I hadn’t forgotten about my brother’s stipulation, exactly, but I had managed to put it out of my mind. So I was still startled when Naveen showed up in my bedroom that night. I suddenly remembered his weight on top of me, so intensely that for a moment it was like it was happening right then.
“Devlin, are we...?” He tilted his head and gestured wildly. “Because we should sleep with you if we aren’t, or Brennan will be able to tell.”
Rami stepped close to lean against my doorway as well. They couldn’t both fit but they didn’t seem to mind being pressed close together as long as they could gape at me on the bed.
I thought of being held down between their bodies; the stifling heat, their smell impregnating my skin beyond what any washing could take away. Not long ago I had slept tangled with Dan that way, and woken up in his arms, too. I snapped my eyes shut against the sting, then shook myself off. I didn’t have time for regret or nostalgia.
I thought, stupidly, that it was better to let them fuck me than to let them hold me. Because fucking would be over soon and then I would be left alone. Because fucking was meaningless. Because I wanted it to hurt outside as much as I was hurting inside my own head.
I started taking my clothes off, but stopped when neither followed suit. “What?”
“You haven’t told us what you want,” Rami said but he
“Fucking,” I sneered. “Then you can get out.”
Naveen actually flinched, but Rami just nodded and started undressing. I turned away to slide off my shoes and stayed facing away as I got rid of my trousers and shirt, half expecting hands on me the whole time. Neither of them touched me, though, not even when I was completely naked. I turned around and they weren’t even looking at me. They were eyeing each other. Great, I thought, they have remembered they’re Alphas.
Rami took a step forward and I tensed, but Naveen just raised his chin in challenge and the next thing I knew they were kissing. It was definitely Alpha kissing but it wasn’t a fight for domination… just... intense. A give and take of barely contained power and passion, a demonstration without any visible intent to follow through, like they were flexing their muscles for show. Their skin shone, the darker shade of Naveen setting off Rami’s work tan and marking a boundary between bodies that were becoming more entwined by the second: Naveen’s hands slid up Rami’s chest and around his neck, entirely unselfconscious about the way he was tilting his head up to follow Rami’s mouth. And Rami didn’t seem interested in pressing his advantage: his hands were soon under Naveen’s buttocks, pulling him up and closer. And for the first time since I had met them I could look at them without them looking back. I could look at them as I had learned to look at men, to gauge the length of their muscles and appreciate the strength of the bodies, the smoothness of their skin and the scattered hair as well.
Rami was a ton of muscle wrapped in a tan that faded where clothes would have covered his body as he worked at the construction site. And Naveen should have looked small next to him, but his leanness was made of curved muscles whose strength was just as undeniable as Rami’s. His dark thick hair in Rami’s hand was making my hands itch to touch. Naveen growled, frustrated, and yanked Rami around before pushing him down on the bed. Rami fell on his back and I saw his eyes glow bluer for a moment in anger, but Naveen was immediately murmuring apologies, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”
“What are you doing?” I asked, finally waking up.
Naveen raised his head from Rami’s ear, shiny with his saliva now and Rami turned to look at me. I got a wave of arousal so painful I realised that till I had spoken, they really had forgotten I was there.
“We need to come,” Rami explained to me, sounding as if he thought I was a little slow. “You told us you didn’t want us to stay.”
“But you…” I wavered. “But how…?” Naveen sat up, right on Rami’s lap, as if he was used to it. And suddenly I saw something else I had missed: they looked comfortable together. “You have done this before,” I said, expecting… denial, I suppose.
Naveen just shrugged. “Yeah, for a while.” He swallowed and added, “Brennan told us he had run his calculations and that he thought you…” He paused, glanced down at Rami, who stared right back at him for a millisecond that must have given him some kind of answer. “We talked about it, about what you might be like and what you might want from us and one thing…”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I interrupted.
