I couldn’t really choose, so I wouldn’t. I got a coin out of my pocket: heads for Naveen, tails for Rami. Couldn’t get fairer than alphabetical order, could I? And I flipped, watching the coin fly like I watched my own life, unable to do more than accept what it threw at me. It went far up, too far, I realised. I almost reached for it but something stopped me. It was like I couldn’t move to catch it, even though it would have been easy to. I let it fall instead, I let it happen. It felt right that way – true. The coin hit the side of a drainage rail, spinning wildly, and the angle must have been perfectly straight because it didn’t stop spinning. I watched, entranced, holding my breath as if a coin could really tell me the future – and maybe it could, because, after all, who am I to deny magic? My whole life is magical. I am magical. And something magical was happening. It was a long time since my physics classes in secondary school but I knew there wasn’t enough energy to keep that coin going as long as this. And then, maybe pushed by tiny breeze, it fell through the drain, still spinning.
I stared at the floor like it was a murder scene I was trying to solve. Except a murder scene would have been easier – in a murder scene there would have been a million clues in the form of prints and smells. There was nothing here. I walked up to the grill and squinted. The sunlight spilling into it was plenty for me to see the pavement at the bottom. There was no water or refuse, but the coin was gone.
The answer I’d asked it couldn’t be neither – although it was the answer in my heart, I knew the wolf would listen to Brennan instead. But if it couldn’t be neither and it wasn’t either Rami or Naveen…then… it was both.
Both, I thought. Both Naveen and Rami. Maybe it made more sense than anything else, except not doing this at all. Something couldn’t really belong to two people. If Naveen believed I wasn’t truly his because I was also Rami’s and Rami believed a part of me was always out of his control because it belonged to Naveen… maybe in the space in between I could belong to myself. I could be myself.
And it wasn’t forever, nobody had spoken of bonding and Brennan had plenty of other Omegas in his pack. Just one mating, I thought, keeping the specific details far from my mind. And then I could go back to St. Andrews and talk about genetic variation in wolf populations in Canada and be just a guy. A smart guy, just be myself.
I don’t think even then I believed it. But I think at that moment I needed to believe it, which was what mattered.
“I want both of you,” I said looking straight at the space between their heads. On the sofa, Naveen started, and Rami froze.
“You want to mate with both of us?” Naveen asked finally, voice a little breathless.
“Yes,” I replied, and didn’t explain. What was there to explain? That I had been so terrified of choosing either of them, of making a choice that was even worse than the one I didn’t have the right to make, that I had flipped a coin for it? That the gods had answered by sending that coin down the drain? It was insane, but how can one respond to an insane situation except by going a little crazy, too?
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Naveen turn to Rami. Rami felt it, I could tell by the way his arms flexed, but he didn’t return Naveen’s look. He nodded at me, instead. “Of course, it’s your choice.”
It wasn’t, not really, but he was giving me as much as he had to give. I wondered if they had been given any choice about this before agreeing to come from their packs to ours. Technically, Alphas always had the choice but if your Dominant Alpha wanted you out of their pack and ordered you to another, you went or ended up packless. Not even I could contemplate such a fate with anything but horror, even if it would mean freedom. It didn’t take threatening most Alphas to get them to go, just the promise of fertile Omegas did the trick most of the time.
“Did you… did you want to come over to our pack?” I asked.
Naveen nodded. “Yeah, my pack is all family and the South London pack…” he grimaced, rolling his eyes. “Let’s say I was happy to get away.”
I looked at Rami next and he nodded. “I was asked. I could have said no.” He didn’t give me any further details but his answer showed he knew exactly what I was asking and he wasn’t making up excuses to obscure the fact that he had a choice and I didn’t.
Except… I got to my feet and circled the sofa, clutching at the headboard before I managed to get it out.
“What about me? You didn’t know me when you agreed to come over.”
And that was the first time I saw Rami lose his cool. “I…” He was actually blushing.
Naveen interrupted the awkward moment by hacking out a laugh. “Are you asking us if we want you?” He asked me incredulously, he was lounging back on the opposite sofa like it was his throne.
But I nodded. Maybe I didn’t have a choice, but if one of them didn’t really want to mate me… Naveen’s sultry smile put that notion to rest as far as he was concerned. “Yes, I want you.” He saw me open my mouth and continued, determined and unashamed, “I want to mate you.”
And the way he said it must have turned him on because my cock started filling at those words. I barely managed to keep back a gasp at the feeling. An Alpha’s arousal would trigger an Omega’s if they are focusing on him, which is why Omegas are said to be made to fulfil Alphas’ sexual needs; why everybody thinks there’s nothing an Omega can wish for except for an Alpha’s attention and care. I knew I could feel arousal on my own, but with an Alpha around I would never be able to tell because my body’s priority was to be ready for his.
