WARNING: This story contains bestiality of sorts. The main characters are shapeshifters, so they are still human under the fur and fangs, but nonetheless there is a human and a shifted human in animal form engaging in sex.

A Sudden Shift in Perception

Angyl & Rina

March 2003

Heathrow Airport was a madhouse, and it required some fancy footwork for Lucas San Gabriel to get through the crowds and find an island of relative calm in the main terminal. "Insanity," he laughed to himself, setting his laptop case between his feet and letting his over-sized backpack slide from his shoulder to the ground. A well-dressed matron almost tripped on his skateboard, and he gave her a sincere apology as he attached it more firmly to the bag.

"Ruffian," she muttered to herself, making him hide his grin behind his hand. Looks could be deceiving, and in the case of Lucas, they definitely were. He was only twenty-two and at the moment looked like a refuge from a skate-boarding park, but he also possessed an amazing mind as well as several other even less visible qualities.

After making sure that his board wouldnít go astray again, he reached up and pulled the clip from his hair. The long, platinum strands fell into his face, obscuring his wide blue eyes for a moment before he confined them under the platinum clasp again, sighing with weariness. He had spent the last week at a conference on genetics, and while some of the topics had been interesting and might provide some new input to his personal projects, the tedium of the whole thing reminded him of why he walked away from MIT before finishing his doctoral program.

He was contemplating sliding to the floor alongside his bags and catching a few Zís as his flight back to the States wasnít due in for another two hours when a commotion further down the concourse caught his attention. "Curiosity killed the cat," he chuckled to himself, shouldering his backpack once again and grabbing up his laptop bag so that he could head in the direction of the near frenzy.

From the babbling of the excited people around him, he finally made out that a soccer team, ĎManchester Unitedí, was there, and that apparently the players were as popular as movie stars back home. "Soccer, oh please," Lucas laughed to himself, turning to head back to his spot when a familiar feeling low in his spine made him pause.

Drawing back from the crowd, he found a vantage point and tried to zero in on just who was putting him on alert but couldnít narrow it down more than the fact that the person was one of the men on the soccer team. Frowning thoughtfully, he pulled out his cell phone and turned it on, then dialed an international number, all the while shadowing the mob as they followed the team.

"Joe? Hey, get Dad for me, okay?

"Hey, Dad. Iím going to be late getting back. Yeah, yeah, I think I did. Might have to take a side-trip to find out for sure though. Iíll call you once I know where Iím going."

Rowan and his teammates were lapping up the attention of the adoring hangers on as per usual when he started to get that itchy feeling again. It was the feeling that had been driving him mad for the past six months or so, like he was being watched and watched intently. It would come and go, but each time it made his skin crawl and put him on edge for weeks at a time.

Nothing seemed to work when that happened, not meditation, not beating the shit out of the punching bag, not running until he was exhausted and couldnít think straight. Not even sex or pub-crawls with his mates helped, and the trouble was the longer it went on, the more out of control he got. He had a dozen or so shredded punching bags to prove how bad it was getting.

Of course none of his usual tension relievers were in sight, and suddenly the crowd went from cute and fun to oppressive and maddening.

"I need to go take a leak, Billy mate; tell the coach Iíll meet you in the lounge area. Hope the flight leaves soon; Iím dying to get home and have a few days off before our next match. Iím bloody knackered." With that the aggravated man slipped out of the crowd and headed into the flight lounge of the connecting flight that would take them from Heathrow up to Manchester and home.

*~*~*

On the verge of growling as he still couldnít find a way to get close enough to the team to discover which member was his latent, Lucas set his shoulders, intent on bulling his way through the on-lookers, when he pulled up. There in front of him, looking intent on slipping away from the fray, had to be the one he was feeling. "Gotcha," he grinned, following after the soccer player, wondering if heíd be mistaken for a groupie or what.

Feeling twitchy, Rowan Brand, also known as Bran, began to walk faster and faster. A couple of the more persistent groupies started to follow him, and the last thing he wanted was to snap and lose his temper entirely. Sighing with relief, Bran flashed his first class ticket and slid past the security guard into the lounge. A drink. He needed a good stiff drink, preferably two of them, or maybe three.

"You arenít going to get away that easily," Lucas murmured to himself, digging his ticket to New York out of his pocket and waving it in the guardís face, neatly side-stepping several disappointed young women who couldnít get in. He wasnít going to accost the latent here; he just wanted to watch him some and see what kind of person he was.

Sliding up onto a stool halfway around the bar from the soccer player, Lucas spun a coaster on his finger, waiting for the bartender to come take his order.

The itching sensation was back stronger than ever, and it was driving him mad! Growling low in his throat, Bran tossed back his drink and indicated his need for another one. Knocking that back too, Rowan dropped a couple pound notes on the bar and began to pace the lounge.

Snarling at one or two people who got too close to him, Bran headed towards a quiet corner far out of the way of everyone. A couple of mates had offered him a little something to help before, but the soccer player preferred meditation to drug abuse. Curling himself into a lounge chair, the young man took a few deep, calming breaths and tried to find his center, hoping he could distract himself with meditation long enough to make it to the flight, which was almost an hour away.

Blue eyes surreptitiously tracking every move the latent made, Lucas frowned, his brow creasing in worry. This was bad. He could feel the energy pouring off the other man; it crawled over his skin like electricity, and he found himself wondering how the hell the guy had kept himself together this long. At this rate, heíd trigger himself, and then there would be hell to pay.

Deciding heíd better lend a hand before the soccer player went psycho and tore the place up, Lucas shouldered his gear again and crossed over to the dark corner where the other man was trying to calm himself.

"Want some help?" he asked, setting his bags down next to the chair, careful not to make any loud noises or sudden moves. "Pardon me for saying it, but you look like a cat with nine tails in a room full of rocking chairs."

Eyes snapping open at the sound of an American voice, it took every ounce of willpower Bran had to keep himself in check. Any other time, any other place and heíd be checking the guy out as the Yank really was quite spectacular, but right now he was one more irritation that pushed him that much closer to the edge.

"Look, mate, Iím really not in the mood for company right now, so if you donít mind, bugger off," the older man demanded as politely as he could.

Polite wasnít going to get him anywhere, Lucas realized, so he shrugged and reached around behind the other man, resting a hand on his back. "Let me guess; you feel like youíre going to jump out of your skin, and your spine is crawling, right about here..." Saying that, he dug his thumb into the tense muscle around the other manís backbone, feeling it quiver and twitch under the pressure before finally loosening up.

Branís jaw hit his chest, and the groan of relief took him unawares. He could feel the tension seep out of his body and flow away, leaving him relaxed for the first time in a very long time. "Fuck me," he moaned. "What the hell did you do, and how did you know how to do it?"

Grinning and moving so that he could reach the taut tendons on either side of the other manís neck, Lucas repeated the maneuver, hearing as well as feeling the sigh of relief as more tightly strung muscles relaxed. "Trust me, Iíve had lots of experience with the type of problems youíre having." Lucas smiled and dropped into the seat across from the latent. "You might say itís one of my specialties. Iím Lucas, by the way. Lucas San Gabriel." He held out a hand, waiting for the other man to take it.

Sizing up the younger man for long moments, Bran finally took the hand in his own. "Rowan Brand. Thanks for the help, mate. You have no idea how badly I needed that."

"Oh, I have a pretty good idea," Lucas said sympathetically. "How long have you been feeling like that?" Regretfully, he let go of Rowanís hand, telling himself to stick to business and not notice just how damn attractive the other man was.

Wiping his sweaty palm on the leg of his trousers, Rowan bit back a sigh of regret. Admittedly heíd shagged people heíd known for an even shorter time than this bloke, but... there was something about Lucas San Gabriel that made Rowan want to behave for once. Dammit!

"Itís been going on a while now," the soccer player admitted, "but itís been getting progressively worse over the past six months. Iím gonna sound cracked saying this, but I get the feeling Iím being watched, and then I canít seem to crawl back into my skin, if that makes any sense."

Shite, Bran moaned; he hoped he wasnít going round the bend like his birth mother had. He wondered if insanity was hereditary. Although he wasnít complaining about being made pregnant by a cat-man, just complaining about being watched.

"It does, trust me on that." Lucas leaned in closer to Rowan so that they could keep their voices down. Damnit, this was tricky enough to handle when the person was more or less prepared; how the hell was he supposed to calm a latent who was this near to turning on his own?

"I can teach you some tricks to - get yourself back in your skin, so to speak. About the watching though..." This was the delicate part. "Itís not crazy; Iím willing to bet at least part of the time, you were being watched by people - well, like me."

Rowanís defenses shot back up at the last, and he moved back, eyes narrowing as he watched the younger man carefully. "Care to explain..."

"OI! Bran! You wanna go home, mate, or stay here talking to the pretty boy with the fanboy complex?" one of Rowanís team-mates shouted from across the way.

"Shite!" bolting to his feet, Bran headed towards the now open gate, sparing a glance back at the Yank. "Sorry, mate, but I need to get home! Thanks for the help." And with that Bran rejoined the rest of the Man U team, taking some good-natured ribbing and cajoling for his Ďdistractioní.

"Fuck!" Lucas growled. By trying to put the other man at ease, heíd just made him even more edgy, and while the bit of acupressure heíd used would help for a day or so, it wasnít going to stop what was going on inside Rowan.

"Great, so now the Ďpretty-boy with the fanboy complexí gets to follow the big, bad soccer player onto the plane - if I can get a ticket, that is."

Fifteen minutes and a lot of low-voiced arguing later, he watched the plane with the team on it taxi away from the terminal. Even a platinum American Express card couldnít get him on the fully booked flight, so he was forced to wait for the next flight, two hours later.

Sighing, Lucas collapsed into one of the seats in the boarding area and pulled out his phone once again. "Hey, Joe. Yeah, I got his name. Rowan Brand, plays soccer for Manchester, which is where Iím headed as soon as I get on the plane. No. Yeah, yeah, heís close. If I miss with him, we could have something really ugly here. Just e-mail me the information, and Iíll let you know if I get him. Say hi to Amy for me, Ďkay? Bye."

*~*~*

A short flight, an inordinate amount of debarking delays, waiting for luggage, and finally a long car ride later, Rowan stood under the almost too hot spray of his shower and felt the tension finally melt away. He almost felt human again, thank God! Now all he needed was a steak, as rare as he could manage it, a beer and a good lay, and heíd be back on an even keel.

Oddly enough, his mind kept drifting to the odd American bloke from Heathrow. He had been bloody gorgeous and those eyes. Rowan could have drowned in those eyes had he been in a better mood.

Sighing and mentally shrugging at opportunities found and lost, the soccer player turned off the water and padded naked into his bedroom. Maybe a night on the town, dancing, grinding, and getting pissed would be in order.

*~*~*

Leaning back in the driverís seat of the Range Rover heíd rented at the Manchester Airport, Lucas yawned and shifted his bones just enough to get rid of any stiffness heíd developed from the ride on the plane and the time heíd been sitting in the dark, watching the small cottage across the way. Every so often, he could see a shadowed figure pass by the windows, so he knew Rowan was there; now he just had to find a way to approach the other man and get him to listen.

There was the tried and true shock value method, and while it had its advantages, he needed to know a bit more about the other manís emotional state before using it. Lucas chuckled at that. Thanks to his older brotherís internet detective work, he now knew just about everything there was to know about Rowan Brand, including the fact that he swung just about every way there was.

A hunger of another sort than the kind that was making his stomach growl rose up in him, and he quashed it back down. "Deal with his situation first, then worry about your libido, Luke," he muttered to himself.

Taking one last look at himself in the mirror, Bran had to admit he looked good. He had on tight black jeans, a skintight blue shirt that brought out the blue in his eyes, and a black leather jacket over top to complete the outfit. Prowling clothes or trolling clothes depending on whom he actually picked up tonight.

The steak and beer had done him wonders, as had the shower and nap. Now he was ready for some fun. Making sure he had his money and his keys, the soccer player shut the door behind him, locking it, and headed out for a night on the town.

*~*~*

"God, finally! A guy could starve out here with all this waiting." An hour and a half of waiting hadnít done much for Lucasí mood, and he knew heíd better grab a bite to eat somewhere, or he might do more harm than good in dealing with Rowan.

Wishing heíd had time to find a hotel and shower, he hunkered down in the seat, pulling on his bucket hat to keep his hair from shining in the light as the latent turned on his car and pulled away from the curb.

"Tailing 101, letís see where youíre going, Rowan, old chap."

*~*~*

"And then I said to him, ĎBeck, you really ought to snatch that girl up. Donít hold it against her just because she canít carry a tune!í" The crowd of pretty boys and girls surrounding him laughed on cue, and the tart in his lap wriggled just right, making him appreciate her assets just a little more.

Ah yes, this was just what he needed, and the attention he was getting, instead of acting like sandpaper on his skin like it had this afternoon, was a balm. He was warm, fed, pleasantly buzzed and horny. Life was a grand thing.

And then the itch started again.

*~*~*

Feeling immensely better now that heíd managed to grab something to eat, Lucas nursed a dark beer, cordially deflecting attempts to get him to dance or converse as he didnít want his attention distracted from Rowan. The latent looked like he was having the time of his life, surrounded by adoring fans and with a very busty one wriggling on his lap. Lucas was surprised to find himself frowning at her. Rowan seemed fine, but then, then it was as if someone had strung him with wire. The loose-limbed energy vanished, replaced by a tightly strung, almost manic version. "Oh boy, here we go again."

Pushing the tart off his lap suddenly, Rowan glanced around and then let his eyes fall on the clock over the bar. "Bugger, will you look at the time? Practice in the morning. Sorry, all, weíll have to do this again some time."

Dropping a wad of notes on the bar to pay for the next round, Bran sidled out the door. Pulling out his keys, he looked from his car down the street and back again. Fuck it, they could tow the car, and he needed the exercise.

Setting off down the street at a slow jog, the soccer player gradually picked up the pace until he was doing a fast clip down the street. It was a good fifteen to eighteen miles to his house. Hopefully by the time he made it home, heíd be exhausted enough to fall into bed and sleep.

Tossing cash down on the table to pay for his meal and drink, Lucas slid through the crowd like smoke, following Rowan out into the night. He made it outside just in time to see the other man take off running and sighed, weighing the options open to him.

"No point in trying to talk to him until heís worn himself out some." That course decided on, Lucas walked back to the Range Rover, got in, and headed out in the direction Rowan had taken, passing by the running man and driving on ahead, stopping every so often to keep the lean form in his rearview mirror.

Once he was assured that Rowan was going home, Lucas headed to the cottage, parking the SUV on the street and climbing out, settling himself on the front porch to wait. When Rowan finally appeared coming up the lane, Lucas rose and stretched, leaning against the wall and eyeing the sweating man closely. "You look like hell," he commented. "Are you ready to let me help you now?"

Rowan expected he should have been shocked to find the Yank on his front step, but exhaustion and an unhealthy dose of fear made it so he wasnít even fazed. "I need a shower and a beer. You can come in if you want. Try anything, and Iíll kick your bloody arse, got it?" he said by way of reply.

Opening his front door, Bran kicked off his shoes and stumbled into the bedroom, stripping as he went and not caring if the other man followed him in or not. He was too freaked out by what the hell was happening to him. Even when he was younger and in his best form, he had never been able to make eighteen miles in twenty minutes. It was a freakiní impossibility, and yet heíd done it.

"Got it," Lucas answered, keeping his hum of appreciation to himself as he followed the older man into the bedroom and was treated to the sight of the smooth, tanned expanse of his back as he stripped. Rowan wasnít tall, not compared to Lucasí brothers, but as Lucas was the runt of the litter, the other man had a good four inches on him.

"Take your shower; just let me do something first. Iím not going to grope you or anything, okay?" Hearing Rowanís muttered assent, Lucas stepped up behind him and placed one hand on his back. He curved the other arm around the soccer playerís chest to hold him in place and pressed inward, hitting the pressure points and feeling the tension diffuse out of the other manís body.

"Itís a bit easier to relax when you arenít carrying that around. Have enough beer in the fridge for me to have one too? Itís been a hell of a long day."

"Help yourself," Rowan murmured in reply, his body sagging from the relief of tension even as his mind still whirled with the possibility that he, too, was slipping into madness. At least his mum and dad werenít here to see it since they were off in Berlin visiting his older brother. God, what a fucking nightmare.

Fifteen minutes later Rowan entered the living room, a loose pair of silk boxers his only covering and a towel around his shoulders to catch any stray drips from his still damp hair. Ignoring the other man for the amount of time it took to walk into the kitchen, grab a bottle of Guinness from the fridge and down it before grabbing another, Rowan walked back into the living room, sat himself across from Mr. San Gabriel, and stared hard at him.

"All right, explain."

"If only it was that simple, but Iíll try." Lucas leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, his bottle of beer cradled loosely in one hand, and tried not to let his eyes fixate on Rowanís chest and the line of hair that ran down his stomach to vanish beneath his boxers. "Youíve always been a little different, right? Heal a bit faster, a bit more athletic, faster, stronger, that sort of thing?"

At Rowanís nod, Lucas took a drink before plunging on. "If you remember, I mentioned my specialties before. Well, one of them is finding people like you, people with the latent ability to - to... become more than they are.

"God, this would be so much easier if one of your parents had taken the time to explain. Even if they didnít want you triggered, there was no need to make you nuts over it."

"Iím adopted." It came out hard and flat as he said it, but he didnít really feel that way. He adored his parents and his sibling; they were his family, not the crazy woman whoíd died a few years back in some unknown institution.

"My mum was nuts, or so Iíve been told. She got preggers and kept going on about a cat-man knocking her up, so she was deemed mentally incompetent and was institutionalized. When I was born, I was taken away from her and given up for adoption. The Brands took me and raised me as their own blood. Theyíre the only family I have, and they seem to think Iím a pretty normal bloke. What are you talking about, triggered?"

Lucas nodded to himself; now everything made more sense, to him at least. "Before you respond to what Iím going to tell you, I want you to promise youíll think about it. Itíll seem far-fetched, but itís the truth, and itís the reason youíre going through what you are now."

Waiting until he was sure Rowan had absorbed his comment, Lucas took another drink and met the other manís eyes. "You birth mother may have been crazy, but she was telling the truth about the man who got her pregnant. The reason you feel as if youíre going to crawl out of your skin is because youíre a latent shifter. The reason Iím here is because Iím a Seeker; I spot latents and bring them in if I think they can handle it. I think you can handle it, Rowan. And no, Iím not bug-house crazy, so donít bother telling me I am."

"Shifter? Latents? Seeker? Bloody hell mate, youíve spent way too much time reading Harry bloody Potter!" Rowan retorted automatically. "And my mum really did get knocked up by a cat-man, unh hunh."

Swallowing his remaining beer and feeling the buzz of it go to his head, Bran stood quickly and began to pace around the confines of the small living room. "Right then, say I believe youóand thatís a huge assumption, my friendówhat the hell is a shifter?"

Biting his lip to keep from smiling at Rowanís first comment, Lucas stood as well, shoving his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and eyeing the other man. "A shifter is what I am, what my family is, and what your father is or was. A shape-shifter if you want the whole term, feline variety. A latent, is you, someone with the potential to be a shifter in their genes. Usually, one of their parents was a shifter, but sometimes the link is farther back in their family tree. A Seeker is me again. Thereís something about my genetic makeup that lets me feel latents. You know how your spine was crawling earlier? Well, I get that feeling every time Iím round one of you."

Seeing that Rowan still didnít look convinced, Lucas shrugged. "Let me guess, you want proof, right?"

Eyes practically bugging out, all Rowan could do was nod his head. Heíd gone from Harry bloody Potter to the freakiní X-files in under two minutes.

Darting a glance to his bedroom door, the older man wondered if he could make it there before the crazy man in his living room. All he needed was his cell phone and a window to get out of. Once outside heíd let the authorities take care of the nutcase, and heíd go over to a mateís house and drink himself into oblivion in the hopes of forgetting this weirded out day.

Noticing Rowanís look toward the other room, Lucas shook his head. "You can try, but Iím faster than you are right now. You want proof; Iíll show you." He began stripping out of his clothes, looking up when he realized Rowanís eyes were about to bug out of his head.

"God, Iím not going to molest you; I just donít feel like tearing up my favorite jeans. If I do this and nothing happens, feel free to call the cops and tell them thereís a naked man in your house, and heís raving mad." As he spoke, Lucas dropped his shirt on the chair behind him and toed off his sneakers, then reached for his belt.

Rowanís gulp was audible in the room. Fucking hell but the Yank was gorgeous, all muscled and ripped with smooth skin, and damn but Bran was salivating. Heíd been wanting to get laid all night, and this was hell in itself even without all the other shite going on.

"If youíre tryiní tíimpress me, itís working," the older man muttered quietly, sinking back into a chair to wait and watch the free strip show in front of him.

