Secondary Traits

Things have been weird for weeks by the time Tate gets something like an answer. And even then, it isn’t an answer. It’s a question.

“Hey, are you gonna be around later?”

Tate shrugs and says, “Yeah sure I can be. Everything ok?” He asks, but he knows what the answer is – mostly he’s curious if he’s going to get the truth or a lie. 

There’s a pause, a throat clear, a pinched expression, the unmistakable smell of anxiety. “I just- can we talk about it later?”


“Do you need me there too, or is it one of those talks?” Kyah asks, trying to hide her hurt with exasperation and her phone. 

The pinched expression turns to one of blatant hurt. One that Tate knows even then is going to live in his mind forever. “I thought you had a paper to write?”

“I do, but you know I’d find another time to do it if you needed me to,” Kyah says softly. 

“I know. And you know that when I do, I’ll tell you.”

He spends the rest of the day trying to get through

When he gets home, the apartment is empty. He checks his phone, but there’s nothing new. No sign of when this conversation will happen, or what it’s even about. No real indicator as to whether it’s something that merits a joint, jerking himself off ahead of time, or both. 

So Tate just flops down on the couch and pulls out his laptop, intending to do homework. 

Of course, that doesn’t work. He’s too in his head to get anything done and can’t get out of his head when he doesn’t know how much of it he might need to use once his alpha gets home. 

In an ideal world that question would be the precursor to him getting both high and fucked, but he’s pretty positive that that’s not it. 

Contrary to what Kyah thinks, they haven’t fucked in months. It’s just been Tate and his hand, give or take the occasional heated makeout at a party, because of course there’s no… werewolf hookup app since werewolves “don’t do that.” He could probably find a guy to fuck him hands-off if he tried hard enough, or a girl to mess around with, maybe. But it’s just too fucking complicated. 



And not at all in the same way as platonically fucking your alpha for years because it’s safe, convenient, and hey, what’re best friends for?

Whatever it is, it’s personal but not in some way that was going to ruin their friendship, so that does something for his anxiety. But still, that doesn’t mean it’s not bad

He’s worried, just not for himself. Not directly. 

Truth be told, this is worse. He can handle his own pain. 

The front door opens, and a familiar head of recently-long, dark blonde curls steps through. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Tate says, shooting for casual. 

“Dude I could smell you from the elevator. Let’s skip the part where you pretend you haven’t been anxious since this morning so I can skip the part where I have to pretend I haven’t been fucked up for a while.”

Oh. So it was gonna be like that. “Ok.”

He closes his laptop and shifts on the couch, slinging his arm over the back. 

“You um. Can we- look dude I don’t know if I can do this sober so if we could-“

Oh. So it was gonna be like that. “Yeah gimme two seconds.” He’s off the couch and in his room on autopilot, pulling the box out of his nightstand. After a second’s deliberation, he brings the whole thing. “You have any preferred method of ingestion?” he calls as he walks back into the main room. 

“Whatever’s going to get me to no-fucks-given the fastest.”

“Well shit,” he says, popping the box open and handing over an unfinished bowl. “‘S from last night. It’ll give me time to roll at least.”

He hands over a lighter, too, before dropping onto his end of the couch. For several minutes, there’s relative silence. Just the occasional flick of a lighter and a cough or two. In that time he rolls two joints (not counting the one he immediately sticks in his mouth when it’s clear the bowl will not be passed), two spliffs – just in case – and one very solid blunt. Chances are decent they wouldn’t need all of those, but he likes to play it safe and it’s easier to roll at the start. 


Tate raises an eyebrow and sits back against the cushions. He hadn’t forgotten that they were supposed to be talking about something, but without the suffocating tension he’d… well, forgotten. It was just a night with his best friend in which the world needed to be somewhere over there, so he was making it happen. “Like now, or?” he asks around the roach still hanging from his lips. 

It gets him a laugh, then a coughed laugh, which he takes as a good enough sign. “God, how do you just-“

“If Ky’s to be trusted, it’s because I’m dumb as fuck,” he says, before the question is even finished. And then he laughs because god Kyah is something else. He doesn’t know how she puts up with the two of them. 

“Talk about someone who needs to- no, that’s not-” there’s an exhausted, vehement sigh followed by a frustrated whine. 

Tate picks up a spliff, lights it, then passes it over. They’re not his favorite, but he’s nothing if not accommodating. 

“Fuck, man, I um- like. I don’t even know where to start?”

He lights another joint, taking an unhurried drag and holding it for a bit before he exhales and says, “Take your time,” voice thick with smoke. 

More silence, although some of the tension is back. He can practically hear the grind and churn of his alpha’s thoughts, a half dozen different emotions hanging in the air like a cloud. Not all of them are bad; some taste almost like relief. Like anticipation. Like hope.  

But there’s only so long he can sit in silence before his own mouth gets away from him and he says, “Dude come on, out with it before I explode. What, do you like, want to bottom or something? Because it’s cool if you do. I won’t tell anyone.”

The laugh he gets this time is harsh, almost like a sob, and the expression he sees when he turns is- “Oh shit,” he whispers. 

Because there aren’t many things he can imagine that would cause a crack like that. Not from his alpha. Not from the person he’s looked up to since he was ten and had nothing. He knows what the expectations are, though. What the weight is. So to get that reaction…

“Hey, c’mere,” he says, tossing the joint in the ashtray and stretching out his arm. And then he drags 180 pounds of muscle up against his side, pressing his face into those same blonde curls. 

