Belly rubs while in his Therian form were the best. Only if they were coming from his mate though. Anyone else who tried to rub his belly would get a hiss or swipe of his paws—if they were lucky.
Sloane’s chainsaw-like purrs resounded through the Suburban. He lay on his back next to Dex, paws up and head on Dex’s lap, eye closed as Dex rubbed his belly. His mate was tired. It had been a long day of training, new training to test their bond. Sloane had done good, but it had been hard too. So hard. He followed Dex’s orders even when his instincts screamed at him to stay by his mate’s side, to protect him.
“I’m so glad we showered at the base,” Dex grumbled sleepily. “I think I might just pass out on the couch.”
Sloane huffed. Bed was more comfortable.
“Yeah, I know you’d rather sleep in the bed,” Dex said tugging on one of Sloane’s ears. He twisted his head and nipped ever so gently at Dex’s hand. Hands off the ears. Dex only chuckled. “Your giant, hairy felid ass is not sleeping in our bed.”
Sloane growled low in his throat. He wanted to sleep next to his mate.
“Babe, I love you, but technically, this is part of the training.” Dex looked down at him, and Sloane met those big blue eyes. His mate was so pretty. “I know that look. Pay attention. You heard Sparks’s orders. You’re supposed to stay in your Therian form all night. I know you had a bath back at the base, but sleeping next to you like this, is like sleeping next to a furnace. A furnace that weighs a fuckton and decides to go all cat in the middle of the night, so you get to sleep on the floor in your cat bed.
Sloane hissed. He didn’t want to sleep in the cat bed. Cat bed! He was a jaguar Therian not a damned house cat!
Dex chuckled and went back to rubbing his belly. Mm, that was nice. “I know. It’s an insult to your felid predator sensibilities, but considering you almost smothered me in my sleep the last time you attempted to sleep in the bed with me in that form, it was necessary.”
Sloane flattened his ears and moaned. It wasn’t like he’d done it on purpose. He’d wanted to sleep as close to his mate as possible and in the middle of the night threw a paw over Dex, not realizing it hand landed over Dex’s nose and mouth.
“We’re home,” Dex said, tapping Sloane’s chest. Dex thanked the agent who’d driven them and opened the back door so Sloane could hop out. He stretched his long body, toes spreading and butt in the air. Dex swatted his butt like he always did when Sloane stretched, and Sloane swatted Dex’s butt in return, making his mate laugh. It was good to be home.
Sloane followed Dex up the steps when a tiny growl had Sloane’s ears perking up. Dex cursed under his breath and turned, waving at the tiny old lady with narrowed eyes.
“Hey, Mrs. Bauman.”
The Human huffed while the tiny furry snack-sized pet made noises at Sloane. Sloane twitched his tail. He flattened his ears and craned his neck forward as the two shuffled by. Sloane shifted forward when Dex smacked his ear. Sloane hissed at him.
“No. We talked about this, remember?”
Sloane cocked his head to one side and stared up at him. Did we?
“You know perfectly well we did. Remember last year when you got all caught up in that “Therians at the park day” and you ignored me when I warned you not to eat any small woodland creatures, and you ate that squirrel?”
Sloane made a happy sound. The squirrel had been fun to chase and tasty.
Dex arched a thick eyebrow at him and folded his arms over his chest. “Really? How about after? Remember what happened when you shifted back into your Human form?”
Oh. Sloane flattened his ears and thumped his tail against the stoop. His Human side had not been happy. Especially his stomach.
“That’s right. You were shitting fur and gross bits for days.”
“Yeah, it wasn’t pleasant for me either.” He unlocked the door, and motioned for Sloane to go in. “I swear, you’re worse than me in this form. You act like I starve you.” Sloane bounded into the house. Dex was grumpy. His mate needed to sleep.
Inside, Sloane followed Dex around, rubbing up against his legs, letting Dex know he was there, in case Dex forgot. Also letting his mate know he’d appreciate some scratches. His Therian bowl of water was placed on his Star Wars mat in the kitchen. They’d eaten back at the base, so Sloane didn’t need any more food tonight, even if he should be given more food because… well, food.
