Author's Chapter Notes:
This Dark Moon universe is kind an offshoot of Joe Lawson's excellent Two Blood universe. However, it differs greatly and does NOT follow her official rules. *Sigh* I know, Joe. I can't follow a simple recipe for shit either, I ALWAYS throw in a different spice.
Author's Request: Dark Moon is an ongoing series of stories. PLEASE do not write in this particular AU at this time.
The full moon rose over the mesa like a fat, swollen pearl. Its reflected light was bright enough to illuminate the flat mesa and the grasslands below. The lean, lone wolf raised his muzzle to the face of the moon and howled out his song of rage, pain and loneliness. It echoed off the surrounding rocks and rang out into the valley below. As it quavered to an end, the wolf cocked his head and pricked his ears. For the first time, ringing in clear and sweet from the west, there was a reply that intrigued him.
Down in the valley below, the Medicine Bow pack was gathered at the Larabee Quarter Horse Ranch to celebrate the monthly return of the full moon. They lounged around the yard of the rustic stone and log house in both human and lupine form, replete from their feast of fresh pronghorn meat. Buck Wilmington lay in the lush grass sprawled in human form, in all his nude glory, with the auburn-haired Lydia curled against his side.
"He sounds so unhappy. I wish we could do something." She murmured softly, one slender hand toying with the hair on Buck's chest.
"I know darlin'. I know." The big man answered sadly, eyes on the far mesa.
The forlorn, distant howl trailed to an end. Buck curled a long arm around Lydia's slim shoulders and pulled her down into an embrace. They nuzzled and nipped affectionately at each other. Although long-time friends and occasional lovers, they were not a mated pair. Buck was too footloose to consider taking a mate yet, although the handsome beta of the pack had his choice of females.
They played at sex for a while, kissing and holding each other. Lydia was busy nipping Buck's earlobe as he fondly stroked her back and buttocks, when he abruptly caught her shoulders and pushed her gently aside to sit up, head tilted at a listening angle. Curious, she started to speak, only to stop and listen hard herself. A broad grin spread across Buck's face as he listened to the joyous duet ringing now down off top of the distant mesa.
Chris Larabee, their unofficial alpha, had found a new mate.
Buck was about to make a happy comment to Lydia when a low snarl of pure rage caught his attention. He turned to stare hard at the white lupa who stood facing the mesa, her ears flat against her skull. Several yards beyond her, another smaller lupa, her coat midnight black, flashed white teeth in a reflexive, silent snarl as she also eyed the distant mesa and the unknown wolf whom their alpha had claimed.
Mary and Maria had been fierce rivals for their handsome alpha's affections from the start, despite his distinct lack of interest in either of them. The pack's new lupa was in for a rough initiation. She would be forced to fight for her place if either, or both, challenged her position. Buck shifted into lupine form, and rose to his full, impressive height, his coal black fur gleaming in the moonlight. Chris and his new lover were too far away for him to glean much information from the newcomer's song, but he got the impression that she was young.
He raised his massive head and snarled once in warning, lip curled over sharp white fangs, staring the two females down with imperious ease. They cringed reflexively at the big beta's obvious anger, lowered their heads and turned their flanks submissively. At a second low rumble, they turned and vanished into the night, while Buck stood sentinel for his alpha. He couldn't stop them from challenging Chris's new mate, but he could give the new pair one uninterrupted night of peace.
Lydia slid a pale arm around his wide shoulders, and he shifted back to sit down next to her. Together they sat back and listened to the now distant duet. Other members of the pack drew near, and settled on the grassy slope as well. The big, grizzled loner, Josiah. Dark Nathan and his slender mate, Rain. Slim, petite Inez. The old matriarch Nettie, with shy, young Casey kept close. Even slim, debonair, foxlike Ezra, possibly the most unorthodox member of their ragtag, would-be pack sidled in, green eyes alert, keen muzzle sniffing the breeze.
Quietly, hopefully, they listened as their leader and his newly chosen made sweet music deep into the night.
It was early afternoon in the following day, when Buck pulled his classic 1937 Chevy truck up next to Larabee's house. He hopped out, neatly dressed in a crisp, new shirt with boots polished, holding a bouquet of fragrant rich yellow roses and a box of chocolates. He paused for a second to check his reflection in the side mirror, smoothing his prized moustache, before bounding exuberantly up on the back porch.
He was anxious to make a good impression on his new lupa. Would she be fair, or dark? A curvy Irish auburn beauty like the beloved, long-lamented Sarah? Dusky skinned, and black-haired with big, doe eyes? He found himself fancying the idea of a leggy, willowy blonde to complement Chris's lean handsomeness. Spying a familiar, tall form in the kitchen, he boomed out happily; "Knock! Knock!" and shouldered his way in through the screen door.
