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THIS HOME WE MAKE

J. Rocci



The This Home Series #1




SMASHWORDS EDITION

Copyright © 2017 by J. Rocci


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Thank you for downloading this free eBook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. Thank you for your support.


This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.


Contains Adult Reading Material


Discover other works by J. Rocci through the author’s official website:

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Author's Note


Polyamorous werewolves in DC. How could it go wrong? Zev’s perspective is ridiculously fun to write from – he’s almost pure id at times – but the dynamic between Zev, Callie and Gareth is one of balance, finding how they fit with each other. This first installment of the This Home series explores how the three of them refute traditional pack strictures and find their own way together. Also available is the sequel, This Home We Defend, that has the small pack fighting to stay together.


This story was originally published by Torquere Press in 2008 as part of the “Shifting Them” anthology, edited by Vincent Diamond.



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THIS HOME WE MAKE


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Zev is a master at ignoring noises when there’s prime sleeping time to be had.


He manages to ignore the sound of Gareth’s alarm clock going off in the next room and then the sounds of the other man stretching. He even ignores Callie stirring in her room across the hall and Gareth going down to the kitchen, cupboards creaking open and pans banging onto the stove.


He doesn’t remember much about Life Before Callie and Gareth -- that’s what they deserve even in his head, big capital letters-- but he knows he shouldn’t take a soft bed and fluffy blankets for granted. Ever.


Only, then there’s the smell of cooked bacon in the air. It wafts right up the short staircase to the bedrooms.


Zev can’t help the small whimper that escapes his throat.


He wants to stick his nose in the air, but instead burrows deeper into his blankets. He’s warm here. His bed smells like him, musky and toasty and--


His stomach growls. His toes start to twitch. He lets a whiny breath out through his nose.


Callie’s absently humming in her bathroom, something low and soothing, while she does her hair. Occasionally, her nails will click on the vanity when she picks up a clip.


Now there’s the smell of eggs, and his salivary glands go into overdrive.


Breakfast or sleep? Decisions, decisions.


Seriously. Cruel world.


He rolls, tangled up in his blankets, and hits the floor on all fours. It’s a rather loud thump and he winces. He may be short, but he’s compact, and weighs twice as much as he looks. Muscled.


Callie’s morning noises cut off.


“Zev?” She calls out, voice clear and strong. “Are you all right?”


“Fine, fine,” he mumbles, knowing she’ll hear.


She turns her faucet on, and Zev paws at the blanket twisted around his legs before he kicks free. His eyes are only half-open as he navigates his messy room to the hallway, and he trips when he scrubs at his spiky black hair hard enough to make himself dizzy.


“Seriously, Zev, are you all right?” Callie asks again.


“’M fine.”


Stumbling down the stairs while yawning, he stops short at the sight of Gareth in front of the stove.


So much bare, smooth skin. Gareth’s wearing silk black boxers, the kind that cling, and the muscles ripple in his arms as he stirs the eggs. His short blond hair is sleep-tousled, morning scruff along his jaw, and he still looks like he could be on a magazine cover.


Zev needs coffee. And bacon. And a few moments alone in the shower.


“Is it safe to wear only boxers while frying stuff?” he says when he finds his voice.


From Gareth’s amused look, Zev’s own tenting boxers aren’t going unnoticed.


“I lick it off in the shower, Z,” is all Gareth says before returning his attention to the stove.


Zev swallows a sigh and goes to the shiny new coffee machine. Juice of life. He doesn’t know how much coffee he used to drink, Before, but he can’t get enough of it now.


“That sludge is so vile,” Gareth snorts, but serves up the eggs alongside a huge platter of bacon.


Zev forgives him his blasphemy. Meat meat meat.


Callie’s heels click sharply on the kitchen tiles. Her long black hair is piled atop her head in complicated coils, loose wisps curling around her cheeks artfully. Her pencil skirt goes to her knees, but her ankles are exposed, delicate enough to lick. She always wears high heels even though she’s as tall as Gareth. Her shoulders are wider than Zev’s beneath her satin shirt, and where Gareth is whipcord thin, she’s just--


There’s something solid about her that makes Zev want to loll around at her feet, just so she’ll reach out with one hand and hold him down, press him down with her strength until he’s unmoving and silent.


Zev has accepted that he’s living with two gorgeous Otherkin who look like they belong in Epic Heroic Stories and can sling him over their shoulders one-handed on a whim. Different as night and day, yet stronger together than apart, and they want him around. He doesn’t know why, but he’s not going to question his luck. Oh no.


He may be memory-challenged at the moment, but he’s not stupid.


Zev pours another cup of coffee and takes his plate to his chair at the table as Callie sinks gracefully into hers.


“You’re wearing perfume today,” Gareth says suddenly, still facing the stove.


Sniffing, Zev recognizes the expensive scent. Whenever Callie wears it, she stays out late and comes back smelling… different. Not Pack. Human.


There’s a tension in the air that Zev doesn’t like. He shifts uncomfortably. Callie just unfolds her newspaper and starts reading without answering Gareth.


Zev glances back and forth between them, from Callie’s front page to Gareth’s stiff back.


“I thought…” he says hesitantly and they both look at him. “I thought I might try the subway again.”


Gareth doesn’t respond and Zev waits for Callie, who regally inclines her head to pin him with a direct stare.


“We call it the Metro here,” she finally says in her cultured tones. “Do you have enough on your Smart Trip card?”


Zev nods. “And I’ve got my ID.”


That had taken Gareth calling in old favors, to find Zev some papers. Now he’s kind of legal and Zev is very, very careful with them. The information is all guess work -- his name, his age, his place of birth.


But in his head, he’s Zev Carter, twenty-two, from San Diego, CA.


He’s sure of where he lives now, here in northern Virginia, but he’s never been to California, although he’s seen pictures. Gareth spent a lazy summer there, once upon a time.


Everything else about his past is just a little… fuzzy.


“I won’t go outside the tunnels,” he offers when Callie remains silent.


She mulls it over before focusing on her paper again. “Be home well before rush hour begins.”


