Neal is holding a stack of papers, staring down at the copy machine, and swearing. It’s a great start to what he had hoped would be a great day. But his thoughtful gesture of volunteering to make these copies for Peter is going to have the opposite effect if Peter decides Neal had actually been trying to engage in an extremely petty power game.
He tries swearing at the copier. It doesn’t work.
Then, salvation: Jones comes into the copy room, and Neal turns to him in relief. “Can you figure out what’s going on with this machine? Peter asked me to make these copies but it’s saying my code doesn’t work.” He holds up the folder and tries a winning smile. “I really don’t want to piss Peter off… today of all days.”
“Today’s the big day,” Jones agrees, taking the folder from Neal. “Or rather – ” his smile becomes conspiratorial. “Tonight’s the big night.”
“Yeah,” Neal says. He made a show of tugging at his collar. “Already feeling a little warm, so…”
“Pre-heat.” Jones is just holding the folder Neal had handed him, making no move towards the copier. “Tonight you’ll be in it for real.”
“Uh.” Neal blinks. “Yeah. So if you could help me with the copies…”
Jones laughs. It’s a kind laugh, and as much as Neal strains, he can’t hear any malice in it. He’d been hypersensitive to the threads of malice that he’d heard in a lot of people’s voices since Peter and Elizabeth had finally bonded him into their pack, but Jones had never been malicious, and Neal had loved him for it. For that, and for the fact that, as the pack’s chief Beta, Jones had sat – hard – on a lot of the people who would be inclined to offer Neal malice.
But Jones is still laughing, and Neal isn’t coming up with any good reason for that. “Jones?” he asks again. “The copies?”
Jones puts the folder up on a shelf behind Neal’s head and steps closer. “Peter didn’t actually want those copies, Neal. Come on! Tonight’s the big night. There’s tradition around that. Tradition’s important.”
Jones comes closer still. Neal doesn’t step back – couldn’t even if he wanted to, the copier is right behind him – but he doesn’t want to. A sense of anticipation settles over him, holding him in place. Jones reaches out – slowly, telegraphing his movements – and settles his hands reverently on Neal’s abdomen.
“You’re gonna make pretty babies, Caffrey,” Jones sighs in some envy. Then he flashes Neal a conspiratorial grin. “Come on, untuck that shirt. We don’t have that long.”
Neal stares at him for a moment, then realization flashes across his mind like lightning, and he can’t get his buttons undone fast enough.
Jones jerks off in long, languid strokes, keeping up a running commentary that makes Neal squirm and blush with appreciation – how good Neal’s been for Peter and Elizabeth, what a valuable addition to the pack he is, how nice it’s gonna be for there to be pups running around. When he comes he paints on Neal’s stomach like an artist signing his work, and takes his time rubbing his come into Neal’s belly.
“As without, so within,” he intones, then relaxes back into grinning Jones. “Not that I really think Peter needs the help.”
Jones even helps Neal make the copies, afterwards.
There’s an afternoon meeting that Neal has to work very, very hard to sit still during. He’s convinced that everyone in the room knows. Not just that Neal is off his suppressants, that he’s in pre-heat, that tonight Peter is going to take him home and fuck him pregnant over the course of three glorious, heat-filled days. Everyone with a nose has known the first two for the last month, and everyone with eyes has known that last one for even longer. But now that Jones has kicked off the fertility ritual, there’s some of Jones’ scent on Neal, too, intensifying the already-intense markers of pack and bond and ready-to-breed. Peter is leading the meeting, and his usual commanding presence doesn’t even waver, but any time he looks at Neal his eyes smolder.
Neal brings Peter the copies after the meeting, just to have an excuse to stand in a room with him. Stand near him and breathe his scent. It’s relaxing to be close to Peter right now, but it also amps up his sense of anticipation, puts him more on edge.
“I didn’t really need those,” Peter tells Neal when Neal tries to offer him the copies. “You know that.” He takes them anyway, seemingly just so that he can lean in closer to Neal and take a breath of his own. “Jones did a good job?”
Neal nods. “Oh yeah.”
“Glad to hear it.” Peter’s eyes darken, and for a moment Neal thinks Peter’s going to kiss him, right here in the middle of the White Collar Crimes Unit. Then the moment passes and Peter steps back. “How’s it going with the Beaker case?”
“It’ll be all transitioned over to Martha by the end of the day.” She’ll be working it while Neal’s on heat-leave.
