Three months later
Jack stretched in his bed as Bitty tossed the wet (and now rather messy) washcloth into the laundry hamper in the corner. He watched the way Bitty's muscles moved as he walked back across the room, his appreciation more aesthetic than anything else in his post-orgasmic haze. As Bitty slid back in under the covers, Jack pulled him down into a lazy, slow kiss, their hands wandering without any real intent.
All in all, it had been a pretty nice three-month anniversary. Yesterday, Bitty had attended his first official practice as a member of the Samwell Men's Hockey Team, after getting final approval to join the team as a walk-on from the coaches last week. When Jack had first talked to them back in October, they'd been skeptical—yes, they'd wanted him on the team when he was a senior in high school, but other than a handful of rec league practices he hadn't played hockey in over a year.
But Jack had come to one of those practices and he'd seen Bitty's natural talent. Keeping up with figure skating had definitely helped, as he'd lost none of the speed that defined his playing. The coaches had said he could try out for the spring semester, to give Jack time to work with him. His checking problem was still bad enough to keep him from seeing any ice time during games, but they were both determined to work on that for as long as it took. Jack was pretty damn sure he'd make the lineup for a game by the end of the regular season.
Today they'd had practice again, then they'd gone into Boston for a fancy dinner. Then back to the Haus, which was quiet for once because Farmer had made everyone who wasn't celebrating an anniversary promise to be at the volleyball team's blowout party.
Jack was pretty sure the last hour of their celebration had been his favorite.
Bitty broke off the kissing first, snuggling close with one leg thrown over Jack's hip, his head on Jack's shoulder and his face nuzzled into Jack's throat, breathing him in.
They hadn't talked much about the scent stuff yet, but Jack knew Bitty had some idea. The first time they'd had sex, the morning after Jack had told him everything, he'd noticed Jack's scent changing when he got turned on.
At the time, he hadn't pressed for much information, just asked if he smelled like that to Jack, too. (He did. Oh, did he ever.) Since then, he'd generally followed Jack's lead in terms of when and how they scented each other, both in and out of bed, and clearly found Jack's scent as intoxicating—or arousing, depending on the circumstances—as Jack found his. But he hadn't brought it up again.
Now, as Jack ran his hands over Bitty's body, he could feel a tiny bit of tension in the muscles. Bitty's breath kept hitching like he was about to say something, then smoothing back out in silence. He was working himself up to talking about something.
So Jack wasn't taken entirely by surprise when he finally said, "So, I was wondering about this… scent thing."
"Mm-hmm?" Jack's heartrate ticked up. They'd been together long enough that he wasn't going to lie about anything, but he also wasn't one hundred percent sure how Bitty would respond to the whole truth.
"I mean, some of it seems obvious," Bitty said, tracing designs on Jack's chest with one finger. "Smell is real important to dogs, so if you're gonna keep some dog traits when you're human of course it'd be smell. And it kinda makes sense that you can smell changes when we're having sex, what with the pheromones and all. I'm not quite sure I get why I can smell you, though." He propped himself up on one elbow to look down at Jack. "At first I thought, well, Weres just have stronger scents than the rest of us because it's important for you, right? And I'm guessin' you smell so good to me because I'm attracted to you, that pheromone stuff again. But… I can't smell any of the other Weres at all. They don't just not smell as good to me. I've tried to see if I could identify, like, Shitty's scent or Lardo's, and notice it being the same when they're dogs. And okay, Shitty smells vaguely like weed all the time, but that's it. Everyone else just smells like a dog when they're a dog. And they don't smell like dogs when they're human. You don't smell like a dog at all to me when you're a dog, you smell exactly the same whatever body you're in."
"Yeah," Jack said, trying to work out the best way to explain this. He took a deep breath. "Everyone I meet has their own scent. It's as unique as their face. And yeah, people you're attracted to smell better. In different ways, I guess, just like you can be attracted to people in different ways? Like if I just think someone's hot, that smells different than if it's more, like, romantic."
Bitty nodded, biting his lip. "Makes sense."
"So, um, that's how it works for Weres. But, um… usually, Nawolves can't smell us. I mean, not any more than you smell anyone else. Even if they're attracted to a Were, it doesn't mean they can smell their scent. It happens, obviously, but it's… it's pretty rare."
Bitty swallowed, and he seemed to be bracing himself for what Jack was going to say next. That made a tendril of worry bloom in Jack's stomach, but he couldn't exactly hide this forever. Eventually, someone would notice Bitty scenting him and mention it. He needed to just say it.
"It's… it kind of means that we're really, really compatible. Like, so compatible that our body chemistry matches or… or something." Or he could chicken right out.
"Okay," Bitty said, nodding. "That makes sense."
He twirled his fingers in Jack's hair, oblivious to Jack's internal battle over whether he should keep going or just leave it be until Bitty asked for more details.
"But… it kinda feels like you're not telling me everything." Or not so oblivious. "Is there something bad about it?"
