[identity profile] kat-lair.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] blacktulipfic
***

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Title: Bite the Night
Author: [livejournal.com profile] kat_lair[livejournal.com profile] pushkin666
Fandom: RPS, Strictly Come Dancing (UK)
Pairing: Bruno/Craig
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 26,887
Disclaimer: This is not a real story about real people. This is a fictional story about fictional representations of real people. Note the difference. None of the events described herein are true. No disrespect is meant and no profit made.

Summary: Bruno is a disillusioned werewolf beta. So is Craig. Except for being a beta, that part’s not quite accurate. UST, angst, power dynamics, claiming sex, clichés abound!

Author notes: Why yes, we are working our way through fandom tropes for this pairing. Vampire and Sentinel AUs in WIP status. Weep/rejoice as you wish. Outstanding beta duty by the longsuffering [livejournal.com profile] margaret_r.



Craig isn't exactly drunk, he just feels like it. That’s the way it always is; letting his carefully cultivated cover melt away and his true nature bleed back in, like full moon drifting into sight from behind the clouds. He feels lighter and stronger, just by the virtue of allowing himself be what he is. Moments like these, Craig almost forgets the reasons why he keeps it hidden in the first place.

Then of course, a few days of this and he'll end up having to wade into every single squabble and disagreement because most shifters can't help but wait for an alpha to take charge if one is around even if they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves in the absence of one. It's exhausting and frustrating and not something he wants to do. Playing at being a strong beta is by far the easier option.

But sometimes, in anonymous shifter bars on the other side of the world where no one cares what he does for a living¬¬, Craig can just let go, just for an evening or two. In Australia, the local packs still welcome him and no one is inclined to question his life choices outside its shores. This joint is classier than most he's been to, and Craig's spent a relaxed evening in one of the quieter backrooms, drinking and watching. He's almost made his mind up about whether to take someone home, knows it would probably do him good, but there's pleasure to be had in the hunt too.

Eyes focused on a group of shifters he quietly follows them to the main bar, not really stalking, just... interested. The group notices him, of course they do, but he senses nothing but interest back so everything is good.


***


Bruno has managed to find a quiet spot where he can sulk, and with any luck drink himself into enough of a stupor that he doesn't have to think too much about what happened tonight. How yet again he’d managed to find himself out with a shifter fan boy. Something he really doesn’t want ever again. It was fun when he was younger, pushing humans into submission and letting them see just what sex with a shifter was like. But now Bruno is definitely getting too old for this kind of crap. It's not really something that he wants.

What he wants, he admits in those quiet moments when he's actually honest with himself, is a mate, another shifter. But Bruno won't go there. He hasn't met an alpha that he would like to be with, or indeed another beta – certainly not for more than a night.

Taking a mouthful of his drink, Bruno casts his gaze over the bar, checking out the shifters and humans that are enjoying their night out. Pheromones coat the room, and it's a moment or two before Bruno realises there's a scent among them he recognises: one that he most definitely wasn't expecting to find here.  Bruno sits up and looks around, not quite believing that he can smell Craig.

But his nose isn't mistaken and Bruno's eyes widen as he watches Craig enter the bar from one of the side rooms.  His demeanour is different, more confident, and everything about him screams alpha. Which goes against everything Bruno knows about Craig... Or thought he did, anyway.


***


Craig is so focused on the group he's watching– a pack without an alpha really and that could be... more than he wants – and the cold burn of alcohol in his mouth that it takes his conscious mind embarrassingly long to realise that one of the things he's smelling in the room is not like the others. It's... familiar. Known.

Right on the heel of that realisation comes a name and Craig closes his eyes, just for a second, cursing under his breath because dammit, this most definitely wasn't the plan. When he opens them, his head is already turned in the right direction and his eyes confirm what his nose already told him: Bruno is here.

 And he's watching Craig with wide eyes, like he's never seen him before, which... would be about right. Because he never has, not really. Not like this. Irritation flares in him, enough that the young beta next to him cringes away even though it's aimed at no one in particular, just the damn circumstances and the twisted sense of humour the universe seems to have. For a moment, Craig entertains the idea of just slipping back into his usual act but no, it's clearly too late for that. And no matter what else, Bruno isn't stupid and once he's seen Craig – really seen him – he's unlikely to be fooled again.

With a sigh, Craig turns to the bar. The bartender ignores the customers who were there before him and takes his order first. Nobody even thinks about complaining, but then there are no other alphas at the bar at present. Oh they're here, a few of them in the club, but so far none of them are bothering Craig. A minute later, and a bottle and two glasses in his hands, Craig heads toward Bruno's table.


***


Bruno sips carefully at his whisky and coke, all the while keeping his gaze on Craig, carefully watching to see what the alpha will do. He can feel his body language beginning to change as Craig gets closer and it's at times like this that he hates his shifter nature. No matter how he might not want to react to an alpha, he can't stop himself from sinking deeper into his seat, showing that he's not a threat.

