Steffen and Tristan
Around the year 1830
In a run, Pack Alpha Ulrik led his three bitten Vargr toward the center of the forest. The presence of many Vargr ahead hummed in Steffen. He felt…provoked, angry, frightened…insecure.
In truth, he didn’t want to be there. Since his father’s death six years ago, Steffen had kept his head down. And he felt angry all the time. An increasing urgency burned in him. It was an ember awakening. In a Beta. His dad had told him about them. They were what set Alphas apart or caused Beta protectors to rise to fight alongside a powerful Alpha.
But Steffen wasn’t an Alpha. He was a disgruntled Beta who’d risen under Pack Alpha Ulrik’s Bite almost a hundred years ago. A Beta who felt out of pack. At least with his Pack Alpha and the two Alphas running in the race that day. He’d never followed them at home. He always followed Ulrik, but that was because of his Bite and because Ulrik was a fucking strong Alpha.
It was the first time Steffen had been brought to join as one of the Betas running to follow at a bigger race. New Alphas were being raised, so they needed numbers to show up, and the one with the biggest pull would be the next Pack Alpha of the territory.
They’d had a few big runs with many packs attending at his pack home, yet Steffen hadn’t had an Alpha spot despite an ember burning him for the past five years. He was a Beta with a kim. Only one Bitch had shared her thoughts about the ember she felt awakening in him. She’d whispered him a story a late summer evening while they were calling the cattle in.
Pernille had said it was because his Vargr yearned for a mate to run with. Steffen had no idea what a mate bond felt like, yet he’d come to the conclusion that once he stopped feeling half or hollow then he’d have found his mate.
Man, he hoped it was a dude.
Steffen was around one hundred years old. Soon. Yeah, he yearned for a mate. But he wouldn’t find a mate and bring pups into the pack of Ulrik. With his dad gone? No chance. Still, he knew Ulrik would soon tell him to, and if he didn’t find a Bitch or a human woman on his own, Ulrik had made arrangements for him. He had until his one hundredth birthday to add to the pack on his own accord. By Sköll Hati standards, Steffen was cramping their style, and Ulrik was beginning to grumble about it.
Steffen felt dismal. So did his pack. And in front of him, Ulrik jogged along as if larger than life with two ass-kissers by his sides. Neither were Vargr that Steffen would follow. He simply didn’t find them worthy. They grated the Vargr in him, yet the feral sneer luckily didn’t make it through to his human features when looking at them.
The depressing thoughts made him shift his focus to his senses to bask in the beauty of the nature they jogged through as they made their way to the hum of assembled Vargr.
The scent of the damp forest floor of the beech forest was Steffen’s favorite. The sound of birds—especially the flock of swans passing over them. He loved the tooting sound in sync with their wings, flapping. They were big and majestic birds, and Steffen loved the mornings when walking out to the fields, finding them close to the natural but shallow pond at the slope of one of the cattle fields.
A woodpecker drilled into a tree. A fox barked a warning somewhere.
Yeah, wolves were around.
“Strength,” Ulrik said. “Follow strength. If you find an Alpha pulling you, you follow. A Pack Alpha rises today.”
“Yes, Father,” the three of them answered.
They closed in on the Vargr, and Steffen looked around. Here and there, he recognized faces. One stood out, grinning and coming toward him.
Steffen went to his aunt, smiled, and snuggled into her hug. He missed her. He hadn’t seen his dad’s sister nearly enough since their pack-move. It had been a year after his mom died around fifty years earlier, yet it had been so long that Steffen rarely thought about her death. He focused on remembering his mother’s life, her kind smile, her hugs, and her bedtime singing. Like his dad had told him to. That was her legacy, after all. Being a wonderful human woman with a wicket and warm sense of humor and arms eager to hug.
“I miss you,” Steffen whispered, making sure to have his back to Ulrik as he finally pulled back.
“How are you?” Olga asked.
“I’m good,” Steffen assured her, but he made sure his expression didn’t convey it. If anything, first bond would convey it as they bonded now, yet he knew Ulrik felt the distress.
“Aw, sweety.” Olga hugged Steffen again. “I know your dad’s passing was hard, so it’s good to hear that you’re doing well.” Then she whispered, “You’re more,” directly into his ear.
