what did you expect? (GH pt 3)

Somehow, Tate survives the rest of the week. Their schedules never quite align. A day where he could’ve met Ari for lunch, but he didn’t see the text until after. An evening where Kyah debated coming over for a bit, then talked herself out of it – all via a series of text messages while Tate was in the shower.

But it could be worse. The flow of contact is definitely there, in a way that’s so casual that it makes him want to destroy something.

By the time Friday finally arrives, he’s not sure if he’s ever been more on-edge for a full moon. And it doesn’t just seem to be him. The entire office is off. The reason, or at least part of it, doesn’t sink in until his phone vibrates at lunch.

last of the real ones

Oh alpha my alpha > Reminder Shawn’s thing starts at 7, dinner is at 5

It’s the first time Astrid has spoken to him since he got back, and it’s not even an actual message. And it isn’t that he hasn’t tried; he has. He even left a voicemail Wednesday night – after it was confirmed that Kyah was definitively not coming over – basically begging her to talk to him.

She hadn’t. And even this is a joint message to him and Kyah both for pack business.

> I’ll be there. Need me to bring anything?

He waits a full minute before he puts his phone down even though his reply is sent within seconds of Astrid’s text. Maybe she got busy. Maybe she’d…

His phone vibrates and he snatches it off of his desk.

last of the real ones

Kyah > Don’t forget to get Shawn something if you haven’t already done that? And I was supposed to get some more snacks + stuff for punch but I *might* have put it off all week and now it’s looking like it’ll be a miracle if I get out of here on time for like, dessert, so if you’ve got time…?

> Yeah sure. Anything specific?

> Also what do you even get a 20 year old now? Can I just give him cash, or is that not cool anymore?

Kyah > I think they got most of it last weekend, but you know there’s never enough food at stuff like this. Also Jenna bought it so you know there won’t be 2am garbage.

Kyah > God, two nights in a row. I’m gonna die 💀

Kyah > At least put the cash in a card.

He gets a fourth message from Kyah, but this one is in a separate message.

Kyah > Give her time, Tate. You fucked up. She’s allowed to be mad.

Sighing, Tate types out a reply and pushes his phone away. She’s right. He knows she’s right. But he doesn’t know how to fix this. So he finishes his lunch, then picks his phone back up.

Group Message with: Kyah, Ari

> Gotta go to the store after work to get stuff for my place and this weekend. Either of you want to come/want me to grab anything?

Kyah probably won’t respond, he knows, but Ari’s replies during the day are more dependent on the way his day to day fluctuates in response to Reuben’s so he might. To his surprise, his phone vibrates again after a couple of minutes.

Group Message with: Kyah, Ari

Kyah > Are you bringing 🚬

Tate laughs, the crushing dread lessening slightly.

> Are you asking to determine how annoying I’m going to be or for your own benefit

Kyah > Just… asking 👀 Gotta go.

He laughs again, about to put his phone down when it vibrates again.

Group Message with: Kyah, Ari

Ari > Uhh what time?

> Planning on leaving early. 3:30? 4? Think he’ll let you go that early?

Ari > Dude I think he’s already gone.

Ari > Yeah I just walked into his office. Lights out. Pick me up?

> You got it.

Now there’s really no keeping the grin off of his face. He’s not sure if anyone technically invited Ari to Shawn’s birthday party, but if not it would only be due to assumptions and oversight and Tate’s taking him either way. He just has to make it until then.

The bubble of levity pops a couple of hours later, anxiety trickling in to fill the void it left behind. By the time he gives up on accomplishing anything else and shoves away from his desk, Tate is ready to claw out of his skin. Well over twenty-four hours ahead of schedule.

He really, really wants to go back to his apartment first, but a part of him is almost positive that if he does, he won’t leave again unless someone drags him out and that’s not going to happen since the only person who would is Astrid and she’s not talking to him, and-

“Yo,” Ari says, standing in the passenger side door of his truck and looking more than a little uncertain about whether or not he wants to get in.