“Sweet.” Zev bounces in his seat until Gareth sets a loaded plate in front of Callie.


Gareth’s broad hand spreads across Zev’s back, stilling him with a heavy touch. Zev leans into it, smiling up at Gareth’s amused expression. When Gareth steps away back to the stove, Zev watches him go, only more discreetly now that Callie’s frowning at her paper.


If Callie’s eyes linger on Gareth’s bare back when the other man can’t see, Zev doesn’t say anything because Callie and Gareth never say anything about it to him.


He focuses on shoveling his bacon down.


“Napkin,” Callie snaps when he starts to rub his chin and lick his fingers clean.


Abashed, Zev wipes his face down with the scratchy cloth.


He has manners, most of the time. He started re-learning them by watching Callie and Gareth, and they may not be perfect, but he’s not totally wild anymore. Not like when they first brought him home.


It’s taken him a while to get used to wearing clothes again, to being constricted. He still strips down at any given opportunity, but Callie’s warning nips have convinced him that he should at least keep his boxers on when he wanders the house. The neighbors apparently don’t like free shows when Gareth leaves the windows open.


With his face clean, Zev can’t help fidgeting again. Callie’s fingers tighten on her paper. Just a slight tensing.


Gareth hasn’t looked at her since commenting on the perfume. He’s standing at the island counter of the kitchen to eat instead of at the table. Callie hasn’t said anything about his manners, though, not like she normally would, and Zev wonders if it’s guilt or anger that keeps her silent.


Things are off balance. It makes him twitchy.


Gathering his plate and silverware, Zev keeps his eyes down and washes it at the sink. When Callie’s chair scrapes back, the tension in his body goes up another notch until he’s thrumming with it.


But when Zev glances over his shoulder, she’s just standing beside Gareth, hand resting on the small of his back as she tucks the paper on the counter for him. They aren’t saying anything Zev can hear, but he usually listens to body language more than words anyway.


He focuses on scrubbing the dirty pan from breakfast.


Sometimes--


Sometimes they smell like each other, in the morning. He never hears them moving around at night. Never hears anything that would tell him what’s going on beyond their shared scents, not even with his enhanced senses.


But then, there are days when he’s home alone and he catches their scents like they were right there with him, only to realize they’ve been marked on him.


A gentle touch caresses his neck, blunt nails dragging across his nape. He arches reflexively into the touch, grinning when Callie ruffles his hair affectionately before she heads out for the day.


Gareth yawns hugely when it’s just them, cutting off with a yip that’s not quite human. Bringing his plate over to Zev, Gareth doesn’t hesitate to reach around him to put the dishes in the sink. He even nuzzles at Zev’s cheek for a moment.


“I suppose I should go get ready,” he sighs against Zev’s hair. Zev holds still under the attention.


He can feel Gareth’s smile on his skin. Gareth runs a slim hand down his back, settling at his hip. Zev always forgets that his hands are bigger than Gareth’s, that he’s only a few inches shorter than the other man.


“Ah, well. The things we do not to live out in the wilds…” Gareth’s voice trails off as he heads upstairs, and Zev listens to his progress through the bedroom and bathroom with one ear.


The kitchen is too empty-feeling without either of them. Zev wipes half-heartedly at the counters, then the table. He presses his nose to his own T-shirt clad shoulder.


They smell like home.


***


An hour later finds him standing outside the Pentagon City Mall metro entrance. He’s hesitating, because he has to ride the escalator down under the road to get to the turnstiles and all these tour buses keep discharging huge amounts of people at the sidewalk, so it’s crowded -- very crowded.


So many people, all chatting and moving, with strollers and backpacks and briefcases. The business people that know where they’re going and want to get there five minutes ago. The tourists who stop every five feet to point and stare. The people who may live in the nearby condos, or may just be crazy enough to go shopping now. There are signs all over the place with fat turkeys and sales and FALL written everywhere.


So many humans with their chemical cleansers and cigarettes and food. Different smells than Otherkin, lacking that heady underlying musk. It gives him a headache, sometimes, but he’s drawn back again and again to the teeming river of life.


People keep pushing past him until he screws up his courage and goes down the escalator, keeping to the right like Callie said so that everybody in a hurry can get by on the left. She bought him a little plastic pass to get through the turnstiles as long as she keeps putting money on it, and a music player with ear buds to help filter out the noises.


Zev likes knowing that they trust him. Some days, he starts to feel like a stranger in his own skin, everything unfamiliar and wrong, until he’s so anxious he just wants to snap and snarl and run run run. He’s not stupid, he just gets… confused.


It’s reassuring to have this little piece of plastic that lets him wander until the world settles into itself again. Until the feeling of being trapped recedes and he’s just him, with Callie and Gareth waiting at home.


Today, the tension from breakfast has left him too unsettled for him to hang around the house. Normally he’d be doing reading for his online courses, but he can’t focus on dull economic theories when his feet keep twitching.


He puts his earbuds in and turns the volume up.


Waiting for the Yellow Line is excruciating. New smells are everywhere and his mouth maybe starts to drool a little when a woman steps up to his left, the scent of chicken curry just wafting off her in the circulated air.


Piling into the metro car is even worse. The scents of hundreds of people, all in such an enclosed space, plus the earthy metallic-concrete smell of the stations, and he can’t focus on any one spot. His sense of smell was always keener than--


A name is on the tip of his tongue. He stares at the scratched plastic safety windows. The sun bursts into the cabin when they get above ground, to go over the river.


Always keener than--


The darkness of the tunnels swallows the car again, echoing the clatter of the rails back. He turns the volume on his music player up louder. Gareth wanted to load a bunch of rock bands on it, but Callie insisted on classical.


He--


There are too many people. Crying kids, different languages, people talking into thin air with their phones. The music isn’t enough and he rips his earbuds out.


He pushes out of the car when it hits Chinatown. People clear out of his way. He takes the stairs instead of the escalator to the upper platform. So many stairs to get up until he’s at the turnstiles. He just wants to see the sun, away from this dank and dreary hole in the ground--


The card is shaking in his hand, but he gets through. The attendant is watching him, suspicious for criminals and terrorists, and he needs to get up--


Two more flights of stairs, and there are too many people. Too much and it takes forever and he’s stuck between tourists and students and--


“Just breathe, kid.”


