not there, not yet," he instructed.
Chris and Vin stood under the warm jet of water, bodies pressed close together, hungry mouths exploring, claiming and reclaiming. Hands roamed freely. Their erections were full and hard and needy, close pressed bodies began to move, desire blindly seeking friction, release, fulfilment. Chris' hands slid down Vin's soap slick back, one long finger sliding down between twin globes that parted eagerly for him, brushing over the puckered opening, teasing and exciting.
"Oh Jesus," Vin gasped out, then he suddenly pulled back. "Best stop there, Cowboy, gotta save it fer Bucklin."
"You can get it up twice a night, ya damn near do it three times some nights," Chris protested, his hand still playing with his lover's anus.
Vin gasped and arched his back. "Oh shit, I know …oh God …but …but…"
Chris pushed his soap slick finger in just a fraction. "But what, lover, my own Energiser Bunny?"
"That's fer you, don't know if'n - oh God - I can do it fer Buck, please." With that and more will power than he thought he possessed, he reached around and pulled Chris hand out. Then he ran his own hand down Chris' torso, finally encircling his engorged penis. "When this is over, I promise, I'll show you just how often I can get it up," he teased, then he tilted his head to bestow kisses to the nape of Chris' neck, something that always drove him crazy.
"Careful boy, I need to save it as well, you know," Chris warned.
Ezra stood reluctantly. He had been looking forward to washing what Buck called the 'family jewels'. An act of such intimacy, was an act of love, a bonding, a reinforcement of their love. He frowned as Buck lifted his hands away.
"Get me ready first," he asked softy. For a moment Ezra didn't understand. "For Chris, I want you to be the one." He switched off the water and reached for the lube he had brought with him into the stall. "Please."
Ezra finally understood. As he took the tube, Buck turned his back, moving his legs back and spreading them apart as he braced his hands on the wall. Ezra dropped back down to his knees behind his mate. Laying the tube aside for a moment, he ran his smooth and skilled fingers over the inviting crack before him running one finger down it, smiling at the instant shudder of response his actions produced. Slowly he ran one finger up and down, teasing the perineum each time, knowing he was getting a response. Then he leaned forward, brushing the gentlest of kisses to just the outer rim of his mate's anus.
Buck hadn't expected that. He gasped, fighting the urge to push back. Ezra's tongue brushed over the entrance; it pressed against the opening but didn't enter - not yet.
"Oh please, Ezra, don't torture a man," he gasped.
Ezra didn't respond, his tongue being otherwise engaged. He pressed home, entering just a little way, moving that warm flexible tip, stimulating and teasing, stretching oh so gently. Even as his tongue worked, his skilled fingers stroked the tender skin behind the scrotum. Now he moved his other hand between Buck's spread legs and captured his cock. It was already almost fully hard. It was tempting to continue the rimming and use his hand to bring Buck off, but the objective was to get him stretched and ready, so reluctantly he pulled back and lubed up three fingers. Buck had moaned in disappointment at the loss of the tongue so expertly stimulating him. Now he moaned in pleasure as the first finger entered him. Ezra's other hand continued its attention on the now fully hard cock.
"Oh shit!" Buck suddenly shouted as Ezra found the sweet spot within his lover and massaged it. "Oh shit, don't stop."
One finger was joined by another. Very, very gently Ezra worked his partner open, concentrating on doing a good job; the last thing he wanted was for Buck to get hurt in any way. Nevertheless his ministrations were winding Buck up nicely, he wasn't even aware of his other hand as it pulled, squeezed and stroked. Pre cum now leaked freely, and Buck was actively pushing back as Ezra added a third finger and more lube. Time and time again Ezra hit Buck's prostate, making him shout and buck, thrusting back, craving more contact.
"Ez I'm gonna come, oh my God, I'm…" With that he came, one long powerful jet shot out and hit the tiled wall in front of him, as well as coating Ezra's hand. His arms began to shake, and he sank forward to rest his forehead on the cool tiles.
"See, love, told you we needed to leave cleaning the jewels till last." He grinned down at Ezra still kneeling behind him. "Am I ready now?"
Caught up in the moment Ezra had almost forgotten why they were there. The satisfied smile on his face and his own burgeoning erection died.
"I believe so."
"Sure feels that way."
Ezra stood and hit the water again.
Chris and Vin were in the bed as the others entered the bedroom, looking flushed, fresh from the shower, water still clinging to their hair and fresh towels wound around their waists. The lights in the bedroom had been turned down to a soft glow. It was clear that Vin had been giving Chris a hand job under the covers, he gave Buck a soft smile, one of those long building Vin smiles, that could melt the steeliest heart and made him look ten years younger. Slowly he pulled his hand up from under the covers and, clutching his own towel, stood beside the bed.
"You ready, Cowboy?" Buck asked.
"As I'll ever be. We gonna do this the old fashioned way?"
"Used to work pretty well as I recall." Buck let his towel drop and walked over to the bed.
Standing beside the bed he smiled at his alpha. "You hiding in there or something?" he asked, taking hold of the sheet and pulling it back. "'Sides, I'm the one who's meant to be on the bed."
Chris sat up, his erection jutting out proudly from its nest of golden curls. While Ezra had seen Chris naked, he had never seen him erect and flushed with desire. He moved to the side to get a better look. Buck looked over his shoulder. "What do you think?" he asked cheekily.
"Um, well, I think Mr Tanner is a very lucky man," Ezra replied diplomatically, glancing at Vin and winking.
By now Buck had knelt down on the bed and Chris was moving to stand behind him. Buck beckoned to his mate. Needing no second bidding, Ezra climbed on to the bed, settling beside Buck, close enough to kiss, stroke, nuzzle and fondle. Chris ran a single digit down the crease between Buck's ass cheeks.
"Ready and waiting I see," he commented.
Buck just looked over his shoulder and grinned. Vin, unsure where he fitted in this strange dance, moved to stand beside his lover. As Chris positioned the head of his engorged member at Buck's stretched and slick opening, he found, to his surprise, he was turned on. The hard on he had acquired in the shower had been flagging, now it all but leapt back to life, as he watched the man he loved enter another man. He couldn't help it, his hand pushed down under the towel and took hold of his dick. The towel fell way as his other hand sought out Chris; needing contact, he let his hand caress the broad back of his mate. Chris pushed into Buck, causing the Two Blood to arch and gasp as he was filled and Chris found the centre of his pleasure with unerring accuracy. Even as Chris began to move, Ezra took hold of Buck's face in his two hands and kissed him deeply, all but consuming him in his desperate, frantic claiming.
Buck was pushing back to meet Chris' thrusts, arching his spine, and momentarily losing contact with Ezra.
"Come on Chris, you can do more than that, go for it, harder," he encouraged.
