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Into the Abyss

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Luke Blake tried not to walk too fast or too slow down the main hallway to the general’s office. He swung his arms a bit, thought better of it, and held them a bit tighter to his body. No, too stiff. Maybe if he changed his pace?

“Why are you walking weird?”

Luke flinched then turned his head and smiled at his cousin Matthew Blake, tilting his head up slightly, his brown eyes scanning his cousin, and felt his confidence shrivel up as it always did when faced with his perfect Alpha relative. It was hard not to when faced with the Adonis. Not that he called him that himself. That would just be silly. But he’d heard people call Matt that over the years behind his back. And Luke always agreed with them. With his tall 6’3 frame, piercing blue eyes, chiseled jaw, wavy dirty blonde hair, and that dimple that appeared every time he spoke, the term Adonis fit him perfectly. If Luke wasn’t related to Matt and knew what a wonderful personality existed behind that perfect face, he would have hated his cousin. But he didn’t. Matt was his hero, his role model, and in a way, older brother the whole twenty-three years of his life. He could never hate Matt.

So he smiled sheepishly and shook his head. “Just...nervous.”

Matt smiled that familiar encouraging smile and patted his shoulder the way he always did. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’s a routine meeting. He just probably want some updates. We’ll answer his questions, nod our heads, and be out of there in a jiff.”

Luke wanted to agree. He usually did. After all, Matt was usually right. But this time felt different. It may have been his father’s tone when he called him last night and told him about the sudden meeting. He sounded strained, worried. Which didn’t bode well for Luke.

He took a shuddering breath as they reached the doors to the office and stood straight, trying to match his cousin’s confident stance. Which was stupid. At 5’9 he could never match Matt’s height. But he could stand like him. He narrowed his eyes at the door while Matt raised his hand and knocked.

“Enter,” the voice inside boomed.

Matt gave him one last quick smile. “Into the dragon’s den we go!”

Well that wasn’t helpful, Luke groused as he followed Matt into the room. His eyes quickly looked around, his heart sinking further when he realized there was only one person in the room. Not good.

“Sit down you two,” General Lucas Blake said, his steely eyes boring into Luke’s and he could swear the old man could tell what he was thinking. So he tried to wipe his mind blank and cautiously sat down next to Matt. He saw Matt place his clasped hands on the table and quickly followed suit, sitting straight. He stared at the General, what he’d taken to calling him in his head since he gained the position twelve years ago, and felt himself shiver slightly as those blue eyes seemed to pierce into him. Even in his sixties, the General still looked intimidating. His hair was mostly grey than white, as if refusing to submit to time. Same went for his body as he seemed to tower over them even though he was sitting across the table. He was as tall as Matt and bulkier, his muscles still firm but showing signs of wear, making him the most intimidating person in Luke’s life. Besides his dad. But that was different. His dad was more-

“Where’s the other one?” Lucas asked, cutting off Luke’s train of thought, his pale blue eyes narrowed with displeasure.

“Probably on his way,” Matt replied calmly.

Luke didn’t move a muscle, knowing Matt’s answer was more than enough to satisfy the austere general. And apparently it did because they sat in silence for the next few minutes, no one so much as moving a muscle.

Suddenly, the door banged open and his other cousin, Jason, waltzed into the room, his shoulder length dark auburn hair in disarray, his military shirt unbuttoned over a blue shirt and his belt buckled wrong. As usual.

“Sorry I’m late,” Jason said yawning. “My alarm didn’t go off.”

Luke didn’t so much as turn his head as Jason plopped himself down on the chair next to him and leaned back, sitting comfortably and smiled at the general.

“Did I miss anything?” Jason asked cheerfully and Luke wanted to sigh, a familiar reaction whenever he had to listen to his older cousin. At twenty-five, he was two years older than Luke, which meant they should have been close. But there was something about Jason that never allowed them to get closer. Which suited Luke fine. He had Matt after all, and that was all he needed.

“I was just about to start,” Lucas said, glaring at Jason who only smiled more widely. “As you know, the Leonard family just solved a big espionage case. This will elevate them a lot in their status.”

“Yes, I heard about that sir,” Matt replied respectfully. “It was a big case. They really tried their best.”

Lucas’s gaze narrowed at Matt. “Praising the rival family isn’t exactly the best idea right now Matthew. This is their second case this month. While you three have none.”

“I’m almost done wrapping up a murder case,” Matt said. “I’m adding the last touches before I send out my Eagles.”

Lucas nodded approvingly, then turned his gaze to Jason. “And you?”

Jason flicked his hand, his voice reflecting his apathetic personality. “Oh, I’m still working on it. Big case and all. All those drugs everywhere. Might take a bit longer.”

Lucas frowned but didn’t say anything, already expecting that answer, and Luke felt the sweat on his back increase, knowing that he would be next. And sure enough, Lucas shifted his gaze to him, his eyes narrowed slightly. “And you? Luke?”

Luke swallowed, then cleared his throat for good measure. Last time he spoke to the general he’d squeaked a bit and his dad wasn’t happy about that. “I’m making progress. I’ve narrowed down the list of suspects who may have had access to the jewels.”

“May have had access?” Lucas drawled, cocking one salt and pepper colored eyebrow and it took all of Luke’ effort not to lick his lips nervously. His dad told him plenty of times how much of a tell that was.

“Yes sir. We need to shift through all the possibilities.”

Lucas sighed wearily and leaned back in his chair. Not a good sign. “Boys. I’m not going to lie to you. Our numbers aren’t great. Compared to the Cunningham and Leonard family, we solve only one-third of the cases they do. We can at least say we’re doing better than the Mortimer and Towper families. If they beat us that would just be….” Lucas shuddered and shook his head. “Anyway, we need some drastic changes.”

Luke didn’t like the sound of that. His eyes flicked between his cousins, trying to gauge if they felt as anxious as he did, but Matt’s expression remained passive and Jason was playing with one of the buttons on his uniform.

“Jason, your father is going to talk to you after this. He came up with a good idea and will tell you all about it.”

“Can’t wait,” Jason drawled, his eyes still glued to his shirt.

“Matthew, I’m assigning you a new team of Eagles. Maybe that will help you pick up the pace a bit.”

“Yes sir.”

“And Luke,” Lucas paused for a second and this time, Luke couldn’t stop his tongue when it flicked out, licking his bottom lip. “You seem to be struggling a bit in getting your cases completed. I know you’re doing your best and being very thorough, but we aren’t getting the results we need. Your father and I think you need a change of scenery a bit. Maybe get some polish. Try a new environment.”

Luke didn’t like the sound of this. Not at all. And as the general spoke, he could hear the pounding in his head growing louder and louder.

“We’re sending you to Orpheus.”

His brain exploded. The waves rushed through and he couldn’t hear anything. He saw Lucas’s lips move but no sounds reached him. They were sending him to Orpheus? He was being cast out? Rejected? But...no! That wasn’t what he wanted! No!

“No!”

Lucas stopped talking, the waves stopped rushing, and Luke realized he’d spoke aloud. Well crap.

“Excuse me?”

“With all due respect...sir,” Luke said, unable to stop his voice from trembling. “I..don’t think sending me to Orpheus is the best solution. After all, the crimes there are different.”

“Exactly. We think those will suit you better. The base there reached out to various cities in Dracus, asking for any officials we can send. We thought it would be a good fit for you. When you’re ready, you can of course, come back.”

Luke wanted to scream some more, tell everyone that he wasn’t a failure, that he was just as hard-working and good as everyone else. But his mouth wouldn't move.

“Grandfather,” Matt said and Luke quickly turned to look at him, hoping his childhood hero would somehow be able to help him. “Sending Luke away might not be the best idea. We can support him here. Give him more training. More advice.”

“And who will do that? You?” Lucas shook his head and Luke’s heart dropped to his stomach. “No. You are busy enough as it is. Your second cousin Gareth is graduating and can take Luke’s place for now. It’s done. The paperwork is already filed. They expect you there next week.”

And just like that, it was over. Luke’s career in the Plutus military. He wanted to hang his head in shame but sat straight instead, knowing that was what was expected of him. “Yes sir. I will do my best there sir.”

Lucas nodded and Luke once against cursed that he was born a Beta while taking on all the responsibilities of a Blake, ones he couldn’t do as a Beta in an Alpha dominant world.

 

 

Matt stood outside Luke’s aparmtent door then finally knocked.

“Its open,” Luke called out.

Matt quickly stepped into the apartment, closing and locking the door behind him. All he could think about as they left their grandfather was comforting his forlorn younger cousin. He’d tried to talk to him when they left, but Luke said he had to pack and walked away, quickly. He knew he was running away and Matt just wanted to give him a big hug, just like he used to when they were kids.He looked at his Beta cousin who was avoiding his eyes as he packed some of his trinkets into his luggage. No. They weren’t kids anymore. A hug wouldn’t solve anything now.

“I’m sorry Luke,” Matt said softly.

“Hey, it’s fine,” Luke said, his voice full of fake cheer. “Might be nice to get away for awhile you know. See what other parts of Dracus are like. Who knows? I might even like it there.”

Matt waited for Luke to look at him, but the Beta kept his head down, thrusting more possessions into his bag. He saw him toss a rag inside and sighed, realizing that Luke was so heartbroken he didn’t even know what he was doing.

His heart went out to his twenty-three year-old cousin, the same way it always did while they were growing up. He couldn’t help it. At twenty-seven, he was the oldest with Jason the second oldest at twenty-five. They were all only children, all related to the main Blake family through their fathers, and he felt like their older brother. While Jason rejected him long ago and made it clear he had no interest in anything Matt had to offer, Luke was different. He was always more sensitive, more emotional. And Matt was always more than willing to give him a comforting hug or lecture, anything to make his younger cousin smile.

Oh, when life was less complicated and a simple lollipop could fix everything.

“Yeah. Who knows, you might like it there,” Matt said cheerfully, taking the rag out of Luke’s bag and placing it on the counter.

Luke stilled, his eyes on the ground and Matt placed his hands on his shoulder, waiting for the Beta to finally look up at him. “You’ll be OK. You’ll be away from it all. Fresh start. And I’ll come visit. I promise.”

Luke smiled tremulously and nodded. “You better.”

“Now, let’s pack stuff you actually need,” Matt said, pulling out the glass cube Luke shoved in his bag.

The Beta winced and looked into the contents. “Yeah. Might want to start over actually.”

Two hours later, Matt felt a bit better as he drove back to the base form Luke’s apartment. They all lived in the luxurious Blake apartment building fifteen minutes away from the base, making it easier for the family to have emergency meetings, which they often had. Each apartment was almost identical. Three bedrooms, two spacious living rooms, a study, a giant kitchen, balcony, and four bathrooms. They were also decorated similarly, unless the person wanted to add their own personal touches. Like Matt. Just like every other Blake, once he reached eighteen, he was given his own apartment, a few floors away from his parent’s, given the number of a decorator, a catalogue, and told to do as he wished. He’d wasted no time in making it his own, and when Luke got his, he followed suit. He didn’t know what Jason did, but given how apathetic and careless the guy was, he probably just had his secretary handle it all. Except his gym. Lord knows if Jason wasn’t out partying, sleeping, or eating, he was working out, which is why he was stockier than Matt despite being an inch shorter. Then again, Matt didn’t exercise too much, preferring to remain more lean than built.

Matt frowned as he thought about Jason, the black sheep in their trio, and wondered once again if he could do anything to help his cousin. But he’d reached out to him so many times and in different ways over the years and nothing good ever came out of it. Matt shook his head, turning his thoughts to the person who really did need him and suppressed a sigh.

Luke seemed a bit better when he left and Matt promised to come spend time with him every day before he left. He felt a lump in his throat at the thought of his little cousin moving across the country. They had always lived only two minutes away from each other. It was going to take some getting used to.

Matt walked into the foyer leading to his office and paused when he caught sight of his secretary, his breath catching slightly. As usual, the Omega looked gorgeous. His hair was a perfect shade of chestnut brown that complimented his hazel eyes to perfection. There was a soft pink tinge to his cheeks, reminding Matt of a baby cupid. He certainly had the mouth for it. Even after working together for over a year, Matt still couldn’t get used to the sight of his secretary and always needed to pause for a second before he actually spoke to him.

Finally, Matt cleared his throat and walked in, smiling winningly. “Hi, Connor. Did I get any messages?”

Connor Lawrence shook his head, wearing that familiar stoic but professional expression on his face. “No sir. I already emailed you the profiles of the new Eagles who will be joining your team. I looked through them myself when HR sent them and they seem like a good group overall.”

Matt continued smiling down at the Omega who was still sitting in his seat, his face blank as he stared back at him. “You think so? Well, I’ll trust you then.”

Connor didn’t so much as blink at the subtle compliment, his tone still brisk as he answered. “You don’t have to take my word for it. You’re still the colonel. You have to make your own decision.”

Matt wanted to sigh in resignation, a reaction he always felt around Connor. “I’ll do that. Thanks.”

Quickly Matt entered his office and closed the door, shaking his head wearily as he sat down behind his desk. Did the Omega ever smile? Matt had tried everything he could to get to know him the last year, and so far, all he knew was he seemed to like the color blue. Because he wore lots of blue shirts. That’s it. And he wasn’t even sure if he liked the color or wore it since the colonel uniform was navy blue.

He’d tried asking the Omega questions about his favorite food, favorite book, if he saw the latest movies, but he always managed to avoid actually answering the simplest personal questions, turning the topic back to work, his professional tone and expression never changing.

He knew he should just leave it alone. If Connor didn’t want to reveal anything about himself that was his choice. But something about the stoic Omega preyed on his big brother instinct and he couldn’t seem to let it go. One way or another, he was finally going to find out something about the Omega, even if it was just how he drank his coffee.

 

 

Jason kept his stride at an even pace as he gamboled to his father’s office. The meeting with his grandfather went as expected. He said stuff. Jason nodded. Then he left. Same old same old. The fact that his father wanted to talk to him wasn’t alarming either. He always wanted to talk to him after his grandfather did, dissecting every move and word that was spoken in the meeting.

So Jason would do his thing, his dad would rant, call him a failure, a disappointment, whatever, and he’d go back to his office, pretend to do his work, and another day would go by. Just like the day before.

Jason reached his father’s office, ignored the secretary and turned the door knob and walked in without knocking.

“I’m here. Let’s get this over with.” Jason strolled to the set of chairs in front of his father’s desk and sat down, then shifted sideways so he lay with his back against an armrest and his legs draped on the other side.

His gaze lifted to his father and he smiled while his father gave him that familiar glare, his brown eyes piercing into Jason’s blue ones. Ah, some things never change.

“Sit properly,” Quinton Blake barked, his tone dripping with loathing as usual.

Jason sighed and shifted on the chair, slouching slightly.

“I heard you haven’t progressed at all on your case,” Quinton said.

“Not really. There’s a lot to go through you know. Gonna take some time.”

“You mean, it’ll take time for your Eagles to go through it.”

Jason could have argued but what was the point. His father knew he never actually worked on the cases. “Well, they know this stuff better than me. Might as well let them handle it.”

“Which is why I got you a new Eagle,” Quinton said, his face almost softening for the first time in years.

Jason felt a stirring of discomfort at the expression and he saw his father’s eyes travel behind him. Slowly, he sat up and turned in his seat, finally realizing there was another body in the room.

“Jason, meet Ren. He’s going to be your new head Eagle.”

Jason watched as the Beta walked forward and thought the name Ren suited him. The guy certainly looked like a crow with that black hair and his eyes a dark pool. His shirt and pants were all black too. Even his shoes. Did the guy have any clothes with actual color?

“You got me the grim reaper?” Jason drawled, smirking at the Beta as he got up and walked around him, inspecting him from head to toe. To his credit, the Beta didn’t even move, his expression blank while Jason slowly let his eyes rove over him. He was pretty small for a Beta. Barely 5’7. Most Betas he knew were about Luke’s height. He felt his confidence grow as he allowed his 6’2 frame to tower over the smaller Beta, his father’s pathetic latest attempt to reign him in. Like hell.

“Looks good. If you go to my office my secretary will give you full access. Enjoy.” Jason placed his hand on the Beta’s shoulder and pushed him down slightly for good measure before he left, whistling his way through the building.

 

“So,” Quinton said when the door closed behind the precious Blake grandson. “What do you think?”

“He’s exactly as you described him sir,” Ren replied, walking forward and stopping in front of his superior’s desk. He stood with his legs spread wide, hands clasped behind his back, his normal stance after years of training. He stared straight at Quinton, noting once again how little he looked like his son with his brown hair and brown eyes. His face was also harsher, more muscular while Jason could only be called beautiful. He heard the Alpha took after his Omega mother so it made sense.

“Think you can make something out of him?”

Ren pictured Jason’s long, wavy red hair, his lazy walk and cocky smile. His uniform unbuttoned over a regular T-shirt that showed off the muscles that had clearly been sculpted by hours at the gym. If Ren hadn’t grown up around Alphas and Beta who were more muscular than Jason and got their bulk through honest hard work, he would have been intimidated. Instead, the lean but well-muscled Alpha’s strength did not impress him one bit.

He smirked and looked down at Quinton. “Piece of cake.” After all, he loved nothing more than putting arrogant jerks in their place. He recalled the way Jason leered over him, using his height to try and intimidate his new babysitter and felt a thrum of excitement in his veins. This was going to be fun.

Chapter Text

Kiryn’s green eyes scanned the waiting crowd, his adrenaline spiking at the look of excitement on their faces. Some had signs with either the band’s name “The Archers,” or their symbol of an archer holding a guitar instead of a bow and arrow. Some had their faces and hair sprayed and painted in the dark green color of their band’s logo. He grinned, spotting many familiar faces in the crowd. This was going to be a night to remember.

He quickly flicked the curtain shut and turned to face Frit, flicking his almost shoulder length, curly black hair off his face. He was about to tell his fellow Omega how excited the crowd looked, when he saw how nervous Frit looked. His face was pale, forehead sweaty and he couldn’t seem to stop moving his lips, mouthing the words of one of their songs while he plucked the notes on his guitar.

Well, now that won’t do. Sure, this was their first big show, but no reason to get THAT nervous. After all, he wasn’t nervous. Not at all. It wasn’t like he hadn’t thrown up this morning. And last night. But that just meant all the nerves were out of his body now, and he could focus on the music.

Smiling brightly, Kiryn stepped forward and grabbed Frit’s hands, wrenching them off the guitar. Frit started and his eyes snapped up, level with Kiryn’s.

“Hey, let’s not go out.”

Frit blinked, then blinked again. Then his jaw dropped. “You’re kidding right? You know how hard we worked to get here? Why the hell would we back out now?”

Kiryn grinned mischievously and began to tow Frit towards the curtains, the Omega still too shocked by what Kiryn said to realize what his bandmate was doing.

“Well then, we don’t want to keep them waiting do we.” With that, Kiryn pulled Frit onto the stage, wrapping his arms around his friend’s shoulder and turning to face the crowd, smiling and waving while they cheered. He felt Frit stiffen next to him and tugged him forward, nodding in greeting as their bassist and drummer joined them from the other side of the stage.

“It’s now or never Frit. Let’s show them what we can do.” Kiryn looked at his friend and felt his adrenaline pumping overtime at the look on Frit’s face. His complexion was still pale but his face was set with determination, his eyes blazing with the same passion they all had, the one that got them to this point.

They nodded at each other then walked to their places, Frit on Kiryn’s left while Jaz stood on his right with his base. Kiryn winked at Tig as he settled in front of the drums and was glad when the Beta gave him that familiar cocky grin.

Kiryn stepped up to the mic, held up a hand, and the crowd grew silent.

“Thank you everyone, for coming out tonight. As you know, we’ve worked long and hard to be able to get to this point, and play at the best music concert hall in Orpheus!”

The crowd cheered and Kiryn paused before he continued.

“We’d like to thank the managers of Orpheus Concert Hall, for giving us this opportunity. But mostly, to you guys. If you hadn’t turned out, supported us, and stuck by us, we wouldn’t be here tonight.”

The crowd went crazy at that, chanting “Archers! Archers!” Kiryn nodded at Jaz and the bassist struck a cord and the crowd’s screams became deafening.

“Now, let’s have some fun!”

 

“You’re an ass you know that,” Frit mumbled as they walked down the street from the concert hall. “You could have warned me.”

“Thought it would be better to just get you out there,” Kiryn said lightly, skipping forward and turning to face his band, stepping lightly as he walked backwards. “And it worked didn’t it?”

Frit frowned but Tig laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Relax Frit. If you freaked on stage we would have helped. We wouldn’t completely trust Kiryn.”

“Oh yeah? You think I didn’t notice that you had me stand with him while you two ran off to the other side of the stage?”

Tig’s grin widened unabashedly while Kiryn laughed. Only Jaz showed some remorse and looked away, but Kiryn could still see the Alpha smiling slightly. He knew why the two had wanted Kiryn and Frit to stand together. As a fellow Omega and the brightest and most thoughtless guy in the group, they counted on him to calm their most nervous member. Problem was, his way of doing it didn’t always impress Frit.

“I’m just saying-”

“Would you stop!” Kiryn finally burst and stopped, his eyes shining brightly as he carefully looked everyone in the eye. “Can we just enjoy this moment. Our first performance at the Orpheus Concert Hall. Let that sink in.”

The other three looked at each other, their expressions contemplative. Suddenly, their eyes began to shine as well and they started to laugh. Even Frit. Soon, the four of them were walking enthusiastically down the street, clasping each other’s shoulders and laughing. Kiryn skipped ahead a bit and flipped lightly through the air. He turned and saw Tig’s eyes crinkle before the Beta also flipped, but backwards. Soon, the two were performing acrobatic movements while Frit and Jaz cheered them on, requesting their favorite stunts. The street they chose that led them home was deserted, which wasn’t unusual, so the group were able to relax, hollering and clapping while Tig and Kiryn continued flipping, jumping, and twisting through the air, using street lamps and nearby buildings to run up, grab, or flip off of.

“I’m done,” Tig finally said fifteen minutes later, panting heavily. “You win!”

Kiryn raised his arms to the sky and crowed happily. “I’m the champ!”

“Yes, yes you are,” Jaz said, smiling at him affectionately. “Unfortunately, I’m going to have to break up the party guys. Vin’s waiting for me.”

“Nice of her to let you come out and play for a bit,” Kiryn said, only half sarcastic.

Already used to Kiryn’s sometimes snide comments, Jaz just smiled. “Hey. Gotta share the Jaz love.”

The other three groaned while Jaz laughed and Kiryn pushed him away, down the street to where Jaz and his wife lived. “Just go, you corny useless dork.”

With one last quick smile and a small salute, Jaz ambled off, his steps lighter.

“I have to go too,” Frit said, his tone and expression apologetic. “I have an early shift tomorrow and need to get some sleep.”

“Will you be able to?” Tig asked, raising his eyebrows.

“I’m gonna try.”

Kiryn chuckled and nodded to the left, where Frit lived with his parents. “Go, go. We’ll talk later.”

Soon, it was just Kiryn and Tig and the Omega began to feel some of the excitement of the evening leaving his body.

“I don’t have to go home yet,” Tig said cheerfully.

“Not working this weekend?”

“Nah. Decided to work an extra shift next weekend instead.”

Kiryn eyed the Beta out of the corner of his eye, and knew he was once again being considerate. Well, who was he to reject a kind gesture?

“I feel like getting some ice cream?”

Tig groaned and shook his head. “I can’t. No more ice cream.”

“I’ll order two. One for me, one for you.”

“And eat them both?” Tig said dryly.

Kiryn chuckled and grinned widely, “Exactly!”

Tig shook his head and chuckled. “You really are a bottomless pit you know that?”

“It’s fine. I have a high metabolism anyway.”

 

 

Connor added the last piece of data to the sheet Matt requested, saved the file and closed it. He hit the intercom on the side of his desk, connecting him to the Alpha’s phone in the neighbouring room.

“That file you wanted on the rate of thefts in Orpheus is completed.”

“Thanks,” Matt’s voice boomed back. His voice was always booming. He didn’t know if the Alpha realized that. “I appreciate you doing the extra work.”

“It’s no trouble,” Connor replied blithely. He waited for Matt to say something else. He always seemed to have something to say, but the intercom went silent. So Connor turned his attention back to his computer, to tasks that actually had to do with Plutus.

He knew why Matt asked for that data, which is why he didn’t mind doing the extra work. Tomorrow Luke would be leaving for Orpheus. The two had always been close and it didn’t surprise Connor that Matt was nervous about his youngest cousin going off alone across the country. Where Matt couldn’t watch out for him. While Connor didn’t mind helping the nervous Alpha, he also felt it was about time Matt cut the strings. He couldn’t protect Luke forever. The guy was twenty-three for cripes sake! It was about time he left the nest.

Of course, that was easier said than done, considering the family structure in Plutus. Just like other elite families, the Blakes lived together in the same building, worked together, and had big family ‘gatherings’ once a week, as if seeing each other on almost a daily basis wasn’t enough.

Connor realized he was frowning and smoothed his features, keeping his expression passive and professional. He was almost done with a report on the new Eagles’ training when Matt’s door swung open and the Alpha stepped out. Connor continued typing, waiting to see if Matt was just going out or actually needed him for something else.

He felt the Alpha’s presence at his desk and immediately stopped typing, turning in his chair, and giving his superior his full attention. “Do you need something?”

Matt stared at him and Connor was beginning to feel annoyed by the Alpha’s silence when he finally spoke.

“I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind having lunch with me?”

Connor suppressed an annoyed sigh. It wasn’t the first time Matt had tried to get friendly, and he knew it was just the Alpha’s personality, but he was here to work. He didn’t care about socializing, especially not with a superior Alpha.

“For work!” Matt said hurriedly before Connor could open his mouth. “I’m having a lunch meeting with someone from the Cunningham family next week and wanted to pick somewhere new and interesting. We always meet at the same places, and it’s getting stale. Don’t want them thinking we don’t have any innovation.”

Matt smiled at the end of his speech, which sounded so rehearsed it made Connor want to roll his eyes. But he didn’t. Instead he nodded, switched off his computer and got out of his seat.

“I think I know a good place.”

Matt’s eyes crinkled. “I had a feeling you would.”

Twenty minutes later, after a silent and tense car ride they arrived at the restaurant. Well, not really silent. Matt could never be quiet after all. He’d prattled on the whole way, talking about the new Eagles and how they were doing. Connor took some notes down, since it was technically about work.

“This place looks nice,” Matt said as they sat down, nodding appreciatively. “Not too ostentatious. The decor is simple but elegant. I’m guessing the food is superb.”

“It is,” Connor said absently, opening the menu and began pointing out options to Matt. “I recommend this one, and this one, and this one. They suite different palates. And the ingredients are fresh and flavorful. The Cunninghams will find no problem with this place.”

Matt smiled. When was he not smiling? “I knew I asked the right person. You order. I’ll follow your recommendations.”

Connor nodded and waved the waiter over, ordering a chicken dish and a pasta. Once the waiter was gone, Connor placed his hands in his lap, waiting for Matt to start talking. Instead, Matt stared at him, his gaze steady. It didn’t take long for Connor to begin to feel uncomfortable under the Alpha’s intense stare. He almost shifted in his seat, but held himself back. It wasn’t the first time he was put in an uncomfortable situation. He could handle this.

When Matt still didn’t speak, Connor decided it was up to him to break the silence. “I finished the report you wanted on the new Eagles. They’re coming along nicely, but some of them need more training.” He reached a hand out for his phone on the table, ready to read the recommendations he put in the ShareDrive this morning.

“Later. I don’t want to talk about work right now.”

Connor froze, and he could feel his professional mask begin to slip. “Oh. I was under the impression this was a work lunch. We can’t really have a work lunch if we don’t talk about work.”

Connor almost bit his tongue at the sardonic tone he couldn’t hide.

Matt grinned and leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table. “Is that sarcasm from the stoic Connor Lawrence?”

Connor cleared his throat and looked down at the table, moving his fork to the side to give himself a moment to compose himself. It wasn’t like him to let his work persona slip. He’d done well at keeping it up for the last year. But he’d never felt this uncomfortable before and it was a bit difficult.

“I apologize.”

“No please, don’t apologize. I’m glad to see you have a sarcastic side.”

Connor flicked his eyes up, feeling a pang of annoyance at the almost gleeful look on Matt’s face. At twenty-seven, Matt was only a year older than him. It was bad enough the Alpha was his boss, rich, and pampered. He also had to be older. It was like the universe took his polar opposite, someone much superior and better than him, and forced him to look at him every day.

Taking a deep breath, Connor tried to collect himself again, bottling up all his frustration. “It’s unprofessional to be sarcastic, especially to my superior.” Connor almost choked on the word but forced it out. It was true after all. Matt was his superior. And as far as bosses went, he wasn’t that bad. Sure he tried to talk to Connor about stuff not related to work, but otherwise, the Alpha worked hard and was kind to everyone. Really, Connor should feel lucky he had him, instead of Jason. He almost shuddered as an image of the lazy Alpha flashed through his mind and he shoved it aside.

“You cold?”

Damn, he really needed to get a grip on himself. “I’m fine. Look, the food’s here.”

Quickly and efficiently, the waiters placed the plates on the table and left. Almost desperately, Connor seized on the topic that literally presented itself on a platter. “This chicken is cooked with a rich lemon and herb sauce. They pick the herbs fresh from their garden, which is one of the main selling points of this restaurant.”

And just like that, Connor wasted a good fifteen minutes describing the food and the reasons why this restaurant was ideal while he and Matt ate. He tried to give Matt all the food so he could sampe it, but the Alpha refused, saying Connor had to eat as well since it was his lunch time anyway.

“That was excellent. Thank you Connor,” Matt said as they left the restaurant and started driving back to the base.

“You’re welcome. And thank you for the meal.”

“It was no problem. Couldn’t very well eat myself and let you starve.”

He’d hardly starve if he ate his lunch late when they got back, Connor thought grously. What did he care if Connor ate on time or not? Really, the Alpha should just mind his own business.

“Well, since we now had one meal out together, think we can do it again?” Matt asked cheerfully and any sentimental thoughts Connor had about his boss flew out the window.

“If it’s work related and won’t take long,” Connor said, his tone almost ice cold.

“I thought maybe dinner at some point. That way you won’t lose out on your work hours. I know you have a lot to do”

An image of Devon flashed through his mind and Connor’s hands curled into fists. “If you want to have a meal for work, I prefer it occur during work hours.”

Matt paused and Connor knew he couldn’t hide his ire when he spoke, and let some of his scent leak through, making his point as clear as possible. Was the Alpha finally offended? Was he going to burst out at him?

“Sorry. I wasn’t thinking,” Matt said, his tone soft. “Of course you value your personal time. I apologize.”

He should have felt better. He won after all. Got an Alpha from the Blake family to apologize to him. Instead, he felt ashamed. And he didn’t want to analyze why. He never did like looking too closely at his feelings after all. That would be a dark abyss he just didn’t want to step into.

“No problem. Work is work after all.”

“Yeah,” Matt agreed softly. “Work is work.”

Connor wanted to respond but couldn’t think of anything. So he nodded respectfully, and remained silent for the rest of the car ride. As soon as they arrived at the base, he said he had some paperwork to get back to and walked back into their building, heading to his desk and wiping the entire experience from his memory.

Chapter Text

Jason was having a nice dream. Well, he thought it was nice. He certainly felt it was given how he felt the second he woke up. He knew he was in a deep sleep as usual when he felt the world become ice cold, and really really wet.

“Fuck!” Jason screamed as he jumped out of bed, his eyes still blurry and his mind in shock. He stood next to his bed, naked, dripping wet and could only stare in disbelief at the puddle of water on his grey silk sheets.

“Finally got you up. Get dressed. We have work to do.”