Once the frantic, hiccuping breaths level out, he finally gets his answer. 

“I um. Tate, I-” A slow, measured breath, before the familiar, controlled calm returns. “I’m not a guy. At all.”

It’s a whisper, but there’s no denying what he heard. 

“Oh,” he says. “Oh, that’s-“

The uncomfortable squirming is one of misplaced anxiety, so he tightens his grip. 

“Easy,” Tate says, voice low. “I’m not- fuck, dude, you had me worried. Wait, shit, am I still allowed to call you dude?”

The laugh he gets this time is wet, undercut with the scent of relief. “Do you call Kyah dude?”

It’s not a serious question, the answer so thoroughly known, but he still says, “Well yeah.”

Another quiet laugh. “Then yeah.”

He takes a slow breath, his forehead still resting on top of his alpha’s skull. And then he releases his grip, so she can move away if she wants. She only shifts slightly, though, bringing one leg up onto the couch as she turns to face him. 

Tate cocks his head, taking her in anew. Still the same face. The same tumbling mess of tight, golden curls. The same almost-arrogant jut of her jaw and sharp blue eyes. 

“Well fuck,” he says, forcing himself to sound sincere. 

Her face drops slightly, although one eyebrow arches in silent question. 

“I can’t say yes homo anymore!”

She laughs and shoves him. “Kyah’s right. You are dumb as fuck.”

“Wow. Wooooow is this what it’s like to be the minority in the friend group?”

With a tsking sound, she says, “Bitch it’s the first time in your life you’ve been a minority.”

He tries to school his expression into something serious and says, “I’ll have you know some girls have said some very mean things to me about the fact that I’ve sucked dick.”

“Oh wah.” And then, softer, “So that’s it?”

Tate shrugs. “You’re still my alpha and you’re still my best friend. And that’s what matters to me. You know if you wanna talk about it I’ll listen and give absolutely terrible advice, but that’s… I mean that’s up to you. I don’t know what you’re comfortable talking about or whatever. And it doesn’t have to be tonight.”

She leans over and takes his abandoned joint from the ashtray. This time after she lights it and takes a hit, she passes it to him. 

“I think I do,” she says. 


“Wanna talk about it. Now that the big part is out it feels less… big.”

“Wow. Eloquent. You’re gonna make a great alpha.”

“I have so many regrets. Should’ve talked to Kyah first.”

Tate snorts, then chokes on smoke and coughs. “Yeah right. She won’t know how not to be an anxious asshole about this.”

“Five bucks says she makes the Pikachu face.”

He laughs for real this time. Harder than he maybe should, but there are worse things. “Ten says she’s more worried about her dad than yours.”

“Oh god. Don’t even.”

It sobers the mood a little, but not so much that he can’t ask, “So you uh. Figure out like. A name? Yet?”

She bites her lip and says, “I have a list?” The do you wanna see it is implied, and he extends his hand in the same second that she pulls out her phone. 

Tate skims the list, trying each one in his head before he moves on to the next. Takes his time, because that’s what the situation deserves. 

She stretches out while she waits, head tilted back on the arm of the couch to blow smoke rings into the air. 

“Hey uh- so you’ve got Aster on here, but have you thought about Astrid?”

“You mean like the chick from that dragon movie?”

He laughs again. “I mean, I guess? She’s dope though.”

Face scrunching in a smile that means she’s pleased and shocked all at once, she says, “I think I like it?”

Tate smiles and tosses her phone back. “Well, let me know what you come up with.”

“You’re still just gonna call me Apollo Creed, aren’t you?”

“Oh yeah. Absolutely,” he confirms. 

She grins. “I think I can live with that.”

“Good,” he says, entirely sincere. “And hey-“


“It’s gonna be fine. Your parents’ll be cool, Kyah’ll be fine after she has her little panic attack, and everyone else’ll fall in line. If they don’t, either you can take care of them or I will.”

Her smile softens. “Thanks, Tate.”

“Any time.”

Any time comes a few days later in the form of two back to back texts:

Serious Official Pack Business™ 

oh alpha my alpha > dinner tonight, right?

oh alpha my alpha > I’m… gonna need you there for this. Please. 

He sends back an “of course” to both conversations, then goes back to his paper. 

They don’t go anywhere fancy – just a pizza place off campus that’s part of their usual rotation. But on a Tuesday night, the place is pretty dead which means they don’t have to worry as much about who might hear. 

Kyah insists on meeting them there, even though the two of them could easily pick her up and save her the hassle of finding parking. Because god forbid she let anyone else do something nice for her. 

Tate rolls his eyes at the thought and gets a “What?” from the passenger seat. 


“Liar,” Astrid says, sounding smug. “Are you preemptively or retroactively pissy at Kyah?”

“Why does it have to be about Kyah?”

“Because the alternative is that you’re pissy at me and I very selfishly like that one even less.”

He glances over and smiles. “I’m not pissy at you. You alright?”

Her exhale is shaky, but she says, “I think so? I think the longer I sit on it, the worse it gets. Like it was stressful as fuck before I told you, but I felt better after.”

Nodding, Tate turns and pulls into a freshly-abandoned parking space. “Have you talked to your family yet?”

For several long moments, silence fills the car; at first Tate assumes it’s a no, but the longer the silence stretches, the more he begins to worry that it’s a yes and something bad has happened. 

“Not yet. I… called my dad but I couldn’t. I think it’s something I have to do in person, but now he knows something is up.”