Steffen tightened his grip, loving her strength and that she helped hide what she had to have read on his expression. Hopefully.
“Welcome to Alpha run!”
Steffen released the hug around his aunt but took her hand, then looked to the strong Alpha standing in the middle of the circle. Steffen would follow him. He was their Regional Alpha, Jalte, and he was a formidable one. Steffen respected him for the single reason that his dad had, and he’d moved to Ulrik’s pack on the Regional Alpha’s request with Steffen and his siblings.
“Due to our prosperity, a new pack is being formed,” the Alpha announced. “It needs a strong Pack Alpha of vision for prosperity!”
The Vargr stomped their feet, and Steffen joined in, feeling enthusiastic about prosperity, yet he felt suffocated as it wasn’t something he felt evolve in his own pack. His awakening ember burned him.
“Six will run today.”
Steffen looked around as the six were called out by the Regional Alpha. One was massive. He had kind eyes, though. Humble yet strong. Closing his eyes, Steffen felt the burning spot in his chest warmed him, making him feel more at ease. Yeah, the big one was strong enough to run for Pack Alpha and raise prosperity. It was what spoke to Steffen.
None of the others managed that as Steffen tried to feel out their Alpha ember, so Steffen kept watching the giant Vargr. He was kinda handsome, but he was built like a fortress. Massive. Muscular. His muscles even jittered pre-run. Steffen felt partial to the slim and athletic builds of the human form. But the pull of that Alpha? Warmth spread at watching him.
That was a strong Alpha, and Steffen respected him. He didn’t even look at the others as Jalte called them into the ring. Steffen already felt what Alpha he needed to follow. He certainly didn’t feel the one of the two Ulrik had brought to run for Pack Alpha.
“Everyone here to show an Alpha his worth, please step inside the circle before the Alphas are placed to run,” Regional Alpha Jalte said.
Steffen jogged to the circle, turned his back to the center, and closed his eyes. He let his Vargr side rise to cognitive level to fully feel the Alphas.
And that lovely warmth pulled as the Alphas were led around the circle. What Steffen had felt when feeling the big Alpha’s ember rise was so easy to follow. Finally, that power stood still, and Steffen wanted to go to him. It sat in his chest as a deep need and yearning. Man, he was powerful. Far stronger than Ulrik.
“Run!” Jalte shouted.
Steffen felt the Alpha pull as a hard punch to the chest, so he opened his eyes and set after it, minding the ones who’d run across him. He didn’t have to worry much about them, though, because most followed the big Alpha.
Life coursed through his veins, and the run ignited the feral side. Steffen felt a thirst to prove himself unlike anything he’d ever experienced. He gave it his all, growling and sneering as he chased down that huge Alpha.
A hard thump upset his heart, and he momentarily felt out of breath. Then he felt…whole. Blissful. And combative. He wanted to fight, but not the huge Alpha. He wanted that Alpha’s support. To…action. The pain in his chest where the ember burned shifted.
Steffen ran harder to catch up. Fighting and pushing, he finally got the Alpha in his line of sight, and the heat in his chest spread. The Alpha turned his head long enough to catch Steffen’s gaze, and all bets were off. Steffen raced like it was a matter of life and death, and he steered directly for that source of power.
Suddenly, the Alpha kicked into the ground as if to slow himself. He grabbed Steffen’s hand, changed direction, and kept a pace that Steffen could follow. Barely, but Steffen wasn’t giving in. He felt empowered, accomplished, full, warm, and…whole.
The gaping void inside him stopped crying, and Steffen finally put praxis to the tales.
He was running with his mate!
His limbs gave out a bit, and he stumbled as his instincts pushed him to take his Vargr form, yet he strained to keep up.
The huge Alpha growled and stumbled along, then he roared and let go of Steffen, and they tumbled along for half a minute as their bodies shifted. By the sound of it, more followed suit.
On all four, they raced through the woods, and Steffen kept close enough to bump into the huge Alpha. He was a beautiful gray wolf with a dark patch across his shoulders. Steffen’s form hadn’t broken his clothes completely, but the Alpha’s shirt didn’t survive his massive form.
The Alpha steered them back to the circle, yet Steffen didn’t want to stop. He wanted to run and play, so he jumped into the big Alpha. For a few minutes, he played along, then snapped at Steffen to stop and returned to human form.
