Chapter 12: Down by the River

My first time eating raw fish, and I had to admit it wasn't that bad. River was beside me, sitting on another boulder, picking out the little bone with his claw.

"So this is what being an omega is like?" I carefully ran my finger along a piece of meat, checking for bones myself.

River shrugged. "Sometimes." One of his ear splayed to the side. "Today was a good day." He held the fish carcass up to his muzzle.

"I guess," I breathed. "Besides given Titus a heart attack, nothing really happened."

He peered up at me, still gnawing on the fish. "He really cares about you."

I nodded. "Yeah, he does." I offered him the rest of my fish.

River's was practically just scales and a head.

"You sure?" he asked, hesitant to take it. "There might not be much left for dinner."

"I'm sure. I'm full."

The omega took it with a smile and quickly licking up all the small pieces I missed.

"So," I leaned back on my arms. "What else do omegas do during the day? Any chores?"

Wide eyed, he shook his head. "I stay away from the cave. Everyone's busy, and I just get in the way."

"Oh." I sucked in my cheek. "Where are the other omegas? Do you hang out with them?"

His hands dropped into his lap, and he bowed his head. "They don't like me."

"How come? Jealous of your good looks?" I nudged his arm. "Wish they could be scrawny as us, so they could pick up some hot mates?"

River didn't respond.

"Oh... um," I bit my bottom lip. "Sorry, if I said something to offend you. I didn't mean to. It's just everyone says I'd be an omega if I wasn't mated, so I figured they all want to be sub-like... if that's even a word." I rubbed my hand down my face. "Just forget I said anything, sorry. This is still new to me," I laughed hesitantly. "Sorry."

"I get into trouble a lot," he said softly. "Alpha says it's because I don't think before I act. Darius is more blunt and says I just don't have any common sense." He took a deep breath. "If you hang around me, eventually I'll mess up, and you might be punished too." His light blue eyes flicked up. "It's okay if you want to be with them instead. I'll understand."

"Oh no," I replied casually. "I'm not ditching you."

He sucked in his lips, holding in his excitement.

I leaned over my legs. "In high school, I got picked on a lot. I know what it's like to be alone."

He flashed me a small smile.

"I'm not ditching you, River. Nice try, but it's not going to work. Besides I was demoted trying to protect you. I don't want to see you get hurt again. I get the whole ranking thing, but it's still not fair for them to push you around."

Nodding, he tossed the fish by the edge of the water and stood. "What to see something cool?" he asked.

"Sure." I stood and dusted off my shorts.

He glanced back at me. "You might want to shift. It's a bit of a climb."

"Oh," I looked around. "Do you know somewhere I can store my clothes?"

"Yeah, I'll show you."

I quickly shed them and shifted. Folding them up, I hurried after the gold werewolf. We dropped them off under an overhanging by the cave, before crossing the hot pool stream and starting down a trail.

"Where exactly are we going?"

River pointed to the top of the cave. "Up there."

"Is that allowed?"

He shrugged. "No one ever said it wasn't. I hide up there all the time."

"Oh..." I chewed on my lip and followed him to the far outer wall of the cave.

River quickly darted up the incline until it turned into a flat rock wall. He waved for me to follow, before starting the ten foot climb. My stomach started to flutter. If I fell, Titus would probably kill the omega. Let's hope I don't fall. With a deep breath, I hurried up after him.

I dug my claws into the footholds. Even with the extra anchor, I didn't feel safe. When I was within reach, River held out his hand. I grabbed it and squirmed over the top.

"Wow," I looked back down. "That was eventful."

River laughed. "This way. Just be careful of the skylights."

Nodding, I tiptoed after him. I had the underlying feeling that the ceiling was going to cave in on someone. First day as an omega, and I destroyed the roof. It wasn't exactly keeping to my promise to the alpha. We weaved along until we stopped at a flat spot that looked out over the forest. Taking in our surroundings, I figured we were somewhere over the hot pools.

"Nice, isn't it?" River sat down.

I took the spot next to him. "Yeah, it's pretty up here. I kind of want to bring my painting stuff with me next time and draw it."

He gazed out of the forest and seemed far less nervous than when we were in the cave.

"So," I settled in and glanced at the boy. "What kind of mate would you like?"

