I don’t know how long I spent as a wolf, but at some point I woke and found myself human again. I wasn’t hungry, even though I didn’t remember eating or drinking, so I just curled up again and went back to sleep. That’s how they found me. I was either tired or depressed enough that I didn’t hear them approach.
“I’m not going back,” I told them both.
“Okay,” Naveen said, and knelt and crawled into the cave. I looked up in surprise and scrambled back, away from him. But then Rami was following and there wasn’t any space for me to retreat to.
Naveen took hold of my wrist before I could curl up further. “We will stay with you, then.”
“Why?” I asked. “Why would you care?”
Rami nudged to sit next to me, his neck curved, but he didn’t try to take hold of me. “You are pack. And you are hurt. You shouldn’t be alone.”
“I’m not hurt,” I objected. I almost said I wanted to be alone, but I wasn’t even sure it was true anymore. If they left again I thought I might truly break down. I couldn’t handle so much emotion right then, not when I didn’t even have all the parts to put myself back together. “I just hate this, I don’t want…”
I couldn’t quite say I didn’t want them. Not because they didn’t know, on the contrary, because it was so abundantly clear that saying it out loud wouldn’t be a confession but an insult.
“You’re in pain,” Naveen rephrased. “And we… we know it’s because of us.”
It’s not because of you, I almost said. But it wasn’t true. “It was Brennan who… insisted,” I said instead, which was also true.
“It was us in that bed with you, not Brennan,” Naveen insisted. “And that makes us responsible.”
His thumb caressed my pulse point. It was meant to be reassuring, I could tell. Just like I could tell my wrist belonged to me, in a far away kind of fashion – like something I’d noticed without meaning to and couldn’t quite focus on.
“I know it’s sudden and a huge change from how your life has been. But it’s not the end of the world. We are here to help you, to make it work.”
I hung my head, ignoring his touch and Rami’s shoulder against mine in the narrow space.
“We will go to Scotland with you,” Rami said, deep voice almost echoing.
I felt Naveen nod. “Your brother can’t really imagine we will run away with you.”
He gave this like a winning argument, but I felt my stomach drop instead. They were offering help but only within certain parameters. They would help me continue my academic career and they would comfort me with both body and word. But they wouldn’t do anything to offer me a real choice, real freedom. I don’t know why I had expected more. It was stupid to expect more. I was an Omega; there wasn’t any more for me to have.
Naveen tugged at me till I shuffled into Rami’s arms. It felt weird to be held instead of being the one doing the holding, but it made sense. Rami was so broad across the shoulders I couldn’t have comfortably held him in my arms. Naveen pressed himself against my back and I realised what a human thought that had been: why would size matter in the dealings of Alphas and Omegas?
Of course I was being held, I would always be now. I needed protection and they would give it to me. Naveen nuzzled the back of my neck and I tensed up. Rami growled, a low warning and I froze, eyes suddenly stinging with tears. The wolf knew what had happened between us and that meant it wanted to please him even more than it would any Alpha. Rami’s arms tightened around me.
“Naveen. Not now,” he added and I realised it wasn’t I who had earned his reprobation.
“I didn’t mean it like that!” Naveen complained against my neck. “It’s just touching. I was worried.”
I made myself relax in his arms, take comfort at the closeness. It was true that neither of them had tried anything sexual before I had asked for it.
And they probably wouldn’t. Not if I asked... but what if I didn’t ask? They were subject to my brother’s authority as much as I was. And if one of them were to be kicked out of the pack, well, they knew the other would remain to either do to me what he was told by Brennan or be kicked out too. Not that that would help me any: Clara was right, there were plenty of Alphas and in fact there was no logical reason one Alpha couldn’t breed several Omegas. If it wasn’t usual it was simply because no Dominant wanted his Alphas to hate him enough to overthrow him. But I was no fool: Naveen and Rami were young but neither of them was cruel or domineering. It made no sense to risk someone else, especially when they balanced each other so well that I was beginning to rely on them keeping each other from crossing any lines. That meant I would have to ask, eventually.