Dex changed into his pajamas, went about his bedtime routine, and Sloane dutifully followed him around talking to him. Well, making jaguar Therian noises at his mate who nodded as if he understood, petting his head, scratching behind his ear, or flicking his ear when Sloane went to rub the front of Dex’s legs and Dex almost fell over Sloane. Humans could be so clumsy.
“Oh God, I’m so tired.” Dex gave Sloane a good scratch before flipping off the bedroom lights and falling into bed. “Love you. Good night. Don’t be a dick.”
Sloane thumped his tail against the carpet and huffed. This sucked. He wanted to be in bed with his mate. Ears flat, he lowered himself to the ground becoming one with the shadows of the darkened room. The only light came from the sliver of moonlight coming through the tiny gap in the curtains at the window. Sloane crawled toward his side of the bed. Slowly he lifted his head to peer over the edge. Dex lay on his stomach, sprawled, head facing away. Gingerly Sloane lifted a paw toward the mattress.
“No,” Dex grumbled.
Ears flat, Sloane gingerly drew back his paw. Fine. He slinked over to his stupid cat bed, swatted it with a claw for good measure before flopping down onto it. Yes, it was big and soft, but it lacked his mate. He closed his eyes and dozed. It felt like he’d slept forever. Eye popping open, he stretched and bounded out of bed. Was it morning? He looked at the alarm clock and hissed. Two in the morning? Ugh.
Dex’s soft breathing met his ears, and Sloane sat by his mate’s side of the bed watching him. His arm hung over one side. A finger twitched, and Sloane pawed at it. Dex groaned and swatted at him.
“Gosleep,” Dex said through a groan.
Sloane had slept. He was a jaguar Therian. Jaguar. Nocturnal. His mate knew that. This was sleepy-time for Sloane’s Human half, not his Felid half. This was hunting time. Stalking time. Sloane dashed from the room, halting suddenly at the top of the stairs. He peeked down into the darkness. Silence.
Without a sound, Sloane crept down the stairs. Stairs! He turned and bounded back up then ran down. This would be more fun if he had something to chase. He was so bored. Maybe he’d find something in the kitchen. Bounding into the kitchen he sniffed around. He needed to be higher to see better. With ease, he jumped up onto the island counter, knocking over some newspapers and plastic bowls. A cereal box sat in front of Sloane. It was in his way. He batted it off the counter. He loved boxes, but only if he could fit in them. Small boxes were pointless.
Scanning the kitchen, his ears perked up when he saw the beef jerky on the counter by the sink. Dex must have forgotten to put it away. Crouching down, he eyed his prey, wiggled his butt then leaped. He made sure to duck so he wouldn’t hit the cabinets. His body slammed into the row of kitchen things, making them fall over and clatter, smacking together. Sloane reached for the bag and froze.
“You better not be downstairs!”
Be still. If he was still Dex would fall back asleep and never know he was here. Stealth. He was the night. When he heard nothing else, he swatted the bag off the counter and jumped down. Why was there so much stuff on the floor? Messy Dex.
Picking his prize up between his teeth, he trotted over to the living room, bound up onto the couch and lay with his prey between his paws. He sniffed the bag then hissed. Why was the meat inside plastic? To keep him out? He huffed. As if something so flimsy could keep him out. He plucked at the plastic, tearing pieces off and spitting them out to the side. Plastic tasted disgusting. Soon he’d torn a big enough hole and happily munched away, eating the whole bag. It wasn’t a very big bag. Therian sized his furry butt.
He was bored again. Standing, he bounced on the couch cushion. Ooh! He bounced from one cushion to another, across to the loveseat and then the armchair going faster and faster. A pillow bounced off and he jumped to swat at it in midair. It smacked the end table and the lamp fell off, hitting the wooden floor with a bang. He felt giddy. So much to do! Nighttime was the best! He bounced and bounded all over the house, swatting at stuff, seeing how far he could hit things.