It took Jason a couple of seconds to realize someone was speaking, someone in his room. And it was a voice he didn’t know. Slowly, still waking up from that probably nice dream, he looked up at the source of the voice…and saw that new Beta Eagle his dad introduced him to last week. He blinked a few times while the black clad Beta stood in the doorway, next to the big white couch he placed to create a seating area with a TV and coffee table. It was like something out of a nightmare, complete with a ghost since the Beta’s skin appeared stark white against the all black clothes and hair.

“What?” Not the smartest response, but it was the best he could do given the circumstances. No one came in to his apartment besides the maid. Ever. Not even his father. So he couldn’t fathom that someone was actually in his bedroom!

His shock gave way to fury as he realized that this uppity newb was invading his personal space and he stood straight, flexing his muscles and eyed the Beta leisurely from the top of his head, taking in his jet black straight hair, pale skin, almond shaped pitch black eyes, slightly large buttoned up military issue black shirt and fitted pants, all the way to his standard issue black military boots. Then he sneered.

“Do you own anything that’s not black?” he taunted.

The Beta seemed unfazed as he replied, his expression almost appearing bored, which made Jason feel even more irritated. Here he was. Almost twice the Beta’s weight, and most of it pure muscle, and almost seven inches taller. And yet, the Beta wasn’t impressed.

“Not really. If you’re done inspecting my wardrobe we should get going. I went over the case the last couple of days and we have a lot to do.”

Feeling back on steady footing, hearing a phrase he’s heard a hundred times before, he crossed his arms and leaned back slightly, his sneer giving way to an arrogant smirk. When he spoke, he was happy to find he spoke in his customary drawl. “I’m sure there is. And I’m sure you’re eager to get back to it. Don’t let me keep you.”

He waited for the Beta to step back, leave, say something. But he simply stood there, staring at his face.

Jason fought the urge to say something. He was used to these silent matches and usually won. But there was something about this crow, his name was linked to the bird if he recalled, that unnerved him. He didn’t know if it was the all black appearance, or the bored and bland expression on his face or relaxed attitude. But he was different from the people Jason was used to who raged at him to get his shit together. Angry people he could handle. But this cold slab of stone was something he had never encountered before.

His hands tightened on his forearms as he fought the urge to break first. Surely he’d say something. Any second now. Any second-

“Would you fucking say something!” Jason burst out, his jaw clenched at his loss in their first battle.

The Beta didn’t even have the good graces not to gloat, his face breaking into a cocky smirk and he crossed his arms as well, mirroring Jason’s stance which increased The Alpha’s irritation tenfold. This was not how it was supposed to go. Not at all.

“And what would I say that would satisfy you? Because if you’re waiting for me to say ‘Oh sorry for bothering you, I’ll just leave and get back to doing your job’ then think again. Your dad hired me to be your lead Eagle, which means I provide guidance and support. Nowhere in that job description does it say I have to do a Panther’s job.”

It was the longest sentence the Beta has said so far and Jason was shocked to realize how soft his voice was. It wasn’t feminine or anything, and it definitely wasn’t like an Omega’s delicate tone. But it was lighter than he expected from this arrogant and overconfident Beta. He thought it would be deeper, rougher. Nothing about him seemed right. He was short, soft voiced, and not very muscular from what he could see under those baggy clothes. And yet, he stood in front of Jason, a strong, tall, superior Alpha…and didn’t seem cowed at all. Where the hell did this prick come from?

“If my dad hired you, then he told you what to expect. If you thought you could get me out of bed by splashing water from who knows where, then –“

“Oh, I know exactly where it came from,” The Beta interrupted. Next thing Jason knew, he leaned down, his hands reaching for something hidden behind the couch next to him and pulled it out. It took Jason a couple of second to realize what it was. When he did he screamed.

“You used the cleaning bucket on me!”

The Beta held the bucket up, his expression full of mock innocence. “Don’t worry. I threw out the stale, dirty water that was in it.”

Jason’s hands lowered and clenched at his side. He longed to launch himself at the Beta, but beating the guy to a pulp would be a hollow victory. It was a given he’d beat him in brute strength. If he wanted the Beta to bow down to him, he had to use his words, his brain. He’d never had a problem with that before. After all, he had sharpened his dry wit over the years dealing with his family, especially his father. But for some reason, all the wit and flare that usually came to him naturally failed him now. He couldn’t think of a thing to say.

The Beta smirked again and tossed the bucket to the side. “As I was saying, we have-”

 

“Like hell I’m going to go to work like this?” Jason thundered.

 

“Of course not,” the Beta said, his jaw dropping in mock horror. “You’re naked and wet. You need a shower. And clean clothes. I had your uniform pressed and ready yesterday and it’s hung up in your closet. I’ll just wait while you get ready.”

 

With that, the Beta turned around and began to walk out the door.

 

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Jason screamed, hating how furious and out of control he sounded. He was never out of control. Never. He’d learned the hard way how to control every expression, every emotions. And yet, within minutes this Beta broke through years of training. How?

 

The Beta turned in the doorway, and smirked again. “It’s Ren. Looking forward to working with you.”




Ren heard Jason scream obscenities as he closed the door behind him, not even bothering to hold back his smile. That had gone well. As expected, the Alpha had been in a deep sleep and none of Ren’s efforts to wake him up normally worked. Not that he at all minded going off and finding the filthiest bucket he could find and dumping ice cold water on the lazy, self-entitled, Alpha’s head. It sent the right message on how Ren expected their relationship to be. And he’d certainly gotten the Alpha’s attention. Which was the whole point.

 

Ren still remembered his first meeting with Quentin last week. The whole process of coming to Plutus and working here had been a mad rush. He still didn’t know how it happened, only that a lieutenant general in Plutus saw his file and wanted him. Next thing he knew, he was on a train to Plutus, excitement thrumming in his veins as he left his past behind.

 

“My son is lazy, spoiled, useless, and doesn’t give a crap,” Quentin had told him last week when Ren first arrived. “He never reacts to anything anyone says. That’s why when I heard about you I thought maybe you could whip him into shape. I heard you’re good but your methods are ...unconventional.”

 

“You can say that,” Ren replied mildly, eyeing the Alpha and trying to get a read on him. He seemed put together, trying to appear in control. But there were little tells, the way his left eye twitched, his fingers clenched each other, that belied a raging, maybe even violent, temper. He had to tread lightly here. This guy was technically his new boss after all. “I might go to extremes to get the job done, but I promise you it will work.”

 

Quentin smiled widely at that, his body finally relaxing and chuckled. “That’s what I wanted to hear. I don’t care what you do, or how you do it, but you get that son of mine to do his job.”

 

Hence, the bucket. Which was only the start if Jason continued to be difficult. Speaking of difficult. Ren waited a couple more minutes then walked over to the window where he had a clear view of the neighbouring building. He watched unsurprised as Jason, now fully dressed, launched himself from his bedroom window using a grappling hook and landed on the next roof over.

 

Ah children. So predictable, Ren thought as he Jason ran across the roof to the door and disappeared into the building. His grinned again and turned around, already planning how he would tackle his troubling new babysitting duty tomorrow.






Luke took a deep breath to settle his nerves. When that didn’t work, he started to sing one of his favorite songs. He was on the second chorus and was finally able to pretend he was anywhere but here when the driver’s voice broke into his thoughts.

 

“That’s the base Colonel Blake,” his Beta driver, he forgot his name, said.

 

Luke groaned inwardly and opened his eyes, knowing he couldn’t deny reality any longer. Well, this was going to be his home for the next year at least, if it went according to his father’s plan. Might as well get used to it. His flight arrived on time this afternoon and he’d waited a good thirty minutes before his driver finally showed up, laughing apologetically that he expected the plane to be late. Luke still didn’t understand what he meant and didn’t bother finding out. He’d simply nodded regally, got into the car, and proceeded to lose himself in his thoughts. They’d only been driving for about fifteen minutes, so he was confused how they’d reached the base so quickly.

 

He looked out the window, and his heart sank further. While the Plutus base was fortified behind a fifteen foot concrete wall, the Orpheus base had a simple fence around the perimeter. Anyone could just hop over it. He eyed the top of the fence, trying to discern if there was at least some barbed wire and electricity running along the top, but it was too far for him to see. His eyes travelled further back, taking in the dilapidated buildings, paint peeling off here and there, windows a bit grimy, with some cracks here and there. He almost let his impassive mask slip when he compared the ramshackle buildings to the austere and gorgeous structures in Plutus, with their shiny windows, fresh paint that was glossed over every years and well kept lawn.

 

Why? Why did they send him here? Did he really fail that badly? Was he that bad at being a Blake?

 

“We’re almost at your apartment,” the driver said, and for once, Luke was glad at the irritating driver’s presence. His statement helped Luke stop his self-pitying train of thoughts and allowed him recall why he was here. To prove to everyone that no matter where he was, he was still a Blake grandson, still a Panther and a Colonel.

 

“Excellent. I want to freshen up a bit then head to the base.”

 

The driver laughed again, and again, Luke couldn’t understand why. “No one is expecting you to go today. You just got in! Just relax, take a bath. Order some food. You can get to work tomorrow.”

 

Luke frowned, wondering why the rude driver thought it was his place to tell his superior what to do.

 

“I can relax tonight. I want to check my office today,” Luke said, using his most commanding voice, one his father had drilled into him since his youth.

 

The driver sighed, clearly not impressed by Luke’s show of authority. “Up to you. I’ll just give the base a call while you shower. They’re gonna be so surprised.”

 

If his driver’s attitude truly reflected life in Orpheus, then it was going to be an even tougher transition than he thought. No wonder their military needed all the help it can get.

 

Ten minutes later, his driver opened the door to his apartment with a big flourish, which Luke found completed unnecessary given how tame the apartment looked.

 

“I’ll just wait for you downstairs. Your stuff is already unpacked and everything.”

 

Luke silently closed the door, eyeing his new home. While it wasn’t as fancy as the Blake apartments he’d lived in his whole life, it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. At least the paint was fresh. The boards only squeaked a bit as he walked across the small living room and into the bedroom. He didn’t ship any of his furniture, and he was glad he didn’t. The expensive leather would have clashed with the well-used feel of the apartment. The couch looked comfy enough, the furniture all made out of wood instead of glass and metal. Really, it wasn’t too bad. His father would hate it though. If he asked for pictures…

 

Quickly, Luke took a shower and headed back to the car, eager to see the base and find out what exactly was waiting for him in his new life in Orpheus.




An hour later, Luke wanted to call Matt and cry that he wanted to go home. He didn’t know what was worse. First, there was the puddle he’d stepped into as soon as he entered the admin building.

 

“Sorry,” the receptionist said, not even looking sheepish. “There’s a leak in the bathroom and the water made it to here over night. They’re working on it.”

 

Then there was the actual walk to his office. The inside was just as worn out as the exterior. The corridors were also narrow, enough for two people to walk side by side comfortably, but not wide enough the way a building should be. He kept praying his office would at least be….more civilized. But all hopes were dashed when his driver, whose name was Neil he found out when the receptionist called out to him, pointed at a door with his name stencilled on it. It looked like something out of a bad old detective movie.

 

“That’s your office,” Neil said cheerfully, again gesturing grandly. Did everything have to be a big production?

 

“Where’s my secretary?”

 

Neil continued smiling as he opened the door, and stepped in. “Meet your new secretary, Patricia. Patricia, this is Colonel Lucas Blake.”

 

It was at this moment that Luke wanted to call his father, tell him he’d failed, get on the first plane back to Plutus and just give up any military ambitions he had. Patricia stood up from her desk, which was placed off to the right and parallel to what he assumed was his desk and facing the doorway. She was clearly an Omega, which was at least normal. She held her hand out to Luke and he reluctantly shook it, using all his will power not to show any reaction on his face.

 

He was sharing his office. With his secretary. Never in his life had Luke ever had to share his space with anyone. As a single child he always had his own room. Then he got his own apartment. Then his own office. He liked having his own personal space. He could relax. Let his mask slip and just be himself. But he couldn’t do that. Not now. With Patricia in the room, he’d always have to be on his guard. Make sure he always wore his Colonel Blake persona- expression, body language, voice and all. The thought terrified Luke and it took all his effort to remain impassive and nod politely as Patricia took him around the base.

 

He recalled very little of the tour. Mostly he wanted to block it out. It was so...small. And used. And ...not home.

 

“Tomorrow, you’ll get to meet the other Cats and your Sparrows.”

 

It took Luke a few seconds to understand what Patricia meant. And when he did, he couldn’t stop his jaw from dropping, his voice coming out in a croak.

 

“My...what?”

 

Patricia laughed and waved her hand dismissively in the air. “Oh right. You call them Panthers and Eagles in Plutus. Makes you all sound very vicious. We don’t do that here. After all, the job of the Cats and Sparrows is to keep the peace. No point in making you sound intimidating.”

 

I’m in hell.

Chapter Text

“Good morning people of Orpheus. It’s a beautiful day outside this wonderful Monday morning with-”

 

Kiryn slammed his hand onto his phone, silencing the grating sound of the chirpy little-

 

With a groan, Kiryn sat up, staring at the wall behind his bed blankly. A few seconds later he slid out of bed and staggered to the bathroom, where he stared at the sink for a few moments before he finally turned on the faucet and splashed some cold water on his face. When that didn’t work he filled the sink with water then thrust his face into it, swishing it right and left repeatedly, his eyes shut tight.

 

“Phaw!” he gasped, tossing his head back, some of his hair damp because he forgot to tie it back. Again. Man he hated mornings. If he could, he’d sleep in till noon everyday. But hey, he needed to make a living so there we go.

 

He quickly gobbled down a bowl of cereal and a banana, gotta stay healthy, took a quick shower and blow dried his hair, no reason to look like a wet rat, grabbed his guitar and left his apartment.

 

As soon as he stepped outside and felt the sun’s rays he stopped, took a deep breath and smiled. “It’s  good to be alive!” He said cheerfully, nodding his head and waving happily to his neighbours who were on their way to their jobs as well.

 

“Good morning Mrs. Dra, you look great today. Yo, Pi, you owe me a game of cards. And an ice cream, you loser.” Kiryn chuckled as Mrs. Dra blushed and waved him on while Pi shook his head, a glum look on his face. He looked down at his watch and realized, once again, he was going to be late. The owner said she’d fire him if he was late again. Not that he believed her, but he didn’t want to upset the Beta, so he took off running, using some alleys as shortcuts.

 

He was proud when ten minutes later he skidded to a halt at the rear door to the cafe. Made it! He thought with delight. He reached his hand out to turn the doorknob...and was surprised when he found it locked. That’s weird. Usually Bri came in early. Was the Beta late? Sick? He was about to head to the front of the store when the knob rattled and the door swung open, revealing the frustrated Beta’s face.

 

“What?” Kiryn protested. “I’m not late. Look.” He stretched out his arm but Bri just snorted.

 

“I know what time it is. That’s not the issue. The issue is-”

 

“That you’re worried every morning whether I’ll show up on time or not,” Kiryn finished off. “I know. Which is why I’m trying extra hard to make sure I’m here on time. I don’t want you to worry Bri. How does that help me?”

 

Bri sighed wearily  and moved aside, letting the Omega enter. “Why do I keep you around? There are so many other musicians slash waiters I could ask.”

 

Kiryn gave her shoulders a squeeze. “Because you love me.”

 

Bri shook her head and cracked an unwilling smile. “Just help me get set up.”

 

Kiryn stepped back, struck a military pose and saluted her. “Yes ma’am!” With one last cheeky grin, Kiryn left the back room, placing his guitar near the door on his way out. His adrenaline still pumping from his run, he quickly and efficiently got the cafe set up, removing the chairs which were placed on the table overnight onto the floor, adjusting them so they looked just right. Then he grabbed the napkins, utensils and glasses, placing them expertly in front of each chair.

 

“Done!” he called out when he finished.

 

“Thanks,” Bri said, coming out with a fresh tray of muffins which she proceeded to place in the display case on the counter. “Can you unlock the door. The morning rush is about to start.”

 

“Sure.” Kiryn skipped over to the door, unlocking it with a big flourish and greeted the first customer with a smile. “Thanks for waiting kind sir. Please, enjoy your time at our establishment.”

 

Tig shook his head as he entered. “How you manage to come up with a weird greeting every morning is beyond me.”

 

Kiryn placed his hands on his head, following his friend to his favorite table near the windows. “The creativity. It just keeps flowing out. Must express. Must tease Tig.”

 

The Beta shook his head. “Just get me a banana muffin, coffee, and a ham and cheese sandwich.”

 

Kiryn’s smile dropped and he gave Tig a pitying look. “Man you’re such a grouch in the morning.”

 

Tig barked. “Ha! That’s rich coming from you!”

 

He was about to shoot a comeback when the door opened and another customer entered and Kiryn pasted on his customary cheerful smiled. “Good morning. Welcome to the ‘Melody Cafe.’”

 

The next three hours passed in a blur with Kiryn serving all the tables, chatting with the customers he knew, greetings the customers he didn’t. Although his true passion was music, this wasn’t so bad. He liked talking to people, especially the grumpy ones. He always did his best to get them out of their funk and felt a sense of accomplishment when they left with a smile.

 

“Good job Kiryn,” Bri said as the customer flow died down, people already at work. “Clean up and we’ll take a break.”

 

Kiryn didn’t want to take a break. He could feel his hands itch, his mind and body already excited about what he would be doing in an hour. He looked at the clock, wishing the hour would just fly by.

 

“Or, you can clean up then go warm up in the back room,” Bri said, eyeing his fidgety demeanour.

 

Kiryn grinned. “You spoil me Bri.”

 

“You have no idea,” she muttered back gently.

 

Quickly, Kiryn removed the last of the dirty plates, cups, and utensils, dumping them into the dishwasher and hitting the start button. With only two of them, and the small size of the cafe, they could get away with washing everything in the machine between the busy hours, instead of hiring a busboy. Not that they could afford it. But he didn’t have to think about that now. Now, it was his time.

 

In his own world already, his spirit almost detached from his body, he made his way to the back room, reverently removed his guitar from it’s case and sat on a chair. He carefully clasped the neck with his right hand, placing his left on the strings. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, his hands molding to the shape of the guitar, taking his time greeting it. When he felt ready, he started to strum the strings lightly with his fingertips, and with eyes still closed, tuned the guitar as needed, letting the notes flow through his fingers, his ears, his mind, teasing his brain with their delicate notes. So beautiful.

 

Finally, he opened his eyes and began to strum the beginning of his favorite song, the one he always sang first, his way of welcoming the music he was about to express. He paused a moment, then began to sing.

 

“Come away with me,

Come away to a world of song and love.

A world where everything is bright.

Everything is light.

Where nothing will hurt you.

Come away with me.

To where the sun shines bright,

Where the birds sing,

Where the trees grow

Where the stars will guide you.

Come with me

 

Kiryn hummed softly, letting his fingers lazily strum across the strings, his right hand controlling the cords and notes, closing his eyes and letting the music and words flow over him. He sang the words a couple of times, until he felt his mind settle.

 

“Ready?” Bri asked gently from the doorway.

 

Kiryn smiled softly. “Ready.”





“Well, that went really well,” Drew said cheerfully as they excited the antique store.

 

“Nothing happened,” Luke said tightly, his feet stomping onto the pavement as he walked down the street to where Drew parked their car.

 

“Exactly!” Drew said. “We got here early, talked the perp down, and now, no one has to go to jail! We didn’t even need the team. Just like I told you.”

 

Luke wanted to reply. He really did. He should. He was their ….he shuddered, unable to call himself that ridiculous name the Orpheus base called their Panthers by.

 

His first impression of Orpheus during his tour only solidified and worsened as the week went by. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what frustrated him the most. There was the ever present Patricia, ready with a cup of tea, no coffee apparently in Orpheus, and her endless questions and family pictures. That Omega really loved to make small talk. Or his lead Eagle/Sparrow Drew, a Beta who seemed way too excited about meeting Luke and showing him how good he was at, as he stated, ‘stopping the bad guys.’ Although he was the same age as Luke, the Beta was too hyper, cheerful, and eager for Luke to take him seriously. Add to that that all his cases were so….silly. There was no other word for it really. There was a lady who couldn’t find her child. He thought it would turn into a big kidnapping case. But no, the kid was found safe and sound, asleep in the local library. Then there was a potential robbery and Luke was all ready to send out his Eagles/Sparrows and stake out the store. But then Drew stepped in, pointed out the robbery didn’t happen and the suspect had no priors, and asked to take the lead. Luke agreed, thinking the Beta would fail and he could swoop in and prove what a real Panther can do. So he couldn’t hide his dismay and shock when Drew actually did talk the perp down, convincing him to go to an employment agency instead of robbing the place. And just like that, the would be Alpha thief went on his merry way, leaving Luke with literally nothing to show for his first week. And the feeling that he’d never ever have anything to show while he was here.

 

He could feel his anger and frustration building. How the hell was he supposed to prove himself to his grandfather if there were no cases?

 

“Luke. Ready to head back?” Drew asked, holding the driver’s side door half-open.

 

Luke thought of what awaited him at the office. Patricia. With the eager vapid smile, endless cups of tea, and pictures of her family.

 

“No. I’m going to take a walk. See the city a bit.”

 

“That’s a great idea!” Drew exclaimed, slamming the car door shut. “You haven’t seen anything besides the base so far. I’ll show you around.”

 

“No!” Luke cleared his throat, and when he spoke again, he reverted back to his calm, authoritative voice. “No. Thanks for the offer, but I figured I’d check it out myself. Explore the lay of the land.”

 

Drew’s forehead crinkled in concern. “If you’re sure. Just be careful. The streets get pretty confusing if you don’t know your way around.”

 

Luke almost snorted derisively but simply nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.”

 

He watched Drew drive off and took off down the  street, determined to come up with a feasible plan that ended with him back in Plutus. He’d always had a good sense of direction and roughly knew he had to head east to get back to the base. So he headed in that direction, taking confident strides, his eyes flitting from one red brick building to another.

 

There had to be a way to get out of here. And he had to figure it out on his own. Matt called him everyday and when he asked how Luke was doing he was tempted to break down and tell his older cousin the truth and help him come home. But if he did that, then he’d be branded a real loser. No, if he went back he had to go on his own merit. Prove to everyone that a Beta Panther was just as good as an Alpha Panther.

 

Absently, he noted that the buildings changed from red to green, then blue. Some even had graffiti painted on them, shapes of suns, and flowers, cartoon characters he’d never seen and some that were clearly abstract.

 

This time, he didn’t hold back his snort. This place was really going downhill if they thought this was the best way to decorate the city. You’d never see even a loose brick or stray paper in Plutus. Everything was pristine. Art was high class and precise. Elegant. The graffiti he saw was too...emotional. Free-spirited. It couldn’t even be called art. Could it?

 

He was so engrossed in dismissing the various graffiti he saw he didn’t realize when he followed a few alleyways, each one cutting into the other. He stopped suddenly, sensing that there was something wrong with the alleys. He blinked and looked around and it took him a few moments to realize what the problem was. The streets were...wrong. They weren’t laid out the way they normally are, all parallel and perpendicular. Instead, they were haphazardly cut into the concrete, as if placed there at someone’s whim. He looked back and saw that the road curved right a bit, and the alley he was in cut into it but headed left at a 70% angle. He gazed forward and his eyes bulged. Ahead, the alley broke off into three lanes, each in a totally different direction. He tried to figure out if he was heading east, and felt dismayed when he couldn’t figure it out. Is this what Drew meant when he said it’s easy to get lost? Because, loath as he was to admit it, he was lost. Totally. Completely.

 

Luke took a deep breath, determined to find his way out of this maze. He followed various alleys for a good twenty minutes, stopping every time a new one branched off. At one point there were five and he really didn’t know where to go and was ashamed that he relied on  eenie-meenie-miney-mo . It didn’t help that the buildings started to change as well, going from brick to wood. He panicked, thinking he’d entered a completely different area of Orpheus and would never find his way back. That had to be it. Otherwise, why the hell was the architecture so different? His confusion increased ten minutes later when the buildings went back to bricks and he thought he was going the right way. Until it changed back to wood. He was flat out panicking, breaking out into a cold sweat, when he reached a street with clay houses, unable to believe anyone would still build something like that in this day and age.

 

He should call Drew. Or Neil. Someone. But he didn’t even know how to tell them where he is. He groaned and mentally kicked himself. He could just turn on the GPS. Quickly, he pulled out his phone and switched on the GPS, almost triumphant now that he had a safe and sure way to get back.

 

He gazed at the screen and saw a tiny digital version of himself appear on it, a small figure wearing a dark blue military uniform. OK, if he followed this, then he needed to go left, then right. So he went left….and saw three more rights. He stared, looked down at his screen, saw only one right turn, looked back at the three paths in front of him and almost sat on the ground and wept.

 

He hated it. He hated Orpheus. Frickin city with their stupid base. No cases. Useless GPS and stupid weird buildings. He could feel tears of frustration forming in his eyes, his body already drenched with nervous sweat and was about to just start screaming when he heard it. He didn’t know what it was at first. It sounded...sweet. Alluring. Ears pricked, he slowly made his way to the source of the sound. He took one wrong turn at one point and heard the sound growing fainter and quickly backtracked, trying to find the siren song that was pulling him forward. As the voice got stronger, he realized it was a male voice singing. Probably an Omega. It was the most beautiful voice he ever heard. Luke didn’t even listen to the words, he was too busy, too entranced, by the voice itself. He’d never heard anything like it.

 

Finally, he found the street the voice was coming from and stopped, just listening to the seductive tone. He closed his eyes and listened to the words for the first time. It was a song about freedom and had lot of imagery and stuff he didn’t understand. But he understood the main message, and how powerful the voice was.

 

In a trance, he shuffled towards the source, his eyes absently scanning the name the ‘Melody Cafe’ and stopped in the open doorway.

 

And there he was. He looked...gorgeous. His whole vision, his whole being, was focused on this Omega and he could only see him, only hear his voice. He was sitting on a stool, a dark blue guitar in his hands, eyes closed as he softly sang. His hair was almost pitch black and almost reached his shoulders. Not as long as Jason’s but definitely longer than what was appropriate for a male. It hung loose, the straight strands at the top giving into natural waves, ending with quirky, coy curls at the bottom. The voice suddenly disappeared and the Omega opened his eyes, revealing sparkling green eyes and Luke drew in a deep breath, unable to turn his gaze away, feeling himself being sucked into them.

 

Suddenly, a deafening noise filled his ears and he came back to reality, realizing that the cafe was full of people who were clapping for the singer.  The singer smiled, the brightest smile Luke had ever seen and he was once again drawn into the Omega’s world, unable to tear his eyes away.

 

“You must be new.”

 

Luke started and his eyes flew down a bit, taking in the female Beta in front of him. “Umm, yeah.”

 

The Beta laughed. “Sorry. We usually have regulars here. You don’t look like you’ve been here before.”

 

“No,” Luke said slowly, trying to keep his eyes from straying back to the Omega who was chatting with the crowd, making everyone laugh. He wanted to hear the joke too!

 

“Would you like a seat? We have a free cushion near the window. Kiryn still has a few more songs left, if you want to sit and listen.”

 

Luke’s eyes finally strayed back to the Omega, feasting on the bright light that seemed to beam out of his smile and eyes. Kiryn. It was a strange name. And yet...it suited this strange almost mystical creature.

 

“Yes please,” Luke murmured. Numbly, he staggered behind the Beta to the empty cushion and sank down on it. He ordered whatever the Beta recommended, not even sure what it was, eager to turn his attention back to the Omega. To Kiryn.

 

Kiryn laughed and Luke felt his heart lighten slightly and he smiled as well. He couldn’t help it.

 

“The next song, is for our new visitor,” Kiryn said, meeting Luke’s eyes and the Beta stopped breathing, feeling the full force of those eyes on him. “Welcome to the ‘Melody Cafe.’ Hope you enjoy this.”

 

The Omega lifted the guitar again and began to strum a happy tune. Soon, he began to sing, a happy welcoming song that felt like it belonged in a kid’s show. But to Luke, it was the most beautiful song he ever heard.

 

He didn’t know how he got here, or how he would get back home. But he did know, he finally found a place he actually liked in Orpheus. And he would be coming back here. A lot.

Chapter Text

“Looks good,” Matt said, nodding his head approvingly. He looked at his lead Eagle Owen who sighed with relief.

 

“With this we’ll finally be able to narrow down the list of suspects,” Owen said. “We know it was an inside job based on your notes. Now we just go through the process of elimination.”

 

“And the new Eagles are helpful?” Matt asked.

 

The Beta paused for a second then wearily ran his hand through his hair. “A couple of them are good. But not all. They still need more field experience and training.”

 

Matt frowned and looked back at the list of suspects Owen gave him. Based on the training footage, he agreed with Owen. While he appreciated the extra man power, if said man power wasn’t good at it’s job, they’d be more of a hindrance than a help. He needed to train them. He knew that. He just needed to figure out how. His original Eagles were trained before he even inherited them from a previous Panther who retired  three years ago when Matt became a Panther. Seasoned veterans who know how to do their jobs well. It made it easier for Matt because he just had to pick up where the last guy left off. So training new recruits, helping them hone their skills was something he wasn’t familiar with.

 

“Any suggestions?” he asked the Beta.

 

Owen cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably. “Well, we can have them go through simulations. But they need to build real life experience. So…”

 

Matt sighed and rubbed his head. Seems like he wasn’t the only one out of his depth. Which was to be expected. The whole Panther and Eagle system was still relatively new and a work in progress, having only started five years ago. When the previous Prime Minister saw how well the Hawks and Wolves kept the city of Heracles safe, he quickly told Plutus to implement it as well. Problem was, they had no guidelines, no actual plan. One day, regular police were handling all the cases. The next, his grandpa went from being a businessman to a general, his uncle a lieutenant colonel, and he had to stop going to university and studying business, and learn about being a soldier and strategist instead.

 

This entailed hours of classes on reading maps, military technology, combat theory, forensic analysis, case study after case study to understand how crimes were committed and solved. He’d interviewed so many cops he lost count. Meanwhile, people and cops who wanted a higher position were thrust into Eagle training, learning how to fight, disarm bombs, observe suspects, and survival. Matt didn’t know how and who decided on the classes, but he was pretty sure they ripped it off from whatever they could see Heracles doing.

 

They were missing something, Matt thought with frustration. Problem was, no one knew what. While Heracles solved over twenty crimes a month, the entire Plutus base combined only managed one or two at most.

 

Life would have been so much easier if his parents let him enter the business branch of the Blake family like some of his second and third cousins. But Lucas Blake had been adamant that the business world was already well established, the Blake family already possessing a strong status and reputation. “ The military” he liked to say. “It’s new. It’s fresh. And that’s where we’ll set up shop. Create a new reputation for ourselves.”

 

Matt sighed again and closed the lid to his laptop. “OK. You try that Owen. Keep me posted. I’ll go through the suspects and see if I can narrow it down. I’ll probably send you out in a couple of days.”

 

The Beta saluted him and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.

 

Wearily, Matt sank into his chair, resting his head back so far he was almost looking at the ceiling. He stared up at it, barely blinking, wondering what he should do next. He had to solve this case. And the next and the next. He needed to whip his new Eagles into shape. He just needed to figure out how.

 

He picked up his phone and was about to call Luke but quickly remembered the Beta said he was busy these days. He wasn’t sure what his younger cousin was doing but his tone had changed over the last week. He seemed lighter, more energetic. He barely answered the phone anymore when Matt called, a big change from last week when he used to answer on the first ring. He was glad Luke was busy. It meant he was doing well. Playing his part. He just...missed him. They used to meet up almost every day. Without Luke he was left with...Jason. Who really didn’t want to talk to him. And seemed even more absent recently.

 

Matt frowned, his curiosity peaked, wondering what has been keeping his rebellious cousin so busy lately. He quickly got up, striding towards his office door. If anyone would know, it was Connor. The guy knew everything going on in the base.

 

He gently opened the door and was about to step out when he saw that Connor was on the phone. He was about to close the door and wait to talk to the Omega when he heard what he said and paused for a second, not so much because of what Connor said, but how gentle his tone was.