“Good job,” Peter praises. This close to heat, Neal can’t help but shiver.
“I’ll just get back to that then,” Neal says, taking a step back before he can embarrass himself.
“Sounds like a plan,” Peter agrees. “Oh, and Neal?”
Neal pauses, already halfway out of Peter’s office.
This time, when Peter looks at Neal, he’s completely professionally bland. Only a few people – of which Neal is one – could have spotted the smile sneaking underneath the façade. “I think Diana needs some help with the copier.”
Diana wedges Neal up in the nook between the copier and the fax machine, keeps him precariously balanced and utterly dependent on the press of her body to hold him up. She doesn’t just settle for Neal unbuttoning his shirt but pushes it entirely off him. Runs her hands over the curve of Neal’s shoulders while she ruts against his hipbones and whispers filthy things in his ear.
“Normally don’t go for Omegas, but you’ve got some muscle to you – you could almost pass, if no one saw those eyes,” she purrs, and for some reason that goes straight to Neal’s hole, making him clench up and moan. “You used that when you were a con, didn’t you? Moving in on other Omegas who thought you could give them a knot, then leaving them hanging. Ever wonder how many of them fingered themselves to you later? Hmm?”
“Oh my God,” Neal says, and sacrifices part of his grip on the copier to shove the first two knuckles of his left hand in his mouth.
“Or better.” Diana’s voice drops, low enough that she enters the rumble range only Alphas have. “How many realized exactly what you are, and fingered themselves or jerked off to you? Not the con, not the Alpha you were passing as, or the dolled-up airhead Omega you pretend to be sometimes – how many of them saw you, got off to you?”
This ritual technically isn’t about Neal getting off, yet he finds himself shuddering hard at those words, on the edge from thinking about it. But: “None of them,” he gasps. “None of them ever really saw me, only Peter and El ever really saw me – ”
“Yes,” Diana snarls, and then she’s coming, messy where Jones had been neat, not that it really matters: it’s just about getting her come on Neal’s belly, and she’s rubbing it in almost before she’s finished. “They’re the ones who saw you. Don’t you forget it.”
“I won’t,” Neal breathes. He tips his head back and, as if his eyes were made sharper by Diana’s words, he sees –
Peter doesn’t bother turning the TV in his office to a different channel as Neal enters. It’s still showing the CCTV feed from the copy room. The grainy black-and-white is more than clear enough to show that the fax machine is decidedly perched at an angle.
“Guh,” Neal says. The skin of his stomach is moist and supple beneath his fitted shirt, the memory of Diana’s words is still making him leak, and now he learns that Peter has been watching –
“I like to keep an eye on things,” Peter says with a smile, and that’s so him, so Peter, that Neal practically launches himself across the room and into Peter’s arms. Bureau be damned.
“Shh, shh,” Peter says, petting Neal. “Here. Kneel down. That’s right.”
There’s a small cushion on the floor by Peter’s chair. The door had closed itself behind Neal, and the blinds, unusually for the middle of the day, are drawn. It all adds up to the same thing. “You expected this,” Neal breathes.
“I like to think I know you pretty well,” Peter says gently. “If you don’t want to, that’s fine, of course.”
But Neal does; Peter was right, he’s always right. Neal gets down on his knees next to Peter’s office chair and rests his cheek on Peter’s thigh, and when Peter puts his hand on the back of Neal’s neck Neal wants to cry – not because he’s sad, but because he’s so, so happy.
He’s never had a pack like this before. He’s never really had a pack at all before. When he’d met Peter, met Elizabeth, when they’d first started to intimate that he might be the Omega that would make their pack complete – that had been overwhelming enough on its own. But this?
“They’re all happy for us, Neal,” Peter says softly. “Jones and Diana and all the rest of the team – even the ones that aren’t pack are glad we’ve found you. Most packs don’t form Alpha/Alpha, you know. They form Alpha/Omega and find other Alphas later.”
Neal nods against Peter’s suit leg. He does know. He’d been impressed by how level-headed, how balanced, both Peter and Elizabeth are. That they’d managed to form an Alpha/Alpha bond, and then keep it stable, even without the mediating effect of a shared Omega between them.
Truthfully, Neal’s not sure he could have let himself trust Peter and El if things hadn’t been this way. He’s had too much experience with the wrong kind of knothead Alpha. Once he’d have thought he’d never find an Alpha he could trust, much less a pair. But he’d never seen Peter and Elizabeth coming.