Lucas chuckled. "To quote the old song, baby, you ainít seen nothiní yet." Enjoying the heat in the other manís blue eyes, he undid the buttons on his fly and skinned out of his jeans and boxer briefs. Totally at ease in his nudity, he reached back and pulled the clip from his hair, letting it fall on the pile of clothes in the chair.

"Just watching wonít trigger you, or I wouldnít be doing this here. First time it happens, you need a lot of room and no neighbors around." Knowing that the latent still didnít believe him, Lucas skipped the little theatrics he sometimes put into the show, reached for the other part of himself, and shifted, muscle, flesh and bone melting into his second form.

"Fucking hell!" Rowan yelped as he scrambled out of the chair, darting behind it instinctively for some tiny bit of protection. There, in front of him, where a man stood but a moment ago, was a bloody great cat. A snow leopard his belabored mind suddenly provided.

"This is a dream; itís a fucking dream. People donít turn into animals; itís just not possible," he moaned, his eyes wide and startled as his mind tried to absorb the proof before his eyes and process it in such a way that he could deal with it.

Shock set in soon after that, and he began to shake with the realization that if this wasnít a dream, if this was really happening to him, then he could do that too. Knees gave out, and he collapsed behind the chair, trembling. Something soft nudged his hand, and he looked up to see electric blue eyes full of intelligence and concern peering at him from a leopardís face.

Raising a shaking hand, Rowan laid it on top of the catís head and felt soft fur and a rumbling purr. God help him, it was real, the Yank could turn into a big cat. Which meant that he was like that too. "What the fuck am I?" he whispered.

Sensing that the older man was at the end of what he could handle that night, Lucas changed back, feeling Rowanís hand slide off his head to land on his shoulder. "Youíre still you," he answered, crouching down on the floor alongside the other man and laying a hand on his arm in sympathy. "Being able to shift doesnít change who you are, just opens up new opportunities for you.

"There are more of us out there than youíd think, different groups in different areas. We mostly get along, except for the ones in South America. Snakes. Nasty ones too." Lucas shook his head at the memory. "I could give you my regular spiel, but I think Iíve dumped enough on you tonight, Rowan. What you need is sleep, and I can make sure you get that if you want it."

"No drugs," Rowan replied automatically, his eyes wide and shocky. "A beer or two doesnít hurt or the odd bottle of wine or something, but I donít touch drugs unless the doctors or physio guys force them down my throat - and even then I donít take them for as long as I should."

Letting his hand slide off Lucasís shoulder, Bran brought it up and scrubbed his face with it, unconsciously breathing in and memorizing the scent of the other man that still clung to his hand. "It feels like a bloody fucking nightmare; thatís what it feels like. I keep thinking that Iím gonna wake up and find out I was on one hell of a bender last night and had to be carried home by my mates. But itís real. God help me."

"No drugs, I promise," Lucas said, getting to his feet and waiting until Rowan recovered enough to stand up as well. "A little acupressure and a little massage will do the trick."

He looked down sympathetically at the older man, reaching out a hand to help him to his feet. "I canít say I know how you feel; I was born this way, so to me itís normal, but I have brought in about twenty latents who decided to be triggered, and what youíre feeling pretty well is what they went through too. It probably doesnít help to hear it, but it does get better... more normal."

"Decided to be triggered? Can it be stopped?" Rowan asked, not certain if he wanted to spend the rest of his life being... well, a freak to the rest of the world. "What set me off? If I never knew what I was and I never had any way to find out, why did I start jumping out of my skin? Is this normal?"

Managing to make it as far as the bed, Rowan collapsed face down on it. "Fucking hell, I feel like Iíve been doing wind sprints and drills for the past ten hours instead of just going to the pub for a pint or two and a bit of a shag. Well, the shag I never got but..."

"Probably just as well," Lucas commented, climbing up onto the bed alongside Rowan and starting to work on his shoulders. "The condition youíre in, you might have hurt your partner without intending to. As for being tired, well, you did run back here from the pub. Latent or not, eighteen miles takes a toll on you."

He leaned in, hitting the bundles of nerves below Rowanís shoulder blades and hearing the other man grunt. "To answer your questions, yes, it can be stopped. When someoneís as far along as you, itís not easy, but it can be stopped. I have no idea how you ended up like this on your own. If you were around shifters most of the time, it might account for it, but to get this near triggering naturally... Iíve never seen it before; Iíll have to ask Joe to see what he can find about it." As Lucas spoke, he shifted closer until finally, fed up with not being able to get the right angle to do his work, he straddled Rowanís hips, forgetting his nudity and not noticing the fact that he was half-aroused by the feel of the other man under his hands.

Biting into the pillow in order to muffle all the grunts and moans coming from his throat as the younger man slowly turned him into a puddle of goo, Rowan tried to absorb what Lucas was telling him. He still didnít understand most of what he was being told, but then again genetics and science werenít his forte, languages were. He also couldnít fathom for the life of him how this Joe person could find out anything about him that he, Bran, didnít know already.

Heíd almost reached the stage of complete and utter relaxation when Lucas climbed on top of him to get more pressure on a particularly tough bundle of nerves, and suddenly a different sort of tension permeated Branís body. He could feel the other manís cock rubbing back and forth across the silk of his boxers, as if it were trying to bury itself between his cheeks. Suddenly the older man found himself with a very awake woody, and he fought the urge to flip over and pin the other man as he rubbed himself off.

"Donít think," Lucas growled, feeling the muscles heíd just kneaded into something more resembling flesh than steel begin to tense up again. "Just feel right now. Let your brain shut down because all the thinking in the world isnít going to do you any good tonight."

He slid back some to work on Rowanís lower back, and as his ass came into contact with the other manís lower legs, Lucas realized just what he wasóor wasnítówearing. "Hey, sorry. If thatís whatís getting you tense, Iíll grab my clothes. I didnít think, man."

"That would be a kindness," Rowan managed to get out, his voice rough and needy. "Considering I was looking to scratch that itch earlier and that youíre a damned good looking bloke, Iím sorry, but I reacted. I donít mean to offend or anything," the older man hastened to add, not knowing if Lucas was homophobic or what. "I just happen to swing on both sides of the tree, you know? But I promise not to jump you or anything."

Halfway off the bed, Lucas paused, turning back to look at the other man and slowly smiling. "I know. I know a lot about you, Rowan Brand, and donít worry, Iím flattered, not disgusted." He chuckled and purposefully didnít leave the bed. "Thatís something else that marks you as one of us, you know. Pansexual my dad calls it, but I prefer to think of it as if everyoneís willing and happy, go for it."

He tilted his head to the side, letting his hair fall to one side of his face. "So, Rowan Brand, am I to take it youíre both willing and happy?"

"Am I willing and happy, he asks me?" Rowan groaned and then turned over to reveal a raging hard on. "Iím very willing, and heís very happy, donít you think?" the older man managed to get out.

Eyeing Rowanís prone form appreciatively, Lucas reached out and pulled the silk boxers off of him. "Looks happy to me," he murmured, shifting and launching himself almost faster than a human could track to land on top of Rowan, grinding down on him and nipping at his neck and ear.

"Bloody hell!" Bran groaned appreciatively. "That feels fantastic!" Arms came up to wrap around the younger manís waist, and Bran nuzzled at Lukeís throat, nipping and licking the creamy skin, scenting the shifter and learning his smell and taste. Bumping his hips up, their erections rubbed against one another, a slick slide of skin on skin, and the older man let his head fall back, eyes closing as he let the sensations wash over him.

"Damn right," Lucas rasped, threading both hands through Rowanís gelled hair and tilting his head back farther so that he could bite down on his neck again, marking the older man.

Bran thrust up hard, smashing their bodies together, and he gasped in pleasure. His eyes shot open to reveal a change of color from blue to almost silvery grey in passion. "God, you do that again and Iím gonna be finished before we start; youíve got me so fucking hot!"

Lucas raised his head and shook his hair back out of his face, smiling sensually. "If you think Iím going to be pissed because youíre turned on because of me, think again. I think itís great." Circling his hips against Rowanís, their erections sliding and rubbing together, he licked a line up the side of the older manís neck to the corner of his mouth. He wasnít going to force a kiss on the latent; some guys just werenít into that, but heíd offer the chance.

Turning his head, Rowan latched on to Lukeís lips and delved his tongue inside the moist cavity of his loverís mouth, scouring and tasting with insistent hunger. Teeth scraped across the younger manís tender skin, and he sucked on the lush protrusion until they slowly parted. "Youíre a beautiful man; I would have wanted you from the minute I met you except for that slight problem with my skin crawling. Iím glad you came after me."

Licking his lower lip, enjoying the taste of Rowan that lingered there, Lucas smiled. "Itís what I do, but Iím damn glad I came after you too. I knew I liked you even before I found out all about you, and now..." He moved sinuously, eyes locked on Rowanís.

"Now?" Rowan queried breathlessly. "Now are ye gonna put me out of my misery? I thought I was supposed to relax or bad nasty things would happen to me?"

"Well, you might explode," Lucas said sweetly before laughing at the look in Rowanís eyes. "Of course, thatís what I want you to do anyway." He licked a kiss across Rowanís mouth before diving for his neck again, grinding downward as he bit the tanned flesh, raising a bruise with the force of his attentions.

"Bloody..." Rowan bit out as he bucked and writhed against the slim, hard body pressing down and into him. He was too close to the edge; there was no way theyíd get beyond a bit of frottage. The feel of Lukeís mouth working on his skin and his cock driving back and forth along Rowanís had the precome weeping constantly and the older man moaning nonstop though he wasnít even aware of it.

Loving the other manís open reactions, Lucas rubbed their faces together, the stubble on Rowanís face rasping against his own skin. "Come on, let me feel it," he murmured, knowing he was on the edge as well, feeling inexplicably connected with the older manís emotions at that moment.

"Only if you come with me," Rowan growled even as his body surged up and slammed into the younger manís. His head snapped up, and he latched on to Lucasí neck right next to his jugular and bit down hard, managing to break the skin and draw blood. The copper taste exploded on his tongue, and his entire being howled in pleasure as he came hard, coating their stomachs with his seed.

"Fuck!" Pleasure tore through Lucasí body, and he shuddered, the intoxicating pain of Rowanís bite sending him over the edge as well. As he tried to piece his whirling mind back together, one thought kept running through it; he shouldnít be able to do that, not now, maybe not ever.

Licking his crimson-tinged lips, Rowan looked up at Lucas with hooded eyes and a sated smile. "That was bloody marvelous. Have I mentioned how glad I am you came after me?" he asked with a small laugh.

"Just the once," Lucas chuckled, putting his surprise at being dommed to the back of his mind for the time being. "And weíll see if you say that tomorrow when the truth of all this sinks in."

Silencing whatever Rowan had been going to say with a kiss, Lucas pushed off of him and rolled to his feet, heading for the bathroom to get something to clean them both up. "Hope you donít mind me being pushy; youíre relaxed and I want you to stay that way."

"I donít mind at all. Care to stay the night?" Rowan offered, trailing his fingers through the commingled mess on his stomach and wishing he could lick them clean. "Can shifters get STDs and such?" he called out over the sound of running water.

"Hmm?" Lucas walked out carrying a damp facecloth. "Oh, no, as far as Iíve been able to tell, weíre immune to pretty much anything that way. Still tend to be careful though, itís just easier."

He sat on the edge of the bed and caught Rowanís hand, lifting his fingers to his mouth and cleaning them with broad swipes of his tongue. "Not careful has its benefits too though, and if youíre offering a bed, Iíd be glad for it. Didnít quite have time to make reservations for a hotel, though Joe could probably hook me up in five minutes."

A faint echo of the pleasure heíd felt earlier shot through Rowan as Lucas licked his fingers clean. Bringing his free hand up to wrap through the blond mass, he pulled the younger man down and devoured his mouth hungrily, tasting them both on Lukeís tongue.

When he finally eased off with one final lap of the seekerís lips, he grinned. "I actually offered to share my bed, but if you want the guest room, youíre more than welcome to it. And whoís Joe? Thatís the second time youíve mentioned him."

"Hey, I didnít want to presume, you know, be a cheeky American?" He settled back onto the bed beside Rowan, enjoying the company. "Joeís my older brother; heís a computer geek, can get into anything anytime. I gave him your name when I knew you were a latent, and by the time I got off the plane in Manchester, he had your whole life story for me." He frowned. "Somehow missed the adoption thing. Iím gonna have to ream him for that."

"Well, it was a private adoption," Rowan allowed. "Mum and Dad are somehow related to my birth mother a few dozen times removed or something. Guess they believed in keeping family in the family. So what else do you know about me, thanks to your super sleuth brother?"

Rowan tucked an arm under his head and turned onto his side, grabbing the wet cloth and swirling it over Lukeís stomach, cleaning him slowly. "God, youíre gorgeous."

Stretching sinuously under the attention, Lucas smiled, watching Rowan through half-lidded eyes. "You arenít so bad yourself," he murmured, waiting until the other man was done before taking the cloth from his hand and giving him the same treatment.

"As for what I know about you... letís see. You were born on December eighth, you speak German and French. You hate getting dressed up; youíve been in your share of bar brawls, and..." He grinned mischievously. "You prefer using ĎWetí if youíre going to fuck a guy."

"Bloody hell, and how did you get your hands on that bit of information?" Rowan groaned. Most of the other stuff he knew was readily available in any Man U fan site or on the official Man U page - well, not the bar brawls and the dislike of monkey suits but... what brand of lube he used?

"I think I might have a bone to pick with that brother of yours after all," he growled half-heartedly. "A manís gotta have some privacy, after all. Next youíll be telling me what side I dress and what brand of toothpaste I use."

"I can give him a call and find out," Lucas offered, taking one look at Rowanís expression and collapsing back onto the bed, howling with laughter. "Okay, Iíll fess up; I saw the lube when I was in the bathroom, but he really did tell me the rest. I can show you the file he sent me in the morning if you want."

He chuckled then. "The toothpaste I can find out easily enough, and the dressing... guess thatíll have to wait until morning too." With uncanny accuracy, he threw the facecloth toward the bathroom.

"Damn, you would have made a fantastic goal keep with an arm like that," Rowan whistled appreciatively. "Then again they keep trying to sucker me into doing goal on the team too. I prefer being able to take control of the balls and drive them home, míself," the older man leered, making what he said take on a whole new meaning.

"So," he continued tugging the younger man down and onto his chest and wrapping his arms around Luke somewhat possessively. "You know my entire life story, when do I get to hear yours?"

Relaxing against the warm body beneath him, Lucas folded his arms and rested his chin on them. "I thought the point of this was to relax you so that youíd get some sleep..." Seeing Rowanís expression, he chuckled. "Damn stubborn Brit. Life story, fine... Letís see, Iím 22, was born in Cougar Falls, Montana, in the family compound, came this close to getting my PhD in genetics before I decided I was sick of the politics at MIT and took off; I have a two-year-old daughter; I like loud music; Iím a skateboard freak; and I prefer AstroGlide and Colgate myself."

"Well, that will do for now. The rest Iíll learn later. And itís Wet, not Astroglide. Astroglide leaves a funny taste in my mouth," the stubborn Brit grinned down at the younger man. "As for being relaxed, I am relaxed; if I were any more relaxed, Iíd be asleep. Come to think of it, itís not such a bad idea since Iím gonna have to face reality in the morning and see if I can still fathom all of this by the light of day," the older man continued with a shake of his head.

"Talk about life-altering experiences."

"Hey, I know sex with me is good, but life-altering, damn!" Lucas chuckled at Rowanís sour look before kissing it away. "And you want to use Wet, weíll use Wet, okay?" He ran his hand over Rowanís face, pressing his eyelids closed. "Go to sleep now, Rowan Brand. Weíve got lots to talk about in the morning."

*~*~*

Always an early riser and his internal clock even more off because of the time difference between Montana and England, Lucas was up before the sun. After pulling on his jeans and t-shirt and discovering the latter was still too damp for his taste, he grabbed a sweatshirt out of Rowanís closet and pulled it on. Heading to the kitchen, he rummaged through the cabinets, shaking his head and muttering under his breath. "Tea, tea and more tea. Next time I come here, Iím bringing my own coffee."

That comment gave him pause, and he shrugged; whatever Rowan decided about his heritage, Lucas wouldnít mind seeing him again. Wanting a change of clothes, he pulled on his sneakers, grabbed his keys, and trotted out to the Range Rover to grab his gear. On the way back in, he saw the morning paper on the porch and bent to pick it up.

Ten minutes later, he was seated at the kitchen table, his hands cupped around a steaming mug of tea and the paper open in front of him, feeling very content with himself and the morning.

Rowan came into the kitchen dressed in sweats with running shoes on his feet. Pressing a kiss to the top of Lukeís head, he stole a sip of the younger manís tea and grimaced. "Bloody hell, mate, have some tea with your sugar," he teased. "Iím going for my morning run; you can join me if you want, but you look pretty damned comfortable.

"I donít have much in the way of food in the house, so Iíll swing by a couple places on my way home. Anything in particular you want? Iím getting myself a heart attack on a plate, but youíre more than welcome to eat healthy if you like."

"Gotta do something to make it taste decent," Lucas answered, half turning in the chair and resting an arm along the back. "Iíll go if you give me a minute to change." At Rowanís startled look, he grinned. "Clothes, fool. Somehow I donít think you could explain away why youíre running with a snow leopard too easily."

Standing, he made a grab for the taller manís ass and waggled his eyebrows. "As for breakfast, anywhere around here serve steak done the right way? If I have to eat one more piece of over-cooked shoe leather, Iím going to barf."

Bran burst out laughing even as he shook a finger in negation at the grabby man. "Ah ah ah, you can look, but you canít touch until after our jog. And if you wanted real steak, then you should have been here last night. Iím about the only one who does it so that it isnít shoe leather. My plate was dripping blood, and mmm but that was a delicious t-bone," he teased the younger man.

"Steak is about all I do have in the house. Go get changed, and Iíll take one out of the freezer to thaw a bit. If youíre having that, I might as well too. Which means Iíll need eggs, mushrooms and bread. And since Iíve got a heathen Yank shacking up with me for the time being, Iíd better get a bottle of instant coffee," Rowan shuddered. "How uncivilized!"

"Instant coffee?" Lucas stuck his head through the bedroom doorway and gagged. "If thatís what youíre going to offer me, Iíll stick to the boiled roots, thanks." He vanished again before coming back out dressed in running shorts and a tank top, his hair braided back out of his face.

"But Iíll hold you to that steak. You just about killed me with the one you cooked last night. Youíre sitting in here, eating like a king, and I was stuck out in the car with a pack of airline peanuts."

"Boiled roots? Bloody hell, where were you educated? Tea is made of leaves from the tea plant," Rowan retorted, shaking his head. "Bloody Yanks, a bunch of heathens you are!" That assessment didnít stop him from appreciating what the Ďheathení before him had to offer, and with a low wolf whistle the soccer player crowded Lucas into a corner to further appreciate his jogging outfit.

"Poor little man, I promise to give you as much meat as you can handle today," Rowan smirked before using the long braid as a leash to hold the other manís head still as he proceeded to ravish Lukeís mouth properly. "And good morning to you."

"Little man?" Lucasí voice dropped to a dangerous growl, and he grew very still. "Tell me you didnít just call me that." At Rowanís smirk, he gave a cat-like snarl and spun them around so the taller man was the one pressed into the corner. "Think about what you called me later on when youíre the one yowling on the end of my cock."

His mood brightened, and he returned the kiss with interest. "And Iíll even use Wet, just for you."

Rowan couldnít hide his startlement at how quickly he found his position reversed, but then his sex on a stick smile came out, and he purred ever so softly. "Weíll see whoís the one yowling on whose cock, now wonít we?" he chuckled quietly in direct challenge. "Little man."

Rowan had to admit to a penchant for living on the edge. He liked things a little dangerous at times, and Lucas was definitely not a domesticated housecat by any stretch of the imagination. The older man was truly looking forward to getting to know him better. Pissing contests were ever so much fun when there was sexual attraction involved. Add to the mix a genuine liking of the bloke, and it took on a whole new meaning; it became either foreplay or courtship, depending on what a person was looking for.

After eyeing the older man for a long moment, Lucas chuckled and stepped back away from him. "This is going to be fun. If you decide to come back with me to be triggered, I wonder what youíll be and what the family is going to think of you."

Turning, he headed for the front door, looking back at Rowan over his shoulder. "Well? Are we going running, or do you want to start the dominance stuff now?" He laughed at the last and stretched his arms over his head, feeling the muscles in his back loosen as he did so.

Rowan laughed freely. Oh yes, this American was going to be fun indeed, he thought to himself. Rowan had the sneaking suspicion that heíd finally met his match, but heíd be damned if heíd make the game too easy for the younger man. The thrill of the hunt and the chase and all that.

Walking over to where the younger man stood, he grinned down at Luke and motioned for the younger man to precede him out the door. Rowan took great pleasure in swatting the shifterís ass as he sauntered by and even more enjoyment out of the dark look that was aimed at him.