Steffen followed and looked around as the human side surfaced from the intensity of the run and…his mate bond awakening. It had to be. It…had to be. Steffen didn’t want to lose that sense of strength. That feeling of being less alone. He didn’t want to feel so vulnerable again.
So many had followed, and for a moment, Steffen feared that he’d merely felt a true Alpha and not…Ulrik.
The huge Alpha turned to look at Steffen with a pain and yearning that mirrored Steffen’s. Their gazes meeting made Steffen feel better. “Mate…”
But Jalte came over, grinning, pulling the huge Alpha’s attention. “You pulled almost everyone, Tristan. You will be Pack Alpha!”
Steffen felt immeasurably proud. And he’d only just learned the guy’s name.
Jalte pulled Tristan with him, and Steffen wanted to follow, yet he forced himself to stay back, shivering. It seemed like the Alpha wanted him to follow, though, because he sought out Steffen’s gaze, and once they met, he smiled.
That was it for Steffen. His heart beat out of sync, and that smile made Tristan the center of Steffen’s world, so he stepped forward. Then another step. He then recognized that other stuff was going on, and Tristan’s attention was drawn to his new pack as Vargr came up to him and bit him, while he took his Vargr shape to bite them, too.
Steffen stepped back. He was not part of that. That sense of separation hurt, but he’d finally found his mate, and the Alpha had acknowledged. It left him feeling wonderful, whole, and excited.
That excitement dimmed as they returned back home. Ulrik had been informed that a mate bond had been formed, and he’d not looked pleased. When learning to whom, the Pack Alpha’s gaze had darkened.
What to do next?
That was up to the Pack Alpha, and Steffen felt a new kind of pain build where the ember had merely burned hotter until Tristan had turned his head, caught Steffen’s gaze, and grabbed his hand.
Over the next month, it grew in intensity along with pain.
Dreams of Tristan would wake Steffen up at night. The food lost taste as a deep need tore at him. He lost the ability to enjoy pack members, and he felt cold even when they all sat close and enjoyed downtime after a day’s work at the farm.
Nightmares of Tristan crying out in pain awoke Steffen to sweats of terror, crying out loudly enough to wake up the whole house. The pack came to him, pulling him up into protective arms, while Steffen gasped, trying to find his footing at the sudden awakening and trying to figure out where he was and why he was still in pain if it was just a dream.
One evening, after Steffen surfaced from another sweat drenching nightmare, Ulrik loomed over him as he tried to catch his breath, scratching at his chest to ease a pain he didn’t understand.
“Run, Steffen. Run to your mate and return in three days.”
“Yes, Pack Alpha,” Steffen managed, while relief and need to get to Tristan burned in him. He didn’t wash the cold sweat off before he left the farm in the dead of night. He didn’t even dress in more than the linen pants as he set course across the fields and through the forest that separated him and Tristan.
He ran as hard as he could, not even thinking about preserving energy. He needed Tristan. He needed his mate. The pain inside lessened as he closed in, yet the crushing need to bond burned in him increasingly. Flashes of Tristan kept him going. Shivers, pain, and need that rivaled the pain that Steffen felt kept him pushing harder. And a burn. A deep burn at the center of his chest, but it wasn’t Steffen’s.
Tristan was in pain. It was the mate bond calling Steffen to the Alpha.
Steffen had never been to that pack before. Closing in, he slowed down to not seem a threat as he felt his mate close by.
A Beta protector with an active ember met him, watching him skeptically, so Steffen shifted to his human form. He must have seen the pain on Steffen’s face.
“Tristan. Pack Alpha Tristan,” Steffen whispered. The pain and need took his voice away, causing tears to well up in his eyes.
“Your name?” the Beta asked.
“He cries for you at night. Come with me.” The Beta set into a run, and Steffen swiftly followed. The Beta led Steffen to a cabin and knocked on the door. A Bitch opened, and Tristan stepped up behind her, looking like he’d slept as poorly as Steffen. The relief on his face, though…
The Bitch looked at Tristan, standing there in less clothes than Steffen. “Run.”
Tristan shifted to Vargr form, and Steffen’s Vargr pushed forward, making him stumble and fall over on the gravel for his form to follow. The Alpha set off, and Steffen followed swiftly, following his mate into the massive woods around his pack home.
