Dean and Kao were more than ready to get out of the car by the time they pulled up to the house. It was everything they had heard about and more. It screamed 'country home' with every aspect. The decor, the picket fence, the smell of fresh bread just come out of the oven, big and burly lumberjack chopping wood in the back.
Kao was grinning. "What's so funny, Kao?" asked Dean.
"You're used to giants." Kao watched as Jessup Whitebear stopped his chopping and looked over with a raised hand.
Brigit Whitebear came out drying her hands on a towel and the biggest smile lit her lovely face. "Well, well. Looks like a couple of lovebirds have come to roost for a bit. Dean, Kao, welcome to the Lone Wolf." She came over and gave them big hugs...only made bigger because she stood even taller than Dean. "What brings you this way?" She was already ushering them into the Wolf and into the kitchen where she dished up a few slices of cherry pie.
"We're on our way to Montana and our official place in the pack, but had to make a bit of a detour and come see you and the place a mountain was born." Kao could not deny the look of loving pride Brigit had in her eyes. He knew both parents were so proud of their son who was not only mated, but a prominent Hunter for Homestead. "Also to bring tidings. Tiffany sends her love."
"You stopped off in Salt Lake?" Her face lost some of the smile. "Have they found their lost ones yet?"
"Not yet, but SLCP and Homestead are now allied to locate them and several others." Dean had no qualms about stuffing his face with the pie. It was, by far, the best cherry pie he had ever tasted. "With Colton on the trail, they'll be found one way or another. Which means your not-so-little mountain will be going along."
"Then they'll be found. Only better pair are Quint and Dylan. So, how long are you boys staying?"
"The night, maybe two. We have some wiggle room since we left with two days of free time." Kao was savoring the bites of pie since homemade was not a normal word for him.
"Good. Been too quiet around here lately. After you've rested a bit, Dean, Jess could use a hand raising a few beams for a small addition. We're building a sauna out back."
"No problem, Brigit." They both knew that the Lone Wolf never charged their guests money. All they asked for was a bit of help around the place. Kitchen dishes, wood chopped, maybe run for groceries. Anything that helped out around the Wolf or the small town near it.
After a drink of water and some small talk, Dean went out back with Jessup and Kao stayed with Brig. "I see you two completed the mating," she said with a smile.
"Yeah. With everything finally settled enough, we...or rather he, decided we were ready. This is kind of our mating-honeymoon trip."
"Then you and I are going to make a big dinner to celebrate. And thank you for stopping in and sharing it with us." She gave a big mama bear hug to the lad, and they got to work on the meal. It would be one after which their mates would have to roll out of the room having eaten so much. "So, tell me everything you can about yourself. Then I can give you all the dirt on Zeke as I know he's going to tease you."
Kao laughed. "I knew I was going to like you a lot." He proceeded to tell her about him. He covered the main things everyone would be privy to, his birth and training to be a Mediator, his schooling. Mostly, he talked of the stresses of growing up how he had. She listened while he told her far more than even Dean probably knew. Things only a mother could be told. How he hated his brother, how his brother would push him around, often physically. Kao spoke of how much he missed his mother, but of how Phuong had been there as sister and mother.
He wiped away a tear but a smile was on his face. "She really is amazing. It's no wonder it falls to her to be the next Wind Master. Kai would've been a very poor choice. I would never have been able to keep the flock together. I'm too nice, too submissive. Phuong...she's strong in both mind and soul. She will lead the Flock into a more current era while honoring the past."
Brig only nodded. "I can't wait to meet her." With a gentle one-armed hug, careful to keep her dough covered hand off him, Brigit pulled him closer. "I believe you wouldn't have done so bad. You may not have the strength of presence your father has or the depth of feeling of your mother, but you are Kao. To try to be them is only going to destroy the you that you are meant to be. To learn from them, and to strive to be the best person you can, is how you choose to live. I can see it in you, Alpha Davenport sees it, and I know that hunky shirtless man out there sees it." They both looked at their shirtless men. A more stunning pair would be difficult to find. "You, Kao, will be a good Beta for Homestead, and an even better mate for Dean." She tightened her hug a bit. "And if you ever need some mothering, you know where I am. From here on out, you are one of my boys as much as Quint and Zeke."