Rami got to his feet, putting the bulk of his body between me and Naveen. Then he took a step closer still and put his hand on top of mine on the sofa. “I’m sorry, but I do.”
I flinched. Not because he wanted me – I had known that, deep down. Because he knew I had wanted someone to be reluctant besides me. He knew I was weak and I wanted someone to share the burden with. I tried to pull back but he wouldn’t let me, curling his fingers around mine and keeping me in place as securely as if he had put a stake through it.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t help you any way we can.”
I nodded tightly, and Naveen came around to stand next to me behind the sofa, crossing the invisible line I had created like it wasn’t even there. His hand was soft on my upper arm. His arousal, and mine, had evaporated. “Anything you need, just tell us.”
I thought of telling him: just take me back to Scotland. I will submit, I won’t complain, even… but I couldn’t beg. Rami, at least, knew I didn’t want to mate with them and he seemed willing to go ahead with it anyway. But what if I complained enough and he did go away? I was a little scared of Naveen’s almost overflowing sexuality. He wouldn’t hurt me, I thought, but then again, he wouldn’t need to: I would let him do whatever he wanted. And worse still, he wouldn’t know the difference.
To say I wasn’t looking forward to telling Brennan of my choice was quite an understatement. I felt oddly displaced by our new dynamic. The wolf understood perfectly how any Alpha could order him around but growing up, it had followed my lead and taken my father’s opinion as the only relevant one. On top of that, Brennan being two years younger than me and also subject to our father’s authority, he had never really tried to order me around, seemingly satisfied with the knowledge that he could.
I missed my father, but because the accident had been bad enough that we hadn’t been able to have an open casket funeral, I didn’t quite believe he was truly gone. I had lived far enough from him for long enough that I thought of him more as a presence in my ear than a physical being. The voice of reason and comfort, the person who was always excited to hear about my professional plans. The one I had always suspected would have, if only our circumstances had been different, equally excited about my personal life. I had told Dan my dad would never understand our relationships and apologized to him for it but refused to discuss it. Dan was the kind of person who could take no for an answer, he just let it go even as he introduced me to his own family. He never asked about Brennan, either, and I knew he thought my whole family was homophobic. He was almost right, of course. In spirit, refusing me the right to date a human wasn’t that much different than someone rejecting the idea of two men together. It was all about the belief that you could make someone’s choices better than they could and that you had the right to do it.
My father had never brought up Alphas to me, but for me, the knowledge of the future that awaited me when I returned home shadowed our every interaction. Sometimes we would be on the phone and Dan would call out to me from another room. I had explained Dan away as a flatmate, saying I didn’t like to live alone even if my father didn’t mind paying for a whole flat, and he had seemed pleased that I had someone to keep an eye on me. Same as any father would have, not because I was an Omega and incapable of living on my own.
It had been a nice illusion, at least. Except that now that Brennan had so forcefully taken over, I wondered if it had been an illusion after all; what if my father had actually been protecting me? Allowing me a space in which I could grow to be strong enough to be myself? Maybe even making sure I postponed my return till I was strong enough that no Alpha… but that couldn’t be, could it? My father had been an Alpha and he had believed in mating.
And I was an Omega stupid enough to believe in freedom once, but not twice.
My hand twitched with the need for my phone. But it was useless, I could never call him again. He couldn’t tell me if I was fucking up. He couldn’t fix it if I was. I was on my own.
I had to tell Brennan alone and bear whatever he did alone. And I would be alone as well when it came to Naveen and Rami. My shield was gone and I was exposed to the world, the harsh light breaking through and showing me all the things I had been trying so long to ignore.
“I have decided,” I told my brother and he looked up from his computer with a smile.
I suppose he had reason to smile: in truth, the one who had decided was him.
One Omega stereotype I do fulfil is that I love cooking, but that night I just wasn’t feeling it. I was too twitchy to go with the flow of cutting, frying, kneading naturally, and I kept snapping out of thoughts I didn’t want to have and realising I had forgotten a step. But even with all my missteps I eventually got the pie in the oven. I set the timer and went to get one of the journals I had dropped in my bag when I had packed. The pie would take a whole forty minutes and I had the veggies boiling away, but I didn’t want to be in the main bedroom, which for some reason had been chosen for me when Brennan had had the house opened up and prepared for my return. I would rather have had one of the guest bedrooms and no expectations to share my bed. I would have rather gone back to my own bed. My own bed, where Dan would have been sleeping without me for a week longer than we had planned.