 

“No Devon, it’s fine. Yes, of course. I’ll see you later.”

 

Matt froze, absently watching Connor replace his cellphone on his desk and go back to his laptop. He couldn’t believe the Omega could sound like that. He was always so formal, so polite and cold. Who was this Devon who brought out the Omega’s tender side? His mate? But he remembered that his application said he was single. He quickly scanned the back of the Omega’s neck, noting the lack of a bite mark. Maybe they still weren’t a pair? That would make sense. It would also explain why he kept shooting Matt down and valued his personal time so much. One of the conditions Connor gave when he took the job was that he had to leave every day by five. He was willing to work a bit from home, he said, but he always had to leave at five. And in year he worked here, he always did.

 

Resolved to figure out at least part of the mystery, Matt stepped forward, stopping next to Connor’s desk. He waited until the Omega stopped typing and looked up at him, pasting a wide smile on his face.

 

“Can I talk to you for a sec?” he asked breezily.

 

“Of course,” Connor said, barely blinking, moving his hands and placing them in his lap respectfully.

 

“I was wondering if you knew where Jason was,” Matt said.

 

“I believe he’s with his new Eagle.”

 

Matt’s eyebrows went up. “He has a new Eagle?” He hadn’t heard anything about it. But then again, he and Jason never talked, and his father never liked to discuss Jason either, dismissing him as the black sheep and Uncle Quinton's problem. It wasn’t completely true and Matt felt that he should defend his cousin. But then his dad would list Jason’s failures and it was hard not to agree with his father. When would Jason get his shit together?

 

“Yes. As part of General Blake’s vision for you and Colonel Jason and Luke, Lieutenant Colonel Quinton hired a new lead Eagle”

 

“Huh,” Matt said, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “No wonder he’s been so quiet. Probably letting the Eagle do all the work.”

 

Connor smirked and Matt’s eyes widened with surprise. Connor rarely expressed much emotions, and this was definitely the first time he’s eve smirked or shown any disapproval or glee in front of him. His shock must have been obvious because the Omega quickly wiped it off his face.

 

“Actually,” Connor continued, “Colonel Jason has been busy with the new Eagle. I believe his name is Ren. He’s been...working hard to ...help Colonel Jason with his current case.”

 

Matt’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of help?”



Jason looked down the hall. OK, left was clear. Right was clear. No sign of the pain in the ass. He was probably still in front of Jason’s bathroom, waiting for him to finish his shower. Jason smirked and started to sprint down the hall towards the emergency staircase. Looks like he was finally going to get one over that stuck up Beta. While he was waiting like an idiot, Jason had cut a hole in the bathroom wall leading to the kitchen and managed to sneak out the front door. It was simple yet brilliant. His best plan so far he thought with glee.

 

In the last two weeks, the Beta had been dogging his every step every morning. He’d wake him up by splashing water on him, or whatever he could find. Once he even used a fire extinguisher. Jason had been really pissed about that since it took a full day for him to be able to sleep on the bed again and he had to crash on the couch. After the harrowing wake-up, the real battles began. Every day, Jason tried new ways to evade the Beta, and every day the Beta seemed to be one step ahead of him. First, he’d removed the grappling hook so Jason couldn’t leap onto the next building. Then he waited on the building’s roof, then the staircase. Sometimes Jason managed to give him the slip, or thought he did. Until he’d turn around, triumphant in his escape, and see the Beta behind him, smiling and waving at him cheerfully while Jason sped away, angry about being outsmarted even when he was able to escape. It was all too ridiculous. And it wasn’t even working! Even though Ren had managed to wake him up and mess with him every morning, he still couldn't get Jason to do any work. So far, their mornings played out in two ways. Either Jason escaped with a smirking Ren waving him on, or he was trapped in the apartment and would go to his gym room or watch TV while the Beta watched him, made some sarcastic and demeaning backhanded comments and left, making Jason feel like a complete loser.

 

Well, not today. Today, his plan was perfect! His hands slammed against the emergency door bar and he started to leap down the stairs. He almost wished he could stick around to see that stupid crow’s face when he realized Jason had tricked him. He was almost tempted to go back but he was almost free. Almost. Just fifteen more flights.

 

He let out of whoop of laughter and jumped onto the next landing and was about to round it...when he smacked into a brick wall and fell flat on his ass with a grunt.

 

“What the fuck?” Jason yelled, clutching his face since he’d smacked into the wall full force.

 

He heard a click and shifted his hands slightly, then gaped when he saw Ren standing in front of him, a huge smirk on his face.

 

“Don’t you just love technology?” Ren asked, tossing a device into the air and catching it a couple of times. “Like this little baby. I found it in the storage room and saw you’d signed out a similar one yesterday. It’s pretty cool. I’ve been playing around with it all night.” He hit one of the buttons and a laser shot out, the same heat laser function Jason used to cut the hole in his bathroom just ten minutes ago. “This one is my favorite.” Ren clicked another button and this time, the laser solidified and grew, becoming a seven by four see through wall. The same wall Jason just smacked into.

 

Jason growled and sat up. “You don’t have proper authorization to have that!” he snapped.

 

Ren tsked and crouched down, his face close to Jason’s. If it was possible, his smile grew even bigger, his eyes wide as he lectured his superior. “Oh actually I do. See, given the important task of making something out of you, your dad gave me a high clearance level. The level of a colonel.” Ren’s eyes widened, and when he spoke next, his tone was so bright, it was like he was talking to a child. “Just like you!”

 

He was going to kill him, Jason thought, glaring at Ren who continued to just smile at him. He was going to kill him and make that sarcastic, arrogant smile disappear. He’d held back from actually hitting the Beta so far, feeling it would be seen as a weakness on his part. But really enough was enough.

 

As quick as a panther, Jason leaped on top of Ren, shoving him against the floor with a loud growl. He pressed his hands against the Beta’s shoulders, pushing him into the concrete landing and was about to crow with triumph when he felt something hit him so hard in his stomach he grunted and rolled off the Beta.

 

He clutched his stomach, massaging the part that was hit while Ren got up, dusting himself off. “You bastard!” Jason hissed.

 

“If we’re  going to do this, we’re going to do this right,” Ren said, for once not smiling. “Come on.” Without looking back, he went down the stairs to the next landing, opened the door and stepped onto the fifteenth floor. Snarling, Jason got up to follow him.

 

Ten minutes later, they were standing in the Blake family gym.

 

“Here’s fine,” Ren said, shrugging out of his black military jacket, remaining in a black long sleeved undershirt. God this guy had no taste for colors did he?

 

Quickly, Jason ripped off his shirt as well, flexing his muscles threateningly as they stepped into the boxing ring. As usual, the gym was empty at this time of day, everyone at work rather than using the various equipment, sauna, and boxing equipment in the room. Not that Jason really knew when people came here. He prefered using his own machines in his apartment.

 

He saw Ren was starting to stretch, his body bending in ways Jason never knew a person could bend. Clearly the guy was flexible, he thought when Ren did the splits perfectly then twisted his legs and entire body so he did a quick handstand, his skinny arms surprisingly well toned. Well, Jason might not be flexible, but he was definitely bigger than that puny Beta.

 

Swiftly, Jason stretched as well, keeping an eye on Ren the whole time, trying not to gap as Ren continued to contort his body, at one point lying on his stomach with his arms grasping his legs, forming an oval. Did he really have to stretch like that to get his ass kicked?

 

“Ready?” Ren asked, leaping up and bouncing on the tips of his toes.

 

Now this was more like it, Jason thought arrogantly as he stepped to the center of the ring. “Bring it.”

 

He thought Ren would smile, smirk as usual. But the Beta took a deep breath and closed his eyes, probably preparing himself for the blows Jason was about to land on him. When the Beta opened his eyes, he stepped forward, his hands at his side. Man, did this guy not get any proper training on how to fight? Jason lifted his arms, placing one near his chin and the other in front of him, perfect boxers stance.

 

Slowly, the two circled each other, both anticipating the fight they knew was a long time coming. Finally, after two weeks of Ren stalking him, foiling every escape plan he had, toying with him and talking to him like he was a rebellious child, he was going to show that goddamn Beta who was boss.

 

With a battle yell Jason launched forward, drawing his fist back to strike the Beta in the stomach. He could see himself in slow motion, getting closer and closer to the Beta who remained still, his expression passive. He swung his arm around, relishing the moment...and hit nothing. He blinked and barely had time to register that Ren was gone when he felt a knee hit him on his left side. He grunted and staggered slightly, surprised by how strong the blow was. He looked back at Ren and saw the Beta still looked calm, as if he hadn’t just landed a blow on an Alpha.

 

That little prick!

 

With a curse, Jason swung forward, aiming blow after blow at the Beta. But Ren simply dodged them, leaping back lightly, as if his body was paper light and just floating back on the breeze created from Jason’s blows. Determined, Jason kept swinging, then suddenly brought his leg up, ready to deliver a shocking kick..and again hit nothing. This time, he felt a fist bang into his right ribs. Hard. He almost fell to the ground, his hand clutching his ribs which felt broken.

 

He glared up at Ren from his half crouched position, his eyes squinting from the pain.

 

Ren cocked his head slightly to the left, eyeing Jason’s hunched form. And didn’t say a word.

 

Fuck that. Jason thought as he rushed at the Beta again, trying with all his might to land even a single blow. Again he tried. Again Ren dodged and landed a blow, this time on Jason's back. This happened three more times and finally, Jason’s body gave out, his leg weak from the hit Ren just landed, his back, both sides of his ribs and stomach on fire.

 

He flopped onto his side, breathing hard, his body curled into a ball as he writhed from the pain. Man he was pathetic. All from a frickin Beta!

 

“Looks like we won’t be getting any work done today,” Ren said, walking off to the side and picking up his military jacket that he’d hung on one of the poles. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” With that, the Beta walked out, leaving Jason a sore and angry mess on the gym floor.

 

He would get him for this, Jason thought furiously. No way was he going to let that Beta get to him. He hadn’t spent years protecting himself, getting stronger, becoming impervious to his family, to let some scrawny Beta get the best of him. No one was allowed to break him. No one.




Connor finished typing the last sentence on the email to Owen that Matt dictated to him earlier and removed his hands from the keyboard. He twisted his wrists back and forth, wincing when he felt small shocks of pain go through he right wrist. He’d always had issues with that one and occasionally the pain came back. He had to ice it tonight or it would be worse tomorrow.

 

“You alright?”

 

Connor suppressed a sigh as he turned to face Matt, keeping his hands still in his lap. Connor wasn’t sure what the Alpha wanted, but he’d been extra chatty with him since Luke left two weeks ago. He expected it would happen. Matt was a natural people person after all, and without Luke, he was a bit lonely. But that was not Connor’s problem. Matt had friends. He should go spend time with them instead of bugging him a hundred times a day. He hid his annoyance, keeping his expression blank as usual, and replied.

 

“I’m fine.” He paused. “Thank you for asking.”

 

“You looked like you were in pain,” Matt said with concern, his eyes trained on his hands. “Is there something wrong with your wrist? I saw you massage it before a while back.”

 

Connor felt a stab of annoyance. Why was Matt watching him so closely? He didn’t like it. The whole reason he remained professional and detached was so people didn’t notice him. Why couldn’t Matt be like everyone else and just leave him alone!

 

“I’m fine,” he repeated, his voice strained. “It just gets cramped sometimes when I type too much,” he added, hoping it would appease the inquiring Alpha.

 

Matt crossed his arms and stared at him, lost in thought. “Hmm. Ever considered a voice dictation program? It listens to your words and types them for you.”

 

“I-” Connor froze and his eyes widened slightly. Of course. A dictation machine! Why hadn’t he thought of that! Ah right. Because he didn’t always think of the easy way out, he thought sourly, dismissing that little voice that kept nagging him during his most insecure moments.   You always have to complicate things! Why can’t you just take it easy every once in a while? Try and find the easiest solution.

 

Connor shook his head, dismissing the voice and answering Matt’s question at the same time. “No. I hadn’t thought of it. But I don’t think I can validate one and order it through the base. It would be seen as a luxury. Not a necessity.”

 

“I’m sure we can work around that,” Matt said brightly. “If not, I can buy it for you. You know, a little thank for all the hard work you do.”

 

And now he felt annoyed again. It was so easy to feel that way with this Alpha. It was that smile. That easy going and cheerful manner. That nosy way he kept watching people. It was too much for Connor to handle. Especially since he just wanted to be left alone. “I don’t think that would be appropriate.”

 

“Why? Think of it as a bonus or something.”

 

Connor sighed, realizing he wasn’t going to win the argument. And really wanted, no, needed, to get back to work.

 

“Fine. I’ll look into it and let you know.”

 

Matt grinned so happily, you’d think he was getting a present instead of Connor. He looked like such a kid Connor quickly turned in his chair, dismissing him completely. “If you don’t mind. I have to get back to this email, then send an inventory form. Then-”

 

“But it’s five o’clock,” Matt cut in.

 

Connor closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. “I’m aware of that.”

 

“You always go home at five. You insisted on it. It’s in your contract.”

 

Connor pictured the empty apartment waiting for him. One without Devon and felt his heart constrict. “Just for today it’s fine.”

 

He expected the nosy Alpha to ask him what made today different and was scrambling to come up with an answer. But the Alpha surprised him by changing the subject completely. “Well then, please copy me into the email to Owen. I prefer the way you record everything compared to my notes. It’s more organized and clearer.”

 

Connor felt he had to say something and scrambled a bit before he finally replied. “Thank you. I’ll make sure to cc you.”

 

Finally, Matt walked back into this office and closed the door. Connor closed his eyes and exhaled deeply, bending his head forward. Conversing with the Alpha was exhausting. He really wished he’d find a mate or someone else to replace Luke, and soon, so he could leave Connor the hell alone. That’s all he wanted. To be left alone. Until he could be with Devon. At the thought of Devon Connor felt his heart tighten again and he placed a hand on his chest, took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes, dismissing the Alpha from his mind. Work. He was at work. He’d think about Devon later. Slowly, he opened his eyes, focused on the computer and began to type again, back in his professional, machine-like demeanor.

Chapter Text

Luke watched as Kiryn hit a particular high note in the song, and he stopped breathing for a second, letting that incredible voice wash over him. It wasn’t until the song was over that he finally remembered to breathe properly and clapped along with the rest of the audience.

Kiryn flashed his signature smile, the one that always made Luke’s heart race and he swallowed, his right hand curling into a fist and he shifted nervously in his seat. Today, he’ll finally do it. He’ll talk to the Omega. Everyday this week he’d come here for lunch and after work to hear the Omega sing. And every day he swore he’d talk to him when Kiryn stopped performing and was back waiting tables. But so far he hadn’t been able to say anything besides, “Another tea” or “one slice of cake.” He kicked himself for not even being able to tell the Omega that he liked his voice. But today, he was going to do it. He was!

“What else can I get you?”

Luke started and his eyes flew up, shocked by how close the Omega was. If he reached out a hand he could touch him. Which he wouldn’t do. Because that would be stupid. And he wasn’t stupid. He just didn’t know what he was doing.

“Ahhh.” So much for not being stupid. Come on Luke! Get your act together! Say something. “Tea.”

Kiryn smiled, said “You got it,” and walked away.

As soon as the Omega was behind the counter and Luke knew he was out of sight he plunked his head on the table. Great. Perfect. Man, why was he such an idiot? All he had to do was say “I like your music.” Why was it so hard? If it was Matt, he would have done it ages ago. Probably even become friends with Kiryn. It was always easy for Matt to just start a conversation and people naturally felt comfortable with him. He’d watched his cousin in action all his life. Why couldn’t he be like him? Why couldn’t he learn from him?

“You OK?”

Luke’s head shot up and he almost winced at being caught looking so pathetic by the object of his current obsession.

“Yes, just….headache,” Luke said. There, see, that wasn’t so hard! He could do this.

Kiryn frowned with concern. “Working too hard?”

Luke thought about the possible robbery which turned out to be a misplaced watch and shook his head. “No, just...you know.” Great. Just great Luke.

Kiryn scanned Luke's face and he tried to keep his expression as neutral but as friendly as possible. He didn’t know what that meant but he thought it was the best move. Not sure he did it right either and probably just looked awkward.

“Yeah, life can get us down sometimes,” Kiryn said softly.

Luke was surprised by that. The Omega always seemed so cheerful. What would stress him out?

Suddenly, Kiryn smiled and grabbed his hand and Luke froze, barely moving.

“Hey. You busy in about, two hours?” the Omega asked eagerly.

“Ahhh, no,” Luke said hesitantly.

“Great. I’ll be done by then. Come by the cafe and we’ll see if we can make that headache go away.” Kiryn smiled brightly and Luke felt so tongue tied he simply nodded.

“Great!” Kiryn exclaimed, dropping Luke’s hand. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” and walked away.

It took Luke a few minutes to finally move, his body and mind still reeling from the last few minutes. In a trance, he placed some money on the table, he wasn’t even sure how much, and slowly made his way out of the cafe. He walked a block down to where he parked his car, got in the driver’s side, and sat there, staring off into space. Well, he hadn’t said anything, but somehow, he was going to spend time with Kiryn tonight. Which meant..he actually had to talk. Well shit, Luke thought, thumping his head repeatedly on the steering wheel, hoping that would somehow make his brain work enough that he could act like a normal human being tonight.

 

Kiryn whistled as he finished putting away the last of the plates in the cupboard.

“All done,” he called out to Bri.

“Thank Kiryn. I’ll see you tomorrow,” the Beta called back from the front of the store.

Kiryn made his way out of the kitchen and into the back room. He picked up his guitar and left through the back door, making his way around the building to the front. It would have been easier if he went out the front door, but Bri already locked it and he didn’t want to bother her. She put up with enough from him already. And she’d had a hard day.

He rounded the building and instantly saw the Beta waiting for him and grinned before sprinting forward, slapping him lightly on the shoulder. The Beta jumped, his face taking on that awkward look he had a couple of hours ago and Kiryn grinned at him.

“Hey! You came.”

The Beta opened his mouth slightly, and it took a couple of seconds before he finally answered. “Yeah well.”

Kiryn waited to see if the Beta would say anything else, but he just looked at the ground. Kiryn almost laughed but held it in. Man, this guy was just too awkward, he had no social skills at all. He’d noticed him the last week and how he would stare at him while he performed. The first time he’d talked to him, he thought the Beta would be eager to interact with him, talk about his music the way other people did. But the Beta always stared down at the table or a spot behind Kiryn’s head and only ordered more tea or a slice of cake. He figured the Beta was just a bit anti-social and Kiryn was planning to leave him alone. Until he saw the tortured expression on his face today. Like he hated himself. Kiryn didn’t like to advertise it, but he had a soft spot for people who were struggling and didn’t know how to express themselves. It hit too close to home and he found himself inviting the Beta out.

Well, they were together. So now what?

Grinning, Kiryn picked up the Beta’s hand and started towing him down the street. The Beta yelped and staggered a bit, but quickly adjusted to Kiryn’s bouncy pace but staying a bit behind him.

“You new to Orpheus right?” he called back.

“Ah, yeah.”

“I figured,” Kiryn looked back and smiled at him before he tugged him forward so they were walking next to each other. “I’m gonna show you some awesome places.”

The Beta gulped then nodded.

“By the way, I’m Kiryn.”

“Ah, yeah I know. I..heard people calling you that.”

Wow, that was the longest sentence he said yet! Encouraged Kiryn jostled the Beta’s hand lightly in his. “And your name is..?”

The Beta winced. “Luke. My name’s Luke.”

Luke huh. A pretty mellow name for a mellow guy. But Kiryn hoped he could change that. “Well Luke. I hope you’re ready to have some fun.”

Luke continued staring at the ground and Kiryn shook his head, chuckling lightly. This was going to be an interesting night.

Twenty minutes later, they made their way out of the shopping and restaurant district and into the entertainment side.

“Where are we?” Luke asked.

Ah, they were making progress if Luke was starting to ask questions first.

“This is the entertainment district,” Kiryn said.

Luke froze for a second but Kiryn kept pulling him forward and the Beta tripped slightly before he walked next to Kiryn again.

“En..entertainment?”

Kiryn really couldn’t hold in his laughter at the horrified expression on Luke’s face. “Yeah entertainment. Why, you don’t have that back in your city?”

“Um, we do. But...it’s more….I mean...we don’t usually go there.”

Kiryn frowned as the buildings became more colorful, covered with paintings and graffiti everywhere you couldn’t even see the original colors of the brick or wood of the buildings. “Why wouldn’t you? Your family didn’t let you have any fun?”

Luke gulped and Kiryn was really curious now. What the hell kind of life did this guy have?

“We..had fun. Just, not in the district.”

Luke looked really nervous now and Kiryn finally stopped, sensing something was wrong. He waited until Luke looked up at him then asked.

“Luke. What is the entertainment district like where you lived?”

Luke’s eyes widened and flitted around. Kiryn wasn’t sure if he was going to answer his question but waited, patiently. It didn’t come easy to him but he knew he had to get to the bottom of this.

“It’s...not a place people should go to.”

“Meaning?”

Luke gulped and looked at the ground. His lips moved and he mumbled something Kiryn couldn’t hear. So he bent forward slightly, straining to hear what Luke was saying. “What?”

He didn’t hear everything Luke said but he definitely heard to word “brothel.”

At that, Kiryn threw his head back and laughed, releasing his hold on Luke’s hand and clutching his stomach, tears streaming down his face.

“Oh man. No wonder you looked so freaked out! Oh man.” He continued laughing for a few moments, then finally wiped the tears from his face and looked at Luke. The Beta stood there, his expression puzzled and Kiryn almost started laughing again.

He grabbed Luke’s hand again and began to tug him forward. “Here, we don’t have brothels. There’s no point to that.”

Luke looked like he wanted to ask a question but closed his mouth instead. Well, Kiryn wanted to bring Luke out of his shell but he wasn’t going to do all the work for him. If the Beta wanted to learn something, he had to ask. So Kiryn walked down the street, not saying a word. Luke would have to crack and ask eventually. But he didn’t.

They ended up walking in silence for a good five minutes before they reached the music club Kiryn wanted. He stopped in front of it and turned to face Luke. “This is the ‘Harmony Lounge.’ It’s my favorite music club in Orpheus.”

“Are you...going to sing?” Luke asked.

“No. Not tonight. I perform alone on Tuesdays and Thursday, and with my band on weekends.”

“You...you have a band?” Luke asked, awe clearly written all over his face it was hard for Kiryn not to feel flattered.

“Yeah. We’ve been performing together for about five years now. Like everyone else in Orpheus, everyone has their own jobs. But music is our passion and we commit to it twice a week.”

“What do you mean, your passion?” Luke asked, confused.

Hmm, he wasn’t stuttering anymore. Looks like his curiosity was greater than his anxiety.

Kiryn smiled as he pulled Luke into the building and found them an empty table in the back of the room. The music wouldn’t start for another twenty minutes, which gave them plenty of time to talk.

“Let me explain how things work in Orpheus,” he said after ordering them some drinks. “Orpheus, is the city of arts. All arts. Anything people want to express whether it’s writing, poetry, painting, charcoal, archery, sewing, graffiti, music. You name it, we have it. Everyone here is an artist in something or other.”

Luke blinked. “Everyone?”

Kiryn chuckled and thanked the waiter as he placed their drinks on the table and took a sip, letting the sweet berry flavour spiced with a dash of rum roll over his tongue. He’d ordered a mango flavoured one for Luke, knowing Betas didn’t like sweets as much as Omegas and hoped the small amount of alcohol would help loosen Luke up a bit. “Yup, everyone. But, we can’t all make a living from it. There are thousands of us after all. So people have normal jobs. Like my friend Tig, he works construction during the day, but at night he’s a kick ass drummer. And Jaz works at a store in the shopping district, but plays bass guitar.”

“What about the cafe owner at ‘Melody’?” Luke asked. “She works all day.”

Kiryn smiled softly. “And you don’t think baking is an art form? Out of all of us, Bri is the luckiest. She actually found a job that enables her to commit to her passion and actually make a living out of it.”

Luke went silent and Kiryn could tell he was trying to process this new world he was living in. He turned to face the stage, letting Luke take his time.

“Everyone, put your hands together for Marz!” the lounge owner said into the mic seconds before Marz stepped onto the stage and everyone cheered for her.

“That’s an Alpha!” Luke exclaimed.

Kiryn started, surprised by how loud Luke’s voice was. He quickly looked around but no one was looking at them, everyone already captured by Marz’s awesome piano intro.

“Yeah,” Kiryn whispered into Luke’s ear. “I told you. Everyone's an artist. Alphas, Betas, and Omegas.”

Luke stared at the stage, mesmerized as the tall Alpha continued to play, her fingers flying across the keys. Kiryn thoughtfully watched Luke for a few moments then smiled softly and turned his attention back to the stage. He was glad he’d taken Luke under his wing. There was a lot he could teach the clearly sheltered Beta. Later, he’d show him one of the nearby art galleries. Maybe one that dealt with abstract statues.Kiryn grinned mischievously, already imagining the flustered expression on Luke’s face when he saw the one of a man with six breasts. Oh Lukey. Welcome to Orpheus.

 

 

Connor placed his laptop on his desk and was about to open the lid when Matt practically sprinted into the room.

“I need you to come with me,” he said quickly as he shot into his room, leaving the door open. Seeing the usually calm Alpha flustered was a rare sight, making Connor feel anxious as well and he dashed into the room, closing the door behind him.

“What happened?” he asked.

Matt stood in front of his desk, unable to sit down as he furiously typed on his laptop. Connor made his way around the desk and looked at Matt’s screen. Finally, Matt found the email he wanted and pulled it up for Connor to read. What he saw made his eyes widen.

“The Hunter family is suing us?” he exclaimed.

“Yes,” Matt said, his expression tight. “They claim we infringed on their privacy by having one of our Eagles shadow one of the grandsons we suspected of helping with the jewel robberies. Turns out little Cyril was dealing with drugs and we accidentally saw him getting a dose from his dealer.”

“How do they know we were even following him?” Connor closed his eyes and groaned. “One of the new Eagles.”

Matt nodded grimly. “Idiot decided to get up close instead of use a strong zoom to take the pictures. He got spotted by the dealer who alerted Cyril. The little punk didn’t waste any time running off to tell daddy that he was being followed.”

“But we have authorization to surveillance any potential suspects,” Connor protested.

“I know. But they’re claiming that since Cyril isn’t really a strong suspect in relation to the jewelry store robberies, that we infringed on his privacy. The case is still fresh so everyone is just a potential suspect and we don’t have strong evidence to suspect Cyril. And the Hunter family leaped on that loophole.”

“But we caught him doing drugs! That’s illegal as well.”

Matt growled inwardly then pulled up the picture the Eagle took of Cyril. It took Connor a few seconds to understand why Matt looked so frustrated. “It looks like he was just buying some fruits from a vendor.”

“Exactly,” Matt said. “There is no evidence that any drugs were actually present at the scene in the pictures. So not only do we have no proof connecting Cyril to the robberies, or drugs, we instead have a lawsuit. Which is exactly what the non-military families were waiting for. They hate that we now have authority to investigate them and have been dying to find reasons to call into question what we’re doing and add restrictions on how much we can investigate them.”

Matt sighed with frustration and Connor didn’t blame him. Getting the Plutus main families to accept that their privacy could be breached, their families investigated, to lessen the crime rate was something the military still struggled with. Everyone was used to doing whatever they wanted. Suddenly, five years ago, they were told they would have to follow the same laws as everyone else and could be arrested. The only reason the Blake family and five others were allowed to enter the military faction was because they could prove they’ve always been honest and law abiding. Everyone else had a few skeletons in their closets. Skeletons they were desperately trying to keep hidden.

“I’ll have legal look into this,” Connor said. “There has to be some laws that can help us with this situation.”

“I’ll get the trained Eagles out there looking into the drug angle,” Matt said. “If we can prove that Cyril really was dealing with drugs, then the lawsuit will be null and void. Probably easier at this stage to get that evidence that anything related to the robberies”

“Plus, we can add a drug bust to our roster of accomplishments,” Connor added.

Matt nodded. “Exactly. Let’s do that and discuss this again in a couple of hours.”

Connor sprinted out of the room, making his way across the base to where the military lawyers were stationed in another building. He was out of breath before he got halfway there and had to stop jogging, panting and his hands on his ribs. He really was out of shape. Something else he didn’t want to think about. Right now he needed to focus on the lawsuit. There had to be away to get around it.

Four hours later, Connor went back into Matt’s office, Owen behind him.

“What do you two have for me?” Matt asked while Connor and Owen sat on chairs on the other side of the desk.

“Well, I have two Eagles watching the vendor,” Owen said. “Don’t know how much good it’ll do though. He’s already on alert and will be quiet for a while.”

Matt nodded grimly. “Keep an eye on him. Every second of every day. He’ll slip up eventually.” He turned his attention to Connor, signalling him to speak.

“I talked with the lawyers for hours, pouring over everything. And it looks like we can stall the lawsuit until we find further evidence that links Cyril to either the robberies or the drugs. There’s a clause that says we have a month to collect all evidence before a lawsuit can take place.”

Matt frowned. “Well, that’s something at least. Hopefully, in a month this will all be resolved.”

Connor was about to speak but held his tongue, knowing Matt had enough bad news to deal with today.

“Go ahead Connor,” Matt said, smiling warily which surprised the Omega. How could he smile at a time like this? “You want to talk about the new Eagles.”

Connor nodded and licked his lips nervously. “I’ve...been observing their training videos, and I believe we’re not doing enough.”

“I could have told you that,” Owen growled with frustration.

Connor knew the Beta wasn’t aiming his anger at him. They were all pretty tense about the new Eagles and have been trying for three weeks to figure out how to train them properly.

“I suggest we reach out to the Heracles base,” Connor said. “They know more about this than we do. They designed the original system. They’ll be able to give us some advice.”

Matt leaned back in his chair, his gaze thoughtful. “You want me to go to General Blake, tell him our new Eagles are so bad, we have to ask for help from another city.”

Connor almost swallowed but kept his expression passive. He’d been sitting on this idea for months when he saw how much the Eagle cadets fumbled through their training. The seasoned Eagles were all trained cops, they knew how to do their jobs, and did them well. But all the new recruits were too fresh, unseasoned and unused to the idea of stealth and combat and survival. They tried to use the same training they used for the police, but it wasn’t working. Yes, the veterans were trained, but they got most of that from experience, from working in the real world for years and honing their skills. The new Eagles just started a month ago. It was like teaching a baby to walk for the first time. But their fumbling was costing them too much.

That’s why he thought Heracles might help. He thought it was a good idea, help them get a legit training system in place. It made the most sense. But there seemed to be an almost desperate determination in the Plutus base for them to figure this out, to make it work, without any help from Heracles. But really, enough was enough. They had to face the reality that their methods weren’t working. And if Connor had to play devil’s advocate, then so be it.

“Yes, I do,” he said firmly.

Matt nodded slowly. “Owen you can go. Keep me posted.”

Connor felt his blood run cold at Matt’s flat tone and almost leaped up and followed the Beta out of the room. But he wasn’t a coward. He brought up the suggestion, he would deal with the consequences, no matter what they were.

“Connor,” Matt said, his voice more gentle. “I know why you thought of this. It’s a good idea. And if I could, I would have looked into it months ago. But you have to understand, no one here wants to ask anyone for help.”

“Because of your pride,” Connor hissed, unable to hide his frustration.

Matt nodded, “Exactly. You can call it stupid or whatever. But pride is really important to the Plutus main families, and the Plutus Alphas. We have always done things on our own, at our own pace. It was bad enough when the PM asked us to create a military similar to Heracles. You see how it is. People still can’t accept it. Some even see us as traitors. If I propose we make contact with Heracles, the shit will really hit the fan.”