"Yes, ma'am," said Kao with a sniffle.
"Now...Zeke." After that, it was all gossip and embarrassing stories about her strapping son. His first word, which was "pizza", his first love, which was his childhood sweetheart Ian who used to ride on his back during full moon nights.
"That still surprises me. Humans who know about Lycans."
"It works out surprisingly well. Why, there is a she-wolf married to her human man two doors down. Never turned him, never felt the lack, and they have four children. Three boy pups and a beautiful little girl." The way she said it told Kao the girl was human. She chuckled. "The boys, triplets, miss Zeke an awful lot. He was a big brother to them. They're fourteen now, just had their first changes, and they worry too much about their strength when playing football with their dad."
"I bet. Do they limit themselves in sports?"
"All three love football and soccer, but they're all on the swim team. No big advantage to being a Lycan in that sport save for maybe endurance. They have their fun."
Dean and Jessup were putting up the 'few' beams for the new sauna. Chat flowed easily between them. "That's a fine young man you have there," Jessup said.
"Yes, he is," said Dean with a bit of a blush.
"Still find it amazing to be with a man, being a straight man?"
"You have no idea," chortled Dean.
"Oh, I do. Save for Brig, I'm not a ladies man."
"So it runs in the family." Dean was truly surprised. Jessup, big, burly, mountain man, lumberjack of a man was gay.
"It does. My uncle is, I am, my son, my other uncle's girl. All the firstborns in my family swing both ways or play for the same team."
Dean nodded. It was something to prove it had a genetic component. "Means nothing when you smell your mate though," he said with surety.
Jessup chuckled. "Shocked all the family, me especially. A lot of bad feelings when I had to break up with my boy...for his cousin." Jessup's face was tinged pink.
Dean couldn't help but laugh. That was a bad way to break up. "Is he okay with it now?"
"Mostly. He's married to a lawyer down in Texas. Good man, better for him than I ever could be. He still calls me whenever he has issues. I guess I'm still That Friend." His tone was mixed, as was his scent. He still loved him as a friend, but there were probably some subjects he didn't want to know about.
"That's tough. I'm just glad my lady love took it well. She and Kao are going to be good friends, which makes it easier for me." Jessup's grunt was eloquent. "I still love her, but it's not meant to be. So, does Zeke know about you?"
"When he came out, I told him I knew he would be and why. Point of advice: if you ever have a gay son or lesbian daughter, never take them to 'check out' the area's scene."
Dean died laughing, almost dropping the hammer on his foot. He could just imagine chatty Zeke pointing out the hot guys, commenting on their butts or other body parts, dissecting their attributes, and Jessup hanging his head in shame and embarrassment.
Dinner was being brought to the table while Dean and Jessup took their showers. The heavenly aromas filled the house, and when the men, dressed in simple clothes, walked into the dining room to see a gourmet meal, their jaws dropped. The side table was covered in food. The center of the table had a scrumptious arrangement of Vietnamese foods from bamboo shoots and a chicken stew to spring rolls and moc, which was a meatball dish. Also, a chicken pho was served beside a dish Dean had never seen but wanted to try lots of. There was also a delicious mix of comfort foods. Shepard's Pie, meatloaf, and so many desserts the two men would be sick...and loving it.
When they entered, both Kao and Brig gave a small bow. "Dinner is served, my mate," said Kao with such love in his eyes.
"Have a seat, my heart," said Brig whose smile was warm and inviting.
After sitting, Dean just looked at it. "Okay...I'm going out on a limb here. This wouldn't be a mating feast for us, would it? In a semi-traditional Vietnamese style?" He looked at Kao who nodded. "The two of you should open a restaurant. All this in three hours?"
"When Kao told me you were newly mated, and I realized you hadn't really had a ceremony for it, I wanted to celebrate," Brigit said, with a firm nod from Jess. "Tuck in...before Jess eats it all."