“Just tell him I knocked you up. Start with the worst possible news, and anything after that will be an improvement.”

“Tate you do realize that’s not possible, right?”

“Obviously, but c’mon dude. It’s your dad. His initial reaction will be oh shit and then he’ll be reminded of the fact that he knows we’ve fucked because he’s nosy and that reminder’ll be upsetting enough that when you actually tell him, he’ll be glad it’s neither of those things.” She still looks worried, though, so he sighs and says, “In all seriousness, I don’t think you have anything to worry about there. He might panic for a minute just because he doesn’t know what to say, but it’s your dad. I literally don’t think you can do anything wrong in his eyes. This included.”

She still looks nervous, but she smiles. 

“And if you really want, I’ll be there for that one too.”


He sighs dramatically. “Yeah, I guess. Obviously I’ll be there, asshole. What’d I promise you?”

“Which time? When you promised you’d stop leaving your laundry in the dryer? Or when you promised to do the dishes half the time? Or-“

“God, you’re such a dick. When we were kids and you asked me to be your second. You said I’d have to share it with Kyah and what’d I say?”

Astrid smiles, her gaze going a little distant. “You said that was ok because every king needed a sword and a shield and all Kyah knew how to do was look pretty and hurt people.”

“Yeah, so-“

“You still think she looks pretty?” Astrid says, grinning wickedly. 

The shocked noise he makes isn’t entirely human, that’s for sure. “Get out. Go. I take it all back. You’re horrible and deserve to face the world alone.”

Astrid cackles and gets out of the car, smashing the lock button quickly before she closes it so Tate has to fumble with his door to get out. Turning around, she flips him off with both hands. 

God, she might not be his mate and that’s fine, but he’d still do anything for her – he meant it when he was eleven and he means it now. Even if that something means handling whatever Kyah’s shitty reaction might be. Finding a way to redirect the brunt of it to him so Astrid didn’t have to shoulder that, too. 

As a result of their unplanned car conversation, Kyah beats them to the table. It’s a booth tucked into a corner that isn’t theirs, but might as well be. Astrid slides in opposite Kyah, leaving Tate with a choice to make. He falters for a second. Weighs the options and finds both full of potential downfalls. 

He takes the seat next to Kyah, earning him an exasperated sigh. “What? Worried my looks and charm will rub off on you?”

“Yeah that’s gotta be it, Tate. Can’t possibly be that I showered before I came here and now I’m going to either have to shower again or smell like you.”

“Hey, I showered.”

“Sure,” she says, rolling her eyes. 

Across the table, Astrid is watching the two of them with this knowing alpha look on her face. 

“What?” they both ask at the same time. 

Her smile cracks into a laugh. “Oh fuck,” she says, words fractured by laughter. “Do you ever have a thought and like- oh my god-“

Tate and Kyah glance at each other, expressions of confusion spread across their faces. 

“Just- ask me again in like. Ten years. If any of us even remember by then. I promise it’s nothing bad.”

“Um, yeah, ok,” Kyah says, always and only folding to Astrid. 

Tate hopes this time isn’t the exception. 

“Anyways,” Astrid says, still laughing slightly, “how’d your day go?”

Kyah fills her in while they wait to have their order taken. The real conversation won’t start until food arrives; it isn’t a rule, exactly, but it might as well be. The important parts wait until there’s the least chance of interruption. 

Once the stage is set with a very large pizza – half five cheese, half bacon and onion because Astrid at some point decided she wasn’t big on meat, which as Tate thinks it, it makes him laugh given what he knows now – the mood shifts to one of expectation. 

“So, um, what’s up?” Kyah asks, tension suddenly rolling off of her in waves. 

Tate and Astrid do exactly what they agreed they wouldn’t do and lock eyes over the table. “God damnit Apollo,” Tate grumbles, shoving the bulk of a slice of pizza in his mouth.  

She breathes a laugh and shakes her head. “It’s also not anything bad. At least, I don’t think.” 

“That’s… good?” Kyah picks at the crust of her piece. 

Nodding almost to herself, Astrid takes a bite. She chews slowly, the play of thoughts clear on her face if you knew what to look for; both of them do, generally speaking, but Tate can only imagine how Kyah is interpreting them in this case. 

“Oh god,” she whispers beside him. 

Fuck, Tate thinks. Because that means she thinks she’s figured it out, and that’s very definitely the case. At least, he’s pretty sure, because her scent turns to something like iron, a mix of anger and hurt and betrayal. 

“Kyah,” he starts, although he’s not sure how he’s going to fix this without spilling Astrid’s news for her. “It’s not-“

“It’s not what, Tate?”

He sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Can you please just give herrr first assumption’s that you’re either kicking her as second or going to tell her we decided we’re mates after all,” he says, turning his attention to Astrid as he frantically tries to course correct.

One eyebrow raised, Astrid says, “Well thank god it’s just that I’m trans instead of either of those,” so completely deadpan that Tate can’t help but laugh. 

Beside him, Kyah’s mouth opens, then closes again. She makes a face that’s something like I guess before finally taking a bite of her slice of pizza. 

No one speaks again until they’re all onto a second slice and Tate is starting his third. 

“Sooo um, how long have you… known? Or whatever?”

Astrid makes a little face, and Tate knows why. “Kind of forever, I think? I just- ignored it? I dunno, Ky, I hoped it’d go away. I needed it to go away, because I can’t be-” she sighs. “But it didn’t go away. If anything, it’s only gotten bigger and I can’t live like that anymore.”