A sleepy, heavy-eyed Chris Larabee, clad only in a pair of unbuttoned, form-fitting black jeans leaned against the counter, waiting for the coffee to finish perking. He narrowed green eyes at his boisterous, beaming best friend and beta, then gave a resigned huff when the bleary attempt at intimidation did absolutely no good.
"Old Dog! Where is she? Sleeping in?"
Buck grinned into Larabee's scowling face, and sidled up close to thump his friend happily on the back in congratulations, then threw a confiding arm around the man's shoulders. Leaning in close, he crooned, "Now stud, you know don't want to wear the little woman out BEFORE the honeymoon is over..."
Larabee elbowed him away with a growl and turned back to the burbling coffee pot. He ran a frustrated hand through his mussed blond hair, and raised his eyes briefly to the ceiling. No help there. Well, Buck was in for a rude shock anyway. There wasn't any way of getting around THAT, although if the big man stopped talking long enough to inhale, he might get a clue. He took a deep, calming breath, and turned back to face the taller man, lifting his chin and meeting his eyes squarely as he did.
"Things aren't the way you think, Buck," he said in a mildly warning tone.
Buck frowned as he quickly picked up on the cautious note in his alpha's voice. He opened his mouth to make a ribald comment about the numerous love bites peppering Larabee's torso and throat, when a low, raspy, feral growl from the hall froze him in his tracks. He turned slowly, head raised, nostrils flaring, to face the doorway. The hair on the nape of his neck rose, and his muscles tensed in involuntary reaction to the unseen threat in the shadowed hall.
"Stand still, Buck."
Larabee ordered quietly. Then in the same quiet, gentle voice he had always used with Adam, he spoke to the unseen presence hovering just outside the doorway.
"It's alright. This is my old friend Buck. Come in and say hello. Don't be afraid." He coaxed, and held out a welcoming arm.
Buck's jaw dropped at the sight that followed. A lithe, tanned, tangle-haired form clad only in one of Chris's black tee shirts shot out of the hall and sidled in close under Larabee's protective arm. Buck caught a glimpse of wary, vivid blue eyes and bared white teeth half veiled by a burr snarled, waist-length tangle of sun bleached hair as the newcomer eyed him doubtfully.
The obviously male newcomer.
Chris Larabee's new mate was a man. Buck Wilmington sat down hard in a handy nearby kitchen chair. This was something he would never have anticipated in a thousand years. The lean blond alpha had never shown a flicker of interest in walking on the wild side, and had always had his choice of eager females, both shifter and human.
Mated they definitely were. Now that Buck was recovering from the shock, he could smell that as well as see it. They reeked of each other's pungent musk. Buck blinked and silently watched Larabee's unexpected tenderness towards this...boy?
Chris was smiling, speaking softly to his young lover, one arm protectively around his shoulders while his free hand gently brushed the long hair out of the wide blue eyes.
"Buck and I go back a long ways. Remember? I told you about him last night..."
Larabee continued speaking quietly, smiling reassuringly down into blue eyes that flicked anxiously between his face and the flabbergasted Wilmington. Chris smirked at the gobsmacked expression on Buck's face as he slumped in the chair, still clutching his roses and chocolates. His smirk widened into a full blown, evil grin.
"See? Buck even brought you some presents to wish us well."
The expressive blue eyes widened and darted back to study Buck's face. Buck found himself softening at the sight of the shy, guileless face that regarded him so warily. The youth had pressed himself close to Chris's side, both calloused hands clutching reflexively at the blond, seeking reassurance. Wide cobalt blue eyes set in a exquisite, chiseled face flicked back and forth constantly between Chris's face and Buck, trying to read their expressions.
He was only a few inches shorter then Chris, but as lithe and compact as a cat. His skin and hair were marked by long exposure to the Wyoming sun and wind, and his long hair was a tangled, dreadlocked mess. Still, he was beautiful in a fey, unkempt way with old eyes in a youthful face. Not as young as Buck had first thought. Hell, when Buck had been thinking of a long-legged blonde, this wasn't exactly what he was expecting.
Whoever he was, this boy had been living hard for a long time. Buck's eyes traveled slowly over the slim form, taking in the lean, brown legs, tanned, roughened skin, the scratched limbs, the visible scars, the slender, hard calloused feet. The tall man's eyes began to twinkle, and his moustache twitched in amusement at the sight of the rosy, bare behind peeking unselfconsciously from beneath the oversized tee.
Boy wasn't used to clothes, which meant he had probably been running wild in wolf skin for some time. He met Larabee's suddenly narrowed eyes over the tousled head, and dropped his own in quick apology for the impudent stare.
Buck smiled, careful not to bear his teeth in an inadvertent threat gesture, and sat up slowly. Leaning forward, he placed his gifts on the kitchen table, then sat back projecting goodwill, while sharp blue eyes watched his every move. There was bound to be a story behind this unlikely pairing, and he was anxious to hear it.