It didn’t make sense to Connor. He understood pride, he valued his after all. But when it had so many benefits, and went against logic… “It’s stupid,” he couldn’t help bursting out.

Matt’s lips tipped up in a soft smile. “I agree. But it’s the life we have. The city we live in. We have to accept it.”

He wanted to argue more, say he’d make a proposal and present it to the generals himself. But he knew Matt was right. It was pointless, and could just get Connor fired and Matt in trouble. He couldn’t afford to lose this job. He needed it. An image of Devon flashed through his mind and he curled his hands into fists, swallowing all the protests and arguments he wanted to put forth.

“I understand. I’ll talk to legal again, make sure our case is presented properly to the Hunter family so they know they have to wait. And see what other options we have for training the Eagles.”

Matt sighed with relief and his body deflated a bit. Looks like he also expected Connor to fight for his ideas. But Connor knew better. Some battles just couldn’t be fought. You just had to accept the cards life dealt you. It was a life lesson he’d learned the hard way, and he was sticking to it.

“Sure, sounds good,” Matt said.

With a respectful nod, Connor left the room and got to work, slipping quickly back into his detached and cold persona, leaving behind the passion that made him want to fight everyone behind.

A few hours later, Connor closed the lid of his laptop and got out of his chair.

“Have a good night,” Matt said from his doorway.

Connor started, not even aware Matt was standing there and wondered how long the Alpha had stared at him. He’d been doing that a bit more than usual lately. Probably just wanted to assure himself someone was there.

“You too,” he said, walking out of the office and off the base. He wanted to go over the day in his mind, think back on the case, figure out what the Eagles and Matt missed. But it was five o’clock and he mentally shut his mind to everything related to work, focusing on Devon.

He felt his body relax slightly as he pictured the adorable Alpha’s face and he quickened his pace till he got to his car and drove off, his body full of anticipation. He’d had a chicken marinating all night. It would only take him half an hour to cook it, then they’d have a nice pleasant meal, then a bath before going to bed. If there was time, maybe they could watch some TV. Devon would like that.

Fifteen minutes later, he pulled up in front of his apartment building and had to remind himself that at twenty-six, he was too old to skip, an innate Omega habit he got rid of years ago. He stepped into the elevator and hit the button for the tenth floor, his hand gripping the strap on his laptop bag tightly as he watched the floors fly by. The doors flew open and he stepped out, taking quick strides to reach the apartment and rang the doorbell.

“He’s here!”

For the first time that day, Connor smiled as the door flew open and the person he loved most in the world flew out, wrapping his arms tightly around his waist.

“Mom!” Devon squealed.

“Hey kiddo,” Connor said happily, ruffling his Alpha son’s blonde hair.

“We learned how to multiply by three today!” Devond said, jumping up and down, his hands still wrapped around Connor’s waist.

Connor’s eyes widened. “No kidding. That’s pretty huge buddy.”

Devon grinned and finally released Connor and turned to face his best friend Patrick and Patrick’s Beta mother Julie.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Patrick!” Devon said.

“Might not want to forget this,” Julie said cheerfully, handing Devon’s bag to Connor.

“Thanks Julie. What do you say Devon?” Connor asked, his tone serious.

Devon stopped smiling and bowed his head. “Thank you for today. And thank you for getting my bag.”

Julie chuckled while Patrick mocked Devon for once again forgetting his stuff. “It’s no problem. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Connor nodded his thanks and clasped Devon’s hand while the Alpha waved good-bye to the Beta family.

“You really need to remember to take your stuff Devon,” Connor admonished.

“I know,” Devon said, hanging his head and Connor fought with himself to remain strict. At seven, Devon was starting to become tricky, knowing when to act innocent to stall a lecture he knew he deserved.

“Next time, if you forget your bag I’ll have to give you a bag you won’t forget.”

Devon’s eyes widened, realizing his innocent ploy wasn’t going to work. “What kind of bag?”

They stepped into the elevator and Connor pressed the button for the fourteenth floor where they lived. He saw Devon gaping at him out of the corner of his eye and almost chuckled at the anxious expression on his son’s face. He let the Alpha panic for a second, imagining his own punishments and almost grinned when he finally said, “Well, I think a bright pink bag stands out. You definitely won’t lose that.”

Devon’s jaw dropped and they stepped out of the elevator, Connor pulling his son lightly forward as the Alpha reeled from the shock of possibly carrying such a horrendous colored bag.

“Maybe if we add some sparkles to it,” Connor continued as they stepped into their apartment, keeping his tone casual. “Then it’ll really stand out. Oh, and a siren!”

“No!” Devon finally burst out. “I’ll never leave my bag behind again! I promise.”

Again Connor suppressed a chuckle and nodded soberly at Devon. “Good. Now, go wash up while I make dinner.”

“I’ll set the plates too,” Devon offered desperately and Connor’s heart turned to goo. Would Devon always be this sweet, this eager to make Connor happy? He felt a lump form in his throat and he nodded.

“That would be helpful, thanks Devon.”

Devon flashed him a quick smile before he took off and Connor felt his heart constrict again. He knew he wasn’t the perfect parent. A real Omega mother would stay home, be there for their child 24/7. But he had to work, had to make a living. He was lucky that Devon befriended Patrick and Julie agreed to pick up Devon from school and keep him for a couple of hours until Connor came home. Sometimes, he was tough on Devon, maybe too tough. But he did what he thought was right. And Devon seemed happy. He was always eager to see him, give him hugs and kisses and help around the house. Really, he was doing fine. Just fine.

So why did he still feel guilty? Why did he still feel inadequate and question if he really was doing right by Devon? These were nagging worries that kept him up at night sometimes and everytime they happened, he pictured Devon’s smiling face and his heart would tighten and he’d assure himself that at least for now, he was doing the right thing.

Devon was his whole world. The reason Connor got up in the morning. The reason he was able to get through day to day activities. He was doing a good job as his mother. He was.

“Mom, where are the Ray Man hero plates we bought?”

Connor quickly banished his negative train of thought and stepped into the kitchen, smiling at his son. “We put them in the bottom shelf, remember.”

“Oh yeah,” Devon said, opening the cupboard and sticking his head in. “Ah, found them!”

Connor smiled, watching his son happily take out the plates and place them on the table. Yes, they were happy. And for now, that’s all that mattered.

Chapter Text

Ren stared down at Jason’s bed, taking in the two male Omegas sleeping on either side of the Alpha. Two naked male Omegas. He smirked. Well, he was really getting to Jason if this was his new method of attacking Ren. But he’d have to try harder if he wanted to make the Beta uncomfortable.

“Wake up,” he yelled loudly.

As usual, Jason remained dead to the world, lost in a deep sleep. The same didn’t go for the Omegas though. The blonde one sat up in shock while the brunette blearily rubbed his eyes.

“What time is it?” the sleepy brunette asked. The blonde stared at Ren before he started poking Jason.

“Jason, wake up,” the blonde Omega hissed, shoving Jason’s shoulder hard.

“He won’t wake up from that,” Ren said. He barely finished his sentence when Jason shifted, stretching his arms up and yawning. Ren narrowed his eyes, realizing that the Alpha was only pretending to be asleep. Probably eager to see how Ren dealt with this new situation.

“Ah, Ren, you’re here,” Jason drawled, flopping onto the mountain of pillows behind him. The blonde Omega looked nervous but the brunette eyed Ren curiously.

“Whose this Jason?” the brunette asked. “You never went for Betas before.”

“That’s my-”

“I’m Jason’s new babysitter,” Ren said, smiling widely. He saw Jason’s eyes narrow and almost smirked but held it in. If the Alpha thought having two gorgeous Omegas in bed with Jason was going to stump and embarrass the Beta, then he only had himself to blame for what was about to happen. “Seems Jason needs someone to help him get ready and get to work. You guys understand right. After all, it’s a hard job getting up in the morning, getting dressed and all.”

“You,” Jason growled and sat up, his fists clenched. The Omegas shifted nervously, their nostrils flared and Ren figured Jason was releasing an angry scent. It was strong enough Ren could smell traces of it, but it must be ten times worse for the poor Omegas.

Ren felt a stab of pity for them and nodded at the door behind him. “You’d better leave. This is about to get ugly.”

The Omegas didn’t need to be told twice. They quickly leaped out of the bed, grabbed their clothes and dashed out of the room. Jason and Ren kept staring at each other, waiting for the Omegas to get dressed and the front door to slam shut.

Once he knew they were alone, Jason relaxed and leaned back on his pillows, giving Ren a taunting smile. “Didn’t think you’d have the guts to actually stick around. After all, this probably is something you’ve never experienced. I doubt you’ve even slept with a single Omega.”

Ren remained silent for a moment, letting Jason think he got the best of him, then smiled widely. Jason’s eyes narrowed, knowing Ren was about to launch his own attack. Ren relished the moment, knowing he was going to shock the crap out of the Alpha in the next few minutes.

“I must have really gotten to you huh?” he said, perching on the back of the couch casually, crossing his arms like he had all the time in the world.

“What do you mean?” Jason asked cautiously.

“I mean, you never bring any of your bed mates here. This is your private sanctuary after all. You must really be frazzled by me if you took the step to bring them here just to shock me.”

Jason’s jaw clenched and Ren knew the Alpha wanted to punch him again. But as the fading bruises on Jason’s body attested, Jason would come out the loser in that one.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Ren cocked an eyebrow, his tone thoughtful. “Really? And here I thought you brought Adam and Ian for my benefit.”

Jason started and sat up. “How do you know their names? They didn’t say them.”

Taking his time, Ren pulled out his phone and scrolled through it till he found the file he wanted. “Adam Jones, twenty-one years old. College student. Ian Phillips, twenty-two years old, just graduated college and about to start working at his dad’s company.”

Jason stared at him, eyes wide, mouth open and silent. “How...how?”

“Well, at least you brought these two. They know better than to come back here on their own. Now, if you had brought back, say Natalie or Joyce or even Warren, they would think they can come and go as they please. Latch onto you and the Blake status.”

Ren lifted his gaze from the phone, enjoying the sight of Jason’s face going from shock, to fear, to understanding, then horror.

“You stalked me!” Jason screamed.

“Part of my job is to keep tabs on you,” Ren replied casually, placing the phone back in his pocket. “Why do you think I left you alone the first week? And every night? Had to figure out your habits and the people you interact with.”

It looked like Ren had pushed Jason too far as the Alpha’s muscles tight, face mottled with fury. If he could, he might even kill Ren then and there. Ren wanted Jason’s attention, wanted him to know he couldn’t outsmart Ren like he did everyone else. But having a furious Alpha who hated him wasn’t going to help him any. Time for phase two.

“Look, I don’t enjoy following you, waking you up, trying to trick you any more than you do,” Ren said, keeping his tone light. “So why don’t we make a deal?”

It took Jason a few moments to answer and it seemed to take all his will power to actually talk in a normal tone. “What kind of deal?”

“You come in to the office, do some work for four hours, and I’ll leave you alone.”

“What’s the catch?” Jason asked cautiously.

“No catch,” Ren said. “You wake yourself up on time, get to the office, listen a bit, do some work, and I’ll stop bothering you.”

The Alpha leaned back against the pillows, his arms crossed as he contemplated Ren’s suggestion. Ren waited, he was used to waiting. It’s how you catch your prey after all.

“Fine,” Jason finally answered. “I’ll do my bit and you leave me the hell alone. No more coming into my room, or following me or stalking me.”

“Deal,” Ren agreed. “As long as you hold your end of the bargain.”

“Fine,” Jason said.

“Good. Now, get dressed, I’m gonna grab my laptop and some stuff from my place and I’ll meet you outside your apartment and we’ll head to the base together.”

Jason froze, half out of the bed and stared at him. “What did you just say?”

Ren almost laughed, glad that his boss wasn’t as dumb as he liked to make people believe. “What part got your attention?”

“Where is your place exactly?” Jason asked carefully.

Ren nodded to the left. “Down the hall. Your dad let me have one of the empty apartments there. It’s pretty nice.”

Jason’s eyes widened. “You little prick,” he whispered.

Ren finally chuckled and headed towards the door. “Don’t be late now. I’ll meet you in half an hour.”

Ren barely closed the bedroom door when he heard Jason scream “Fuck!”

 

Jason angrily got dressed, still unable to believe that Ren actually lived in his building, just down the hall! No wonder it felt like the guy was literally everywhere! And he’d been stalking him! He didn’t know which pissed him off more.

He wanted to rant and rage and break some stuff. Instead he took a deep breath and collected himself. He knew better than to get angry. So far, Ren had done a spectacular job of pushing his buttons. No one had ever been able to get through his mask of detachment and sarcasm the way the Beta did. Jason spent years controlling his emotions, his anger, not letting anyone know just how much they affected him. Why did the Beta get under his skin so much?

No more! Jason decided. Today, everything was going to change. With this new deal, he’d play his part, keep his emotions in check, and have free reign to do whatever he liked. Ren can tell his dad Jason was working and everyone would leave him the hell alone. It was perfect.

Two hours later, Jason knew he’d been tricked and was once again trying to keep his cool and stay seated at his desk when all he wanted to do was run away. Yes, he’d agreed to do some work. Some. The pile in front of him was not some.

“I went through the drug case, and it seems these are the potential suspects,” Ren was saying.

Jason only listened absently as Ren showed him a bunch of slides on his computer, going through the case step by step. The Beta was certainly organized, and he clearly knew what he was doing. So why the hell was he bugging Jason to do something?

“Looks great,” Jason said, nodding approvingly.

“So, I think our next step is to get the Eagles out on reconnaissance, follow the suspects. Once we establish their patterns, we can start actually looking into them. Break into their computers, figure out their contacts and daily routines.”

“Sounds good.”

Ren looked up at him and Jason pasted a bland expression on his face. Calm, cool. That’s what he was used to. That’s the Jason Blake persona he cultivated all these years. And damn if the Beta made him break again.

“You have nothing to add?” Ren asked pointedly.

“Nope. I think you have it covered, you know what you’re doing. Go for it.” He smiled and waved grandly. “I give you my full support.”

Ren looked like he wanted to say something but then closed the laptop and got out of his seat. “Alright then.”

Jason watched the Beta walk out of his office, unable to believe he’d actually won! Ren was working, doing his part, and Jason could say he came in, did his part, and now he could go. He leaned back in his chair and smiled. Really, if he knew it was going to be this easy, he would have given in to what Ren wanted weeks ago.

 

Matt walked down the hall to where the Panther offices were located, trying to hide his frustration at the disastrous simulation his new Eagles just completed. They were all over the place! It was supposed to be a simple reconnaissance. Something a basic Eagle should be able to do. And the five new Eagles did everything wrong. One tripped and fell in front of the suspects, the other dropped his gun, and a third fell off the roof he was on. How the hell did they even pass the cadet testing? Matt was going to have to look into the testing process. Maybe they needed to add more rules, more tests, more training. More...something.

He was so lost in thought he didn’t realize he’d almost run straight into Jason until he almost bumped into him, causing the other Alpha to step back with a big ‘Wow, watch it.”

Matt drew in a deep breath, calling on all his patience to deal with his younger cousin. He really wasn’t in the mood to bother with Jason right now. But he was here, and he had to say something.

As usual, Jason’s military jacket was unbuttoned, revealing a grey shirt with a skull on it, his auburn hair in it’s normal disarray.

“Jason,” Matt said tightly.

Jason smirked and gave a mock salute. “Colonel Matthew. Looking good. And serious. Keep it up.”

Jason was about to walk away, but Matt grabbed his arm, determined to once again try and get through to the Alpha.

“I heard you got a new Eagle,” Matt said casually.

“Yeah. Ren. Interesting little thing. You should check him out. I think you’ll like him,” Jason smiled, waiting for Matt to release him but he refused. Slowly, the smile faded from Jason’s face, replaced with a mocking one. “Are we really going to do this again, Matty?”

Matt’s jaw tightened. “Luke’s not here. I seem to have a lot more time for you.”

Jason rolled his eyes. “Look, we’ve been through this. You love Luke, you guys get along. That’s great. I want no part of it.”

“I can help you with your case,” Matt said.

“No thanks. Ren has it under control. I told you, he’s interesting. I’m all good.”

Matt wanted to growl with frustration and took a shuddering breath, trying to remember a time when he and Jason got along. When was it? When Matt was ten and Jason was eight? It couldn’t be possible that they stopped getting along at such a young age.

“Jason, we’re family,” Matt said, knowing he was making the same arguments but couldn’t help it. He was desperate and both of them knew it. “We’re supposed to help each other.”

Jason grinned. “Sure. That’s perfect for you. You’re all about the family. But that doesn’t really work for me. I told you. I just want to be left alone.”

“Look,” Matt said, knowing he was going to say the wrong thing but unable to stop himself. “We can go back. We used to get along when we were young. Before your mom-”

Next thing he knew, Matt was shoved against the wall with Jason’s arm under his throat. Matt may be an inch taller but Jason was a lot stronger and he exerted enough pressure on Matt’s neck that he couldn’t breath for a few seconds. He tapped against Jason’s arm and the Alpha suddenly released him.

Matt took deep gulping breaths of air, massaging his throat and cursing himself for bringing up the one subject he knew Jason hated.

“I have stuff to do,” Jason said coldly, “Later.”

Matt watched his cousin walk away and wanted to call out to him, beg him to let Matt help him, to make it all better. But it never worked before and it wouldn’t work now. Maybe it was time he finally admitted that Jason couldn’t be saved.

“Hey,” a voice said softly from around the corner.

Matt turned his head, surprised when he saw a Beta standing there. He was dressed in the black Eagle uniform, the patch of an eagle flying rather than it’s wings folded signaling that he was the leader of his team. He hadn’t seen the Beta before and his coloring was unique for Plutus, pitch black hair and eyes. He was pretty short too. Matt quickly connected the dots.

“You’re Ren I’m guessing.”

Ren smiled and came forward. “You guess right. You’ve got a sharp brain there.”

“Yeah well, maybe not always,” Matt said, looking ruefully down the hall to where Jason disappeared.

“Yeah. Looks like you stepped on a landmine there.”

Matt turned his head back, scanning the Beta. He seemed...pretty confident for such a tiny Beta. His stance was clearly military, projecting an authority that said he was in complete control of his environment. Matt wished he knew how to stand like that. Is this why Jason said Ren was interesting? Because Matt was certainly intrigued.

“You been a soldier long?” he asked.

“All my life,” Ren replied.

Ah, that explained it. If Ren had been training his whole life, then he was one hundred percent a soldier. Unlike Matt who only started three years ago. After a year of training and three years actually working as a colonel, he still knew he had a lot to learn.

“Don’t worry about Jason,” Ren suddenly said. “I’ve got it.”

Matt stared, unable to hide his disbelief. “You...what do you mean you got it?”

Ren grinned and Matt couldn’t help feeling a bit of concern for his cousin at the steely glint in Ren’s eyes.

“I mean, I’m going to make sure he gets his ass in gear. You’ll see.” With a salute, Ren walked away, leaving Matt with so many questions he didn’t know where to begin. But he was definitely going to keep an eye on this Beta. There was something...special about him. And Matt was determined to figure out what it was.

 

Luke kept his expression blank, his body in total control, appearing calm and professional, when all he wanted to do was run out that door and never look back.

“Then, we have to make sure the equipment is clean,” Drew said, reading off his notepad while Patricia tapped away on her keyboard, writing down every word Drew said. Which she wouldn’t have to do. If Drew typed his notes and emailed them like a normal person. But noooo. He said it felt too personal, and as a calligrapher, whatever that meant, he liked to write everything by hand.

Kiryn did tell him everyone in Orpheus had some kind of artistic passion, but he didn’t think he literally meant everyone. These guys were soldiers for cripes sake! Being a soldier should be their passion or whatever. Their number one priority.

“Then, we should check our riot gear. Just in case. Always good to see if it needs a little polish,” Drew said, smiling brightly as he ticked it off his list.

Yeah right. Like there’d ever be a riot here. Probably never even been worn. If there was a riot, the frickin Sparrows would probably want to join them. Solidarity was important in Orpheus as Luke was coming to learn. Even solidarity with would be, and actual, criminals. He knew this, because he had the misfortune to witness it. He’d decided to visit the local prison, see how the criminals were treated. And couldn’t even hide his shock when he saw their TVs, comfy beds and even a frickin sofa and fridge! In each cell! Drew had seen his surprise and proudly, PROUDLY, told him about their rehabilitation program. “If we treat them gently, calm them and show them we are listening and care, they come out the better for it.” What the fuck was that about?

That was almost the last straw. He was all ready to throw in the towel and call Matt and go home. Except…

Luke let his mind wander, thinking about the excitable Omega with the seductive voice. He still couldn’t believe he and Kiryn talked. Sometimes. OK, twice. Which was a lot in one week. The lounge had actually been kinda fun, especially since Kiryn knew everyone there and was pointing them out to Luke, telling them who was talented at singing, drawing, song writing, etc. It dumbfounded Luke just how many artistic talents there actually were! Art wasn’t highly regarded in Plutus, except for the select few. The select few who had money and talent enough to pull it off. And when they did present their art, it was met with snide or snooty comments.

Nothing like that existed here. Everyone had some kind of gift, some kind of talent. And they got up and showed it off. Even if their talent wasn’t actually very good. There were a couple of people who sang the other night who really should just leave their singing in the shower. But everyone cheered and clapped for them anyway! Luke still couldn’t figure all this out. He didn’t know if he wanted to. Orpheus was just weird and gave him a headache.

The only silver lining was Kiryn. He was so upbeat, so full of life. He took Luke to an art exhibit last Sunday, and while the art wasn’t to Luke’s taste, especially the one of a guy with six breasts which he still didn’t understand, he enjoyed just being with the Omega, listening to him cheerfully tell him about all the artworks. It seemed Kiryn knew almost everyone and everything they made. He was sociable, down to earth, cheerful, creative, and free spirited. The complete opposite of Luke. And while his dad would have warned him to stay away from Kiryn and people like him, he found himself always looking forward to the time he could go to the cafe and watch the Omega sing. If he was lucky, Kiryn would even come talk to him. Not that Luke said much. He still felt awkward around him. But the conversation did sort of flow. Thanks to the chatty Omega. And even if he didn’t say much, Luke was glad to just sit and listen to Kiryn talk. He still couldn’t believe Kiryn even wanted to spend time with him. He was just so...nice. A rare commodity in Plutus. Except for Matt.

“And that’s about it. Anything you want to add?” Drew asked, calling Luke back to the present.

Luke shook his head, both to clear it and let Drew know he had nothing to add. What could he add really? It wasn’t like they did much anyway.

“Great,” Patricia said. “Well, I’ll send out the list then.”

“And I’ll get started,” Drew said, saluting Luke seriously before he grinned and left the room.

As soon as Patricia sat down, her back turned to him, Luke shook his head. Why was everyone so cheerful all the time? Not that Kiryn wasn’t. He probably laughed more than anyone he’d met here so far. But while he found Patricia and Drew’s smiles vapid and grating, Kiryn was….different. He still didn’t know what it was that drew him to the Omega. And kept him going back hoping to figure it out.

Speaking of. Luke quickly looked at his watch. Five more minutes. Then he could leave. He took out his phone, scrolling through a message Matt sent him yesterday to try and pass the time. He’d already replied to the message. They texted each other two times a day so it was best to reply immediately. But he still liked to go through them after, hoping that by rereading them he’d miss his cousin less. Fat chance.

In his message this morning, Matt told him that he was working on a possible robbery that led to a drug case. But he couldn’t talk about it too much. It sounded pretty cool and Luke wished he was there. If there were two cases that were linked, he could have even asked to work with Matt. That would have been cool. He’d get to work with his cousin, going through the evidence, showing his hero what he could do. Instead of being here. Stuck in this boring hell hole. Luke frowned at his phone. No, no negative thoughts. That’s what he was hoping to get away from by reading the message and in...two minutes, he could leave.

He reread a message Matt sent last week about a family dinner. And if reading about how his Uncle Quinton bashed Jason’s absence didn’t cheer him up nothing would. Not that he hated Jason or anything. But it was a nice reminder that some of his cousins had it worse in the family. And he should be grateful to be away from all that.

“Time to go,” Patricia said, shutting off her laptop and getting out of her seat.

Luke longed to run out the door before her, but it really wouldn’t look good if the boss was seen eagerly leaving before his staff. So he waved good-bye, waited a couple of minutes till he was sure Patricia was gone and walked out the door, across the base and to his car. A quick walk. Almost a small jog. But not running, definitely not running. He had a reputation to maintain after all.

Thirty minutes later, he parked a couple of blocks away from Kiryn’s cafe and could feel his steps getting lighter as he drew closer. He hoped he made it in time. He liked to see Kiryn before he set up. He always looked amazing, adjusting the mic and tuning his guitar before he started, bantering with the audience.

Sure enough, there he was, sitting on his stool, chatting and laughing with a few people in the front. Luke walked in quietly, making his way to his regular seat next to the window. He barley sat down when he jumped up again as he heard Kiryn’s voice right behind him.

“You made it,” Kiryn said.

Luke spun around quickly, tripping lightly on his own two feet and wanted to just beat himself up for being such a dorky klutz. What the hell was wrong with him? He was normal when Kiryn wasn’t around. But as soon as the Omega showed up he turned into an awkward, bumbling idiot.

“Uh, yeah,” Luke said, trying to smile.

Kiryn grinned back, a smile so beautiful Luke felt his heart skip a beat.

“You free this Friday?” Kiryn asked.

“I think so,” Luke replied, trying to sound cool, like he didn’t spend his nights alone, with nothing to do and no one to talk to.

“Great! My band has a performance at the lounge I took you to last week. You wanna come?”

Luke felt a ball of anxiety. Kiryn was performing. With his band. Which meant he might actually get to meet them. Other people. Other Orpheus people. And if they were Kiryn’s friends, they were probably just as upbeat and hyper as he is. Luke imagined sitting in the audience, alone and awkward, watching Kiryn perform with other people, smiling at them, knowing they knew Kiryn a lot better than he did. And on the off chance Kiryn came to talk to him after, his band might tag along. And they’d talk to each other the way close friends did while Luke stood there, awkward and silent, until they finally left him behind. Literally and figuratively.

“Ah, actually, I might have some last minute plans,” Luke said, his voice sounding hollow.

Kiryn’s smile dimmed slightly. “Oh. Ok. Well if you change your mind, come over. You know where it is.”

Luke smiled slightly and Kiryn walked back to the front of the room, sitting on his stool and laughing at something someone said.

He shouldn’t go. Things were better this way. He got to see Kiryn, got to see him laugh, talk to him a bit even. No chance of Kiryn seeing how much of a social loser Luke was compared to his regular friends, no possibility said friends would make Luke feel he didn’t belong. It was better this way.

Chapter Text

“Got your story?” Connor asked as he zipped Devon’s lunch bag shut.

“Yup,” Devon said, putting his story in his bag.

“Your math homework?”

“Yup.”

Connor watched Devon shove his math book into his bag, jiggle it a little to make room before he put his game console in his bag.

Sneaky little devil, Connor thought, holding back a smile.

“Oh Devon,” Connor said in a sing song voice.

Devon froze, then turned his head slowly. “Yes Mommy?” If Connor hadn’t seen him put the game in his bag, the mommy would have been a dead give away. He stopped calling him that when he turned five and proclaimed he wasn’t a baby anymore.

“I think your bag is a bit too heavy,” Connor said sweetly.

Devon sighed and took his game out of the bag, muttering. “Eyes in the back of his head. Should have snuck it in last night.”

“You know, I should probably check your bag at night,” Connor said, never missing a beat. “Make sure you got everything. You know how forgetful you are.”

Devon groaned then stood up, facing Connor with his feet planted firmly, his hands stiff at his side. Connor turned around, crossing his arms and leaning back against the kitchen counter, waiting to see what his little warrior would do next.

“I wanna make a deal,” Devon said, his voice louder than the boy probably imagined.

“OK.”

“If I do my homework all week, I can take my game console to school on Friday.”

Connor pondered Devon’s proposition. It would be great if he could get Devon to do his homework without needing to cajole him every time. He usually finished it, but he always rushed it, eager to get it over with and go play.

“If you promise to do your homework and check it, thoroughly. And you only use your console for fifteen minutes during lunch. You should still play with your friends, not stare at a screen.”

“Most of my friends are staring at their screens,” Devon pointed out.

Connor frowned. The school didn’t prohibit technology such as phones and games. And while most of Devon’s peers did spend their break and lunch time with their faces glued to their devices, Connor didn’t want his son to grow up like that. He should be running around, playing, joking, playing tag. Activities Connor never really got to do when he was a kid. When he had Devon, he swore he’d make sure his son would have a better, freer life than he did. And that included developing Devon’s social skills.

“Patrick doesn’t. And neither does Amanda or Carrie or Franklin,” Connor pointed out.

Devon nodded. “Yeah, that’s true.”

Connor smiled and crouched down, coming face to face with his son, once again marvelling at how adorable he still was. His cheeks still retained some baby fat, going well with the hazel eyes he inherited from Connor while the rest was a carbon copy of his handsome father. He was going to be one good looking Alpha one day. Once again, Connor felt a lump form in his throat at the image of his little boy all grown up and couldn’t help hugging Devon tightly.

“Is that a yes?” Devon asked, his voice muffled against Connor’s shoulder.

Connor chuckled and gave Devon a quick kiss on the top of his head before he released him and stood up. “That’s a yes.”

Devon whooped, jumping up and down a couple of times before he picked up his bag and ran out of the kitchen. He sprinted back in, grabbing his lunch box off the counter with a sheepish look on his face. “Can’t forget my lunch.”

Connor cocked an eyebrow, “No you can’t.” He smiled and ruffled Devon’s hair as he passed him. “Let me get my jacket while you put on your shoes.”

Connor heard Devon make his way to the entryway, the sound of the front closet door sliding open as Devon got his shoes out. Connor went down the small hallway, past Devon’s room and their shared bathroom and entered his own. He walked over to his closet and pulled out a blue suit jacket, one of three he owned. All blue to match Matt’s colonel uniform. He noticed that the cuff was starting to fray and sighed, knowing it was time to get a new one. He quickly did the math in his head. His only big expense was, as usual, the rent. Which meant he had some left over even with the regular amount he put in savings. The rent was due next week and he had enough to cover it, as usual. His job paid well and he could easily afford the modest apartment he and Devon lived in. Sure it was smaller than what he was used to, but Connor loved it. Because it was all his. He picked it. He signed the lease. He paid the rent. He decorated it. And if there was an issue with a light bulb or the plumping, he dealt with it. Or at least called the super to come fix it. But he did it, on his own.

He put on his jacket, checking himself over in the big mirror hanging in his closet door, making sure there were no creases on his shirt or pants as well. He looked perfect. As he should in his position as Matthew Blake’s secretary. He was the first person people saw, and damn if he was going to let anyone say that Matt was lacking in any way.

On that note, he really needed to check in with Owen about the case. It wasn’t necessarily his job, and he knew Matt was going to get a full report, which he would then share with Connor. But he felt it was always best if he knew things beforehand so he could prepare any necessary documents or meetings Matt might need. Not that it was normal of a secretary to do that. But when he’d first been hired and Matt asked him to help sort out some information and organize it, Connor had done so quickly, then proceeded to tell Matt what he thought. The Alpha had accepted it and thanked him; he even used a couple of his suggestions! So Connor thought that’s what he was supposed to do. So he always reviewed the evidence, acted as a go between the Eagles and Matt, privy to all the information and meetings.

It wasn’t until three months later when he was talking to the other secretaries that he found out that he overstepped his bounds and secretaries were just supposed to compile information when asked. They weren’t expected to offer any input on the cases or even know what was happening. He’d talked to Matt about it, apologizing for not knowing his place. But the Alpha just laughed and said, “Keep doing what you’ve been doing. It may not be the norm, but it works for us. And I value your opinion.”