“And you already knew,” she says, turning to Tate with her accusation. 

“What?” he asks around a mouthful of pizza. 

She lets out a disbelieving little huff. “That’s what you two were talking about that night last week. I thought you were just hooking up again, but no, you found out first.”

“Kyah,” Astrid says, her tone approaching a warning. “Yes, I brought it to Tate first. Exactly for this reason. Your first response was to catastrophize and while that’s useful sometimes, it’s not exactly great when I’m already stressed out over something that’s kind of a really big deal for me,” she continues, words turning into a frustrated growl. 

The hurt look on Kyah’s face shifts. It makes Tate want to comfort her, not that he knows how. Not that she’d accept it if he did, or even tried. 

“I’m sorry,” she says softly. “I just- No, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t about me. So um, what does that mean? Like I know what it means, obviously, but like for you?”

“Well, probably that my hockey career is over-“

“Wait what the fuck?” Tate interrupts, too shocked to stop himself. 

“You do realize they don’t let women play men’s hockey? Like they might still let me for a little while, but it’s already weird being in a locker room full of naked dudes.”

He opens his mouth to argue. To say… something, but nothing comes. Nothing except, “Well, I guess that means I don’t need a new stick for next year.”

Astrid blinks at him, clearly surprised that that’s his response. “You can keep playing though?”

“Yeah but fuck that. It won’t be the same.”

She smiles, then turns her attention back to Kyah and the question. It’s mostly things the two of them already talked about, although bits and pieces of the wording and approach change as Astrid explains. 

And then Kyah asks the same question Tate had. “So, have you figured out a name yet?”

“I um. Yeah. Astrid.”

“Oh. I like it.”

Astrid opens her mouth, but before she can put her foot in it Tate says, “Yeah she killed it with that one. You should’ve seen the rest of the list – it was good, but she knocked it out of the park.”

He winks at Astrid, Kyah’s attention pointedly focused away from him. She smiles, her nose doing that same little wrinkle. 

When they finish eating, Astrid leaves with Kyah for Girl Time and he just laughs. He’s not in a hurry so he lingers, watching the more crowded bar area. 

There’s a guy – at least, he thinks? – trying to chat up another guy a couple of stools down. And it’s not going well. Bored and willing to risk shooting his shot, especially since he doesn’t care about the outcome too much, Tate pushes up and out of the booth and strolls past the theater rope separating the bar from the dining area. 

He slips up behind the guy – because yeah, this dude’s body language is entirely unambiguous even if he’s pretty – and says, “I think you might be barking up the wrong tree with that one,” just loudly enough that the guy should hear him but the target of his interest won’t. 

The guy freezes, then turns slowly to face him. And oh yeah, he’s pretty. “Ah yes, because your kind knows all about barking up trees,” the guy says, his eyes far too knowing for Tate to be distracted by his accent – just exotic enough that he can’t quite place it. 

Then the smell hits his nose. Old and cold and damp. Cavelike. He knows exactly what he smells like: fear. 

“No worries, sweetheart. I’m not nearly as invested in mm, shall we call it cultural politics as some. Out of curiosity, what sort of tree am I barking up and for what purposes, according to your apparent expertise?”

Tate swallows. “I um- it seemed like you were uh-“

“Are you always this eloquent?”

“Usually,” Tate answers honestly. 

The guy – the vampire – smiles, teeth slightly crooked but perfectly white. “Well you won’t do for dinner for obvious reasons, but I suppose you might be useful for other purposes. Tell me, wolf, do you actually know what to do with your size or is it all for show?”

Tate swallows again, for an entirely reason this time. He hasn’t gotten laid in months, as evidenced by the fact that all of the blood in his body decides it all needs to go the same direction at once. 

The vampire grins wickedly, clearly noticing if his slow inhale is anything to go by. “Come on,” he says, sliding off of his stool, only to pause to drain his beer. 

Fighting back a shiver, Tate follows him toward the door. 

“Can I assume from your choice of friends that your tastes are fairly open?”

“Huh?” Tate asks before his brain fully parses the question. 

The vampire turns to look at him, one brow arched. 

Oh. Astrid. So he’d heard- “Yeah uh- that’s… never really been a thing for me. Why?”

The vampire bites his lip. “Yes, you’ll do.”

Once they’re back in the vampire’s hotel room, he says, “I’m assuming I don’t have to remind you to watch the teeth? Unless you’re running some truly novel mating configurations in that little pack of yours.”

Tate barks a laugh and says, “No. No they’re both… just friends.”

It gets him a nod, the vampire’s expression appraising. Anticipatory. Like he’s curious to see what Tate will do next. 

Well, if he’s the one being waited on-

The vampire lets out a sound that’s something like a shocked moan when Tate closes the gap and pulls them flush, the noise muffled when Tate ducks to fit their mouths together. 

Quite a while after, when Tate is lying – sweaty and tired and fucked out in a way he maybe hasn’t ever been – on a hotel bed, he looks over and says, “Worth missing dinner?”

Laughing, the vampire pushes his hair back from his face and says, “For an infant.”

Tate huffs. 

It only makes the vampire laugh harder, although he adds, “Yes, ok I’ll give credit where it’s due. I doubt the blonde at the bar would have been quite so… accommodating.”

If Tate preens, he can’t help it. And besides that, he is pretty pleased. With himself. With the situation. With the night in general. 

