I know I said that the last chapter was the end…I lied. This is really the end though, although there is always a Garnet and Lanyon story as a possibility some time. I also didn't think I'd have this finished until next weekend, so, the quickest update from me in ages!

Thanks so much for the kind comments! Sandy

Changeling

Epilogue: Mating Rites

Chase woke up cold. Again. He sat up with a sigh. This was getting beyond dragged the covers with him over to the fireplace and stoked up the flames. When that was done he found the pot of melting snow he had brought in last night and balanced it over the fire.
He listened to it hiss with satisfaction. At least there was a seemingly endless supply of water for tea. It was about the only good point he could come up with for his present situation at this unholy hour of the morning. Especially with Lovel gone missing. Again.

They had spent most of summer and fall on the roads and it had been fun. Most of the time. He had enjoyed his role as tutor to the boy, getting him used to life with other human beings. It hadn't always been easy, it had rarely been safe but at least it had never been boring.
He smiled. Life with Lovel could be described many ways but boring it was not.

The last night they had spent in town he had sat up late with Garnet and Lanyon in the house they had built on Li's land. They had talked into the early morning, sipping wine and enjoying each others company.
Blaine and Roslin had retired early, no surprise there. They couldn't seem to keep their hands off each other for more than five minutes at a time. It had become a matter of bawdy jokes for Garnet and quiet, quickly hidden smiles from Lanyon. Lovel seemed slightly puzzled by their behaviour but seemed content that they were happy.

After Lanyon had dropped off to sleep, his head resting in Garnet's lap, Garnet had asked him about his plans for Lovel.

"We went over that, we will travel for a while and give him a chance to acclimate. Hopefully, we'll get back here by next summer to check up on you and your saint."

Garnet smiled and ran a gentle hand through Lanyon's hair, he smiled a little in his sleep and snuggled closer.

"That isn't what I mean and you know it. Don't think you can distract me with snide comments."

"It wasn't meant as a snide comment and why can't I distract you. It seems only fair that someone else should be as distracted as I am."

"You can't expect Lovel to pick up subtle hints, just talk to him."

"I know he isn't up to speed on the more subtle courtship rituals but I hadn't really expected him to try to eat the flowers."

Garnet laughed.
"That is a picture I am going to treasure forever. You standing there open mouthed while he's spewing rose petals all over the place and gagging."

"Glad we keep you amused."

"Oh, don't be sarky about it. What did you expect? He hasn't had any kind of normal interaction with people until now. He tends to look at things differently than most people."

"I know, it's just going to take time. And I shouldn't burden him with my feelings now. He has so much to adjust to, so much to learn. It wouldn't be fair to him."

"Does he know? About Kolya, I mean? And himself?"

"Li has been talking with him a good deal, she may have told him. He hasn't mentioned it to me but he probably wouldn't in any case. He just says Li is teaching him useful stuff and leaves it at that."

"You sound almost jealous!"

He slumped further in his chair.
"I think I am in a way. They have more in common than he and I do, when you get down to brass tacks I'm a pretty poor choice of companion for him. Once he comes into his own he'll drop me like a rock."

"That isn't true and you know it! You're the only person he really trusts and I think he loves you already, in a rather innocent way."

"I hope you're right. But still, it will have to stay in an innocent way until he has enough experience of the world to make a true choice. I won't push him."

"I never thought I would say this, but, chivalry rather becomes you."

"Tell anyone and I'll deny it."

"Your secret's safe with me. Give me a kiss and get some sleep. You and your wolf have a long road in the morning."

They had gotten to know each other better as they travelled. Chase had put a bit of polish on Lovel's manners and taught him a few useful skills. He had the makings of a first class thief if he wanted to become one. He didn't seem to see much point in it though. They had money and could get food so why steal? He never quite understood the thrill Chase got from outsmarting others and pocketing their money. He did stand ready to defend him if he got caught though.

He almost never did get caught and only if there was alcohol involved. He could drink most people under the table but once in a great while he met his match and let drink make him careless. The last time it had happened they had been ambushed right after leaving town. Apparently the locals had decided that Chase was a bit luckier with cards than was acceptable.