It was then and there that Connor swore he would do whatever he could to keep Matt happy and proud of him. No one, no one had ever depended or valued Connor’s input. And he never took it for granted. He respected the Alpha and didn’t want to betray the honor and trust Matt gave him. He just wished Matt wasn’t so friendly. Because-

Connor cleared his throat and left the bedroom, placing his mom mask on and smiling warmly at Devon. “Got everything?”

“Ready to roll!” Devon exclaimed, standing straight and giving him a salute.

Connor chuckled. Ever since he got his job at the base, Devon always saluted him in the morning before they left and in the evening before bed. It was so cute and made Connor even more proud of his job. And why he didn’t have the heart to tell Devon that secretaries don’t need to be saluted.

“How about we order in pizza tonight?” Connor asked, feeling like spoiling Devon a bit.

Devon’s eyes widened. “Really?”

“Sure. If you finish all your homework at Patrick’s house.”

“Yes sir!”

Connor chuckled, closing the front door behind him, enjoying the last moments he had with Devon where he could be his happy mom self, before he put on his Matthew Blake secretary mask on.

 

Ren tapped some random words on his laptop, his eyes surreptitiously glancing at Jason who was leaning back in his chair, his feet propped on top of the desk. Per their agreement, Jason has been showing up to work. Usually at least thirty minutes late, but he showed, and proceeded to make no effort during his promised daily four hours in the office. He sat at his desk, listened to Ren drone on about the case, his whole being screaming his disinterest in everything while played on his phone, then practically bolted out the door.

Well, Ren finished phase one of the plan. He got Jason into the office. Now he needed to start phase two. To actually get Jason to work on a case.

He groaned.

Jason ignored him.

Ren stifled a frown, then sighed. Loudly.

“What? If you have something to say just say it. I hate it when people are being cryptic,” Jason drawled, his eyes glued to his phone.

Funny coming from a sneaky bastard who always hid his real thoughts and personality behind bland and aggravating smiles. “I can’t make sense of this,” Ren said, putting on a mock weary tone.

“You’ll figure it out. I believe in you.”

Well, if it was going to be that easy, Quinton wouldn’t have hired him. Ren got out of his chair and placed the laptop on the desk. Jason didn’t even look up from his phone.

“Is this a Plutus thing?”

“What is?” Jason murmured, frowning as he navigated his warrior across a mountain path. In all his research and reconnaissance, Ren hadn’t bothered to find out what games Jason played in between his parties and sleeping around. And the gym. The guy worked out almost every day. It was like an obsession really. He would love to call Jason vain, but his messy appearance refuted that idea. Maybe he just didn’t have anything else to occupy himself with? Or he just liked to build up his muscles? He didn’t see the point is understanding a silly game and analyzing Jason’s annoying personality right now and dismissed the multi-colored screen.

“This. The drug dealers are using this street as a front based on what our informant told us. Thing is, this street is pretty luxurious. Pricey. Aren’t drug dealers usually operating in less affluent areas?”

“No. Makes sense they’d do that,” Jason said absently. “The whole city center is pretty expensive. Besides, most of the crimes here are by the rich anyway. They would never think of going out of their comfort zone. Pathetic, all of them. Relying on what they know.”

Ren raised an eyebrow, surprised by Jason’s logical answer. He knew Jason was smarter than he let on, but his observation just revealed that he actually might know what he’s doing. If he actually took on the case.

“So, if they rely on their comfort zone, they’d use methods they’re comfortable with to actually transfer the drugs and sell them.”

“Probably.”

Ren waited for Jason to say something else, but the Alpha simply clicked away on his phone. Patience Ren. Patience. You’ve dealt with even more difficult people than this self-entitled dickwad. His antics were like a rebellious child really. Acting out, trying to get a reaction out of Ren, ignoring him by using a game. It was all so juvenile he should actually feel sorry for him. If he didn’t find the Alpha so frickin annoying.

“So which methods would be easiest? Most convenient.”

Jason sighed and finally lowered his phone. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to figure out?”

“I would if I could. But I’m new to the city. I’m not used to how the criminals here think.”

Jason glanced at the screen, taking in the multiple small images of the street full of high end stores. “Probably one of the accessory stores.”

Ren drew in a deep breath, surprised by how certain Jason sounded despite his offhand tone. “Why would you say that?”

“Because it makes the most sense. No one looks too closely at what women buy. It would be easy to hide the drugs inside the purses for example. Surprised you didn’t figure it out.” Jason picked up his phone and got back to his game, as if he hadn’t just dropped a huge bombshell.

Who the hell was this guy? Ren wondered, staring at Jason in shock. He thought at most he could get Jason to agree to authorize a stake out on the street. Not actually use his brain and logic to figure out how the drugs were being transferred. And it made sense! And the idiot acted like he hadn't’ just solved a big part of the case! Ren wanted to shake him until Jason did...something. Where was his Alpha pride? Ambition? Didn’t he realize that if he tried he could actually do something worthwhile?

“We should organize a stake out of the stores,” Ren said, his mind still reeling. “Try and see if there are any frequent and repeated customers.”

“Sounds good,” Jason replied, obviously not really listening. Or wasn’t he? Ren wasn’t so sure any more. Looks like he’d have to modify his initial opinions of the Alpha. He figured he was just a moron who was after a good time and too lazy to do anything. But maybe, underneath it all, he could actually be useful. He was going to have to pay more attention to Jason. A lot more.

He’d barely finished his first positive thought about his useless boss when Jason dropped his feet to the floor with a loud thug, said ‘Time’s up. I’m off,” and walked out of the office, without even looking at Ren.

Unfazed, Ren pulled up the video he downloaded this morning while he waited for Jason to get his ass in gear. Now that he was alone, he could finally watch it in peace. He sat there, one hand beneath his chin, deep in thought as his eyes bore holes into the screen.

What sad idiots Plutus people were, Ren thought as he watched the latest footage of Jason’s Eagles in the simulation training room. He hadn’t spent much time with them in the last few weeks, focusing all his energy on Jason. But everyday, he poured through footage, new and old, to get a grasp for the team he was now in charge of. And like their superior, this team needed a lot of work. And now, he finally had time to actually make something of them.

Yesterday, they had to simulate stopping a bank robbery, which is usually tricky anyway. Add to that some klutzy moves, too many hand gestures with their weapons and heightened emotions as the Betas strutted onto the scene and ruined everything, it was clear they were a disaster in the making. Which Ren expected. They were new after all, and only ever worked with Jason. Which meant they hadn’t been properly trained at all. With Ren in charge, their previous head Eagle was now just another one of the group, not that she was much better anyway.

Ren grinned as two of the Eagles’ guns bumped into each other, not a surprise given how close they stood together. A lazy and pathetic Panther, and a disastrous Eagle team. Ren’s grin widened. Well, he always did like a challenge.

 

 

Kiryn ran through the bushes, slapping away the leaves and sharp twigs that pierced into his skin as he sprinted down the path, his bare feet bleeding with small rocks embedded in the skin. Not that he felt it since his feet were so bruised and cut and pounded from his run they felt numb. He needed to stop soon, he felt like his lungs were going to burst, his muscles screaming from the pain. But if he stopped….they’d come. He could hear them, chasing him, calling out his name. They were coming closer….closer…

With a start Kiryn sat up in his bed, his body covered with sweat, breathing rapid. He looked around his apartment, his hand clutching his chest, reminding himself that he was safe. No one was after him anymore. There was no reason to run. He closed his eyes and tried to even his breathing, clear his head. But those angry voices, the fear of what would happen if they caught him…

“Come away with me,” Kiryn began to sing softly, his voice raspy and shaky. “Come away to a world of song and love. A world where everything is bright.” He took a shuddering breath, clutching his shirt above his heart more tightly. “Everything is light.” He opened his eyes, his breathing more even. “Where nothing will hurt you.” His voice grew stronger, his eyes more determined. “Come away with me. To where the sun shines bright,” he sang louder, emphasizing the brightness he’d always been chasing, imagining that perfect place. “Where the birds sing. Where the trees grow. Where the stars will guide you. Come with me.”

He took a shuddering breath, releasing his grip on his shirt and ran his hands through his hair. He wasn’t running away anymore. No one was going to hurt him. He’d escaped, to where the sun shone brightly. And he was staying. Pumped, he leaped out of bed, planning to take a shower, leave his nightmare behind, and do what he loved most.

Twenty minutes later, Kiryn was sitting on a bench at his favorite park near his apartment. No one was around, which was to be expected at 2 AM. He liked this park because it wasn’t too big or popular and there were no houses or apartments close by. He could just focus on his music, belt it out, and live in the moment.

He strummed a few random notes on his guitar, trying to find that note, the one that sparked his interest, got his blood pumping, his mind spinning with images and notes. Sometimes he found inspiration quickly, the music flowing from his fingers. Other times, he couldn’t feel it, couldn’t grasp it, and would give up. He needed it tonight. He needed that spark. He closed his eyes, playing a few more notes, changing his chords. No, not that one. No, not that one either. He could feel his frustration mounting, desperate to find that one magical note that would make everything better. No, too high. No, too boring. No, too loud. No. No. No!

Suddenly, he found it! The perfect note. He opened his eyes, his hands shaking slightly and closed them again, drawing in a shaky breath and played the note again. Then another, and another. Soon, a song began to flow, to take shape. He could picture it in his mind as he played, an image of two boys, running through the trees, laughing happily without a care in the world, their bare feet barely touching the ground, as if they were flying. He kept playing, watching the boys play in the lake, catching a fish with their bare hands as his fingers flew over the strings, enveloping him in his fantasy. He played, and he played until the song ended, the boys heading to their magical tree house, the fish hanging from their hands.

He opened his eyes, slowly reached a hand up and wiped the tears from his eyes. He always cried when he wrote a new song. It was always so emotional, so special. How could he not cry?

His lips wobbled into a smile and he imagined Tig, Jaz, and Frit’s faces when he played them the song during today’s rehearsal. They’d love it. Which was perfect. They were perfect. It was all perfect.

Weary, he wobbled back to his apartment, ready to crash on his bed and fall into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

 

Ren stepped into the gym, his eyes roaming over the nine Eagles training in different parts of the room. Or were supposed to be training. Seemed like both Matt and Jason’s teams were currently on a break. Which was interesting given they were scheduled to start training ten minutes ago. Must have been an exhausting ten minutes.

 

Casually, he strolled to the right, going around the perimeter to where Jason’s five Eagles stood around, chatting and laughing. After watching their videos for three weeks, he felt he knew everything about them. He could tell their strengths and weaknesses, their fighting styles, how quick they were to respond, and little mannerism that gave away when they were nervous or uncertain. And really, that’s all he needed to know.

 

He drew closer to them, his eyes flicking from one to the other. There was Charles, who was good at hand to hand but had slow reflexes. Then Shawn, who seemed to have a bit of a temper and lashed out based on pure emotion rather than technique. Zack was a bit similar to Shawn in temperament, but he seemed to use his head more. To top it off, there was Leo, who seemed to think this was all a big game and never really put effort in any of the training Ren had seen in the last three weeks.

 

His gaze moved past them to Ashley, the previous head Eagle. Unlike the other four Betas, she was off to the side, silently stretching, her face tense. As she should be. She’d been demoted after all. Also, as a female Beta, she worked harder than the others to get to where she was. To be saddled with a lazy Panther and moronic team must have been killing her. She probably had dreams of achieving glory for herself and her family, and instead hadn’t solved a single case properly in the the year she’d worked for Jason.

 

Ren finally stopped, standing behind the circle of male Betas who completely ignored his presence. Or maybe they didn’t even notice him, their senses so dull and untrained. Idiots.

 

Suddenly, Ren charged forward, sprinting silently and swiftly so the Betas had no chance to react. Before they knew what was happening, Ren delivered a swift kick to the back of Charles’ legs, a jab to Zack’s stomach, took down Leo with a leg swipe and used the flat of his hand to hit Shawn in the chest, knocking him onto his ass.

 

“What the fuck?” Shawn hissed from the ground.  He got up and ran at Ren, right hand drawn back. Ren almost smirked. Too easy. He lightly dodged Shawn’s anger fueled blow and punched him in the gut. The Beta went down, clutching his stomach. Next, Zack came at him and it barely took five second for him to join Shawn on the ground, grabbing his leg where Ren kicked him, hard.

 

“You shit!” Charles screamed, coming at Ren. Ren dodged, stepping back lightly as Charles tried to deliver blow after blow. Hmm, he did mostly know what he was doing. If Ren wasn’t so quick on his feet, he could actually hit him. Feeling he’d seen enough he ducked down, raised one leg and kicked Charles in the chest, sending him flying back and landing next to Zack and Shawn. Ren stood from his crouched position and wasn’t even surprised when he saw Leo was still on the ground where he left him, staring at Ren with an amused expression.

 

“Our new Eagle I presume,” Leo said. “About time too.”

 

“Like hell this guy is our new leader,” Shawn spat out, still lying on the ground, his face beet red.

 

“Hate to break it you,” Ren said, crossing his arms casually, “But I am. Nice to meet you all. I would have come sooner but was occupied with our fearless leader.”

 

Zack smirked, “You mean you were trying to get Jason to actually give a crap. Looks like you failed dude.”

 

Ren stared at the motley bunch on the ground, all but one glaring at him.

 

“Unlike you guys, I’m not used to failing. As we speak, Jason is in his office, reading over the new training program I created for you guys.”

 

Evne Leo seemed shocked at that and Ashley slowly made her way over, her expression pensive. Ren didn’t blame her. She’d been through a lot.

 

“You’re lying,” Charles scoffed. “That guy doesn’t care about any of this. He’s made it perfectly clear.”

 

“And I’m guessing that’s why you let your training slip. Became one of the most useless teams on this base.” Ren let his disgust show on his face and his eyes blazed with fury. “Let me tell you something. I’m not used to giving up. I’m not used to being called a loser or a waste of space.” The Betas’ eyes all shifted, signaling they’d heard what had been said about them on the base. “So, I don’t handle failure or lack of effort very well. You may have coasted so far but now that I’m here, that isn’t going to work for me. I’m used to having a strong team. I’m used to solving cases. I’m used to getting as many criminals arrested as I possibly can. That is what I’m used to. So believe me, things are going to change. Starting tomorrow. I’ll see you in the gym, fresh and ready at 0700.”

 

“We don’t start until 9!” Shawn protested.

 

Ren turned his head slowly to look at him, glaring down at Shawn until the Beta looked away. “0700. Here. Don’t be late.”

 

Without another word, Ren spun on his heel and walked out of the gym. He stopped a few feet away from the gym doors, then leaned back against one of the walls, arms crossed, and waited. Sure enough, two minutes later Ashley ran out of the gym and ground to a halt when she saw him.

 

Ren looked up at her and smiled. “Wanna talk?”

 

Warily, Ashley walked forward until she stood a foot away from him. “Did you mean what you said? That you were going to help us get better.”

 

“Yeah,” Ren said gravely. “I did.”

 

Ashley swallowed. “I tried you know,” she said, her voice trembling and Ren saw how hard she clenched her hands, her arms shaking with repressed anger and frustration. “I really did. No one else wanted to lead so I stepped up. Figured Jason would like how I wanted to take the initiative. Instead he just told me to do whatever...and left. The team fell apart after that. You can’t work if you feel your own boss doesn’t care.”

 

Ren silently listened to her, noting how strained her voice was, how much fury she’d been repressing the last year. He placed a hand on her shoulder and she looked up. They were the same height so they stared into each other’s eyes. After a few second, Ren finally smiled.

 

“I know you did,” he said softly. “I know how hard it must have been, and how angry you are. I promise, things will be different.”

 

Ashley looked like she was about to cry but stood straighter. “Yes sir!” she barked and Ren laughed, glad when Ashley smiled as well.

 

“You might want to go over your hand to hand combat skills,” Ren advised. “That’s what I’ll be focusing on tomorrow.”

 

“Yes sir,” Ashley said, a bit more softly this time. She gave Ren a salute then scampered back to the gym.

 

He may not have a good team, but he did have one damn stubborn Eagle, Ren thought. And he’d take that any day of the week.





Matt watched the monitor as Ren walked away from the gym, his gaze thoughtful. He’d come to the monitoring room, planning to see what his four new Eagles were doing today when he’d seen Ren casually walk into the gym. He’d been surprised since he’d never seen the Beta in the gym till now. He shifted his focus to the Beta, his eyes widening as he saw how Ren quickly took down his own team. Ren’s lips moved and Matt hit the mic button, listening to Ren’s passionate words and felt his own adrenaline start pumping.

 

This was it! This was what he needed. Quickly, he sprinted out of the room and towards the hallway leading from the gym where he’d last seen Ren. The hall was empty and he kept looking around, hoping for a clue to where the Beta went. Maybe he was on his way to check on Jason. Eager to catch the Beta before he reached his cousin and they had another uncomfortable conversation, he ran out of the building and towards the main building where the Panthers had their offices. He saw Ren walking ahead of him and called out.

 

“Ren!”

 

Ren stopped and it didn’t take long for Matt to catch up to the Beta, panting slightly after running through the building and halfway across the base.

 

“I need to talk to you,” Matt said, trying to catch his breath.

 

Ren looked at him curiously, not saying a word which Matt appreciated.

 

“I heard what you said to your Eagles. Are you for real? Can you really make them a strong team?”

 

“Yes,” Ren said confidently. And that’s all Matt needed.

 

He grabbed Ren’s shoulders, not caring about how desperate he looked and sounded. “Train my team. Please.”

 

Ren stared at him for a few seconds and Matt was starting to think he’d have to beg when the Beta suddenly smiled.

 

“OK,” Ren said.

 

Matt blinked, his hands falling off Ren’s shoulders. “That’s it? Just...OK.”

 

Ren nodded, still smiling. “Sure. I figured you might ask anyway. I saw your team a few times while I was watching mine and they need a lot of work. I’m already training my little mess from scratch, wouldn’t take much effort to train yours as well.”

 

Matt’s face broke into a grin and he clapped Ren on the shoulder. “Thanks man! I really appreciate it. They try hard but they’re just not cutting it.”

 

“Hey I get it. Looks like there’s a major problem with the Eagles system anyway. You just might want to let them know that I’ll expect them to follow all my orders. Starting with getting their asses to the gym at 0700 tomorrow.”

 

7 AM was pretty early by Plutus standards, but Matt didn’t care. If that’s what it took for his team to shape up, so be it. “They’ll be there,” he replied gravely.

 

“Great. This should be fun,” Ren said, starting to walk to the Panther building.

 

“Fun?” Matt asked, walking next to Ren.

 

Ren chuckled. “To each their own. You might like, oh I don’t know, movies or sports. I like taking people who are lacking and turning them into something great.”

 

“Like Jason?” Matt couldn’t help asking.

 

“Sure. Your cousin is the perfect example of a diamond in the rough. With some polish, he might actually be a half decent Panther.”

 

Matt knew he should try and defend his cousin, but he was also realistic and instead of angering him, Ren’s words gave him hope. “You really think he could be a decent Panther?”

 

“If he tries,” Ren said, his expression becoming contemplative. “I think there’s more to Jason than meets the eye. I just need to figure him out.”

 

Matt snorted and looked forward. “Good luck. I’ve been trying to understand Jason our whole lives and so far, nothing. Guy’s a closed book. With lots of teeth and locks and spikes around it.”

 

Ren laughed. “That seems like an accurate description.”

 

“He wasn’t always like that you know,” Matt said, his voice growing softer as he recalled Jason when he was a child, eager to play with Matt, shy and nervous about making a mistake during simple games. Who knew that little Alpha who was so eager to do everything right and make others happy, would turn into such a selfish and apathetic person. Matt watched his little cousin change and he still didn’t understand how it happened.

 

If there really was hope for Jason, he wanted to be there to see it happen. He wanted to believe his cousin could turn into a decent human being.

 

“We all start off innocent and young,” Ren said, cutting into Matt’s thoughts. “It’s life that gets in the way and changes all that. We just need to know how to fight back.”

 

Matt wondered what life experiences Ren had. He’d tried to look at his file but it had been sealed. Which was strange since Panthers had clearance to view any Eagle files. Must be his Uncle Quinton who sealed it. What had Ren been through, that his uncle felt the need to hide it from everyone? He should be suspicious, but Matt didn’t get any bad vibes from Ren. Sure, he seemed tough and conniving, but that might be what they all needed right now.

 

“You’re probably right,” Matt said.

 

Ren smiled and the two walked on in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.





Connor watched the screen anxiously as Matt and Jason’s Eagles trickled into the room.  “You really think this is going to work?”

 

Ren grinned. “Probably. Well, looks like everyone made it. I don’t have to go haul someone out of bed.” He saluted Matt, winked at Connor and left the room.

 

“He’s….interesting,” Connor said carefully.

 

Matt chuckled, watching Ren walk down the hall towards the gym and turned on the mic so they could hear everything. “Funny. That’s what Jason said. And until we figure him out more, I think the word interesting suits him best.”

 

Connor looked at Matt out of the corner of his eye, and saw unabashed interest and admiration as the Beta entered the gym and all nine Eagles turned to face him.

 

“Alright, now that you’re all here, let’s get started,” Ren’s voice came through the speakers, so clear it was like he was still in the room with them.

 

“Do we really need to do this?” Shawn whined.

 

Connor made it his job to know all the Eagles and Panthers, so he knew Shawn was the most troublesome one in Jason’s team. He was brash, temperamental, and difficult. He couldn't help it when his body leaned forward, anxious to see how Ren handled him.

 

Ren didn’t even appear fazed by Shawn’s immature and rude question. “If you want to have a job, work as an Eagle, then yes.”

 

Everyone turned to look at each other, their faces apprehensive and Connor drew in a quick breath.

 

“He got them,” Matt said, leaning back in his chair, a wide grin on his face.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Until now, Jason’s team did whatever they wanted. Our team would mess up, and we’d just tell them to train and practice more. But we never threatened them with actual consequences. We never told them they could be expelled from the program.”

 

“You can’t do that!” Shawn exclaimed. Connor eyed Shawn’s face, noting the small question and uncertainty in Shawn’s voice and demeanour.

 

“Colonel Jason and Colonel Matthew gave me full authority over you guys,” Ren said, his eyes flicking from one Beta to another. “That means I get to decide which of you is worth sending out into the field. And who should...look for an alternative job.”

 

The Betas unease gave way to fear at that and Connor didn’t blame them. If someone threatened his job, he would freak out too. The military sector was new, but it still held some prestige in Plutus society. The money was good on every level, and you could proudly say you worked with the military and see people’s eyes widen with awe. In Plutus, status was everything. Some of these Betas came from middle class families who lived on the outskirts, eager to rise up in the main city. Others came from rich families who didn’t really need a Beta, focusing on their Alpha and Omega offspring instead. To everyone here, to every Beta, being here was like a dream, a chance to show Plutus that they mattered. And now, Ren was threatening to take away that dream, that status, and then they’d go back to nothing.

 

“I don’t plan on letting anyone go,” Ren continued and the Eagles all turned to him, their expressions pensive. “If I could, I want all of you to succeed, to be the best teams on the base. To show everyone, not just in Plutus, but in all of Dracus what we can do. But that really depends on you. If you train, work, and commit yourselves, you can become that team.”

 

“And you think you’re good enough to get us there,” West, one of Matt’s new Eagles, asked.

 

Connor knew West wasn’t questioning Ren’s qualifications. He was a genuinely nice and hard working Eagle. All four new Eagles were, eager to do well. They just needed the proper training. And with the threat of expulsion suddenly hovering over them, they had every right to be nervous. And that’s what West’s question was, one of hope rather than dismissal.

 

“You follow my lead,” Ren said solemnly, meeting all nine Eagles in the eye, “And I promise, I will do my best to make sure you are the best.”

 

Connor exhaled a breath he hadn’t even known he’d been holding and sank back into his chair.

 

“They’re his now,” Matt said.

 

Connor didn’t reply, watching the Eagles begin to run a lap around the gym, Ren calling out to some on how to adjust their strides and breathing. They watched in silence for several minutes as the Eagles ran four laps, panting by the end, and Ren quickly told them to run suicides. Connor expected the Eagles to groan, at least Shawn and Zack to protest, but they all quickly stood at the base line, taking turns to run back and forth.

 

“Yeah,” Connor said, unable to hide his surprise. “They’re his team now.”

 

“Well, we should leave them to it,” Matt said, getting up and leaving the room. Connor took one last look at the screen then left as well. He followed Matt back to the office, his eyes glued to the floor.

 

“I have a lunch meeting with my dad later right?” Matt asked.

 

“Yes,” Connor said tonelessly as he sat in his chair at his desk.

 

Connor began to type his notes about today’s training, waiting for the sound of Matt’s door closing, but it never came. Slowly, he lifted his gaze and was shocked when he saw Matt standing by his desk, staring at him.

 

“What’s wrong?” Matt asked.

 

“Nothing,” Connor said hurriedly, placing his hands in his lap.

 

Matt didn’t move, his eyes boring into Connor’s. After a few moments of silence Matt finally spoke. “If it was nothing, you wouldn’t look so...defeated.”

 

Connor’s eyes widened. Had he really looked like that? He was feeling a bit...off. But not defeated. He refused to ever feel that way again.

 

“I’m not defeated,” Connor protested, glad to hear some of his familiar brusque tone was back in his voice. “Just thinking about the new training.”

 

Matt looked at him for a few more moments then nodded. “Good. You do that. I’ll be in my office.”

 

Connor waited until Matt left then sank back into his chair, rubbing his forehead warily. Trust Matt to pick up on even the smallest changes in his emotions. This is why the Alpha made him nervous and why he always had to be on his guard, always making sure he had his perfect, stoic, secretary mask on. Because if he noticed even a hint of any emotion, Matt would latch onto it. And he didn’t want Matt to give him anymore attention than he already did.

 

He had to be careful, especially if Ren was going to be the new person in charge of the Eagles. He wouldn't let his insecurity about the Beta’s influence and presence on the base and with his team affect him. Connor swallowed and closed his eyes, trying to ignore the fact that despite his best efforts the last month when they became Eagles and the year when they were cadets, he never could get the team’s respect the way Ren did in less than two minutes. How he spent hours poring over training videos and research, making suggestions and plans with Owen, only to see the Eagles never improving, his ideas ignored by the trainers. And yet, Ren promised he could. With a cocky grin and confident attitude to boot. Connor knew what he felt. He was jealous. Of Ren for being strong, confident, capable, someone people trusted and respected. People like Matt.

 

You should know your limits. That calm, reasonable voice was back, the one that haunted him whenever he was at his weakest. You can’t be anymore than you are. Just accept it.

 

No! Connor said, his small hands balling into fists. He’d been down this road before. He knew what happened if he got caught up in his waves of jealousy and insecurity. He refused to be defeated by those emotions, to make him feel any less than what he was. What he worked hard to be.

 

Resolved, he turned his attention back to his computer, quickly and efficiently typing his notes on the training, knowing he had to watch the full video footage later..and not feel inadequate. Again.

Chapter Text

Jason leaned back in his chair, his eyes lazily flicking from one screen to another in the monitoring room, each showing images of his and Matt’s Eagles training. He didn’t know much about this stuff but even he could tell that they sucked.

 

“They suck,” Jason said.

 

“Of course they do,” Ren replied. “That’s why I’m training them from scratch.”

 

“What am I watching?”

 

“They are running a kidnapping simulation.”

 

“Cuz kidnappings are so common here,” Jason said dryly. “You do realize we mostly have drug cases, espionage, money laundering, hidden behind closed doors kind of crimes right.”

 

“Like I said, we’re going over the basics. Who knows when a drug bust suddenly turns into a hostage situation. Or there’s a hiccup infiltrating a house. They’re not just training so they can do what I teach them. They’re honing their reflexes. As soldiers, they need to be ready for anything.”

 

It made sense Jason supposed. Not that he really understood any of this. And he liked to keep it that way.

 

He watched as Shawn finally  positioned himself outside the window of the kidnapper’s room. The other eight Eagles had, clumsily, positioned themselves at various areas inside and outside the building. It looked like they were doing it right. But something seemed off. What was it?

 

“And now,” Ren said, hitting a button on the console.

 

Suddenly, the victim inside screamed and a laser beam went through the window. Shawn started and fell off the building, crashing onto the simulation room floor. Panic ensued and the Eagles all started screaming to each other, a couple of them taking shots at the room, setting their lasers to go through the brick of the building.

 

Ren sighed while Jason smirked. “Told you. They suck.”

 

“They only started training properly two weeks ago. These things take time. At least they’re trying.”

 

Ren hit the button to end the simulation and Shawn groggily got to his feet, ripped off his helmet and threw it at the ground. That one always did have a temper. The few times Jason had bothered to come see them because he had to he noticed how angry Shawn was. The others looked displeased as well, their shoulders slumped in defeat.

 

“Well, we tried our best,” Jason said, about to get out of his chair.

 

“Sit down,” Ren said casually. “You still owe me another twenty minutes.”

 

Jason wanted to protest that there was no point and twenty minutes was nothing. But an image of a smirking Ren holding a fire extinguisher while he hovered over his bed popped into his head and he sank back into his seat.

 

“Oh, you thought I was leaving early? No way would I do that.” He gave Ren an innocent smile which made the Beta roll his eyes before he got up and walked out of the room.

 

Jason settled back in his seat, propping his legs on the console table, hands behind his head, ready to watch the show. Given how strict, snippy and sarcastic Ren was with him, it was going to be fun seeing him unleash it on the Eagles. Not that they didn’t deserve it. They were so pathetic.

 

Ren entered the simulation room and Jason turned up the volume, eager to hear every word. Ren waited until all the Eagles stood in a line in front of him, their expressions downcast, unable to meet his eye.

 

“I’m not going to lie,” Ren said, his voice business like as he stood in front of them in his normal soldier stance. “The ending wasn’t good. But up until that point you guys were improving.”

 

One of Matt’s Eagles snorted. “Yeah right.”

 

Ren looked at him and the Eagle tensed up. Here it comes Jason thought, sitting up a bit more in anticipation.

 

He was therefore shocked when Ren’s expression softened slightly. “I don’t lie. Ever. I don’t see the point. And you know I haven’t lied to you yet. So believe me when I say you did improve.”

 

He looked at Shawn. “Last time, it took you a full five minutes to get to the window. This time you did it in three and a half.” Shawn blinked and his jaw dropped.

 

Ren turned his attention to Zack, who straightened, looking Ren in the eye. “Zack, last time you couldn’t get to your position at all because you got tangled up in the wires. This time, you had everything sorted and ready and were the first one in position.”

 

Zack stood straighter, his expression lightened and his eyes shone with pride. Ren proceeded to speak to each Eagle, telling them what mistake they made before and how they improved on it this time. By the time he finished, every Eagle was standing straight, their heads held high and their expressions eager.

 

“The issue here was, you guys panicked. Which is normal and why I had the victim scream. You need to be prepared for anything to go wrong. And that comes with practice and instinct. So we’re going to go again after I give you a few tips.”

 

Jason switched off the mic, his elbows on the table propping his head. So, the Beta had a nicer side to him. Jason didn’t expect that. He seemed like such a hard ass perfectionist. Someone who expected everything to go well and snapped at whoever made the slightest error. Jason didn’t expect this side to him and didn’t know how to handle it.

 

Quietly, he got up and left the room, unable to bear looking at Ren comforting and encouraging his Eagles, watching their expressions change, becoming more determined as they hung on their suprior’s every word.

 

What was it like, to have someone who told you it was OK to make mistakes? Growing up, all Jason ever heard was That’s not how you play a piano! Get it right! You don’t hold a pen like that, people will think you don’t know how to write. Why the fuck did you get a B? Are you stupid! Matt got an A! Are you saying he’s better than you! You’re so pathetic.