"God, you're so hot," Chris muttered, "… I'd forgotten how it felt." With that Chris sped up, his thrusts coming almost too fast for Buck to match them.
Vin couldn't quite believe how this was affecting him. He suddenly found his hand was damp; his cock was drooling pre cum all over the place. That was no good, he had to save his current erection for Buck, so reluctantly he released the aching shaft and turned his attention to Chris. His lover was flushed, a sheen of perspiration covered his lean frame, his muscles stood out in relief, fine tremors visible as he edged ever closer to the inevitable eruption. Vin wanted to be a part of that climax, he wanted to be a part of the sexual energy the two of them were creating. Ezra and Buck looked like they were eating each other, so he tilted his head to find Chris' gasping, sweat salty mouth and claimed it. When Chris came, it was with Vin's tongue down his throat, his climax so sudden and powerful he almost bit both their tongues. Vin could almost taste his lover's seed as it flowed into the Two Blood below them.
Chris pulled back, twisting his body to drop on to his back beside the Two Blood. Buck pulled away from Ezra to look at the man panting at his side.
"Well?" he asked.
"Oh God, damn, but you're good."
Ezra lay down so his face was almost between them.
"Don't worry, I know he's yours, but it was good, you can't blame a man for enjoying mind blowing sex." He grinned, then looked at Vin. "Shit! I'm glad we aren’t gonna do this often, if I have to fuck you and the 'Energiser Bunny' I'll have a coronary!"
"You ain't never complained yet, old man," Vin countered.
"Well, maybe you should show me some of this energy?" Buck cocked his head back over his shoulder. "My," he commented, eyeing what was about to enter his body.
Vin gave a crooked half smile, ducking his head to look at the man waiting so invitingly for him. Vin knew he was attractive, he had been aware of his power to attract since his adolescence. In school he was attracting women, but he had never been interested in women, thought it had taken him some years to work out what he was interested in. It didn't take him long however, to work out how to get what he really craved. It was so easy, he was always popular, he always had his pick.
Ezra also looked up, made a mental calculation and grinned. "Well, Mr Tanner, you have quite perfected that shy, gauche look, and that is…" He let his gaze drift down to Vin's groin, his cock was a good length, full but not over thick and ramrod straight. "…well, quite impressive."
Vin was proud of his body and his dick in particular, not that he would ever admit it. "You had better?" he asked the other man cockily.
"Every single night," he boasted, leaning back to brush his lips over Buck's shoulder, looking up at Vin through long lashes.
Buck was all but overloading on the smell of sex and arousal that surrounded him. He needed someone and he needed them now. All but whimpering he dropped his head and raised his butt. At the same time he looked down the length of Ezra's fine body, stretched out in front of him, smooth, soft skin over hard muscles just inches from his face.
"Looks like you need some good Buck loving yourself here lover," he commented, eyeing Ezra's own weeping shaft.
Standish needed no second bidding, he moved over to give Buck's skilled and eager mouth access. Before he turned his attention to Ezra, Buck looked back at Vin and winked. "Go on, I'm ready," he encouraged.
Vin lined himself up and entered Buck in one smooth manoeuvre. He was well stretched and still slick, lube mixing with Chris' seed. Since Vin was noticeably thicker than Chris, his entry did stretch Buck more. The tight slickness felt wonderful to Vin, not better than Chris, just different. Buck pushed back, meeting the intrusion willingly.
"Mmmm," Buck murmured as he was filled, moving instinctively, even as he lowered his head to capture Ezra's cock.
Ezra was so desperately in need he practically came off the bed the moment Buck's mouth closed around him. Hands clutching desperately at the sheets, back arching, hips thrusting up into the skilled mouth that now surrounded him, sucking and pulling, overloading his senses.
Chris was still in a post-coital haze. Lying on his back beside Buck, he had a grandstand view as his mate pounded into the Two Blood. His cock might be a spent force for now, but he was still feeling that tingle of arousal.
Buck was past all rational thought, his ass was being filled, prostate pounded repeatedly and his mouth was sucking on the sweetest cock he had ever had. His pulled on Ezra as if he could pull the whole shaft into his mouth and swallow it. In his aroused state, Ezra didn't need much attention to bring him to climax. His stream shot up into Buck's eager mouth before he could give any warning. There was no way he could swallow it all, so he pulled back, collecting what he couldn't swallow in his hand and then, very deliberately, smeared the creamy fluid over his own chest - there would be no misunderstanding about who belonged to whom.
Vin was usually a vocal lover, but had done little more than gasp and grunt; his hands digging into Buck's flanks so hard he would have fingerprint bruises for days. Just seconds after he had milked Ezra dry, Buck felt Vin erupt deep within him. For a while no one moved, then, almost in slow motion, Vin sank down, coming to rest on Buck's broad back. Buck just stayed where he was, supporting Vin's weight, gazing at a flushed and sated Ezra. Ezra let his head drop onto the bed, his breathing shallow and rapid. All this time the new alpha of the Denver Pack, smiled up at his oldest friend and his mate, one long finger absentmindedly stroking the soft hair on Buck's forearm. Vin shifted slightly and his flaccid cock slipped out of Buck. Chris looked over at Buck, and that very moment Buck looked at him. Chris didn't think he had ever seen Buck look so beautiful; bathed in perspiration, flushed, eyes bright and twinkling. The smile on his face spoke of contentment and peace. Finally Chris sat up; he reached out and gently took hold of his lover and, tugging gently, pulled him from his resting place on Buck's back, rolling back as he did until they were spooned together on the bed beside the Two Blood.
"Wow," Vin finally breathed. "… that was hot, so damn hot."
Buck's contented smile became a huge grin. Slowly he pushed himself up until he was sitting on his heels, gazing down at the other three men on the bed. None of them could fail to notice his prominent erection.
Vin, pressed contentedly back against Chris, eyed the long thick shaft. "I thought you and Ez …in the shower …didn't you?" he asked.
"Yeah, we did," Ezra confirmed with undisguised pride.
"Shit, I can't do that," Vin admitted, "… well, not that fast."
"Looks like someone needs some help," Chris observed. Slowly he untangled himself from Vin and sat up beside Buck. "Well, stud, what do you say? Want some help?"
Buck tilted his head to look, not at Chris, but at Ezra. "Wouldn't say no," he conceded.
Ezra took the invitation, moving to kneel beside his lover, instantly joining his lips with Buck, pressing his tongue into the all too inviting mouth, tasting the residual of his own cum. Chris' hand dropped down, his palm spread out over Buck's chest and slid down until he finally encountered the erection, where it closed around the shaft. Vin didn't want to be left out, so he moved off the bed to stand behind the three men kneeling on the bed. He started to kiss Chris' back and shoulders, moving to nibble and suck at his ears and shoulder, finally he reached his lips. All the time one hand was ghosting over Buck's spine, running down to his ass. By now Ezra's lips and hands were exploring every inch of his lovers upper body, brushing gentle kisses, nuzzles, small bites, to his neck, ear lobes, shoulder, collar bone, chest and nipples. Vin's fingers hand moved down, running down between the invitingly spread ass cheeks to find the tender, receptive patch of skin between anus and balls. He was stroking it, the movement of his arm providing friction against the spread buttocks.