Peace spread as they ran, and their mate bond strengthened.
At the top of a steep but huge hill, Tristan finally stopped and breathed heavily, staring across vast forests. He seemed to sail away in a yearning to be fulfilled, and Steffen recognized it because that’s how he felt.
Steffen took his paw, and Tristan squeezed it, smiling at Steffen. A sense of calm came over Steffen at finally being in contact with his mate, and he marveled at the beauty of all that surrounded them, the fog hanging to the treetops, and the early sounds of nature waking up. Not counting the worries that two wolves racing through the forest had caused.
The hill wasn’t a mountain, but it gave Steffen a moment to imagine he stood on one. It was a dream of his to one day do, and to stand on a mountain with his mate was the most beautiful he could imagine. This would be their little mountain. Sky mountain.
“You came,” Tristan said softly.
“I woke up in pain. I’ve done that a lot.” Steffen looked at Tristan. “You, too.”
Tristan looked out over the vastness, nodding. “That’s the pain of a separated mate bond.” He turned and took them to a big tree, then sat with his back to it.
Steffen sat next to him, leaning in to have their arms touch, smiling at feeling Tristan lean into him, too. He craved his mate’s strength more than he ever remembered needing pup or pack piling. He hoped Ulrik would soon figure stuff out so that Steffen could join Tristan in his pack.
“How did you feel about being mated to an Alpha?” Tristan asked. “A male Alpha.”
“Considering the hot guy that I saw you with after the Pack Alpha run?”
Tristan pulled a face. “What?”
“You like men.” Steffen hoped he was right. “The pride on his face and the look in his eyes. It was that of a lover.”
Tristan nodded for a moment. “Yes.”
Steffen had wished for a male mate bond, and he’d gotten it. Yet the guy who’d come to Tristan after the Pack Alpha run was…beautiful. Steffen was okay-looking. He’d been called handsome, and he could turn a few heads here and there. But a mate bond to an Alpha was forever, they said, and it was as strong as, yet different from, a Biting Alpha’s bond.
“Ah, I see,” Tristan said. “You’re thinking of the man I broke up with the day I met you?”
Steffen looked up, surprised. “You what?”
Tristan smiled at Steffen. “I’ll focus on you. But how did you feel?”
“We’ll, he’s kinda my type.”
Tristan shook his head and snorted. “Well, that wasn’t the answer I expected. So, my worries that you’d have favored a Bitch is unfounded?”
“Yeah. I just…” A sheepish smile forced its way forward. “You’re huge.”
“Yup.” Tristan merely stated that, looking off across the landscape. “So are my siblings. Except the quintupling runts. You’ll meet a bunch of them later.” Tristan looked at Steffen with a soft gaze. “Depending on how long you stay?”
“Three days. Maybe my Pack Alpha has figured stuff out before then.” That wish burned deeply in Steffen.
“Did you know that mate bonds to Alphas are not necessarily sexual like with a Bitch.”
Steffen shook his head. “No, I know that Alpha mate bonds don’t have to be. My dad was Alpha. I’m Beta. I don’t know how it works there. I know mate bonds to an Alpha are rare, though.”
Tristan cocked his head and smiled. “True. They’re a mutual need for something. You’re a Beta with a need for an Alpha mate bond.” A huge hand covered Steffen’s chest where the need for the Alpha burned, and the touch soothed him. “I’ll always be there for you, mate. Like you came to me.”
The whispered promise made Steffen feel relaxed and safe. “Whatever your Alpha needs from a Beta, I’ll meet,” Steffen said.
“You just ran to me.” Tristan smiled. “I know you will.”
Steffen looked up, finding trust, strength, and determination is his mate’s eyes. He wanted to relinquish into all the Alpha was. But the Vargr form he was in insisted it not be done without a fight. Shit. He felt spurred on to fight an Alpha? But mates earned their place. With incentive. That stray thought urged Steffen into action, and he pushed Tristan back to press their lips together. A deep yet appreciative growl escaped Tristan, setting Steffen’s being afire with lust, while the huge Alpha devoured his mouth and pulled him closer. Dominantly.
Steffen resisted and broke the kiss, pushed Tristan back, and backed away. The gaze he met made him short of breath from physical need, but he wanted the control. The power. The Alpha would earn him.