 

Jason stopped and closed his eyes, willing the voice to disappear. He wasn’t a kid anymore. He already decided long ago to tune that voice out, ignore it and let it just wash over him. The words, the voice, the person didn’t matter anymore. His dad couldn’t hurt him or try and control him anymore. Now, Jason was the one who pulled the strings. He was the one who got to see his dad get angry, frustrated and feel ashamed. And Jason...Jason did nothing. It was that simple. He hated how long it took him to realize it. All those years wasted trying to please his father, trying to be the best at everything. To beat Matt and every other Alpha his dad compared him to. All that time his dad had him under his thumb, controlling and influencing his every emotion. But no more. He was in charge now. He was in control now. Working hard did nothing for him. Doing nothing, helped him be at peace.

 

He let go of everything. And it was easier that way. He should just let Ren do his thing. He seemed so good at it and Jason was just...well, he was Jason. Useless, pathetic, and a waste of space. And he enjoyed that life. And that’s what he reminded himself of every day.





Luke stared at the front of the ‘Harmony Lounge,” kicking himself for coming. Kiryn had asked him every Friday for the last two weeks and he kept saying no. He wasn’t even sure why he came. He’d already decided it would be best if he stayed away, enjoy watching and talking to Kiryn in small doses at the cafe. And yet, here he was, standing outside the lounge where he knew Kiryn and his band were supposed to start playing soon.

 

He should just leave. Go home. He didn’t belong here. He kept repeating it to himself, yet his legs refused to move. Idiot. You can’t stand here all night. Either you go in, or leave. Go in, or leave. Go in-

 

“Hey, you OK?” someone asked him.

 

Luke started. “Ahh yeah.”

 

“You going in?” the person asked, their expression slightly concerned.

 

Luke swallowed, knowing this was one of those important moments in life where he had to make a tough decision that could change everything.

 

“Yes,” Luke said, surprised by how sure he sounded. “Yes I am.”

 

Resolutely, he grabbed the handle of the front door, pulled it open and stepped inside. As soon as he walked in he was blasted with the sound of a loud bass guitar. He looked up and his eyes widened. They were...amazing. The music was loud, an upbeat song blasting through the speakers. And yet, he didn’t feel like it was loud or deafening at all. It enveloped him, drawing him in. He didn’t even realize that he stepped forward, making his way to the front of the crowd, entranced by the music beating against his eardrums and the image of Kiryn and his band lit up on stage, playing their instruments, pure joy on their faces.

 

Suddenly, Kiryn began to sing and Luke was gone, once again sinking into Kiryn’s voice. How, how could it be so seductive, so enchanting? And while before his simple guitar matched his voice, it was like the other instruments were taking it to a whole other level, finessing it and molding it, making it stronger, brighter, more full of life.

 

Luke watched and listened as they finished one song, then another, then another. He barely moved, staring at the stage, watching Kiryn smile and walk over to the Omega playing guitar, their backs turning to each other as they lost themselves in the music. They looked so...happy. Joyous. Free. And Luke was shocked by how much he wanted to be a part of it. And for now, he was, just by listening to it.

 

“Thank you everyone for coming to support us tonight,” Kiryn said and Luke snapped back to the present, realizing he’d been standing still for a full hour. Their time was over and Kiryn and his band were giving their thanks while Luke tried to figure out how he could maneuver himself through the crowd before Kiryn spotted him.

 

Fat chance, Luke thought grously. He was standing almost right in front of the stage. And it was pretty crowded. It would take him a while to get out. Slowly, slowly, he could do it. Before-

 

A hand fell on his shoulder and Luke almost groaned, knowing what he’d see when he turned around.

 

“You made it!” Kiryn said happily, smiling up at him.

 

“Yeah,” Luke said, clearing his throat uncomfortably. “My schedule cleared up. Thought I’d stop by.”

 

“Well, I’m glad you did. We debuted a new song today. I just wrote it a week ago.”

 

“You wrote a new song?” Luke exclaimed. He didn’t realize Kiryn wrote his own songs. How talented was he?

 

“Yeah. It’s still a bit rough and needs more polish, but I think it went well. It was the second to last one. Don’t know if you remember it.”

 

Luke tried to recall the songs, but they all blended into each other. All he remembered was the emotions he felt while he was listening. He really was a crappy audience he thought and winced.

 

“Sorry. I can’t quite remember it,” he felt ashamed as he admitted it.

 

Kiryn took it in true Kiryn fashion and just laughed, clapping him on the shoulder. “It’s no big deal. I’ll probably play it at the cafe later this week. I still want to make it better. Then you can tell me what you think.”

 

Luke nodded, uncertain why Kiryn would care about his opinion and how the hell he could come up with one when he was so ignorant of music.

 

“If you’re still free, we should go,” Kiryn said.

 

Luke froze, certain he heard him wrong. “What about your band?”

 

“Oh, they’re busy now. Jaz came with his wife and they’re going to dance a bit. Tig and Frit are talking to some of their friends. They won’t miss us, I promise.”

 

Luke blinked as Kiryn continued to stare at him. He thought Kiryn would want to spend time with his band, leaving Luke alone and awkward like he’d imagined. He looked past Kiryn and saw that he was right. His bandmates seemed occupied, laughing and talking to people. He knew he should argue, tell Kiryn it was fine and he should go have fun with them. They seemed to be having fun, more fun than Kiryn would have with Luke. But that small selfish part of him, the one that wanted Kiryn all to himself, spoke up.

 

“Sure, let’s go.”





Kiryn skipped happily as he and Luke made their way down the street from the lounge. He was glad Luke agreed to leave so quickly. His band had seen Luke staring at them and asked him about him, figuring he was a new fan. And a Kiryn fan based on how he focused on Kiryn through the set.

 

Kiryn wasn’t really ready to share Luke with anyone yet, and told them Luke was just a customer and quickly left them to their friends, eager to get Luke out of the club before Tig dragged them both to their table. He didn’t know why he wanted Luke all to himself, and didn’t bother to try and figure it out. Thinking about things was too annoying, too hard sometimes. That’s why he swore he’d always go with the flow, just feel and enjoy what life had to offer. And right now, that included spending time with a shy Beta.

 

“You hungry?” Kiryn asked.

 

Luke stopped for a second, appearing to think about his answer which Kiryn found hilarious. You were either hungry or you weren’t. Why did he need to think about it? Man, this Beta was weird and cute.

 

“Kinda,” Luke said. “I had a big lunch but it was a while ago.”

 

“Great! I know the perfect place.” Kiryn grabbed Luke’s hand, and as usual the Beta held his tentatively. So cute. He tightened his grip on Luke and walked briskly, leading him down a few zig zag streets towards the beginning of the food district of Orpheus.

 

“You figured out how to get around yet?” Kiryn asked.

 

“Not yet. I still can’t understand the weird architecture and streets,” Luke said, sounding a bit frustrated. And Kiryn didn’t blame him. It must be confusing for first timers. He’d been young when he moved to Orpheus and quickly adjusted to the layout. It was like a fun maze, but it did have an underlying pattern.

 

“I’ll let you in on the secret,” Kiryn said, stopping and pointing at the brick building on their right. “See that little mark over there.”

 

Luke squinted in the dim light from the streetlamp. “It looks like a sun.”

 

“Yup. And if you look over there, it’s the moon. And there is water and that one is fire.”

 

“What does it all mean?”

 

“Here’s the thing. Orpheus doesn’t have a set structure. Architecture is a form of art, so lots of people just built whatever they wanted, wherever they could get land or were hired to build. It didn’t matter if it clashed with the other buildings, or was on a neighbouring street, causing a new road to open up, or was made out of a different material. All that mattered was that it was built.”

 

“That’s weird,” Luke said and Kiryn laughed.

 

“I know. It is. And that’s why our streets are confusing and a mess. And while the government is supportive of everyone expressing themselves however they please, they also knew there had to be some kind of order. So they had every building on every corner paint a symbol of which direction they are facing. The Sun is for East, the moon for West, water for North, and fire for South. Don’t ask me why they picked those symbols. Probably whimsical and has something to do with geography. But it works. As long as you follow the symbols, you’ll generally end up in the right direction. Even if you take a few side streets to get there.”

 

Luke pondered the new information Kiryn gave him and he knew he had to help the guy out a bit more.

 

“Look, the place we’re going to eat is in the west in the food district, which luckily is right next to the entertainment district. So we just have to follow the moon symbols for a while.”

 

“The district your cafe is in is in the shopping one. Why isn’t it in the food one?”

 

“Because that’s the location Bri could find,” Kiryn said. “You’re right. Technically, we are a cafe and should be in the food district. But because Bri also sells handmade paste jewelry her wife makes and I play there, we can be labelled as shopping and entertainment, so she was able to rent a building in any of the three districts.”

 

Luke sighed and rubbed his head. “This is all too confusing.”

 

Kiryn laughed, making a right. “I know. But if you think in terms of districts for a while, it’ll make things easier.” Kiryn held up Luke’s hand, palm up and traced a circle on it. “Imagine this is Orpheus. In this section,” Kiryn said, pointing at the north most part, “Is the office district. That’s where all the businesses, hospitals, police station, and the base is. Under that is the shopping district, where I work.” He pointed to the south most part, below the shopping district. “Here, is the residential area. Most people live there, as you know. Then you have the food district on the west, and the entertainment on the east. Viola!”

 

Luke stared at Kiryn’s finger, which was still resting on his palm. Kiryn gave him a few seconds, letting him try and visualize what Kiryn just described. When Luke still didn’t say anything, simply staring at Kiryn’s fingers he began to realize there was more to it than that. Slowly, he moved his finger in a small circle on Luke’s hand, watching the Beta’s eyes follow his languid movements.

 

He knew Luke was attracted to his music. He was always so enthralled, lost in the notes while Kiryn played. He figured he was awkward with Kiryn because he was just...well awkward. But was it more than that?

 

Luke licked his lips and Kiryn knew he was onto something. Slowly, he lifted his hands, placing them on either side of Luke’s head. Before the Beta could think, he pulled Luke’s head down, planting a soft but firm kiss on his lips.

 

Luke froze against his lips, his whole body taut and Kiryn smiled, pressing his lips more firmly against Luke’s and nipping it lightly. He felt Luke shudder and finally pulled back, his eyes focused on Luke as the Beta drew in a deep breath then opened his eyes.

 

“Why did you do that?” Luke whispered.

 

“Because I was curious. Did you mind?” Kiryn pasted a smile on his face but could feel his stomach turning into knots. He had acted on his instincts and tried not to regret his actions, but he didn’t want to scare the Beta off either.

 

“No,” Luke finally said, and Kiryn felt his gut unclench, his smile becoming more natural.

 

“Good. Let’s go. I’m starving.”

 

He marched away, not touching Luke since he knew the Beta needed a moment to collect himself. He heard Luke begin to follow him and exhaled, glad he hadn’t freaked him out completely. Really, he should think before he acted sometimes. But where was the fun in that?




Luke walked home in a daze, unable to figure out what the hell happened tonight. First, he actually went to Kiryn’s concert. He swore he wouldn’t go and he’d avoided it like the plague. A very attractive plague that wasn’t really a plague, but a seductive shining light that he finally couldn’t resist. He must have looked like an idiot too, standing in front of the stage in a daze, unable to tear his eyes away from the alluring Omega.

 

Everything got even weirder when Kiryn chose him over his friends. He still didn’t know why Kiryn did that and was busy trying to figure that out when he got a lecture about the bizarre city he now lived in. And while his mind was slowly going numb from all the information….Kiryn kissed him. Him. Luke Blake. He’d been so shocked he hadn’t talked much the rest of the night, staying quietly by Kiryn’s side as he bought them….something from a food cart. His brain had stopped functioning by this point.

 

He still didn’t know Kiryn well, or much beyond the fact that he was a good singer and a happy go lucky people person. He’d also seemed completely unaffected by the kiss. He’d just talked and talked in his normal Kiryn way, appearing content with Luke’s one word murmurs and grunts and head nodding.

 

Was this normal for Kiryn? To just kiss people on the spur of the moment? He didn’t think it had a deeper meaning, didn’t let himself think it. Kiryn was friendly. And for some reason he decided to take Luke under his wing. He was...affectionate. That’s all this was.

 

He was still trying to convince himself of that, fighting against that small, hopefully voice that told him maybe Kiryn, a beautiful and amazing Omega, might actually be  attracted to him, when his phone rang. He looked at the screen and his heart stopped. He took a deep breath, clearing his mind completely before he answered it.

 

“Hi Dad,” Luke said respectfully.

 

“Luke. How are you? I called earlier but you didn’t pick up.”

 

Luke winced at his mistake. His dad called him every night at eight. Luke knew that, making sure he’s free so he could answer his dad’s daily call. He’d been so wrapped up in his thoughts about Kiryn he’d forgotten about the call and that he’d put his phone on vibrate before he went to the club.

 

“Yeah, sorry. I was ….busy.”

 

“With a case?”

 

Luke paced his small living room, toeing the carpet with his shoe. “Yeah, sort of. There was a potential case.”

 

His dad paused. “It turned out to be nothing again?”

 

Luke closed his eyes and swallowed. “Yeah.”

 

His dad sighed and Luke wished the ground could open up and just swallow him up. Anything to avoid the disappointment his father was clearly feeling.

 

“This isn’t good Luke. Your grandfather will never let you come back unless you prove yourself.”

 

“I know. I’m...I’ll find something.”

 

“It’s bad enough you’re a Beta,” his dad continued, clearly just voicing his frustration. Again. “It’s not enough if you just do what your cousins can do. You have to do better. Show them you are stronger than them.”

 

“I know,” Luke said, trying to hide his own frustration at the speech he’d heard all his life. He had to be stronger. He had to be better. Better than an Alpha. But he wasn’t an Alpha. Which just made everything worse.

 

“I know you know,” his dad sighed, his tone resigned. “Just...keep trying. OK?”

 

Luke nodded even though his dad couldn't see him. “Yeah. I’ll keep trying.”

 

“Good. Otherwise you’re OK? You sleeping and eating alright?”

 

“Yeah, everything’s fine.”

 

“Good, good.”

 

Silence reigned on the other end of the line. It was always like this. His dad said his part, Luke listened and said he’d try harder, then there would be nothing left to say. For as long as he could remember, he and his dad never had a comfortable conversation. What would it be like, if he and his dad could talk to each other honestly? If they were actually able to communicate? He’d tried over the years, but he could never figure out how. And his dad didn’t reciprocate, didn’t know how to. His mom knew. His mom was better at this than them. But she was gone and they had to deal with their relationship themselves.

 

“You good?” Luke finally asked.

 

“Yes yes. Fine. Your grandfather’s birthday party is next weekend.”

 

Oh yeah, he’d forgotten about it. “Should be….fun.”

 

His dad chuckled nervously and Luke smiled a bit. “Yes fun. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

 

“OK. Tell Grandpa happy birthday from me.”

 

“Will do. Good night Luke.”

 

“Good night Dad.”

 

Luke waited until the phone went dead then placed it on his coffee table, sinking into the couch. He had to do better. Had to try harder. To be not as good a Beta as he could be, but better than an Alpha. To show everyone that his dad hadn’t made a mistake. That Luke wasn’t a mistake. He had to. He just didn’t know how.

Chapter Text

Connor was engrossed in the latest report on the Eagles’ training, trying to quell the jealousy he felt as he read Ren’s results. In the two weeks they had started working with the Beta they were already showing signs of improvement.

It was miniscule really. Like improving their stamina, getting into positions faster, showing more precision when disarming a bomb. It was just a few seconds difference. Not enough to warrant a lot of celebration and attention. But it was something. The first sign since the Eagles started their training and joined the force as cadets over a year ago that they were actually getting better. And it had nothing to do with Connor. After all his efforts the last year to add his two cents on their training and try and make a difference, none of it mattered.

Not that the trainers had listened to anything he had to say. Despite all the research he gave them, diagrams full of charts and step by step explanations along with scientific backup, they’d ignored it all. Would they have improved if the trainers had listened to Connor all those months ago? He’ll never know. Because apparently, they really didn’t need him.

What made it even worse was that Ren was so annoyingly organized. Connor spent days trying to find any flaws in his outlines, charts, records, even a miscalculation or typo. Nothing. The Beta wasn’t making a single mistake, his notes were meticulously kept and unbelievably thorough. There was nothing Connor could use to make himself feel better for failing at making the Eagles shape up while he was involved.

“Connor,” Matt said from behind him, making him jump.

“Yes?”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.”

“No, I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. I was going over Ren’s notes from yesterday’s training session.”

Matt smiled as he walked over, looking over Connor’s shoulder at the charts without invading his personal space. He always did that. Never encroaching or making Connor feel uncomfortable. At least physically.

“He’s great isn’t he? I try and stop by at least once a day and it seems like they are getting better. They’re more excited and focused if that makes sense.”

Connor pictured the Eagles’ expressions when he snuck into the monitoring room yesterday. They had been practicing how to subdue an emotional gunman, their tones calm and soothing as a couple of them got in position to take him out from behind. Their eyes focused, their muscles tense and ready to leap in if there was a sudden change. They hadn’t succeeded and ended up tipping the gunman off when one of the Eagles behind him kicked a loose pebble, but they had been doing well until that moment. And while they’d gotten angry at their failures in the past and looked downcast, they simply reset the simulator and tried again, their expressions determined.

“I know what you mean. They are more committed now.”

“Exactly.”

“Did you need something?” Connor asked after they stood in silence for several moments. He wanted Matt to tell him what he wanted and go back into his office. He preferred working in his own space, alone.

“Yeah,” Matt said frowning. “I was going over Owen’s report. It looks like there hasn’t been any changes while they surveillance the possible drug dealer. It’s been two weeks already and I really need the team to focus on the robberies again. We have two weeks left before Cyril Hunter can sue us and we need to build a case.”

Connor frowned as well, feeling frustrated by their lack of results. Not that the Eagles weren’t doing their best. They were doing everything right. It was just not working out. They knew it was a slim chance since the dealer had spotted them before. Matt was right, it was time to turn their attention to their core case.

“What would you like them to do?”

“Owen already had Susan and Violet investigate Cyril online and came up with nothing. I need the team to become more actively involved.”

“I’ll send Owen the blueprints of Cyril’s home and they can plan an infiltration. Maybe even check his cousin’s house as well. Larry. They’re pretty close so Cyril may have hidden stuff at Larry’s place.”

“Exactly. But I don’t want to completely give up on the drug angle. There’s still something there.”

Connor turned to face Matt, taking in his apprehensive stance though his face was blank. “You want to send the new Eagles to stake out the street.”

Matt smiled. “You always get me.”

“Not hard to figure out,” Connor said, ignoring the personal compliment and affectionate tone. “But I hate to point out, despite the improvements the Eagles still aren’t ready to be sent out into the field alone.”

“That’s why I was thinking Ren can train them to just do surveillance there. While we need to figure out the robbery quickly, the drug case is long term after all. We’ve barely scratched the surface. So I don’t mind having them train for it then send them out in shifts.”

Connor didn’t like where this was headed and his tone was flat when he continued. “You want me to send Ren the blueprints of the street.” It wasn’t a question. As usual, he knew exactly what Matt wanted, even if it was something Connor really, really didn’t want to do.

“Yes please,” Matt replied.

Connor wanted to scream in frustration. It was bad enough Ren was so good at training the Eagles where he had failed. Now he really was stepping into Connor’s territory, being placed in a position where he could call the shots with his team. Matt’s team. Well really the team was sort of both of theirs and he wasn’t going to lie to himself about how possessive he felt about them. Even though they were new and he just officially started working with them a little over a month ago, he’d monitored them when they were cadets, knowing he might have to work with them eventually. So he’d done his research, found out everything he could about them, both personal and professional, so he could use them and advise as best as he could.

Why was everyone he cared about, worried about, being taken away from him. No, this was no time to think about Devon. This was about work. He had to focus on that.

“Sure. I’ll send them right over,” Connor said, turning back to his computer and looking through the government database for the blueprints.

“Thanks Connor. You’re one in a million,” Matt said, walking back into his office.

One in a million, Connor thought sourly. Yeah right. If he was then people wouldn’t find him so easily replaceable. He felt tears of frustration forming in his eyes and closed them, squeezing his lids shut tight. Nope, not going there. He’d fought long and hard to get over his insecurities and negative thoughts. He was doing a good job of raising Devon; he made sure he did all his homework and was polite and caring but still had fun the way a seven-year-old should. He got a job. An actual job. He rented his own apartment! He had accomplished so much despite everyone telling him he would fail. And he had to keep remembering that. Even though he was now feeling marginalized at work.

It was temporary. Once the Eagles were all good, then Ren would step back out of the picture. He hoped.

 


Ren tapped his pen thoughtfully against his lips as he scrolled through his training plan for the day. The Eagles were finally coming along. They still freaked out, still needed to work as a team, still needed to improve…everything. But they were making some progress. That was good. If they hadn’t then Ren would have to have some awkward conversations.

“Damn!” Jason exclaimed from across the room.

His warrior probably fell off that stupid mountain Ren thought absently. After that amazing revelation Jason dropped on him last week, Ren thought there might actually be some hope that Jason would become interested in the case. Man he was stupid. He should have stuck by his initial assessment. It was like Jason used all the brain power he possessed to solve that one clue, retreating further into his nocturnal activities and idiotic video games.

Ren had tried to entice him through more questions, trying to make Jason feel like the big man who had all the answers. But it was a no go. Jason never looked at the files, never offered helpful answers, choosing to make idiotic and irrelevant comments instead.

There was a knock on the door and Ren switched his attention to the present. He walked over to the door and pulled it open, slightly surprised when he saw Connor standing on the other side. He only talked to the Omega a handful of times in the last two weeks and he was always very frosty when he spoke to him. Ren didn’t know what his deal was but he knew when someone didn’t like him. Which was fine. He was used to not being liked. It came with the job.

“Can I help you?” he asked politely.

“I emailed you some blueprints,” Connor said, his tone cold as usual.

“Yeah I saw the email. I haven’t opened it yet. Is it for the Eagle training?”

“Can I come in?”

Ren hid his shock and stepped aside. He didn’t think the Omega wanted to talk to him for long, but clearly the topic was confidential.

“How can I help?” Ren asked after they sat down at the small conference table, both of them ignoring Jason as he tapped away on his phone.

“We had our veteran Eagles staking out a possible drug dealer,” Connor said, launching right into the subject. Which was one of the reasons Ren actually sort of liked the Omega. He liked people who cut to the chase and were all business. “Unfortunately, we have to pull them out. We need them investigating another case.”

“I didn’t know you could investigate more than one case at a time.”

The tips of Connor’s lips tightened and Ren didn’t know if it was because he interrupted him, questioned him or some obscure other reasons. Man, why did some Omegas have to be so temperamental and high maintenance? He preferred the nicer ones, that ones who were more easy-going.

“We weren’t,” Connor replied. “We were originally investigating a robbery when we stumbled upon a drug case. We were pursuing it for…various reasons. But we need to return to our original case.”

“So where do I come in?”

If he wasn’t so used to reading people’s tells, he would have missed the little flash of triumph in Connor’s eyes. If he didn’t know any better, it was like the Omega suddenly felt he won something.

“We need you to train the new Eagles so they can surveillance the street,” he continued, sounding a bit more arrogant. “Matt just wants them to watch the street in shifts, so it should be more straightforward. Think you can do it?” Connor punctuated the taunting question with a smug smile.

Ohh, the little twerp had a bitchy side. That he could handle. He was pretty bitchy himself after all. “Sure. Easy.”

Ren got up, got his computer and sat down again, opening up the blueprints Connor sent him.
“Well, let’s take a-“ Ren froze, unable to believe what he was seeing. Was it a mistake? But no, he had a great memory. And he was great at reading blueprints and maps. There was no mistaking it. He jumped out of his chair, clutching his laptop and practically thrust it under Jason’s nose.

“Hey!” Jason exclaimed, lurching back in his chair, arms in the air in protest. “You ruined-“

“Look at this!” Ren said impatiently.

“No thanks,” Jason replied, trying to push the laptop away.

Ren growled, forcing it back in front of Jason’s face. “This is no time for your stupid stubborn crap. Just look!”

Jason sighed and rolled his eyes before he finally looked at the screen. It took him a few seconds to understand what he was looking at but when he did his face broke into a wide grin.

“So, this is the street you guys are watching?” Jason called out to Connor.

Connor, who had followed Ren and was standing on the other side of the desk, nodded. “Yes.”

Ah, so he was listening, Ren thought. He knew there was more to Jason despite what the moron tried to show.

“Hmm, interesting,” Jason said, tapping his fingers on his chin.

“Why?” Connor asked impatiently, glaring at Jason. Looks like Ren wasn’t the only one the Omega didn’t like. Wonder what Jason ever did to him?

“Because,” Jason said slowly, drawing out the word so it had six syllables. Suddenly, Jason swung his feet to the ground, looking at Connor gleefully. “Actually, it would be better to say this to your boss.”

Before Connor could protest, Jason lifted his work phone and hit the button to connect him to Matt’s office. “Hey there coz. You mind coming over? I have some big news for you.” The guy was practically giddy Ren thought in surprise. He knew Jason didn’t get along with his family, but he never expected Jason to be this excited about possibly one upping his cousin.

It didn’t take Matt long to come, he was two doors down after all. In the one minute they waited, Connor had glared, Jason smiled at the Omega with his lips closed, chin resting on his clasped hands while Ren stood there, waiting to see what was about to happen. As an outsider, he was finding all this very fascinating.

“What’s wrong?” Matt asked as soon as he walked in, closing the door behind him.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Jason said. “Well, not for me anyway. Maybe for you.”

Matt’s brows furrowed with confusion. “Why?”

“Hmm,” Jason said, leaning back in his chair and folding his hands behind his head. “So many ways to explain this.”

He should step in. He really should. He was in charge of Jason. It was his job to make sure the guy shaped up. And yet, he stood there silent, watching his ‘boss’ taunt his cousin, curious what this interaction will reveal about him.

“I’ve been working on a case,” Jason said, pulling Ren’s laptop towards him and typing away.

“I know. That drug case.”

“Hmm, yeah that one. I’ve been stuck for a while. Not much action going on. Just playing the waiting game.” Jason found what he wanted, his smile widening, eyes bright as he turned the laptop to face Matt and Connor. “That’s the street the drugs are being sold on. Look familiar?”

It barely took a second for both of them to realize the street Jason was showing them was the same one they were staking out and both their jaws dropped. It was an amusing sight actually and he could kind of understand why Jason was so giddy, holding in his laughter.

“You…” Matt said, then his voice trailed off.

Yeah, Ren didn’t know what to say either.

“Yup. Looks like you’re been working my case big coz. I should thank you. So, if you have any evidence or material it would be great if you turned them over.”

Connor’s expression tightened and Ren wondered if the Omega was finally going to let loose. But he stood there, glaring daggers at Jason, lips sealed.

“But I need to work this case,” Matt said calmly.

“Why? You’re focusing on the robbery case. This was just something you stumbled on.”

Matt and Connor exchanged looks. Connor shook his head slightly while Matt frowned at him. Interesting. Ren had heard Connor was an unusual Omega who got involved in his Panther’s cases. But it seemed like Connor had more power than anyone knew if he was calling the shots in a way. Now the question was, who was going to win? The two continued to stare at each other, communicating through small head shakes and pointed nods.

Finally, Connor sighed, shook his head and looked away, arms crossed.

“I’m about to be sued,” Matt explained.

This time, Jason couldn’t hold in his laughter, throwing his head back, flopped in his chair clutching his stomach. Connor’s hands tightened on his arms but Matt just waited, like he had all the time in the world. Finally, Jason stopped laughing, wiping tears out of his eyes.

“So, who would want to sue the great Matthew Blake?” Jason asked.

“Cyril Hunter.”

Jason whistled. “Wow. The little Hunter family is trying to take on the Blakes? That would be such a huge scandal and embarrassment for you.”

Connor’s lips curled back, revealing his canines and Ren wondered when the Omega would actually burst and hit Jason. Really, holding in all those emotions can’t be good for him.

“Let’s work the case together,” Matt said.

Jason took his time answering, leaning forward, elbows on his desk, head cocked up. “No.”

Matt didn’t even blink, probably already knowing what Jason would say. “There could be benefits for both of us.”

“I doubt working with you would ever have a benefit,” Jason replied lightly, leaning back in his seat.

“I’ll let you take the credit for it.”

“Not interested.”

“I’ll leave you alone for two weeks.”

“Nope.”

“One month.”

“Not really interested.”

“I’ll take on your next case.”

Jason contemplated that and Ren watched him, wondering how the hell his mind worked.

“Tell you what. I’ll let you in on this, if you promise when it’s done to leave me alone for a month, and handle the next case good old gramps throws my way.”

“Deal,” Matt said without hesitation.

Well well. So that’s how it was. Coupled with the altercation between the two he saw previously, he now felt he had a good grasp of their relationship. Matt was desperate to make a connection with Jason, so desperate he was willing to do anything, willing to take the smallest crumbs Jason deigned to give him. Which meant Jason had all the power in their relationship. And he knew it, throwing out whatever insults and taunts he wanted, knowing Matt would never strike back at him.

Which left Ren wondering. What would Jason do, if Matt did lash back one day? Or worse, gave up on him? Because as callous as Jason seemed, Ren knew what it was like if the person who cared for you suddenly disappeared.

“We figured out that they might be smuggling the drugs through the retail stores in women’s purses,” Ren said, figuring now was the time for him to finally step in.

Matt raised an eyebrow while Connor looked away.

“That...actually makes sense. How’d you figure that out?”

Ren looked down at Jason who was inspecting his nails. Hmm, clearly the guy didn’t want any credit for his offhand break through. So why spoil his fun?

“It was pretty easy to figure out. Didn’t take me too long,” Ren said, speaking a bit louder as he boasted, looking at Jason out of the corner of his eye. The Alpha tensed a bit but other than that made no sign at all that he had a problem with Ren stealing the credit. Man, this guy kept getting more and more interesting.

“I’ll train the Eagles quickly and send them out,” Ren continued, turning his attention back to Matt and Connor. “I’ll send out the ones who have improved the most first then switch them out as they get better. With nine Eagles, we’ll have the street covered 24/7. Then..”

“Then what?” Matt asked when Ren paused.

Ren smirked. “Then we start our infiltration.”

Even Connor seemed shocked by this. “Are you sure you can get them to that point?”

“Hey, you said you’re not in a hurry. We’ll get there. You just focus on your robbery case. I’ll handle the drug angle.”

And there it was, Ren thought as Connor frowned and looked away again. Someone was certainly touchy. Probably hated having Ren taken over what he saw as his team. It wasn’t normal for Omegas to get possessive and territorial but he knew that not everyone followed their gender expectations to a T. Hey look at him! And Jason. Come to think of it, Matt was pretty different from normal Alphas as well since most Alphas liked to throw their weight around in an aggressive way.

All in all, this was turning into an interesting case with a testy Omega, a nice Alpha, a bitchy Beta, a lazy Alpha and nine incompetent Eagles. And he thought Plutus might be boring!

Chapter Text

Jason checked himself over one more time in the floor length mirror and nodded. Perfect. His hair was tied back in an elegant que instead of wavy and loose as he liked. His tuxedo was freshly pressed, every cufflink and button done. He looked immaculate really. No one would find fault with him tonight. Not for how he looked anyway. Which didn’t stop some people from voicing various underhanded and biting comments. Jason paused for a second, then summoned his most droll expression. Now he looked perfect.

His doorbell rang and he frowned, wondering who would bother coming to his place. Ren usually just burst in and no one ever came over. Cautiously, he walked to the front door and opened it, only slightly surprised when he saw Matt standing there, also looking good in his own tuxedo.

“Thought we could go together,” Matt said, smiling at him.

Jason didn’t even answer him, pulling the door closed and walked down the hall.

“OK,” Matt said, walking next to him undaunted.

Jason didn’t know what Matt was up to, but he didn’t appreciate having his older cousin coming right when he’s feeling at his lowest. He never wanted anyone to see him that away. Ever.

So he mustered up a mocking smile. “Seems Ren is hard at work training your Eagles. Told you you’d find him interesting.”