“Hey,” he manages, throat tight. Entire chest tight.

“You ok?”

For a second, Tate debates lying more out of reflex than anything. From a need to be ok and to keep Ari from worrying. But then he says, “No? I’ll be fine, I just…”

“You want me to drive?”

His fingers tighten on the steering wheel and his eyes close. He takes a breath then shakes his head. “No, I just uh-” Another breath, in and out. The truck shifts just slightly as Ari climbs in and closes the door.

“Hey. Talk to me.”

In. Out. “Astrid’s just outright not speaking to me. Hasn’t since… well, it’s been a while. Like. Since before the last full moon. And I know I fucked up, but I think I really fucked up and I-” the next breath is ragged. It catches in his throat. Tate shoves one hand into his hair like that’ll somehow hold him together since he can’t seem to do it otherwise. “I didn’t even realize this was something I could fuck up, but I did, so then like- How am I supposed to not ruin the rest of this?”

There’s a quiet thunk as Ari’s head hits the window. Tate forces his eyes open and turns his head to look at him; he’s sitting against the door, one leg up on the seat. Like he belongs there. Now if Tate could only do something about the look on his face…

He clears his throat and rakes his fingers through his hair again. “You uh. Is that um- what you’re wearing to the party? Or should I run you by your place to change and whatever first? I’m not sure if we’ll have time, after-”

“Oh uh, is this not ok?”

“No! No, it’s fine I just didn’t know if you would want to… I dunno?”

Ari breathes a laugh. “It’s not like my wardrobe is exactly expansive. Kinda didn’t pack. Didn’t think I’d need it.”

“Oh. Um,” Tate flounders, not even slightly equipped to handle that properly.

“Yeah. Now you know how I felt a second ago. Like, I wanna help but also I’m barely keeping my own fucking bullshit together.”

His laugh comes out wet, and too loud for the space, but it makes the corners of Ari’s eyes crinkle slightly so it’s worth it, Tate decides. “So uh, grocery store?”

“Yeah totally what I wanted to do with my Friday night. Also what party?”

Tate looks at him, uncertain if Ari is joking or not. “Shawn’s? It’s his 20th? Which means next year we have to formally get him hammered but fuck I’ll be 30 I’m too old for that.”

This time, Ari actually laughs. “Ancient.”

“Hey!” Tate protests. He reflexively reaches to put his hand on the headrest of the other seat as he twists to look out the back windshield and Ari goes very still, very quickly. “Ari, I-”

“Just drive.”

“No, hey, I-”

“Just. Drive. I’ll uh. Look this whole town is small as fuck and it’ll be over soon and I’ll be ok once I’m out, probably.”

So Tate drives. Sure enough, less than five minutes later he pulls into a shopping space at the store and Ari is out the door, almost before he’s even turned the truck off.

Fuck,” Tate breathes, grabbing his phone and wallet and opening his own door.

Fortunately, Ari hasn’t gone far. He’s just leaning against the bed on the opposite side, breathing. Tate folds his arms over the side and rests his chin on them, wishing one again that he could go back in time. To ten minutes ago. To three months ago. To twenty years ago.

“I’m sorry,” he says quietly.

“Yeah. Me too.”

“‘S not your fault.”

“How d’you figure? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Yeah, ok,” Tate says bitterly.

“We’re not doing a very good job of this, are we?”

“No,” he says with a humorless laugh. “No, we’re not.”

“Two and a half panic attacks for our first actual one on one time though. Could be worse.”

He snorts and lets his head drop. “It’s not even four. We’ve still got plenty of time.”

“Fantastic. Now I feel way better. Thanks, Tate,” Ari says, so falsely chipper that Tate can’t help but laugh.

“C’mon. Let’s see how much shit we can buy before I freak the fuck out again and leave.” He walks around the truck and towards the entrance, not rushing but also letting Ari decide what kind of space he wants.