A gruff voice comes from a step below him, up on his heels. Musky scent. Pack. But not Zev’s.


“C’mon, almost there. Deep breaths.”


Zev wants to snap at the audacity, that someone outside his pack would dare tell him what to do.


He doesn’t. His feet are stumbling and the stranger touches his elbow, and Zev flinches because he’s Not Pack Not Packmate--


Open air. Concrete above his head but the sidewalk’s right there and he can breathe again once the sky is over him. Oh--


“C’mon, this way,” the stranger says, fingertips still touching Zev’s elbow.


Zev whips his head around to glare and the man takes his hand away.


“Hey, now,” the man says in a soothing tone, ushering Zev forward without touching him again. “Everybody’s friendly here, kid.”


“Not a kid,” Zev snaps, and it comes out deeper than he expected. Shit.


He checks his shaking hands, but there’s no more hair than a normal human’s on the backs and his fingernails are still neatly trimmed.


The stranger pauses at the street, an invitation. He’s heading in a less populated direction, toward the judicial buildings. Zev takes in his relaxed stance, his wrinkled slacks and polo and loafers. The broad smile behind a scruffy beard.


We don’t survive by taking risks, Callie has repeated a hundred times in the months he’s been with them.


A horn blares on the street behind him and he flinches, skips forward to cross away from it with the man.


“Let’s find some green grass, yeah?”


Zev glances at his companion, but doesn’t answer. The man walks like he knows where he’s going, and soon they’re at a small park, in the shade of dogwood trees.


“Better?”


Zev shrugs and remembers to finally turn off his music player, shoving it into the side pocket of his cargo pants.


“Don’t worry, man. I come into the city every week and it still freaks me out.” The man doesn’t offer his hand like the humans do. Instead he just steps a little closer, enough to invade Zev’s space. “I’m Ray.”


Zev debates a moment. Callie would probably forgive rudeness for caution.


“Zev,” he finally says.


Ray’s friendly grin gets wider. “Hebrew for wolf, right? Nice.”


Staring at him, Zev scents the air. The smells of exhaust and the hotdog vendor at the corner overpower Ray’s scent for a moment. It’s a pleasant musk, doesn’t get his hackles up. But it’s not Gareth. Or Callie.


“So, we’re set up on the Maryland side of DC. I’m guessing you’re not…”


He isn’t the only one sniffing. But Ray hasn’t tried anything; he’s just standing back and waiting pretty patiently on a guy he just met.


Zev looks down. He can’t help it. Ray’s stance shifts, and it’s confirmation that Zev knows, that whatever Pack Ray’s in, he isn’t at the bottom of the totem pole.


“What brought you into the city? Are you here sightseeing?” Ray asks gently, curious when Zev still doesn’t speak.


He wants to know if Zev has a Pack and a place to stay, Zev can pick up on that much. But Zev hasn’t really spoken to anyone except Callie and Gareth since they brought him home.


“I like to ride the lines,” Zev says, and he probably sounds like a nutjob, but he doesn’t know this guy. “I go all over the place.”


“Yeah?”


“What brought you here?” Zev asks abruptly, when he really wants to find out about Ray’s Pack, his territory, his mates. If he’s a threat to Zev’s.


But Ray smiles, like he heard everything in there anyway. “We live on land that’s in a federal trust. I handle all the official business.”


Pack leader, then. Alpha. Zev starts to fidget, wants to just get the hell away.


“Hey, it’s all right. I’m not going to try anything,” Rays hurries to reassure, backing off further. “I just like meeting new people, that’s all. So few of us out there, we gotta keep things level, yeah?”


Zev is still tensed to flee, but he nods. Gareth had said not to talk to people when Zev was out, but that shouldn’t apply to other Packs, right? Not if they’re established well away from Callie and Gareth’s territory.


Ray’s eyes are bright green and scrunched with concern, crows feet at the corner.


“Are you new to town? Do you have a place to stay -- somewhere safe?”


Nosy. But. The guy did help Zev out of the metro…


“Yes,” he replies more confidently. “Yes, I do. We’re down on the Virginia side. My P-- people.”


He almost slips, but catches himself. Callie would be proud. Or smacking him. Otherkin business isn’t discussed except in Otherkin homes and only with Pack.


“Virginia,” Ray repeats, sounding surprised. “I didn’t know we had any Kin that close.”


Surprise can be a bad thing when a Pack feels its territory’s threatened, so Zev quickly explains, “It’s just me and Callie and Gareth. They took me in last year. I was… unwell.”


“Ah.” Recognition lights Ray’s eyes. “I didn’t realize Callie was back in town. I should have guessed. We split from the same ‘family’ when we were teenagers, but D.C. is definitely her scene.”


Zev starts to bristle at his tone, Callie’s former Packmate or not, but Ray grins, waves a hand. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that. She always had more control than the rest of us. If living in a city works for you guys, more power to you.”


Relaxing back on his heels, Zev means to say something, but he gets distracted by a group of pigeons edging closer. He stops himself from giving chase. Barely.


Ray laughs, loud and booming, and so different from Gareth’s quiet smirks.


“You smell nice,” Zev blurts out, mouth running away from his brain. He’s so off balance, his entire day on its side. How mortifying.


“It’s all the fresh air I live in,” Ray grins. “No exhaust out in the fields, just a cabin for bad weather and the open sky.”


That isn’t what Zev meant, but he nods anyway. Tries to be polite to make up for his earlier rudeness.


“Is your ‘family’ big, then?”


Ray doesn’t seem offended. He smiles at Zev’s interest.


“There’s just five of us and a pup, my daughter Esarosa. You should come out and meet them, bring your people along. I’d love to catch up with Callie. You can see the homestead, as it is,” Ray leans in conspiratorially. “We even have a pond for swimming and fishing.”


Zev can’t help perking up at that. Ray smiles knowingly.


Swimming. Splashing through the shallows in his Other form, trying to catch the fish with his teeth. He misses the open water in a way that makes him wonder about his life Before and where he lived. The beach? A lake?