Whistling nonchalantly, the older man locked the door and shut it behind him. "Ready whenever you are LLLLLLLL...Lucas." He laughed outright at the growl that filled the air around them as he teased his new lover.

"Shut up and run, you big, stubborn Brit," Lucas sighed, starting off at a jog and increasing the pace when Rowan caught up to him.

Chuckling under his breath, Rowan fell into an easy lope next to the other man. "Four miles out then three to the shops and another two back," he informed Luke as he turned left and began his usual circuit around the small suburb that he called home.

Figuring that running in the open air with pedestrians, people on their way to work, nannies and school children wasnít the most ideal place to talk about his newfound existence, Rowan posed the question that had been nagging at him since the revelations of the night before.

"Is it normal, what happened to my birth mum? Getting knocked up like that, I mean, by my birth dad. The man obviously didnít give a shite about me or what he did to her coz he just vanished into thin air and all... Is that part of being pansexual?"

"Not knowing the man, I canít say if it was normal for him or not, but in that respect weíre like any other people." Lucas shrugged, and the motion caused his arm to brush against Rowanís as they ran. "Some are real fuckers, some are saints, and most fall somewhere in between. If what youíre asking is if we routinely rape women to spread the lines, the answer is no. God, if anyone in my neck of the woods did that, Dad would have their balls for breakfast."

"Why would your dad be the one to go after them?" Rowan asked, enjoying the company of his jogging partner immensely. It felt... natural, too damn natural for words.

Lucas chuckled. "Because in Cougar Falls, my father is the closest thing to God that youíre going to find. Heís in charge of all of us, and if anyone gets out of line, heís the one who deals with it."

"You mean Iím fucking around with the son of the cat god?" Rowan asked in mock horror. "Heís not gonna demand I do the honorable thing and marry you or anything, is he?"

"Ass," Lucas sighed. "I said the nearest thing as in he runs the place, and considering he didnít make me marry Jenny when I knocked her up, I doubt heíd do it to you, so donít worry; youíre free to go... catting around all you want."

"And if I donít want?" Rowan replied quietly, staring straight ahead and picking up the pace a little due to the immense shock of saying what he just said.

The younger man started to smile, then grew serious when he looked over at Rowan and saw that his expression was anything but humorous. "Hey, your life," he said, trying to lighten the moment up some. "Do with it what you want."

"Wish I had a firm idea of what it is I want," Rowan admitted. "I fell into soccer. I was fast, agile, aggressive and could kick the shit out of the ball. Hell, Iíve managed to score goals from nearly halfway down the field. I was a natural, and I got snapped up fast. I never really had a chance to figure out if thatís what I really wanted to be doing.

"Donít get me wrong: the moneyís great; the fans are outrageous; and I belong to one of the most popular clubs in the freakiní world, but is it what I want? I canít say for sure."

"Nobodyís trying to push you into deciding anything right this second, Rowan," Lucas answered, his voice just audible over the pounding of their running shoes on the pavement. "My schedule is pretty flexible, so I can stay and help you through the side-effects until you decide what you want to do about it. As for what you want to do with the rest of your life...

"Canít help much there, unless you want to come be my research assistant. I saw your school records; youíre no slouch that way. Youíve used your body this far, maybe something involving your brain?"

"Iím 27, isnít that a little old for going back to school?" Bran replied. "And no offense but research assistant? Can you see me doing that, honestly?"

Letting a mile slip by in silence, Rowan tossed and turned his options over in his head. "Iíve always been good at languages. I like Ďem. Iím learning Chinese and Gaelic right now, and I think the next one I might tackle is Russian. Spanish would be a bird course in between to help me relax maybe. I already know French, so itís not that different. But what would I do with all those languages?"

"You got me. Work for the UN? An international company? With how global things are today, thereís no way people wouldnít be interested in someone with those skills." Lucas frowned a little as he said that. No way Rowan wouldnít be snapped up, and no way heíd ever think of locating in a small town in Montana with the world at his feet. God, what am I thinking?

"I could ask Joe to do a search and give you some ideas of whatís out there if you want."

"Thatís still a long way off," Rowan said finally. "I still need to get a grip on... the other first. I mean I know what I saw, but I still find it hard to believe, you know? And Iíve got the same thing crawling around inside of me? Iíve got a million questions and a million more that Iíll probably think up. Seems to me I need to get my priorities straight and deal with that before I can even begin to think about what comes after."

Not wanting to pressure the older man, Lucas nodded. "So when we get back to your place, shower, and eat, Iíll answer anything you want to ask, okay?"

"Sounds like a plan to me."

*~*~*

"So," Rowan began without preamble. Theyíd done as Luke had suggested, showered and eaten, and Rowan had been appalled and stunned that the younger man was so addicted to coffee heíd actually had his brother express him a coffee maker from God knew where along with a supply of Starbucks coffee.

"Will it hurt? Changing, I mean."

Lucas mopped up the bloody juices from his plate with a piece of bread and ate it before he answered. "No, it feels weird, especially the first time it happens - sort of like your bones are sliding around with nothing to hold them together, but it really doesnít hurt. I was so excited the first time I did it, I didnít even notice anything about it." He chuckled a bit at the memory.

"Some of the latents whoíve been triggered say itís a little uncomfortable, but that goes away after a few times."

"Eww," Rowan replied succinctly. The idea of feeling his bones shift, on purpose no less, was less than appealing. "How old were you the first time you did it? And how does a latent get triggered? And while weíre at it, you seemed a little... concerned by me the other day at the airport. Is what Iím going through normal for a latent? Do they always crawl out of their skin on their own, so to speak?"

"Lets start with the easy one first." Lucas drained his mug and stood to refill it. "Natural shifters usually change for the first time sometime around when they go through puberty. Itís related to sex, surprise, surprise." He sat down again, and continued. "With latents, itís a bit more complicated. Nearest I can figure out in scientific terms is that thereís something missing from their genetic makeup so that the change canít happen spontaneously.

"How do latents get triggered... My grandmother would be the better one to ask, but sheíd give you some mystical mojo that probably wouldnít make much sense. Basically, youíre put into a trance and, for lack of a better word, led to the place inside you where your abilities lie. Once you get in touch with them... poof, one new cat joins the family."

He took another sip of his coffee, having come to the question heíd least wanted to answer. "When I saw you at the airport... God, it fucking scared me; Iíve never seen a latent that close to triggering himself, especially one who didnít know who or what he was. Most people donít even know somethingís going on if they werenít raised by a shifter parent. The only good thing about it was it made it a little easier to convince you something was going on."

"Well, thatís rather disconcerting," Rowan replied after a long pause. "Latents shouldnít be able to do what Iím doing. I donít know whether to be proud at being an early bloomer so to speak or scared shitless that Iím a total freak."

What surprised him the most was that he was having a calm and intelligent conversation about all of this instead of falling apart. Well, realistically there was no way to explain away what heíd seen last night. The run had sobered him up, he wasnít on drugs, and apparently insanity didnít run in his family; which left only the terrifying conclusion that it had been real.

"Are," his throat closed up a bit, but he managed to choke out the word, "are we all like you, that cat you turned into?"

Lucasí eyes flashed blue fire. "You arenít a freak. Donít use that word, got it?" Taking a deep breath, he visibly relaxed. "Sorry, touchy subject, but I meant it. Donít think about yourself that way, or one day you might start to believe it.

"And if you meant species of cat, no. Itís a crap shoot; you never know what someoneís going to be until they change. My oldest brotherís a mountain lion, and Joe and his twin Eva are lynxes. Mariís not old enough to change yet, but who knows what sheíll be. No house cats though so you donít have to worry about getting picked up by some old granny with a fetish for kitties."

"Well thank bloody God for that!" Rowan sighed in relief. "And Iíll try to remember that. Itís just rather... huge, you know? And Iím not normal for a latent, but Iím not a natural shifter, so Iím... an unusual case. Yay me," Rowan muttered despondently. "Sorry, Iím trying to just go with it, but you have to admit itís rather like jumping out of a plan without a parachute and then discovering you can grow wings but you donít know how to fly."

Lucas stood and moved around behind Rowan, starting to work on his shoulders once again as he could feel the other man tightening up. "Hey, youíve got a parachute; you just didnít realize it: me."

"As long as I donít have to share my parachute with anyone else," came the automatic reply as he let the tension drain out of him. "But I must admit a man could get used to this pampering. I havenít had this many massages in... well, ever. Unlike the rest of the team I never really got badly hurt, and when I did break a finger or something, it healed as good as new. So did all the bruises and scratches. Thatís part of being a shifter, isnít it?"

"Yup. Still hurts like a son of a bitch when it happens, but you recover fast. Once youíre triggered, itíll be even faster; thatís why we have our own doctors; leads to less questions as to why you were gut-shot one day and walking around the next."

"Gut-shot?" Rowanís tension increased exponentially. "Youíve got to be kidding me? How the bloody hell does a person get gut-shot?"

"Easy, easy, itís not something that happens every day or every month for that matter. A couple of poachers got onto our land, saw a likely looking trophy and took a shot. Luckily Joe was with Eva at the time, and he changed and got her out of there. Rob got wind of it, and he tracked those fuckers down and arrested them."

Lucas noticed that his hands had tightened on Rowanís shoulders, and he forced himself to relax. "Poachers donít make it long on San Gabriel land."

"Bloody hell," Rowan muttered faintly. "You really do live in the wild bloody west. Are they any more civilized about this sort of thing here in Europe?"

"Hey!" Lucas laughed. ĎItís not all Marshal Dillon, you know. And I wouldnít call it civilized over here. Snooty is what Iíd call it, all going on about blood-lines and everything when itís just another word for massive inbreeding."

"Excuse me?" Rowan yelped, his head whipping around to stare at the younger man in disbelief. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

Lucas looked confused. "What do you mean, what am I talking about? You asked about the shifter enclaves in Europe, and I told you what they were like. Imagine your royal family on steroids, and you get a good idea."

"You mean they really... they donít... bugger me, whoever the git who fathered me happened to be he was an inbreed? Kill me now, please!" Rowan groaned. This was just too bloody unbelievable for words. "I thought things like that only happened in redneck areas of America."

"Hey there!" Lucas growled, cuffing the older man across the back of his head. "Are you going to tell me that Prince Charles looks the way he does because of natural selection? I donít think so!"

"No, he looks the way he does because both his parents were beaten with an ugly stick and chose to pass it on to him! Andy was all right until he porked up, and Eddy was kinda cute until he started to lose his hair," Rowan replied with a grin even as he rubbed the sore spot on his head. "Oh, Iím sorry, is Montana considered redneck America?"

"The cows outnumber the people; does that answer your question?" Batting Rowanís hand away, Lucas laughed. "Baby. I didnít hit you that hard."

"Yes, you bloody well did!" the older man pouted. "Bollocks, Iím not going to have to learn how to be a cowboy on top of being a shape shifter, am I?"

"Bigger baby than Mari," Lucas muttered to himself. "And no, you donít have to learn to be a cowboy, though seeing you ride could be fun." He grinned evilly at the last.

"I happen to be bloody brilliant in the saddle," Rowan retorted with a growl. "Both a horse and otherwise, not that youíll be finding out the way youíre going. I ride in the hunt quite often and am a fairly good shot too!"

Lucasí smile grew wider. "Wanna bet?"

Rowan merely eyed the younger man and arched an eyebrow. Turning back around, he picked up his cooling cup of tea and took another sip, intent on ignoring the insufferable Yank... for a minute or two at least. Thinks Iím gonna bend over that quick, does he? Has another thing coming to him then!

Biting his lower lip to keep from laughing at Rowanís almost indignant posture, Lucas circled back around the table to sit once again. He picked up his coffee cup, watching the older man over the rim, and ran his bare toes up Rowanís leg.

Jerking his leg back, Rowan snarled half-heartedly. "Pretty sodding cocky, arenít you, you bloody bastard?" Of course he knew damn well that if Luke were naked and near him, heíd probably be the first to pounce. Here he was used to having people pant after him, but damned if this wasnít the first time heíd been this hot and bothered for anyone! The arsehole probably knew that too.

"So tell me about this enclave of yours, and explain the history of shifters to me while youíre at it. How did it start and such?"

Leaning back in the chair, Lucas shook his head and smiled. "Fine, history now, sex ed later, but trust me, this is a long story.

"Cougar Falls, where Iím from, is a primarily shifter community. And has been since it was founded about a hundred and seventy-five years ago. Great-great-great-great-grandpa San Gabriel came across the plains and over the mountains with a group of shifters looking to get away from the politics on the east coast. He got lucky and found a shit-load of gold in the hills and, poof, instant dynasty.

"Dadís in charge now, and my brother Robert will probably take over for him when he decides to step down. There are normals living in town too, we arenít exclusionistic, but they donít know what we are for the most part. Itís simpler that way."

"Normals? People who canít shift, I take it?" Rowan figured out as he digested this newest batch of information. "And your family is rolling in it. Do all the shifters live on the compound, or do they live in town too? And how do you keep the Ďnormalsí from finding out?

"As for sex ed, I know how to do that just fine, thanks much, not that youíre gonna find out anytime soon - bloody ballsey git."

"Ooo, touchy!" Lucas drained his coffee and looked at the empty pot with a sigh. "We live pretty much all over the area, but for wanting to get out and run or play, the compoundís safest. It also keeps the normals from seeing something they shouldnít."

"And to make sure poachers donít decide to bag a pretty cat hide?" Rowan winced. That still vaguely worried him, that he could be mistaken for an actual cat and skinned alive... which brought him to another question. Well. A couple actually.

"Do you still think human when youíre in cat form? And do you... well, fuck when youíre a cat? Iím assuming the equipment stays that same, but that seems vaguely perverse, you know?"

"Youíre still you when you change, just the shape changes." Lucasí smile grew feral and sensual as if in memory. "And donít knock it till youíve tried it. Pansexual, remember?"

Rowan gulped at the heat in the younger manís eyes and felt himself grow hard and heavy in his track pants. Fuck but Luke was bloody sex on a stick, and the older man was hard pressed not to jump him where he sat. Then again why the hell shouldnít he?

Standing with a growl, Rowan moved around the table and yanked Lucasí chin up and to the side, claiming the younger manís mouth possessively. "You really need to stop taunting me like that, you know? Youíre playing dirty."

Lucasí blue eyes shone with challenge and interest both. "When youíre the runt, you learn to fight like that. Makes it easier to catch people off guard."

"Cheeky bastard," Rowan replied, ruffling the top of the blondís head affectionately. "I still donít know if Iím gonna let you in my pants or not."

Shaking his head and looking every bit like a cat with ruffled fur, Lucas shuddered. "Well then, if youíre still ambivalent, I can pull up our website and let you learn more about our history. Itís supposed to be fiction, and what better place to hide the truth than as a story."

"Strange notions you lot have. Iím going to go soak in the hot tub out back; care to join me?" Rowan offered with a grin. "Itís clothing optional."

"After that, I should say no, but no way Iíll ever turn down a hot tub. Lead on, duckie."

"Duckie? Oi, next heíll be calling me his chew toy or his scratching post," Rowan groaned as he walked through the cottage to the small back yard with a slightly partitioned off area that housed the hot tub. Flipping the switch to set the tub to bubble, Rowan was glad heíd thought to turn the heat on when theyíd come in.

Stripping out of his clothes, the older man sank into the heated pool with a happy sigh. "Mmm, this is heaven. Almost as good as lying on a beach or surfing the waves."

Shedding his clothes as easily as Rowan had, Lucas stepped into the tub and moaned. "God, that feels good." He leaned his head back against one of the padded indentations on the rim and smiled. "So, like to surf, do you?"

"You mean your brother didnít tell you that already along with my other hobbies?" Rowan teased, flicking some water at the younger man. "I surf, ski, bungee jump, ride, mountain bike, snowboard and jump out of airplanes when the mood strikes me. I guess you could say Iím a danger junkie."

Lucas waved a hand airily, flicking droplets of water in Rowanís direction. "Eh, I was more interested in the important stuff, where you lived, if you had any murder convictions, who you liked to sleep with..."

He grinned impishly at Rowanís glare. "Sounds like fun. Iíve been white water rafting, and I did a bit of surfing when I lived in California, but none of the others."

"Brat," the older man sighed. "An incorrigible one at that! White water rafting could be interesting; I havenít done that yet. Are there any places around your compound to do it? Speaking of, how long does this ceremony take? I mean am I gonna need to take a leave of absence from the team or what? Weíre almost at the end of our season, but I really should give them ample warning if Iím going to be out of the country for an extended period of time."

Lucas sobered a bit at the question. For some reason, he hadnít added Rowan coming back to England into the equation heíd been building in the back of his head. Stupid, especially since the other manís whole life was here, but still...

"A week at the bare minimum. Gram likes it better if newly triggered people stay around the compound for a month to get used to their new form and everything."

"I..." Rowan hesitated, watching the younger man carefully. "I can get away for a month or two for sure. After that, well... no offense or anything but Iíve known you barely two days. Mind if we take our time in deciding what I do after those two months are up? Not that Iím adverse to the idea... I just donít want to cut off my nose to spite my face, you understand?"

Recovering quickly, Lucas shrugged and smiled. "Hey, I keep telling you, itís your life, man. Any decisions you make in regards to this are yours; Iím just here to be your guide, kinda like Giles on Buffy."

"Who?" Rowan asked, a little confused.

"Giles? English librarian watcher dude from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Címon, Rowan, youíve never heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?"

"I donít watch a lot of telly," Rowan admitted sheepishly. "Iíll occasionally watch a footie match or rugby or some such, and Iíll even sit through Coronation Street or The Eastenders for Mum, but what free time I have I usually spend with my nose in a book learning a new language or some such."

Lucas chuckled. "My father would love you. It drove him nuts that Joe, Eva and I were hooked on that show."

"And having your father love me, is that a good thing or a bad thing?" the older man asked, a smile spreading across his face.

"If you donít want him to swat you when you get uppity, itís a very good thing."

"Excuse me, Iíll have you know that I donít get uppity, thank you very much!" Rowan retorted.

"Oi, Bran, you back here mate?" Billy, one of Rowanís teammates, drinking mates and occasional fuck buddies rounded the corner and came to a dead stop. "Blimey! Itís the fanboy! Follow you home, did he?" the other man grinned.

Lucas flicked his wet hair out of his face and smiled at the other soccer player, though the expression had a dangerous edge to it. "Yeah, I tracked him home and threw myself at his feet, begging him to fuck me. We went five rounds and are just waiting to recover a little so we can make it an even half dozen."

"Good show, mate. Both of you. Guess that means a game of darts down at the pub is out for this afternoon. Ahh well, let me know when you come up for air, and weíll do something. Ta!" And with a waggle of his fingers Billy was off again while Rowan tried to sink beneath the surface of the hot tub to avoid the Ďfanboyí sitting across from him.

Noticing Rowanís expression, Lucas frowned. "What? Heís big enough to take it if he dishes it out - or did you want to go with him?"

"No, err, I was just unsure of what your reaction might be to... Well, Billyís a bit of a loudmouth and what, but heís an all right bloke once you get to know him. And heís got a mouth like a hoover too, so I usually ignore his antics for the most part. Iím sorry. I didnít think heíd stick his foot in it so fast," Rowan apologized with a slight blush.

"Hey, Iíve heard worse, believe me." Lucas shrugged and stretched out in the water. "And tell me you wouldnít have given him just as good if youíd been the one to walk in on the situation."

"Probably better. Billyís a bit of a yob when it comes to insults whereas Iím a master of the cutting remark," Rowan grinned. "So am I gonna fuck you five times today?"

Lucas snorted out a laugh. "Too late, said youíd already done it, so itís my turn."

"Well, thatís not very fair, is it?" Rowan pouted. "Donít I get a say in all of this; after all Iím the sacrificial lamb so to speak?"

"Planning on saying no?" Lucas stood and made to get out of the hot tub. "Guess Iíll go and... what is it you Brits call it? Have a wank?"

"Get your arse back in here, Yank," the older man growled, surging across the tub to grab the other man and pull him onto his lap. "So when do I get to have you? I plan on having you eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later." This was said as Rowan nuzzled the side of Lukeís neck.

Refusing to give that a straight answer, Lucas reached back to get a handful of Rowanís ass. "Talk to me about it once youíve been triggered; itíll be your incentive."

"Blackmail more like," Rowan groaned. "Youíre just damn lucky Iím being accommodating. But it wonít last, I warn you. Sooner or later, Mr. High and Mighty Seeker, you and I are going to come to an equal agreement of sorts. I only bend so far before I start demanding the same consideration from a person Iím seriously involved with."

"Equal consideration?" Lucas slid out of Rowanís lap and looked at him balefully. "As compared to what? I donít seem to recall that Iíve had you yet either, so thereís no need to get pissy about it."