I would have to ask them to breed me.
I buried my face on Rami’s chest and told myself. It’s done, Devlin, there’s no going back.
It shouldn’t have been so hard to believe; it was the truth.
I let them take me back to the house and shove me towards my room with orders to shower the forest grime off me. I did it, if only to avoid being anywhere near the bed that reeked of sex. I couldn’t help but picture what I must have looked like and blush in shame.
I had never felt ashamed of having sex before, even though I wasn’t supposed to be having it at all. I had liked giving pleasure as much as receiving it. There was nothing that made me feel… used. It had always been my decision to go to bed with them, even when we had been intoxicated it had been me who had drunk or smoked, and with my metabolism it had truly not been a miscalculation. It took half a bottle of good vodka to get me tipsy, a whole one to mess with my balance.
I realised I was staring at the bed and dripping into the carpet, and quickly dried my hair and slipped into some light clothes so I could leave the bedroom. They were both in the kitchen, and Naveen jumped to his feet with solicitousness.
“Do you want some coffee? Or Coke? It’s hot, right? Maybe Coke?”
“Coke would be nice,” I agreed, mostly to get him to stop staring at me. My gaze turned to Rami as he got up as well and went to the fridge.
“Ham and cheese sandwich ok?” he asked me.
“No cheese, please.”
They were both kind to me, staying to make me food and then leaving me alone. I could hear them on the other side of the house. They were in Rami’s bedroom together playing some of sort of videogame. The soundproofing would have more than blocked that but they had left the door open; an invitation I couldn’t take.
My fist mistake was going to Brennan alone. My second was assuming it meant anything to him that I was his brother. My third was going so soon after my bout of wildness. It made it hard to find the words after so long in four legs, with nothing more complex going through my head than food, water and sleep. My brother used up all the kindness he had in him in not mentioning my escapade, which I had come to realise had lasted almost two whole days and which therefore must have been noticed by the pack. Otherwise, he acted like he barely knew me and I had walked into his workplace, just giving me a brief smile in greeting.
“Hey,” I replied with much less warmth and got right to the point. “I need to get back to Scotland for a while. I’m not actually finished with my work.”
He glanced at me, but didn’t seem surprised at the request. “No,” he said simply, like I had asked him whether he fancied a drink instead of something my whole life depended on.
“You don’t understand,” I insisted. “I have to be back by the 21st. I need to defend my thesis, Brennan, it’s not a joke.”
“I didn’t think it was,” he said evenly, not looking up from his typing this time.
“Then why are you being so difficult about this? What difference do a few weeks make?” I pressed, and I didn’t let myself think of how to extend those weeks. Preferably forever. It was a wish I couldn’t even fully acknowledged to myself. I could think it but I couldn’t truly let myself feel it or the wolf would know.
It didn’t make a difference, but maybe Brennan suspected. Maybe he knew. Maybe he was a stubborn Alpha and knew he could do as he pleased with me.
“The only way you are going back to Scotland is pregnant,” my brother told me firmly, looking me straight in the eye now. Not just firmly – he infused a little of power into it, something I couldn’t define or even consciously perceive that made the wolf in me cringe. I could barely stay on my feet. “So it’s really up to you if you make it on time or not.”
I stared, trying to summon the will to argue. My father had never been this unreasonable – he had never demanded that I give up what I loved to be just an Omega, nor put absurd deadlines for the things he did ask that I do. But my brother had always been this way, as a child he had taken to being an Alpha like a fish to water, relishing the power and uncompromising with his decisions once they were made. But there was a fundamental difference: as a child I could ignore him as long as my father supported me, now I had no choice but to obey. I didn’t want to, but my wolf knew it too clearly, was too ready to show its belly to its Dominant… I could complain with words till I lost my voice and it wouldn’t matter: when your wolf wasn’t behind you, no werewolf would take you seriously, Alpha or Omega. I will not shift till I’m not back in St. Andrew’s, I told the wolf spitefully. Spitefully and uselessly, the wolf didn’t really understand time and the only reaction thoughts of St. Andrews brought was displeasure. He might not have known the day of the week but he knew I almost never shifted in Scotland.