Whoever this young stranger had been, he was pack now and mated to their stubborn, evil tempered alpha. and THAT alone deserved a healthy respect. Wilmington felt himself relax, as he watched his best and oldest friend soothe and murmur gentle words to reassure his young mate. Chris himself was unaware of the tenderness in his eyes as he smiled down into the adoring blue eyes that seldom left his face. It had been years since Buck had seen that look of peace and contentment on his alpha's face, and he was happy now, to sit back and watch and wait.
"He's been running wild in 'skin for years, Buck, ever since hunters killed his mama. Raised as a pup by a wolf bitch who lost her litter. Only had contact with a half crazy old Basque sheepherder when he hit his teens. Man taught him how to eat with a knife and fork, and shave, and that's about it. I reckon his mama lost her mate to a challenge, and got run out of a pack. He's pretty much avoided human contact ever since."
Larabee raised grim eyes to his oldest friend's sober face, as he stroked a hand down the youth's tangled hair.
They were all seated at the battered wooden table now, the young man perched on Chris's lap, while Chris took a comb and scissors to his tangled hair. Distracted by a heaping plate of sausages, eggs and gravy, he dug happily, but clumsily into the food with a fork, while keeping a sharp eye on Buck, who was seated across the table. When Larabee yanked a bit too hard on an embedded burr, he yelped and turned accusing, wounded eyes on Chris.
Larabee smiled at the indignant face, and gave the snarl a gentle tug in apology. "This head looks like a packrat's nest. Reckon a haircut is about all that's gonna work now."
The loving, teasing note in the older man's voice earned him a quick, greasy nuzzle that made him chuckle aloud. Buck grinned at the interplay, but was puzzled by the kid's continued muteness.
"He talk at all, Chris? I haven't heard a peep out of him since I got here."
Larabee hesitated, then gave Buck a long, considering stare. "We're bonded, Buck," he said quietly.
For the second time that day Buck Wilmington's jaw dropped. That sure explained the instant rapport between the unlikely pair. A soulbound between shapeshifters was a rare thing. It was so rare that it was considered legend by some, something Buck had heard songs about, but never seen or experienced. A instantaneous link between minds that made words superfluous, even unnecessary. The big man gave a low whistle that brought the boy's head sharply up and around.
"Gawddamn, Old Dog, you don't mess around! He got a name?"
Before Larabee could reply, the youth gave a low, hoarse sound, then stammered out in a rusty, long, unused voice; "V-v-vin. T-t-tanner."
Anxiously he looked to his mate and alpha for approval, and relaxed when Chris beamed with pride.
"That answer your question, Buck?" he asked, dropping a kiss on top of the tousled head and giving him a quick squeeze.
Buck beamed at the young man's flushed, shy look of pride.
"Way to go, Vin!" He leaned forward encouragingly. "Ya remember any more words, son?"
Vin frowned, and licked his lips nervously. Buck continued to beam encouragement at the young man. Slowly Vin opened his mouth and spoke again, carefully, as though this was a litany often recited to himself.
"M-m-ama. P-paw Paw. K-k-kitty cat."
He licked his lips again and looked nervously up at Buck. The big man gave him a wide, proud smile that matched the one Larabee wore. He leaned across the table and gently thumped Vin on the shoulder.
"Well, all right! There ya go! You keep practicing those, add a few more, and you'll be talking my ear off in no time! I reckon that deserves a reward!"
Buck tore open the candy box and held up a chunk of milk chocolate. He took an elaborate sniff of the delicacy, and yummed encouragingly, before handing it over to Vin. Vin took the piece of candy cautiously, and waited for Chris's nod before sniffing it doubtfully, then popping it into his mouth. The dark blue eyes widened in pure delight.
He devoured the treat happily, and gave Buck a wide chocolate smeared grin. Buck chuckled aloud at the look of pure bliss on the young face, and dug into the box for another piece. Vin reached for the second offered treat eagerly, only to have Larabee reach out and pluck it from his fingers.
"Finish your breakfast first, kid."
Twin pairs of dark blue eyes gave the blond alpha a shared look of outrage. He sighed. Always the bad guy.
"Alright, But only one more for now."
Hell. It was worse than having kids.
Buck whistled happily as he pulled out of the drive. He had big news to share with the others. He had left his lean alpha and new mate embroiled in a heated discussion about clothes and the necessity of wearing them in public.
Buck had also quietly warned Chris about the upcoming trouble with Mary, and possibly Maria. The blond had just given him a level look that made the hair on his nape lift. He hoped Mary showed better sense, for her own sake. A soulbond was a sacred thing, not to be tampered with.
He threw back his head and laughed aloud. He hadn't seen old Chris so lively in years. The man had his hands full now! His normally quiet, sedate life has just done a one eighty degree turn into chaos.
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