It doesn't take Craig long to reach him, pushing his way through the crowd. Although that's not quite true; if anything the other shifters are simply moving out of Craig's way, making way for the alpha.

Bruno is sitting in one of the booths, generally projecting 'fuck off' vibes so strong that no one's dared to join him for which Craig is grateful. This conversation is going to be awkward enough as it is without needing to chase off a third party.

"Bruno," he says in greeting, putting the bottle and the glasses onto the table. There's a strong sense of surprise and anger coming off the other shifter, and Bruno's expression is all defiance as he stares at Craig. His body language though...

Well, that's another story.

When Craig says his name, Bruno can't stop himself automatically leaning his head back and baring his neck. He brings his hand up to scratch it, hastily trying to disguise the instinctive reaction of any beta to an alpha's greeting.

He watches as Craig closes the curtains behind himself, sealing them into the booth. The atmosphere becomes more intimate as Craig slides into the seat opposite him.

"Well well," Bruno responds, "If it isn't Craig Revel Horwood. Tell me, when did you suddenly become an alpha Craig?" His tone is sharp, but he doesn't particularly care.

"Since birth," Craig answers, sighing. He knew to expect something like this, but it still stings, especially since the words are in conflict with Bruno's body language.

Of course, Craig knows Bruno's reaction is instinctive. That it doesn't really mean anything. But knowing that and making his own body believe it are two different things, especially when he's let his true nature out. It's always difficult to pack it all in after a night like this and Craig's never before had to try and switch between roles so suddenly. Not that doing so would do any good.

The fact remains that he's an alpha and the sight of another shifter baring his neck makes him want to push closer, just to make the point clear about who’s in charge here. And no matter how idiotic it is to his human mind, it has still taken some conscious effort to sit on the opposite side of the table and not crowd Bruno into the corner.

Since birth! Well isn't that nice! Bruno thinks. He raises his glass and then knocks the drink back, enjoying the burn as it goes down. He's already on his way to being drunk and the way he's feeling right now he thinks it would be a damned good idea to continue with this plan.

He slams the empty glass onto the table and then picks up the bottle that Craig has brought with him, noting the quality of the whisky but then he should expect nothing else.  "Very nice." He uncorks it and pours them both a measure, pushing the glass over to Craig.

"Salute." He toasts Craig with the drink, the alcohol burning his throat as he swallows.

Craig tears his eyes away from the bobbing of Bruno's Adam’s apple and contemplates the automatic way he'd poured and offered Craig a drink instead. He's pretty sure Bruno doesn't even realise he's doing it and Craig is not sure whether to be pleased or annoyed by that.

He drinks the whisky instead, but puts a hand over his glass when Bruno goes to pour them a second one. A more careful onceover tells him that for Bruno this is one of many already; he's well and truly on his way to being drunk, which for a shifter takes some concentrated effort.

"You're pissed," Craig says, and it comes out sharper than he means, but he's worried.

Bruno's hackles rise at Craig's comment, the tone of his voice. "You're not my alpha," he snaps. "It's got nothing to do with you whether I've had too much to drink or not." He takes another mouthful of the whisky and waves his glass at Craig. "If I want to get pissed it's my decision, Craig. Not yours."

"I'm well aware," Craig says tightly, grinding his teeth. Bruno is being deliberately obnoxious, and everything in Craig is screaming at him to put Bruno in his place, that this type of attitude from a beta is not to be tolerated.

But Bruno's behaviour has a reason, a good one Craig reckons, so he stays where he is. And if his nails dig into the surface of the table a little then that's neither here nor there.

Bruno laughs, and the sound is bitter even to his own ears.  He knows that he's pushing Craig. He doesn't care though, but he can tell that Craig is getting angry, from the way he's holding himself; still and tense.

He leans back in the seat and slowly rakes his eyes over Craig who is admittedly looking good, clearly dressed up for a night out. Bruno wonders whether Craig had been intending to take anybody home. He's certainly dressed for it, in tight black trousers and a t-shirt, a leather jacket slung on the seat next to him.

Craig bristles a little and Bruno smiles at him through his teeth.  "So, how come you don't have a pack Craig? I would have thought that a big strong alpha like you should have had one by now. I mean what the fuck? All these years you've apparently been pretending to be a beta." Bruno waves his drinking arm around a little, splashing whisky on the table.

He leans forward across the table. "Funny thing was Craig, I thought we were friends. But if you can keep something like this from me, from everybody else that knows you, then what does that make you?  A liar, certainly. Maybe a coward too."

Craig carefully moves his hand from around the glass before he breaks it. Everything Bruno is saying feels like a slap to the face and he reckons that's the exact effect Bruno means it to have. And from his point of view... it's deserved.