“I’ve been with men, too.” Steffen found his mate more handsome than the first time he’d seen him. In human form. He enjoyed the feel of him. Not just physically, but his…Alpha side. It provoked Steffen’s Vargr. The fantasy of making the Alpha concede turned him on. Tristan had to. To earn Steffen’s submission because he wouldn’t concede unless it was earned.
A sly smile spread on Tristan’s lips. “What do you enjoy?”
Steffen shivered uncontrollably at the rumble in the big Alpha’s chest and velvety voice. It went straight to his fun bits. Feeling frisky, he locked gazes with his mate. “Earn me.”
Tristan bit his full lower lip, and his eyelids dropped as he stood and stalked back and forward, his muscles shivering for a run. Or a fight. Pheromones released, and he kicked his feet on the ground. He was marking territory. Judging by the look in his eyes, he wanted to mark Steffen as his territory, too. More hormones released, and Steffen’s breath quickened at recognizing lust.
“Yeah, right track,” Steffen said.
“You gonna race me?” Tristan whispered in a challenging tone.
“No,” Steffen cooed, grinning. “You’re going to race me.” No chance he’d win—he already knew that from the day he’d met his mate. That day, Tristan had slowed down to run with Steffen, but Tristan would have to earn him by conceding.
Steffen slowly stalked closer. Tristan stood still, waiting, while Steffen leaned in and ran his tongue up Tristan’s neck from collar bone and into his ear. He then ran off, leaving Tristan to emit an impatient growl. Dashing into the woods, Steffen felt his mate close in and challenge him for dominance.
The mating game had begun.
Steffen had no idea for how long they ran, how long they challenged each other, but Steffen’s Beta ember felt satisfied and stronger as they chased through the woods until Sköll had chased the goddess Sol more than halfway across the sky.
Finally, Tristan tossed himself on the forest floor. His concede assaulted Steffen’s senses with a mixture of his powerful pheromones and the scent of a damp forest in autumn. It was the most delicious and beautiful mixture Steffen had ever experienced, and he slowly closed in on Tristan, panting.
The huge Alpha remained down as Steffen looked for the best spot to slowly close his teeth around to finally bite down and taste his mate.
Tristan groaned loudly, allowing the bite into his shoulder. He licked Steffen’s chest and neck leisurely until Steffen leaned into him. Teeth then dug into Steffen’s shoulder, and he moaned around the flesh in his mouth as lust and physical need for his mate spread throughout his body.
Peacefulness and lust battled as Steffen melted into his mate, and once his bite released, Tristan growled and shifted them around. His Alpha side stood out, and Steffen felt secure and powerful at the same time. Feeling that huge body settle over him, another moan escaped Steffen as he moved around to make himself accessible to his mate, who made quick work of the linen hugging Steffen’s lower body.
And finally, Tristan’s cock found Steffen’s opening and slowly pushed in. He was in proportions, and Steffen gasped, relaxing and knowing his mate wouldn’t hurt him.
Slowly, gentle thrusts allowed Steffen’s body to accommodate, and he moaned softly against the damp beech leaves against his cheek.
“Finally, our bond is fully forming,” Tristan whispered, licking the bite mark. “A mate bond is a gift from the gods. I’ll always treat you as such. I’ll always be there for you.” Steffen whimpered from relief. “I’ll come to you. Like you came to me now.”
“Always,” Steffen whispered. A loud groan escaped him as Tristan’s cock could finally slip in fully, leaving Steffen feeling filled out and whole. He quaked against the ground, sticking his ass out for more.
Tristan pushed into him harder, rocking their bodies and gasping from growing delight. “I want to knot you, oh, let me knot you, let me lock us together…forever.”
Steffen’s body, mind, and soul rejoiced in each their way. His body made his heart stutter to sync with his mate’s, and his mind overloaded from imagining how that would feel, considering all he knew was that knotting was intense, yet he’d never tried it as the one being locked. But he felt safe with his mate, so his soul rejoiced, and the roaring in his chest pulsated from a need he was yet to cognitively understand. “Yes!”
Tristan groaned loudly. The reverberations in his chest shook Steffen’s body, and chills from pleasure raced over his skin and settled between his legs as warmth and a deep throb from need.