Buck lifted his head, gasping in air just to stay conscious, as these three men pleasured him. His body hummed, alive with sensation. His hands reached out, fists opening and closing blindly, seeking, searching, for anything to hold on to. Suddenly he was closing on something, dimly aware that it was Ezra's hand. The hand around his aching cock had been pumping him expertly, now Chris stepped up the pace, in response he began lift himself up and down on his heels, thrusting into Chris' hand. He came with a shout of sheer joy, his back arching, Ezra's lips on his, Vin's expert fingers fondling his balls.
It took them some time to return to the land of the rational, then to untangle their boneless, unresponsive bodies. Vin propped himself up on one elbow; he was lying behind Chris, the two of them were facing Ezra, who was pressed up against Buck.
"What happens now?" he asked the Two Blood.
"I hunt," came the simple response.
"When do you have to go?" Ezra asked, tightening his hold on the strong arm wrapped around him.
"Can we wash?" Chris asked from his position in Vin's embrace.
"If you need to freshen up, a quick shower shouldn't be a problem, just don't use any soap, not 'till this is all over."
Only five minutes later Buck pushed himself off the bed. "Already?" Ezra asked.
"Yup, best get on."
"I'll come and see you off." Ezra rose to join him.
"We'll all come," Chris confirmed.
The three tired, sated and naked men stood on the porch and watched the huge wolf lope off into the night. Long after the wolf had been swallowed up by the darkness, Ezra still stood there.
"He'll be alright," Chris assured, coming back out onto the porch, now dressed in a pair of black 501's. He draped an afghan over Ezra's naked shoulders.
"I know, I know, I just wish…" Ezra was still looking away toward the mountains.
"You wish you could be with him, at least see him," Chris finished for Ezra.
"Yeah." Ezra reluctantly turned away and disappeared into the ranch house.
Buck ran freely, with great, ground eating strides, eating up the mountainside, working off any stiffness or soreness he had picked up during his submission to Chris and Vin. He needed to make a kill; Vin had offered to take a rifle and a night scope and shoot whatever he needed. But that was no good, this had to be his kill, and his alone. Not that he wasn't up for some help. Along the shore of a small lake that was really not much more than a pond, Chris had put out some feed; this was where the local deer came to drink, normally just before dawn. It was a good half hour's run up to the lake and it would take him twice that, dragging a carcass, to get back. When he reached the lake, he found a spot downwind, where he was well covered; there he settled to wait. The local deer were used to finding cattle feed around the lake. Chris - displaying a sentimental side he would deny existed to his dying day - would bring up a sack or two in particularly bad winter weather.
Sure enough, just as the sky began to pale, the deer came down to drink. Buck watched them intently; he wanted a lame one, partly because it would make the kill easier and partly because it would be doing the poor thing a favour of sorts, a swift bite to the neck had to be better than slow starvation in a Colorado winter. Finally he spotted the perfect quarry. A yearling from the size of it, which was also good - he had to get the body back to the ranch on his own. It was limping heavily, there was no way to know why and he didn't care, injured it would never survive the winter anyway. Keeping himself low to the ground, hidden behind the long grass and downwind, he edged sideways until he was in line with the hapless animal. Then he began to creep forwards. There was no way he could ambush the deer, but that was not his plan. Suddenly one of the other deer raised its head and sniffed the air, others followed, finally one looked around and, seeing a huge wolf sneaking up on them, took off at full speed. Once one went, they all went, as Buck knew they would.
He set off after the young wounded deer. His long, ground-eating stride was remarkably economical and he could run at the same speed for long periods of time. Little by little he would simply wear his victim down, pouncing when it dropped from sheer exhaustion. This, however would be a short hunt. The wounded animal began to falter after only a few minutes, Buck began to gain rapidly after that, just seven minutes after the deer first began to run he was beside his chosen victim. Once, twice, three times he tried to close his powerful jaws around the slender neck and three times it evaded him, but not the fourth. Hanging on for all he was worth, Buck sank his razor sharp teeth into the soft flesh under the deer's neck, and punctured the main artery. With a heavy wolf hanging from her neck, and haemorrhaging blood, the doe didn't last long. As she stopped struggling and dropped, he prepared to deliver the kill bite. With lightning speed he released the throat and snapped his teeth down on the back of the deer's neck. As he bit down he felt and heard the animal's spine break. Instantly the last vestiges of struggle left his prize and it slumped, boneless and lifeless. For a long minute Buck held on, savouring the power of life and death that he held in his jaws, then he slowly lowered the doe to the ground. He stood over his kill, lord of all he surveyed, and throwing his head back, he howled.
Down in the valley six men looked up from their coffee as they sat on the porch and waited for Buck to return.
The blood, warm and fresh, tasted good, sweeter than he remembered. It had been a long time since he had hunted to kill and he had forgotten the potent, intoxicating flavour of fresh blood. He was tempted to sink his teeth into the sweet meat on the deer's flank and feast - but he didn't. Digging his teeth once more into the already ravaged neck of his kill and straddling it, he began to drag the carcass down hill. It was hard going; even though it was only a yearling and a doe, the deer was heavy and the terrain rough. It didn't help that he didn't hunt often, he wasn't well practised at dragging a dead animal for the best part of five miles. As he struggled on it occurred to Buck that in recent years he had become more and more distanced from his Two Blood heritage. He almost never hunted, he only sang to the Hunter's Moon two or three times a year, and making the change was something that had to be carefully planned and done in secret. All that was wrong; sure, all Two Blood lived secret lives to a degree, but Buck had almost abandoned his wolf side. No one should deny what he was, especially something that was at the very core of his being.
Zac Miller was seriously pissed. How the hell had it all suddenly become so complicated? What the hell did this loner think he was playing at? Loners were rejects, outsiders, cripples, and sell outs - Two Blood who denied their wolf side and lived as One Blood, never changing. No feeble, lone reject was going to stand between him and his ambition to claim his own territory, maybe even form his own clan. Denver was the juiciest vacant territory in the whole damn country, and how was this loser trying to keep him from it? By calling a bunch of mangy, weak, feeble One Blood ‘pack’! How dare he? Sure, some packs had One Blood, but they were mostly females, mothers of cubs. There was no way you could have a pack with only one Two Blood.