But Bruno is not Craig and he does not and cannot, understand his reasons. "It makes me tired," Craig says. "Lazy perhaps, for wanting an easy... well, easier life."

That at least piques Bruno's curiosity and he tilts his head to the side in a completely wolf-like gesture of interest, even if his drinking is not slowing down one bit.

So Craig takes the opportunity to talk, for Bruno is right; he is one of the people Craig should have trusted with this earlier and he owes him an explanation. So he tells him about how different things were in Australia, less formal than in Britain, about his marriage which fell apart for reasons other than what everyone expected. And he talks about how tired he was of being responsible, how difficult it was to get a job if there was even a smallest possibility of 'unfair influence' he might be asserting over betas and omegas without even meaning to.

Bruno gets it, he really does. But that doesn't mean that his anger has faded one bit. The unfairness of the difference between alphas and betas hits him once again.

"I see." He deliberately pours more whisky into both glasses now that Craig has unthinkingly removed his hand. "What you're saying is that you come to anonymous shifter bars because apparently you can only be yourself where no one knows you, not among people who care about you. You come here to relieve tensions do you?  Get betas and omegas fawning all over you?"

Bruno swallows more of the whisky – it's beginning to get to him now and he knows that he's going to be feeling pretty shitty in the morning. Shifters might have a fast metabolisms but they can, and do, get drunk if they put their minds to it.

Bruno is really putting his mind to it right now.

He doesn't particularly like alphas and has had a number of bad experiences in the past with some who have thought that simply because Bruno is a beta he should do whatever the hell they want. What really gets to him though is seeing the way the other wolves in the bar behaved around Craig, the way the humans stared at him. As an alpha Craig can have whoever he wants, unlike Bruno.

"So Craig, how many offers did you get tonight? Who were you planning on taking home? You could have anybody." He slumps back into his seat and places the glass on the table, staring at Craig. "Hell, if you want me, you can have me, Craig." The words fall from his mouth before he can hold them back.

Craig is half way out off his seat and across the table before his brain catches up with his body. Jesus fuck, Bruno should know better than this, even when blind drunk. By all accounts he isn't the kind of beta that pays a lot of attention to tradition but he isn't stupid and only an idiot or someone with a serious self-destructive streak would throw out an offer like that and not mean it.

"Bruno," Craig says, spits, growls, frozen between his seat and Bruno's, both hands flat on the table, muscles quivering in an effort to not move all the way across but unable yet to back down either. "Do not." He's not even sure what he's telling Bruno not to do: to not talk, to not lie, to not play with things neither of them is prepared to handle right now.

Craig’s words are a smack in the face, yet another rejection in a long line of them, and Bruno has really had enough tonight. He’s tired of people trying to use him because of what he is, and now here's Craig rejecting him. Craig, who right now is pushing all of Bruno's buttons by looming over him like this, and god Bruno wants him. Despite his anger and the lingering sense of betrayal, he wants Craig to push him down right now and bite him; to dig his claws into Bruno's back and fuck him.

But Craig doesn't want him, has just given him a command, and if Craig doesn't want him then... Well, then Bruno will take his offer elsewhere.

"Not good enough for you then eh? Oh well." He starts to push himself up from the seat. "I'm sure someone here wouldn't mind a taste. I'm told I'm very good at what I do."

Even drunk Bruno is quick and co-ordinated, thanks to his shifter genes, and he's on his feet, pushing the curtain aside before Craig has had a chance to process half of what he's actually said. Granted, this is largely because what Bruno is saying is making no sense.

The message Bruno's body is sending right now, however, is unmistakable. Everything about him, his scent, the way he's holding himself, screams of availability and desperation. By the time Bruno has stepped out of the booth every alpha in the bar and quite a few of the betas are staring, and the level of lust and aggression in the place has spiked noticeably. It's like a storm front approaching and Craig can feel his hackles go up, suspects it's happening quite literally as he can feel fangs pushing through and the distant pain of knuckles cracking as his hands rearrange themselves into something more deadly.

His warning growl is loud, and the arm he wraps around Bruno's waist anchors the smaller shifter against him as securely as a steel band. "We're going now," he says, both to Bruno and for the benefit of their avid audience.

Craig backs toward the door, not daring to turn his back to the place right now, not the way Bruno is still as good as shouting 'take me' at anyone with the ability to listen. Only when they're safely on the street does Craig relax a little though he doesn't let go of Bruno who is now struggling and spitting curses at him.

"Shut up," Craig says, trying to ignore the way Bruno feels pressed tight against him, his neck so close that if Craig wanted to he could just... But no, Bruno is drunk and angry and upset and most importantly clearly not in his right mind. "What were you trying to do? Get gang raped?" Craig asks, knowing full well the words come out harsh and mangled, from a mouth that isn't yet back to fully human even though being out of immediate danger is helping with his control.