"Iím not getting pissy, Lucas; Iím merely stating a fact. You want me, you can have me; I want it too. But Iíd like to be that close to you as well... I like sharing everything with my partners, male or female. I like for it to be 100% give and take, not entirely one-sided. But if you donít want to share that sort of a relationship, and yes, I said relationship because I knew from the moment I met you that I wanted more than just a quick fuck, then maybe weíd better stop this right here and now before one of us," me most likely, Rowan thought to himself, "gets hurt."

Getting calmly out of the water, Rowan didnít look back at all as he walked into the house. "Youíre still more than welcome to stayóI do like your company and your help is invaluableóbut if you feel that you canít stay, then Iíll understand that too." And with that he walked inside and headed to his bedroom to try and not feel like heíd just lost the best thing to ever happen to him in his lifetime.

"Rowan, I..." The other man vanished into the cottage, and Lucas smacked a hand down into the water. "Fuck!" He climbed out of the hot tub and pulled his clothes back on, not caring that the fabric clung to his wet skin. "I want the same thing too," he muttered, dropping to the ground next to the tub and leaning back against it. "And it fucking scares me. You fucking scare me, okay?"

He could hear the phone ringing inside the cottage and wondered idly if it was Rowanís friend calling to see if heíd scored another time yet.

Growling at the phone the first time it rang, Rowan contemplated sending it flying through the window, but that would have been a waste of energy, and he didnít have a lot right now. Sighing, the soccer player picked it up. "Hello?"

"Rowan, right? This is Joe San Gabriel; you know my brother Lucas or so Iím told."

"Iím not so sure of that," Rowan muttered, wondering if it were possible for his life to get any weirder. Continuing in a more acceptable voice, the latent shape shifter said, "Iíve met him and talked to him, and he stayed the night, but know him? Iíd like to, but it might not be in the cards. What can I do for you, Mr. San Gabriel?"

"Joe, please. Whatís the runt done now?" Joe sighed. "I was calling to see how you were doing with all this and find out if he got his coffee, but it sounds like something more serious is going on. Is he trying to dom you?"

Rowanís eyebrow quirked at that. "Well, you might say that negotiations werenít going smoothly, and I chose to walk away from the table," the Brit replied cautiously. "And heís not really a runt, you know; heís rather bloody all right."

Laughter sounded on the transatlantic line. "Best thing you could do in that case; trust me, I know from experience. Heíll come Ďround, heís just used to getting his way is all. Might do him some good to have to work for something for a change."

Rowan had to smile at that. "Got any other pointers for me, you being his older brother and all? Iím going to assume whapping him on the nose with a wet paper doesnít do any good, does it?"

"Tie a string to his tail; that always drove him bonkers." Joe chuckled again. "I think I like you, Rowan Brand. Iím looking forward to meeting you if Luke doesnít scare you into staying on your side of the ocean."

"Well, if having a great bloody man-eating-sized cat staring at me from where a man stood but moments before hasnít scared the life out of me, I somehow doubt the human side of him will manage. But I will have to remember that string around the tail trick. Would you like to speak to him? Oh and my friends call me Bran."

"Considering heís probably in a snit right now, I think Iíll pass, but thanks for the offer, Bran. If you want a calmer ear to bend, call me whenever you want." Joe rattled off his phone number. "Thatís my cell; Iíve usually got it around. Tell the runt hi from me and that if he doesnít behave, Iíll be glad to come over there and take you off his hands. Unlike him, I have no issues with bottoming."

"And should I tell him that?" Rowan laughed as he wrote the number down, grateful to hear that there were calmer members of the San Gabriel family. It was Lucas, however, that still drew his moth to the younger manís flame.

"Canít hurt and it might help. Iím serious though, call if you need to talk; it helps. Gotta get now; Dadís yelling about something. Bye!"

"Let me guess," Lucas commented from where he lounged in the doorway, "Joe."

"He called to make sure you got your coffee and I was coping," Rowan replied noncommittally. "He also offered to take me off your hands if youíd rather not have to deal with me. Said something about not having issues on the bottom."

"Fuck," Lucas sighed, raking a hand through his hair and staring at the floor. "Look, I know I was out of line out there, and Iím sorry. I just... Look, I donít bottom all that often, and when I have, it hasnít been the greatest, and yes, I have fucking issues because of my size and the fact that Iím dominant; you freaked me out because you managed to dom me, and..." He closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples. "And Iím a fucking idiot, okay?"

"At least you can admit it," Rowan replied, a ghost of a smile playing across his lips. "I donít give a shit about your size, Luke, and Iím sorry it hasnít been spectacular, but how can you be certain it wonít be abso-fucking-lutely marvelous with me? You want to wait; I donít mind. You want me to shift first, well... I have to admit Iím curious to know what I could be, but I donít know if Iím ready to do it this instant.

"Just try not to jump to conclusions about me, okay? Iím actually a pretty all right bloke once you get to know me. Hell, Iím the guy on the team most people want to take home to mother - for the guys and girls!" Rowan teased.

Lucas managed a smile in response. "How about no one tops anyone until then? If you can wait, I can too, and thereís a ton of other stuff to do."

"Very true," the older man grinned. "Did I mention that though Billy has a mouth like a hoover, I have one like the intake of a jetís turbine?"

"Oh really?" Lucas arched an eyebrow and studied the orifice in question. "If thatís the case, Iíll have to pull out all my tricks, but then, as they say, talk is cheap. Put up or shut up, Rowan." He sauntered forward, all animal grace.

"Iíve never been cheap, Lucas," the older man replied as he lay back on the bed with a grin. "And youíre the one who has to put up while Iím shut up!" he continued laughing.

Lucasí eyes widened, and he sputtered out a laugh before dropping to the bed beside Rowan, holding his stomach as he cracked up. "Oh, God, it hurts, it hurts," he whimpered, rolling to his side and curling into a fetal position, still laughing.

"Well, thatís a first; Iíve never had that reaction before," Rowan laughed as he watched the younger man roll around the bed while laughing like a loon. "Iím not sure if Iím to be insulted or flattered!"

"F-flattered," Lucas gasped out, collapsing flat on his back and gasping for breath. "Everyone except family treats me so damn seriously, I... Itís good to be able to laugh."

Rowan raised an eyebrow to the other man. "I take it youíre pretty hot shit in your field then? Sorry but what I know about genetics and what not wouldnít fill a teacup, so Iíll just play ignorant and keep treating you like I would any other lover Iíve had... like my lover."

Turning to his side so he was facing Rowan, Lucas smiled. "Thatís how Iíd rather you treated me, actually. Yeah, Iím well known - or maybe notorious in my field, plus thereís the whole Ďooo, itís the seekerí thing I get from other shifters." He ran a hand down Rowanís chest, trailing his fingers through his chest hair. "Iíll bet you get something like that too."

"Notorious?" Rowanís eyebrow rose in question. "A brat professionally as well as personally I take it?" he grinned before crawling over to the younger man and straddling him. "And I hate to tell you, you being a seeker is nothing on me being a Man U player. We have a game next week; youíll come and sit in the family box and see what Iím talking about. Itís a playoff game, so itíll be a decent turn out. Stadium packed to overflowing, people screaming, foul comments flying. Then weíll talk about the Ďoooí thing and compare notes."

Feeling the younger manís erection rub between the cheeks of his arse, Rowan came to a quick decision. "Lubeís in the drawer on your left. Get it out, will you?"

"So I get to watch the real fan girls and boys throwing themselves at you then?" Lucas muttered, a bit of a growl tingeing his voice. No way was anyone touching Rowan while he was around. He pushed up onto his elbows and hooked an arm around the older manís neck, pulling him in for a voracious kiss. "And as much as Iíd love to get the lube and get in you, Iím a man of my word. I said Iíd wait, and I will."

"And I said get the lube," Rowan growled back after returning the kiss hungrily. "Do I look like Iím being self-sacrificing here? I want your bloody cock up my bloody arse, you bloody stubborn American prick. Got it?"

"Stubborn American prick?" Lucas sputtered. "If youíre trying to get me pissed to make me fuck you, itís working!"

"Oh good," Rowan smirked. "Lubeís in the left hand drawer. Now will you stop being so ruddy difficult and fuck me already? Iíve already asked nicely twice."

Snarling animalistically, Lucas flipped them both over, looming over Rowan and resisting the urge to shift and really freak him out. "Freakiní inbred Brits... If thatís what you call nicely, youíve got a lot to learn." Even as he spoke, though, he was reaching for the drawer and grabbing the tube.

"Well, it worked, didnít it?" Rowan laughed outright. "Like sweet words and platitudes would work with you anyway? A head as hard as a rock, stubborn as hell and a chip the size of Big Ben on your shoulder. I used what worked."

Rowan waited until Lucas had managed to get the lube and move back into a more conducive position and then he limberly slid his legs up and over the younger manís shoulders, getting himself into a more comfortable position.

His hand grasped his now hard cock and began to lazily stroke it, adding a nice bit of sensation to the whole thing. "Donít bother stretching me. I want you, not your fingers," the older man purred, his eyes once more turning silvery grey with lust.

Lucas met Rowanís gaze, his wide blue eyes dominating his elfin features. "I wasnít planning on it," he purred, squirting out some of the slick gel onto his fingers and stroking it over his aching erection. "First thing I want you to feel in you is me."

Licking his lower lip, he placed the head of his cock at the entrance to Rowanís body, leaned in, and pressed, feeling the resistance as tight muscle stretched, then gave way before him. "Fuck, so damn tight, love it," he gasped, settling his hands on the older manís hips and beginning to thrust, lust hazing his vision.

Rowan bit down on his lip hard, as he was taken raw and unstretched just like heíd asked to be. He tasted copper on his tongue and realized heíd made himself bleed from the force of the bite. Eyes he hadnít known he closed snapped open, and the older man surged up to nip at Lucasí mouth in retaliation and thanks.

"Bloody..." he moaned, sagging back on the bed as Luke began to move in and out of him. "God, yes, harder dammit!" His voice went from an almost subvocal growl to a howl as the younger man did just that, and one hand fisted his sheets while the other stripped at his cock, trying to meet the younger manís thrusts stroke for stroke.

The taste of blood in his mouth made Lucas groan, and he snagged a hand behind Rowanís neck, yanking his head up so that he could claim the older manís mouth as his. Each thrust he made his lover met enthusiastically, and he groaned as they slammed together, all remnants of control stripped from them both.

Rowan could only feel, could barely breath. Everything was Lucas, every sound, every smell, every touch and taste. He was drowning in the younger man and loving it. "Lucas," he purred, and then his back arched and he was coming harder then he ever had in his life. The world greyed out and turned almost black, blood rushed in his ears so that he could only hear the sound of the sea, and the only thing his eyes could focus on were eyes, blue eyes that seemed to possess his soul.

"Rowan," the blond shifter gasped, the contractions rippling along his erection making him wail before he was coming as well, his hands clenching on the other manís neck and arm with enough force to bruise even the latentís skin.

"God. Oh, my, fucking, God," he whispered, collapsing on top of the older man, his breath coming in harsh pants.

"I agree," Rowan panted when he finally found his voice. "I think you broke me."

Lucas chuckled wearily and maneuvered himself to make the other man more comfortable. "Glad to hear it; now youíve got a lot to live up to."

Rowanís eyebrow shot up to his hairline. "Oh really? How do you figure that?" Curling on his side, the soccer player tucked an arm under his head and winced slightly at the stretching of bruised flesh. "Damn, good thing I heal fast so I donít have to explain all of this to my far too nosey teammates."

"How do I figure that? Well, if I was that good, youíd better damn well be that good too." Lucas smirked and dropped a kiss by Rowanís ear before curling up next to him, back to front. "Why are you worried about explaining? Think Hoover mouth would be jealous?"

"I donít give a shite if he does or doesnít; I just donít want all the ribbing in the locker room. If you think your locker room talk in America is foul, you ainít heard anything. Those boys have sewers for mouths, and I personally donít want to hear Ďem take something... this fucking good and make it sordid, you know?"

Lucas nodded and turned his head to nuzzle the underside of Rowanís jaw. "Does it really matter what they say? Itís what we think about it that counts, and I for one am thinking that weíre pretty damn good together, even when weíre ready to tear each otherís heads off."

"We do fight well together, donít we?" Rowan had to chuckle, wrapping his hands more firmly around Lukeís stomach and resting his chin on the younger manís shoulder. "We fit together well too. Has it really only been two days?"

"Yeah," Lucas sighed, relaxing back into Rowanís hold. "Pretty freaky, eh?"

"Mmm," Rowan replied wordlessly. "Iíve got three more games over the next two weeks, about half a dozen public appearances and a morning talk show, and then the season is over so I can probably head to the States with you in a month or so. Sound okay?"

"Do what you have to do," Lucas repeated, thinking this was going to be his refrain over the next month. "Nothing urgent on my plate, and while youíre doing the celebrity thing, I can work on my research."

"Is it that mobile? Donít you need a lab or such?" Rowan asked with a sleepy yawn as the roller coaster of the past couple of days and the fabulous fuck of a few minutes ago finally began to catch up to him.

Lucas chuckled and closed his hand over Rowanís, holding it to his chest. "Itís mostly theoretical, though I may be begging you to take samples of your DNA before and after youíre triggered." He heard the yawn in Rowanís muttered answer and smiled. "Pull a blanket over both of us and get some sleep, you stubborn Brit. Itís too damn damp here."

"Bollocks to that, itís not even the rainy season yet," Rowan retorted even as he snagged the blanket at the foot of the bed with his foot and hauled it up to where he could grasp it with a hand. "Youíre just a wuss is all."

Lucas growled out an obscene reply. "Letís see whoís the wuss when youíre buried in ten feet of snow come winter."

"I think not!" Rowan retorted. "I donít do snow. Well, except to ski. Thatís acceptable."

"You do realize that by the time youíve finished your season, itíll be just about when it starts to snow in Montana, donít you?"

"Oh bloody hell," Rowan replied faintly.

*~*~*

"Well, thatís the last bag," Rowan said, packing it into the trunk of the taxi. "Mum and Dad will look after the place for me and make good use of the SUV. Bloody hell, Iím going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe. Winter in heathen America, Mumís right, I have gone starkers!"

"Iíll keep you warm," Lucas chuckled, turning up the collar on his pea coat and grimacing up at the grey skies. "And why would your mother think that? Just because youíre following Ďthat bloody Yankí to the States after youíve known him only a month and a half."

"She just doesnít like her baby being across the pond from her. Itís one thing for me to traipse around Europe and down to Greece and Portugal and Italy and such, but America is too far away for her. Especially Montana. But donít think she doesnít like you. If she didnít like you, sheíd have kept on giving you tea instead of going out and buying a coffee pot so you could have a proper cup when we went over for tea."

"She also wouldnít have given me a talking to about not breaking her babyís heart when you were in the bathroom," Lucas answered, grinning at Rowanís shocked look. "I had to swear on my own grave that Iíd take good care of you there and bring you back unharmed."

"Oh bloody hell, that woman is a menace by times! Iím twenty-seven and sheís still giving my dates a grilling before I go out. And here I thought the dad was supposed to do that for his daughter, not the mum for her son!"

Climbing into the back of the taxi, Rowan gave directions to Manchester Airport and good naturedly listened to the cabbie prattle on about how he was quite put out that Man U didnít make it to the Worldís this year.

"So weíll spend the night in Missoula and get you some decent clothes, then head out to the ranch," Lucas commented, trying not to appear too eager to get to the airport and out of England. The past six weeks with Rowan had been amazing, but he needed room to run, and there just wasnít any opportunity to do that here.

Rowan shook his head. "Dragging me off to the wilds of America, Iíve gone daft in the head." But even as he said that, he threaded his fingers through the younger manís. "And then I get to learn all about my other heritage, and after I do, itís your turn." The soccer playerís eyebrow rose significantly.

Lucas chuckled and rubbed his thumb over the center of Rowanís palm. "And youíve got me anticipating it too, you bloody git. My family are going to laugh their asses off."

"Theyíre more likely to laugh at your speech patterns," Rowan rejoined with a chuckle. "Since when did you start calling people bloody gits? I might make you British yet. And donít think that I havenít noticed you having a cup of tea now and again and liking it!"

"Only because we ran out of coffee!" Lucas exclaimed, horrified. "And I only call you a bloody git because you are a bloody git!" He leaned back in the seat, laughing. "Donít worry, youíll be talking with a drawl before two weeks are out."

"HA!" Rowan exclaimed. "Thatíll be the day. Bad enough Iím going to have to wear cowboy hats and cowboy boots, I am not gonna sound like yíall do," he said with an exaggerated drawl, sounding completely ridiculous. "A Brit with a drawl is like a Frenchman with a Russian accent; itís just not done!"

As they pulled up to the airport, Rowan looked out the taxiís window with a fair bit of trepidation. The next time he set foot on his native soil heíd be so much... more... than he was right now. Would he ever truly be able to come home again?

"Wah, wah, wah," Lucas chuckled, though he squeezed Rowanís hand in support, feeling the tension building up in the older man. ""Youíll still be you, remember that."

"Iíll just be a Ďsuperí me?" the other man said with a nervous grin. "And if you ever make that noise to me again, I swear to God Iím gonna tan your ass so red itíll make a cooked lobster jealous, got it?"

"Dream on, Ro," Lucas grinned, loosening his hold on the other manís hand, opening the cabís door and sliding out. "Or should I call you Clark if youíre going to be super?"

"Clark?!" Rowan did a fairly credible growl without having ever once shifted into cat form in his life. "Keep it up, little man, and it wonít be a dream; itíll be a reality!" Stuffing a bunch of pound notes into the cabbyís hand, Rowan helped Lucas load the luggage onto the trolley to take it to customs and the check in counter. "Iím not going to be the same old Rowan I was before you came into my life, that much is certain. I guess Iíll just have to see who this new bloke is and hope to Christ I like him."

Knowing that no amount of reassurances would ease Rowanís mind on this until he had gone through with it, Lucas gave a half-shrug. "I know if I donít, Iíll trade you in on a new model."

"What?!?" Rowan yelped and then looked closely at the younger man. "Bloody bastard. You did that on purpose, didnít you?" Laughing, he slung his arm around Lukeís shoulders and headed to the departures area of Manchester. "So letís go meet this family of yours."

*~*~*

Laughing silently, Lucas leaned against a table outside of the customs area at Chicago OíHare International, watching Rowan try to gather his things and avoid the attentions of two very interested soccer groupies who had been trying to get his attention the whole time they had been in line.

Glaring through the glass at his lover, Rowan narrowly missed having a pretty young thing in a tight dress grab his assets as he bent to pick up his jacket, which heíd dropped on the floor while customs went through his luggage. This was the part he hated the most about coming to the States. Ever since 2001, the security in American airports had been hell.

Thanking the fans for their attention, Rowan made his escape as quickly as he could. "You enjoyed that far too much, didnít you, bastard?"

Lucas shrugged innocently. "Gotta get my laughs somehow, donít I?" he asked, then, seeing that the young woman was still eyeing Rowan hungrily, he caught his lover by the front of his tight t-shirt and hauled him in for a kiss.

When he was finally let go, Rowan merely quirked an eyebrow at the younger and shorter man. "And would this be part of the whole new personality thing? The marking of oneís territory? Makes me wish Iíd invited you into the loo with me so we could have a quickie at cruising altitude. I think I like you like this... some of the time."

"Just some of the time, eh? Well, canít have everything, can we?" Lucas shouldered his backpack and grabbed his laptop case. "Joe booked us a room at the Hilton nearby; once we check in, we can dump our stuff, then head out to this store I know to get you outfitted with some cold weather gear."

"The rest of the time itíll be my turn," Rowan grinned wolfishly at the other man. "And this is your country; you lead the way." Stepping out of the terminal into the outside air, Rowan shivered. "Bloody hell itís cold! I think Iíve changed my mind." Turning, the older man made to go back into the building only to be hauled back outside and called a big baby yet again.

"There is snow on the ground, Lucas. Itís literally a cold day in hell if Manchester gets snow on the ground. If I want the white stuff, I go to Switzerland and go skiing. I canít believe I voluntarily decided to live here for at least a few months. I must be barmy, I swear."

"This from the guy who went after me mercilessly because I complained about the damp once! Itís gotta be at least forty out here; this is a heat wave," Lucas laughed, watching Rowan try to hang onto his bags and huddle in his coat at the same time.

Leading the other man to the hotel shuttle, he handed their bags over and climbed in. "Think warm thoughts, Ro, and weíll get you some fleece and down soon enough."

"Iím not bloody fish eggs," the Brit muttered under his breath but nonetheless accepted his new nickname, albeit not gracefully. "Just donít call me that around my mum and dad, will you? Or my brother. Iíll never live it down!" Moving closer to Lucas, the older man didnít give a damn about the looks he was getting from the other people in the shuttle; he was cold; this was the deep of winter for him!