Rami tapped Naveen’s thigh to signal he wanted to move and Naveen got to his feet at once. “We didn’t exactly have a lot of time to talk before you told us your choice. And, I don’t know, we are supposed to take care of you… but if you don’t want us, then this is good, we can use this.”
“Use this?” I repeated.
Rami swallowed, either in embarrassment or because he liked the image. “You only need to come to the bed when we are about to finish. That’ll… you know, make you smell like us. Even after you shower.”
I felt like my knees were going to give out on me. They weren’t going to fuck me, not even ask me to have sex with them in some other way. Not even ask me to sleep with them and pretend that because they were holding me, they could keep me.
They were protecting me. “You will lie to Brennan?”
“No,” Naveen said slowly. “We won’t lie. He won’t ask the right questions. We all know it does as little good to come inside you right now as it would to come in the moon. Your body clearly got the memo, and now we need to wait till there’s an egg.”
“But you told him…”
“We told him we would keep trying,” Rami interrupted. “We are. We offered, didn’t we? We didn’t promise to force you, and you didn’t promise a thing. And he won’t ask more of our private affairs, anyway.” He sighed, suddenly dispirited. “Especially if you keep looking like you are considering either suicide or running away to become a wolf full time. I think that sold him on it more than anything.”
“Thank you,” I said, feeling my eyes fill with tears and gritting my teeth to keep them from falling. I could take their anger, but I couldn’t take their kindness. It was too unexpected and left me feeling like I needed it, like I had needed someone on my side so badly. I had simply refused to admit it all along.
This got Rami to his feet as well, and they both came over. Rami put his hand on my upper arm, “Devlin,” he said. But I didn’t look up. “Devlin, you don’t need to thank us. This is not a favour, this is what you deserve.”
“But I should…”
“You should want this, yes. We were hoping you would, but you clearly don’t, so if we are your Alphas, for…” He swallowed audibly. “For as long as we are your Alphas, it’s our job to do our best to take care of you.”
Naveen rubbed my elbow comfortingly. “We told you, dude. We got your back.”
I hesitated, remembering the sex… remembering the way they had pushed me further, the way Rami had refused to masturbate me. Then I thought of the way they had kissed each other, confident the other would respond in kind. Even knowing I couldn’t really go against their wishes, could they have imagined pushing me into things was still the only way to do it?
The truth was, that was how I wanted to be treated, as if I was capable of making my own choices. That’s how Dan had always treated me, how humans simply assumed it must be. I didn’t know how to live with what I was, with the way the wolf made me quiet about what I wanted, with the way I couldn’t tell them what I wanted, and they couldn’t know. If I couldn’t ask them to stop, was it fair to judge them for not doing it? But I couldn’t say they weren’t trying, not when they had thought of this to keep me safe from Brennan.
I nodded, and breathed out, “Okay.”
They let go of me, Rami lingering for a squeeze on my arm before Naveen dragged him back to the bed by the hand. This time Rami straddled his lap and squirmed till their cocks were aligned so he could massage them into full hardness again. I watched, feeling my mouth grow dry, and by the time Naveen’s breath started to hitch with the movements of Rami’s hand, I was hard, too. It felt different. Because they weren’t focusing on me their desire wasn’t affecting me directly; neither of them had looked in my direction nor given any sign that they knew I was still here since getting on the bed.
Naveen buckled even harder under Rami and called out my name in a breathless whisper, “Devlin!”
Rami’s hand paused, arm muscles straining with the effort, face turned down in what almost seemed like pain. I let go of myself and almost ran to the bed. I found myself kneeling next to Naveen, barely keeping myself from licking at his collarbones, temptingly glistening with sweat.
Rami looked up, breathing hard, “Get a little closer.”
I shuffled till I was flush against both their sides. My arm pressed to Rami’s left, my thigh sticking to the sweat on Naveen’s side. The moment I touched them, their arousal seemed to envelope me. It didn’t feel bad – I had been hard myself, and it had the same effect an unexpected sight or smell did to increase my arousal during sex. Rami resumed his stroking and I felt a little dizzy with the feedback.