Bruno tries to struggle out of Craig's hold but it’s impossible, and Craig lets out a low growl as his claws dig into Bruno's side, giving an unmistakable warning. That and Craig's command telling him to shut up, are all that is needed to calm Bruno a little even though he doesn't particularly want to.

The desire to do what Craig wants is stronger now than it was in the club, and Bruno knows it's because of his words to Craig, his offer. Craig hasn't thrown his words back at him, not really, and Bruno's instincts are yelling at him to press against Craig which makes him even more annoyed, despite the alcohol coursing through his system.

"Let me go," he mutters at Craig. "I don't need you to hold me up and I'm not going to go back into the club." He glares at Craig. "I'm not quite that desperate."

Craig makes a non-committal sound but after a moment of staring at Bruno he loosens his grip but doesn't step away from him.

"Where are you staying?" he asks.  Bruno reluctantly gives him the information and a few moments later they're piling into the back of a cab, Craig's soft command to "behave" ringing in Bruno's ears.

Bruno huddles into the corner of the cab, as far away from Craig as he can, doing his best to ignore the alpha and watching the scenery go past as the cab speeds towards its destination. This evening has gone from bad to worse and he really doesn't know what else can happen. He doesn't want Craig taking him back to his hotel as though he were an errant pup or an omega unable to look after himself, but it's pretty obvious from the tense way that Craig is sitting, and the way his claws haven't fully retracted, that he's still pretty pissed off.

It's quite a long taxi ride, the shifter club being on the outskirts of the city and it being Saturday means the traffic is quite heavy even this time of the night. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. The warmth and quiet of the cab makes both of them relax slightly. Craig can sense that Bruno is still annoyed but he's been nothing else all evening, and right now it's being softened by the alcohol that is finally starting to take its toll.

While Bruno slumps lower in the seat, not quite sleeping but clearly too worn to actively try to fight, Craig himself takes a few moments to wrestle his control back. It's easier now and he knows it's because they're away from other shifters and because he has Bruno in his sights, within touching distance. Not that he's planning on doing any touching, well not beyond the increasing probability of having to physically haul the smaller shifter into the hotel.

That's not to say Craig doesn't want to. Of course he does. Bruno is attractive and fun and smart, all qualities his human side has appreciated for a while now, even though he never planned on acting on those thoughts. Working together, being friends, but still with the underlying distance Craig knew was all his own doing as he wouldn't let anyone that close out of the need to keep up the charade of being just a powerful beta like Bruno. Now though... Oh those human qualities are still there, buried under snark and alcohol at the moment of course, but that's not what's tipped the scales.

Bruno had offered himself to Craig, throat bared and belly up, metaphorically at least though the body language had been there too. The fact that he had done it as some kind of taunt and dig, and out of anger and feelings of betrayal... Well, Craig's wolf side didn't care about those kinds of details one bit. It just wanted to take what was offered, pin the shifter to the nearest flat surface and...

"That'll be sixty dollars," the driver says, and Craig is grateful for the interruption. Dealing with the money and pulling Bruno out of the car in front of the hotel are all reassuringly normal, human activities, in a normal human setting, that help him keep his instincts at bay.

Bruno sways and when Craig's arm goes around his waist he just slumps against him, albeit with an annoyed snarl.

"Yeah," Craig says. "My thoughts exactly. Now let’s get you inside."

The taxi journey has tired Bruno out, and the fresh air hits him like a sledgehammer making him sway on his feet. Even though he grumbles at Craig for supporting him he's grateful for the way that Craig holds him securely.

Bruno’s instincts are telling him to press close to Craig, and he can't stop himself from sniffing at Craig as he's pulled toward the hotel entrance. "You smell good," he mutters, his mouth running away with itself. He's not lying; Craig smells of leather and sweat, but underneath it all there's a deep wet scent of wolves running through an ancient forest. Bruno lowers his head, trying to concentrate on his feet and where he's going rather than on Craig and not for the first time does he wish that the night was over.

Craig guides him into the hotel, and it's not long before they're stood outside Bruno's room.  It takes a number of attempts for Bruno to key in the code to his suite but finally they're inside.

Craig steers Bruno in, hovering while he kicks off his shoes and out of his jacket. He is also carefully not mentioning Bruno's comments because everything he could say ('so do you', 'let me taste you', 'I'd smell even better on you') is wholly unproductive for keeping control of the situation.

Thankfully, Bruno is too tired now to push it further, and Craig wonders whether the dejected slump of his shoulders is just alcohol or something else. "Go sleep it off," he says, but not unkindly, all the while herding Bruno toward the bedroom.

Bruno isn't going to argue with Craig's words because all he wants to do right now is sleep and try and forget the events of the night. Hell, it's at times like this he'd like to forget that he’s a shifter, wishes he'd been born a human. Maybe Craig is right about him setting himself up to be gang raped but at least he'd have been wanted, and in the back of his mind he knows just how sick that thought is.