He had offered them their money back but that hadn't satisfied them. They were in the mood for blood. They got a bit more than they expected. When it was over Chase put away his unneeded dagger and stared at Lovel. He was standing over the bodies, a sword in either hand, scanning for any enemies he might have missed. Chase thought that if there were any lurking about they would do best to run for their lives. It was rather like having a guardian angel from hell and Chase was much more circumspect in his sport after that. He would be very happy to never see Lovel like that again. It was unnerving. And besides, he had insisted in burying them. Lanyon seemed to have rubbed off on him in odd little ways. Chase had dirt under his nails for days.

And then things had started to go wrong. Winter came early and they were caught in the mountains by the first storms. Going back to the last town seemed pointless as Chase was sure that the weather would get back to normal soon. So they forged ahead until they were hopelessly mired in deep snow in the mountain passes. Well, Chase was mired. Lovel could deal with cold and wet by the simple expedient of going back to wolf form. Apparently one of the things Li had worked with him on was retaining a grip on his mind and memories in both forms and changing at will. Thankfully, it seemed to be working. Though seeing Lovel liberally covered in blood and hauling a dead deer into camp was not a vision Chase treasured. The first time he had done that it had startled a scream from him before he realized that the odds of some strange wolf dropping by with dinner was pretty remote. After that, Lovel had changed form outside of camp. It had taken two more hunting trips for Chase to request that he clean up the blood before coming in and to bring back the whole deer. Imagining what had transpired for a whole leg to be missing and Lovel to turn down his share of dinner made him rather queasy.

Lovel had done as requested but Chase could tell he was hurt and uncomfortable. The further they got from civilization the clearer it became that Lovel wasn't totally human. The combination of his upbringing and his odd heritage made him different in ways that went soul deep. He could blend in better now but it would always be a mask he wore. Chase tried to show him that it didn't matter to him, that he treasured him as he was but he could tell it wasn't enough. Lovel became more silent and spent more time in wolf form as they struggled on. Sometimes Chase would wake in the night and feel Lovel's gaze on him. He would see him, still as a statue with the snow falling around him, eyes shining uncannily in the dark. The fact that he was beautiful like that never seemed to cross his mind and when Chase tried to tell him so he shrugged it off. Of course he did that with any compliment but still...it was difficult to ignore either the beauty or the supernatural basis of it.

At last Lovel had found them some shelter for the rest of the winter, an abandoned cabin with a working fireplace, a good supply of wood and even some of the amenities Chase missed so much. Like a tin tub for bathing and some books. There were some food stuffs that were still good, tea and dried herbs, flour and last years dried fruit but little else in the way of food. But Lovel seemed to not mind hunting so it worked out. Except that they were stuck here, together for the duration. In very close quarters. And it was swiftly driving Chase out of his mind.

He just wasn't used to being without sex for any length of time. Usually, he had his pick of partners and it seemed like a cruel joke to be stuck in the middle of nowhere for who knows how long with this gorgeous boy he was smitten with and be totally deprived! He knew that Lovel didn't think of him in that way, as far as he could tell he didn't think of that at all. And he cared about him too much to take advantage of his ignorance.

Though Lovel wasn't making it easy.

For one thing, he seemed to have no natural modesty. Since he had to strip or ruin his clothes when he changed form he seemed to think it merely sensible to give his clothes to Chase, who was usually complaining of the cold, and go naked indoors.

Chase had withstood this for a few days before deciding it was either force Lovel into clothes or jump him and risk having his throat torn out. The fact that he had seriously debated on this point only made him see that he was moving beyond reason. He skipped pretty lightly over any explanation and simply told Lovel to dress. Immediately. It was, he stated, the civilized thing to do. Lovel had complied silently and withdrawn even more. Chase tried to make up with him in little ways; even started teaching him to read with the books left at the cabin but the distance between them seemed to grow wider all the time.

And having the facilities for a warm bath was another mixed blessing. While the close quarters made cleanliness a definite plus the lack of privacy was galling. Even if Lovel was sleeping you never knew when he might wake up, if he was out you never knew when he might return. This kept Chase from relieving his growing tension in the only place that seemed custom made for it. He finally requested that Lovel leave the cabin when he bathed and not show up until called for. It made him feel a little guilty to throw the boy into the snow while he bathed and so he tried to make his baths as quick as he could. Thus, no leisurely self consolation.