To Tate’s surprise, Ari falls into step beside him. “So we’re supposed to be getting stuff for Shawn’s party.”

“Technically Kyah’s supposed to be getting stuff for Shawn’s party. But she didn’t, so here we are.”

“Uh huh. And is this a shared duty, shared burden kind of thing or a because we like her kind of thing?”

He bites his lip. “Both, I guess?” Blatantly ignoring the fruit and veggie trays, Tate makes his way to the cooler and grabs one of each of the four different varieties of salsa.

“Shawn is Astrid’s little brother?”

“Yep. Good kid. In his second year at UW.” He grabs a second of the hot one for good measure, and two things of french onion dip and two of hummus.

“Uhhhh cool?”

“You haven’t met him?”

“I mean like maybe once? Briefly?”

“You’ll like him. He’s smart. Weird.” He turns down the snack aisle and starts tossing bags into the cart with enough practice that it’s basically thoughtless.

“And which one of those means I’ll like him?”

“…yeah. Is there uh, anything specific you want?”

“For the party?”

Tate shrugs. “Sure. Or just like, to have around. I haven’t really restocked anything at my place so it’s basically sauces and a bottle of Gatorade that I swear just appeared in my fridge one day.”

“Well don’t sell yourself too hard,” Ari says, but he smiles and grabs a bag of chips. “So… tell me something.”


“I dunno, just. Something.”

Something like I can smell it when you’re scared of me or something like that I hate bananas? Tate thinks to himself. “What do you want to know?”

Ari rolls his eyes, but the smile is still there. “You’re awful at this. What’s your favorite animal?”


He laughs, clearly surprised by that answer. “Wouldn’t have pegged you for a horse girl. Interesting.”

“What would you have peg- nevermind. What’s yours?”

Tate gets a sidelong glance and an eye roll. “It depends, kind of? Probably like cephalopods, though.”


“Y’know, like octopi-“

“No, I know what you meant. Just. What?

“This, coming from the guy who literally said horses. Next you’re gonna tell me your favorite food is like, burgers.”

Snacks acquired, they round a corner to stare at the rack of cards.

“What’s wrong with burgers?”

“Nothing. Just trying to figure out which kind of stereotype you are.” And there’s that same wicked little grin again.

“Has Kyah told you the FDA story?”


“You should get Kyah to tell you the FDA story. I mean I could tell you, but it’ll be way funnier to make her do it.”

“O…kay? What does this have to do with favorite foods?”

Tate smiles and says, “Breakfast. I’m a breakfast kinda guy.”

“Huh,” Ari says again. “D’you cook?”

“I can. Oh shit, I’m supposed to be buying actual food too-” He pulls a card with Lego Batman on the front off the rack and reads it quickly.

“That says ‘Happy 4th Birthday’?”

“Yeah. It’s perfect.”

“And you said I’m weird…”

He gets the envelope and tucks the card inside before dropping both in the baby seat. “Mm, no don’t think I said that out loud.”

“No, but- hey!”

Tate laughs. He has to fight the urge to shove Ari like he would Astrid or Kyah, or to wrap an arm around his shoulders and drag him in. To kiss the top of his head. “Ok,” he says instead, “grocery shopping speedrun time.”

It actually works shockingly well. After a minute or so of Tate mumbling to himself, Ari asks if he wants help and then actually does; it’s like he knows, somehow, what Tate’ll actually eat and what he’s missing.

There is a reason, of course, and it floats to the forefront of Tate’s mind in a single, unbidden word. Mate.

As soon as he thinks it, the urge to unbutton Ari’s fancy little shirt until he can see the scarred outline of his own teeth bubbles up, even though that’s not what he did. That he didn’t do it with that in mind – regardless of whether some part of him knew – so it’s not official. Especially since Ari hasn’t bitten him back.

They check out and load everything up in silence that almost feels easy. Normal. Similarly, Ari doesn’t seem like he’s considering the likelihood of having to make a quick escape on the ride to Tate’s apartment.