Well, if the poor fool wanted to fight, let him try. Zac had fought for dominance so many times he couldn't remember them all and yet here he still was, and if the One Bloods didn't like the result, well, they'd find out just what a pack could do. He smiled to himself as he rode along. That was the wonderful thing about living under One Blood law, no one came looking for a wolf for murder, you could just leave the evidence of your handiwork lying around.
He turned his Harley off the road and up the driveway to the ranch house. The rest of the pack, minus the youngest female, who had remained behind with the cubs, followed. As the track widened out, the pack spread out into an arrowhead formation and sped up so that they arrived in a cloud of dust, with a great roar of engines.
The six One Blood members of the Denver Pack stood in a line in front of the house. Ezra waved a hand in front of his face and coughed dramatically, as the dust cloud wafted over them.
"There seems to have been a shift in the wind," he commented as the bikes all came to a stop, though their engines continued to rev loudly.
Zac surveyed the men before him. The tall blond, dressed from head to toe in black, was the alpha, no mistaking him, and he posed some threat. The tall black man was impressive physically but his body language was not that of a dominant, he would wait and then react, he wouldn't initiate. Beside him was an imposing older man, he was clearly a threat, tall, strong, experienced. To the right of the alpha was a slightly shorter, younger man, his hair and body language was that of the People; his stance, though apparently relaxed and slouched, was actually tight with tension, his eyes taking in every detail. He was a credible threat. Beside him was a smaller man, who, though wearing casual clothing, had an air of money about him; he was groomed and neat. Fear and apprehension radiated off him, Zac dismissed him as a weak peacock. Lastly there was a boy, an adolescent, not much more than a cub, too young and too small to be a threat. But there was no Two Blood.
"Where is he?" the leader of the Blood Moon pack demanded.
"Boy, you mind your manners," Josiah warned.
"Don't talk to me; in fact, don't even look at me - One Blood," Miller sneered.
Sanchez took a step forward, only to freeze and then step back in response to the slightest rise of Chris' hand.
"This is our territory, move on." Chris' voice was low, icy with implied threat. All the time he was eyeing up Miller. He was about Chris' height, broad shouldered; the jeans, white T-shirt and black leather jacket did little to hide a powerful frame. He had dark blonde hair, not dissimilar in colour to Vin's, but where Vin's was long, flowing and soft, this man's hair, while shoulder length, was lank and lifeless. His hooded eyes were hard to see, let alone read.
"One Blood can't be pack." Zac maintained eye contact with Larabee.
"They can if a Two Blood submits..."
The encounter stopped there, as the line of men behind Chris parted and Buck walked in, still dragging the dead deer. He dropped the carcass and padded back and forth in front of the men, eyeing the pack of Two Blood before him. Then he finally came to rest beside Chris with Vin on his other side; he sat down and made the change. Sitting naked beside Chris, he said nothing.
"As I was saying," Chris continued. "…your law says if a Two Blood submits to One Blood, the One Blood can be Pack and the Two Blood can fight on their behalf, true?"
Zac kept his eyes on Buck, kneeling so still and docile beside Chris. "What's the matter with you?" he asked, but Buck just continued to stare at him. "You're a loner, if we liked you, we might have let you join us, you could have had a pack, a real pack." Zac said it, but they both knew he would never have let a dominant Two Blood of Buck's size and age join his pack. "You can't seriously want to be Pack with …with…" He waved his hand dismissively at the rest of Team Seven. "…that! They're One Blood, weak, feeble, they don't understand our ways."
"That's enough!" Chris fumed, "Let's do this."
With that Nathan stepped forward and pulled a knife from his belt, Buck's knife. Chris had never given much thought to the fact that his friend always carried a knife. It was a full size, classic, 'Buck' - naturally - folding hunter's knife. Jackson opened it, locking the blade into position. All evening he had worked on the already sharp blade, first on a whetstone, then on a leather strop; it was now as sharp as any laser cut razor. He stepped up to the kill Buck had just dragged in and knelt down at the animal's haunches. With a deft hand he stripped away the hide and revealed the lean, tender meat below. Then he used the fine blade to cut a wafer thin strip of meat which he handed to Buck, who in turn stood and handed the meat, meat from his kill, to Chris. Nathan had cut the meat so thin it was all but transparent - none of them was too keen on eating raw meat, by cutting it so thin they could at least pretend it was sushi. As Zac and his pack watched, Chris ate the meat. As Nathan cut, Buck presented his new pack with fresh meat, after Chris, Vin, then Josiah, followed by Ezra, Nathan himself and finally JD; the order was no accident.
Buck once more knelt beside Chris; Nathan handed the knife to JD. With his back to the other pack, he gave the nervous young man a smile of reassurance. JD stepped up to stand behind the man he considered his surrogate brother. Buck responded by lifting his head and exposing his vulnerable throat. With a hand he was struggling to keep from trembling, he held the knife to the exposed jugular. Buck sat quite still, but his eyes rose to meet the alpha of the Blood Moon pack. JD glanced to his side and then handed the knife to Nathan. Once he too had held the deadly blade at his friend's neck he handed the knife to Ezra. As he took the blade, Ezra felt physically sick, the idea of holding a knife to the throat of the man he loved was abhorrent to him, but it had to be done and he summoned up all his undercover skills to hide his true emotions. Ezra was followed by Josiah. When he was done, he didn't give the knife to Vin, but simply returned to his place in line.
In one fluid, graceful move Buck stood.
"Yeah, very impressive - you trust them, you're willing to feed them, that isn't submission - not to an alpha," Miller sneered.
"He submitted." Chris' voice was icy with threat and power.
Miller's eyes moved from Buck, to Chris. "Really?" There was clear incredulity in his voice.
After staring at Chris a few minutes longer, Zac moved forward. He already knew Buck's scent, and it was all over the man in black, a powerful mix of body odour and sex. As he moved from the alpha to the other man who had not taken the knife, his eyes widened in surprise. He looked from Vin to Chris.
"You are mated to him?"
"I am," Chris confirmed.
Then he looked at Buck. "And you submitted to both of them," he shook his head as he walked back to his pack, but then stopped and looked at Ezra. Stepping closer, he sniffed.
"Do you mind." Ezra waved his hand in front of his face, to ward off some supposed odour.
Zac ignored him and went back to face Buck. "You submitted to them?" he asked again.
"Yes." This was the first time Buck had spoken.
"And you're mated to him?" he pointed at Ezra.
"Fuck! It's gonna be a pleasure killin' you. Your kind are a disgrace to all Two Blood!"
"Hey!" JD blurted out indignantly.
"JD, hush," Chris warned, holding up one hand. "So," he turned to Zac. "You accept that we are a pack?"
"Much as it sickens me, yeah, I guess so." Zac stepped back to once more stand in front of his own pack.
"So?" Chris prompted. "You challenging or leaving?"