"Let me go," he tells Craig, shrugging him off as he drops onto the bed. "I can manage from here, you don't need to stay.  Unless you want a show, that is." He stares at Craig as he starts to try and shuck out of his clothes although for some reason his clothes seem to be fighting him.  "Stupid clothes," he mutters, lying back on the bed and trying to undo the buttons on his jeans.

Craig takes a careful breath, grabbing the doorframe with one hand because he needs something to ground him right now. And if his fingers morph into claws and those claws are leaving grooves on the wood, well then that's on the other side of the frame where Bruno can't see.

Not that he's paying any attention right now, on his back on the bed, hips raised, shirt half off and his warm belly all soft and exposed, and Craig can smell him from here, and... Fuck, Bruno really must be drunk because there's no way he'd be putting on a show like this in front of an alpha, at least not Craig, if he was in his right mind.

Craig stays just long enough to see Bruno wiggle out of his jeans before he says a brisk "good night" and retreats, shutting the door behind him firmly. He's moving on autopilot now, back out into the main room, out of the door and into the corridor, taking the stairs instead waiting for lift because he can't stand still, needs to get out of here as fast as he...

Fuck. Craig gets as far as the hotel reception and then he stops, like walking into an invisible wall. He can't leave. He wants to. But he can't, the wolf won't let him. Bruno is in the building and Bruno is his and every alpha instinct is screaming at Craig to stay and guard even while his human brain is pointing out the utter ridiculousness of the situation.

"Fucking fuck!" he curses, loud enough to scare a couple passing by, not that he cares. Craig stands there, cursing stupid drunken betas who go about offering the impossible and not meaning it, flexing his fingers into fists as he stares longingly at the darkened street outside the lobby, utterly unable to actually walk through the hotel doors.


***


As the door closes behind Craig, Bruno carefully pushes himself up from the bed. Dropping his clothes on the floor he staggers to the bathroom.

Craig has gone and Bruno is unsettled, the room colder than it was before.  He shakes his head a little, trying to clear his thoughts but immediately regrets it. He cannot remember the last time he was quite this drunk.

He pisses and then moves over to the basin to wash his hands. Bruno stares at himself in the mirror, and the wolf stares right back.

It is rare for Bruno to lose control like this, although it is only his eyes that have changed; the wolf's silvery green leeching into the brown of the human irises.

Bruno grips the side of the wash basin and simply stares. His wolf is ridiculously close to the surface, instincts and emotions overtaking the human and it's all he can do to stop from throwing his head back and howling his loss that Craig is no longer here!

It's still in the bathroom for a few moments, whilst Bruno tries to wrestle his wolf back under control. The last thing he wants to do right now is shift even more and follow after Craig. That would most definitely cause an incident, and it's not as if he even knows where Craig lives although he has his scent and could follow him as long as Craig was on foot.

His wolf does not want to be quiet but Bruno isn't a strong beta for nothing and eventually the wolf acquiesces. Well as much as possible when it's so pissed off. Bruno can almost hear it snarling, quiet and resentful inside his head. Usually he doesn’t think of himself in such dualistic terms – he is the wolf and the wolf is he – but then usually there isn’t such a disconnect between what he wants and what he should do either.

Bruno washes face and then heads into the lounge area of his suite. It's pointless even bothering to take headache tablets as his metabolism will simply burn them up before they have any effect. Instead, Bruno takes a couple of bottles of cold water from the fridge and heads back to bed.  He's shivering slightly, although not from cold, and wrapping himself securely in the bed covers Bruno closes his eyes, willing himself to sleep.


***


There's nothing else to it; Craig can either stay in the lobby, muttering curses to himself like a lunatic and quite likely drawing the interest of the staff even more (already the receptionist is eyeing him in a way that suggests she's considering calling the security), or he can turn tail and go back to Bruno's suite, where he can at least have his mental breakdown without an audience. One thing is certain: Craig is not going home tonight.

With an annoyed huff he doubles back to the staircase, climbing them slowly to Bruno's floor. There's silence on the other side of the door, which suggests Bruno has gone to bed, hopefully passing out, although Craig is not expecting his luck to hold out that much. Getting in is easy enough since Bruno took several tries to get his code right, giving plenty of time to Craig to memorise it without meaning to. Or perhaps he had meant to, subconsciously, and isn't that just peachy.

Craig ignores the way his wolf side has calmed down as soon as he's sharing space with Bruno again, able to smell him clearly. The bedroom door is closed but Craig picks up the increased heartbeat as Bruno alerts to someone entering the rooms. However, he obviously realises who it is as there is no further reaction. Craig is a little surprised by that, almost expects Bruno to come barrelling through the door, fangs bared and demanding to know what the hell Craig is doing intruding like this but... nothing happens.

In the end, Craig gives up standing in the middle of the lounge on full alert and kicks off his shoes and takes off his jacket, settling on the sofa. He's clearly here for the night, might as well get comfortable. Sleep though... well, that's another matter entirely.