His stomach chooses that moment to remind him that breakfast had been hours ago and he just knows Callie is somewhere in an office building, frowning at his bad manners. His face gets even redder when Ray nods at the corner hot dog vendor.


“You hungry? I’m starving, myself. Arguing with the suits all morning makes me crave meat.”


Ray’s already walking towards the vendor, so Zev decides quickly whether to trust him or not, and keeps following.


“Sure,” Zev says belatedly, then can’t remember if he has paper money on him or not, and he pats through the pockets of his cargo pants.


Ordering confidently for both of them, Ray waves away Zev’s wallet when he pulls it out.


“My treat, man. Don’t worry.”


Zev doesn’t argue. He just keeps his eyes trained on the wrapped hot dogs passing into Ray’s hands. Six of them, and Ray hands him four. They’re chili dogs-- meat on meat in a bun. Glorious.


Ray is his new best friend.


He tries to mind his manners, but seriously -- breakfast. Hours.


They find a bench to sit on. Once he’s devoured two and has slowed down on his third, he shifts his focus back to Ray.


“Thanks,” he says around a mouthful.


Ray looks at him with amusement, and maybe a little concern. He holds out a paper napkin.


“No problem. I’m glad you like chili dogs; I forgot to ask.” Ray cocks his head curiously. “Are you always this hungry?”


Zev shrugs. He wipes futilely at his mouth and fingers, before opening the fourth hot dog and starting on it.


“I guess. I know I eat the most in the house now. Callie and Gareth split the shopping, but I probably should get a job to help out…”


Ray neatly pitches his balled up wrappers into the nearby can, and leans forward, elbows resting on his knees.


“I know you said you were unwell. How long ago?”


Zev’s glance at him is sharp. Ray backtracks again, like he did at the metro station.


“I’m not trying to be nosy on purpose, Zev. But you said they took you in last year-- That’s a long time for one of us to be sick.”


Finishing off his hot dog, Zev crumples the wrappers together and shrugs. “It wasn’t an illness. I got hurt, then I got better.”


“I see.” The look Ray is giving him now is compassionate, concerned. “Someone hurt you…?”


Zev doesn’t want to get his hackles up, but Ray isn’t his Pack. Isn’t his alpha. There’s no reason for him to be looking at Zev like he’s some street waif in a bad classic that needs a family. Zev already has one.


“Look, Gareth found me, all right. Down in Georgia. And him and Callie didn’t have to bring me back up here, but they did. They take good care of me. Any problems I have-- eating or memory or whatever-- those are all mine and I can handle them.”


“Of course, man. I’m sure you can. I didn’t mean to offend.”


Ray looks earnestly apologetic, so Zev stares at him a moment before he relaxes. Nods.


“Okay.”


The grin he gets in return is sheepish.


“I’m so used to worrying over my people, mother-henning is a habit now.” Ray chuckles. “But look, I have to cut out soon to make it home before traffic hits, but I don’t want to end this on an off note. So here--”


He rummages in his pocket and pulls out a little plastic case filled with business cards.


“If you ever need to talk, or you just wanna hang out or meet the rest of us or whatever, just give me a call, all right? That’s my cell phone number on there. I keep it in the truck, but I check it twice a day.”


Zev accepts the card thoughtfully, before smiling back.


“Thanks.” Then he remembers his manners. “It was nice to meet you.”


“It was cool to meet you, too.” Ray stands and brushes off his pants. “I really hope I hear from you again.”


Zev nods, but doesn’t make any promises.


***


He gets home in time to start dinner. Rare steaks aren’t that complicated now that Gareth’s shown him how to broil things in the ovener, so it’s nice that he can have dinner waiting when Gareth pulls up outside.


“Smells great, Z,” Gareth compliments him as Zev pulls the steaks out of the oven. Gareth goes to the sink to wash his hands. “Callie home yet?”


There’s only one parking spot for the town home in the lot, so Callie and Gareth trade weeks with the pass, the other one parking in visitor spots or on the street. It’s Gareth’s turn with the pass, and Zev doesn’t think he even thought that question through before speaking because--


Suddenly, the tension from the morning is back in Gareth’s shoulders.


“Never mind that,” Gareth says briskly after a moment of awkward silence. “We’ll just keep her plate in the microwave, then.”


When Zev pulls out silverware to set the table for two, Gareth squeezes his shoulder gently in thanks. Then he freezes, and leans closer to Zev, sniffing.


“Did you have fun riding the metro today?” he asks, tone cautious.


Zev grins as they sit down. “It started out kinda crappy -- almost had a panic attack again at Chinatown -- but I ran into this Kin, Ray, and he bought me chili dogs. After that, I went to the Reflecting Pool and I didn’t chase the ducks again, I swear--”


Zev knows he’s babbling a little, but Gareth’s face is closed off as he cuts his steak into tiny bites and nudges them elegantly onto his fork with his knife. Maybe it’s the empty chair at the table, but Zev thinks it might have more to do with the tightening of Gareth’s mouth at the mention of Ray. He can’t stop his mouth from running.


“Ray was nice. He gave me his business card and invited us to visit his place. It’s up in Maryland on some government trust. With a pond.” How he can remember all this and not the name he was born with frustrates him. “There’re five in his Pack and he has a little girl named Esarosa. He said he knew Callie--”


Gareth’s head snaps up, nostrils flaring. “Who was this again? He gave you his card?”


Zev fishes it out of his pocket and hands it over. Gareth studies it with a frown.


“Did he say how he knew her?” he asks quietly after a moment.


“They were in the same Pack as kids…”


Gareth leans back in his chair, but doesn’t relax. “I see.”


Zev is beginning to think that maybe he should have kept his meeting Ray to himself, but it isn’t like he could lie to them and their noses. Besides, Ray is Kin. How is talking to Kin bad?


He cleans up dinner by himself, leaving Gareth sitting at the table to brood in silence. It’s not unusual, especially on nights when Callie is out, for the other man to stay downstairs until bedtime.