"No!" Jack said, maybe a little too quickly. "I mean, I don't think it's bad. I just—It—" He sighed and ran his hand up Bitty's arm to his face, cradling it gently. There was a trace of worry in Bitty's eyes as they gazed down at him, but mostly love. Jack took a deep breath, breathing in their scents together—sex pheromones still lingering in the air, but mostly the scent of love, and home, and forever.
"You're my mate. It means we're… we're meant to be together." Bitty sucked in a small breath, but there was also the hint of a smile on his lips, and Jack relaxed. "It sounds like an old wive's tale—destiny, fate—but it happens. Lots of Weres fall in love and get married and everything without being mates; it's not, like, necessary. But sometimes, you meet someone, and their scent… you just know."
"Yeah," Bitty said quietly. "You just know."
Something in Jack's chest sparked and tingled as Bitty's gentle smile grew. He'd spent the past three months aching to know that Bitty felt the same, that he knew the way Jack knew.
"Does it work, though?"
The question caught Jack off guard. "What?"
"I mean, do couples who are, uh, mates, do they have, like, a lower divorce rate or anything? Has anyone looked into it?"
Jack smiled. "Yeah. I mean, like I said, there's not a ton of research on anything to do with Weres, but Shitty's into this stuff. He's always pissed that he can't write papers on Weres for his classes—but anyhow, he showed me a survey once. It said the divorce rate for mates was really low, like 5%."
Bitty's eyes widened. "Wow."
"And, uh." Jack ran his thumb over Bitty's collarbone, focusing on that instead of Bitty's face. "If one of the people is a Nawolf, it's… it's pretty much zero. I guess because two Weres can always smell each other, so they might, like, mistake a really good smell for being mates? But if you can smell me… That's… there's no mistaking that."
Bitty's smile was radiant, but only for a moment. Then he was burying his nose in Jack's hair and breathing in his scent, then kissing his ear and his jaw and his throat. Jack laughed and pulled him close.
"This is real," Bitty murmured, almost to himself except that his mouth was an inch from Jack's ear. "It's real."
"It's real, bud."
"I've known," Bitty continued, half into Jack's skin. "For a long time. It's… it's instinctual, y'know? Even for me. The way you smell… I've been puttin' off asking about it 'cause I kinda… well, I half worried you'd say I was wrong, and half worried I was right but it was too soon to bring that kinda thing up. I mean—" He laughed, relaxing onto Jack's chest, and Jack squeezed his waist. "—we've only been together three months, it's still too soon, but it's better than a week, right? When we first met, I just thought you smelled good. It took me a while, a few weeks maybe, to realize your scent had some kind of effect on me, it made me feel good. But I still thought it was just your shampoo or cologne or something. As soon as I realized it was just you, back in the back of my mind I had this gut feeling about what it meant. But you must've known what it meant from the start." He picked up his head to look at Jack. "Did you know? At the animal shelter? Were you playin' fetch with me and letting me rub your belly knowing that you were gonna spend the rest of your life with me?" Thankfully, his tone was distinctly amused, not accusatory.
"Not quite," Jack admitted. "When I'm a dog, my nose is so sensitive. Everything smells… just… more. There are so many smells, and I get so much information from them. And you smelled really good, I knew that much. But I thought maybe as a dog, it was like… exaggerated, y'know? I knew you were hot, and sweet, and interesting, and that you'd still smell good when I was human. But I wasn't sure if it would still feel like more than that."
He rolled onto his side so it was easier to look Bitty in the eye. "Then you walked into that class, and when you sat down beside me… I knew. I was worried I was wrong, and you couldn't smell me, but then Shitty did that stupid petsitting thing, and you told me… God, I was so relieved."
"And right after that you finally asked me out," Bitty added with a smile. "And here we are. And now…" He swallowed, and Jack could see tears in his eyes. "Now I'm gonna spend the rest of my life loving you."
Jack's eyes maybe stung a little, too. "And you're okay with that?"
"Of course I'm okay with that! How could I not be?"
Jack shrugged. "Some people think it's creepy, your emotions being controlled by these chemicals and hormones or whatever. Even some Weres."
Bitty just rolled his eyes. "Well, when aren't they? That's what emotions are, aren't they? You dump in more serotonin, you get happier. It's all chemicals and hormones anyhow, so if I'm gonna get chemicals and hormones that guarantee me love and happiness I'm not gonna complain!"
Jack laughed. "I guess, yeah. Romantic, huh?"
"It is." Bitty's face softened immediately. Jack scooted closer and kissed his nose.
"I'm glad this doesn't freak you out."
"Sweetheart," Bitty said, sliding an arm around Jack's waist and pulling himself close until their bodies were flush. "You tell me the guy I'm dating is a werewolf who I took care of for a week and a half in an animal shelter last summer, now that's a bit of a shock. Even I needed a few minutes to pull myself together. But you tell me I'm destined to spend the rest of my life with the man I'm head-over-heels in love with, who's one of the best things that's ever walked into my life? No, Jack. That does not freak me out."
"Good," Jack said. They kissed, long and slow, wrapped up in each other and in the rich, sweet scent of their love.