"Oh yes, I'm challenging! Fuck , yes!"
"Then Buck fights for me." With that Chris stepped back and left Buck standing alone facing the other alpha.
Miller looked at the man before him as an opponent for the first time. Buck was taller than him, but leaner, and while he looked calm the smell of fear was radiating off him.
"Well?" Buck asked, still standing there impassively.
"Let's do this." With that Miller started shedding clothes. The moment he dropped his undershorts Buck held his hand out to Josiah, who still had the knife. Sanchez handed him the weapon handle-first and stepped back with a nod.
Now naked Zac looked at the knife in puzzlement. "What the hell are you doing?" he asked.
"Gettin' ready to fight. What are you doing?"
"What's with the knife, ain't we gonna …"
Buck swung his blade in a practice arch. "No."
"Damn, stupid, fucking, One Blood loving, loners! Shit!" Zac grabbed his boot and pulled out a knife.
Buck's knife had a moderate, straight five inch blade. When Miller pulled a Bowie knife, Ezra barely stifled a gasp, JD didn't. Somehow JD no longer found it odd to see his friend naked, all he could think was how vulnerable Buck looked. Both packs moved back now, forming two shallow semicircles surrounding the two men. Buck swung his blade in a low horizontal arch, forcing Miller to bend and hop backwards to avoid being gutted, but he countered quickly, bringing his own huge blade back, aiming at Buck's forearm. It was a classic counter attack and Buck avoided it by spinning away. He continued to spin, bringing his arm around, knife in hand, to slice into the back of Zac's biceps.
"First blood, Zacky, wanna quit now?" Buck moved around his opponent who was trying to ascertain how bad the injury was and keep Buck in sight at all times.
"Not at chance, that's why we're doing this." With that Buck made a lunge for Miller's already damaged arm.
While Buck had mobility and reach over Miller, the pack leader's larger blade cancelled out the extra reach and he was physically stronger. That said, some of the Denver Pack's fears were being allayed, Buck clearly knew how to fight with a knife. Chris even found himself wondering how he got to be so proficient. He said he'd never fought for dominance, so it wasn't fighting Two Blood, yet clearly at some time, he had relied on a knife to keep himself safe or even keep himself alive - not a nice thought. Larabee glanced at Ezra, wondering if he knew the truth, and realised it was impossible to know. Beside him, Chris could hear Josiah; he was speaking quietly, if Chris concentrated, for just a second, he could work out that the big man was saying 'Hail Mary's' one after another under his breath. That Josiah had a strong faith they all knew, but he had long left his Catholic upbringing behind; that he fell back on it now was a measure of his fear. On his other side he could feel Vin moving with their Two Blood, anticipating the moves and instinctively weaving and turning in his head to avoid them, looking for openings. The movements were so small as to be all but imperceptible to anyone but Chris. Ezra stood rigid with tension, his face showed no emotion, his body radiated concern. And at the end of the line JD was all movement; like Vin he was shadowing Buck's moves, but unlike the Texan, he made no attempt to hide it, his shoulders bobbing and weaving with his friend's. Chris was about to look at Nathan when Zac dodged a sweeping cut of Buck's and managed to drag his knife along Buck's ribs just under his left arm.
Blood ran freely from the cut, making a great curtain of red, yet Buck didn't so much as flinch. Nathan was now moving, prowling along the line of men, trying to gauge how bad the injury was.
"Well?" Chris hissed as Jackson passed in front of him.
"Not bad, scraped the ribs I reckon, looks worse than it is." With that Nathan continued along the line to retake his position next to Josiah.
Chris looked over at the other pack. Though they looked relaxed and unconcerned, he could almost feel the tension building. They had expected this to be a very short fight.
Suddenly there was a flurry of movement; Zac brought his arm up to block Buck's knife arm while swinging his body around to give him clear access to Buck's vulnerable belly. Quick as a flash, and with a move that Vin would have been proud of, the tall Two Blood swung away from the blade and kicked out with one long leg, catching Miller mid-thigh. The stockier man staggered but didn't drop. Seizing the small advantage, and using his extra height, Buck darted forward and grabbed his opponent's right wrist. Even as Zac was registering what had happened, Buck pulled, off-balancing his opponent. As Zac stumbled forward, he brought the heel of his right hand, with the butt end of his knife handle in it, into Miller's shoulder with such force that his knees buckled. Buck drove home his advantage, swinging his fist over in an arch to impact with his opponent's jaw with a sickening crack. Miller's head snapped back and he dropped back on to the dusty ground.
By now Buck was straddling Zac, holding him down with his knees. He might be able to fight with a knife but he preferred his fists. He tossed his own knife toward his pack. Keeping hold of Miller's wrist, smashing it against the ground a few times until his grip slackened and the knife fell free, this too, he tossed away.
"I do not want to kill you," Buck snarled. "Do you understand that?" There was no response from his opponent. "I said, do you understand?" His fist slammed into the younger man's jaw once again.
Zac understood alright, understood all too well that living as a One Blood had made this loner weak, in mind if not in body. He understood he was down, but he was not out and he would not yield. So, desperate as he was not to lose, for to lose would mean losing everything, not just the territory, he used the only weapon he had left. He knew it was wrong, Pack Law forbade it, but he didn't care. In his mind Buck was so far beyond the Two Blood pale that he was no longer under the protection of Pack Law.
Before Buck or anyone could register what had happened, it was a wolf below him, a huge, black, shaggy-coated wolf. Buck was so shocked, that as the wolf struggled and squirmed to get out from under him he lost his grip, and it got free.
"He can't do that!" JD bellowed, taking two steps forward even before he realised he had done it.
"JD!" Chris warned, then the alpha of the Denver Pack turned his gaze not on man and wolf, but on the Blood Moon Pack. They looked as shocked as his men, horrified even. A girl took a step forward.
"What are you doing?" she called to the wolf, but it was too late. In its struggle to get free from Buck, it had raked its long claws over his chest and now, having rolled free, it charged.
Buck was still in shock, trying to get his confused, pain and fatigue befuddled brain to take some action when the wolf lunged at him. Buck swung at him, bringing both his hands together in one clenched fist. The wolf took the impact on the side of the head, but it didn't throw him off completely. As he fell away, his snapping jaws found Buck's thigh and his needle sharp teeth tore down into the naked flesh, gouging out great chunks of meat and muscle as they did. Buck threw back his head and screamed in agony; no longer able to block the pain, he dropped and instinctively wrapped a hand around the ragged open wound.
"Stop this or I will!" Chris bellowed at the other pack.