Lucas snickered at the comment, knowing there was no way he was giving up that name; besides, the world had Rowan, and his family had Bran, but only Lucas had Ro. Feeling the older man shiver, he stripped off his coat and offered it over. "Here, you need it more than I do," he said, wrapping an arm around Rowanís shoulders, hoping to warm him.

"Iím just tired and not used to the weather. A little sleep and a couple of weeks to get used to it and I should be fine... at least until the snow starts. You have a doctor at the compound, right? Mum might be a little put out if you let me die of pneumonia or something," he teased his lover.

"Bastard," Lucas sighed, punching Rowan in the arm with his free hand. "Like thatís going to happen. "Iíll get you out in the snow if it kills me; no way youíre spending your time there holed up in the house."

"I happen to like being holed up in the house... crackling fire, hot chocolate spiked with brandy, fur rug on the floor, hot, sweaty sex in front of the fireplace," Rowan grinned evilly at the gasps and titters from the other passengers, "sounds like my idea of paradise really."

Lucas shook his head, sighing in mock resignation. "Fine, if thatís the way you want it..." The shuttle pulled up in front of the hotel, and he stood, grinning. "Youíll just have to wait for it, no fireplaces here."

"If I have to wait, so do you, remember that," Rowan replied, his grin growing that much wider. "But then again, youíre the one who said you could wait. I guess now weíll see if thatís really true or not."

Heading past the younger man and making a beeline for the door and the heated interior of the hotel, Rowan ignored the smothered chuckle behind him. He was falling in love with a complete and utter bastard...

That thought brought the soccer player to a dead stop just shy of the door, much to everyoneís disgruntlement. People could neither get in nor get out, and all Rowan could do was feel like heíd been whacked upside the head with a pole. He was falling in love with the runt, God help him!

"Rowan... Yo, Ro, I know you donít want to go out in the cold, but ya gotta move, or weíll have a riot here," Lucas said, prodding his lover in the back and frowning slightly, hoping he wasnít having an episode. They had been few and far between over the last few weeks, but being in the crowds at the airport might have set him off.

"Hunh? What? Oh, terribly sorry," the other man muttered, stepping out of everyoneís way and letting them pass. Taking deep, calming breaths, the soccer player tried to get himself under control. Heíd managed to last twenty-seven years without ever falling in love and now... now he couldnít imagine his life without Lucas in it. Was this normal? Did Luke feel the same way? What if this was just a fling to the other man, a way to get a latent into the fold? Rowan knew that it was ludicrous for him to think it, but his mind was whirling, and his blood was racing. He could feel the tension start to creep in, and he knew that it wasnít a good sign, but he still couldnít help it. "I think I need to get up to the room now," he muttered to the younger man as quietly as he could. "Right now."

"Okay." Lucas placed a calming hand on Rowanís shoulder, steering him toward the front doors, barely acknowledging the doorman who opened them. "Sit over here with the stuff, and Iíll get the keys. Are you going to be okay if I leave you alone for a few minutes?" As he talked, he settled Rowan onto one of the couches near the fireplace, crouching down to look into the older manís eyes, trying to judge the state of his anxiety.

"Yeah, I just... need space," the older man tried to explain. "So long as no one talks to me or crowds me, Iíll be fine. I just need some quiet space." And a place to lose that rot the airplane called food in private, he thought to himself rather ruefully, feeling his stomach heave.

Hating the fact that he had to leave Rowan, even for a moment, Lucas nodded and straightened up. Reaching out, he pressed a hand to his loverís forehead and frowned. "Five minutes, lover, then weíll be up in our room, and you can relax."

At Rowanís shallow nod, he walked quickly toward the desk, pushing them to work faster when they seemed to be taking too long, and finally finished the registration process.

"Theyíll bring the bags up, Ro," he said gently, crouching down once more beside Rowan. "Let me give you a hand up, and weíll get the hell out of here."

"Iím having a panic attack, not dying," the older man snapped and then apologized immediately. "Iím sorry, love, I just had a sudden... insight thatís rather terrifying," Rowan apologized, not even realizing the slip of his tongue and that heíd called Lucas his love. "A nap will do me wonders, of that I have no doubt."

"Donít worry about it," Lucas soothed, rubbing his hand over the small of Rowanís back when he stood and guiding him toward the elevator. "Considering everything youíve been through today, Iím amazed at how well youíve held up."

He paused, wondering just what Rowanís insight had been, but decided now wasnít the time to ask about it. "Weíll get you upstairs and into bed, then Iíll rub your back until you fall asleep."

"You take very good care of me, Lucas," Rowan admitted, hugging the younger man to him. "Youíve been a godsend and so much more. I... Iím just nervous about all this, you know? Not sure whatís going on or what Iíll turn out as. The idea of being a Persian is vaguely offensive," the older man tried to interject some levity into the situation.

Lucas chuckled quietly at that image. "No house cats, remember? This is definitely a case where size really doesnít matter as far as being dominant. Dadís a freaking ocelot for Godís sake, and he can take Rob down so fast you wouldnít believe it."

He stretched up to kiss the older manís jaw. "Itís okay to be nervous; itís okay to be scared, but just remember to talk about it, if not to me, then to one of the others. Iím not going to let anything bad happen to you, Ro; I care about you too much."

He cared? Damn, they needed the room now. Luckily for Rowan, the elevator pinged, and the men were able to get out on their floor and make their way into their suite without any further delays. Once the door shut the rest of the world out behind them, Rowan sagged against the door, breathing hard.

"Iím falling in love with you, you bloody American git," he informed the younger man as quickly as he could, wanting to get it out and over with so he could either jump out the window or sag into a puddle on the floor.

It took Lucas a moment to understand what Rowan had said as his accent had gotten horribly thick, but when his brain had finally processed it, his eyes widened, and he smiled slowly. "Is that such a bad thing?" he asked quietly. "I mean, if you want me to be upset about it, I canít be, because Iíve felt that way about you for a few weeks now. Actually, Iím past that point; Iím in love with you."

He gave a rueful smile. "And you wonder why you scare the shit out of me."

"Bloody hell." Rowan sagged against the door with relief, a smile breaking out over his face. "Well, considering if youíd told me that I was just a Ďthingí to you, I was planning on taking a running leap out the window, Iíd say that you feeling the same way was a good thing, wouldnít you?" the older man asked ruefully.

"A thing? Ro, from the first time you got me pissed, you were more than a thing for me." Lucas reached up and pushed the coats from Rowanís shoulders. "Now that thatís settled, I want you to go get undressed and lie down. Youíve vibrating again, and itís not going to get any better if I donít take care of it. Forget shopping; we can get stuff in Missoula when we fly in there."

"Once I find my inner feline, Iíll stop being a ticking time bomb, right? Iíll actually be able to control this myself without feeling like Iím coming apart at the seams?" Rowan asked rather pathetically as he allowed himself to be led into the bedroom and only aided Lucas in stripping off his clothes. The younger man was a very good caretaker, which gave Rowan pause. "You donít do this for every latent, do you? Pansexual is fine and all, but I donít know if Iím so liberal that I can share my mate with the entire latent shifter population."

After getting the last of Rowanís clothes off, Lucas nodded. "I canít say I havenít ever slept with another latent Iíve found, but certainly not all of them, and there definitely wonít be any more of them," he said. "Iím settled, leashed... pathetic."

He chuckled and continued. "And yes, once youíre triggered, things will calm down. There might be a little leftover itchiness, but thatís something youíre going to have to talk to Gram about; Iíve never dealt with anyone like you before, but she should have some answers." He nudged Rowan toward the bed, stripping down to his boxer briefs as well and climbing up to straddle the other manís waist.

"Leave it to me to be unique even among the unique," Rowan chuckled quietly, relaxing almost immediately upon feeling the younger manís fingers search out and find the various and sundry acupuncture points, pressing and then soothing the muscles. "Mum always did claim that of my brother and myself heíd be the one to do things the easy way and I would be hell bent to make it as convoluted and impossible as I could before finally getting it right," the older man laughed.

"Itíll be nice to talk to your gram though. The science of this is all well and good, and youíre brilliant for explaining it to me, but quite honestly I canít understand half the bloody things youíre telling me. Hopefully your gramís explanations will make more sense to me."

Groaning blissfully, Rowan willingly allowed himself to be turned into a puddle of melted goo on the sheets, feeling every bit of tension drain away under Lukeís tender ministrations. "Iím never going to want to get out of this bed, you realize that, donít you?" the older man moaned happily.

Lucas leaned in to place a kiss on the tanned skin between Rowanís shoulder blades. "Good thing you donít have to, until tomorrow at least. We can get your stuff in Missoula, and thereís room service for our dinner. Youíre on my turf now, Ro, and I say you need a nap, so youíre going to nap, got it?"

"Anyone ever tell you that youíre a damned bossy bit of goods?" Rowan replied with a good-natured grumble. Nonetheless he allowed himself to be settled in for a nap and a blanket tucked around his shoulders, letting Lucas take care of him as the younger man was wont to do.

"Iím older than you and bigger than you, and still you try toówhat did Joe call it? Oh yeahóand still you try to dom me. If I didnít love you like I do, Iíd probably swat you," the older man chuckled quietly as he closed his eyes and felt Lucas wrap his smaller frame around him, like a human security blanket.

"You know youíre the first person who has ever consistently led me around by my balls, which is saying something. Actually it says a lot more about me that I donít seem to mind it. Bloody hell, if this means that Iím a closet sub, I do believe Iím rightly screwed."

Snorting out a laugh, Lucas shook his head. "You as a sub, riiiight. Iím not trying to dom you; Iím taking care of you so that you donít vibrate out of your skin. If I was trying to dom you, Iíd bite the back of your neck; that always gets a true sub on their belly with their ass in the air."

"Oh purrr," Rowan replied, his ass thrusting up in the air. "Okay, I have another question for you and one that might sound a little... well, gross. Have you ever had sex with one in cat form and one in human form? Is that even doable?"

Lucas chuckled, "Now thatís a serious sub attitude. I didnít even have to bite you, and to answer your question, yeah, I have. Itís pretty hot actually, especially if one partner changes during the middle of things. You have to plan it out ahead of time though, because some things that work with two humans donít with a human and a cat or two cats."

"Oh bloody hell," Rowan replied faintly, a huge rush of arousal heating him quickly. "You... I had to ask, didnít I?" the other man moaned, burying his face in the pillow and shifting slightly so that he was no longer lying flat on his stomach and his erection wasnít uncomfortably wedged between him and the mattress.

"What? Having trouble getting to sleep now?" Lucas laughed quietly. "Want me to relax you again or to relax you again? Or..." He paused for a moment, and rubbed against Rowanís strong back. "You can relax me."

"I can relax you how?" Rowan moaned as he arched into the caress, "and bloody hell, Yank, you know how sensitive my lower back is. Iím gonna come in a minute," the older man moaned as he rolled away from Lucasís teasing touch and over so that he was facing the younger man.

Lucas raised his eyes to meet Rowanís. "By fucking me."

Rowanís breath caught in his throat, and he reached out with a shaking hand to stroke his loverís cheek. "I want to, believe me, luv, I really want to, but... I want you in your native habitat so to speak. I want you in your home the way you had me in mine. Do you mind?"

"This is revenge, right?" Lucas asked, grinning so that Rowan knew he was kidding. "And, naw, I donít mind. I can survive without you in me for another few days if I have to, but if you arenít going to do what I want... " He rolled Rowan to his side again, curling up behind him and leaning in, his breath ghosting over the back of the older manís neck. "I get to relax you."

Rowan moaned hungrily, his hand reaching back to snag one of Lukeís. Bringing it up to his lips, he kissed the younger manís palm, his tongue lapping at the salty flesh lightly. "I want you in me again," he replied simply.

"Like I ever mind doing that," the younger man murmured, nestling his erection between Rowanís ass cheeks. "This time though, let me try something different." He felt Rowan tense a little bit and smiled. "Donít worry; Iím not going to change or anything. I just want to see..." He leaned in again and closed his teeth around the nape of his loverís neck, biting down as he rocked against the older man.

Rowanís moan was the sound of need itself as he felt Lukeís teeth sink into his flesh. "Fucking bloody hell!" he gasped, his cock jumping and slapping against his stomach. "Oh thatís brilliant!" Rocking back against Luke a little harder, the older man guided Lukeís captured hand down to his erection, and when the younger man wrapped his fingers around the hot flesh, Rowan added his over top of Lukeís so that the both of them were stroking his shaft. "More!" he demanded hotly. "Give me more!"

Lucas growled out his agreement and bit Rowan again, his teeth closing on a bundle of nerves at the base of his neck that he knew would drive the other man wild. As he stroked Rowanís cock, he rocked his own against his ass, pressing up against his whole back as if trying to meld himself with his lover.

Breathing becoming increasingly ragged, Rowan bucked back and forth between the two sensations of a cock rubbing against his ass and his cock rubbing inside a fist. Sweat poured and his eyes sank shut as he concentrated on the sound of Lukeís breath rasping against his skin, the growl the younger man emitted, and the scent of the heat they were generating. Thrusting faster and faster, Rowan felt his balls draw up and his blood boil.

"Let go, Ro. Love you, want to feel it," Lucas rasped, rubbing up against his loverís back, his cock sliding in the streaks of precome heíd leaked.

Moaning nearly constantly, Rowanís head arched back as he let the tension build to intolerable levels. He brought his free hand up to twist his nipple hard to add that little bit of pain to his pleasure. It was just the added touch he needed, and with a howl he muffled in a pillow, the Brit sent gouts of hot seed over their combined hands, his stomach and the bed.

"God, just like that," Lucas gasped, driving hard up against his loverís back and biting down on his shoulder, drawing blood as he came as well, shuddering to his release, almost overwhelmed by the depth of his feelings.

Sagging exhausted onto the bed, Rowan spent long moments catching his breath and finding the energy to move before rolling over to face the younger man. "Bloody hell, that was... did the earth fly off its axis or something because something bloody well shifted while we were doing that?" the older man gasped appreciatively.

Snuggling up to Lucas so that they were belly to belly, his chin resting on the shorter manís shoulder, Rowan relaxed completely for the first time since heíd left home that morning. "I love you, Lucas San Gabriel," he tried out for the first time, saying what heíd confessed to earlier. "I bloody well love you."

"Mmm," Lucas purred, stroking a hand over Rowanís back and feeling him sink even closer into his embrace. "Damn good thing you do, because I wasnít planning on letting go of you after youíd been triggered."

"Figuring on keeping me, are you?" Rowan chuckled as he let his eyes drift shut. "And just what would I do for a living, hmmm? I somehow doubt that even someone with your fatherís clout could convince Manchester to let their soccer club come to the wilds of Montana. It might overthrow the monarchy if you did that!"

Lucas sighed quietly and rested his cheek against the top of Rowanís head.

"So then we stay in England while you play. I can do my work pretty much anywhere, but you really canít."

"Iím 27, Luke, thatís actually pretty bloody old for a soccer player. The only reason I lasted this long is the fact that Iím a shifter, I think, the healing, the speed and so on giving me an edge. Iíve been thinking that maybe itís time to get out of the game, stop playing and live life a bit," Rowan replied seriously.

"There are only two problems as I see. One, your country letting me move here without a job or a green card or anything like that, and two, Iíd like to spend at least part of the year in England with Mum and Dad. Theyíre getting on in years, and Iím their baby. I want to make sure theyíre looked after."

"Well, if you think Iím going to complain about having you here with me for part of the year, youíre dead wrong, lover," Lucas murmured. "Weíll find a way around the green card thing, and I think I can handle living in England part of the year unless your parents would freak if I was with you."

Rowan stared at the younger man in disbelief. "Umm, Lucas, stop being such a git," he laughed. "Mum likes you; Dad thinks youíre a bit of all right; and theyíre not gonna be upset to see me happy, not by a long shot. And you make me happy. Fuck but that sounded girly. Iíve spent waaay too much time on the bottom. Iíd best learn how to shift soon!"

Lucas chuckled quietly at that remark. "Hey, I offered; you turned me down."

"Thatís before I started sounding like bloody Vince from Queer as Folk. Thatís just wrong!" Rowan groaned.

"Vince? Oh, Michaelís precursor," Lucas laughed. "Nah, itís cute, and I promise, I donít think youíre fem at all."

"Oh, youíre too kind," Rowan retorted sarcastically. "Iíd better not be fem! How insulting is that?" Shaking his head, the older man let out another huge yawn. "Wake me up when the food gets here," he mumbled as he wrapped the younger man closer. "Whatever you order, I want mine rare, okay?"

"Nah, youíre all butch, baby," Lucas laughed, kissing Rowan fondly and trying to squirm out of the hold the older man had on him. "And how do you expect me to order dinner for us if youíve got me in a headlock?"

"Youíre the genius; youíll think of something," Rowan muttered, stroking his cheek back and forth along the top of Lukeís shoulder. "And get me a Guinness too, will ya? Now thatís beer, not the horse piss you Yanks refer to as the drink."

"Know how I said you werenít fem? Iím quickly changing my mind," Lucas growled, trying to squirm out of Rowanís hold on him. When the other man didnít give an inch, he suddenly grinned and shifted, sliding easily out of his loverís grasp and changing back to his human form before his feet hit the floor.

"Bastard, no fair shifting like that," Rowan pouted. "Now how am I gonna get to sleep without my cuddle toy?" the older man asked, a hint of a grin spreading across his features. "Will you come back and snuggle with me like that? As a leopard. That fur was soft and warm."

Lucas grinned. "Be glad to, just donít drool on me, though." Grinning, he picked up the phone and ordered their meals before heading to the bathroom to get a damp towel to clean Rowanís front and back off and a dry one to cover the damp spots on the sheets.

"I donít bloody drool," Rowan growled but allowed the younger man to minister to him. "Fine thing to say about the man who just professed undying love. The romance is gone before we even got it."

"Terrible thing, isnít it?" Lucas laughed, kissing Rowan and mischievously changing during it so the older man found himself nose to muzzle with a snow leopard.

"Gahhh, warn a man before you give him a mouth full of muzzle, you great hairy beast!" Rowan sputtered, trying to avoid getting hair in his mouth. "Just keep the claws retracted and weíll not have a problem. Iíve had enough excitement for one day, and we really donít want to explain blood on the sheets when we check out in the morning." That said the older man snuggled up behind the big cat, shivering slightly as his now spent cock brushed against the incredibly soft fur. "Damn but thatís erotic," he moaned slightly.

Lucas purred out a response and writhed in Rowanís arms, his paws coming down to cover his loverís arms and hold them close.

"Is this your way of telling me that youíre not letting me go?" the older man grinned, rubbing his face back and forth in the soft fur at the base of Lukeís neck. "If anyone had told me six months ago that Iíd be curled up behind a leopard and that leopard was my lover... Iíd have had the poor bastard committed!"

Shoulders shaking as he laughed silently, Lucas twisted his head enough to lick the part of Rowanís arm he could reach.

"Well, you have to admit that would be one for the record books... if it werenít true that is." Sighing in perfect contentment, Rowan finally allowed himself to drift off, knowing that Lucas would wake him when the food arrived.

*~*~*

Looking out over Missoula as they came in for a landing, Rowan couldnít believe the difference between Chicago and Montana. "And you call this a light snow?" The older man stared down at the vast whiteness in disbelief. "What do you consider a heavy snow? The airport being shut down?"

Lucas looked perplexed, then laughed. "Well, yeah. Anything less is a dusting."

"This is more than Manchester gets all winter, Lucas," Rowan pointed out in a faint voice. "I just hope my Ďotherísí fur keeps me nice and warm, or I might just freeze to death."

"Never happen," the younger man promised. "Iíll keep you nice and warm, and weíll get you geared up before we drive out to the compound so you wonít even notice the weather."

"Unh-hunh," Rowan replied, disbelief apparent in his voice. "Iím going to need the sort of gear they wear in the Antarctic to keep me warm."

"Wimp," Lucas laughed affectionately, leaning over to kiss Rowan, not caring what the other passengers thought.

"Sensible, and more at home in the sand and sea than snow and ice. Iím a warm blooded kind of cat," Rowan murmured before returning the light kiss and deepening it ever so slightly. Slipping his tongue into Lukeís mouth, the older man tasted his lover thoroughly before letting their lips come apart. "But you can heat me up like that any time."

"My pleasure," the younger man purred. "And if youíre nice, Iíll pull over on the way home and give you a blow job thatíll have you so relaxed that you wonít even care about the cold."

The sound that emerged from Rowanís throat was a cross between a needy whine and a hungry growl. "Not nice to tease me when weíre coming in for a landing," he warned, nipping at Lukeís lower lip sharply. "Do it again and Iím not gonna give a shit about the seatbelt sign; Iím going to haul you into that bathroom back there and satisfy an urge."

"Ah ah ah," Lucas snickered. "With security the way it is, all that would accomplish would be to get us both arrested, and it would be even longer before you got me - though having a copís finger stuck up your ass in a body cavity search might turn you on."