The closet! There were fun things in the closet. He stopped in front of the hall closet and sat back on his haunches. It took a few tries, but he managed to get the door open. Their baseball stuff was in here, more importantly, baseballs! He swatted several out. Dex wouldn’t mind. Soane was keeping himself busy. There’d be time for him to catnap later. Besides, his Human half was sort of asleep, so that technically counted, right?
Sloane batted baseballs around the house, chased after them, and pitched them all over. One hit a bookshelf and knocked off some books, another a cabinet, the top of the fridge, and another the coffee machine. Wow, they had a lot of stuff. Wait… coffee. That was important. Something thumped upstairs and Sloane froze. Uh oh.
“Oh my God, what the hell was that? That better not have been what I think it was!” Dex thundered down the stairs and Sloane ran for the dining room table, sliding underneath. The lights came on. “Are you fucking kidding me? What—what in the name of Han Solo have you done?” He gasped and ran for the kitchen. “Noooo! Not the espresso machine!” He hugged it to his chest. His head shot up and he narrowed his eyes at Sloane. “You broke the most important appliance in this house! Sloane!”
Uh oh. Sloane darted out from beneath the table, knowing he was faster than his Human mate, and ran for the living room. Dex chased him around the couches, almost catching him once. He wouldn’t be faster than his mate soon. Sloane jumped over the couch and flew upstairs.
“Get your big furry ass back here!”
Sloane bounded up onto the bed and crawled under the covers, butt and tail sticking out. He stayed very still. The bed dipped, and he waited. A hand came into view, fingers drumming, and Sloane breathed in deep. Moving fingers. He lowered his head and darted out a paw to capture the fingers.
“Damn it, Sloane,” Dex growled, but he also laughed. He was mad, but also not. Sloane lifted his head, the covers flung over his head. Dex sighed and shook his head, his big sleepy blue eyes also filled with love. Dex loved him. Sloane mewed and stretched his neck to lick Dex’s cheek.
“Ew. But yeah, I know. I love you too.” He hugged Sloane. “I know it’s not your fault. Should have known better.” Dex scratched behind his ear then got up to flop on his side of the bed. “Fine. You can sleep in the bed. You’re also getting me a shiny new espresso machine first thing tomorrow.” He closed his eyes. “Now go to sleep. I’ll tell you all the ways you can make this up to me when you’re back to your sexy Human self.”
Sloane growled. Fine. His Human half could deal with it. Dex fell back asleep, but Sloane was still awake. Dex’s feet stuck out from the blanket. Sloane lowered himself and stealthily crawled closer. He captured Dex’s foot with his paws before it escaped him. He threw out his paws and captured it again.
“Sloane, stop it,” Dex huffed against his pillow.
Turning, Sloane flopped alongside Dex’s body and started grooming his head, making his blond hair stick up more. His mate was soft and warm.
“Now I need to wash my hair again. Thanks. Now stop.”
But… grooming? I am bestowing upon you my affections. Sloane continued to groom Dex, moving his face away when Dex threw a hand back to swat at him. Sloane caught the hand! Ha!
“Oh my God, I’m going to strangle you.” Dex’s words were muffled as he turned onto his side, rolling away from Sloane, legs and arms tucked into himself. “Go to sleep.”
Sloane put his nose to Dex’s neck.
“Holy fuckballs!” Dex shot forward and fell off the bed. Sloane stared down at him. Why would he do that? Silly Dex. “How about you not shove your ice-cold nose at my exposed skin?” Dex got up with a groan and flopped back onto the bed. “Please, babe. I need sleep.”
Sloane rubbed his head against Dex’s. I’m sorry.
A sigh. “I know. I love you.” He scratched Sloane behind the ear. “But if you don’t let me sleep, I’m going to volunteer you for every THIRDS school education field trip with kids under twelve.”
Sloane flattened his ears and slowly lowered himself to the bed. He stayed very still. Children were terrifying.
“That’s what I thought. Love you! Now good night.”