Naveen took hold of my arm, eyes dilated and mouth open to get in enough air. “Touch yourself,” he asked me, “It feels wrong like this.”
It did – it felt like a very hot image did, getting me going without any stimulation, and it left me as desperate to touch myself as any porn. So I did, I started jacking myself off, soft for the first couple strokes but faster and harder as I was inevitably caught in the wave of Rami’s and Naveen’s need.
Naveen keened, low in his throat, a sound not quite human. “I…” and then he was coming, his cock jerking against Rami’s, making him gasp and follow. Rami somehow had the clear-mindedness to tilt them my way so the hot splash of their release scalded my thighs and my cock, adding to the slickness of my precome in a way that had me over the edge in barely two strokes. The waves of their orgasms were like the tide that pushed me over the edge, making me rise faster than I would have on my own but not taking over my release. The sight of them, their smell intermingling, their skin hot against mine… it had been something I had been given, not something forced on me.
I let myself collapse next to Naveen, and Rami fell on his other side, panting. When I woke up in the middle of the night they were both still there, Naveen sprawled over the centre of the bed so that his right arm laid on my chest, Rami curled up on Naveen’s side like a puppy. I got up and cleaned myself up, scrubbing hard to get their come and mine off my pubic hair. But then I dried up and went right back to my spot in the bed, finding a throw to curl up under and letting their breathing lull me to sleep.
Do you know those moments when everything around you seems to zoom in and lose solidity at the same time? I have always wondered if it was something that only happened to shifters, or if humans experience shock that way as well. For me it’s like some colours get sharper and more defined, and others become almost transparent. Like smells become so intense they are almost something I can touch.
When Kirby called and asked me to meet up with her and Clara at a café in town, I immediately suspected something was up. Unlike other Omegas, Kirby hadn’t beaten around the bush. She had met with her three candidates and she had come gushing that she wanted Lucien. She was sure they were meant for each other, all the things they tell you as a child you will feel when you meet your Alpha. Clara and I had looked at each other, uncomfortable with her joy, but neither of us could bring ourselves to burst her bubble. They say truth is always best, but how can that be when knowing won’t make a difference to what you can actually have? If Kirby could have a dream romance with a man she would have had to bed and have children for anyway, then why not? I choked out a congratulation at the news and she squealed in delight and told me they were going to have the wedding in late October, because why wait to get started on forever?
With such an idyllic romance at home, I hadn’t been particularly surprised that Kirby’s normally packed social agenda had become something of the past. As a mated Omega she had got one of the new houses my brother had designed and the pack had financed. Stupidly, I had secretly believed the houses were a goodwill gesture from my father because my brother couldn’t find work as an architect on his own, and my father didn’t want him to feel useless. But it turned out the modern houses Brennan had insisted the pack needed to keep their privacy in the new century had had a different purpose all along. Only the fact that most of them were still under construction told me that my father had probably had no idea of what Brennan intended. Maybe he should have suspected. Maybe we all should have; the biggest of the new buildings was a nursery so large it could easily serve as a preschool. I wondered if Cecilia had known – had he consulted her before designing it? Had anybody known? My mother surely hadn’t, she wouldn’t have kept a thing like that from my father and had he thought… but what could have he done if he had known? He had planned on living for years yet, long after Brennan and I gave him grandchildren. Even in the olden days, most werewolves saw their great grandkids born, and these days, with modern medicine and safety regulations on top of our excellent supernatural defences, it wasn’t rare to find wizened old critters holding their grandchild’s grandchild.
Kirby was flushed becomingly, her dark eyes and hair shining with health, her plump lips painted a red so dark it looked like blood. Except nobody would think sweet-faced Kirby to be the bloodthirsty predator she transformed into. She was younger than me, only twenty, and I had grown up treating her like the little sister I had never had. Her house had been right next door and Clara, as quiet and thoughtful as Kirby was hyper and cheerful, had favoured her among their agemates.