When Zev hesitantly announces that he’s going for a quick jog around the nearby park, Gareth just nods and doesn’t offer to come along, or even remind him to change into his running shoes and not to chase squirrels (or kids playing soccer -- it was just the one time, really, and the kids had fun).


He starts jogging away from the house feeling like he’s missed a step somewhere and is stumbling to catch up.


The sun is setting earlier these days, and Zev likes twilight in their neighborhood. Still lots of cars on the roads with their glittery headlights, but people start to drift off the sidewalks as soon as the streetlights come on and they’re far enough from the shopping centers that it’s just looming apartment and office complexes around him. There are only a couple people out walking dogs, but if Zev cuts across the soccer field, he can avoid any unpleasant scenes where the little furballs freak out.


He comes back along the street and spots Callie’s car under a tree. She hates getting leaves on her bland sedan, so she’ll probably ask Gareth to move it later.


What’s odd is that she’s not normally home this early on the days she wears perfume. Maybe her humans had to cancel their plans?


When he enters the foyer, the whole place feels off enough make him skittish. Callie and Gareth were in the kitchen, but Callie’s in the doorway now, frowning at him from across the living room.


“Zev?” she asks sharply, layers of questions there.


He cocks his head curiously. She crosses the room quickly with her long strides, and he watches her, focusing on how her hair is still up in its bun and she hasn’t changed out of her skirt and heels yet.


Callie stops at his side, her breath quickening in little huffs. Intrigued, Zev just stands still and lets her sniff him. When she leans her face in to scent his shoulder, then his arm and his elbow, he freezes.


There’s a growl in the back of her throat, low and displeased. Warning.


Zev hears more than sees Gareth freeze in the doorway, too. Can feel the tension in the room as it prickles up his spine.


“Who?” Callie asks softly, still pressing her nose to his shoulder.


Zev keeps perfectly still. “He said his name was Ray. I gave his card to Gareth.”


“I know,” she says flatly.


He doesn’t nod or make any sudden moves, just tenses when her teeth close on his neck gently, her hands curling around his biceps. He swallows once, skin tight across his throat, but relaxes into her grip, her strength. Lets himself sag against her.


Gareth isn’t even breathing.


Callie presses closer, the firm bulk of her breasts against his chest. She smells -- divine. Earthy and musky and Pack and Gareth--


But not of human, so that means she never met with her friend, and that means she’s going to be cranky for the rest of the week. Only, Zev’s thinking that Ray’s a bigger issue here than he could have guessed.


Zev lets his eyes fall shut, keeping his breathing steady, as she increases pressure with a louder growl. This isn’t a warning nip like she’s given him before. This is--


Possessive displeasure. Anger. He’s not sure at who.


She pulls back just far enough to release his skin. Heat blossoms at the site as her teeth let go.


“You stay inside this weekend,” she growls against his ear. “And don’t talk to anyone who hasn’t been cleared by us until further notice.”


She isn’t making a request, and part of Zev resents that, wants to snap back at her. But he doesn’t dare. So he lowers his eyes to the carpet and feels chilled when she steps back.


He doesn’t look up until she’s already upstairs, the door to her bedroom shut in controlled frustration.


Gareth is still standing in the kitchen doorway, watching him with a worried frown. Zev gives a chuff of discontent.


Sighing, Gareth comes further into the room and sits down on the couch. He finds the remote on the coffee table, clicking the TV on, but Zev doesn’t move forward until Gareth looks over at him with a sympathetic and expectant face.


He spends the remainder of the night curled up at Gareth’s side, getting fur on the couch and resting his nose on his paws.


***


The following Monday, Zev jogs to the metro station as soon as Gareth’s out the door, Callie long gone. He can’t stand the thought of being cooped up in the house for one more second. By Saturday afternoon, he’d been crawling the walls and chasing his own tail until even Gareth didn’t have the patience to deal with him.


So he talked to Ray? So what? So he chased a squirrel up a tree the other day? So what? He’s been going stir crazy for weeks now, and meeting people when he’s out is no reason for Callie to forbid him from leaving the house all weekend. That’s ridiculous.


He’s not a pup. He’s not a child. He may have some bad spots every once in a while, but that doesn’t mean he’s incompetent or stupid.


He stands the entire ride into the city, leg jiggling to the beat of his music. He gets off at Chinatown again, and maybe he knows what he’s wishing for when he retraces his steps to the little park, but really, what are the chances of Ray showing up there?


There are marble benches tucked in little alcoves on the landscaped paths, and he finds a clean one to sit on. He turns up his music and tries to get a good brood going. Mostly, he just ends up with a headache and twitchy feet.


A wrapped hot dog appears in front of his nose, dangled over his head from behind. The scent of Ray soon follows so Zev cranes his neck back to look up and gets a clear shot up Ray’s nostrils. He pulls his earbuds out with a wan smile.


“Hey.”


“Hi there,” Ray says brightly. “Chili dog?”


Chuffing in response, Zev stares at the pigeons gathering around a chunk of bun on the sidewalk. He doesn’t even really have the urge to chase them.


“Rough day?” Ray sits down next to him slowly, leaving the wrapped hot dog on the concrete between them.


“That bad, huh?”


Zev glares half-heartedly. “I didn’t get out all weekend. Callie was pissed at me.”


Ray’s eyebrows go up, incredulous, before turning into a frown. “Is she your Alpha?”


“We don’t really -- I mean, they aren’t like--”


It’s an odd thing to come right out and ask between Kin that aren’t Pack. Zev glares some more, uncomfortable. Ray switches tactics.


“Did she say why you weren’t allowed to leave?”


Frowning, Zev watches the pigeons fight over the bun. “Not explicitly. I haven’t wanted to ask.”


Ray keeps looking until Zev has to say something, has to fill the silence.


“What?”


Ray doesn’t hesitate. “Keeping an Otherkin inside for days at a time -- It’s not healthy, Zev. Or right.”


Zev bristles. “I don’t always stay inside. This is the first time she’s told me not to go out.”


“I see.”


Not liking his tone, Zev can feel his hackles rising, wants to bare his teeth.