I thought of running, then, but I couldn’t see where to run and it just seemed so hard. How could I fight back not just against Brennan and the other Alphas, but also against my own damn wolf? It didn’t even seem to mind the loss of its balls, like it hadn’t even noticed. And the answer seemed to be that I couldn’t. I had never done anything difficult alone in my life. It hadn’t been necessary. And now… I simply didn’t have the energy. I went home and crawled into the bed: the sheets were fresh, I noticed, just before losing consciousness.
Naveen woke me up by gently carding his fingers through my hair. “It’s dinner time, sleepyhead,” he murmured into my ear.
I groaned, burrowing my face in the covers, and he got on the bed with me and curled up against my back, hands quickly making their way around me. I tensed for a second, thinking… but Naveen’s hands went directly for my armpits and inside of a minute I was laughing too much to even struggle properly.
Rami’s arrival finally interrupted Naveen’s attack. Rami gave us the look of an indulgent parent and announced. “Dinner’s served. And it’s steak.”
Naveen rolled off me faster than even supernatural reflexes should have allowed and went into the toilet to wash his hands.
Rami was kind enough to let us tear into our steaks and potatoes before bringing it up. “You smell like your brother.”
“I went to see him,” I put another potato in my mouth even though I had just lost my appetite.
“To ask permission to return to Scotland?” Naveen asked, and I looked up in surprise. How could he know? “You told us you have your oral examination on the 21rst,” he explained, and I didn’t correct the terminology. It was sweet of him to remember.
“And he said no,” Rami deduced. I nodded morosely. “Why did you go alone? We said we’d to come with you.”
I shrugged, not looking up. I didn’t want to need them. I had a good reason: I should be listened to on those grounds alone without need of an Alpha backing me up. “You said you’d come to Scotland, not to ask. And he’s my brother.”
“Yeah,” Naveen said. “I think he’s afraid of the pack thinking he’s too soft on you, so he’s too hard.”
I snorted. “Because he’s such a softy to all the other Omegas!”
“I heard he gave Rochelle four choices,” Naveen commented and I glared at him.
“Of course, that’s great. Rochelle must feel downright spoiled.”
Naveen swallowed. “My point is, he’s harder on you.”
I shrugged, moving my food around into a pattern.
“We will speak to him tomorrow. Together, like we said,” Rami decided and I didn’t have the energy to object. The food was good, rare and juicy, so I concentrated on that. It was something simple, something I could have and enjoy that the wolf wasn’t pulling me back from.
We were in the studio that had been my father’s, sipping old whisky from his cabinet. When it comes to spirits I prefer vodka or rum, but it was more a show of manliness than anything else, and Brennan had hesitated for a moment before pouring me a full glass. I refused to show any weakness by failing to drink it. If I was reading the way Naveen’s leg twitched every time he sipped, he felt equally obligated.
Rami had opted for taking a long casual gulp, like he was thirsty and it was simply water in his glass, before abandoning it on Brennan’s desk.
“Everybody knows the first cycle takes time,” he said, oh so reasonably. He made it sound like the notion of disagreeing with him was absurd.
I stared at him, forgetting Brennan: I hadn’t known. I knew that once an Omega became sexually active, they continued to be sexually active pretty much uninterruptedly and that often meant pregnant, too. Nobody had bothered to tell me I wouldn’t be able to conceive right away after I started having sex. The scientist in me was furious: how hadn’t I asked these questions about myself? But the answer was rather obvious. I had spent the fifteen years since I had discovered I was an Omega and had had it explained to me trying to avoid thinking of the horrible way in which my body had betrayed me and would betray me even further at the whim of an Alpha I hadn’t even met.
“It’s no reasonable to expect Devlin to be with child this soon. And no reason we can’t continue trying in St. Andrew’s while he finishes up his work.”