***


Bruno comes instantly alert as his territory is breached, and he pushes the sheets back ready to attack when he realises that the intruder is Craig. He hadn't really been sleeping, just dosing fitfully, the room too warm.

He tenses though wondering if Craig is going to come into the room but after a few moments he realises that's not the case.  Bruno settles back into the bed, calmer now that Craig is here. Putting the sheets back over him he turns toward the bedroom door and closes his eyes, listening to Craig.  It takes a little while before Craig's breathing slows and deepens, and finally Bruno is able to sleep.


***


In the end Craig does sleep, albeit fitfully, snatches here and there, startling awake at every sound; someone walking past the door, a car horn outside. He finally gives up around seven am, getting up with a groan. The sofa in Bruno's suite looks far more comfortable than it actually is, at least for sleeping.

Gingerly, he stretches and contemplates the value of having a shower even though it means getting back into his less than fresh clothes afterwards. Bruno is still sleeping though, which Craig knows because he's been keeping half an ear on his heartbeat and breathing all night, so in the end he gives into the lure of hot water.

First though, he orders breakfast, going straight to the largest option on the shifter menu. Bruno is going to need food when he wakes up, his body having used up plenty of calories during the night, processing that amount of alcohol.

On the way to the bathroom, Craig pauses outside the bedroom door, laying both his palms against it and just letting his senses drift toward the sleeping beta, and sink in deep. Maybe he should've done that earlier, because those two minutes of indulgence leave him feeling calmer than the night spent tossing and turning had. He still doesn't know what to think about the whole situation, not helped by the fact that his wolf side doesn't see anything to think about here at all and is simply urging him to act. A desirable beta has made an offer and it's alpha's instinct to accept that, in the most explicit way possible; by claiming what's his.

But Craig knows that it's not that simple, not really, and so he leaves Bruno to sleep and goes to drown his troubled thoughts in the hot shower.


***


It's the intrusion into his territory again, this time by a stranger, that brings Bruno up and out of the bed, his hands flexing into claws. Bruno stalks to the closed bedroom door and pulls it open, snarling as he does.

There's a startled yelp and all that Bruno sees of the intruder is his back as he hurtles out of the door, slamming it behind him.

Bruno stalks over to the door and pulls it open again, checking to make sure that his territory really is safe now. The corridor is empty and he breathes for a moment before turning back into the room and closing the door behind him.

Craig stands, staring at him, hands on his hips and Bruno stares back for a moment before noting what he hasn't before: the tantalising smell of food coming from the table in the corner of the room.

"Well done for traumatising the waiter," Craig remarks drily, "I'm sure he'll be full of stories about crazy shifters back in the kitchen." The sarcasm is on autopilot, for which Craig is grateful. It creates a distraction, a little normality where none seems to exist in this strange new reality where Bruno wanders under his nose, dressed in nothing but skin and a slowly disappearing strip of fur along his spine.

It's Bruno's genuine startlement at the situation, and the cautious look he throws Craig's way, that saves him from being pinned to the floor. Craig's control is good, but he wasn't expecting a display like this first thing in the morning. Or ever, for that matter. Still, he can stop himself from moving, but he can't stop himself from looking, and he definitely can't stop himself from wanting - that much had dawned on him during the long restless hours last night.

The atmosphere changes, becoming tenser as Craig stares at him and Bruno can feel his hackles starting to rise on the back of his neck. It's been a very long time since he stood naked in front of an alpha, showing off really albeit unintentionally, and he takes a slow step back and then another, away from Craig.

Craig growls softly and Bruno halts his retreat. He curls his fingers into his palms, the claws digging into his skin and lets Craig continue his slow perusal of Bruno's body. Bruno wants to drop to the floor, to show his submission, especially as it begins to dawn on him just what he did last night. Getting up in an alpha's face is not something that's done in their culture. Certainly not by a beta.

That and the fact that he's now parading naked in front of Craig, and Bruno knows that he's in trouble. His actions of the previous night and now are a sure fire way to get him beaten down, and if Craig was anything like the alphas in Bruno's home pack that would have happened by now. The smell of want from Craig is stronger now, curling through the room and over Bruno's skin and as Craig takes a step toward him Bruno stills. He's shivering, feeling jittery and vulnerable and wants nothing more than to hide in his room, away from Craig's eyes and his presence.

Craig growls again, but this time in frustration, mostly at himself. There's a part of him, a big part, that is both annoyed and impressed that Bruno isn't on the floor yet. He's strong, and Craig likes that, but at the same time he wants to press further to see what it takes, remembers the easy way Bruno had bared his throat and belly last night, even if only in taunt and then in drunken carelessness, and Craig wants that again.