He would huddle in bed with his back resolutely turned when Lovel bathed. This arrangement didn't help their faltering companionship at all but it seemed the lesser of two evils.

And then Lovel had started disappearing at night. Chase would wake up alone in the dark and sometimes he thought he heard howling in the distance. He shivered and curled back up, telling himself it was just the wind but he couldn't be sure. And Lovel didn't say where he had been when he returned in the morning. He took to napping off and on all day and leaving after Chase fell asleep almost every night.

Chase was simply afraid to ask him about his nights. What if there were wolves about? What if the only thing tying him here was that Chase would starve if he left? What if he was only biding his time until the weather broke and he was freed from his obligation? Did Chase have any right to object to Lovel finding companionship for himself? To finding a mate, even? Maybe he would be happier in that life, who could say?

It was only mentioned once. Chase was lying awake when he heard Lovel rise and head for the door.

"Lovel, you're not a wolf."

It seemed a rather foolish statement now that it was said but it was as close as he could come to voicing his thoughts. He heard Lovel stop moving and there was a long pause.

"I'm not human either. You've made that very clear."
He left before Chase could even try to answer.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Lovel slipped out of his clothes as soon as he got a reasonable distance from the cabin. He stuffed them in the hollow tree that he had been using for a wardrobe and let the change take him. It was so different now, still painful but the pain was fleeting. And when it was gone he ran until he ran some of the bad feelings out of his system. The only other thing that seemed to help much was killing something and he didn't want to do that without need.

He flopped down in the snow to try and think. That was different now too. Once he was all wolf in this form, now he was both and neither. The wolf part of himself was accessible but not totally in charge. It was still aware enough to add it's own frustration to his thoughts. To the wolf this whole thing was simple.

He was the dominant male in a pack consisting of two. Chase was his

Chase would doubtless throw a fit but eventually he would get used to it.

Unfortunately, Chase wasn't a wolf. He wouldn't only not get used to it he would hate him for trying to make him. He already seemed to be pretty disgusted with him, he didn't think he could stand it if Chase began to really hate him. But he was running out of both options and patience. And he was losing control. He couldn't even trust himself to leave Chase alone while he was sleeping anymore. He was afraid he would give in to the need inside him and ruin everything.

At first it had been enough to curl up as close to him as he could get without waking him and watch him sleep, enjoying the warmth of his body and his scent. Then it became painful not to have more, his touch, his taste. Lovel had thrown himself into the cold nights to make it stop and it hadn't helped. He was still filled with hunger for Chase and Chase didn't want him.

He rose and stalked around the clearing in frustration. He wondered if he could justify killing a few rabbits for spite. Chase could cook one for breakfast so it wasn't really wasteful. Or he could probably catch one and heal it and let it go. Li had showed him how to channel his energy to heal among other things and he could use the practice. But he would feel guilty about it later. And it wouldn't make him feel any better really. Nothing would.

And bringing one to Chase wouldn't make him any fonder of him. He had been bringing him food for weeks and it hadn't helped. Chase had thanked him and cooked whatever he brought but he hadn't exactly thrown himself into his arms over it. Lovel had come to the conclusion that he needed to bring down something more impressive so he had spent two freezing days looking for something different. When he had finally managed to drag the thing to the cabin, not easy after the fight it had put up, all he got for his trouble was :

"Oh my God! What the hell am I supposed to do with this?"

"I thought you might cook it. I know the food here is really boring for you, rabbits and deer all the time so I thought..."

"It's a moose! It must weigh a ton! You could feed a regiment with this thing. Never mind, you were trying to be helpful. I'll get to work skinning it."

And he had spent the next few days hacking, smoking, salting and cursing. By the time he was done he was vowing to take up strict vegetarianism as soon as they got back to civilization and swearing that he never wanted to see, taste or above all smell moose again.

Lovel had quietly eaten most of it bit by bit and gone back to bringing him rabbits.

He had tried Garnet's suggestion and that had also failed...