Dan, who still didn’t know I wasn’t going back. I couldn’t imagine a way to tell him that wouldn’t hurt him. Not that there could have been a way your lover of three years could pack up and leave without breaking your heart; but I imagine for most people doing the leaving, their reasons to do so make it at least a little easier to go through with it. I knew he would ask me why and I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth now. Not only because werewolves are a secretive bunch, but because telling him now would be like confessing that not only was I ending our relationship, but that it had been based on a lie all along. No, not a lie – a partial truth. Dan knew more about me than anybody else in the world, just not that I had a keener sense of smell than any human or strength enough to lift a car off the ground one-handed. But now and again, I had thought, what could those things matter compared to the things about me he did know? My obsessive interest in evolution, that I liked fucking hard and cuddling afterwards, my passionate dislike of cheese and love of meat. We all choose to show some parts of ourselves to the world and hide others, I had thought. And it wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t all the truth, either.
I had felt his lack of knowledge of my dual nature keenly. I had held back opinions that only being a wolf allowed me to have. And I had never shifted in the space we shared so that not only had Dan never met the wolf; the wolf had never met Dan. It’s hard to explain to someone who can’t shift how subtly different the world is when you are an animal, but I suppose everybody knows the weight of secrets. Let’s put it this way: it was a bit like never telling someone where you come from, never speaking of the food or the language or the weather of the place that marked your earliest memories. The place that never leaves you no matter how far you run or how high you ascend.
But Dan was the place I had chosen to go to. He was the home I had made for the person I longed to be.
I shook my head, sat at the kitchen table with a view of the cooking area, and forced myself to start reading the article on gene activation I had bookmarked.
“Dev, can I open the oven?” Naveen had wandered into the kitchen.
I swallowed and firmly told the wolf that human Alphas liked knowing things about Omegas. “Can you call me Devlin?”
“Oh, it’s not like I’m calling you ‘baby’ or something.”
I shrugged. “I know, but just…” Nobody had called me that before I had turned out to be an Omega.
“No problem, Devlin,” he agreed easily. I waved for him to go ahead and open the oven, the smell of pie wafted out. Naveen moaned dramatically. I laughed a little, it was so obvious sometimes how young he was. He gave me an intense but playful look in return.
“It really does smell great,” Rami told me, stepping into the kitchen. “Would you like help with something?”
“No, I’m good,” I answered. “It’ll be half an hour till it’s done so…”
I didn’t want to kick them out outright but I would have liked some quiet time to myself before dinner. This didn’t seem to occur to Naveen, who enthusiastically decided set the table.
And then it was done, no more dishes to dry, no counters to wipe. I stood there, hesitating, till Naveen asked me, “Do you want to wait? We can totally wait. Or, like, make out, we could make out a little?” He proposed, sounding hopeful.
My voice seemed frozen inside my throat so I just turned around to face him and gave him a little smile. He came closer, putting a hand to my face before leaning in to press our lips together. My first thought was of Dan, the only person I had kissed for the last three years. The only person I wanted to kiss. But I parted my lips when Naveen flickered his tongue and he plunged right in, licking at me a little desperately, like a flavour in my mouth was just out of his reach and he needed more of it. He pushed his whole body against mine and I realised we were hard, my body following his lead without me noticing. When he pulled back a little to nip at my lower lip I kissed him back, licking into his mouth. He moaned and penetrated my mouth with his tongue again, pushing my tongue down as if he… he wanted me to be still, I realised, he didn’t want me to kiss him back, just stay and be kissed.
I opened my mouth and parted my legs a little, then closed my eyes, and stayed still for him. Naveen started humping my leg, sucking on my tongue for a moment before getting bored with it and moving to mapping my palate once again. I just stood there and let him, and he was happy. I should have been happy. I concentrated on breathing, trying to will my mind elsewhere. But I didn’t have to try long, before an extra pair of hands suddenly came between us. My eyes snapped open and I saw Rami was standing behind Naveen. Naveen tensed a little, and Rami’s hands slowly encircled his waist, travelling slowly up his chest till Naveen was pressed against Rami and not me. Rami’s eyes flickered to mine but he spoke to Naveen.
“Did you look at his face?”
I saw Naveen swallow, trying and failing to catch sight of Rami behind him. He felt threatened, I realised, but he was trying to avoid a fight. He didn’t look scared, just wary, a depredator whose territory is being circled by another.
“Pretty hard to do when you’re kissing someone,” Naveen pointed out calmly, but from him it sounded almost chilly, the absence of his usual bonhomie startling to show.
“Mmm… not that hard, you just take a moment to see if the other guy is having a good time. Give you both time to catch your breath, even.”
Naveen’s shoulders stiffened and he pushed Rami off him, not hard enough to hurt but hard enough that Rami had to let go or turn it into a struggle. Then he turned around to face us both, forming a triangle of our bodies I expected to become familiar with.
“Couldn’t you smell how hard he was?” he snapped at Rami, giving me a quick glance as if waiting for me to defend him.
I kept silent. I wanted to tell him the truth now that Rami had brought it up, but the wolf was too terrified of offending an Alpha to let me form words.