“So you propose to escort my brother to Scotland?” Brennan asked, so either he knew or he believed Rami.
“Yes,” said Rami, and I allowed him to put an around my shoulders, leaning a little into him to sell the fiction that I was perfectly under his control. “You know he will be safe with us.”
Brennan let out a ponderous sigh. “You will try to conceive at least once daily starting today,” he declared. I frowned, confused, because he had just agreed that there was a cycle and I was not in the right phase of it to conceive. What purpose could it possibly have to make me go through with it if I couldn’t get pregnant yet?
I was about to object when Rami subtly shook his head at me. Brennan couldn’t have missed it, but he didn’t comment on it when I listened to Rami. It was subtle enough that I could have easily ignored it, but since he had just got what I wanted and I still didn’t understand what was going on, it seemed like a bad idea to press my luck.
“Of course,” he assured my brother with a serious look and Naveen added rather jokingly, “No problem, boss,” before offering me a hand to help me off the chair. I didn’t need it, of course, but I took Naveen’s hand and let him haul me upright and catch me around the waist. He gave me a genuinely pleased smile, but I couldn’t figure out what he was so happy about: because Rami had convinced Brennan? Or because Brennan’s condition meant he got to fuck me? I leaned into his embrace to keep my expression from Brennan and he led me out of the room that way. They are just pretending, I told myself, so eager to be out of Brennan’s presence that I didn’t mind how possessive both of them were acting of me.
“Let go!” The moment we stepped outside the words I hadn’t said in there seemed to burst out of me, and I pushed Naveen away a little harder than I meant to, and Rami actually hurried to block my path.
“Look,” he told me, eyes wide and earnest, “it was the best we could hope for.”
I blinked at him. “I know that.” Then I thought; what the hell? The guy had had his dick in me. “Is it really true I can’t… conceive right now?”
He nodded, seemingly wary of my good mood. “Yes. I mean, that’s what I have been told anyway and it seemed like Brennan believed it…”
Naveen interrupted us, “Guys, keep walking. It looks like we are having a fight or something.” He reached for my arm but stopped when he saw my face.
“I can understand you when you speak, Naveen. I don’t need to be moved around like a fucking piece of furniture.”
Naveen’s eyes widened in alarm but he kept his mouth shut.
“He’s right,” Rami intervened. “Let’s walk.” And with that, started forward again. I would have let him walk ahead but I wanted answers too badly for pride or pretending.
“Why can’t I, then?”
“Well, when we…” he licked his lips, glancing at me and then away. “When we took you for the first time, we basically prepared your body for it, but it’s not immediate. It’s a big change for your body to produce, it’ll take time.”
I shuddered, remembering the change that had taken place already, the way all my trousers felt wrong now. The way walking felt wrong now.
“How much time?” I gritted out.
“About a month,”
“A month?” I repeated. “But he…”
“It might take less! Nobody really knows.”
“But you just told me I couldn’t…” I pointed out. “And Brennan believed it. Or he seemed to believe it. I don’t see how both can be true.”
Rami stared at me, looking lost, till Naveen sighed heavily from my left and put a hand on my elbow as he leaned close to whisper in my ear. I wasn’t any happier about him touching me but it was innocent enough, I thought. Till he spoke.
“It’s true you can’t get pregnant, but it’s also true this is the only way our Alpha can fuck you.”
I jerked in his grip and he let go. I turned to him. “You are so fucking sick, why would you say that about my brother?”
“He is not just your brother anymore,” Naveen explained. “Alphas want to dominate. It’s their thing, and new Dominant Alphas fuck their Omegas to dominate them.”
“That’s not true!”
“It is,” Naveen said. “They want to, at least. And if there’s no breeding, there’s no problem so…”
Rami was quiet, but the fact that he wasn’t saying otherwise, the way his shoulders were hunched spoke volumes. He believed it to.