Steffen’s ass then felt fuller, and he gasped as it grew with the pulses of the growing knot. Tristan was already a big guy, yet the fear of pain during sex only registered for a split second. Then the pain from a bite drowned out Steffen’s mind, locked their mate bond, and from then on Steffen had no idea what wonderful sensation to their body was in one or the other.
They were one being, experiencing the world and their physical pleasure as one.
They were one.
Pleasure built. It rose on the long and slow orgasm of a knotting, yet Steffen felt it as if he were also the one knotting a partner. As one, their being climbed toward a climax, locked together on a journey so intimate and combined that nothing else existed.
When they culminated, they roared, leaving their throat feeling raw from the pressure leaving it and the emotions closing it up.
Slowly, they came down from the intensity, and the feeling of them becoming individual bodies and beings again settled, making Steffen’s mind reel. But he didn’t feel alone. He felt like their bonding had allowed him to discover a new part of himself—something he’d always missed yet it was a detail he’d never been able to identify. Now he could, and he felt peaceful from discovering it.
Tristan pulled out and landed on the ground next to Steffen, then pulled him close and hugged him tightly, while the load of semen ran out of Steffen. He felt a hot mess, claimed, craved, and powerful for having made an Alpha that strong submit to him.
They stayed there, heaving for breath and enjoying the aftermath. Steffen smiled at being cuddled, while a lazy caress, just short of tickling, ran up and down his back. Tristan shifted back to human, and Steffen followed, letting his mind surface from the feral and primal side’s needs that had caused Steffen to challenge his mate for dominance to engage in sex.
And then the cuddling became appreciated on an entirely different level. It showed a different side of his mate. Not his Vargr side, but the human side. They enjoyed the view of the sun between the shifting colors of the beech forest in silence and close embrace.
“One day…in human form…” Steffen didn’t know how to express that one.
Tristan smiled against Steffen’s forehead. “Our physical needs will be different.”
“Yeah,” Steffen whispered. He pulled back enough to look up at Tristan, loving the tussled post-sex look. “I’ll want you then, too.”
The pleased expression on Tristan’s face made Steffen’s heart skip a beat. That was definitely more than lust looking back at him.
Tristan lowered his head to plant a soft kiss on Steffen’s lips—a tentative and exploring one that made Steffen’s stomach flutter. “Let me explore you, then. As human. As both lovers and mates.”
Steffen bit his lip and blushed as he nodded. He didn’t know why he blushed. That look, though. His tussled Alpha mate, looking relaxed and happy after their bonding, made his human side rethink his attraction to men more his own size and stature. The power that had made him feel so safe and good in Vargr form was one thing, but…the look in Tristan’s eyes now lit something else in Steffen. More than a mate bond to an Alpha was said to evoke. Maybe because Steffen was a Beta?
Didn’t matter. They’d bonded fully now, and Steffen hurt a bit less inside.
No, he didn’t. He felt stronger, and the pain had merely shifted.
What would an ember in a Beta grow to support his Alpha mate in? It had to be that. Except, Tristan said it was a Beta’s need that pulled an Alpha to mate with him. Steffen was the chasing ember. His dad had said the chasing ember was the one with the need.
“Did Pack Alpha Ulrik give you an answer, by the way?” Tristan asked.
Steffen felt regret, yet it didn’t register fully as his emotions. He grew nervous and sad at the same time. “No.”
“His pack’s too small to lose you now,” Tristan whispered. Steffen recognized the anguish that had caused him to cry out in need and pain that night. It had been Tristan’s emotions. “The pack has to grow by three bitten Betas before you can come to me.” Sorrow filled Steffen, and he hurt at the prospect of being left in pain like that again. Him and Tristan both, yet it had been the news of their separation that had cried out to Steffen. “I’ll work on finding Betas.” Tristan tightened his grip around Steffen, who didn’t doubt his words for a second. “I’ll help find them.”
Steffen smiled at trusting in that fact, yet it grew stiff on Steffen’s face at knowing that Ulrik wouldn’t mange to secure prosperity enough for any Beta to want to join the pack.
The awakening ember in Steffen’s chest rose. It burned him. Then the powerful ember in his mate rose to sooth it.
Steffen’s ember whispered: Humble, humble. Pick up power.