“Yes he is,” Matt replied. “You don’t mind do you?”

Jason snorted and looked down at his right sleeve, adjusting it even though it wasn’t necessary. “Why would I mind? You can do whatever you want with him.”

Matt didn’t reply which just grated on Jason’s nerves even more. Of course he wouldn’t rise to Jason’s demeaning comment. He was too nice, too polite and caring to ever be as immature as him, throwing out words just because it was the only thing he could do.

He drew in a deep breath, hoping the extra oxygen will push back the ball of anxiety that had taken permanent residence in his chest all week as his grandfather’s birthday party drew closer.

“We should stick together tonight,” Matt said.

“Why?”

“Strength in numbers. Hopefully seeing us together will keep everyone off our backs.”

“Fat chance,” Jason said just as the elevators reached the ground floor.

“Well, it beats both of us walking around alone.”

“You mean, me walking around alone?” Jason asked as they reached Jason’s car. He finally turned to look at Matt, glaring at his older cousin. “Be honest Matt. You always say you value honesty. You aren't asking because you’re worried about yourself.”

Matt sighed and slipped his hands into his pockets. “You’re right. I’m worried about you. You always get so anxious at these gatherings even though you try to hide it.”

Jason stiffened, disconcerted that anyone had noticed how uncomfortable he was at these events. He tried so hard not to show it. Was his mask slipping?

“And Uncle Quinton is bound to say something,” Matt continued, heedless of the bombshell he just dropped on Jason. “If I’m there maybe he’ll lay off you a bit.”

It took Jason a few moments to collect himself before he could finally answer. “Thanks for the concern but I’m fine. I can handle myself.”

“You don’t have to,” Matt said, his tone a bit weary. “I’m here Jason. I want to help.”

Jason’s control snapped and he snarled, lips pulled back and released a scent of fury, using his whole being to reject the pity Matt was giving him. “Fuck off.”

With that, Jason opened his car door and slammed it shut. He pressed the button and the engine turned on and seconds later he peeled out of the parking lot, driving recklessly towards the hotel the party was at.

He needed to calm down. Needed to collect himself. Matt meant well, he always meant well. Always trying to help. Always there, smiling with that big brother grin, eager to save the day. Once upon a time, Jason believed in that. He thought Matt really could help him, make everything better. But he grew up quickly and knew it was all a lie. Nobody could help him. Nobody.

Miraculously, he didn’t get into any serious situations on the road as he sped towards the hotel and as he got closer and closer, he could feel his anger and disappointment at Matt fade, giving way to that ball of anxiety he felt all day. He felt like a caged cat, lashing out and wanting to be free, but not strong enough to break out, to strike blows on it’s enemy that counted.

He heard a tapping on his window and jumped, frowning at the valet.

“I’ll park it for you sir,” the Beta valet said helpfully.

Time to play the part of Jason Blake, jackass and useless piece of shit

Jason pasted on a bland expression and got out of the car, handing the key to the valet. He felt his heart pounding, his steps feeling like a series of battle gongs as he walked through the hotel lobby and towards the main party room. He heard voices as he drew closer and almost began to slow down. But showing his fear wouldn’t help him any so he strode forward, determined not to let anyone beat him. Not tonight.

“Jason,” Lucas Blake said as he finally reached the receiving line where his grandfather stood with his sons, welcoming the guests. “You’re on time.”

Jason grinned as he shook Lucas’s hand. “Wouldn’t want to miss it. Free drinks, free food. What’s not to love?”

Lucas ignored Jason’s words and nodded behind him towards Jason’s uncles and father. “Make sure you circulate tonight.”

“Always do,” Jason said, walking past Lucas and greeting the oldest of the Blake sons, Matt’s father Robert. “Hey Uncle Rob. You looking good.”

The Alpha nodded politely, looking exactly like Matt, minus the happy smiles. “Jason. I thought Matt was coming with you.”

Jason almost growled. Figured Matt would tell his parents everything. He always was close to them. You’d think he would have cut the strings by now.

“Nope. I have some stuff later so we came separately.”

Robert cocked an eyebrow, seeing through Jason’s lie but didn’t comment. Jason always felt uncomfortable with Robert. He never really knew what the Alpha was thinking or what he thought of Jason. He clearly loved Matt though, and actually spent time with his son, something Jason was always jealous of growing up. Yet another reason he always felt Matt was such a pain in the ass. With parents who actually cared, he could never understand Jason enough to actually help him.

Right on cue, his dad spoke up, standing next to his older brother. “Oh. And what plans do you have on such an important night?”

Jason looked at Quinton, taking in that familiar glare in his eyes. Unlike Robert, he never knew how to mask his feelings. Another reason Jason worked so hard on his masks, making sure his father never knew what he actually felt. It drove the expressive and temperamental Alpha crazy and the only real power Jason had in their relationship. The power to show his ass of a father that Jason never gave a shit.

So he grinned, cocked his head and answered dryly. “Oh, you know. Places to go. People to see. I’m in high demand you know.”

Quinton snorted and was about to express his opinion on that when Luke’s father Nathaniel spoke up.

“I heard your new Eagle is a heck of a trainer Jason,” Nathaniel said.

Quinton looked down, knowing his younger brother was trying to redirect the conversation and calm the waters. Jason almost smirked, imagining how it must feel for Quinton to have his little brother need to step in to control the situation. But he wasn’t looking for a fight, even though Quinton thought otherwise, and he latched onto his youngest uncle, stepping forward and greeting him warmly.

“Uncle Nate. Looking good. Yeah, my new Eagle is pretty good. Really knows his stuff.”

Nathan smiled, that familiar awkward and shy smile that didn’t suit an Alpha of his stature. No wonder Luke was always such a twitchy mess. Jason lost count of the number of times Quinton would rant about his abnormal and weak Alpha brother, how he was an embarrassment to the family. Especially when he married a Beta instead of an Omega, and did what everyone warned him of, had a Beta child.

“How’s Luke?” Jason asked. He never really wondered about his youngest cousin much, didn’t even bother to tell him goodbye when he left. But he knew it would make Nathan happy and though he didn’t care much for his family, he always felt a bit of sympathy for the only other family members who were considered the rejects.

“He’s fine,” Nathan said. “Been busy trying to understand life in Orpheus.”

If Jason didn’t know any better, Nathan seemed a bit down. Probably missed having Luke around. It had only been the two of them since Luke’s mother died a few years ago. Jason started to remember how it changed them, but pushed the thought away. He had himself to worry about tonight. No need to add to it by worrying about Luke and Nathan. They can handle themselves. Besides, he wasn’t the worrying type.

“Well, don’t want to stall the line. Great catching up Uncle Nate.”

“We could catch up more if you came to the weekly lunches,” Nathan said softly.

Jason froze, then smiled. “Nah. Too stuffy for me. I’m good.”

Quickly and expertly, Jason made his way to side of the room where the bar was and ordered a soda. He needed his wits about him and complete control tonight.

He surveyed the room as he strolled the perimeter. As usual with Plutus parties, the room was dripping with obvious wealth. Since gold was found in the mines between Tantalus and Plutus way back when, all the main families who were traders at the time leaped at the opportunity they knew the new gold presented. It didn’t take long for the current status of Plutus family structure to come about. Along with the Blake, Cunningham and Leonard families, there were dozens of others who mined the most gold and knew how to sell it to various parts of Dracus and the neighbouring countries to elevate their family status and become the wealthiest families in the city. Every family bought and designated it’s own mining site, digging up all the gold it could to boost their family coffers. Some families only found enough gold to become middle class, others a bit more. It really was all a matter of luck. By now, most of the gold was all dug up. Jason knew the Blake mine has been dwindling since Lucas was a child. But it was still one of the few that still produced gold. Which is why Lucas thought it was a good idea to change their standing through other ventures, including business, and the military. All this meant was that now there was intense competition for the highest ranking families to maintain their status through other means now that the gold option was waning. In a way, it was kinda fun watching everyone panic, trying to find alternative sources to keep the lifestyles they were used to, and the prestige and arrogant attitude that came with it. It was all a game. One Jason wanted no part of. Which is why he stayed out of it as much as possible.

It was still kinda early. Not many guests had shown up yet. His eyes travelled back to his family and he saw Matt had arrived, grinning widely at Lucas and giving him a half hug. Jason snorted and took a sip of his drink, imagining the conversation going on across the room.

 

“Matt, don’t you look handsome. Just like your father when he was your age,” Lucas said, greeting Matt warmly. Or what passed for warmly for the older man.

Matt smiled sheepishly. “It’s just the suit. Mom helped me pick it out.”

“Well, your mother does have good taste. I believe she’s right inside.”

“I’ll go say hi then,” Matt said, nodding to his grandpa and turning his attention to his father who was standing next in line. Matt smiled, a genuine smile he saved only for his favorite people.

“Hi Dad,” he said, giving Robert a quick hug.

“Glad you came early,” Robert said, his lips turning up slightly in that small smile he always had when he spoke to Matt. No wide grins for Robert. As the oldest Blake sibling and the next in line to take over the business, he always had to remain calm and collected. It always saddened Matt that Robert had to hold himself back. He knew how kind and warm hearted his father was even if he didn’t express it. That was one of the reasons he always smiled so much. His parents always encouraged him to express himself so Matt decided to do it for both his father and himself. Even if Robert couldn’t smile the way he wanted to now, Matt could do it for both of them.

“Yeah. I wanted to see Mom for a bit before it got crowded,” Matt said.

“She’s over there with your grandmother, talking about...something,” Robert said, shaking his head slightly but his eyes spoke volumes and it warmed Matt’s heart. Even after all these years, Robert still loved his wife, and considering how horrible most arranged marriages turned out in Plutus, Matt was always grateful for that.

“I’m sure I’ll enjoy whatever conversation they're having,” Matt said, chuckling lightly.

He looked past his father and almost stiffened but held himself back, his smile dimming as he greeted Jason’s father. His least favorite uncle.

“Uncle Quinton. Nice to see you.”

“Keep an eye on Jason,” Quinton said, not even bothering to greet Matt, which didn’t surprise him. “He’s liable to get drunk and make a fool of himself.”

Throughout their childhood, he’d had to watch from the sidelines as Quinton made Jason feel like shit. He tried to help Jason but he never could bring himself to stand up to his uncle. He was a scary Alpha and Matt was just a child, back when he actually tried to get along with Jason and Jason let him be a part of his life. But he wasn’t a kid anymore and was taller and stronger than Quinton now.

He stood straighter, towering over his uncle who barely reached six feet in height. “Jason never drinks too much at these gatherings. He always stays quiet and out of people's attention.”

Quinton frowned and Matt quickly nodded then turned, pasting a warm smile on his face as he greeted his Uncle Nathan.

“Uncle Nathan. How are you?”

“I’m fine,” Nathan said, hugging Matt and giving him an awkward pat on the back. “Thank you for that book you sent. I really enjoyed it.”

“Well, I figured you might.”

“And that I have more free time with Luke gone,” Nathan stated. “How is he do you think? He always sounds fine when he talks to me, but I’m still worried.”

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Matt said. “I text him twice a day and we talk on the phone almost everyday. He’s adjusting.”

“You baby him too much,” Quinton said. “Both of you. No wonder he could never grow a spine.”

Matt and Nathan stiffened, both narrowing their eyes at Quinton. They both knew they could point out that Jason wasn’t exactly the best son and was pretty much a failure as well. But though they didn’t get along with Quinton, they both felt protective of Jason and didn’t want to insult him.

“I think he’s doing well,” Robert said smoothly. “He’s still young and growing into himself. Don’t worry Nathan, Luke is on his way to becoming a good man.”

Nathan sighed with relief while Matt nodded gratefully at his father.

Quinton’s face turned even redder but before he could say anything, more guests arrived and they had to turn their attention to them. Matt gave Nathan one last comforting squeeze then walked away, his eyes scanning the room for his mother. He finally found her at one of the tables at the front of the room, talking to his grandmother.

“Well well, this is where the most beautiful ladies in the room are sitting,” he said, leaning over his grandmother and giving her a kiss.

His Omega grandmother Stephanie smiled, pulling Matt down to kiss him back. “Flattery won’t get you anywhere with us. You should aim it at that group of Omegas over there. I’m sure they’ll love the attention.”

Matt groaned and sat next to his mother Evelyn. “I’d rather spend time with you two.”

“You see us every week!” Stephanie exclaimed. “You don't go to every single party so you should take this chance. Go ask them to dance later.”

Matt gave Evelyn a beseeching look and she took pity on him, turning to her mother-in-law. “Did you hear about the new auction coming up?”

And they were off, Matt thought, giving his mother’s hand a gentle squeeze under the table. He loved his grandmother. Truly he did. But she didn’t really understand the business world very well. She was too sheltered and old school. She just wanted Matt to marry a nice, pretty Omega, ignoring other factors and the fact that Matt had to focus on his career right now. He knew Lucas and Robert expected him to marry someone who would help him with that. But not now. He had to earn his position on his own first.

Speaking of hard work, he looked around, his eyes resting on Jason who was, as usual during these parties, standing with his back against one of the walls, watching the crowd but not being a part of it. He longed to go over there, draw Jason into conversation, have him join in with Matt’s friends when they showed up. They were pretty nice and would welcome Jason if Matt asked them to. But he’d tried that before and Jason always managed to escape. He always stood there in the back, never talking to anyone except with polite nods and small conversation. What did he do all night?

 

Just one more hour and he could sneak out, Jason figured. He’d already been here two hours and the room was finally crowded. Crowded enough that no one from his family would miss him if he left. Jason had been tracking them all night and knew roughy were they were, engaged in various conversations across the room.

God, he hated these parties. They were so stiff. So formal. So much BS chit chat and fake smiles and fake masks. He knew he had a mask on too but it was out of self defense. These people wore them to hide their darker sides. At least he showed his flaws. Overall though, it wasn’t a bad night. Usually he would get in an argument with his father, or an intense discussion with his grandmother. She may be a sweet old Omega, but she wasn’t very smart and Jason always felt it was a chore to talk to her. And she always just went on and on about how Jason should marry one of those sweet Omegas and how they’d love to dance with a handsome Alpha like him. Yeah right.

He looked at his watch. It was almost eleven. Perfect time to hit the clubs. That’s when most of his ‘friends’ showed up. People were drunk enough then to let loose, but not too drunk they were beyond talking to. He didn’t mind it when people were a bit tipsy, but he didn’t have the patience or desire to find an Omega that needed him to help them get into his car. They can walk on their own.

Maybe he could leave now? Lucas already gave his speech, and Uncle Robert his as was proper in his role as the oldest son. They even cut up and served the cake. People were busy. No one would miss him.

“Skulking around as usual.”

Jason groaned inwardly, putting his most detached and bored expression on before he turned to the Alpha who stood next to him.

“Wesley,” Jason said.

“Jason. Not going to join the party. Again.”

Jason wanted to punch the guy and see him fall flat on his ass. He’d loved it when he’d done it years ago. But that was back when they were in middle school. Now, he knew better than to let his anger show. It was a weakness, one people quickly latched on to. It was the Plutus way after all to knock your opponents down using whatever means you can scrounge up.

“Not really my scene,” Jason replied blandly.

Wesley laughing, his tone mocking Jason. “Yeah. Loud music, lots of alcohol and slutty Omegas is more your thing isn’t it. Boy you never change. How long before your family finally kicks you out?”

Jason knew he was making a fist and quickly shoved his hand into his pocket. “Unlike your family Cunningham, Blakes stick together.”

Wesley sneered. “Yeah right. That’s cuz they never had a reject like you before. Give it time. Your record at the base is pathetic. You barely go into your office and your team is the worst on the base. It’s only a matter of time when having you around would be seen as too much of an embarassment and they cut you loose.”

He was going to kill him. He’d thought that hundreds of times over the years, ever since they were placed in the same class in elementary school and Wesley made his declaration that Cunninghams were better than Blakes. That had solidified their rivalry which had only gotten worse over the years and turned from a simple competition to actual hate. It was Wesley’s fault though. He should have known better than to mess with Jason so much.

Which is why Jason was able to smirk smugly. “As loose as your fiance was.”

Wesley’s neck muscles tightened and his hands curled into fists. “Low blow Blake.”

“Hey, I was the one standing here, minding my own business when you showed up. Wasn’t that what happened a few years ago as well. You just had to taunt me with your precious Omega. It’s not my fault she found me more appealing. Which isn’t a surprise given how pompous you sounded that night.”

Apparently, he had pushed Wesley too far as a furious scent came off the Alpha. Jason sighed. He didn’t want to get into this. It was a good night. He didn’t have any altercations with his family, and he was just about to leave. Why did Wesley Cunningham have to come find him and try and pick a fight? He really had the worst luck.

“Hey Wes,” Matt said, clapping a hand on Wesley’s shoulder. “Your dad was looking for you.”

Wesley continued to glare at Jason who remained impassive. Finally, the other Alpha turned and walked away, his scent diminishing.

“You’re welcome,” Matt said.

“Usually people wait till they’re thanked to say that,” Jason replied mildly.

“Can’t you just say thanks,” Matt said in an exasperated tone. “I saw him coming towards you and had to fight across the crowd to get her as fast as I could.”

“That’s your own problem. I didn’t ask you to step in. You decided it all on your own.”

Matt sighed. “Whatever. Isn’t it about time you took off? You usually leave around this point.”

Jason nodded. “Good idea. Say bye to the fam for me.”

Quickly, Jason opened the balcony doors behind him and stepped out onto the terrace. From there, it was only a few minutes walk to the front of the hotel and the valet station. Soon he was driving off, eager to go….He pictured his favorite clubs, the Omega who would be waiting for him. The music. The booze. The absolute oblivion. And he felt...tired.

It had been a long night and he really wasn’t up to seeing or talking to anyone right now. But it wasn’t like he was going to bed either. His mind made up, he drove back home, parking his car in his spot underground.

He was making his way to the elevator when a voice stopped him.

“Don’t you look spiffy.”

Jason turned, about to mock Ren for his old choice of words but froze when he saw the Beta and what was next to him. “You have a dog?”

Ren smiled down at his dog. “Yup, his name’s Ari. Been with me a couple of years now.”

Jason eyed the animal. Just like everything else about the Beta, the animal didn’t make sense. First, he didn’t think Ren was the type to keep a pet. Second, if he had a dog, he figured it would be a big, vicious dog, one that complimented his sadistic nature. Not this….thing. He wasn’t sure what type it was since he never cared about animals, but it was at best a medium sized dog and looked kinda dim with shaggy black hair.

“He looks small,” Jason finally said, figuring that was the safest word to use. He really didn’t feel like getting into it right now with the feisty Beta.

“He may not be big, but he’s got a lot of spirit,” Ren said. “Ari, growl.”

Next thing Jason knew, the dog hunched it’s body, bared it’s teeth and growled, the sound so guttural, so deep and vicious sounding, he felt that if Ren told him to, it would bite his neck in half.

“Huh. Looks like nothing but has a mean side. Kinda like you,” Jason quipped, relaxing slightly when Ren told the dog to stop growling. Really, who wanted an aggressively natured pet like that?

“Pretty much. He suits me,” Ren sat, rubbing his dog affectionately.

Jason stared, surprised by the genuine smile on Ren’s face. Not that the Beta didn’t smile. He always seemed to be smiling. But those were taunting, confident, you-can-bite-my-ass smiles. This one was warm, kinda sweet actually, and changed the Beta’s face completely, giving him a softer look. If Jason didn’t know what a dark heart really lay under it all, he would have felt drawn to that warmth. But he knew better.

“Well, good for you. If you excuse me.”

Jason turned and walked towards the elevators, kicking himself when Ren followed him for forgetting they live on the same floor. Which meant he had to tolerate the Beta’s presence for at least another few minutes. And knowing the Beta, he wasn’t going to just leave Jason alone.

He was wrong though. Ren barely said a word while they waited for the elevator and got on, or during the ride. Jason kept waiting for him to say something, but Ren just mumbled stuff to his dog. Weirdo. Who talked to his dog?

Finally, they reached their floor and they both stepped out.

“Good night,” Ren said, turning right.

“Night,” Jason said, unable to stop himself from responding. He couldn’t help it though. The guy didn’t say anything for theee minutes! It kinda freaked him out. He stepped into his apartment and closed the door, leaning against it. Overall, not a bad night. He was still wired though, the nervous energy he built up all week still thrumming through his veins. He knew the perfect remedy for that.

Ten minutes later, Jason was in his private gym, wearing nothing but his gym shorts as he did his usual routines. He pushed himself on the cardio machines, knowing at the end, he could finally sink into a deep, dreamless sleep. His favorite kind.

Chapter Text

He was late Ren thought irritably, fighting the urge to tap his fingers. As a child, he’d always been restless, a natural fidgeter. It didn’t take long for the military to beat it out of him. After all, there was nothing more embarrassing than getting killed during a mission because you couldn’t frickin sit still.

 

He looked at his watch again then growled before he got up and stalked out of the office. The idiot was now an hour late. Which meant Ren could barge into his apartment, wet mop or bucket or whatever he could find on hand to wake up sleeping beauty. As usual, he didn’t bother knocking since Quinton had entered Ren’s fingerprints into the system on his first day so he could walk into Jason’s room whenever he wished. On his way to the bedroom, he saw a half bottle of juice on the counter. Without breaking his stride, he grabbed the bottle, his eyes narrowing as he prepared himself to dump the contents on Jason’s unsuspecting and moronic face.

 

He took two steps into the room when he realized the bed was empty and ground to a halt. He knew Jason came home last night since he ran into him at the elevator after General Lucas’s birthday dinner. And while he did go to his partners’ apartments and hotels to have his nightly sex romps, he always came home. Probably prefered his big ass bed and silk sheets.

 

So, if he wasn’t in his bedroom, where was he? Despite himself, Ren felt a bit worried. He didn’t like it when the unpredictable happened. Sure, when he was in the field he knew shit happened and you had to deal, but he prefered when things went as he expected in his personal life. It was one of his flaws and he was OK with that. Even though he had been teased about it before.

 

Jaw set, he checked the spare room Jason converted into a gym...and froze. Well, he found Jason. But not in the state he expected.

 

He rushed to Jason’s half naked prone body on the floor next to the cross trainer, shaking him more violently than necessary in his panic.

 

“Wake up!” he screeched, turning Jason onto his back and slapping his face in desperation.

 

“What the hell?” Jason exclaimed, sitting up so fast he smacked his head into Ren’s chin, sending the Beta flying back, his chin smarting.

 

“I thought you were dead, you moron,” Ren said, rubbing his jaw angrily.

 

“Like I’d die from just a little exercise,” Jason grumbled, rubbing his forehead.

 

Ren raised his eyebrows in disbelief. Based on how sweaty Jason  still looked, and the fact that he clonked out at the foot of the machine and slept on the hardwood floor rather than walk down the hall to his room indicated that he’d been at it for hours. He still looked tired, rubbing his eyes and trying to take a sip of water from his empty bottle, frowning at it in disgust when not a drop came out.

 

“How long were you at it?” Ren asked casually.

 

“I don’t know,” Jason replied, eyeing the water jug across the room. “Four, maybe five hours.”

 

Ren’s eyes widened while Jason finally succumbed to his thirst and walked across the room to the water jug. “You...worked out for four to five hours?”

 

“Yeah,” Jason replied absently before he took a big gulp of water.

 

For the second time in a month, Ren felt he really didn’t understand his boss. He knew Jason loved to exercise, preferring the privacy of his own gym rather than the spacious and well-equipped family one. Ren didn’t completely blame him for that one. He prefered working out alone and did it early every morning in his own room or the family gym when he was sure it was empty. Like him, Jason was a lone wolf. But as much as he loved the physicality of exercising and the rush of adrenaline, he never worked out more than 90 minutes a day. It wasn’t good for the  body. He assumed it was Jason’s vanity that made him exercise, but it looked like it was something else. Maybe-

 

“You can’t sleep,” Ren said softly.

 

“What?” Jason asked, pouring himself more water.

 

“Nothing,” Ren murmured. “Do you exercise like that everyday?”

 

“Sometimes,” Jason said, satisfied with his water intake and walking over to Ren. “Sometimes I exercise for two hours, sometimes three or four. Depends on my mood.”

 

“At night?”

 

“Well, yeah. What can I say, I’m a night owl.”

 

Ren didn’t reply and when Jason got bored of staring at him, waiting for Ren to continue the conversation, he shrugged and left the room.

 

Well, crap. Jason was an insomniac. Being an insomniac himself during various times in his life Ren recognized the signs. He knew Jason never came home until 2 or 3 AM when he hooked up with someone. If he came home early, did he spend the night exercising? Like last night? Jason did treat it like it was normal for him to wake up on the gym floor and work out till he dropped.

 

When Ren couldn’t sleep, he used  to do the same thing. But since he didn’t have the luxury of machines, he used to run. A lot. Which helped him build his stamina. And allowed him to get a few hours of much needed sleep.

 

He knew why he had trouble sleeping, but why did Jason? As his lead Eagle he should probably figure it out. Maintaining Jason’s wellbeing was part of his job after all. Plus, he always liked a good mystery, and Jason was shaping up to be a really intriguing and tricky one.

 

Two hours later, Ren still couldn’t stop casting questioning and prying looks at Jason, who was playing on his phone as usual, as if Ren hadn’t caught him doing something weird this morning.

Suddenly, Jason’s head flopped back and he stared at the ceiling. “You have something to say?”

“Who me?” Ren asked innocently, turning his gaze back to his laptop where he was busy perusing the latest notes on the drug surveillance.

“You’ve been staring at me more than usual,” Jason said casually, still gazing up. “And you’re less subtle about it. So spit it out. What’s got your panties in a bunch?”

Damn, was he that shook up by Jason’s possible insomnia he was losing his composure? This wasn’t good. He’d been trained in covert surveillance since he was eleven. There was no reason anyone would ever suspects him of watching them. And yet, it seems that Jason knew all along. Yet another surprising side to his boss he wished he hadn’t discovered. He liked it better when he was just a lazy moron. But knowing he might actually be smart, observant and add to that have some kind of issue that made him unable to sleep? It hit a bit too close to home and Ren couldn’t stop staring at the Alpha the last couple of hours, trying to figure out what else he missed.

“Just…the case,” Ren said desperately, turning his attention back to work. Work, that’s what he needed to focus on right now. “It seems Charles and Ashley might have found a load of drugs being transferred through some purses, just like you said.”

Jason smirked, turning his head slightly on the headrest to look at Ren. “Told you. It’s so simple it actually makes me want to cry.”

Ren snorted and clicked some pictures. “The team has been taking it in turns scanning every package, purse, bought or just brought into the store by a regular customer, to try and find the drugs. They did see one yesterday. Looks like barely a fourth of a pound.”

Jason whistled. “That’s a lot. Think we can contain it all?”

And there it was. The familiar jackassery Ren could handle and he could feel his irritation fuel his desire to show this Alpha just how important their job truly was. “It makes sense they’d move it out a bit at a time. They know we’re watching.”

“No they don’t,” Jason said dismissively, turning his attention back to his phone.

Patience Ren, he chanted as his fingers curled. Patience. If you get upset it’ll only encourage him. That’s what he wants. A reaction. “Oh, care to explain that?”

“They’ve been doing this for years, undetected. They may have been spotted once, but they don’t know how this is going to play out. They don’t know how the military will respond. They didn’t see anything obvious, no cameras, no stalkers, and are just assuming we left them alone and doing their own thing. Moving a small amount may just be their normal.”

Ren couldn’t fathom Jason’s train of thought. He wanted to just dismiss the Alpha’s analysis, but he’d been right before and he sounded so certain he was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. “Can you explain that again?”

Jason actually turned to face him, eyeing him silently. Ren stared back until Jason finally smiled. “You know how the Eagles are useless?”

“They’re not useless,” Ren said calmly when all he wanted to do was rip into the stupid Alpha for insulting his team. “They just need some training.”

“Exactly,” Jason said, his tone spiking slightly with, Ren was shocked to note, excitement. “The military, it’s new to everyone. Including our criminals. While the Panthers and Eagles are busy trying to get their shit together, the criminals are adjusting to having someone watching them, of having an actual military force after them. They don’t know how to cover their tracks, how to change their habits. They’re so used to doing as they like unchecked. Which means, they don’t know how to handle having a relentless Beta like you tracking their every move.”

Hold crap, Ren thought, staring at Jason in shock. The moron was right. What he said actually made sense. “How long have you been sitting on this?”

“Oh, about a year.”


Since he started working here. Then…why hasn’t he said anything before? Ren wanted to scream at him, tell him to get off his self-righteous ass and actually do something with his clearly intelligent brain. He had strong deductive skills people back home would have killed for. And he just let it waste away. Well, Ren wasn’t going to let it happen. When he first came here, he thought he’d just make sure Jason didn’t embarrass himself too much. But now, he was determined to show everyone, including Jason, just what the Alpha could really do.

Ren could feel his blood pumping, excited by the idea of molding this passive Alpha into a true soldier. This was going to be even more fun than he thought!




Matt looked at the plan he, Connor and Owen had spent two days on and smiled in satisfaction.

 

“Looks like we can finally move in and apprehend the robbers,” Matt said.

 

“Yeah,” Owen replied. “Once Susan and Violet went in, it didn’t take them long to hack the computers and find the files.”

 

“So our culprits are definitely Raven Shaw, Wallace Crance, and Frank Long,” Connor said. Matt could detent a hint of frustration in his voice. Just a small hint, enough that if Matt hadn’t spent the last year observing the Omega and trying to get through his work mask he never would have noticed it. And he knew what Connor was frustrated about.

 

“We didn’t find anything linking the robberies to Cyril Hunter,” Matt confirmed. “It’s OK. We might find something once we bring them in for questioning.”

 

“They’ll try and resist,” Owen pointed out.

 

“They won’t be able to,” Connor said, his tone becoming a bit more smug. Matt was glad. He liked it when Connor was more confident. “We have the blueprints of the jewelry stores that were robbed on Shaw’s computer, the list of objects that were auctioned on the black market on Crance’s, and Long had actual images with the dates.”

 

“They’re amateurs,” Matt commented. “They have no priors and no one in their family has been involved in any crimes, that we know of. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been dumb enough to leave all this evidence lying around.” He turned to look at Owen. “Send out the Eagles to go apprehend all three. I’ll come in and question them myself. Separately. Make sure they don’t see each other.”

 

“You’re going to hide the fact the we have them all and see if they rat each other out,” Connor said approvingly.

 

Matt smirked, “Exactly.”

 

Owen grinned, saluted them and walked out of the room.

 

“Need help preparing some questions?” Connor asked.

 

“I think I’m OK. The notes you put together based on the Eagles’ reconnaissance is pretty thorough. I can work from that. But I do want you on the other side of the interrogation room listening. You're pretty good at reading between the lines and may pick up on things I don’t. I’ll have an earpiece so you can feed me any ideas.”

 

For a second, it looked like Connor was about to blush. That would have been an awesome sight. But the Omega pulled himself together and nodded before he walked out, leaving Matt alone with his plans.

 

He didn’t know any of the culprits personally. Plutus was a big city with hundreds of families. He knew the upper class by name and some basic interactions during formal events, but he didn’t know any of the middle class families. They mostly kept to themselves in the outer districts of Midas and Icarus, living different lives that Matt didn’t know anything about. He knew Connor came from one of those families in Midas and figured he might be able to help him with the interrogation. There was also the fact that for someone who was always so hard to read, he was pretty good at reading people. With the robbers all from the poorest part of Plutus, Icarus, and having grown up in the middle class district of Midas, Connor might be able to understand and connect with them better. Yeah, having him listening in would be a good idea.

 

Two and a half hours later, he stood outside Wallace Crance’s interrogation room, feeling less confident. He’d interrogated Raven Shaw first and got nothing. She was like a brick wall. She sat in her chair for an hour, arms crossed, not opening her mouth even once. Connor had offered some suggestions, little comments that might rile her up enough to say something. But the Beta never budged. Maybe he’d have better luck with Crance, Alpha to Alpha.