Rolling his eyes, Rowan snorted. "The only fingers I want stuck up my ass are yours, thanks all the same. Killjoy."

Lucas grinned. "Hey, it got your mind off the snow at least."

Rowanís only answer was a long and loud raspberry. "Tell me about your family since Iím about to meet them all."

"Like you havenít talked to them all on the phone... Okay, okay! Joe Iím not going to bother with considering the phone calls and e-mails youíve had. Evaís a lot like him in case you hadnít noticed. Robís the consummate big brother and Mariís a doll."

"And your daughter? Whatís she like and your parents?"

"Youíve talked to Mom and Dad," Lucas laughed, "what do you think? As for Amy... sheís a doll, and this sounds really harsh, but sheís more my folksí than mine."

Rowanís eyebrow quirked slightly. "Was she planned?"

Lucas had the good grace to blush. "Not in the slightest. I was home visiting from college and got together with one of my sisterís friends. Older woman, big ego boost and boom, next thing I know, Jennyís telling me sheís pregnant. She didnít want to raise a kid yet, so my folks took Amy. I think it worked out best for all of us that way."

Rowan shook his head slightly. "I canít imagine being a father. Ever. It seems so strange to me, to produce a child thatís a part of me and someone else, but I canít wait to meet your daughter. Is she as pigheaded as you by any chance?"

"Ass," Lucas growled under his breath. "Sheís only two, but yeah, sheís probably going to be just as bad as I am, and just as gorgeous too."

"God help the shifter population when sheís old enough to start mating. Sheís gonna have them all chasing their tails for her."

"Like father, like daughter."

"Excuse me? I seem to recall you chasing my tail long before I chased yours," Rowan retorted, silently promising himself to find a piece of string for the next time he talked Luke into changing into cat form.

Lucas waved a hand in the air. "Details, details."

"Unh-hunh," Rowan replied dryly. "Iím gonna remember you said that for a long time. And Iím gonna have a nice long talk with Joe and Eva and Rob on how to keep the runt of the litter in line."

"Yeah, like they can do anything with me!" Lucas snickered in delight. "Now behave, the planeís landing."

"Me behave?" Rowan sputtered. "Ooooh youíre so gonna get it, brat!"

"I keep trying, but you keep telling me we have to wait!"

Biting down on his lower lip hard enough to make it bleed, Rowan began to silently count backwards from one hundred. Lucas was in fine form today, and there was no way he was going to win the verbal jousting. Rowan would just have to bide his time and make sure he had plenty of string on hand.

*~*~*

"Ro? Hey, baby, you need to wake up, weíre almost there." Lucas reached out and gently shook his loverís shoulder, smiling fondly at the older man as he did so. True to his word, the moment theyíd gotten out of the city after practically buying out the winter gear section of a sporting goods store, heíd found a rest area, pulled in, and given his lover the promised blow job.

Rowan must have been exhausted, because all heíd managed afterward was a drowsy smile before he conked out, huddled in his parka. "Big, stubborn Brit," Lucas murmured fondly, stroking Rowanís face. "Love you."

"Glad to hear it," Rowan replied as his eyes fluttered open and he let loose with a huge yawn. "Damn, I must have been knackered still. I didnít mean to sleep all the way to wherever it is we are. Where are we, by the way?"

"At the turn off to the compound," Lucas chuckled. "I knew you were tired when I had the radio blaring and you didnít even bat an eyelash. You needed the rest though, and this way you donít know the way back, so youíre my prisoner out here."

Rowan snorted. "Are you saying that once I shift, I wouldnít be able to find my way out by scent and all that other crap? Not that I mind being a prisoner. And this way I canít be held responsible when I report late back to the team, and you can go head to head with the team manager. I think Iíll sell tickets to that event!"

Lucas grinned. "Iíd take him down, no problem. Iíve met the guy, remember?"

"Iíd still sell tickets to the lads; theyíd be amused by the match," Rowan chuckled as he snuggled deeper into his coat and looked out at the miles of snow surrounding them. "Looks like hell has frozen over tíme. So how far to the family compound itself?"

Shaking his head at Rowanís expression, Lucas managed to keep from laughing out loud. "About three more miles. This is all San Gabriel land though; it heads back into the mountains and out about thirty miles in either direction. Plenty of room to run when you get the urge."

"Well, Iíd best learn how to become a cat first, hadnít I?" Rowan laughed, his eyes still drawn out the window to the land. In the distance he saw a horse and rider moving slowly through the snow. "I thought horses got spooked by predators like large cats? How is it you have some? Not that Iím complaining because I do like to ride, but doesnít that pose a problem for horses and shifters?"

"We raise some," Lucas explained. "If theyíre raised around us, then they donít get spooked unless weíre in cat form. That still sends Ďem off, so we have to be careful not to go near the barns."

"I think Iíll remember that," the older man replied. "Last thing I want is to be squished by a stampede of spooked horses." Watching as the compound came into view, Rowan was surprised. "I thought you said this was your home, not a town? Why are there so many buildings?"

"My folks live in the main house, and my grandparents live in the one off to the right." Lucas pointed each out in turn. "Rob lives in town, but he has a cottage here, as do Rob, Eva and myself. The rest are used if the others in the area need a place to crash or someone has family visiting." He shrugged. "You get used to it."

"It sounds like a town to me," Rowan laughed as they pulled up the long driveway to park in front of the big house. The door opened and a rather overwhelming number of people spilled out into the cold air. "Bloody hell," the older man muttered, shrinking down into his seat. "Is it too late to change my mind about all of this?"

Lucas reached out and took Rowanís hand, squeezing it firmly. "This from the guy who played in front of ten thousand screaming fans? Theyíre only my family, Ro."

"Which is why theyíre ten times scarier than ten thousand screaming fans. These are the people that made you, loved you and raised you. These people are important," Rowan replied.

"Like youíre important," Lucas answered seriously. "I love you, and they will to, okay?" That was the last thing he had time to say before the door was wrenched open and Joe was leaning in the car.

"Rowan! Give me a hundred bucks, and Iíll protect you from the mob."

"Sod off, ya bastard!" Rowan laughed. "Youíre not worth fifty pence, let alone a hundred pounds!"

"Fuck you too!" Joe laughed, dragging Rowan out of the SUV to hug him while his sisters went around the other side to attack Lucas.

"Anyone drives him off and theyíre in sooo much trouble!" Lucas howled.

Rowan found himself caught up in a whirlwind of people, none of whom he had the foggiest idea of a name for or who they actually were. He was passed from person to person, his hand shaken, his waist or leg hugged or a kiss planted on his cheek, and when he reached the last person, he was exhausted. Looking at the man standing in front of him, Rowan at least knew who this was if for no other reason than the air about him. "Mr. San Gabriel, thank you for letting me come to your home," the Brit said, holding out his hand.

"Weíre glad to have you here, Rowan," Jackson responded gravely before smiling and pulling the younger man into a rough hug.

A little surprised, Rowan nonetheless returned the embrace warmly. Coming from a small family, this was all something of a shock to the system. It was a veritable clan, and heíd just been accepted into it. It was bloody marvelous.

Looking around for Lucas, Rowan found his lover standing a little ways back, a huge smile on his face as he watched.

"Welcome, Rowan." A tall, blonde woman smiled down at him and kissed his cheek. "In case the introduction got lost in the tumult, Iím Claudia, Lucasí mother. Youíve bit off a challenge here, let me tell you."

"Mom!" Luke protested, darting over to Rowanís side and pretending to try to drag him back to the car. "Never mind, England is looking really good to me!"

"Oh no!" Rowan laughed, digging his heels in. "Iíd love to hear everything you can tell me about your son, Mrs. San Gabriel. You wouldnít happen to have pictures to go along with the stories too, would you?"

Laughing, the family headed inside the main house, Lucasí whimpers hanging on the air after them.

*~*~*

Dinner was a jovial affair, and Rowan spent most of it acting like he was at Wimbledon, head going from side to side as the insults and fur flew. After dinner Claudia left her children to clean up and ushered the young man into the family room with promises of stories and photos galore.

By the time Lucas and his siblings joined the elder San Gabriels and Amy, Rowan was on the floor laughing so hard that tears ran down his cheeks. There in his hand was the quintessential baby shot of Lucas, naked as a jaybird and posed on a white fur rug with the largest toothless grin Rowan had ever seen in his entire life.

"Oh, God," Lucas groaned, hiding behind Joe and Eva while Mari giggled brightly ad dropped to the floor beside Rowan.

"Show him the one of Luke right after he changed the first time!" she exclaimed, much to her brotherís distress.

Putting his arm around Mariís shoulder, Rowan grinned. "And why is that one so funny, hmmm?" he asked the young girl. "Is there a story behind it I should know about?"

Looking over Mariís head at his lover, Rowanís smile became positively demonic. "Oh and I did want to ask the lot of you how to keep him in line too. As Joe pointed out to me the first time I spoke with him, Rowan can be a little sh... sugary pain in the butt," the older man recovered quickly when little ears craned to hear what he was about to say.

"First time Luke changed, he fell in the watering trough when he was trying to get used to having four feet," Rob laughed quietly from where he was standing in the corner.

"It gave the phrase Ďmadder than a wet catí new meaning!" Eva added, ducking Lucasí half-hearted swat at her.

"This is how they keep me in line: by humiliating me!"

"You know, I really like your family," Rowan smiled beatifically. "So much useful information. So has anyone tried to Ďbellí you yet?"

Lucas actually hissed at that. "Weíre saving it for you."

Bursting into gales of laughter, the Brit collapsed back onto the floor, clutching at his sides when they began to hurt. Tears streamed and he fought for breath. "You... you... sounded just like Mrs. OíMalleyís tomcat when he got doused when Mum threw a pan of water into her shrubbery and didnít realize the blasted thing was hiding under there. Lord, the entire neighborhood heard that noise, and the poor cat shot off like a pack of hungry dogs was right on its tail!"

Lucas looked at the ceiling and sighed. "Someone tell me why I thought it was a good idea to bring this tom-fool man home with me? Oh yeah, because I love him, but thatís wearing really thin about now."

"Poor baby," Rowan shot back. "You brought me home, you fell in love with me, you claimed that you were Ďkeepingí me, as you so quaintly put it, so you can deal with the consequences of your actions. It would seem to me that thereís a rather basic scientific principal at work here. Action, reaction. Are you sure youíre Godís gift to research, like you claimed?" the older man asked far too innocently.

Going deathly still, Lucas rose to his feet and smiled at his parents. "Mom, Dad, sorry for cutting the evening short, but Iíve got some things to do. See you in the morning?"

Getting to his own feet, Rowan murmured a hasty goodnight and went after his lover. Not even bothering to throw on his jacket, the older man only took long enough to slide into his boots before he was out the door and in the frosty night air. "Lucas? What just happened back there?" the older man demanded when he finally caught up with his lover halfway between the big house and Lukeís cabin.

Lucas barely glanced up at Rowanís arrival. "What? Donít want to stay and hear the rest of the stories? There are some great ones, I can tell you that now."

"No, I donít want to hear the rest of the stories. I want to know what bloody happened? One minute you were laughing with the rest of us, and then I must have said something to offend you because the next... even your Montana isnít as cold as the expression on your face was. Care to tell me what I did?"

"So I made you do it all, hmmm? Thatís why youíre here?"

"Bloody... no, you didnít make me do it all. Iím a grown bloody man who can make up his own mind. I came because I need to find out whatís happening to me. I came because this is where I both want and need to be right now. And I came because I love you, you stupid sodding bastard, and if you donít for a moment think I was just joking around with you, then you can fuck right off!" Rowan exploded, his temper and the situation getting the better of him.

"Idiot bloody shifters and their fucking assumptions. Iím going to bed!" And with that Rowan wheeled around, intent on heading back into the big house and begging for a room for the night or a cottage of his own until heíd cooled off a bit.

"The fuck you are!" Lucas snarled, darting around to stand in front of Rowan, blocking his path and easily heading him off when he tried to go around him. "If youíre going to bed anywhere, itís with me."

"Oh really?" Rowanís eyebrow shot up and he crossed his arms for warmth as much as defiance. "And give me one reason why I should!"

"Because you love me, thatís why." Chin in the air, Lucas took a step closer, daring Rowan to try and get around him.

"Bollocks I do!" Rowan growled as his hands shot out and he pushed hard, sending Lucas back into the snow on his ass. Taking off at a sprint for the house, he knew he didnít stand a chance but was determined to give it the old school try. Reaching deep inside himself for every last ounce of speed he had, Rowan tried to envision being his shifter self and reaching top speed.

Heíd barely got the thought out when he felt a sudden fluidity of his bones and a shifting within himself that brought him to an abrupt and shivering stop. Dropping to his knees in the middle of the snow-covered San Gabriel compound, the older man tried for the life of him to stop shaking. What the fuck had just happened?

Lucas was up off the ground in a flash, shaking the snow from his face and already starting to chase after Rowan when the other manís sudden halt threw him off stride, especially when he saw his loverís back ripple and flow beneath his shirt before solidifying once again.

"Fuck..." he breathed, covering the last few strides between them and gathering Rowan into his arms, running his hands over the older man to assure himself that he was all right. "Ro? What did you do, Ro? Talk to me here."

"Donít... donít know," Rowan replied, his teeth chattering from a combination of the cold and shock. "Just wanted to try and get to the house before you caught u-up with me. Reached for my reserves, th-thought about maybe how f-fast Iíd be able to run in my c-cat form, and then... things moved. Inside me. Things started to move inside me, I could feel them shift."

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck." Realizing that Rowan was shaking from the cold as well as what had just happened, Lucas hauled him to his feet, practically carrying the older man toward his cabin, knowing that there was a fire going inside from the smoke coming out of the chimney.

"Youíre gonna be okay, Ro. Fuck, Iím such a stupid fuck." Lucas cursed himself violently. "Iíll get you warmed up and go get Gram; sheíll know what to do." They reached the door to the cabin, and Lucas shouldered it open, hustling Rowan to the space in front of the fireplace and settling him on the floor, stripping off his now wet shoes and jeans before bundling him up in several layers of blankets.

"I take it Iím doing things that I shouldnít be able to do again?" Rowan tried to joke, wanting to soothe his lover a bit. "Iím j-just a bit cold is all, no need to fuss or bother your gr-grandmother. It can wait until morning, canít it?"

Stripping out of his own snowy clothes and getting Rowanís shirt off, Lucas crawled into his blanket cocoon with him. "I think you just like scaring the shit out of me is all," he murmured, pulling Rowan to sit between his thighs so that he was heating the older man from the back and the fire from the front.

"Iíll hold off on getting Gram for now, okay?"

"Mmm, please," Rowan replied as he started to get warm again. "And I donít mean to scare the shit out of you, honestly. Besides I think I probably scared myself more." Rowan lay there in silence for a few moments, staring into the blaze as he willed himself to relax and breathe and use all the little tricks Luke had taught him over the past six weeks.

"I started to shift all on my own, didnít I? Are latents supposed to be able to do that? Do full blooded shifters do that?" he asked quietly.

"Full bloods can," Lucas answered quietly, rubbing his hands over Rowanís arms. "The first time we shift, itís pretty spontaneous, but Iíve never heard of a latent doing it.

"Iím sorry about what happened there. Shit, I flew off the handle over nothing and took it out on you, and look what happened. If anything had happened to you because of that, Ro, I - I donít know what I would have done."

"Lucas," Rowan sighed in fond exasperation and rolled over to face the younger man. "What I did, I did to myself, you daft man. You didnít make me argue with you; I made that decision all on my own. Just like Iím the one who reached for that part of me that seems to trigger this thing. You had nothing to do with that, soóand try not to take this the wrong way, loveóget your head out of your arse and stop acting like a nob."

Pressing a kiss to Lukeís lips, the older man grinned. "And if that little burst of speed I had before I fell arse over teakettle is any indication, when I do shift, Iím gonna run rings around your sorry ass, so youíd better watch it!"

Lucas gave a small smile and hugged Rowan close. "Youíre welcome to try, Ro, but if you shift into a cheetah, youíre going to freeze your tail off up here!"

"Bloody hell, I never thought of that. But fur is fur, and it should keep me warm, right?" the older man queried. Turning enough to look at the flickering light from the fire, Rowan had to smile. "Iíve always loved lying in front of a roaring fire. Itís better now that youíre here with me.

"Weíll have to do this again sometime when weíre not stressing out because Iím being... unique... again. A bottle of wine, a tube of lube, finger foods and hot, sweaty nakedness."

"And when Iím not being an A number one ass?" Lucas added with a wry smile. "As for doing it again that way, Iím all for it, though I canít say I mind just sitting here like this either. Itís not often weíre both naked and not jumping on each other."

"It is nice, isnít it?" Rowan agreed, turning around completely to face the fire again, this time wrapping Lukeís arms around his waist himself. "Not that jumping on each other is a bad thing. Of course I canít remember the last time I had sex on a daily basis for six weeks straight, sometimes three or four times a day! Are all shifters energizer bunnies?"

"Bunnies?" Lucas asked in mock outrage. "Donít let anyone else hear you calling us that!" He hugged Rowan close and rested his chin on the older manís shoulder. "I donít know the answer to that; we all have healthy sex lives, thatís for certain. I guess it comes with having fewer inhibitions. If we meet someone we like, weíre inclined to get them in bed as soon as possible."

"Like I said, Iím not complaining at all. Iím more than happy with my sex life," Rowan laughed, bringing Lukeís hand and sucking the younger manís index finger into his mouth to lave it gently before bringing it back to his stomach.

*~*~*

Taking a deep breath, Rowan walked into the large barn like structure that the family used for first time shifters. At one end the huge doors were open for the neophyte to run outdoors and play for the first time. Waiting out there in the snow was a certain snow leopard patiently waiting for his mate. Along with the snow leopard were two lynxes, a mountain lion, an ocelot and a panther, all of whom wanted to see what the newest member of their community would look like.

Walking over to the pile of straw and soft blankets, the Brit looked at Lukeís grandmother in trepidation. "You wonít hold it against me if I leave my boxers on, will you? I know youíre all Lukeís family and all, but there are some things a man doesnít show his loverís granny," he said with a slight grin.

"Afraid I might make a grab for you?" Cecilia San Gabriel asked, smiling gently at the young man and motioning for him to take a seat across from her.

"Nahh, afraid Lucas might try and dom me again for letting his grandma see my cojones without the benefit of a fur covering," Rowan replied with a grin as he stripped down to his boxers and sat across from the older woman. Listening to the older womanís quiet explanations, he found himself relaxing just from the sound of her voice alone.

Lying down on the blankets, Rowan let Cecilia San Gabrielís voice wash over him and gently guide him to that place within him he had subconsciously touched that first night here at the compound. The place where the beast lay curled and waiting to be woken up from its long hibernation.

Rowan couldnít exactly say what was different about this time from that first night other than this time he was prepared for what would happen to him. Lessons in shifter anatomy, physiology and the actual shifting process helped relax him and leave him open to the idea of what was happening. Heíd had long talks with all the San Gabriels from the clan patriarch Jackson, to his parents, his wife, his children and others at the compound. However it had been Cecilia who had helped him the most.

The grand lady of the San Gabriel family had had such a profound impact on the way Rowan thought about shifting that he had begun to think that maybe heíd found what he wanted to do after he finished up his last season with Manchester. He wanted to teach other shifters how to shift. Maybe even go to teacherís college and teach in Cougar Falls School if he could get in.

But all those concerns were pushed aside as the British shifter reached out and caressed his sleeping cat for the first time, embracing his other self. When Rowan opened his eyes again the world had shifted. His boxers lay in tatters around him; every smell was sharp and new and exciting; every sound drew his attention as did every color and movement. Scrabbling to his feet, he wobbled and looked down, realizing he had four not two anymore. Looking up at Cecilia San Gabriel, the young man let out a soft purr and stroked his head against the hand she held out for him and then looked towards the barn entrance where a snow leopard stared at him. Lucas was waiting for him to come and play.

At the first sight of the newest shifter in the clan, the assembled felines let out a great yowl of welcome. Lucas, who has been pacing back and forth in front of his family, raced toward Rowan, skidding to a halt before he knocked his still wobbly lover over on his ass - his ass that was now a clouded leopard.

Purring, he rubbed his head against Rowanís, careful not to press too hard yet, knowing from experience just how hard it was to go from walking on two legs to walking on four for the first time. He licked at Rowanís ear, pulling back and giving an amused snort when his lover shivered and shook his head wildly. In time heíd learn how much more sensitive certain parts of his body were in cat form.

Nipping at Lukeís tail playfully and then carefully reaching a paw out to bat at it as it whipped back and forth in front of him, Rowan began the careful process of walking across the barn floor and out into the snow to meet the other members of the family. As he did so, Rowan couldnít help but to wonder if cats greeted each other like dogs, the idea making him blush slightly.