This was going to be ok. He could feel it. 

Six months later

Things are not ok. 

Astrid is crying. Because that’s a thing she does now. And Tate doesn’t know what to do about it, Kyah is always tied up with classes and clinical bullshit and her internship, and somehow Astrid seems angry? about the crying. 

Sighing – because he’s frustrated and confused and exhausted and feels like he’s failing at just about everything – Tate pulls Astrid into a hug. 

“Come on,” he says, herding her toward his bedroom. 

“Tate, I can’t- I’m not-“

“Astrid, as platonically and inoffensively as possible: I love you, but for no amount of money would I fuck you right now. You’re a mess. You need to sleep. I need to sleep. But I’m pretty sure if I leave you alone you’re just gonna stay up and be like. An angsty teenage girl about it.”

She laughs wetly and rubs at her eyes, then sucks back what sounds like an entire nasal cavity full of snot.

“Yeah, see? Real turn on right there.”

“I hate you,” she says around another wet laugh. 

“Uh huh,” he agrees. He knows she doesn’t mean it. Not really. But it still stings. 

“No, I don’t,” Astrid whispers. “I mean I do, because I hate everything, but I can’t because it’s you.”

“Yeah. I know.”

She’s mostly stopped crying by the time Tate’s phone vibrates. 

Cole > You free?

> Can’t right now. Alpha duties. Can probably catch you on the other end? Don’t have class until 10, unless that’s past your bedtime. 

Cole > Piss off. 

Cole > Yeah that works. Staying the same place. 

> 👍 I’ll aim for eight. 

He sets his alarm before tossing his phone back onto his nightstand, then falls asleep to the familiar beat of Astrid’s heart. 

She’s already up and in the shower when Tate’s phone starts to vibrate the next morning, so he dresses quickly and leaves. 

“You smell like wet dog,” Cole says as he waves Tate into his hotel room. “Or something. Crying wolf, which honestly seems worse.”

“Yeah, sorry. Was a night.” He doesn’t ask what – or who – Cole got into, but judging by the color in his cheeks, there was someone. 

Instead, he drops his bag by the door and steps out of his boots. In the time it takes him to do so, Tate’s eyes adjust to the darkness and he finds Cole sat back on his elbows on the bed, watching him curiously. 

“So this alpha of yours,” Cole starts as Tate crosses the room. 

“What about her?”

“You’re her second?”

“One of them.”

“She has more than one?”

“Yeah.” He hooks his elbows under Cole’s knees and shoves him toward the headboard, stretching out on his stomach in the remaining space. 

“Are you both fucking her?” he asks, his accent curling around the words, making the question something else.

“No. Neither one of us.” And it’s true enough, now. It’s been nearly a year. 

“But you were?”

Tate thumbs open the button of Cole’s jeans, barely bothering with the zipper before he pulls them off. “At one point. Why?”

“Just… verifying. I prefer to stay out of tricky involvements.”

He mouths at Cole through his underwear, not because he has any problem answering the question really, but because he does very definitely have a goal that isn’t talking about whether or not he’s fucking his alpha. 

“What-” Cole starts to ask around a hitched breath. “What ended it? Is it because-“

Tate bites his thigh. Not hard enough to break skin – to be a danger – but enough to get the point across. “You know it’s not.”

“Sweetheart, as far as I know, you only do men.”

He pulls Cole’s underwear off, then takes both of his ankles in one hand. Sliding two fingers between his legs, he finds Cole wet enough that he could very easily just push right in. And it would feel great, even as unnaturally cool as Cole is. 

But that’s not as fun, he’s determined. No. The most fun – and he can’t quite decide which – is to either wring Cole out or keep him on edge until he’s pink and flustered. Calling Tate names. Needy and so fucking hot

“I like to think I’m pretty flexible,” Tate says, pressing a wet kiss to Cole’s calf. 

“Certainly enthusiastic,” Cole replies. It’s a little breathless already, so Tate withdraws his fingers slightly and pushes them back in. That makes Cole’s breathing stutter more obviously. Not quite a moan yet, but it will be. 

“So what do you want?”


He lets his hand slide to Cole’s knees, keeping his legs folded against his chest, and settles back onto his stomach. “I think you like it.” 

Before Cole can answer, Tate’s mouth joins his fingers. 

After a few moments, Tate pulls away. “Surely you had something,” he says, voice soft and teasing. “After all, you’re the one making the booty call.”

Again, Cole opens his mouth to answer and Tate seals his lips around him and sucks. This time he does get a moan, sharp and shocked. Tate smiles and flicks his tongue over Cole’s clit. 

“Who says I haven’t already had my needs met? Maybe you took too long.”

Crooking his fingers, Tate increases the intensity of his ministrations. He doesn’t answer until Cole is on the edge, at which point he pulls his hand free, sits back on his knees, and wipes his chin. 

“Between last night and now? Doubt you found anyone who can match my uh, particular anatomy, since there aren’t any other wolves in this area.”

He pulls his shirt off under the weight of Cole’s glare, no longer concerned by the vampire’s empty threats. 

“Who’s to say you’re the only one who’s flexible? When you’re alive as long as I’ve been, certain things stop mattering.”

Tate pushes his sweatpants off and lets them drop to the floor. He doesn’t bother to fight the little groan that forces its way free when he takes himself in hand. There’s no point – it’s not like he has anything to prove. 