Clara was another matter altogether: even though she was younger, she had been one of the few people in the pack willing to sit next to me in silence and watch the stars. One of the few people in my life who had known how to be with me while my thoughts wandered; and not just that, who hadn’t minded that my attention wasn’t on her because hers wasn’t on me, either. Before presenting as an Omega, I had actually been closer to Brennan than to anybody else. Even afterwards, when he was still a kid and couldn’t really understand what the way my smell had changed meant. I suppose I should say, before he presented as an Alpha, but maybe it was somewhere in the middle of those two things that I lost my brother. Maybe it couldn’t have been otherwise. It is hard to keep other people when you feel you are losing yourself.
Clara and Kirby had both been too young to be left to their own devices for long, or to capture my interest. But the year I was thirteen and they were seven, they had snuck into my favourite cave down the creek from our respective houses. I had growled at them till they were whimpering and then I had shifted back into human shape and given them a lecture about private spaces.
Kirby had said sorry till she had burst into tears, alarming me in the extreme since the only child I had regular contact with never cried. But at that, Clara had stepped forward and stared me right in the eye. “This is not your cave,” she had told me. “It’s the pack’s.”
“That’s a human idea,” I had explained. “Wolves don’t share everything, and this is my wolf’s cave.” She frowned, and opened her mouth to object. “Can you smell anybody else here?” I asked her.
“That’s because they can tell it’s mine. Just for… for when I need to be alone for a while. And they respect that.”
Kirby was drying her tears by then, perhaps reassured when her friend’s defiance got her a reasonable explanation, or perhaps just tired of crying in the way of young children. “But can’t we play here?”
I sighed. “You can find your own cave, you know.”
“But your cave is the best!” Kirby insisted. “It has the little shelves…”
It was true, of course, there was a ledge around the middle of the cave that I also used as shelves for my books and my mp3 player. Kirby had set up a kettle and flowerpot there instead.
I rolled my eyes. “You can come in sometimes but only if you never leave anything behind.”
“We could just leave the flowers,” Clara offered. “To make it smell nice.”
So they had left the flowers.
There were purple plastic hibiscuses in the corner of the Honey Sweet Coffee Shop, and Kirby was dressed in a pale pink dress as if she had known it would match. It was probably a coincidence. Clara, who had the dark complexion of her Jamaican father, had gone for cream instead. It suited her, but there was none of the subtle interaction between her and Kirby’s wardrobe I had learned to identify through years of ignoring their conversations about clothes. I would have thought I had lost my expertise, but their body language was odd as well: Clara was sitting in front of Kirby instead of curled up next to her.
“Devlin!” Kirby got to her feet with a bounce that sent me back in time, and squeezed me hard enough to knock the breath out of me, her breasts squishing against my chest as shocking as they had been when she had first developed them at fourteen. Then I got a whiff of her perfume, except… it wasn’t her perfume. It was her. And just like that, I knew. I must have stiffened because she looked shy when she pulled back. “You can tell, can’t you?”
“You smell different,” I admitted, making myself stay in place. I desperately wanted to step back, as if her pregnancy was contagious. “You look great,” I added, trying to reassure her.
She smiled brightly. “I feel great!” she enthused. “I was just telling Clara, my energy levels are through the roof. I’m not sure if it’s love or bonding hormones or the baby but I feel amazing.”
I turned to Clara at that and found her watching us both with a soft smile. I wondered if Kirby could tell it wasn’t sincere. “Hey, little light.”
“Hello, Devlin,” she replied and got up to kiss my cheek. “You have ruined Kirby’s surprise with your super nose.”
“You mean you couldn’t tell?”
She shook her head. “I thought it was her perfume.”