The rest of the clan crowded around, and after Jackson San Gabriel greeted Rowan formally by rubbing his face against the larger felineís, the others joined in, rowling their greetings. Lucas restrained himself as long as possible, finally shouldering the others aside and rubbing his body along his loverís smaller cat form then pouncing, daring him to join in the game.

Chuffing a strange sort of cat chuckle, Rowan was more than happy to join in the game. Taking a running leap and surprisingly enough not tripping over his feet as he did so, Rowan tackled the larger cat and sent them both flipping head over tail in the soft snow. Staggering to his feet, he backed up slightly and then took off in a sloppy run, his tail whipping behind him.

Shaking himself to get the snow out of his face, Lucas bounded after Rowan, letting his lover stay slightly ahead of him, not wanting to spoil the fun of the chase by catching him too soon.

Trying to turn sharply, Rowan finally did what Lucas had his first time shifting; the older man lost his balance and wiped out completely, thudding into the side of a building and sending a shower of snow down upon him. Sitting there stunned for a few moments, he finally shook himself off, shivering like the cat he was, to see Lucas sitting a few feet away from him. Even in cat form the younger man had a know-it-all smirk on his face. Growling his first true cat growl, the older man charged.

Silently laughing in delight, Lucas jumped backward, dodging Rowanís attack and swatting his lover on the rump as he passed by. Deciding that Ro had gotten his legs under him well enough, he changed directions and thudded into the smaller cat, sending him tumbling into Joe in lynx form, whoíd snuck up behind them.

Seeing an opportunity, Rowan charged again and watched as Joe dropped onto his stomach next to his brother. Pulling his speed and strength, he hit his lover just hard enough to send the younger man tumbling over top of his brother. Dancing around, Rowan rubbed his face against Joeís, thanking his new friend with a friendly purr and a lick to the lynxís ear.

The younger shifters took that as their cue to join in, and all took turns teaching Rowan the games they played in that form, being careful not to push the new shifter too hard or play too rough.

Finally, when they were all collapsed panting on the snow, Lucas flopped down next to Rowan, nuzzling his way under his loverís chin and nibbling at his throat.

Purring loudly, Rowan arched his neck to give the bigger cat full access to his throat and rolled onto his back, exposing his belly to his lover. Paws came up to wrap around one of Lukeís, pinning him, and Rowanís long tail wrapped around one of the younger manís hind legs, effectively holding him in place.

A deep rumble echoed through Lucasí chest, and he rubbed himself against Rowanís sleek body, his longer fur sliding against his loverís sleeker pelt. He raised his head, looking down into Rowanís eyes, asking a silent question. If the older man wanted to stay and play more, he would; it was his first night as a true shifter, and Lucas wasnít going to cut it short for anything.

Coming abruptly to his feet, Rowan said goodbye to Lukeís siblings, ignoring for now the chuffing sounds that followed him as he headed towards the cottage he now shared with Lucas. Later when he had his Ďcatí legs, heíd teach them all a thing or two, but for now ignoring them worked best. Looking behind him, Rowan made sure that Luke was following.

Not even taking time to swat his smug looking siblings, Lucas stalked after Rowan, changing before they got to the cabin so that he could open the door, doubting that his lover would want to be seen nude by most of the shifter population of Cougar Falls.

Once the door was shut behind them, he dropped to his knees and ran his hands over Rowanís sleek form. "God, Ro, youíre beautiful," he whispered, the chilled fur feeling like silk under his fingers.

Purring, Rowanís tongue darted out to lick his loverís face and wend his way around the younger man, rubbing his scent all over Lucas. Once done, Rowan backed off slightly and, remembering everything heíd been taught and how it had felt to change into a cat, changed back into himself.

Collapsing on the floor as he suddenly found himself with only two legs again, the older man grinned up at Lucas. "So what was I? Iím gonna have to do it near a mirror next time so I can see what I look like."

"Argh! We didnít let you see!" Lucas smacked himself in the forehead before bending down and helping the older man to his feet. "You were a clouded leopard. A gorgeous, sexy, slinky clouded leopard and it was all I could do not to jump you the minute you walked out of the barn." He punctuated each word with a nip to Rowanís neck. "But I think we said something about you getting to jump me now." He leaned back, his eyes wide and plaintive. "You are going to jump me now, arenít you?"

Rowan laughed softly, taking the younger man by the hand and leading him towards the bedroom. "If Iím not mistaken, I did shift just now, and you did say after I shifted. Admittedly I was the one who ended up choosing to wait, but..." the older man trailed off as he pushed the naked man onto the bed and then lay down on top of him.

"I love you, Lucas," he purred, running his tongue around the swirl of the younger manís ear and then nipping at it before nibbling his way down his loverís neck. "I love everything about you, including the way you get stubborn, the way you try to dom me, the way you freak out and every other little thing about you," the older man whispered as he kissed his way down Lukeís chest and stomach, making his way to Lukeís groin.

Lucas groaned and arched upward. "I love you too, Ro," he gasped, fisting his hands in the quilt and trying to hold still for his lover to do as he wanted. "And I know you were just making me wait to drive me nuts," he added, moaning out a laugh when Rowan bit him.

"Of course, only fair I return the favor," Rowan laughed, blowing hot breath over his loverís erection before lapping at its tip. Taking it into his mouth slowly, Rowan grinned at the long, drawn out moan that escaped from Lukeís mouth. He was truly enjoying torturing the younger man, drawing it out and making him crazy with wanting.

A free hand began to roll Lukeís balls lazily while the other traced up and down the crack of the younger manís ass, Rowan wanting to flood his loverís senses with pleasure.

"Ro, ahhh, Rowan," Lucas moaned, rocking his hips up and trying to get the older man to take more of him into his mouth. When that didnít work, he pressed back, startled by his sudden need to have his mate deep inside of him.

Rowanís finger slid inside up to his first knuckle, and he crooked it slightly, feeling for the younger manís prostate. Finding the tiny bump, Rowan relaxed his throat muscles just in time as Lucas surged upwards with a yowl of bliss. Swallowing around the younger manís shaft, he began to work his mouth up and down Lukeís erection, loving the growls and moans and purrs being forced out of his loverís throat.

Unable to help himself, Lucas screamed, his hands flying to Rowanís head to hold him in place as he thrust up into the wet heat. Rowan pushed his finger in further, and the feeling of fullness sent Luke over the edge.

Once he could breathe again, he opened his eyes to grin blearily up at his lover. "Not that that wasnít great, Ro, but I want more of you in me than your finger!"

Chuckling, Rowan surged up Lukeís body to kiss him soundly, sharing his loverís taste with him. "For someone as dominant as you are, luv, youíre a damn pushy bottom by times, you know that, donít you?" the older man teased even as he reached for the lube on the night table.

Squirting some into his hand, Rowan quickly slathered it on his aching erection and settled himself between Lukeís thighs more comfortably. Kissing the inside of each of Lukeís ankles, he placed them on his shoulders and then began to slide into his mate.

Letting out a harsh moan when he was at last buried balls deep in the younger man, Rowan reached out to tug at a stray lock of hair that was wrapped around his loverís throat. "Is this what you had in mind, luv," he taunted the younger man, "or did you want me to move too?"

Once Lucas relaxed, getting used to the feel of Rowan inside of him, he let out a breath and looked up at his lover, arching an eyebrow. "Well, since I came already and you havenít, you might have a harder time not moving than I do," he commented, bringing his arms up and around Rowanís back and dragging his short nails down his loverís skin.

"And you were delicious too," the older man husked as he bent down to nip at one of Lukeís nipples, one hand twisting the other one slightly as he rocked back and forth inside his lover. Pulling back again, Rowan wrapped a free hand around Lucasí cock and began to stroke it in time to his thrusts, slow and easy hip motions that kept them both on the edge. Heíd waited too long for this not to enjoy it to the fullest.

Each out stroke took the older man a fraction farther out of Lukeís body; each in stroke was just that much harder than the last, and his hand still managed to keep tempo. Over and over he moved in his mate until finally, a wicked grin on his face, Rowan began to pull out completely and then slam back into Lucas, long dicking him as the Americans so quaintly referred to it.

Feeling himself begin to rouse again, Lucas writhed under Rowanís body, moaning and arching up to meet each thrust, shocked to find himself whimpering when his lover pulled out of him before pounding back inside.

"Fuck, Ro, oh fuck," he gasped, tightening his ass down around the older manís cock and twisting his hips each time Rowan thrust into him. In an amazingly short time, his cock was hard again, and he dug his fingers into Rowanís hips, pulling him closer and biting at his neck, on the verge of drawing blood.

"Aye, thatís what Iím doing," the older man laughed breathlessly as he continued to play Lucas like a harp. And then the younger man bit him, and his ass clenched around Rowanís shaft, and the older man was lost. Crying out, Rowanís body shook, and his hips automatically began to slam harder still as pulse after pulse of hot come filled Lukeís ass.

"Ass..." Lucasí voice trailed away as he felt Rowan convulse inside him, and he came again, wetting both their stomachs, his eyes widening at the force of his climax.

Collapsing onto the younger man after managing to milk Lukeís cock dry, Rowan grinned and kissed his lover lazily, brushing strands of sweaty hair off Lukeís face as he did so. When he at last allowed them both to breathe again, he grinned. "So did I live up to expectations?" he chuckled, referring back to the boast Lucas had made after the first time he took Rowan.

Lucas stretched and smiled up at Rowan, refusing to let him go. "Ask me again when my brain is working."

"I might never get an answer in that case," the older man rejoined, his grin spreading into a full-blown smirk. "But Iíll take the fact that Iíve melted your brains as a good sign.

"Bloody stubborn Brit," Lucas sighed. "Remind me to swat you later."

"Oooh kinky, are you gonna try and dom me later?"

Opening one eye, Lucas stared up at Rowan. "What do you think?"

Rowan let out his first ever full-blooded shifter purr, causing both of their bellies to rumble pleasantly. "Promises, promises. Iíll hold you to them!" he grinned as he finally found the strength to move off of and out of Lucas.

Getting off the bed, the older man padded over to the washroom and after a few minutes brought back a basin of warm water and a soft cloth. Dipping it into the water, Rowan began to gently clean first Luke and then himself. That done he threw the dirty cloth back into the water and crawled onto the bed to drop down next to his lover, snagging a blanket on his way down. Kissing Lucasí forehead, he curled around his mate. "Sleep now, dom me later, little man."

*~*~*

Looking up from the screen of his laptop, Lucas smiled in welcome as Rowan walked in the door, shivering in his parka. "Have fun with Gram?" he asked, getting out of his chair and walking toward.

"I think Iím almost as in love with the old bird as I am with you!" Rowan laughed as he headed into the small kitchen to put the water on for a cup of tea to warm his bones. "Iíve looked into teaching colleges in the area too; it looks like if I want to fast track, Iím going to have to go to one of the bigger urban areas," the older man continued as he came back into the living room and promptly dove under the fuzzy blanket kept on the back of the couch. "Thing is, Iíve gotten used to being in Cougar Falls."

"Well, do you have to fast track?" Luke asked, waiting for Rowanís water to boil before making his tea and bringing it to him. "Itís not like we havenít got time after all."

"True," Rowan mused. "I suppose I was jumping in with both feet. I know what I want now, so I want it immediately," the older man laughed. "But the college in Missoula should be just fine as well. And this way I get to stay with you as well. But I am gonna have to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road if Iím going there. And it might be wise to get an apartment for the weekdays just in case of weather and such."

Smiling gratefully at his lover, Rowan sipped the tea and glanced at the laptop. "How goes the research?"

"What wrong side of the road?" Lucas laughed, nipping Rowanís ear. "And itís going pretty good. Thanks for letting me take samples, lover. Itís helping things a lot."

He stretched and twisted around, resting his head in Rowanís lap. "So, feel like taking a run once you warm up?"

"Human or cat form?" Rowan grinned. "And the right hand side of the road with the wheel in the left hand side of the car. Itís supposed to be the left hand side of the road and the right hand side of the car."

"Only for crazy Brits," Lucas laughed. "And which form do you think? Would I really ask you to go running in December in this?" he reached a hand up and rubbed Rowanís stomach.

Purring playfully, Rowan arched into the touch as he took another swallow of tea. "As cats it is. You think youíll be able to keep up with me this time?" he laughed. "And itís only you crazy North Americans that drive on the wrong side of the road."

"Is that a challenge?" Lucas asked, poking his elbow into Rowanís ribs. "I can still sit on you, you know."

"And if you squash me flat, youíll be sleeping on the couch while I recover from my injuries," the older man replied, blowing a raspberry at Luke. "Bloody hell but youíre a brat by times. Good thing I happen to love you, isnít it?"

"Squash you flat." Lucas snorted. "Yeah, like Iím that much bigger then you. And itís a damn good thing you love me because I love you; now come on and drink your tea so that we can go have some fun!" He rolled off of Rowanís lap and began shedding his clothes, looking at his lover expectantly.

Letting out a low wolf whistle, Rowan swallowed the rest of his tea in a gulp and threw off the blanket to strip out of his own clothes. It soon became a race to see who could strip the fastest, and the two men actually managed to finish one sock apart. Not bothering to wait for Lucas, Rowan shifted immediately, having grown used to the sensation quite easily. Shifting was now as natural to him as breathing.

Rowling and purring, the older man wound around Lukeís legs, butting his head against his loverís ass to get him to move faster and open the door to let him out. When Luke did start to move, Rowan purposely tried to trip him up then chuffed in laughter and raced out the door when it finally opened, looking back expectantly at the younger man.

"Hey! Careful there," Lucas laughed, pulling the door shut behind him and shifting as he turned, racing after Rowan to tumble him in the snow, tackling him with the full force of his weight, no longer worried about hurting his lover.

Nipping hard on the first patch of flesh he could get, Rowan squirmed out from under the heavier cat and turned around and used Lukeís back as a springboard. Chuffing, the older man took off at a full run, narrowly missing Joe as he stepped out of the storage shed.

Wheeling around when Joe began to curse a blue streak, Rowan took great pleasure in sending the other man ass over tea kettle and then racing away again, his tail whipping around as he laughed silently at the threats and curses that turned the air blue around Joeís head.

Springing after his lover, Lucas cut a corner, hoping to catch up with him and knowing that Rowan was just too fast for him to do it without some kind of edge. As he saw Rowan race around the corner of one of the cottages, he leapt for the roof, scrambling over the peak and sliding down the other side, landing in a spray of snow right in front of the other shifter.

Skidding to a halt, Rowan growled at his sneaky lover and then wheeled around, his tail whipping Luke across the nose as he lunged away in the opposite direction, which took him right past the still cursing Joe yet again. Ducking for the grove of thick trees nearby, Rowan quickly headed up into the branches. Like any other clouded leopard in existence, Rowan had found he was definitely part arboreal, and his long tail was an added advantage, giving him amazing balance.

Waiting in the branches, Rowan patiently watched for Lucas to come into the thicket, and the moment the snow leopard was under his tree, the older man pounced.

Rowling out a challenge, Lucas turned to his back, getting his legs under Rowanís belly and heaving the lighter cat off of him, following and rolling them over and over until they landed in another snow bank

On and on the two men played as they pounced and soaked and tumbled each other in the snow until both were completely saturated but happily exhausted. It wasnít until Rowan let out a sneeze that he realized just how long he had been out. Wrapping his tail around Lukeís, he lay at his mateís side, panting heavily and trying to catch his wind before heading back. Nuzzling his nose in the younger manís neck, he sighed happily. This was almost better than sex.

Making sure that he was acting as a wind block for Rowanís smaller cat form, Lucas lifted his head to lick his loverís ear and wondered if now would be a good time to introduce Rowan to just how good making love in feline form felt. He deliberately shifted his hips, rubbing against Roís back, and brought his tail around to stroke the inside of the older manís thigh.

Head whipping around in surprise, Rowan realized just what his lover was silently suggesting. Was he ready to try feline sex, the older man wondered? Well, there was no time like the present to find out. Moving back against Lucas, Rowan angled his body so that he was half underneath half beside the larger cat, his own tail moving to the side and out of the way to allow Lucas better access to cover him properly.

Purring deep in his chest, Lucas pushed up onto all fours, crouching over Rowan and rubbing his head over his loverís back and neck. Wanting the new shifter to enjoy this, he rocked his hips against Rowanís, letting his erection rub against his ass as he bit down lightly on the loose skin at the nape of his neck.

Mewling hungrily, the smaller cat arched up and back, spreading his legs further apart and wrapping his tail around Lukeís hind leg. Bucking up and back, he could feel Lukeís cock leave its fur covered sheath and begin to nudge against him. Whining, the older man nipped at the paw that was braced next to his face, trying to encourage Luke to penetrate him.

Giving a possessive growl, Lucas aligned himself and pressed inward, yowling as the virginal tightness of Rowanís ass took him in. Digging his claws into the ground, he bit down on Rowanís neck and began to thrust, taking his lover thoroughly.

Yowling hungrily, the older man shivered in delight as he was taken for the first time in cat form. His haunches came up and helped to drive Lucas deeper into his body as his claws gripped into the ground for purchase. Snarling hungrily, Rowan tried to have Luke take him faster and harder.

Driving his hips forward, Lucas felt Rowan scrabble for purchase under him, but he didnít let up. He was all emotion at the moment, and his every sense was overwhelmed with Rowan and his need for his lover.

Snarling suddenly, Rowan bucked back hard, impaling himself to the fullest and then surging forward, causing Lucas to pull out of him completely. Growling, the older cat whipped his head around and nipped hard at his loverís neck, demanding that Lucas enter him again, daring the younger man to conquer him completely.

A feral light entering his eyes, Lucas knocked Rowanís front paws out from under him and took him again, using his greater weight to keep his lover pinned to the ground as he fucked him furiously. By the enthusiastic thrusting of Rowanís hips under him, Luke knew the older man was enjoying it too, and he bit harder at the back of his neck, sharp teeth sinking through fur to find flesh and enter it, drawing blood.

The yowl that ripped through Rowanís throat was forceful enough to scatter the birds from the trees, sending them upwards in a cloud of flapping wings and excited chirps. Prey animals took cover, and even other predators kept a wide berth from the area, but Rowan knew none of this; his mind was a miasma of emotion and feeling. He was being fucked into the ground harder than heíd ever been claimed in his life, and it felt good; better than good, it felt like fucking heaven.

One more yowl of sublime pleasure and the older man was coming for the first time in cat form, and it was indescribable. Collapsing, exhausted, to the ground, totally subdued by his larger and very forceful lover, Rowan did as all other males of the animal kingdom and quite happily surrendered to his alpha mate.

Following Rowan to the ground, Lucas continued moving, his back arching in sharper arcs as he neared his own climax, then spilled over into his loverís body, screaming his pleasure to the dark sky for all to hear.

Withdrawing to collapse to the ground curled up around Rowan, Lucas gave a sleepy purr and licked at the wounds heíd put in his loverís neck, the taste of the older shifterís blood a small thrill after what theyíd done.

Purring almost non-stop, Rowan moved back into the bigger body wrapped around him. In a semi-awake part of his mind he was actually amused that while the bigger man in human form, he was the smaller of the two cats. Not that he minded, it almost made sense to him that Lucasí cat form would be the more dominant, not that he was any slouch; after all, Luke was his teacher in this strange new world.

What felt like an inordinate amount of time later, Rowan roused from his sex-induced nap and glanced up at the night sky. The moon had wheeled to a position that suggested early hours of the morning, and nearby, a silent sentinel guarding them, was Eva San Gabriel. Chuffing his thanks, Rowan nuzzled Lucas to get him to wake up too as it was obviously time to head back inside, soak in a hot tub and crawl into bed to sleep.

Yawning, Lucas came awake and stood, stretching out his muscles, enjoying the scent of sex that still clung to them. He glanced over at his sister, cocking his head when she changed back into her human form and pulled on the clothes that had been folded up beside her.

"You two are too cute," she said after getting dressed and picking up her camera. "Iíll give you copies of the pictures I took; the lighting worked out really well out here." Rubbing both their heads and laughing at Lucasí disgruntled grumble, she turned and started back toward the house.

Nudging Rowan with his hip and licking the side of his face, Lucas started them back along the path as well, staying close to his smaller mate.

If cats could roll their eyes, Rowanís would have. He was more than a little amused at the way his Ďalphaí was acting towards him. Cat instincts seem to have won out, and Rowan had been claimed, marked and mated. Not that he minded, he just couldnít wait for Lukeís reaction when he turned the tables, and it was Lucas yowling underneath him as he pounded into the larger cat.

Deciding to stretch his sore muscles a bit, Rowan went from a walk to a lope and then into a brisk run. Soon the cottage came into view, and he heard Lucas gaining on him from behind. Coming to a stop on the porched in area of the doorway, Rowan quickly changed back to his human self, groaning as he did so. "Bugger me, and yes, I know you did that already; I feel like Iíve been ridden hard and put away sopping wet," he moaned, stretching over-used muscles.