"Get him alone and lose some clothes. Trust me on this."

"How can you lose your clothes? I mean, they're right there on you. Are you ..."

"No, not lose as in 'misplace", lose as in 'take them off'. You seem to have a rather large blind spot when it comes to your looks. You're beautiful and probably just as beautiful all over. You're in great shape too, he could probably bounce quarters off your tummy...if that was his idea of a good time...which it's not."

This last bit was practically shouted from across the room as Garnet retreated from the look in Lovel's eyes. Life had given Garnet a very strong sense of self preservation and intimating to Lovel that one had first hand knowledge of what Chase did consider a good time ran directly counter to continued good health

So Lovel had gritted his teeth and taken the first opportunity to lose not just some of his clothes, but all of them. And earned two days of total indifference capped with a terse command to get dressed, right now! Obviously, he didn't look as good as Garnet had thought. He had taken to staying in the darkest areas of the cabin as far from Chase's sight as he could get.

He knew he couldn't blame Chase for the way he felt. He didn't have much to offer him really. Chase had been kind and patient with him and was trying to be his friend. It was more than he could have hoped for but it didn't stop the ache he felt all the time now. He just didn't know what else he could do about it.

The only thing he had ever been good at was killing. He had been doing that all his life and he was talented. He could kill just about any thing with anything at hand, including teeth and fingernails if he wanted to. He was very strong, very fast and virtually tireless now that Kolya wasn't sapping his energy. But this was a situation that he couldn't deal with that way. Nothing he had learned was any help at all.

He loped off toward the den area of the local wolf pack. He had expected them to be out and on the hunt by now. He hoped nothing bad had happened.

He had found them for the first time a few weeks ago. They had chased him away at first but now allowed him on the periphery of their lives as an observer. They seemed to realize that this strange wolf /not wolf meant them no harm.

The wolves were ranged in a loose circle around the dominant pair who were playing. They were chasing each other, kicking up snow and pouncing on each other with mock ferocity every time they met. Then leaping apart to start the cycle over. Their play seemed to intensify as this went on and the scent of wolf was heavy in the air and had a new, musky undertone that drew him closer. The watching wolves let him move in without the usual challenge, their attention totally focused on the play and there was an air of expectancy in their stance.

He realized why as he got closer. The dominant pair were in the first stages of mating. Their play became increasingly frenzied and rough, shouldering each other and nipping until one would roll off their feet to writhe in the snow while the other harried them. The tension in the air was unbearable and the wolf began to insinuate itself more and more throughout his mind.

At last, as though at some agreed upon signal they sprang apart and the female offered herself. The male covered her and the surrounding wolves began to howl while Lovel stood on the outskirts of the circle a moment longer, shivering. Then he turned and ran.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Chase was seething with indignation. Lovel's parting words had ruined any chance of sleep and now there was this ungodly racket to deal with. Weren't his nerves frayed enough? He wondered if this was some kind of wolf curse. Or whether Lovel was about to come sweeping down on the cabin with hordes of ravening beasts and kill him. Well, to be fair about it, he was pretty sure Lovel wouldn't really kill him. He could be dangerous certainly but he had always defended him, even when he didn't deserve it. He had stayed here to take care of him when he could have left at any time. And he had been hurting and it was his fault.

The misunderstandings had piled up so fast and deep that they had been buried before they knew it. In the morning he would set things right. He couldn't sleep anyway, he could come up with a way to explain and fix things. Maybe they could get back the undercurrent of warmth that had always flowed between them. Maybe he could tell Lovel how he felt without making it a demand for anything permanent. If he was agreeable they could enjoy the rest of their time here together instead of suffering through it.

Chase let his mind wander along this pleasant path for a while. There was so many delicious ways they could fill the hours. So many things he could teach Lovel of pleasure. He was so lost in his imagination he didn't notice when the night went silent and he drifted into sleep.

He did notice the cold drops of water hitting his face. He shook his head in a futile effort to avoid them and then gave up and forced his eyes open. Lovel was crouching over him, melting snow running from the ends of his hair. The firelight glinted off the drops sparkling in his hair and eyelashes. His eyes held Chase motionless, they seemed at one moment as dark and endless as the night sky and in the next glowing slightly, reflecting the fire.