“It’s not like they tie me up or put me in a cage,” he snaps out, tempted to just get up and leave. “They take care of me. They’re my family.”


Ray holds up his hands in a placating gesture. It makes Zev want to nip his fingers and not in a playful way.


“All right, all right. I’m sorry. Calm down, Zev.”


Zev realizes his nails are getting longer, thicker, and the back of his hand is getting hairy. He takes a few deep breaths as Ray watches him appraisingly.


When he has better control, he glares at Ray without flinching.


“I can look out for myself. I know the difference between people who care about me and people who want to abuse me, so don’t you dare imply my Pack--”


He’s so mad, he breaks off. Looks away and breathes again. Ray blinks at him, obviously torn between offended and impressed, but Zev doesn’t care what he thinks. What anyone thinks.


“You’re right, man,” Ray says gently. “You said it before, and I failed to respect that, but you can handle yourself. I’ve got no right to butt in.”


Zev sniffs in disdain. Glances at Ray, who looks apologetic.


“Hey,” Ray says, tone soft but matter-of-fact. “You gotta see where I’m coming from-- yYyoung Kin, wandering the city alone, freaking out the first time I see him. Tells me he’s living with two Kin in the heart of this soulless place, but they’re nowhere in sight when he needs help. Any other Alpha would worry, not just me. We don’t let our people in the cities for a reason.”


Arching an eyebrow, Zev gives him a weird look. “What’s wrong with cities?”


Ray snorts. “Nothing, if you can stand the exhaust, the chemicals in the water, and the lack of open sky or real grass to run on. Most Kin that come into the cities -- they don’t come back the same, if they come back at all. They’re definitely not right in the head when the humans are done with them.”


“Well, I wasn’t right in the head to begin with,” Zev tosses out with a bit of sass, before turning serious. “Callie and Gareth just want me to get better. I help out around the house. I take courses online. I’m good with where I am. At least I’ve even stopped attacking the vacuum cleaner…”


Ray eyes him, not judging exactly, but curious. Zev shrugs again.


“I was confused for a while there when they found me.”


Nodding, Ray looks back to the sidewalk. Every Otherkin has had those moments -- where who you are and what you are blur until you step forward on two feet and are surprised there aren’t four to steady you.


Zev’s moments have just been a little more frequent. And prolonged. He’s not bad, or anything. Just… confused sometimes. But the episodes have gotten few and far between, the past couple months, and he can travel on his own.


“Well, if you ever need to get away from this place, you’ve got my card. We’re always happy to have other Kin stay with us.”


Only this time, Ray isn’t extending the offer to Callie and Gareth.


But Zev is tired of being angry, tired of this tension. So he nods, and thanks Ray, and fails to mention that Callie probably put his business card down the garbage disposal.


Instead, he dredges up a smile and asks Ray about the fishing at his place, what his Pack does during the winter. The summer.


He doesn’t think about how mad Callie and Gareth will be if they find out where he is. Just lets Ray talk on until it’s time for the older man to leave again.


Later though, when Zev gets home long before either of them, he strips down and tosses his clothes in the washer with another load. Goes to the shower, scrubs at his hair and arm pits. Gets himself squeaky clean.


Tries not to feel like he’s done something he needs to hide.


***


When they first found him -- when Gareth bundled him up in a blanket that smelled like rental cars and expensive cologne on the shoulder of a lonesome Georgia highway -- Zev didn’t really know much of anything. He didn’t even have a name and he couldn’t stay in human form for more than a half hour at a time.


Gareth found him bleeding out in the middle of the night, during an otherwise routine business trip. Anyone else would have thought Zev was just a particularly large dog, probably hit by a car, but Pack calls to Pack, and dogs don’t come as big as Zev in his Other form. Callie and Gareth can probably pass as large huskies, or German shepherds, but Zev… not so much.


He’s tried remembering what brought him to that gravel-strewn shoulder on that muggy Georgian spring night. If he was actually hit by a car, then there would have been some massive property damage and police involved, no doubt. He’d been hit pretty hard on the head, and his shoulder was mangled, but he can’t remember a thing.


Gareth has maybe called in some more favors to look into the whole thing, but he hasn’t shared anything with Zev. Callie’s a lawyer and can get pretty much anything done through legal channels quickly, but Gareth’s the one who knows people that aren’t afraid to get dirty.


If someone wants to find Zev again, though, they haven’t tried very hard. Or maybe they have, and they just don’t want him back.


Sometimes Zev’s dreams have echoes of people he can’t clearly recall upon waking and snapshots of places he’s not sure he’s ever been.


All he has is the Pack they’ve made for each other.


***


Callie is still mad at him all through the week and she doesn’t even know about his second visit with Ray. She says she isn’t angry, but Zev can tell.


She still touches him -- strokes him -- but she doesn’t linger. Her nails don’t drag lightly across his skin. She doesn’t give him those tight, indulgent smiles.


The awareness of her displeasure eats at him, makes him restless and upset and ashamed, but he hasn’t done anything wrong. He hasn’t. Why should he apologize for making friends? For talking to someone who didn’t have to spend time with him just because he was Pack.


The feelings of guilt and wrong make him want to shift to his Other form, just so he can tuck his tail and offer his neck until she forgives him.


Gareth isn’t angry anymore, if he ever was in the first place. He always forgives Zev so much easier than Callie, and now all that lingers between them is worry.


Callie isn’t mean to Zev or anything. She just has her way of doing things, and her own idea of what is acceptable, and Zev’s been learning. He has. He just forgets sometimes. And he doesn’t want to upset her, or Gareth.


So he avoids the common areas of the house. He sticks to his room, with its familiar smells and the things he’s accumulated over the last year. Burrows his nose under his pillow and sighs every once in a while. Considers reading a book, even though the words still give him a headache after a couple minutes.


“Hey,” Gareth says softly from the doorway. “Dinner’s ready. Why don’t you come downstairs?”


Zev makes a disinterested noise.


Gareth lets out a chuff oddly reminiscent of Zev himself and actually steps into the room, for the first time since they told Zev it was his. Zev perks up a little at that, cracking open an eye. His tail would be thumping if he was in his Other form.