"Buck!" Ezra's voice was unmistakable. Buck registered his lover's cry of distress and alarm and saw Zac getting ready to charge at him again, teeth bared in a snarl, blood - his blood - making the dark fur around the muzzle glisten. Buck was on his knees, his injured leg all but straight, one hand clamped around the wounded area, trying in vain to stem the flow of blood. His other hand was on the ground, helping to keep him from keeling over all together. It had come to rest on something hard. Instinctively he closed his hand around the object as someone, a woman, shouted,
Buck turned and lifted his arm just in time. For a millisecond the low dawn sunlight glinted on the polished metal and then Zac Miller impaled himself on his own Bowie knife.
Buck remained where he was, his arm outstretched, the huge knife buried to the hilt in the wolf's chest. Zac raised his yellow eyes; there was no hatred, no malice or revulsion in them, only surprise. And then they closed and he slumped, the dead weight dragging Buck's arm down.
"No!" the girl shrieked. She ran forward and sank to her knees beside the wolf.
Buck slowly let go of the knife and pulled his hand back. All the time he kept his eyes on the young woman. Her hands explored the wolf's body, searching for a sign of life.
"No, no, no, no," she wailed.
Buck found the scent of the man he had just killed all over her and the unmistakable scent of cubs. He hadn't, he realised, just killed her mate but the father of her children as well.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean … this isn't how it was supposed to happen, I only…" he stammered out. All he had ever wanted to do was make Zac back down, he had never intended to kill him. By now the rest of the Rogue pack were gathered around their former leader.
"Is he...?" Franco asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Buck replied. "Nate?"
The Denver Pack were standing behind Buck, Jackson bent down slowly, wary of the Two Bloods watching his every move. His skilled hands quickly searched but found no sign of life. Dark brown eyes, eyes that were filled with compassion, looked up at the young woman before him. Seeing her desperation, he wanted very badly to give her some good news, but there was none.
"I'm sorry my dear, he's gone."
She gave a great hitching sob and buried her head in the thick coat of her mate. Chris was now standing beside Nathan.
"Nate, get Buck inside. Josiah help him." The order was clear and the tone made it plain this was no time to argue. "Ezra, go with them," he called over his shoulder.
Ezra needed no second bidding, his desire, his need, to be with Buck was almost overwhelming. He moved instantly to kneel beside his naked and bleeding mate.
"Are you…?" he asked, all attempt to hide his concern gone.
"I'm okay." Buck looked up into desperate emerald eyes and managed a smile.
Ezra looked over at the young woman, hanging on so desperately to the dead wolf. He hated himself for it, but he was glad it was her mourning and not him. Almost as if she had read his mind she looked up, and she understood.
"It's not your fault," she whispered, looking at Buck, then she looked at Ezra. "It's our way."
Ezra nodded his understanding; Buck turned away from his handiwork, resting his head on Ezra's shoulder.
"Come on, let's get you outta here," Nathan encouraged.
"JD, see if Nate needs anything set up inside," Chris instructed.
JD's raven black hair bobbed once and he darted over to Jackson. There was a brief conversation and then he sprinted for the house. Josiah helped Buck to stand and then, with Ezra in attendance and supported between Josiah and Nathan, he limped into the house. Only as he mounted the steps to the porch, did he look back - briefly, then he disappeared inside.
Chris and Vin, now the undisputed alphas of Denver, faced the intruding pack. The stocky blond whom they had spoken to outside the saloon stepped forward.
"We'll be going now," he stated simply.
Chris said nothing.
Two young men picked up the dead wolf and carried him to the Norton, placing him in the sidecar, where they covered him up. The girl, now more composed, climbed onto her bike beside her dead mate. The man, who appeared to have assumed the role of alpha, walked over to the pile of abandoned clothing and picked it up. As he did, he pulled a simple black leather pouch from inside the jacket.
"To the victor the spoils," he said bitterly, tossing the pouch to the ground at Chris' feet.
Once inside the house, Buck pulled his arm from Nathan's shoulder and wrapped it around Ezra. The two men held on to each other, in silence, for what seemed like hours. Eventually Buck raised his eyes to find himself looking over Ezra's shoulder into Josiah's compassionate, pale blue eyes. Reluctantly he uncurled his arm from his mate and wrapped it around the big man's neck. Sanchez had hugged his teammate before, but somehow this was different, he felt a closeness he had never sensed before. The feel of Buck's warm, naked body pressed close to his, seemed so right, so natural, that, heedless of the man's injures, he pulled him closer. Buck smiled contentedly, a smile that touched Sanchez's soul. They had done a good thing; as he looked into the eyes before him, he knew they had healed a soul. Almost in slow motion Josiah tilted his head and brushed a gentle kiss to Buck's lips. So wrapped up in the embrace was Buck, that he hadn't even registered that Nathan was kneeling at his side, applying a pressure bandage to his torn thigh. He did register JD, who was now standing beside him. Releasing one arm from Josiah, he pulled JD into an embrace.
"I was so scared, when he changed and charged I didn't…" JD knew he was babbling, but he couldn't seem to stop, he was just so relieved to have Buck safe, he couldn't help it. Buck rested his chin on JD's head, holding the younger man against his chest. Somehow JD didn't feel even slightly embarrassed hugging Buck so closely, it felt right, it felt nice.
"Come on, we need to get you laid down," Nathan's words were soft, but there was no disguising the urgency in his voice.
As Nathan helped him on to the bed, he took the time to run a tender hand down the side of Buck's cheek. "I'm gonna take care of you, don't worry," he whispered.
Buck smiled, turning his head a little to get more contact with the large, yet tender hand. "I know."
Ezra hovered nervously, while Nathan worked. By the time Chris and Vin walked in, Buck lay on the bed, under a sheet, his legs raised up on a stack of pillows; he was looking distinctly pale. Ezra sat on the bed beside him, his arm under Buck's neck.
"How is he?" Chris asked.
Nathan looked worried. "The scrapes down his chest I can deal with, I've closed the knife wound to the ribs with closure strips - for now, but it needs stitching. However…"
"That leg needs to be closed by a doctor, he needs antibiotics and a drip, he's already in mild shock."
"Hello? I am here you know?" Buck muttered, but in truth, he felt so rotten he didn't have the energy to protest more.
Chris looked at his friend, taking in the red stain on the sheet covering his legs; if the blood was seeping through with whatever dressing Jackson had applied, it had to be bad. "Right, so we're on our the way to the hospital." Chris turned to leave.
"No," Buck called.
"No?" Chris asked.
"How the hell am I gonna explain these injuries to the hospital - let alone the ATF? Nate, can't you do it, please?"
Buck was right, they could claim a dog attacked him, but that wouldn't explain the knife wound. Of course Ezra could not doubt come up with some story, but he didn't want to go to hospital; he wanted to be with his pack, his family, he needed to be with Ezra, not stuck in some sterile hospital room, the very smell of which would make him feel sick.