Laughing and shaking his loose hair out of his face as he changed as well, Lucas pushed the door open, feeling the heat from the fire wash over his cool skin. "Well, you had that done to you too," he grinned, dropping down onto the rug in front of the fireplace and stretching out on it. "Iím not even going to bother asking if you liked it."

"Bastard," Rowan replied fondly, shaking his head. "Decadent bastard at that. Iím going to soak in a tub to loosen up. I think Iíve stretched things I didnít know I owned. Care to come join me in a few and patch up the bite on my neck?" the older man asked as he headed into the bedroom and then the bathroom attached to it.

A short time later the lights were off, a few candles were lit and soft jazz played in the background as Rowan lazed in the huge tub, practically floating, scented water around him.

Leaning in the open doorway, Lucas felt his heart clench at the sight of his lover - his mate - like that and knew he was well and truly caught. "Move over a little bit, Ro," he murmured, stepping in alongside the older man, being careful not to slosh water out on the floor.

"You mentioned some sore muscles? Well, since I caused them, I should help fix them." He slid in behind Rowan and steered the older man back against his chest.

"Iím not complaining about the cause, you know," Rowan chuckled as he rested his head on Lukeís shoulder with a sigh. "Never thought Iíd say this, but that was bloody brilliant. Never thought Iíd suggest what Iím about to either but... Iíd like to try that with me in human form and you in cat form some time. That way you can teach me how to do it right and I can return the favor," the older man suggested as a shiver of heat chased its way down to his groin.

Lucas purred in response to that request and stroked his hands down Rowanís chest, smiling when he felt his lover shiver at the thought of doing that. "Iíll be glad to; it just takes a bit of care and planning is all." He nibbled at his loverís ear then blew out a breath over the damp flesh. "Weíll let you recover from tonight first though."

"What sort of care and planning?" Rowan asked as he picked up a washcloth and began to run it over the hands that held him loosely. "I know thereís the whole you cat me human thing but..."

"Positioning," Lucas shrugged, "preparation, not getting carried away and clawing your partner or biting them too hard." He chuckled. "Human skin is a little easier to damage than a pelt is."

"Not to mention that you might snap my neck with your jaw if you bite too hard," Rowan laughed. "The danger is a turn on, though," he continued, musing on the positions and technicalities of what he was suggesting. Moving around to straddle Lukeís thighs, Rowan winced slightly as muscles pulled and reminded him of their recent use. "But a few days recovery would be nice," he grinned. "Damn you fucked me into the ground. Iím going to have to return the favor some time soon!"

"Sounds good to me." Lucas had to grin at how much his desire to bottom had changed based on his lover. "You probably wonít need a few days to get over it though; by morning you should be walking okay - or else Joeís going to have a field day laughing at you."

"When heís not trying to kill me for barreling him into a snow bank," Rowan laughed as he began to wash Lukeís chest. Teasing the younger manís nipples with the soft cloth and the bubbles, Rowan grinned down at his lover. "You like it when I get the upper hand, donít you? Whoíd have thought youíd be such a bottom boy underneath all that Iím a dom attitude," he teased his lover before bending to kiss Luke.

Lucas tried to growl, but he knew Rowan was aware that it wasnít real. "Itís just amusing to have happen is all," he allowed, biting at his loverís lower lip.

"Your siblings seem to think so too," the older man grinned wickedly. "I heard that Joe and Eva are planning on getting you a set of cat tags with my name on them," he laughed.

"And a flea collar for you."

"Ewww, you have fleas? Iím gonna need to have that collar to protect me from you!" Rowan retorted, splashing water at the younger man. "Remind me to get you some flea dip," he continued.

"Keep it up, Ro, and youíre going to find yourself sleeping alone tonight," Lucas cautioned, shaking the water out of his face.

"Oh really? And here I thought you had sworn up and down that Iíd never sleep alone again. Or was that another psychotic lover of mine that Iím thinking of?"

Lucas growled. "Must have been some other idiot because right now youíre this close to being on that rug in front of the fire." He laughed as he said the last.

"The hell I will!" Rowan retorted, smacking some more water into the other manís face. "If I have to sleep anywhere else, Iíll be sleeping in a bed in another cottage... maybe Iíll ask Joe to keep me warm," Rowan finished with a truly evil smile. "He does keep offering, you know. Oh thatís right, you wouldnít. He does it when youíre not around."

"And if you think I really believe that, youíre cracked, Ro."

"What, you donít think your brother finds me attractive?" Rowan sniffed haughtily. "Thanks a lot for that!"

"I didnít say that," Lucas answered, his tone deceptively mild.

"Harumph," was the only reply as Rowan continued to wash his lover. Once Lukeís chest was properly cleaned, the older man climbed out of the tub to sink behind his lover to take care of his back. "Like I said, itís a good thing I love you as much as I do."

Leaning back against Rowan and drawing his arms around his waist, Lucas relaxed, resting his head on the older manís shoulder. "Yes, it is, isnít it?"

"Brat," Rowan replied fondly, nipping at his loverís earlobe. "Just you wait, Lucas San Gabriel, youíre gonna get it so bad!" the older man threatened idly, his hands dipping down beneath the water to fondle the younger manís penis, stroking it and rolling his balls, petting his mate.

Lucas stretched sinuously and turned his head to bite Rowanís throat. "Well, if itís going to be bad, maybe I will let you go on over to Joeís."

Rowan laughed, a throaty, sensuous sound. "Are you saying that the dommiest runt of the San Gabriel clan canít handle little old me?" he purred against Lukeís throat, letting the vibrations sink into his loverís body. "I guess what we did in the woods was just a fluke then. Pity, that, because I donít think Iíve ever been that well loved in my entire life. However I suppose I can curb my wicked ways for the sake of the love I have for my mate."

"You know," Lucas stated calmly, "if you werenít so sore, Iíd show you just what itís like to be taken like you are when Iím a cat. To hear you screaming as I fucked you like that would be music to my ears."

Rowan blinked. And then smirked, not that Luke could see as the younger man was facing away from him. "Iím going to hold you to that promise, mate" he purred softly in his loverís ear, emphasizing his loverís title.

Instead of answering, Lucas peeled himself away from Rowan and climbed out of the tub, dripping water on the mat under his feet. "In that case, Iíd suggest getting yourself out of there and into the bedroom," he said, his voice filled with dark desire.

Swallowing audibly, his semi-soft cock filling from the tone of Lukeís voice alone, Rowan scrabbled to find the plug in the tub without ever taking his eyes off of Lucas. Finding the chain, he yanked hard enough to actually break the chain in two without realizing it and somehow managed to get out of the tub without falling on his face or breaking his neck and mutely followed his lover into the bedroom.

Reaching into the drawer of the nightstand, Lucas pulled out the container of Wet and tossed it to his lover. "Youíre going to have to get yourself ready when itís time, Ro, because Iím not going to be able to do it. Not just yet though." He shook his hair back out of his face, his blue eyes glowing with a feral light. "And itíll be hands and knees, but you probably knew that already." Smirking, he changed forms and slowly advanced on his lover.

Whimpering softly in the back of his throat, Rowan sank onto the bed at the thought of what was happening, what was going to happen to him. He was about to get fucked by a snow leopard who was his human lover in cat form. Sweet bloody hell, this was really going to happen!

Feeling soft fur above him, Rowan opened his eyes to look up at the animal visage that housed the heart, the mind and the vibrant soul that was his lover. Raising his hands to card through the too soft fur, Rowan kissed Luke on his muzzle. "I donít have the words to say what you mean to me. I just... donít know how to tell you everything I want to say," he whispered.

Lucas purred deep in his throat and rubbed his face against Rowanís repeatedly. Once the older man had calmed some, he gently nudged him back onto the bed and began to work down his body, brushing his soft pelt over every inch of Rowanís exposed skin.

"Oh God, thatís marvelous," Rowan sighed as his body danced and quivered under the assault. His cock bobbed and slapped against his stomach, leaving a sticky trail of precome just below his navel. Arching and writhing under the large cat, Rowanís hand scrambled to find the lube that heíd been tossed, wanting it to be at hand for when he stretched himself for the younger man.

Rumbling his appreciation for the sight before him, Lucas delicately bit down on one of Rowanís nipples, careful not to draw blood but letting the other man feel the edge of his teeth.

Panting heavily, the strangled sound that emerged from the older manís throat was unintelligible but nonetheless expressed the full range of feelings running through him. Arching up into the bite, Rowanís hands grabbed on to two hands full of soft fur, and he nipped on the tiny cat ear, wanting to tease his mate as much as he was being teased.

Lucas flattened out over Rowan at that, letting his lover feel his arousal and knowing the feel of his fur would drive the other man mad as they rocked together.

"Oh sweet hell," came the harsh moan as Rowan let go of Lukeís fur to let one hand crawl down the soft belly to wrap around the penis that had come out of its sheath. "Bloody hell in heaven, youíre a big boy!" he managed to get out.

"Up. Get up, will you?" Rowan demanded. When the big cat did so with a puzzled look in his eyes, Rowan slithered down the bed until his face was level with the younger manís cock. Arching his neck, he took a tentative swipe with his tongue to see if fellating Luke in cat form was any different than fellating him in human form.

A shudder ran through Lucasí body, and he dug his claws into the sheets to keep from driving forward into Rowanís mouth. This was new, different for his lover, and he wouldnít push him into anything... then Rowan wrapped his lips around his cock, and Lucas wailed, his hips driving forward to press more of his cock into the other manís mouth.

Gagging slightly as Lucas surged into his mouth, Rowan relaxed his throat and let the cock slide all the way in, humming slightly as he began to work his head back and forth, wanting to give the younger man as much pleasure as he could stand.

Lucas snarled, whipping his tail back and forth as Rowan took him to the edge of orgasm. Just before it became too late, he twisted and jumped to the floor, even the light landing jarring his arousal.

Padding forward, he slid in between his loverís thighs and nuzzled his balls before moving farther back, flicking his tongue out over the recently stretched muscle and tasting a hint of his own semen there.

Gasping at the feel of a sandpapery tongue rimming him, Rowan arched his hips higher and then pulled away. "N-no, let me..."

Struggling to get his limbs to move, the older man managed to flip onto his stomach and then spread his legs slightly apart. Meanwhile he found and opened the bottle of lubricant. Coating two fingers, he reached behind himself and began to prepare for Luke to take him. Working first one and then the second finger inside, spreading the lube around, Rowan gradually inserted a third finger, panting and moaning as he worked them in and out of his tightly packed hole. "God, oh God, need to get one more, oh bloody hell, Lucas!"

Shifting to his human form for a moment, Lucas ran a hand up Rowanís back and kissed his shoulder. "Relax, Ro, relax." As he ran his hands up the other manís back, he slowly felt some of the tension ebb out of him and tightly strung muscles loosened. "Love you," he murmured, kissing Rowan once again before changing back.

"Love you too, want you so bad I canít stand it," the older man moaned as he spread his legs even wider. "Please, Luke, take me now before I lose my mind!"

Mrowing his agreement, Lucas waited until Rowan had his arms and legs under him, then lifted his front end to drape his paws over his loverís shoulders. Working by feel, he slid his cock between the other manís ass cheeks, finding the slick, stretched ring of muscle and slowly pushing inside.

Breathing heavily through his nose and mouth, Rowan relaxed as best he could when he felt the large cock enter him, wanting badly for Luke to mount him properly. Feeling the large cock slide deeper and deeper into him, the older man bit down hard on a pillow to keep from groaning. It hurt but it hurt so good he never wanted it to stop. Arching his back, he drove Lucas in that last little bit until the leopard was buried all the way inside him.

Panting heavily, Lucas waited until Rowan relaxed once again before beginning to move. He kept his paws looped over his loverís shoulders, being careful to keep his claws sheathed, and his back legs dug into the sheets for purchase as his thrusts got harder and deeper.

Grunting quietly, Rowan could only dig his hands, knees and feet further into the mattress in order to keep from being driven across the bed as his much heavier lover powered into him. The contrast of soft fur on his back and hard cock slamming into him was the most erotic thing heíd ever experienced.

Huge fur covered balls slapped against his, and hot breath from a muzzle not a mouth wafted over his skin. The scent of Lucas was slightly different in cat form, and the sharp teeth and rough tongue that occasionally played with his skin were a dangerous tease to his senses. Lucas could snap his neck if he bit down on it right now, but Rowan knew his mate would never do that to him. It only went to prove just how deep their trust was for one another.

"Luke, oh Jesus, it feels so goood," the older man got out at last, the sound actually closer to a mewl than anything else. "So bloody good!"

Fighting the instincts that made him want to bite down harder on Rowanís exposed neck, Lucas instead nipped at his shoulder, licking away the trace of blood from the small groove his fangs had cut in his loverís skin. Rowan was a tight heat around him, and he delighted in the feeling, but he wanted to feel his mate coming too, so he shifted his angle slightly, rubbing his cock over the other manís prostate time and again.

"Luke, oh God, Luke!" Rowan panted as he arched back against the soft belly fur and the enormous cock invading his ass over and over.

The feel of lethal teeth scraping over his skin and his prostate being constantly pummeled combined with the thrill of doing something that was at first glance so forbidden and taboo but was in fact as natural to a shifter as breathing was all it took to send the older man over the edge. With a nearly silent cry of ecstasy Rowanís body began to shake and clamp down hard on his loverís erection, his cock sending pulse after pulse of hot come to coat his stomach and soak the sheets beneath him.

Claws digging deep rents in the sheets and mattress, Lucas came as well, snarling his pleasure to the air as he slammed into Rowanís now pliant body. Wanting to feel his lover as himself, he shifted, resting his head on the older manís back and kissing the bloody scratches heíd left in Rowanís skin.

When Rowan didnít respond, he lifted his head, worried. "Ro? You okay?"

Rowan vaguely registered that his loverís voice seemed tense and worried. He barely realized that Lucas was now himself not the leopard. All he could feel was this roiling, unbelievable pleasure that sizzled along his nerves and heated his blood. "ímokayyy Ďcas," he managed to slur out before finally succumbing to the overwhelming desire to pass out.

Blinking, Lucas stared down at his mate in shock that slowly gave way to a prideful smile as he realized Rowan was unconscious. "Love you, Ro," he murmured, sliding out of bed and grabbing a warm cloth from the bathroom to clean them both up, wincing when he saw the partially destroyed mattress. "Momís gonna kill me," he sighed, "but fuck, it was worth it."

*~*~*

Rowan took the snickers and friendly jeers with good grace, flipping a few of the San Gabriel siblings the bird more than once as they erupted into laughter or crude remarks when he groaned from getting up from a chair or had to brace himself on something to sit down. It really had been an amazing night, his first night making love in cat form, the first time heíd been taken by his lover while Lucas was in cat form and he was still human.

About the only thing that he couldnít take was the little bantam rooster crowing beside him all day and treating him like spun glass. Finally heíd had enough, and when they were walking past the infamous horse trough where Lucas had first lost his footing as a snow leopard, the younger man found himself once more bathing in it. This time as a human. In the dead of winter. With Rowan grinning like a madman as he stood a short distance away and Lukeís siblings stood around in various states of slack-jawed disbelief.

Sputtering and snarling, Lucas emerged from the icy water, immediately starting to shiver as the sub-zero winds whipped his icy clothes. "Luke, are you..." Eva started to ask, but he cut her off with a curt shake of his head.

"Iím fine. I guess next time I wonít worry about hurting you, Ro," he stuttered out, gingerly climbing out of the trough and starting back to the cabin, each step a struggle as his sodden clothes began to freeze.

Taking off his jacket, Rowan wrapped it around his lover. "Next time listen to me when I say Iím okay. Iím a grown man, you sod. Iíve had a lot worse than a few bruises and nips just from a match," the older man sighed as he forced Luke to keep the coat on and helped him to their cabin.

"You make me see red by times, you know that donít you? Bloody little bantam," the older man said with a shake of his head. "And donít be telling me that it was solely out of worry for me. If your chest puffed up any bigger, it wouldíve burst, and you know it. But I still love you, idiot."

"And trying to give me pneumonia is how you show it? Gee, thanks. Glad I love you too." Lucasí hands were shaking so badly that he couldnít undo his clothes to get them off, and he made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat.

"It got your attention, didnít it?" Rowan replied calmly, batting the younger manís hands out of the way and stripping his lover of his clothes. "And I didnít do it intentionally. I was pissed. I reacted. Bad timing I know but..." Rowan shrugged his shoulders and tugged the younger man into the bathroom, wrapping a blanket from the end of the bed around him as they passed it.

Filling the tub with hot water, he put Lucas into it with orders not to move one bloody whisker and headed into the small kitchen to make his lover some hot cider with brandy to help warm him up more.

By the time Rowan returned with his drink, Lucas could feel his extremities again, and some color had returned to his cheeks. Accepting the mug with a muttered word of thanks, he looked up at his lover, one eyebrow arched sardonically. "And are you telling me you wouldnít walk around just like that if youíd fucked me unconscious?"

"Not in front of my bloominí parents I wouldnít!" Rowan retorted. "Or grandparents. You Yanks have no sense of propriety," the older man tsked as he began to strip his own clothes off. "Cheeky bloody bugger, my mum would have fainted dead away, and my father would have told me to keep it in my pants around my mum."

Lucas snorted dryly. "Somehow, I think that if we were at your parents, we wouldnít have done what we did last night. The thought of them walking in on two Ďbig bloody catsí as you call it, going at it or one big bloody cat pounding into their son might prove too much for both of them. Now are you getting in here with me or not?"

"Pushy sod," Rowan muttered under his breath but still wedged himself behind the younger man in the tub. "So am I forgiven yet for giving you a sub zero dunking? I really didnít mean to, Luke; you just got me... well, you pissed me off," the older man admitted, slightly chagrined.

"Sorry," Lucas muttered before sighing. "I guess it would have ticked me off too if youíd have been acting like that."

"But you wouldnít have dunked me," Rowan pointed out. "Drink your drink, you daft man; I donít want you to get sick or anything," he ordered gently, nuzzling Lukeís neck. "So did your mum get upset about the state of the mattress?"

Lucas shrugged and relaxed back against Rowanís chest while taking a drink. "She said Dad would take it out of my hide later, so itís not a problem."

"Heíd better not!" Rowan growled menacingly. "I like your hide the way it is. Itís my hide, and no one touches it but me, not even your dad."

Growing serious, Lucas looked back over his shoulder at Rowan. "Honestly, Ro, he can, and if he decides to take me down a peg or two for whatever reason, I want you to promise me that you wonít step in."

"I donít bloody like it," the older man retorted, not promising but not sure how far to push things. He didnít understand how the San Gabriel clan politics worked, but dammit, he had as much right to be protective of Luke as his lover had to be protective of him. "I really donít like it!"

Catching Rowanís hand, Luke brought it up to his lips. "You donít have to like it, lover; itís just the way things are. When your coach goes off on you, do you like that?"

"My coach canít literally tear a strip off me with either claws or teeth," Rowan muttered under his breath. "And it was just as much my fault as it was yours; I was an active and willing participant even if I wasnít the one in cat form. I could have suggested the rug or something less... easily destroyed."

"Iíll be fine, Ro, really," Lucas assured him. "Dad wonít hurt me, well, except maybe my pride, and you did a nice job deflating that earlier."

"Heíd better not," was all Rowan growled out as he pulled Lucas tighter to him. "Or we really are going to be moving back to England. No bloody way Iím letting my mate get walked on by anyone else but me," he finished in an attempt at levity.

"Somehow I thought that might be the case." Lucas looked back over his shoulder and bit at Rowanís throat. "If it makes you feel better, you can fuck me all you want for the next few days."

"Only if your dad leaves you in one piece. Iím not going to add injury to insult, luv," Rowan replied, his fingers tracing idle patterns across the younger manís stomach. "And now that your body temperature is back to what it should be, I think we both need to spend the day cuddling in bed, the rest of the world be damned. And I mean it, Lucas San Gabriel. If your father comes over today, Iím telling him to sod off. He can have a swing at you tomorrow at the earliest. Got it?"

"Got it." Lucas raised a hand and gave a sloppy salute, closing his eyes and letting himself drift, feeling secure in Rowanís embrace. "Donít know why you keep thinking Dadís gonna hurt me though," he murmured. "Being dommed isnít about that."

"When my dad was really pissed at me, Iíd get this strap he saved for special occasions. Hurt like a son of a bitch. Guess itís just the English whoíre into corporal punishment. And while weíre on the subject, Iím the only one who doms you too!" Rowan snarled nipping at Lukeís ear. "Now go to sleep, you stubborn Yank, and let me take care of you for a change."

"Mmmhmm," Lucas sighed, nuzzling his face against Rowanís chest, deciding not to mention the fact that there were times his father had gotten physical with his punishment, as he didnít want to get Ro worked up again.

"Good answer, even if I donít believe you," Rowan sighed, running his fingers through his loverís long blond hair, petting Luke until he drifted off to sleep. "Stubborn Yank, but I think Iíll keep you anyway."

END

  since 02-04-07

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