Chase had a moment to think, quite clearly,
(I'm going to die, I really ought to be scared.)
before Lovel kissed him.

His lips felt as wonderful as Chase had always thought they would, warm against his. He opened his mouth and Lovel pressed his tongue inside, sliding over his, flicking against the roof of his mouth. He found himself moaning into the kiss, lost in sensation. When Lovel loosed him, he was breathless.

Lovel watched him for a moment, judging his reaction. When he saw no protest he began to alternately kiss and nip lightly at his neck and shoulders, tasting and teasing him. Chase slid his hands up along Lovel's sides and back, enjoying the contrast of the silky skin and the coiled muscle beneath. When Lovel moved lower, licking across his chest in slow paths he threaded his hands in his hair, pulling him insistently to a nipple, arching against his mouth in encouragement. Lovel obliged, taking the nub in his mouth, suckling and biting at it gently while Chase sighed his approval.

Lovel needed no guidance to move to the other, licking it while his fingers moved to the first, continuing to gently torment him. When Chase couldn't take anymore he pushed him lower, arching his hips impatiently. Lovel allowed himself to be led, flicking his tongue against Chase's skin in a skimming line to his sex. He lapped at the head, tasting the liquid seeping there and drawing gasps from Chase. He ran his tongue down from tip to base, getting an increasingly urgent response from Chase.

He untangled one hand from Lovel's hair, grasping himself while pulling Lovel 's head back. When he had room he angled his erection upwards, pressing against his mouth. Lovel shifted a bit to catch his eyes and Chase struggled to form his need into words. He managed no more than a strangled "please" but it seemed enough. Lovel parted his lips, letting Chase press his head down until he was surrounded and held sweetly in the wet warmth of Lovel's mouth.

He held Lovel's head in place as he began to thrust upwards, trying to be gentle. When Lovel moved down, taking him even deeper gentleness was forgotten. Chase was too needy to hold back and he pulled at Lovel's hair, pumping into his mouth roughly, crying out at the intense pleasure as he finally found release.

When he became aware of his surroundings again he realized that Lovel was resting his head on his hip while gently stroking up and down his thighs. He sat up a bit and Lovel looked at him with hungry eyes.

" I'm sorry I was so rough, I just..."
"More."

The word was somewhere between snarling and speech and Chase fought the instinctive urge to bolt.
He stroked a soothing hand over Lovel's hair.
"Come up here, I'll give you all you want."

He slid up beside Chase and pulled him into a deep kiss. Chase tried to use the distraction of the kiss to ease him onto his back. Lovel pulled out of Chase's grip and their eyes met. Lovel gave him a smile of heart melting sweetness and Chase smiled back, astonished and gratified. He couldn't remember ever seeing the sombre boy smile like that. He was still smiling sweetly as he casually flipped Chase face down on the bed and pinned him there.

Chase started to struggle a bit in protest but Lovel began licking and kissing the side of his neck and he lost interest in taking control. He let himself relax and enjoy the attention Lovel was lavishing on him.

When he felt the tension go out of Chase he helped him shift up to his hands and knees. He knelt behind him, draping himself over his back, stroking his chest while he dropped kisses along his spine. Chase was rousing again and he guided one of Lovel's hands between his legs. He cupped Lovel's hand in his, wrapping them around his hardness, showing him what he wanted. He found himself falling into that mindless need again and tried to slow down. Something wasn't right here. He shook his head, trying to clear it. He shouldn't be losing himself so totally in his own pleasure that he neglected his partner's. He regretfully drew Lovel's hand away. He felt Lovel go still against his back and spoke quickly to reassure him.

"I want this to be for you too."

He heard Lovel release a long sigh.

"Now?"

It dawned on him what Lovel meant as he moved off him, sliding his hands along his back to his ass.

"No!"

Lovel went still except for his fingers, kneading rhythmically, making it hard to think. Chase explained as quickly as he could.

"I want you to, but we need something for lubrication, some liquid or it will be difficult, painful. Give me your hand."