It wasn’t an accident, of course: as a species of intemperately curious smellers, werewolves had taken to perfume, cologne and all other scents that could hide our true and intimately revealing scents with a desperation that bordered on obsession. Most wolves switched up their essences regularly to confuse other werewolves’ sense of smell enough to allow them some privacy. Or the illusion of it.
“Well, I’m sorry,” I told Kirby, taking the middle chair and signalling to the waiter. “I think having been away makes it easier somehow, like my nose was so desperate to smell wolves that it ignores all the boring human stuff like perfume.”
“Huh… that’s interesting,” said Clara, looking pensive.
“Oh, guys, not the science thing again!” Kirby complained. “Listen to me for a minute because I haven’t even got to say it properly: I’m pregnant.”
I forced myself to smile at Kirby’s dramatic and unnecessary declaration. “My apologies. Congratulations, Catherine.”
Kirby’s mouth twisted. “Do you think I have to go by Catherine now?”
Clara nodded with mock seriousness. “I’m sure it’s a requirement of adulthood.”
Kirby glared at her, only stopping to give the waiter a smile and ask for a milkshake topped with cream and chocolate syrup, a drink any child would have envied.
“Well, fuck that,” she decided. “Catherine is my mother and she’s going to be Catherine till she’s ‘grandma’ so…” Her eyes went wide as plates. “Oh, God, she’s going to be a grandma… that’s crazy. Isn’t that crazy? She’s too young to be a grandma.”
“Wouldn’t that mean you’re too young to be a mum?” I pointed out. And Clara kicked me hard under the table. She was right – Kirby’s eyes grew alarmed.
“Yeah… I am, aren’t I?” she asked me.
Clara leaned forward and took her hand. “We all are. All parents in the history of ever are, because it’s too huge to do alone. But you don’t have to, because you have your pack. And us. And Lucien, too.”
Kirby hesitated, then exhaled and her smile peeked out. “Yeah, you are right. It’s just…”
“Scary as fuck?” Clara suggested with a soft smile of her own.
Kirby nodded. “Yeah.”
“You will be a great mum,” Clara promised. And who was I to say she wouldn’t be? Clara was young as well and she seemed to have the whole thing more figured out than I did, for all my degree and my relationship experience.
Clara had yet to make a choice, but she had time. Brennan hadn’t expected any of the Omegas to decide on an Alpha immediately, just within the next year. After all, a year was nothing for such a long-lived species as ours. Without any urgent deadlines, Clara could afford to play a long game.
“What about you?” Kirby asked her.
Clara waved her off. “I’m just getting to know them. Jeremy is nice, but Gus is so…” She shook her head. “I’m not sure.”
“What about Yousuf?” Kirby asked.
“Oh, no, not him,” Clara declared.
“Why not him?” I asked, feeling I could speak up without putting my foot in my mouth again.
“He is just… old, I guess.” She did sound like she was guessing. “I don’t know. I don’t like him.”
“Fair enough, that’s all you need.”
“And time,” she added, looking a little worried. I was almost angry – she had so much time from where I was standing, and I envied her even that little leeway, like a slave coveting another’s little extra morsel of food. Like a slave, I felt low and mean for wanting what was truly so little, for wishing I could take what little comfort my friend had available. And like I slave, I wondered, did I maybe deserve to have less?
“What about you, Devlin?” She asked and for some reason it surprised me, even though it was the perfectly logical next step in the conversation.
“I… I need some tea,” I said, and hurriedly got up and went to the counter to ask for it. I hadn’t thought I wanted anything when the waiter had stopped by, and, to be honest, maybe I still didn’t need any tea – just the comfort of something to hold and a minute to myself.
The waiter thought it was odd I wanted to wait at the counter for my drink, but when I said I wanted camomile he gave me a wry smile and didn’t offer to take it to the table again.
“Ok, I’m all set now,” I said, settling the mug down carefully on the table.
Kirby and Clara turned to me as one.
“Are you ok?” Kirby wanted to know.
And suddenly, no matter how much I braced myself, I couldn’t lie to her. “No.”