“I made your favorites.”


“Stop it. I’m wallowing,” Zev mumbles into his pillow.


He fights a smile when Gareth sits on his bed, mattress dipping. Those long fingers begin to stroke along his spine, from ear to tailbone.


Zev can’t help stretching into the touch, back arching, rolling until he’s curled around Gareth’s lap.


They stay like that for a long while, Gareth occasionally reaching up to trace the line of Zev’s nose.


“It’s not--” Gareth says softly before breaking off.


Zev tries really hard to open his eyes, but manages just a slit. “Not what?”


Gareth resumes stroking. “It’s not that we don’t want you to have friends. Please don’t think that’s what this is about. That’s not it at all…”


Shrugging as best he can, Zev doesn’t pull away from those mesmerizing fingers.


“We just worry,” Gareth continues, voice dropping to a soothing lilt. “There’s so few of us out there, that to randomly meet another Pack nearby, after the way we found you… Well. Callie and I are both inclined to caution.”


“Ray was nice,” Zev protests sleepily. “A bit of an Alpha, but nice.”


Gareth is silent for a moment.


“I’m sure he was,” he finally says, words heavy. “But -- not everyone understands the way we work, Zev… Callie could be off in a Pack somewhere, a Mate to an Alpha, if that was what she wanted. But she’s not -- that’s not who she is. She’s our Alpha.”


Zev rolls on his back until he’s looking up at Gareth. Reaches up to trace the worry lines around Gareth’s mouth.


“Of course she is,” he whispers, confused. “She’s ours.


Gareth nods, pressing his lips against Zev’s fingertips.


“She is, Z. But that’s not how it is in other Packs. Zev…” Gareth’s voice turns softly ragged, like he’s fighting for words. Zev stays silent.


“We’re lucky, to be born who we are, to be Otherkin, and our Pack bonds are stronger than any blood -- but, Z, a community that tight, a heritage that strong -- they aren’t always kind to those who want different. They… They aren’t all willing to lend a sympathetic ear. And it takes so little, to lose what we’ve built. What we’ve worked so hard to protect.


“Callie and I… I know why she goes out there, instead of being here with us. Because we both know what it’s like, to want things from our Pack and to be shunned. We don’t want you to have to know, too.”


By the end, Gareth’s hand is trembling where it rests lightly on Zev’s chest, and Zev whines in the back of his throat, curls tighter around his Packmate. He burrows into Gareth’s chest, too broad shouldered to do it comfortably but doing it anyway, and strong arms wrap around him, hold him.


“You won’t lose me,” Zev whispers, inhaling Gareth’s scent. “I’m right here.”


Gareth doesn’t say anything. Just holds him tighter.


***


The next Monday Zev meets Ray in the park again, and there are no awkward questions about his Pack or how they work. Almost like Ray is consciously trying not to offend. Zev appreciates the effort, and just enjoys the company of someone else who knows what it’s like to chase the moon through breaks in the tree branches overhead.


When he gets home, he doesn’t bother to shower this time. He just starts cooking dinner, humming to himself to bury the last of his nerves. Because he can handle himself. He knows that.


Callie arrives first. He listens as she goes through her usual routine: keys on the small foyer table, briefcase in the study of the living room, flipping through the mail as she walks. She enters the kitchen as the distinct sound of Gareth’s hybrid car pulls up to the parking space below the kitchen window.


Zev keeps setting the table and tries not to tense when Callie stops flipping abruptly, going still. The mail is set on the counter slowly as Gareth unlocks the front door. Neither of them move.


Gareth doesn’t kick off his shoes like he normally would. Instead, he comes into the kitchen with his jacket still on, a confused frown on his face that only gets darker. Callie is breathing carefully through her nose.


Forcing himself to act casual, Zev straightens up the table and turns back to the stove. Callie moves quickly, blocking his path. Gareth makes a frustrated, worried noise at them both.


Zev looks up at her, into her bright brown eyes, and lifts his chin. He has to make them understand.


She arches an eyebrow coldly, leaning in slowly, purposefully to sniff him. He can feel the heat radiating from her skin, the loose tendrils of her hair skimming his face, and he wants to close his eyes, to expose his neck, but he doesn’t. He turns his face to meet hers, his lips brushing her cheek, they’re standing so close together.


She pulls back a little, surprise and wariness and intrigue in her expression. He isn’t reacting how he normally does. He isn’t just rolling over for her. The realization settles in her features, a line of displeasure forming between her eyes. She growls low, a subsonic rumble.


Zev growls back the same, not a snarl or a bark. Just enough that she knows he isn’t going to back down easy.


He doesn’t have time right now to spare attention on Gareth, who shifts uncomfortably in the doorway, wanting to mediate like he always does. But he can’t, not this time.


Callie’s watching Zev with every ounce of her attention, studying him, perfect lips pulling back over her teeth unconsciously. Her eyes are on his, and Zev can feel himself getting hard, blood tingling through his limbs. He just -- he just wants to…


Her eyes narrow dangerously, stance suddenly changing, the tension in her body morphing into something else. Zev just stares into her eyes, resisting the urge to close his when her hands slides up his arm, cups the back of his neck.


She threads her fingers through his short spikes, tugs on his hair to tilt his head back, not hard enough to force him until he refuses, exposing his neck. Her growl gets louder as her mouth descends on him, harsh pants through her nose, teeth digging in sharply.


Zev can’t stifle the relieved whine that escapes him. The feeling of right and yours and Pack coursing through him.


Callie pulls away when Gareth stiflesmuffles on a desperate noise. Her porcelain cheeks are flushed, her pupils blown wide. Zev looks up at her eyes, then deliberately looks down. The hand in his hair tightens as a shiver runs through her body.


It’s one thing for him to force her dominance, but she has to accept this -- accept them -- if they’re to have any hope.


With her free hand, she beckons for Gareth to come to them, and a different relief fills the churning hollow in Zev’s gut.


The way she touches Gareth is -- new. Unfamiliar in this intimacy. Zev can’t look away as Gareth shrugs out of his coat, lets it fall to the floor ignored, and steps into her outstretched hand. Her fingers cup Gareth’s cheek and he doesn’t even pretend to resist as she pulls him forward.