“You still haven’t answered my question,” he says, shuffling into the space between Cole’s thighs. He drops to his hands and ducks to lick his way into the vampire’s mouth, another groan escaping when Cole’s legs wrap around his waist and his fingers push into Tate’s hair. 

“I’ll give you-” Cole leans back slightly to glance between them, “-a solid seven guesses.”

Tate frowns. “Why does that feel like you’re calling me stupid?”

Sighing, Cole drags him back in by his hair. “Well we definitely know which head you’re thinking with,” he mumbles into Tate’s mouth. “Here, let me spell it out for you a different way.”

With an ease that shouldn’t be possible, he rolls Tate onto his back in a second, then turns, straddling him and sinking down to the hilt in the next. 

This time it’s Tate who lets out a shocked moan, his fingers tightening on Cole’s hips. “Jesus fucking christ.”

Cole laughs, rolling his hips experimentally. The rhythm he settles into is a smooth, sinuous roll that makes Tate’s mouth hang open and his toes curl. 

Proof that practice makes perfect, he guesses. And he’s more than willing to benefit from said practice. Even if it means he comes almost embarrassingly quickly the first time – not that there’s not a second or third available. Not that Cole’s said it, but Tate’s pretty sure that’s why he’s willing to cross lines like this. Humans just… don’t cut it. He can only imagine what it’d be like after a few hundred years. 

“Fuck,” Cole says with a panted laugh, once he’s apparently decided he’s had enough. Tate couldn’t say how many; he didn’t even try keeping track of Cole’s this time, and after the third time he came, his mind just sort of slipped into a haze. He breathes a laugh of his own when Cole bends forward and kisses his knee, his lips tickling the hair on his leg and the shift tugging at his knot. 

“Hand me my phone?”

Grumbling, Tate grabs both phones from the nightstand. He tosses Cole’s onto the bed somewhere within arm’s reach, then props his own up against Cole’s ass. 

It makes Cole hiss and flinch away from it. “Rude. That’s cold. Literally.”

Tate laughs and runs his fingers over Cole’s lower back. “I think you’ll live. Unless you’re telling me a cold phone can kill a centuries-old vampire.”

At that, Cole just snorts. “That how old you think I am?”

“Well you literally said consarn it one time which like. For one, I had to try not to laugh and two, I had to look it up after. And it’s like what, 1800s?”

“Mm, is that an attempt at flattery?”

Tate laughs and thrusts slightly. “Yeah because we’re real concerned about feelings.”

“No, we’re not,” Cole agrees, his tone gone pensive. 

“…did I say something wrong?”

“No, it’s- time is another one of those things that sort of stops to mean anything, eventually.”

“Oh.” He’s not really sure what else to say, but Cole seems tense now, so Tate settles a hand on his hip. “Do you… wanna talk about it?”

At that, Cole exhales a silent, humorless laugh. “Add a millennium to your guess and it’s still not quite enough.”

“Oh,” Tate says again. Then, “Well then yeah, you definitely look good for your age.”

Cole breathes another silent laugh, but he’s still off

So Tate sits up, wrapping an arm across his chest. “I probably have time for one more before I have to shower and go to class,” he says, lips brushing the curve of Cole’s ear. The fingers of his other hand ghost along Cole’s inner thigh – not pushing, but teasing. 

Now you’re trying to sweet talk me.”

“Uh huh. Is it working?”

Groaning, Cole twists to fit their mouths together. “Fine, but you’re doing all the work this time.”

Tate laughs and shifts to get his legs under himself, then nudges at Cole until he settles into his hands and knees. 

He’s late to class.

Nine months later

He can smell her. Layers of frustration, all of them conflicted. He keeps his mouth shut, of course. That’s become his go-to tactic in this whole thing; let Kyah try to dissect Astrid’s problems all she wants, but Tate’s going to stay back. If she wants to come to him, he’ll be there. 

And she always does, when she’s ready. 

This time it seems like some… biological. Thing. She’s been on the phone with her mom a lot, although Tate’s made a habit of putting headphones on if she calls Jenna while he’s home. And she and Kyah have been spending more time together, although more is relative when Kyah only seems to get more busy. Tate sees her maybe once a week, which is weird as it turns out. Not that he’ll say anything about that, either. 

It takes a bit of waiting this time, but eventually Astrid knocks on his doorframe one night. 

Tate looks up from his homework and pulls his headphones off. “Hey.”

Astrid exhales a laugh and rolls her eyes. “Hey. Can I um. Come in? Like, are you busy?”

“Nah go for it,” he says, pulling up Spotify and hitting pause. He takes his headphones off then swivels in his chair to face her, watching as she carefully folds her legs up under herself on his bed. 

“So um. Things have been weird recently.”

Tate nods slightly, more a go on than an agreement. 

“I- god, this isn’t going to be weird, right? Like we can still talk about-?”

Oh. “Uh. Yeah? I mean why wouldn’t we be able to be?”

“I don’t know, because apparently girls don’t talk to their guy friends about their sex lives unless there’s something else going on.”

“We’ve literally had sex. In that bed,” he says, frowning in confusion. 

“Yeah exactly. That makes it even more complicated. And then like, we stopped because I was- like, I just couldn’t. And then I literally couldn’t. Like dude my sex drive just died completely,” she says, apparently having gotten over her reservations about talking to him. “Not even first thing in the morning. It’s been like- weird.”

“Huh,” he says, because weird pretty much covers his response but Astrid doesn’t need to hear him say it. “And now?”