Nathan looked back. "I'm sorry Buck, but that leg needs to be seen by a doctor and I can't prescribe the medication you need. And doctors don't make house calls these days."
"Vets do." Everyone turned to face Vin, who was leaning against the doorframe.
Rachel Levy's Explorer skidded to a stop outside Chris' ranch house. Larabee was a good customer and he had said the dog was bleeding badly so she had driven over immediately. It didn't hurt that Larabee, who was standing on the porch waiting for her, was drop dead gorgeous. She wasn't a beauty and she would never grace any catwalk, so reckoned her chances of winning a man like him were zero. Of course Larabee seemed far more interested in a certain young Texan who seemed to be at the ranch every time she called.
**Why is it always the cute ones?** she asked herself, as she pulled her bag from the car and mounted the porch steps.
"In here." Chris opened the front door for her.
As they approached the guestroom, she got the first impression something was wrong. When she saw her patient, she stopped dead.
"That is not a dog."
"I know, he belongs to an old buddy of my father's, I look after him sometimes." Chris could see she wasn't convinced. "He's totally tame, lived as part of the family since he was a cub - honest."
She regarded the huge wolf on the bed. He wasn't looking good, an IV running into his left foreleg and a huge, blood soaked dressing across his left upper hind leg.
"Who did the IV?" she asked.
"I did ma'am," Nathan admitted. "I'm a paramedic. He was as good as gold, stayed still, didn't so much as whimper. He's a good wolf. Aren’t you boy?"
In an attempt to look like the perfect canine patient, Buck managed to flick his tail a few times, though in truth he now felt very weak and more than a little sick.
"Well okay, but if he bites me, I'm gonna sue your ass off, Larabee."
"Fair enough Rachel."
"Do we know what happened to him?" She asked as she started to make a preliminary examination.
"No ma'am, he went off at dawn, to do what a wolf has to do, limped back in about an hour later," Vin explained.
Nathan and the vet worked together for over an hour. All the time Ezra sat on the bed beside Buck, stroking his soft neck fur and whispering encouragement. Since they weren't in a properly equipped veterinary surgery, Levy wasn't prepared to use a full anaesthetic, so Buck got by with just a local. The chest wound, as Nathan had told them, was fairly superficial; the leg wound wasn't, but once the worst of the internal bleeds were tied off, it was a simple - if time consuming - job to put in the numerous external stitches to close the ragged wound.
"Okay, that should do it, I've put the first dose of antibiotic in the IV, that will do him for today. Are you happy you can get a tablet down him, or do you want me to leave you suppositories?"
Buck heard that, he lifted his head and managed a weak growl at Nathan.
"Well ma'am…" Nathan was trying not to laugh, "I reckon I can get the tablet down him, but if he starts to play up I'll give you a call, get the 'other' kind."
There was another weak growl when Doctor Levy said she was going to put a sedative in the IV as well. But this time the others were on her side. "Now boy, you need the rest, so just be quiet," Jackson scolded.
"For me, my love," Ezra whispered in his ear.
"I swear that wolf understands everything I say," the vet commented, as she finished adding the medication to the drip and started to pack up her equipment, shaking her head. "You do know that chest wound isn't a bite - don't you?"
"I know, reckon he got into a fight with a dog, the owner probably tried to break it up," Nathan lied smoothly.
"Must have been one big dog," she commented.
By the time she was at the bedroom door, Buck was asleep. Ezra lay behind him, one arm resting over the wolf's shoulder.
"Well Chris, that was not my usual call out, I give you that," she admitted to Larabee as he helped her load up the car. "I'll put the bill in the post."
"I appreciate you coming Rachel."
The vet turned to face the tall rancher. "Your friend, Ezra is it?" Chris nodded. "He seems very close to the wolf."
"He's very special to all of us, but he and Ezra are especially close, they have an …understanding."
"So where's Buck today - wait, don't tell me - he's not back from last night's date?"
Chris smiled. "Something like that."
"Just not the same around here without him flirting with me all the time." Rachel shook her head; there was something going on she didn't understand, but frankly she didn't want to understand, so she just got into her car and headed home.
Since he had fallen asleep in wolf form, that was how Buck remained as he slept the day away. Only when the sedative wore off did he begin to stir.
"Hello," Ezra greeted as Buck opened one eye. Buck yipped feebly in response; he then gave Ezra's face a good licking. "Much as I appreciate it, I'd rather be kissed - Nathan thinks it won’t pull the stitches out, but you know be…"
Even before he had finished speaking Buck was before him, a little pale, a little battered, but there and alive and safe. Ezra leaned further over to capture his beloved's lips. A long, slow, very deep, kiss that made Buck feel one hundred per cent better. Finally Ezra pulled away.
"How are you feeling now?" he asked.
"Yes, I would appreciate the truth."
"I'm sore, and thirsty, and hungry, and I love you."
"I'll get Mr Jackson, do not try to get up until I return."
Nathan said Buck could be moved into the living room, on the couch. He had to keep the IV until the next morning but he could and should drink and eat, to build up his strength again.
"So, boys," Buck began from his new bed. "…what are we eating?"
"Venison - what else," Josiah explained with a grin, as he headed to the kitchen, dragging Nathan along with him.
While they cooked, Chris brought the leather pouch Franco had tossed to him, over to Buck.
"They left this for you."
Buck frowned, but didn't try to pick it up. "What is it?"
"Papers on his Harley, it's in the barn, guess it's yours now."
Buck shook his head. "No, you’re the alpha, I fought for you."
Chris looked down at his old friend. Somehow until then he hadn't really taken in what all this meant, how being the alpha was different to being the leader. As team leader he would never have accepted the bike - Buck had fought, he had prevailed, the bike was his. But as the alpha it was his by right, Buck didn't fight for himself, he was doing his alpha's bidding; he was serving the pack. The bike was not his, it wasn't Buck's, it was theirs. Slowly he nodded.
"Very well, it's our bike."
"Hey cowboy, we can go out together - matching bikes!" Vin exclaimed happily, throwing an arm around Chris.
"Together? That heap of crap you call a bike don't even go!"
"Now come on Chris, you know I got her to turn over only last mouth, you just gotta have a little faith, is all."
For all his bravado, Buck was asleep almost before the meal was over. Nathan told them not to worry, sleep, healing sleep he called it, was the best thing for him. Ezra became worried when he detected a slight fever the next morning, but Nathan told him not to fret; it was, he said, to be expected. And for all that time, the rest of the pack stayed close to him, making him feel safe and reinforcing the bond. There were hugs and touches, even kisses. Nathan, JD and especially Josiah became more and more relaxed with the physical side of the pack life. On Monday, Buck moved back to Ezra's apartment. Nathan insisted he stay off his leg and rest for at least two days. This new infirmity was explained away as, a fall from the corral fence and catching his leg on a nail. While having someone stay with him at the apartment might have looked strange to outsiders, the rest of the pack managed to ensure he was never alone for more than two hours, and they fell into the habit of eating their evening meals together. While Buck was off work. they all assembled at the apartment to eat. After he returned to work, they started to eat together at the Saloon, lunch was eaten together in the break room or at the local diner, and eventually even breakfast became a communal affair, taken together at a coffee shop around the corner from the federal building. Most weekends were spent at the ranch, from mid day Saturday until Sunday evening. Chris even started looking into converting the loft into two large bedrooms and a bathroom.