“Shit,” Ari mutters, phone buzzing in his pocket.

“Get it. I’ll take care of these.”

Ari nods and answers. “Yeah what’s up boss man?”

Tate laughs and grabs the things that have to go upstairs, leaving the rest in his truck. He’s just finished putting away the things that have to go in the fridge or freezer when his own phone buzzes.

Ari > Hey are you gonna be like… mad? If I stay down here?

> No? I left it on right?

Ari > Yeah. Can I pair my phone?

> If you can figure out how to make it not be an asshole, go for it

Bluetooth. Wifi password. Key to the front door. Ari could have any of it and more. Kyah, too, although she already had two out of three. Maybe all three. He really wouldn’t be surprised.

He trades the clothes he wore to work for a navy v-neck and jeans, then heads out. Halfway through locking his door, he stops and goes back inside. Right. Kyah’s other request.

Tate’s not surprised, exactly. Kyah’s smoked before – not around him, but he knows she has – but she’s never done it around family. It makes sense, though. He was going to either way, but doubly so since Astrid is mad at him and everything else is weird. So he can see how Kyah would want to not have to deal with all of that as… directly. At full capacity.

They still have to survive dinner, though, which means-

Ari > Did you die?

He breathes a laugh.

> No just having a mild existential crisis. I’ll be down in a second.

“Have you had the pleasure of meeting Doctor and Mrs. Stone?” Tate asks when he’s close enough for Ari to hear.

“No. Kyah said they’re a little uh. Uptight?”

Tate snorts. “Like fucking diamond mines. You want to uh-” he pulls the little metal case out of his pocket and wiggles it between his fingers.

The second in which Ari’s eyes narrow in consideration seems to last an eternity. Long enough that Tate is already opening his mouth to say that it’s fine, that he doesn’t even have to and can try to sneak out once they get there.

“Fuck it. If they’re that bad…” he opens the door and drops lightly to the ground.

His quiet footsteps follow Tate around the corner and when Tate turns, it’s just in time to see Ari pull himself up easily to sit on the wall that’s meant to keep cars out of the creek behind the building. It puts them very nearly at equal heights – a huge mistake that Tate realizes as he watches smoke curl out of Ari’s lips.

He can almost see Ari unclench, although a part of him wonders if maybe he’s projecting as his own mental undertow grows more distant. But he’ll take it, if it means he gets to stand here in the space between Ari’s knees, even if they’re not quite touching.

Ari exhales a lazy cloud of smoke, the full length of his throat still on display when he says, “Time to go.”

4:47. Tate sighs and takes a step back so Ari can drop to the ground again.

“You gonna make it now?” Ari asks over his shoulder.

Tate lets his eyes trail down from his knowing little smile to the sharp cut of his waist and fights the urge to ask What are you going to say if I say no?

He swallows and says, “Maybe. One way to find out.”

He does make it, although it’s a small miracle. Astrid avoids speaking to him as much as she possibly can without alerting those who don’t already know, and after dinner she smiles at the three of them far too sharply and says she has to help clean up, so she’ll catch up with them later.

Tate introduces Ari to Shawn and entirely unsurprisingly, they hit it off immediately in their weird, awkward ways.

He’s standing off to the side, watching Ari’s face way more than he’s actually listening, when he feels a hand slip into his back pocket. He catches Kyah by the wrist. “You gonna pay for that?” he murmurs, just loudly enough for her to hear him.

“I already bought you dinner. What else do you want?” she replies, so close that he can feel her breath through the back of his shirt. And then, to his surprise, “Come with me?”

Smiling, Tate releases her hand and follows her outside to the little copse of trees at the far edge of the yard. Without looking, he shoots Ari a text to let him know where they are, his attention far more focused on the unprecedented image before him.

And ok. He might have a problem. Definitely has at least one, and probably a good few all wrapped up into one much bigger one that could just be labeled FUCK.