Another step forward and Bruno's gaze drops to the floor and his knees start to buckle and Craig knows, knows, that he could have it, have Bruno, right now on the hotel carpet while the breakfast cools on the table and no one would come running no matter how much Bruno screamed because this is shifter business and no human is going to intervene there if they value their life.

Craig exhales slowly, forcing himself into stillness, forcing himself to acknowledge the fear that's emanating from the smaller shifter. His human side is appalled. The alpha in him is worried and confused too, once the initial need for dominance passes. Carefully, he takes a step back, turning slightly away.

"Go get dressed," he says gruffly. "The food's getting cold."

Bruno relaxes slightly as Craig shifts his attention away from him and he slowly moves to his bedroom, keeping his eyes on the alpha the whole time. Craig follows him first with his gaze but then he turns his back on Bruno and walks over to the corner of the room where the breakfast is set out.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Bruno slips into the bedroom. He leaves the door open so Craig doesn't react to being closed out, and within a short period of time he's dressed in a soft worn t-shirt and joggers. There's nothing that Bruno would like more than a shower right now, a large mug of strong coffee and some meat, but it appears as though he's only going to get two of those at the moment. And he's going to have to sit opposite Craig.

"Oh dio mio," he breathes, sinking down onto the bed and dropping his head into his hands. He really has put his foot in it, hasn’t he? Offering himself to an alpha, to somebody who is a friend... What had he been thinking? And although he hasn't been claimed neither has the offer been rejected.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Bruno mutters as he wraps his arms around his stomach and starts to rock, wishing right now that he had pack mates he could curl up with, who would protect him. But that's something that has been denied to him for a long time, years in fact.


***


Craig fidgets, unable to settle. Bruno's distress grates at his nerves like blunt claws scratching and scratching endlessly, without rest. Every instinct is shouting at him to act, to do something to alleviate the situation, but he doesn't know what would work. If Bruno truly was his beta, or a claimed mate, Craig would have no problem in just pinning him down and physically forcing him to calm. And if Bruno was still nothing but a friend, Craig could go in and talk to him. But this no man's land, this no wolf's country, that they're stuck in, has him at a loss.

Craig knows that Bruno's upset is partly because of him, and partly because of the situation, and for Craig to go in there acting like an alpha – like he just had and look where that had got them! – was only going to make things worse.

After turning around in circles – literally, and isn't that just icing on the cake – for a few minutes and listening to Bruno's panicked breathing, Craig finally stumbles on an idea. Bruno needs comforting but he's unlikely to accept it from Craig, at least not as he is now, their human fears and doubts getting in the way. But wolves view the world much more simply. And if Craig can connect directly to that side, he might just be able to normalise the situation.

Decision made, Craig doesn't hesitate, quickly stripping out of his clothes. Only alphas can fully shift outside of full moon, and even then with difficulty. Partial transformation is easier, particularly in times of high stress when it can happen without conscious effort. However, pushing fully over without the pull of the moon, takes blunt strength. Craig turns his attention inwards, tapping into the need to go to the aid of a pack mate, his beta, and he can think like that now because the wolf has no other concepts for it. The feel of bone and muscle shifting is as nauseating as always, the pain deep and oddly pure, and Craig grunts, dropping to all fours, pushing, pushing, through the hurt and the humanity, right to the beast within.

And without.

It's over in minutes. Still panting from the effort Craig gets up, claws clicking against the floor as he pads toward the bedroom, pushing the door fully open with his nose.

Bruno is so caught up in his misery that he doesn't even realise somebody else, or something else, is in the room with him until a nose pokes him on the side. Bruno drops his hands and lifts his head, looking at the wolf that's joined him. It's a surprise to see that Craig has shifted, but perhaps it shouldn't be; the other shifter is an alpha after all and can change when he wants.

Craig is large, larger than Bruno in his shifter form but that shouldn’t be a surprise either.  He's a very handsome wolf; tan and brown with black tipped guard hair and ears, the colour fading to pale tan, almost cream, on his legs. Craig's eyes are yellow and frighteningly intelligent as they stare up at Bruno. Bruno puts out hand to stroke Craig, and then pulls it back, not sure whether it will be allowed.

The wolf makes a noise, almost like a snort. It's been a long time since Bruno's been around another wolf in shifter form and it feels comfortable, safe, and Bruno slips down onto the floor to sit next to him. Closing his eyes Bruno leans against Craig. Craig huffs but Bruno doesn't care. This feels right and as they sit together Bruno starts to calm down. Tentatively he strokes his hand down Craig's back wondering how Craig would react if he scratched his ears. Not something that he intends to attempt without permission.  It's nice though, just sitting like this and stroking Craig.  Wolves are by nature tactile, and Bruno is very tactile as a human. It's just a long time since he's been able to be like this with another wolf.