Her mouth opens, settling so delicately on the tanned skin of Gareth’s neck. Zev moans as his cock twitches in his pants. They’re just -- they’re his and he is theirs, and Callie moves back, nuzzles Gareth’s cheek before turning, curling Zev into them to rub her face against his as well.


Zev basks in it, turns his chin until her lips are on his, hot and soft. She cups his face, holds him in place and presses her mouth against his with no hesitation. He wants to touch her, touch Gareth, but he doesn’t know what to do first, so he just settles a hand on each of their waists.


Gareth wraps an arm around him, and Zev’s brain shorts out, because it’s Callie, it’s Gareth, and their scents are mixing around him, so heady. When Callie releases Zev’s lips, Gareth’s there to take her place with his plump lips that just work Zev’s mouth open, make him whimper as Gareth’s tongue swipes in. A trail of want blazes straight from his lips to his cock, his entire body tightening with desire.


Gareth pulls back panting, looks to her, and they can both feel her tense, but Callie just drags Gareth’s unresisting body closer to plunder his mouth again. Zev is content to watch as she licks her way into Gareth, her fingers clenching rhythmically on Zev. He whines, low and needy, when she nips at Gareth’s lower lip.


Her focus comes back to Zev and he wills her to touch him, wants to rub himself against both of them until he’s covered in their scents, their mark. She must read his desperation because she grins, cool and sharp despite her own flushed appearance. Gareth just grips Zev’s waist tighter and rocks against them. When she pulls away this time, Zev tries to follow.


She chuckles at his enthusiasm, low and sultry, and her eyes go half-closed with pleasure when Gareth nuzzles her ear. The angry tension is gone from her frame. In its place is something infinitely more lasting.


Zev has the best ideas. He really does.


***


Zev wakes up trapped under Gareth’s arm and Callie’s lean leg. He’s in the middle of Callie’s king-size bed, effectively immobilized, and all he can do is breathe in the musky scent of sweat and warm bodies and come and them until his hips start rocking without conscious effort against Callie’s leg.


Gareth shifts behind him, sleep-tussled and snuffling the back of Zev’s neck. Zev’s ass brushes back against him and Gareth burrows closer until his cock is nestled against the bare crease between Zev’s cheeks.


Callie stirs in front of them and Zev presses small kisses to her face, close-mouthed and adoring, until she smiles and rolls against his front languidly. His aching cock drags against her pubic hair, the crease of her hip, and Zev whimpers.


Gareth’s hand closes on the bone of his hip, guiding his thrusts roughly, and they’re all completely awake now. Callie’s round breasts are right there, and Zev has to touch, to roll her nipples between his fingers, so much bolder than his tentative touches the night before.


She muffles her gasps in his neck, just as Gareth moans behind him, watching them both over Zev’s shoulder.


Zev can’t decide what he wants first until he presses his ass back against Gareth and the solid heat, that hard width, spreads his cheeks apart with each thrust. He arches, flexes, and Gareth’s warmth rolls away for a moment.


Zev wants to protest, but Callie’s there to distract him with her firm kisses and soft breasts, her thigh pushing between his, holding his legs apart as Gareth returns, a slick finger rubbing at Zev’s hole.


He moans into Callie’s mouth, starts to writhe as Gareth’s finger pushes in and the intrusion burns, but makes his body tense in all the right ways. Callie’s hands are roving across his skin, stroking teasingly at his cock as she scissors his legs open with hers, until Zev is straining against the both of them.


It’s a beautiful torture Zev could lose himself in forever, until his ass is sore and his lips are raw, and Gareth’s pushing another finger in, harder, rougher, and now they’re all groaning and growling, egging each other on.


Finally, finally, Gareth pulls his fingers out and his sticky hands wrap around Zev’s hips until Callie’s pushing Zev up on all fours. He goes willingly, pushing back against the blunt tip of Gareth’s cock when it catches on his hole. The burn is amazing, spreading out from his ass down his thighs, getting sharper when Gareth leans back on his haunches, pulling Zev up and into his lap until all Zev has to hold onto are Gareth’s thighs and Callie’s arms.


He opens his eyes again when Callie pushes up against his chest, her strong legs raising her over both of them. She’s holding herself open with two fingers as she lowers herself onto his cock, and it’s the hottest thing he’s seen since Gareth went down on her last night.


The sensation of her around him -- warm pulsing and wet, stroking his cock in her silken sheath while Gareth pushes into him from behind, shallower now, but their grunts are in both his ears, harsh pants against his neck -- Zev is trapped between their bodies, muscles straining, and it’s almost too much, so good, and he’s being split open and swallowed whole…


He holds on as Callie rides him with harsh moans echoed back by Gareth, lets his own groans and growls join theirs, until Gareth hits a spot that’s just -- perfect. White streaks cloud his vision, his balls draw up, and he wants to come so hard it hurts, but his breath is knocked out of him as Gareth howls and grabs Callie’s hips, holding her still and slamming into Zev’s ass.


Gareth pulls his cock out as Zev whimpers with need. Callie pushes off with her legs, carrying Zev down on top of her so she can cup his ass with both hands, pulling him in deep.


“Harder,” she pants against his ear, and his hips start pounding forward of their own accord.


She tenses under him, back arching, legs tightening around his waist as her muscles start to flutter around his cock, and it’s too much. He joins her moans as his vision darkens, teeth bared as he throws his head back, releasing himself inside her.


He collapses on top of her, panting, and Gareth fits his body around them both, lying at their side. Callie can’t stop stroking their arms, their hair. Zev gives a happy grumble, content.


“Mine,” she whispers once their breathing has evened out.


Zev cracks an eye open, meets Gareth’s loving gaze across her chest.


“Yours,” he mouths back against her skin.


Home.



______________________



Since 2006, J. Rocci has published LGBT romance stories, ranging from contemporary to steampunk to fantasy. Rocci currently lives near Washington D.C. with the love of her life and their furry children, and loves giving her characters happy endings. You can find Rocci on the web at:

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