Three weeks after the fight at the ranch, the seven members of the Denver Pack found themselves outside the Dragon Studio.
"We all ready?" Chris asked.
"Um, I guess," JD admitted nervously.
"Don't get cold feet now kid, this was all your idea," Vin scolded.
Buck threw an arm over JD's shoulder. "And it was a damn good idea too. Look, even Nate's gonna do it."
"Yeah, only after he interrogated the owner for like a hundred hours!" JD countered.
Nathan had not been exactly enthusiastic about the prospect of getting a tattoo. JD had suggested the tattoo as a way to mark them as 'Pack'. Vin and Josiah both had tattoos already and agreed instantly. Buck thought it was a wonderful idea. And his enthusiasm, and only that, made Ezra agree. Chris had some reservations but went along with it. Nathan was persuaded, on condition that he chose the studio. The Dragon Studio was as far from the traditional tattoo parlour as it was possible to get. This was where the bright young things came to get the latest in fashionable body art and jewellery.
Josiah had found a design, a stylised wolf, from the art of the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. He had altered the design to better reflect their situation. Three artists would work simultaneously, so it would take just over an hour for all seven of them to get the tattoo. It was about an inch and a half square, and would be placed on their left hip.
"It's gonna hurt, isn't it?" JD asked as he psyched himself up to go in.
"No pain, no gain," Buck reminded. He put his other arm around Ezra and guided the two of them through the door, the others following in his wake.
By the grace of God, it had been a quiet time at work, but they were now on a big case. So far it had been a paper trail and some very routine and boring surveillance, but the paper trail was leading toward a legitimate shipment of explosives, passing through Denver next week, that was likely to be hijacked. Chris needed his team fit and ready for action. It would have been logical to get the tattoos the week before, but Buck insisted it had to be this particular Friday. He refused to explain, promising it would all become clear. They had gone to the studio straight from work, everyone expected to adjourn to the saloon for their evening meal. But Buck said there wasn't time, he insisted they grab burgers to keep them going and head out to the ranch.
Ezra protested at having to eat fast food, but went along with the others. On arriving at the ranch. Buck headed out to the barn as soon as he was out of the truck.
"What are you doing?" Chris called.
"Come on guys, we need to get the horses ready." Buck walked on. It was cold, there was frost in the air already and in less than an hour it would be dark.
"Stop!" Chris command.
Buck froze where he was and turned. "Please guys, this is important - trust me?"
"It's not a matter of trust, it's dark - almost - too dark to ride safely," Vin argued.
"Horses can see where they're going, I'll lead you, don’t worry."
"And how will you…" And there he stopped, it was still hard to get used to the idea that Buck could see in the dark, among other things.
Ezra strode past the two alphas to join his mate, the others waited to see what Chris would do.
"Alright, but if anyone gets hurt - man or beast - it's your fault," he finally conceded.
Buck lead his pack, like some Wild West posse, up into the mountains to the same rock outcrop he had gone to the day he decided to ask them to become a pack. There, below them, the lights of Denver twinkled in the night, above them in the crystal clear sky the full moon shone.
"Today is exactly 84 days since I stepped in that damn trap," Buck announced. "I was up in the mountains that night too, because this is the Hunter's Moon," he explained.
"And?" Chris prompted.
Buck shrugged. "Just follow my lead."
With that he stepped up onto the rock outcrop, threw back his head and let loose a long single note. It rose steadily and then he held it for what seemed like an age. It wasn't a howl, it was something apart, a unique sound. Finally he stopped; for a moment; he stood there, gazing up at the moon, before risking a look at his pack.
"Cool," JD gushed.
"Come on then, have a go." JD joined him, it took him a couple of goes to get the right technique, but he joined his lighter voice to Buck's, singing a different note. One by one the others joined in, each singing a different note, Nathan's voice, by far the lowest underpinned everything. Together they made music, a strange primeval harmony of voices rising on the still, cold air. The Denver Pack had arrived and this was their territory, others take note.
Three Months Later
Franco Henry had taken his pack back on the road. No one challenged him when he assumed the role of alpha. As was his duty he also took on the role of father and protector to Zac's cubs, until their mother mated again, returned to her home pack or died. Those of the Blood Moon Pack who had wanted to settle, had returned to their home packs. New recruits had joined the Rogue Pack, as they once more wandered the country. After three months they were down in the Deep South. One of the cubs was sick. So they sought out the closest Two Blood doctor. It turned out to be the doctor belonging to the biggest, richest, most powerful clan in the whole of North America. To say that Franco was nervous, as he approached the formidable alpha of this small empire, was an understatement of the highest order.
"I'm told one of your cubs needs a doctor?" he asked the young alpha.
"Yes sir, if that would be possible."
"Naturally." He made a small gesture with one hand and instantly someone took Kelly and her whimpering cub to find the doctor.
"Now, while we wait for them, tell me of your travels, young man." The words were polite, even welcoming, but that was all they were, words. Franco was in no doubt that if he did or said just one thing to anger the alpha, he would regret it, possibly permanently. He was a tall man, with a strong, clean jaw line and a full head of hair that was probably once very dark but was now turning grey. He could have been any age from mid fifties to early seventies, but however old he was; he was in very good shape. Franco told him about the lone Two Blood in Denver and of his One Blood pack.
"Tell me about him."
Franco swallowed; this was the first time the man had interrupted him. "Um… well, they called him Buck, I don't know what his other name was. He, well, I think all of them, worked for the federal government."
"Yes… well, he was tall, mid thirties, dark hair - kinda wavy."
"I'm not sure, dark."
"And he fought well?"
Franco nodded. "Zac was good, very good, but this guy killed him."
The clan alpha nodded then stood. "Thank you, you have been most helpful, be sure your pack stock up on supplies before you leave."
Henry was shocked; offering to feed a visiting pack was rare, supplying them almost unheard of. He stood to face the other men. "That is very generous, sir."
Jon Doe watched the Rogue Pack leave, the cub diagnosed with an ear infection and dosed up on antibiotics and eardrops. He smiled; it had been too many years, he had thought the trail cold. Time to finally bring the prodigal son home, where he belonged. As he turned back to the house, he was already making plans to travel north.
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