***


His beta is calmer now, the sour smell of anxiety fading, and his hands feel nice on Craig's back, stroking steadily. After a while Craig yawns, a big, teeth-baring one, and gets up. He sticks his nose into Bruno's neck, then his arm pit, finally giving his crotch a quick sniff too. Everything smells good, normal, not ill or scared, just sleep stale and lingering alcohol which makes Craig sneeze.

He's hungry now though and the steak in the other room is calling. He glances at the doorway, then back at Bruno, impatient. Nothing happens, the man simply staring at him, surprise and amusement evident in his scent and body language. If Craig was in his human form he'd be rolling his eyes, but as a wolf he simply yips impatiently and licks Bruno's face quickly, startling a bark-like laugh. Carefully, Craig takes Bruno's t-shirt between his teeth and tugs.

And that... is pretty self-explanatory.  Bruno laughs again and pushes up from the floor.  "Alright, alright I'm coming," he tells Craig. "The food isn't going to be particularly nice now in any event I imagine. It will probably be lukewarm and dry." Craig doesn't let go, simply tugs him toward the lounge and Bruno follows.

Bruno expects Craig to change back when they reach the food but he doesn't, instead settling against Bruno's side as Bruno sits, and leaning against his leg.  "You're heavy," Bruno tells him which Craig completely ignores continuing to press against him.

"Now let’s see what you ordered because I'm starving." He really is very hungry as a result of the previous night and protein is needed in large quantities. He drops his hand and automatically starts to scratch Craig's ears not realising at first what he's doing until Craig catches his hand lightly in his mouth.  "Sorry," Bruno mutters thinking that he's transgressed yet again. This whole situation is awkward but he prefers Craig in wolf form at the moment to human form.

He leans over and lifts the lids of the dishes pleased that they'd been placed on trays to keep them warm. Craig clearly thought he needed feeding up as a veritable feast of steak, lamb chops, bacon and sausage is laid on the table, so much meat that it's bordering ridiculous. At least there's some thought given to what human's might need and a large bowl of mushrooms and roasted tomatoes is also included.

"Really, Craig," Bruno comments.  "Anybody would think that there were two shifters here."  He puts together a plate of meat for Craig first and it feels a little weird putting it on the floor as though Craig were a pet dog but it looks like Craig isn't prepared to change back just yet.

Bruno pours a cup of coffee for himself and sits and waits to see whether or not Craig will eat. Alphas always eat first in every pack, and he won't touch the food until Craig has.

Craig tears into the meat like, well, like the wolf that he is, only pausing half way to check Bruno is eating too. Which he is, though more slowly and ineffectually, hampered by blunt human teeth. Regardless, they get through most of the food in record time.


***


Craig is content for the moment; food and his beta and a safe place to rest are all he needs for now and even though it's not quite his own territory it smells of Bruno and that's calming.

When Bruno sits on the sofa, cradling another cup of coffee and seemingly disinclined to do or demand anything, Craig jumps up next to him. He turns in a circle a few times, heedless of stepping on Bruno's legs, finally settling with his front paws and head over them.

This way he'll know if Bruno moves and if someone comes too close he's between them and his beta.

As Craig parks himself on his legs, Bruno's feels safe and settled in a way that he hasn't for a very long time. Finishing his coffee he places the mug on the side table and rests his head on the back of the sofa.  His wolf is quiet and happy, and Bruno knows that it's because no matter what he might think of the situation, as far as his wolf is concerned its alpha is here.

There's a not so small twinge of envy at how alphas can shift at any time, but it's an old envy. Bruno thinks about how much he'd like to change right now and curl up with Craig; just two wolves together. Things are simpler in wolf form, but he can't. He's only a beta and can only change at the full moon.  Oh, as a strong beta, a prime one, he can partially shift at other times, but it’s normally at times of extreme pressure, distress or danger.

Bruno's mouth has a bitter twist to it as he looks down at the shifted Craig. The fact that he wasn't an alpha was yet another way in which he'd disappointed his parents; the alpha pair of his pack. Not the required alpha. Only a beta, although strong enough to be a prime, but that hadn't been good enough for them. That and being gay and it's really no wonder that Bruno no longer goes home, hasn't for a very long time. Essentially he is packless. Even his wolf colour is an anomaly in the area of Italy his pack hails from, the black a complete difference to the typical grey colour.

Bruno sighs; it's an old hurt and pointless dwelling on it. Craig lifts his head and stares up at him and it's pretty obvious that he's disturbed by the emotions that Bruno is feeling.  "I'm sorry," he tells Craig, stroking over his fur again, the movement relaxing him.  "It's nothing important. Just something that's never going to change. I'm tired," he continues, "but we know why that is. Way too much alcohol." Craig huffs and Bruno smiles. "Yes I know, but it was needed."

Craig snorts again as though in disagreement but then he drops his head back onto Bruno's lap, and nope Bruno's not thinking about that position at all. He closes his eyes.  "Just a few moments," he mutters.



***

Continue to Part 2

***

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Black Tulip Fic

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