Peter leans down and kisses the back of Neal’s head. “They wanted to do the old ritual. I said, why not, and El thought you’d like it. I did too. Do you want to stop?”
“No!” Neal blurts out. He takes a breath and repeats, “No.” He tries to say the rest: I like it. I like that they approve of me, not just tolerate me. I like that they want to be part of this. I like that they view these pups as theirs, too. It shows the pack is strong. It shows the pack is stable. And it shows that I belong.
Peter hums softly under his breath. As always, Neal doesn’t have to say a thing. Peter understands without him having to.
Neal spends most of the rest of the day in the copy room, coming out of it each time with a bigger smile and even softer skin – around his abdomen, at least. “I wonder if this works to prevent stretch marks,” he remarks idly, unable to resist cupping his stomach with one hand as he and Peter walk out of the building. There’s nothing to cup yet, and intellectually he understands that. But the sky is deepening towards evening, Peter is pulling open the passenger door of their car for Neal with uncharacteristic solicitude, and Neal’s heat is all but upon them.
Inside the car, the various scents Neal’s carrying intensify, having nowhere to dissipate. Peter could open a window, but doesn’t. Neal doesn’t even glance towards the controls on his side of the car. He watches covertly from the corners of his eyes instead as Peter breathes deeply, and Peter’s grip tightens on the wheel.
At the house, Neal doesn’t budge until Peter opens the door for him and helps him out of the car. Peter’s hand stays on the small of Neal’s back the whole way. Elizabeth is waiting for them at the door, and she hasn’t had the whole day to acclimate to Neal’s changing scent; she has Neal back against the door with one arm locking him in place and her tongue down his throat before Peter can even finish taking off his coat.
Elizabeth pulls back when she needs to breathe, and rakes Neal with a look that makes him shiver. “Damn,” she says. “Almost regret letting Peter go first.”
Another reason it’s unusual for Alphas to form the pack-bond before finding an Omega to complete them: if the Omega comes onto the scene later, the Alphas have to agree on whose pups the Omega will bear first. Many previously-stable packs had been torn apart by their leaders fighting over the issue. In some cases, the Alphas literally tear each other apart.
Not Peter and Elizabeth. They’d sized Neal up, decided they wanted him, and agreed that Peter would go first in almost the same breath. They’d told Neal as much when they’d asked him to formally mate with them. It had never been a question.
“Peter’s pups will be easier,” Elizabeth had said ruefully, even as Peter had laughed at her. “They’ll ease you into bearing, and then you can deal with my bloodline when you’ve got some experience under your belt.”
That had worried Neal at first, mind running wild on all the possibilities implied by Elizabeth’s statement, before Peter had reassured him. Elizabeth’s bloodline runs large and tends towards rambunctiousness, that’s all.
“And they eat a lot,” Peter had added.
“My carrier still says I drained her dry,” Elizabeth had said reminiscently. “Peter’s pups will get your milk supply up, too.” Her sharp eyes had caught Neal’s incipient panic, and she’d reached out, covered Neal’s hand with hers. “And I have no objection to supplementing with formula if that’s what it takes. I want you, Neal. We want you. Not some ideal of a breeding Omega that those awful magazines talk up. You. Just as you are.”
That had seemed like an impossible thing to believe, back then, even after Neal had woken up after the mating heat with Peter’s bite on one shoulder and Elizabeth’s on the other. Somehow it seems less impossible now as Elizabeth steps back – not far – and starts to unbutton Neal’s shirt.
“Here?” Peter asks, laughing.
“And not a moment later,” Elizabeth agrees. She tugs the shirt open and smooths her hands down over Neal’s flat stomach. “I can feel it,” she says, sounding awed. “Did you make time for everyone, Neal?”
“I made a schedule,” Peter says. “Everyone had a shot.” He realizes what he’s said a moment later, and they all laugh.
“Everyone,” Neal confirms. “Except – ”
“Except me,” Elizabeth says. She reaches for her belt. “I may not get to take part in the main event, but I’m certainly going to enjoy the pregame.”
“Mind if I slide in too?” Peter asks.