His fur bristled. "Um... well. Someone nice."

"Oh come on," I exclaimed, "Personality stuff is boring. Give me the physical. Like a hot body, dominate, middle rank, cute tail," I nudged him.

River hugged his leg to his chest and hid his face.

"Well endowed," I tease.

His mouth dropped open, and his head snapped toward me. "I'm fine with anyone, really. I don't care about that."

"You need to be more particular, River," I breathed. "I mean Titus is super hot, but his brother is an asshole. So I definitely would have said no to this whole werewolf thing if Titus and Darius had switched places."

He fiddled with his tail. "Tall," he whispered.

"Hmmm..." I glanced over at him.

"Someone really tall," he smiled. "Because I'm kind of tall," he cleared his throat. "For a sub, so it would be nice if they were tall, for a dominate," he quickly added.

"What color fur? Seems to be a big deal among the werewolf folk."

He rolled his eyes. "Any will do. As long as they like mine." He ran his hand along his arm.

"What wrong with your fur? I mean, I know plenty of dudes who love the blonds. Yours is a really nice color, actually."

He rested his chin on his knees. "Gay dominants want subs like you, and there are a lot of us out there. Even the bi ones would rather go with a girl then settle for anything like me. I'm just not what they're looking for."

"That's because you're only meeting superficial assholes. Titus didn't know how I was going to turn out."

"Still he'd rather take a chance on a human than take me," he muttered.

I was taken back for a moment. Titus rejected him? Maybe even Rupert. They both did take human mates rather than a sub that was already in the pack.

"Sorry," he said softly. "I didn't mean anything by it." He stood and started back.

"Hey wait," I called after him.

Climbing to my feet, I weaved back and forth trying to catch up to him. By the time I reached the edge, River had already climbed down. I awkwardly made my way to the ground as well and let out a deep breath when my feet hit the solid earth.

The golden werewolf had already disappeared.

"River! Hey River, come back."

I searched the area, but he was gone. Unfortunately, my werewolf tracking skills still sucked. This whole situation was messed up, and none of this was his fault. He couldn't help the way he was born. I wished there was something I could do to help him, but at the moment, I was just an omega too.

***

Dressed and in human form, I sat on the rocks outside the cave swinging my legs. The middle ranks were bringing in the catch for the day, along with some supplemental meat from WIR. With so many werewolves, it probably was a good thing, or they'd eat everything in this area.

Titus was standing just inside, talking to other dominants. I tried not to smile as I caught him sneaking peeks at me multiple times with a worried expression. He was being a little too overprotective. I could handle myself. Being omega was easy enough. I had plenty of practice during high school on how to blend into the wall.

"I think this is worse for Titus than you," stated Darius, walking around the boulder I was sitting on.

I shrugged. "Probably."

Folding his arms, he leaned back. "Look, I'm sorry about yesterday. My head's been messed up lately. It's been pissing me off just as much as everyone else. I let my temper get the best of me, and I'm trying to get it under control."

"Sorry, I clawed you," I said softly. "It was really stupid."

"I took it too far," he tapped his finger against his arm, "but River did steal. He's old enough to know better. Anyways," he took a deep breath and kicked off the rock, "my dad wants to talk to you. He's freaking out as much as Titus about this."

"'kay."

"See you around, Princess." He walked off toward his brother.

I scoffed at the comment and rolled my eyes. The moment he was near Titus, my mate grabbed him and drag him away from the others. He obviously wanted an update. The man could clearly see nothing had happened. I spent all day outside getting some fresh air. It was probably better for my health than sitting around in our room.

Sliding off the rock, I hurried inside and tried to sneak my way toward the alpha's room like I had seen River do. It was a fail. My attempted to go unnoticed only brought more attention as I awkwardly shuffled along the wall. Leaving the main chamber, I jogged down the corridor and stopped outside the alpha's room.

Rose was sitting in the main area. She gave me a stern look. "Aden Perri," she stated. "You are in so much trouble, you know that."

I rubbed my arm and gave her unease smile. "I... I didn't mean to hurt your son. I've apologized to him. We're good now."

"I don't even care about that." She stood and opened her arms.

I hurried over and hugged her.

"Are you okay?" The dark brown werewolf lifted my chin. "The pack hasn't been too hard on you."