Rubbing his head against Dex’s shoulder, Sloane closed his eyes, his contented purrs filling the room before he fell asleep. In the middle of the night he was rolled off Dex several times, and at one point he fell off the bed, the distance too short for him to land on his paws. In the morning, Dex woke him up and told him to shift. Time for his Felid half to sleep and his Human half to take charge. The pain of the shift woke Sloane up plenty, until he sat on the edge of the bed regretting his life choices.
“Morning, boo,” Dex purred, far too awake and cheerful for his own good.
Sloane groaned. He accepted PostShift Trauma Care from his husband, ate the large Therian breakfast Dex made him, and after a shower he was feeling like his old self again. Hopefully he and Dex could make up for the lack of sexy times over the last two days of training. The moment he stepped into the bedroom it was clear there’d be no sexy time just yet. Dex stood with what appeared to be a very broken espresso machine. Shit.
Dex’s grin was evil. “Hello love of my loins. My beautiful, cherished, loving husband. My soulmate. The froth in my latte. A latte that I can’t have because you went all cat last night at two in the morning. I cleaned up after you because I love you and the mess was making my eye twitch.” He put the coffee machine pieces on the bed and stepped up to Sloane, arms going around his neck. “And since we’re off today, you can spend the rest of the day making it up to me. Starting with coffee.”
Sloane wrapped his arms around Dex, and drew him close, breathing in the scent of his husband and mate’s familiar citrus shower gel. “Mm, what did you have in mind?” He slid his hands over the plump round globes of Dex’s ass and nuzzled his temples. Dex chuckled, kissed him quick on the lips, then pulled away. Sloane growled. “Didn’t Ash leave some instant coffee or something here a few months ago?”
Dex booped Sloane on the nose. “To preserve our happy marriage, I’m going to pretend you never said that.”
Sloane took Dex’s hand in his and brought it to his lips for a kiss. “That was the lack of sex talking. I would never ever expect you to drink instant.”
They headed for the stairs, Sloane behind Dex. “Although, in my defense. None of that would have happened if you’d just let me sleep in the bed.”
Dex turned and stopped before they reached the landing. “Shall I demonstrate what it’s like to sleep in the same bed with you in your Therian form?”
Dex jumped into Sloane’s arms, and Sloane threw his arms around Dex as he wrapped himself around Sloane, the side of his face pressed against Sloane’s face. He breathed loudly and then proceeded to knead at Sloane’s back with his fingers.
“Yeah, all right. I get it.”
“I don’t think you do, Sloane.” Dex put his nose to Sloane, their eyes meeting and Dex started making loud jaguar Therian noises then licked the side of Sloane’s face.
Sloane burst into laughter. “Okay, I get it.” He put Dex on his feet.
“I know it’s not your fault. Sleep all day, hunt all night. That’s your felid nature, but we’re trying to train your felid half to be able to reverse those instincts.”
“It won’t be easy. You know what stubborn asses we can be,” Sloane grumbled, following Dex downstairs. He headed for the Death Star bowl where his keys usually sat. “Where’s my bowl.”
Dex blinked at him. “Um….”
Sloane groaned. “Damn it! I didn’t, did I?”
“Your felid half should bat for the Yankees.”
Sloane pouted. “I loved that bowl.”
“Aw, I know. We’ll find you another one,” Dex cooed, kissing his cheek. “But first coffee.”
“But first….” Sloane grabbed Dex, startling a gasp out of him then making him laugh when he brought Dex into a hug. He kissed his husband soundly then nuzzled his temple. “Thank you for being so patient.”
“Always. I love you, Sloane.” Dex smiled against Sloane’s lips. “Even when you decide to groom yourself at four in the morning. While purring. Do you know what it feels like to be woken up to the sounds of a jaguar simultaneously grooming himself and purring?”
Dex kissed the tip of his nose. “Terrifying.”
Sloane chuckled. They headed out, and Sloane kept Dex close like he always did. No one could say their life wasn’t an adventure. Every day brought them something new, and Sloane wouldn’t trade it in for anything in the world. Dex was his mate, his heart, his world, and no matter what form Sloane was in, he cherished every moment.