Elizabeth puts Peter behind Neal, between Neal and the door, and Peter complies with that immediacy that makes Peter and Elizabeth such a good team, even though it had made Neal doubt, early in his relationship with Peter, whether Peter were really the Alpha his file says he is and not actually a Beta passing. Neal knows all about passing: Diana hadn’t been making any of that up; she’s seen his file, she knows Neal’s played it both ways. Played it all three ways open to him, in fact. No one would take him for a female Beta, but he’s gone up and down the scale from Alpha to Omega with male Beta in between. And so he’d wondered. Wondered at the way Peter is rounder around the edges than most Alphas. Growls less, suggests more. Has no interest in hierarchy games. But Neal’s had that knot in him, stuffing him full and tight and good. He’s been with Peter in a tight spot and he’s seen Peter unfurl the aura and the dominance that come with his sex. Peter’s just really laid back most of the time, relaxed and a bit New Age-y. He’s got it where it counts. No one questions Peter’s sex more than once. No one who sees him in a tight spot questions it even the once.
Now Peter’s putting that extra Alpha strength to good use, holding Neal pinned tight, which makes all three of them happy in the hindbrain even though they know, now, for sure and certain, that Neal’s not going to run. They’d put off having pups until all of them were sure. Sure not just in their minds but deep down in their guts, before Peter or El would trust Neal with their pups – and before Neal would trust himself to take them. But it’s still fun to be held in place, and Neal bucks for the sheer pleasure of Peter’s hands on him, for the extra friction as Elizabeth works herself hard, the tip wet and leaking against Neal’s stomach, twice as big as any of the other cocks he’s seen today.
“Gonna do this again when you’re all knocked up,” Elizabeth is telling Neal eagerly. “Make sure those pups know who the other Alpha is. Make sure they know they belong to all of us.”
“Yeah, El,” Peter says, low and rumbling and satisfied. “Every day.”
“Have to stand farther back,” Elizabeth says. “Once Neal’s gotten big.”
“A lot farther back,” Peter agrees. “How many pups do you think Neal will make? Two? Three?”
“Three at least,” Elizabeth says. Her breath’s coming fast now, hitting hard against the back of her teeth. “Maybe he’ll give us four. What do you think, Neal? Think you can bear four?”
“As many as you want,” Neal says helplessly. “As many as you’ll put in me.”
“Fuck,” Elizabeth says suddenly, dropping her head to Neal’s shoulder and growling. Neal pulls his hands away from the door and Peter lets him, because now it’s about Neal getting his hands around Elizabeth’s knot and squeezing, squeezing, giving it her that pressure and support that she needs when she comes like this. None of the other members of their pack, Betas all, had had to worry about this. But for an Alpha, coming without something around their knot physically hurts. And it’s better when it’s Neal, even when it’s Neal’s hands instead of Neal’s hole or – occasionally, and only when they’re sure they won’t need to separate in a hurry – Neal’s mouth.
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth pants a second later, when Neal’s belly is warm and wet and his hands are wrapped tight around Elizabeth’s knot. “It was just – it popped into my head, all of a sudden, what you were going to look like all big and pregnant – I know we’ve been talking about this for months but somehow it was suddenly real.” She picks her head up and laughs, still breathlessly. “Sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“The real thing’s going to be even better,” Neal promises recklessly, kissing her. He feels restless, too eager and desperate, somehow, and Peter has to almost pull him off Elizabeth.
“It’s starting,” Peter says.
“Go,” Elizabeth says. “Go on, I’m packed – go.”
Neal feels almost dazed, and Peter has to manhandle him up the stairs. Neal turns back at the landing and sees Elizabeth gingerly tucking herself away, knot still swollen but starting to deflate in the absence of a tie. She’s reaching for the suitcase ready and packed by the door. As well-balanced and devoted to each other as Elizabeth and Peter are, even Elizabeth won’t be able to stay in the house while Neal’s in heat without trying to drive Peter off and take the Omega for herself. But as she reaches for the door handle, Neal finds himself whining in distress.
“She’ll be fine,” Peter growls, yanking Neal around to look at him. “Remember, Neal. We planned this. She’s going to the St. Regis. You helped her book the room, you talked to the concierge. Remember? Elizabeth’s not abandoning you. She’ll be right here, right back home where she belongs, as soon as your heat is done. Remember?”
Neal nods, though with difficulty. He does remember. He does. It’s just –
“I get it,” Peter says comfortingly. “Come on. Let’s go into our room.”