"No," I shook my head. "They pretty much ignore me. I've been hanging out with River. He's a really good guy."

She sighed. "That poor boy. Xavier's been trying to find him a mate."

We sat down on the mounds of fur.

"He is a very sweet young man. Naive, but sweet."

"Yeah." I picked at the pelt I was sitting on. "He has it rough."

"Don't you worry," she clasped my leg. "Xavier will find him the right man. It's just taking some time."

"What am I going to do?" Xavier appeared in the hallway.

"Hello sweetheart, how was your meeting with WIR?" asked Rose.

"Long." He plopped down on a stack of furs. "I don't get humans."

Rose smacked his leg. "You should, you are half."

My mouth fell open. "Really? You're half human? The man so opposed to them."

He pointed a claw finger at me. "At the moment you are an omega, so I don't want to hear it."

I sucked in my lips. "So in three weeks-"

"Aden," he growled. "Don't get yourself in any more trouble, boy. I've had to put up with your mate already. He's been walking around with his tail between his legs all day." He shook his head. "He's taking it worse than when I demoted him," he snapped.

I tried not to smile, though it was pretty funny how frustrated the alpha was about his own punishment.

Xavier sunk down lower into the fur and tapped his finger on the side of his head. "So did you stay out of trouble? I heard you spent most the day with River."

"We went fishing and," I thought for a moment and decided to leave out the other activity, "Yeah that's about it."

"Good," he stated. "Once you leave here, go back to your room. I've had enough of Titus for today. So at least at dinner, I can tell him I sent you back."

"Yes, sir." I stood. "Bye." I gave a small wave to Rose and nodded to the alpha.

"Stay out of trouble, Aden," she called after me.

"I will." I stepped into the hall and could hear the two talking.

"This has turned into a nightmare, Rose," groaned Xavier. "I should have just put him on damn cleaning duty."

"Stand by your choices, dear. That's what you always tell the boys."

***

I waited in the armchair by the wall. If he knew I was in the room, he was sure taking a long time to come back. I rubbed my eye and stretched my arms overhead. Waking up early had taken a toll. Titus was right my sleeping habits were pathetic.

The tapping of claws on stone sounded down the hall. Titus appeared in the doorway and gave me a toothy smile.

"Hi," I said cheerfully.

Quickly closing the curtains, he shifted and grabbed a cooler he had hidden under some clothes and went to get one of our lanterns. I met him in the middle of the bed. He placed the cooler between us and turned on the light.

"This has to be a secret." Titus took off the lid.

I smiled at the assortment of fruit and deli meat packed around ice. He went and retrieved some bread, he had stashed in a drawer.

"You're going to get in so much trouble."

He hushed me. "Hurry and eat."

I did so, chuckling to myself. "This is very nice of you to do for such a lowly omega like myself."

Titus was not impressed with my joke and scowled at me. "Eat."

"Yes, Mr. Dominant, sir. Thank you so much for taking pity on me."

"Aden." He snatched my arm and pulled me beneath him.

I was doing my best not to laugh too loud through the whole process.

"You are being a pain in the ass." He kissed me lightly.

I kissed him back. "Your dad checked up on me, and he said you were moping around all day with your tail between your legs."

"Aden," he growled, nuzzling my neck. "I'm going to punish you if you keep this up. Omega," he said in a deep voice in my ear.

"Oh no," I whispered, acting scared. "Please forgive me."

"Dear god," he sighed, brushing my hair off my forehead. "You're just too cute."

I looked at him repulsed. "You ruined it. This isn't fun anymore."

He gave me a cheesy grin. "Then you better eat and keep your smartass comments to yourself." He grabbed my chin and gave it a shake."

"Fine." I sat up and finished making my sandwich. "I apologized to Darius."

"He mentioned that." Titus slid behind me and placed his arms around my waist as I ate.

"How long does it take before his alpha mood swings stop?"

Titus shrugged. "He's getting better. I think after what happened it kind of made him realize how overly aggressive he's been lately."

"Well, at least, one good thing came out of this." I took a big bite. The taste of processed food, it was heaven.

Fur surrounded me as Titus's shifted. He hugged me to him and rested his head against mine.

I looked back at him. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." He flashed me a small smile. "Everything is fine."