She gasped, probably surprised, and Clara reached out and took my hand in her crushing grip. “Talk, Devlin,” she half asked, half demanded.
“I miss Dan. And my flat and… it’s stupid, but I miss going to class, and the way things smell. It’s way too hot over here and I miss being a little cold and curling up to him in bed and… I’m so angry. What right does Brennan have to come and take it all away? I worked for it, I studied my arse off to do well in school, and it’s… it wasn’t easy to date a human.”
“It isn’t?” Kirby wanted to know. “Why not? It should be the same, right? Except for not running with them…”
I laughed. “Not running with them? That’s the least of it! What about not breaking their bones by accident? Or what about when I’m cutting some onions and accidentally cut myself and get blood all over the kitchen towel, except then there’s no cut anywhere on me when he wants to see?”
“How do you even cut yourself chopping onions?” Kirby asked reprovingly. “That’s what superior reflexes are for.”
“Well, it turns out they don’t help that much when you try to pretend to be a chef and you have never done it before.”
“But you know how to cook, you made us that amazing risotto last time you were down here,” Clara reminded me.
“I know now.”
“But your mum must have taught you…?” Kirby said doubtfully.
I sighed. “She wanted to, but I said no.” I hesitated. “I said it was for girls and I...”
“Wow, asshole move,” she said disbelievingly.
“I know, I know, ok? I was a jerk, but she didn’t want to teach Brennan…”
“So the real problem was that it was for Omegas,” Clara deduced.
“Yes,” I admitted. “And it was stupid because I love to cook anyway and I had to learn all on my own.”
“You could ask now. Your mum’s sweet, and she’s been quite down since…” Kirby eyed me doubtfully. “Since the funeral.”
I huffed, more irritated with myself than anybody else. “I can’t. I just… I can’t right now. It’s too much to handle.”
“Why did you say yes so fast?” Kirby asked me. “I mean, they are living with you, aren’t they? That means you said yes to a mating, at least…”
“I had to.”
“But Brennan said we had a whole year,” Clara said softly.
“Yes, to choose, but he said I couldn’t go back to Scotland unless I…” I looked down.
“Unless you chose? That’s so unfair!”
“Unless I was pregnant.”
“What?” Even Kirby seemed unable to find any reasonable interpretation for the ultimatum. “That’s completely out of line!”
“Rami and Naveen talked to him, and he agreed to let me go,” I explained, before her temper took over the entire conversation. “If I go with them.”
“Just like that? Just because they asked?”
“Yeah, just because they asked and because they… they promised to try and get me pregnant.” I finished, eyes firmly on the design on the cup I was holding. I thought it might have been words but I couldn’t have told you what language they were in.
“Your brother has been so sweet to me,” Kirby said, sounding regretful. “But this is seriously fucked up. I just… I don’t get why he would treat you this way. You are his only brother.”
I thought of Naveen’s theory, that Brennan would have wanted to fuck me to assert his dominance and this was the closest he could get to it. But I couldn’t voice it. Maybe Kirby and Clara were old enough to be mothers, but I still couldn’t say something like that to them. I shrugged instead. “Doesn’t want to look like he’s playing favourites.”
“He doesn’t need to look like he’s doing the opposite, either,” Clara said in her serious, determined voice.
“Oh, please, don’t talk to him about this…”
“To Brennan?” Clara asked, as if she thought I was crazy. “I was going to speak to your mother.”
“My mother?” I repeated.
“She might be an Omega, but she’s still his mum. He will listen to her.”
“I don’t know…” I hedged. I didn’t want to tell them I couldn’t bring myself to trust my mother to help me, or that I didn’t think I could take it if I asked and she said no. Or worse, if she told me the same thing she had been telling me my whole life: to be a good little Omega and do as the Alphas told me.
“You will see,” Kirby told me with all the confidence of someone who believes her parents will always protect her. “We will talk to her and she will sort it out.”