But that didn’t mean it wasn’t bullshit. “How come I have never heard of this before?” I asked. “I have been away for a while, sure, but I wasn’t leaving under a fucking rock for the first eighteen years of my life!”
“Nobody would speak of something like that in front of Omegas,” Rami finally spoke.
“Oh, great, so I should just believe you strong Alphas tell me and shut the fuck up!”
“Who said you need to take our word for it, aren’t you a scientist?” Naveen challenged me. “Go find another source if you like!”
“Fine,” I snapped. It was pretty hard to find a good comeback to that, and I did want to know. No, I didn’t want to, but I needed to. My ignorance had more than caught up to me and there was no more time to fool myself that if I just looked the other way everything would be fine.
Although the result is the same, male Omegas’ reproductive system is vastly different from that of both human females and female Omegas. A male Omega will only produce fertile eggs if an Alpha prepares him for it. Equally, it is not simply sex that produces a pregnancy but a voluntary positioning of the Alpha’s cock that will cause it to lock inside the Omega’s anus while it unloads the semen directly into the womb: knotting. Regular sex has the purpose of keeping an Omega producing fertile eggs, which once mature will remain in the womb until fertilized. In this manner Omega males are known for multiple and subsequent pregnancies without intervening insemination.
According to the book I got the information from, Jacques Golden, Earl of Canterbury after his Alpha, kept giving birth to his mate’s offspring for years after his mate died in battle. The last baby was born ten years after his father had died, on his anniversary, and was named after him. Creepy as fuck, and probably not true but after I read that I had to actually lay down on the Kivien’s library floor for half an hour and take deep breath after deep breath to calm myself down.
I felt so stupid to have chosen two mates now, I had just thought that there was no further risk, after all, I could only be pregnant once. Except that wasn’t true. According to Mating Rituals and Facts, male Omegas had been favoured as mates in times of conflict because their bodies could be manipulated into multiple pregnancies by delaying the impregnation by a few months. Back in the Middle Ages when werewolves were actively hunted and male Omegas had been so rare, only a pack’s Dominant Alpha could hope to have one for a mate. And they had done more than ‘hope’, they had fought for it as fiercely as to defend their packs. Altan, a Turkish male Omega, had actually started a revolution by virtue of offering to bondmate the Alpha who brought him the King’s heart. The king had been killed by a pair of brothers and Altan must have regretted his choice when they had both claimed him. He had given them a litter on his first pregnancy, and three more before his body gave out. Twenty children altogether in the course of five years, but two of them had been stillborn, even werewolf babies couldn’t survive in the womb of someone who was dying.
The crazy thing was that I had known some of those things out of context. Earl Jacques had been known to ride into battle while pregnant, a practice considered insane but that nobody had been able to keep him from it after his mate had been murdered by a Spanish incursion. And nobody was ever allowed to forget that when humans had discovered the werewolves among their ranks, they had reacted with horror and even allied with foreigners to destroy us. It was a lesson every young shifter needed to learn well, even if nowadays the result was more likely to end with the kid in a cell in some lab than dead with a silver bullet. But in history Omegas were fought over, both male and female, and Alphas fought over and for them.
Most of the time, though, they just stayed at home with the children while the Alphas pushed the world this way and that, disagreeing among themselves and with human men. Most of the time their names didn’t make it into the history of the packs, neither the written one kept in the underground libraries all over the world, nor the oral one deformed by generations of retelling. A mating book was pretty much the only place where I could expect with any certainty to find information about people like me, and that was just because werewolves had a thing for genealogy that would have had Mendel salivating.
Growing up, I had never felt like I could ask about my body. If there was something I needed to do with it, I would be told. Just like I have been told not to have sex. And then I realised what should have been obvious, but I might have been excused for forgetting in the middle of the chaos my life had become. If they came with me to Scotland they would find out about Dan. Dan, with whom I hadn’t spoken in days, too scared he would be able to tell from my voice what was happening to me. Dan, who I could never see again if I wanted to have any hope of getting through this with my sanity somewhat intact.