Lovel did as he was asked and Chase drew two fingers into his mouth. Lovel let out a muffled groan and brought his other hand back to Chase's length, stroking slowly.
Chase sucked at his fingers, coating them as well as he could. He stopped and Lovel pulled them regretfully from his mouth. Chase told him what to do, guiding him to stretch him as slowly as their impatience would allow. When he couldn't wait anymore and Lovel was emitting a continuous low growling he decided it would have to be enough.

"Now, now."

Lovel guided himself inside with one swift motion, causing Chase to cry out. He bent over his back, pressing a quick kiss of apology on a shoulder blade and staying still for a second. Chase could feel the hesitation and pushed back slightly against him. Lovel withdrew and thrust forward again, drawing a soft cry of pleasure from his partner this time. When he paused again Chase pushed against him frantically, letting desire sweep him out of conscious thought. He felt warm lips on the back of his neck and then teeth, smelled the sharp tang of blood in the air and moaned, the intensity of the moment turning the pain into just one more incredible sensation. He let Lovel hold him there, taking him hard and fast. When he began to strike the spot inside him that made his vision darken and took what little control he had left he let go, faintly aware of Lovel filling him with the warmth of his own release. They sank down together and Chase let sleep take him.

He woke slowly, feeling completely comfortable for the first time in way too long. He hovered between sleep and waking, enjoying the warmth and snuggling back with a happy sigh against the furs. The furs snuggled back.

"AHHHHH!"

He picked himself up off the floor and peered over the edge of the bed, He found himself nose to cold nose with a wolf with what could only be described as a smug look on it's face.

"Don't do that, you'll give me a heart attack!"
He got a very sloppy kiss in apology.
He wiped his face with the nearest piece of sheet he could grab and by the time he was done Lovel was in human form again, though the look on his face hadn't changed.

"Morning"

Chase smiled, ruffled Lovel's hair and kissed him back.

"I'll get us some tea."

He heated the water and brought the cups back to the bed. He was sitting down beside Lovel before anything struck him as strange.

He half stood and sat again, shooting a look at Lovel, who blushed a little.

"I didn't want you to hurt so I healed you after."

"Thanks. I didn't know you could do that."

"I'm learning."

"You're a quick study."

Lovel blushed more deeply and dropped his gaze.

Memory struck Chase and he lifted a hand to the back of his neck. There was no pain but he could feel the raised ridges of skin in the rough shape of opposing crescent moons.

"I don't suppose you could do anything with these?"

Lovel's eyes went dark.
"No."

He sounded angry and Chase let the subject drop. It seemed a small price to pay for such pleasure. He wrapped an arm around Lovel gingerly and Lovel surprised him by settling warmly against his side. He usually tensed when touched; obviously things had changed quite a lot in the space of one night.

"Last night was wonderful Lovel. I hope you know how much it meant to me."

Lovel said nothing but snuggled closer, sighing happily.

"I hope we can spend some more times together like that."
Lovel pressed a warm kiss against his chest.
"All the time. Always."

The words warmed Chase but he shook his head gently.

"I feel that way too but it's too soon for you to make promises. Just because I'm the first doesn't mean I have to be the last. Always best to keep your options open."

He spoke the words lightly, hoping Lovel would never guess how hard it had been to force them out.

"No!"

Lovel rose, turning slightly to face him. He ran his fingers over the marks on Chase's neck.
"Always Chase. It's for always."

Chase smiled at him, his gaze softer.
"I won't hold you to it, but I love to hear you say it."

Lovel leaned down and nipped Chase's neck sharply, drawing a startled exclamation from the object of his affection.

"Hey! What was that for?"

Lovel licked the spot softly.

"For being silly. Wolves mate for life."

"But you're not really…."

The rest of the sentence was lost in a kiss and the sharp sound of teacups hitting a hard wood floor.

The End

I hope you liked this. One of the more fun things for me is coming up with character names. So, for anyone who cares- the names and their meanings. I used a few different languages this time around.

Lovel means Little Wolf

Chase means Hunter

Kolya means Winter

Kin means Golden

Lanyon means a Cold Pool

Blaine means Thin

Roslin means a Small Red Head

Garnet is a red gemstone