Because Kyah looks good like this. She always does – something he’s just realizing goes well beyond being begrudgingly willing to acknowledge that your second best friend who you also hate is objectively hot – but not everyone gets to see her anything like this. Really, next to no one; Astrid, then sometimes, barely, Tate. And even he’s never gotten to watch her light a joint less than a hundred yards from her parents.

She exhales, watching the way the smoke filters up toward the leaves above them, and Tate can’t help but wonder if she’d respond any better than Ari to his urge to lick the taste from her mouth. Maybe. Possibly.

But not tonight. Tonight, they have a birthday party, Kyah’s parents, and an angry future alpha to deal with.

The next night isn’t much better. Astrid won’t talk to him other than to give orders, and once that’s done, she leaves to go take care of some new shifts. She takes Kyah with her, leaving Tate and Ari alone together.

It’s… weird. Apparently Ari sort of filled Tate’s spot in his absence, trailing Astrid and Kyah through the woods and helping out here and there. And now he’s back. Neither of them have a script for this.

It’s especially weird when shift time comes because Tate does what he always does and just- strips. Doesn’t even think about it until he’s naked and Ari is looking at him. He really has to shift then, and does it in a hurry – skin and bone shredding and rebuilding in seconds.

Ari is still fully dressed and staring at him when it’s done, his mouth open slightly like he’s about to say something. Before he can, Tate bounds over, headbutts him gently, and runs off into the trees.

Tate hasn’t made it far before something hits him hard from behind and a pale streak disappears past him into the trees. He lets out a yip and gives chase – this is something he knows how to do. He can be a wolf. Can let everything dissolve into the simpler urges and interests and just… be. Now if only he could do the same the rest of the month. Then he’d be set.

For all that he’s still new to this, Ari has caught up quickly. And he’s fast. He doesn’t have the endurance yet, though. It’ll come with time, but without near-constant training three months isn’t enough. So Tate catches him and tackles him to the ground without a thought.

It’s the same thing he’d do with Astrid or Kyah. The same thing he’s done for years. But now it’s Ari he has pinned to the ground.

Ari who’s breathing heavily, eyes locked on Tate’s face. He swallows and lets Ari up. To his surprise, though, Ari doesn’t run. Doesn’t even seem upset. He just shakes himself off, gently butts the flat of his skull against Tate’s jaw, and walks away. After a few feet he even looks back over his shoulder in a clear question – are you coming?

The answer is yes.

When the moon is high in the sky, Tate hears a familiar, questioning bark-howl. He howls in response and sits. Ari does the same, with little more than a curious cock of his head.

A few minutes later, Kyah appears from the shadows. She rubs her face against Ari’s throat and shoulders, then comes to stand in front of Tate. He holds her gaze for a moment, then drops his head and pushes his nose into the warm fur at her neck. Something in it feels easy and familiar and right – even more so when Kyah does it back.

Like if he can just find a way to stay like this, maybe he’ll be ok.

And then she bites him. Not hard enough to break skin, and definitely not hard enough to- it’s enough to make him yelp, in surprise more than anything. She takes off into the trees, Ari close behind her; this is a game Tate knows.

He chases them to the cliffs, although this time he doesn’t try nearly as hard to actually catch either of them. He’s happy just to go. To do this. By the time he breaks the treeline, they’re both standing near the edge.

Instead of stopping, of slowing, he keeps going and launches himself over the edge. It’s something he’s done before, both shifted and normally, although it’s been a while. Worth it for the shocked barks and yips he hears before he hits the water, and even more so for the two splashes that follow.

The water is cold, even like this, and Tate is shivering before he’s reached the beach. He flops onto the sand, cold and tired but ok. Ari and Kyah emerge like a study in sopping wet opposites, her all dark fur and Ari nearly the same color as the sand.

They’re still wet and sandy even once they shift back, Ari and Kyah shoulder to shoulder and Tate trailing contentedly behind them. Easy, at least for a little while.

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