God, Tate- now it’s like. Y’know rut? When the need is like-“

“Yeah,” he says, because that’s coming up soon. For both of them, if Astrid’s hormonal whatever hasn’t thrown it off. 

“It’s… kind of like that. Worse than when we were in high school, at least for me.”

“Huh,” he says again. Because he kind of already knew that. Has been able to smell it for a few weeks now. It’s part of why he’s smoked so much – both to mask the scent and to kill its inevitable effect on him. 

“But I can’t- I don’t know, it’s like the shit I was into before doesn’t work anymore. And I can’t just go out and like. Find someone. Or even ask anyone because I’m not exactly dealing with normal circumstances here.”

This time, Tate just nods because he really doesn’t know what to say. 

“So like. And of course you can say no, for the record. This isn’t like, a thing I’m going to try to talk you into. It feels weird even to ask even though we’ve already-“

“Yeah, ok,” he says, before she can flounder any more. 


He shrugs. “It’s not like it’s really any different from before? At least in my mind. Look, when I was trying to figure my shit out you let me confirm that yeah, as long as I was getting some I was pretty flexible on how. You’ve got some new shit to figure out, right? I don’t mind.”

Astrid lets out a shaky breath, shifting to bring her knees up to her chin, resting her head on them. “Really?”

“Yeah? I mean you’ll have to like. Tell me if I’m doing something wrong. Or not even necessarily wrong, but that you don’t like or makes you feel weird or whatever. I don’t wanna like. Cause more dysphoria problems.”

She gives him a weird little smile. “Have you been researching this stuff?”

“Uh-” he coughs uncomfortably, his ears and cheeks heating. In no world could he tell her what his research looked like. That it took the form of the vampire he’d been casually fucking off and on for a few months. “Sorta?”

Astrid’s nose scrunches when she smiles. 

“So,” he says, forcing the conversation back on course before she can ask anything else about it. “When did you wanna…?”

“Oh, well. I um.”

And there’s that smell again, stronger now, and far less ambiguous. Less conflicted. 

“Ok,” he says, throat gone dry. 

“Can we um- are you gonna like, judge me if I ask if we can smoke first? Because I really don’t know if I can do this otherwise, even if it is you.”

“Oh thank god, yeah.”

She laughs, then moves to sit against the foot of his bed, freeing up most of the space for him. Tate stands, stretching, and sits down against his headboard.

Once the tension is somewhere distant and hazy, Tate holds out a hand and says, “C’mere?”

Astrid blinks at him. After a second, she rolls onto her knees and crosses the stretch of mattress between them. She looks uncertain as she straddles his lap, the change of positions strange and new, but she does it. 

“You good?”

She nods, so Tate cups her jaw and kisses her. That’s different too. She’s softer than before, somehow. Smells different. Feels different. But it’s still her. They’ve done this before, plenty of times. 

But unlike before, where everything was fast and desperate, now slow seems to have all the impact. 

It hasn’t just been Cole. Between Astrid’s transition and the void that hockey had filled, Tate’s also been a little off kilter the past few months and found himself branching out. The vampire aside, his encounters have all been pretty one-sided, but Tate’s learned a few things. 

He lets his mouth trail down Astrid’s throat, worrying little patches of skin here and there. Judging by the catch of her breathing- by the dig of her fingernails in his back- 

“Tate, fuck-“

Humming a laugh, Tate sucks a bruise into the pale skin at the hinge of her jaw. It’ll be gone within a few minutes, but it’s still well worth it for the effect. 

“So what have you tried so far?” he asks. 

Astrid huffs, struggling to compose a thought. “Not much. Just. The usual, I guess. But it’s like I can’t get the speed and pressure right.”

“Hmm the usual stuff like jerking off or have you tried fingering yourself too?”

Her cheeks darken. So both, then. 

Tate hums another acknowledgment, thinking. “Take this off?” he says, tugging at the bottom of her hoodie with one hand and her shorts with the other. 

For a minute, he thinks she’s going to say no. It’s fine, if she does. This entire experiment is her idea and for her benefit, after all. Not that he minds helping. But he’s definitely not going to do it if it seems like it’s going to hurt her. 

But then Astrid nods, swallows, and pulls her sweatshirt off, then slips out of his lap and works her way out of her shorts as well. 

She’s shaved almost everything, leaving behind endless expanses of smooth, honey-tan skin. Her legs are still obscenely long, and if nothing’s changed-

Tate catches one ankle and kisses up her calf to her knee, earning a familiar shudder, but not the moan he’d expected. He bites down just above her knee and this time there is a noise, but choked back. Silenced. 

“Hey,” he says before pressing a wet, sloppy kiss to the same spot. 

Her jaw tightens, her breathing unsteady. It’s not that she doesn’t want it, at least not based on anything he can tell, but it’s something…

“Astrid,” he says softly, “look at me.”

To his surprise, she does, her eyes opening to a blue he’s known almost his whole life. “Just be. It’s just me, not someone you have to impress. You know I’m still gonna be here tomorrow. So stop worrying about what you think should be happening or how you think you should sound or whatever and just. Be. Relax a little. Figure out what feels good. That way whenever it is whatever guy you’re gonna lock down- and let me tell you now, he’s gonna be too busy losing his mind to give a shit because you’re hot as fuck-“

She laughs silently, her expression far too soft and disbelieving. 

“Aw what, now you’re gonna have feelings in bed too?” he jokes. 