Dish after dish was served together. Sweet and savory. All of it lovingly made by Kao and Brigit. After only a few bites, Jessup paid Kao one of the highest compliments. "Brig, my dearest...get his recipes."
Kao flushed at the praise. He could cook, mostly to the tastes of his heritage, but few had ever asked to get the recipes. In fact, Jessup was the first.
"You like it that much? I know Dean does, he hasn't stopped shoveling." Kao's snarky comment tried to hide his obvious pleasure.
"Kao, Jessup has only asked for one other cook's recipes, and that was my mother's trout bake. He's the pickiest eater I have met." The large man nodded in agreement. "Oh, he'll eat it, but if he gets seconds, he likes it." She beamed a smile at her mate. She had cooked a lot of his favorites just in case he hadn't liked it.
Since he finished what the others hadn't eaten, it was safe to say Jessup loved it.
* * *
The days at the Wolf were wonderful for them. Simple work, simple living, wonderful family times. Kao had taken to calling their hostess "Mama Brig" which delighted her to no end. Dean let himself be adopted as an honorary brother to Jessup since he was only a handful of years younger than both and would not be a son.
The triplets had come over to be introduced. "When you see Big Bro, tell him to come back. We need someone we can tackle and not worry about killing."
Dean nodded. "Why not play with Jess?"
"We want to have a chance of winning. We just bounce off him if we try to tackle him."
"Try the tic-tackle." When they looked clueless, Dean demonstrated. He launched himself at Jessup who placed one foot back to brace himself. Dean was no gangly teen. When Dean impacted, he began tickling Jessup whose face lit up in shock and he began to squirm as Dean bore him to the ground.
"Flag on the play!" Jessup called out and tried to catch Dean's faster hands. He couldn't, so he just tossed Dean bodily fifteen feet away. Dean landed on his feet as if touching down after a flight. The triplets took his place, much to Jessup's torture and Brig's delight.
Kao leaned into her asking, "Ever miss not having more?" She smiled, and looked down at her midsection, and then looked at Kao. "No..." She nodded. He gave her a big hug and whispered, "Have you told him yet?" With the roaring laughter and noise from the playing, no one could hear the two talking.
"I wasn't sure until yesterday. I'm hoping for a girl this time." Her small smile said she would love either, but she wanted a daughter. Kao hugged her again.
After tearful farewells, they were back on the road to Montana. Pat had sent the address and it took another full day of driving, but they got to the camp as the sun was setting. The entire pack, or at least those who could make it on such short notice, was lining the country road leading to the camp with Jon, Pat, and Dylan standing there with the biggest grins on their faces. Alan and Travis stood to one side with Heather, Dylan's fiancee.
Dean had been told there would be a small ceremony as Travis stepped down as Acting Beta and they took up the mantle. It started as soon as they got out of the car and halted in front of Mr. Andrews. "Travis Andrews, Acting Beta for the Homestead Pack, you are hereby relieved of your duties as Beta. Homestead thanks you for your years of service and guidance as you move on to take your place among the Council of Lycans for the northern packs of the USA." Dean had to say it, for whatever reason. Kao didn't tell him why.
"It has been an honor and privilege to serve, Beta Whitmore-Saechao. You are to carry on in my place alongside your mate. To guide and advise the Alpha, to lead the pack in his stead, and to mediate disputes between members of this and other packs should you be called upon. Do you, Kao Whitmore-Saechao, and you, Dean Whitmore-Saechao, take up this mantle of authority?"
"We do," they said together.
Travis turned to Jon with the biggest smile on his face and a tear in his eye. "Alpha, I stand down as your Beta in the full knowledge that these two men will serve you as well or better than I. Do you accept my resignation and their promotion?"
"I do accept." Jon's part was easy. At least his words. He pulled Travis into a fierce embrace. "We will all miss you, Travis. You will always have a home with us. Now go give those stuffy council asshats a good shakeup."
Travis laughed and stepped back.
Jon stepped forward. "Homestead pack, your Betas have come home to roost." A collective cheer went up as the mates were embraced and welcomed.
Home to roost, indeed.
Once again, thanks to my wonderful editor for all his help...and boundless patience.