Rami shook his head, looking annoyed. “Try not to be a dick, he can’t help that.”
“So? Neither can I!”
“Not the same. He will get hard if you are, no matter what he wants.”
“What?” Naveen seemed to lose control of his voice and let it go too high. But he wasn’t angry anymore, and that loosened the muscles in my throat a little.
“It’s true,” I offered.
“So you didn’t like that?”
I swallowed and kept my eyes firmly lowered, hoping my submissive posture would trick the wolf. “I haven’t moved at all for the last few minutes. I thought… the wolf thought it was what you wanted.”
“But did you like it?”
“I… when I think of having sex, it’s something I do.”
“But you shouldn’t have to!” Naveen insisted. “It’s your right to be taken care of.”
I stared at him. How did one get to be an adult with such naiveté? I managed to shake my head. And something in the gesture got to him; I felt the tension dissipate between the three of us.
“I’m sorry, Devlin,” he told me. I didn’t think it was by accident that he used my name. He stepped away even further, looking thoroughly ashamed of himself. “I can leave…”
“Stop,” Rami told him firmly. “You can’t expect him to make a decision when you are this upset.”
And he was right: the wolf wanted me to go over to the Alpha I had offended and lick his face. I could stop myself from doing that, but no way could I do anything more that would worsen the situation.
“Just give me a second,” Naveen asked and closed his eyes. As I watched, he took a deep breath and didn’t let it out. A werewolf can hold his breath for way longer than a human being – we’d managed a record of eleven minutes as children and Naveen’s lungs were much larger. But he didn’t wait that long, after a couple of eerily silent minutes, he exhaled at last and opened his eyes. “Is that better?” he asked me, eyes flickering between me and Rami.
And it was. I could no longer feel anything from him, but I didn’t think he had used the time to calm himself down. No, his face still betrayed his nerves; he had done something so I would stop feeling it, too.
“Can you go wait in the bedroom?” I said at last. Now that the Alpha wasn’t upset, the wolf didn’t much care about words, and it was pretty sold on the concept of submitting to a mounting. It knew I thought of the bedroom as the place for sex.
“You have been teaching him how to control it?” I asked Rami when Naveen had closed the door behind himself.
Rami shrugged. “I told you I would. He thinks in his pack they teach Alphas that in marriage class.”
“Oh,” I said. “When did they teach you?” I asked, leaning against the counter. I wanted to know, but if I also wanted a little time, who could blame me?
“When I presented my grandpa sat me down and made me go through the breathing techniques. It’s not complicated and I wanted to please him so I practiced a lot,” Rami explained. “Then I went and tried to order my cousin Paula around… I was a jerk, and I made her cry… she was only twelve and she had only presented a month earlier so I scared the shit out of her.”
I shuddered. “What did you tell her to do?”
“I was thirteen, I thought it would be like…” He huffed. “Like a magical remote control.”
I didn’t say anything, my throat tight. “I’m not telling you this to make you hate me,” Rami added. “I just… I wanted you to know I have experience with Alpha power and fucking up with Alpha power and that I try my hardest not to. Naveen will get it, too. He’s a good guy.”
“Thank you,” I told Rami, not sure if I was talking about the story or the lessons he had apparently been giving Naveen behind my back.
He shook his head. “It’s nothing. He’s a kid,” he said, either missing or ignoring the other possible reason I had to thank him.
“I thought you were only a year older than him.”
“It’s not in the years, though, he’s the youngest. It just… it shows.”
I nodded. Wondering how well he knew Naveen. I hadn’t known he was the youngest kid in his family. Not that birth order really affected everybody equally – one only had to look at Brennan. My mother had started to miscarry after he had been born and my father had eventually decided they had to stop trying for more children. It was the greatest tragedy of their life. For a moment I got lost in that idea: what if I was infertile? Or if I miscarried? Those things did run in families, although I didn’t know enough of the Omega male reproductive system to tell if there was any relationship, genetically or developmentally, with that of Omega females. Still, it was a little hope.
I took a step towards Rami, unsure of my welcome, but I wanted to say thank you. And I wanted the pleasure, the release from thought I could find in sex and little else. Rami didn’t come to me – instead he extended a hand in invitation. I took it and leaned up to kiss his lips softly. His strong arms enveloped me and held me close as he responded, soft and playful, pulling back and making me give chase. It was almost a game. What if I sent Naveen away? I thought about it for a moment, but then Rami’s hand found its way under my shirt and his arousal flared, pushing mine from ‘vague interest’ to ‘horny as hell’ in three seconds flat. It was dizzying, just like he had imagined – it was like being controlled by remote by someone. If that someone couldn’t see what I was doing and kept crashing me into things. Rami did notice me going loose in his arms, and he looked sorry for the change of pace.
“I’m not that old, either. I guess,” he offered, stepping back from me with obvious effort.