Astrid laughs again, although this one definitely sounds like it’s on the verge of feelings. 


Tate drops forward onto his hands so he can look down at her. He lets his forehead rest against hers, trying to redirect his thought processes accordingly. 

“Yeah apparently I can do both at once now,” Astrid says, her voice rough. 

“One day,” he says. “One day you’re gonna run into someone and they’re not even gonna know what hit ’em. And I can’t wait for that day because I can’t think of anyone who deserves that more than you.”

Her fingers brush his cheek so he pulls back slightly, opening his eyes. It means he’s looking at her, entirely unprepared, when she says, “You do.”

And that’s- he’s not even vaguely equipped to deal with that, coming from his best friend who’s very pointedly not his mate, who never once in ten years has he felt that way for. Doubly so when she’s naked and he’s supposed to be figuring out getting her off. 

Maybe she senses it or maybe she just actually needs it, but Astrid says, “Ok feelings break over, you may proceed.”

“Gee thanks. What a kind and benevolent alpha you are.”

She laughs and shoves at him, then drags him back down and kisses him, hard and hungry like she used to. 

That certainly gets the blood pumping. His hands wander, always paying attention to all of the little reactions. Up from her hip to her ribs gets another breath that’s somewhere between a sigh and a pant. 

He works his way in from there, and there’s no denying she has tits now. Not huge or anything, but there. When he thumbs over a nipple, he can’t decide if the sound she makes is pained so he freezes. “Alright?”

“Yeah. Everything is just- sensitive.”

Tate hums a laugh and shifts back a bit, resuming his mapping but with his mouth as well. And that gets him a response; Astrid gets louder the further down her chest and belly he gets. The noises more desperate. 

He presses his lips to the inside of one thigh and then the other. “What do you want?”

Astrid makes a frustrated sound. Neither of them have a script for this; already a lot of what they’ve done is new, although it’s also clearly working. Tate has learned a lot from his little arrangement with Cole, though. Assumptions that can’t be made, even from encounter to encounter with the same person. A few other tricks he probably would’ve learned eventually, too, but it’s the first hard lesson he’s concerned with now. 

“Better question: is there anything you know you don’t want?”

This time, Astrid lets out a sharp, humorless laugh. 


“Just like. That I have no idea what I’d do without you because I have no idea what to tell you and like. How am I supposed to trust some random person to pay attention? Or to stop?”

He has to fight a growl. For all that he knows that she’s right, the thought of anyone not doing that makes his blood boil. 

Her expression softening, Astrid reaches down and cards her fingers through his hair. “So like. Thanks. For doing this even though you don’t have to and I’m a pain and I’m sure it’s going to be… frustrating.”

With a dramatic roll of his eyes, Tate gets to work. Slowly. Carefully. But now he can start to utilize some of the other things he’s picked up since venturing out a bit more. The only thing he’s at all sure of is that going at it the same way he’d suck a guy’s dick – hell, even the way he’d done this with Astrid the handful of times they had, before – would be a mistake. 

So he tries something else. Spirals his way in slowly until she starts chasing his mouth. Then, smiling victoriously, he takes his first cautious lick. It makes her gasp – the shocked, needy kind, rather than the surprised, upset variety. So he does it again. 

“Tate, fuck-” she groans, fingers sinking into his hair again. 

It’s been a while since he’s heard his name in bed; Tate hadn’t realized he’d missed it a little until now. Some dumb, romantic part of him preferred familiarity in general, and while Astrid may not be his, there was comfort there. To be given and gained from this. 

He smiles and gently sucks the head into his mouth, teasing at it with his tongue. Astrid moans, fingers clenching, and thrusts up slightly into his mouth. With a laugh, Tate pushes her thighs back further to keep her still.  

And then, another idea brewing in his head, Tate pulls off and noses lower. This they definitely haven’t done before but Astrid basically screams at the first swipe of his tongue, so he takes it as a good sign. It’s… remarkably similar to eating pussy, really. At least in terms of technique and what seems to work. Except for one key difference-

“Hey, top drawer, can you hand me-” 

The drawer slides open and a second later, Astrid tosses the bottle at him. Breathing another laugh, he bites her ass then coats his fingers. One slips in easily, so a few seconds later he adds another. 

He sucks her back into his mouth. Gently probes and presses. He knows he’s found the right spot when she yells again and bucks, clearly torn between trying to push back onto his fingers and fucking into his mouth. 

When she finally comes, it’s a long, pulsing thing. Tate swallows, not that there’s much to swallow, and kisses her thigh before sliding his fingers free and sitting back to give her space. He’s almost painfully hard; Cole’s been out of town for some… work thing, and any other option he might have sought out certainly can’t quell this particular urge. So now he wants. Wants tight, wet heat, wrapped around his knot. 

He wants more than that. Wants something – someone – that’s actually his. But truth be told he’s not even sure that’s in the cards for him. If he can even have a mate, after everything. So he needs to get used to making do. 

“Well that was…” Astrid starts. 

“Think we can safely say you can.”

“Yeah. Yeah I’d say so. You ok? Do you um…?”

“I’ll be alright. Don’t worry about it.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, Apollo. That’s not why I did it. If you eventually want to, we can figure it out then. But it’s not a big deal.”

Her expression torn between relief and concern, Astrid’s eyes close and she relaxes slightly on his bed. “Thank you,” she says, after several long, quiet moments. 

“Of course. ‘S what I’m here for.”

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