As always, Peter is right: Neal relaxes considerably once he’s properly denned up. Their room – and Neal still marvels at that: this is their room, not Peter-and-El’s room, not the breeding room, but just their room – has been rearranged somewhat to accommodate this heat. The bed’s been moved into a corner, so there are walls on two sides, and extra cloth has been tacked up over the windows so the lighting remains pleasantly dim and cave-like even when it’s bright outside. An extra folding table’s been set up to hold all they might need during Neal’s heat, food and water and towels and some sex toys that Elizabeth had arranged with a cheeky grin – Not that you’ll be wanting to get that creative, loves, the point is to procreate. The attached bathroom has been stocked up as well. The tub, modest though it is, suddenly looks incredibly attractive to Neal.
“You want to bathe? Okay, we’ll bathe,” Peter says equably, helping Neal unbutton his shirt with uncoordinated fingers.
Some Omegas do this, Neal dimly remembers as he relaxes in the tub, murmuring beneath the drag of a Peter-wielded washcloth. Something about cleansing themselves before a heat. Which had always seemed silly to Neal. Heats are messy. There’s slick and come and sweat all over the place, on your skin, on the sheets, on the walls and the carpets and the stack of clean towels. They’re primal and instinct-driven and a throwback to the old days when they were all doing this in caves. But here Neal is, wanting to be clean, so that when Peter touches him he’s not soiled in doing so.
Later maybe he’ll think about why he feels like he might soil Peter; but later he’ll be able to bury the thought, and accept Peter’s and Elizabeth’s reassurances to cover the doubt.
Now Peter coaxes him out of the tub when he starts to prune, dries him off and spreads him out on the bed, and Neal just relaxes and lets it all happen. He’s no good at letting go of control. Mostly. Heat is the exception to all his rules.
“Look at you, you’re practically glowing,” Peter says, running his hands down Neal’s sides, avoiding Neal’s few ticklish spots with the ease of long practice. “Especially here.” He drops a kiss on Neal’s stomach. “Must be something to that old ritual after all.”
Neal squirms, breathless from even that little touch. “Need you,” he says with some difficulty. Words will leave him soon, he thinks.
Peter tugs Neal’s thighs apart and rumbles approvingly. “I can see that,” he says. When he says it, it’s not denigrating or humiliating. Peter says it like it pleases him, and that pleases Neal, too.
When Peter bends down and puts his mouth on Neal, any thought of anything but pleasure flees.
“I’m back!” Elizabeth calls, swinging the front door open. “It was wonderful; honestly, Peter, I’m thinking I may even let you go twice in a row, that spa was amazing…” She comes to a halt, and her suitcase slides from her fingers to roll, forlorn and ignored, into the corner.
“I thought I leveled those tiles right last time,” Peter mutters from the kitchen, where he’s getting some pasta on to boil.
“Oh, hon,” Elizabeth breathes. She goes straight past Peter and to Neal, curled up on the couch, under a blanket, holding a cup of – “Is that coffee? Peter!” The look she gives Peter is betrayed.
“Decaf,” Peter says virtuously.
“Good.” Elizabeth sits down next to Neal and slides right under the blanket, crooning and touching Neal in as many places as possible. After three days Neal smells mostly of Peter; Elizabeth rectifies that, rubbing her scent off to mingle with Peter’s and bring the balance back into harmony. “Neal, you look amazing.”
“Peter says I’m glowing,” Neal tells her seriously. It’s possible he’s still a little heat-high.
“He’s absolutely right.” Elizabeth’s hands have found their way to Neal’s belly and rest there possessively. “Did you do it for us, sweetie? Are you carrying?”
“Tests won’t work right for another two weeks,” Peter says. He gives the red sauce another quick stir and then comes out to stand by the couch, drying his hands on a towel.
“Tests, bah.” Elizabeth dismisses them with a toss of her hair. “What do you think, Neal?”
Neal looks between them. Breathes their combined scents deep. Watches the sunlight catch against Elizabeth’s hair and gild Peter’s hands as they still, towel hanging forgotten. Despite his words about tests, he’s waiting to hear what Neal has to say.
He closes his eyes. Reaches down to that feeling inside himself – the one that he’d always labeled instinct. The one that had used to tell him that a mark was hooked, a forgery was going to pass, a con was going to be successful. It’s telling him the same thing now, and he feels the smile spreading across his face.
“Yeah,” Neal says, opening his eyes again. “I think we did it.”