 

“Ready?” he spoke so Connor could hear him.

 

“Ready,” Connor’s voice cracked through his ear piece.

 

Matt took a deep breath then entered the room. As soon as he walked in he knew this was going to be different. While Shaw had been stoic, unmoving, calm, Crance was anything but. He was prowling around the room, as far as his leg shackle would let him from the table. His stance screamed his rage and fear and Matt knew he had to tread carefully. He could play this right and Crance could spill everything just to reduce his sentence, or he could throw his fury at Matt and be a complete waste.

 

Carefully, Matt sat down at the table, his hands folded on the surface, expression serene. It took two minutes of silence until Crance finally sat down across from him, jiggling his leg restlessly.

 

“So, you aren’t going to say anything?” the brown haired Alpha snapped.

“Is there something you want to tell me?” Matt asked mildly.

 

Crance opened his mouth for a second then closed it, shaking his head instead.

 

“You sure about that?” Matt asked, his tone encouraging. “I have time. I’m here to listen. Lay it on me.”

 

Crance looked away, his expression sullen.

 

“Ask him about his relationship with Shaw or Long,” Connor said.

 

“Looks like you and Shaw and Long are pretty close,” Matt said, pulling out his phone and flipping through the images Owen sent him.

 

Crance craned his neck a bit, his eyes glued to Matt’s phone. He finally found the picture he was looking for and turned his phone so Crance could see the picture of of the three Owen had found in a school year book.

 

“You guys look pretty happy,” Matt said. “Says here you were like a trio. Always together.” Matt swiped to the right, bringing up a picture of the three of them at what was clearly a beach trip, the three teens smiling happily.

 

“Looks like you had some good times. So why drag your friends, your best friends into this mess?”

 

“I didn’t drag them into anything,” Crance shouted.

 

“Then what? You just got together and decided ‘Hey you know what might be fun? Robbing some jewelry stores.’”

 

Crance turned in his chair, drilling holes into the wall.

 

“Ask him about Shaw’s mother,” Connor said.

 

Matt frowned a bit then relaxed his muscles. He didn’t know what Connor was driving at but he knew that while he was planning his questions and tactics for weeks, Connor was researching their suspects and digging up everything about them he could find.

 

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Shaw’s mom when you’re all in jail,” Matt stated.

 

And just like that, it was like he flipped a switch and Crance turned to him in a panic. “You leave her alone! She’s not part of this! She’s bedridden for god’s sake!”

 

Suddenly, it was like someone dumped a bucket of cold water on him and Matt leaned back, mind reeling. So that’s why they did it. He knew people on the fringes lived less affluent lives, but not that they were so strapped for cash they couldn’t pay for medical bills. He thought of the luxurious apartment building his family owned, the gorgeous furniture that reflected their wealth, gold plates and utensils, forged straight from the gold found in the Blake family mine decades ago and passed down through the generations. All the diamond and jewelry his family owned and placed into vaults. All his life, he’d lived a lavish lifestyle. Whatever he’d wanted, he’d had or asked his parents for and got it immediately. He couldn’t even imagine the fear of watching a loved one waste away, because you couldn’t afford to give them the option to live.

 

He felt a knot of guilt form in his stomach and leaned forward, his eyes earnest. “If you give us a full confession, name everyone involved, I promise I’ll take care of Shaw’s mother.”

 

Crance eyed him suspiciously. “Why would you do that?”

 

“Because I can,” Matt said softly.

 

Crance stared at him for a few more seconds, then finally nodded. “I don’t know if I trust you, but either way we’re going to jail. At least this way there’s a small chance someone will take care of Aunt Wendy.”

 

“I thought you three aren’t related,” Matt said in confusion.

 

Crance snorted, “You Plutus people think it’s all about family. No room for outsiders or friends or anything of the like. Just because Raven, Frank and I aren’t related by blood, doesn’t mean we’re not family.”

 

Matt still thought about Crance’s words hours later as he signed off on Wendy Shaw’s medical bills, organized a transfer to a private ward and approved the treatment she desperately needed.

 

“You did good,” Connor said as he walked into the room. “We didn’t get anything on Cyril Hunter though. Looks like he wasn’t connected to these robbers.”

 

“Yeah,” Matt said absently, his mind still on the three people currently in their cells and the woman they were incarcerated for. “Is it like that for everyone?”

 

Connor slowly sank into the chair opposite, sensing Matt’s morose mood. “What do you mean?”

 

“I mean,” Matt exhaled in frustration. “We live here, in the lap of luxury because our families happened to be the lucky ones who struck it rich and found gold. But not everyone is like that. I know that. I know that there are other life styles in Midas and Icarus, but I thought they just had smaller houses, maybe one car instead of three, stuff like that.” Finally he looked at Connor and when he saw the Omega’s eyes widen he knew he probably reflected the self loathing he’d been feeling all day on his face.

 

Connor swallowed, carefully choosing his words which Matt appreciated. “Well, I’m from Midas as you know. Things aren’t too bad there. The life you describe, the lesser life, that’s what I grew up with. We’re doing fine.”

 

“And people in Icarus?” Matt asked desperately.

 

Connor paused. “Honestly, I don’t know too much. Like you, I know what my community is like. We were raised and told to never go to the Icarus areas. But from what I hear, they aren’t doing too well. That’s why so many of them commute to Theus, the next biggest province around, and do manual labour there. They don’t leave Plutus completely, probably too used to this place being their home, but they aren’t getting what they need here.”

 

What Connor said just broke Matt’s heart even more. He recalled Crance’s words. Just because we aren’t blood related doesn’t mean we’re not family. He nailed the core issue on the head, a problem Matt didn’t really think was an actual problem. Plutus thrived on being a family oriented city. The government, the businesses, everything was controlled by families who supported each other, from the inside. No one really made connections with others unless it was through arranged marriages for business purposes. Matt never really thought of it negatively before since he was pretty family oriented himself. But in focusing on just their own families, they shut themselves off from the rest of the country. Instead of worrying about how to make people’s lives better, they focused on themselves.

 

Now that he had this revelation, Matt didn’t know what to do with it. He didn’t know if he wanted to change the Plutus structure. Didn’t even know if he really wanted to. But now that he knew how others lived, he couldn’t just sit by and let the world continue while he stayed in his cocoon.

 

“Maybe,” Matt said carefully. “We need an outreach program.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, while we’ve been building up our Eagles, we accepted people from Plutus and Midas. Maybe it’s time we reached out to people in Icarus. Give others an opportunity to work with us.” Matt could feel his blood pumping as the ideas flowed and his voice got more excited. “We could even hire people for other positions. Not just Eagles. We’re an expanding military. We always need more people.” He looked at Connor and his smile froze.

 

He scanned Connor’s face, trying to gauge what the Omega was feeling but his face was blank. And yet, it seemed...frozen...strained. What was going through Connor’s mind?

 

“What do you think?” Matt asked carefully.

 

Connor finally breathed, a statue coming to life. “I think….it might be worth looking into.”

 

Matt smiled. “Yeah. I think so too. Can you look into it and give me a rough plan in a week or two?”

 

Connor nodded slowly, as if he was still in a daze. “Sure.”

 

And just like that, his movements almost robotic, he walked out of the room. Matt dismissed the Omega’s strange behaviour from his mind, too excited by his new plan to just sit and wait for Connor to finish his research. He pulled his laptop forward, opened a new document and started typing up a plan. It wasn’t until much later that he found out just how much his words shook Connor’s attempts at a stable life.

Chapter Text

“That guy didn’t show up again,” Tig said.

Kiryn frowned into his cup of sweet berry flavoured cocktail and swallowed it all in one gulp, making Tig raise his eyebrows in surprise while Frit and Jaz eyed them nervously. Although most people thought Kiryn was always laughing and smiling, they knew him long enough to know how moody their bandmate could get. And over the last week, his mood had turned incredibly sour. He wasn’t surprised when Frit called him out tonight, suspecting that they were going to try and talk it out. He was surprised though that they figured out the source of his mood. Tig had only seen Luke at the cafe when he stopped by for dinner sometimes and the rest only saw him at their gig last week. Although, him leaving with Luke after the gig instead of staying with them was a dead give away. They probably discussed what they should do and decided a friendly outing would be best. Tig being the messenger even better.

Kiryn slammed the glass down on the table and glared at Tig while the other two leaned back in their seats. Cowards.

“And?”

“And nothing,” Tig said casually. “Just an observation. The guy was practically living in your cafe for the last month and suddenly, nothing. And he didn’t show up tonight either.”

Kiryn growled at his nosy friend, looking around at the other two who returning his gaze, though they seemed a bit wary.

He sighed and leaned back in his seat. His friends meant well. They really did. Which didn’t mean they weren’t annoying in the process.

“Look, I am annoyed. The dude disappeared! Just poof! Vanished!”

“Well, just go talk to him,” Frit said helpfully.

Kiryn glared at the Omega. “You think I wouldn’t have already done that if I could? I don’t know anything about the guy! Not where he lives, his phone number. Hell, I don’t even know what he does for a living!” And that was the worst part. Not only had Luke just vanished one day, but Kiryn realized their only link had been the café. Without it, he had no way to contact Luke. He always thought it was OK not to know or ask people for their personal details. People come and go in life after all, you just had to accept that. But he’d never been this irritated about not being able to reconnect with someone. Of finding out that after you spent time together, you don’t actually know anything about them. It felt…wrong.

“Have you tried city records?” Jaz’s words cut into his train of thoughts so it took him a few seconds to register what the Alpha said.

“City records?” Kiryn said softly.

“Yeah,” Jaz said. “They record everyone who comes in and out of the city. You said this guy just moved here a month ago right? Then they should have his name.”

Kiryn stared at Jaz for a few seconds. “Dude you’re a genius! No wonder you’re the leader of this band.”

“Hey,” Tig cut in. “I thought I was the leader.”

“You book the gigs,” Kiryn said, waving his hands dismissively, “But he’s the brains behind the operation. Who else can negotiate such low rates with the club so we can play every week.”

Tig shrugged and took a sip of his drink.

“City records,” Kiryn said softly, his gaze trained on the table as he planned out how he’d march into the record room or hall or whatever and demand they tell him about a Luke who recently moved to the city. There’d be resistance of course. The government was always like that. Unwilling to give away anything for free. But Kiryn would persist, refuse to leave. And eventually, he'd wear them down. Or sneak in if he had to. Yeah, that’s what he’d do Monday morning. It was going to be an epic adventure.

“You’re looking for Luke Blake,” the Omega at the front desk said cheerfully the next morning.

Kiryn blinked, his body deflating slightly as all the tension he’d been carrying for the last fourteen hours vanished in a puff of smoke. She couldn’t even let him down lightly. “Um, I guess.”

The Omega clicked a few buttons then turned the screen to show him a picture of Luke. “This him? Luke Blake. Arrived a month ago from Plutus.”

Kiryn blinked again. Plutus. Well crap. He knew Luke came from somewhere that was pretty different from Orpheus, but nothing could be more opposite than Plutus. Not that he’d ever been there. But he’d heard the stories. The rumors. They said everything was made out of the gold they mined outside of Tantalus. That they executed their servants for the slightest mistakes. Spent their days partying and drinking and having orgies. They had no morals, no scruples. Life was just about taking. Of course, these were all stories he heard as a kid. He knew most of them weren’t true. Probably.

“Would you like his contact information?”

Did he? Did he want to pursue a friendship or relationship or whatever this was with someone who came from Plutus. He recalled Luke over the last month, the Luke he knew. Awkward, bumbling, uncertain but earnest.

“Yes please.”

 

 

Luke felt his shoulders slump, the weight that had been bearing down on him all week increasing. Ever since that call with his dad a week ago, Luke had been feeling the pressure to succeed even more. There had to be a case somewhere. There had to be! So he poured himself into his work, asking Drew and Patricia for case after case. He knew he was being a big pain in the ass based on the fact that Patricia stopped talking to him and Drew wasn’t smiling as much. He didn’t blame them. He knew from experience how much it sucked when people wanted something but it just didn’t exist, was not going to happen. But the pressure was still there, lurking, shadowing your every move. The story of his life.

What he needed now was- No, Luke shook his head vigorously. He wasn’t going to Kiryn’s café. No way. He needed to focus on his work. And Kiryn was just a distraction, bait perfectly designed by the powers that be to keep him happy and content in Orpheus, sucking him into their happy-go-lucky life style. Which wasn’t for him. Definitely. Never mind that being with Kiryn, hearing him laugh, listening to him sing, was the happiest he’d been in a while. That didn’t matter. Work, success, impressing his grandfather. That was important.

BAM. Luke staggered forward, his feet skidding on the pavement for purchase after the shock of some force slamming into him from behind. His training kicked in and he raised his fists and spun around quickly, ready to confront who ever decided Luke looked like an easy target- and froze.

“Found you,” Kiryn said, his arms crossed, expression fierce as he glared up at Luke.

Luke swallowed, surprised to see this menacing side to the Omega. He always seemed so easy going, eager to smile and laugh with no negative thoughts or emotions ever crossing his mind. Clearly though, he’d underestimated him.

“Well,” Kiryn barked, taking a threatening step forward and Luke couldn’t help stepping back, uncertain how to handle the clearly pissed off Omega. He wasn’t used to this. Not only was Kiryn always cheerful, but Omegas in Orpheus rarely raised their voices. If they didn’t like something you said, they just gave a sniff and a small look to indicate it and walked away. Or just ignored the topic completely by staying silent or changing the subject. Seeing what a spitfire Kiryn really was was a complete shock and surprise which made the anti-social Luke even more nervous.

“Uhh,” Luke said, knowing that was definitely not the right answer.

Kiryn’s lips curled back, affirming Luke’s suspicion that he was in deep trouble.

“You have nothing to say for yourself?” Kiryn demanded.

“Umm, sorry?” Luke said, sounding lame even to himself.

“Sorry for what?” Kiryn pushed, almost toe to toe with him now and Luke could feel his skin breaking into goosebumps. Shit, he hadn’t been this nervous since he left for Orpheus. It was like facing his grandfather all over again. Only worse because it was so unexpected and he kinda…liked the Omega. He didn’t want Kiryn to be angry with him.

“Sorry for…not coming by?” It sounded like a question even to Luke so he wasn’t surprised when Kiryn growled. OK, no, he was surprised. He didn’t think the Omega ever growled. But clearly Luke had pushed him a bit too far.

“Damn right you should be sorry!” Kiryn burst out. “You just vanished! Poof. Like you never existed. No call, no note. Nothing! I didn’t even know your name or where you live! What the hell?”

“Ah, I was busy?”

“Doing what?” Kiryn shot back. “You work for the frickin military! They don’t have that many cases to solve. Maybe a major incident once every three months, and by major I mean shoplifting or a robbery. So no way were you busy. Try again.”

Kiryn waited expectantly, tapping his foot, and Luke was really at a loss. He wasn’t the best at handling people when they were being polite. Faced with an angry Omega? Forget it. He clenched his hands and felt the sweat dripping between his fingers. He had to say something. He didn’t want Kiryn to be mad at him. But what?

“I…need a case,” Luke found himself saying.

“What?”

Luke gulped and found himself talking quickly, rushing to try and appease his friend. Because that’s what Kiryn was. His friend. “My grandfather sent me here to prove I can handle myself. To do that I have to solve as many cases as I can. So, I need to find some.”

Kiryn blinked a couple of times, his expression softening slightly. “I hate to break it to you, but your grandfather is either really stupid and ignorant or he wanted you out of the way. There are no big cases in Orpheus.”

Everyone had been denying that’s what General Lucas Blake had done. Oh, they tiptoed around the issue, talking about how Luke has to prove himself. But they never actually stated that his grandfather may be trying to get him out of the picture. They all thought it, but no one said it. Luke figured when someone finally voiced it, he’d be crushed. Instead, he found it…funny. Maybe it was Kiryn’s tone or the fact that it was Kiryn saying it, stating it actually, but something about having the truth finally out there just seemed hilarious. And about damn time. Which is why he suddenly started chuckling. Kiryn looked confused which made Luke laugh even harder, tears streaming down his face and leaning against the wall for support, clutching his stomach.

Kiryn watched him in disbelief until Luke finally stopped laughing, wiping tears from his face.

“Yeah, I know,” Luke finally said, his voice shaking slightly from laughing so much. He hadn’t laughed like that in a while. The last time was probably when he was fifteen and he and Matt went hunting and Luke accidentally ‘caught’ a discarded sock. He’d been so mortified but Matt made a joke out of it and they laughed and laughed. He missed it. Just laughing and letting loose.

“You don’t seem torn up about it,” Kiryn said carefully.

“Because it’s true,” Luke replied. “My whole family knows it’s true, but no one had the guts to say it. But you did. And in such a blunt way too.” Luke smiled, recalling how Kiryn called his grandfather stupid. No one ever called Lucas Blake that. Harsh, strict, perfectionist. But never stupid. What would happen if Kiryn called him that to his face? The image should have been horrifying, but somehow it wasn’t because he knew Kiryn would never cower from his grandfather. He knew he barely knew Kiryn, but he felt it. Kiryn was tough, strong. He didn’t take shit from anyone. The fact that he tracked Luke down, confronted him and got up in his face proved that.

“Want to come inside?” Luke suddenly asked.

Kiryn’s draw dropped. “For real?”

Luke grinned, a bit surprised by his invitation but decided to be like Kiryn and just go with his instinct for once. “Yeah. Wanna talk?”

Kiryn stared at him for a few seconds then nodded. “Yeah. Talking sounds nice.”

 

Kiryn looked around the bare apartment, wondering what he could add to make it more homey
when Luke appeared next to him, holding a steaming cup of tea.

“Here,” Luke said, handing him the cup and sitting down.

Kiryn took it and sniffed it lightly. “Did you add honey to this?”

“Good nose,” Luke said. “I don’t have sugar or sweet teas so I made do with honey. Hope that’s OK.”

“It’s fine. I like it this way actually.”

“Really? I figured you would prefer lots of sugar. From what I know, Omegas have a big sweet tooth.”

“We do,” Kiryn replied. “But I prefer eating something sweet with my tea. So sugary tea and sugary sweets tend to not mix well.”

“Noted,” Luke said, taking a sip of his tea.

Kiryn forced himself to sink back into the couch, waiting for Luke to make his next move. This was uncharted territory for Kiryn. Usually when he got to know people it was outside, in a club or over a meal. No one had ever invited him into their home just to talk. And while Kiryn may have been suspicious of any other person, he knew when Luke said he wanted to talk, he meant it. Somehow, even though they didn’t know each other well yet, Kiryn had a feeling Luke was an incredibly honest person. Maybe he didn’t spell out his feelings, but his every move and expression revealed what he thought and felt. And the fact that he didn’t speak much gave every word he did utter more weight. He was so different from Kiryn who didn’t bother to figure out his finer feelings, choosing to just go with the flow and say whatever he wanted. For some reason, Luke’s reticence was something Kiryn couldn’t ignore and why he couldn’t just forget about him when he disappeared.

“What about you?” Kiryn suddenly asked, his curiosity peaked. “How do you like your tea?”

“I prefer mine with milk,” Luke replied.

“Really? You never asked for milk when you came to the café.”

Luke grinned ruefully. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not the best with words. Or people. It was enough just to ask for tea.”

“That’s true,” Kiryn said, sinking more comfortably into the couch. “You really aren’t good at talking.”

Luke chuckled and Kiryn felt his breath catch for a second. He’d known the guy for a bit over a month and he never so much as smiled. But in the last half hour he’d burst into laughter, smiled three times, and chuckled twice. Was it because of him? But that was silly. He’d been with him all this time and the Beta never expressed himself like this before. Maybe it was because they were in his home and he felt more comfortable? If so, they should spend more time at his place instead of outside.

“My dad even sent me to a speech therapist when I was a kid,” Luke suddenly said.

Kiryn didn’t know how to handle the sudden serious turn in the conversation and cleared his throat. “How old were you?”

“About ten. My dad thought there was something wrong with me because I would only talk to him and my mom and older cousin Matt. I wouldn’t talk to my other family members or teachers.”

“That sounds tough,” Kiryn replied. “Especially since you were so young.”

“Yeah. But you know, it did help. It took some time but I was finally able to talk to other people. Short conversations and I stuttered a lot, but I was able to say something.” Luke stared off into space, lost in his memories.

“Do you dislike your dad?” Kiryn asked, knowing he was being rude and nosy but unable to hold back. Luke was opening up and Kiryn found he wanted to know more.

Luke turned his head slowly to look at him. “No,” he replied quietly. “I don’t. We don’t really talk much. He’s not good with people either. He and my mom used to always joke that if they had left the relationship in my dad’s hands they never would have even gone on a single date. In a lot of ways, even though he’s an Alpha, we do have similar personalities in term of being bad with people.”

“Must make things difficult.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, if one of you was more outspoken, then you could push the other to talk, to break the ice. But if both of you are awkward, and bad at expressing yourselves, then the conversation can never really start. I’m guessing you two never had a serious and heartfelt conversation before.”

Luke stared at Kiryn and he wondered if he’d said too much. Sure Luke was opening up to him, but that didn’t mean he could just say what he wanted.

“You’re right,” Luke said softly. “We never really had a proper conversation. Not even after my mom died.”

Kiryn froze, certain now was the time to draw the line, time for Luke to close up, for Kiryn to become uncomfortable with how personal this conversation was getting. But it didn’t happen. He listened, eagerly, as Luke described how his mom died from an illness when he was sixteen and his dad hadn’t known how to comfort a distraught Luke and vice versa.

“In the end, Matt took care of me. He held me while I cried. I wanted to do the same for my dad. He loved my mom so much and everyone could see how devastated he was,” Luke swallowed uncomfortably and looked away. “But I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Every time I went into his room to try and talk to him, we would just sit in silence.”

“Maybe that’s what he needed,” Kiryn assured him, placing a hand on Luke’s shoulder comfortingly. “You should know that sometimes just being there is what people need. Haven’t you ever felt that way before?”

Luke thought about his answer for a few moments. “I felt it sometimes with Matt.”

“Your cousin?”

Luke grinned and looked at Kiryn, undisguised admiration written across his face. “Matt’s my older cousin and he’s the best. He’s like the big brother I never had. He took care of me, helped me study, hugged me when I was scared or sad. I still rely on him a lot and talk to him once to three times a day.”

“You must miss him a lot then.”

“Yeah, I do. And I think he misses me too. He’s used to me being around. He’s a natural people person. A caregiver. He likes taking care of others and without me around he has no outlet.”

“No other relatives?”

Luke frowned and Kiryn felt his skin prickle slightly.

“There’s my cousin Jason. He’s a year older than me. A year younger than Matt. He’s…not the nicest person.”

“How so?”

“Well, he used to be OK I guess. It was the three of us growing up and Matt used to give me a lot of attention because I was so quiet. It drove Jason crazy sometimes and he’d get impatient with me, try to get me to talk or answer faster. But he still cared, I felt it. But he..changed at some point.”

Luke stopped talking and Kiryn knew that the subject of Jason was one that Luke didn’t wish to discuss. Interesting considering how much he’d revealed about himself so far.

“Must be nice, having a family like that,” Kiryn said.

“You don’t?” Luke asked.

“Not really,” Kiryn said, leaning back against the armrest. He never talked about his background, tried not to think about it mostly, but Luke had opened up so much, it made it easier for Kiryn to as well. “I grew up with a foster family of sorts. I never knew my parents.”

“I’m sorry,” Luke said softly.

Kiryn tried to smile but couldn’t. “I always wondered what happened to them you know. Did they die? Leave? No one ever knew. I was just…abandoned. One day I wasn’t there and the next day I was. Some people found me and took me to the orphanage. No note, no name, nothing.”

“So how’d you get the name Kiryn?”

“Well, in Orpheus people are allowed to choose their own names based on their personality or passion when they’re older. They’re given an initial name and they can decide if they want to keep it or not. When I could I changed mine. It wasn’t a name I wanted to remember since the orphanage gave it to me. I knew I loved music and I wanted to live my life freely so I decided to create my own name. Something whimsical and unique.”

Luke smiled. “And you went with Kiryn.”

Kiryn smiled back. “Suits me don’t you think?”

Luke nodded. “Definitely.”

They stared at each other for a few moments then Kiryn shifted around so he could fold his legs under him. “Tell me about Matt. A funny story.”

“Well,” Luke said, his face softening as he recalled his childhood hero. “There was this toy I wanted once, but my dad said it was too…feminine looking.”

“What was it?” Kiryn asked eagerly.

Luke blushed. “A stuffed bunny. A stuffed female bunny.”

“Awww, I can just picture it’s white furry body and small pink bow tie.”

“The bow came in different colors. I wanted the red one.”

Kiryn laughed. “Oh your dad must have hated it.”

“Well, he didn’t want the family to see me as a wuss so yeah. He wasn’t too happy. My mom was on his side unfortunately. She also tried to toughen me up since she was a Beta who married into the family and knew she and my dad had to prove something. So I went crying to Matt and he got it for me. I kept it hidden in my closet. I only played with it if I knew the house was empty and my door was locked.”

“Poor Lukey,” Kiryn said gently.

“It wasn’t too bad. I got the bunny after all. I named her Terry. And she totally kicked ass. She wasn’t just a normal bunny you know. She could solve crimes, help the needy, care for kids, the whole nine yards. She was awesome.”

Kiryn smiled while Luke continued extolling the virtues of his toy bunny, sharing story after story of her adventures, not realizing how much each sentence revealed more about Luke himself. Since their first outing, Kiryn could feel himself drawn to this Beta without knowing why. But now he got it. Because he was sweet. He was earnest. He was thoughtful and caring. Everything Kiryn wished for when he was alone when he was a kid, praying to someday have someone who cared for him. Luke had Terry as his ideal, but Kiryn only had a fictional apparition in his mind. A shadow that he dreamed of during the day and night. And now, he might finally have it.

“What else can Terry do?” Kiryn asked when Luke finished a story about how Terry helped a group of poor children get the money they need to buy their school books. That was all the prompting Luke needed and he was off, Kiryn hanging on his every word.

 

 

Luke blinked his eyes open slowly. When did he fall asleep? Last thing he remembered he and Kiryn were talking about Kiryn’s band and how they met. It was an interesting story and Luke couldn’t stop peppering him with questions, eager to learn everything he could about the alluring Omega.

He shifted slightly and was surprised when he felt a weight on his chest. His eyes flew open and he looked down, his jaw dropping when he saw Kiryn sleeping, his head resting on Luke’s chest. He looked around, realizing they’d fallen asleep on his couch. It was a big couch so they both fit comfortably with Kiryn half on top of him.

Kiryn seemed to be in a deep sleep so Luke slowly brushed a few curly black hairs away from the Omega’s face, staring down at him. They’d talked for hours last night. Luke talked about his family, his dreams of proving himself and his struggles while Kiryn talked about his band and his music. Luke couldn’t remember the last time he talked so much. He didn’t think it ever happened before, not even with Matt.

He loved being with Kiryn. He loved the person he became with him. His heart was lighter, his emotions freer, his tongue looser. And it looked like Kiryn liked being with him too.

Then there was that kiss last week. They didn’t talk about it and Luke didn’t know how to bring up the subject. Kiryn hadn’t addressed it either. But after last night, Luke didn’t want to simply dismiss it as the Omega acting on his instincts. There was more to their relationship now. He felt it and he knew Kiryn did as well. What he needed to figure out now was, what kind of relationship did they have? He longed to ask Kiryn, to just let the Omega determine the nature of their relationship. But he knew that wasn’t fair. They were both involved in this. Luke had to pull his weight as well, make decisions and actually voice them.

So, maybe for now they just continued this way. Spending time together, talking, sharing their life stories. And one day, when the time was right, they could see if there could be…more.

God he hoped there could be more.

Chapter Text

“And there,” Connor said, pulling the tips of the bow to straighten the expert bow he’d just made and smiled at his son. “Now you look just like a prince.”

 

“But I’m not playing a prince,” Devon huffed.

 

“Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look like one,” Connor replied affectionatelty.

 

Devon rolled his eyes and Connor chuckled.

 

“He’s late,” Devon said softly.

 

Connor paused, still crouching in front of his son and able to see the deep furrows on his forehead. Furrows no seven year-old should have. He swallowed, fighting that knot of guilt in his stomach that always surfaced whenever he felt he wasn’t doing enough. Could he ever do enough to make sure Devon had the life he deserved, a happy life?

 

“Hey, want to get some ice cream after we’re done with your play?” Connor asked, mock cheer in his voice.

 

Devon looked up at him. “I’m not a baby anymore. You can’t distract me with candy and ice cream.”

 

Connor almost choked, the lump moving from his stomach to his throat. “No, I guess not. Why couldn’t you just stay a kid forever huh? It was so much easier when you just believed everything I said.”

 

Devon smiled that mischievous grin that always melted Connor’s heart and made him feel that yes, his son may have worries, but he was free to express himself. And that was something Connor swore Devon would be able to do from the moment he was born.

 

“Cuz, where’s the fun in that?”

 

Connor chuckled again and was about to reply when Devon’s eyes widened and he knew their moment was gone.

 

“Dad!” Devon yelled, running past Connor.

 

It’s OK. You knew he was coming. He promised he would. No reason to get nervous. Taking a deep breath, Connor stood up and turned, looking at his ex-husband for the first time in three months. Three blessed months when he didn’t have to see Oliver Lawrences' annoying, handsome face.

 

Oliver was patting Devon’s head affectionately as the child gripped his leg, gazing up in awe at his hero. And once again, Connor had to accept the fact that no matter how hard he tried, Devon would never look at him like that. Moms weren’t heroes after all. Only dads. Alpha dads.

 

Oliver finally looked up and met his gaze, his eyes dimming slightly.

 

“Connor,” Oliver said, walking towards him, Devon now gripping his hand.

 

“Oliver. Perfect timing.”

 

Oliver nodded and smiled down at Devon. “Well, wanted to see the big guy before he got up on stage.”

 

“It’s just a small part,” Devon said bashfully. “I’m barely in the fight scene.”

 

“I told you Devon,” Connor said softly. “The part doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it well.”

 

Devon nodded but Connor didn’t know if he agreed with him. He always did seem more modest and anxious in front of his father. Probably an Alpha thing. While Connor couldn’t understand that part, he understood pride. And he knew how much Devon wanted his father to be proud of him. He just wished it didn’t make Devon so eager and insecure. No one should ever make his son feel that way, not even his birth father.

 

He caught Oliver looking at him, that same expression he always had that communicated clear disapproval of his parenting style. Well, he could just stuff it. No one was going to tell him how to raise his son.

 

“Alright kids, we’re going to start,” their Drama teacher said from the stage. “Say bye to your parents and head to the backstage area.”

 

Devon straightened and Connor could tell he was feeling nervous. He was about to give him some words of encouragement when Oliver suddenly picked him up, holding their son so they were eye to eye.

 

“You go up there and do your best. Got it?”

 

Devon nodded solemnly and Oliver smiled before he slid Devon back to the ground. With a quick hug to both of them Devon darted off towards the side doors that led to the back of the stage.

 

“We should go sit down,” Connor said formally.

 

“OK,” Oliver replied, his voice equally polite.

 

Connor led them to the seats he already reserved for them, using his laptop bag and Devon’s backpack to save their seats in the front row. He’d gotten here extra early to make sure they had the best view. Without a word, he pulled out a video camera and passed it to Oliver, then took out his regular camera, turning it on to make sure it’s working even though he’d already checked it last night and again this morning.

 

“Haven’t seen you in a while,” Oliver said, playing with the lens on the camera.

 

Connor froze, trying to detect what Oliver might be feeling, but the Alpha gave nothing away. For a guy who never bothered to hide how he felt, when he actually tried he was annoyingly good at it. Not as good as Connor but good enough.

 

“Yeah, I’ve been busy. And it was just easier for you to pick up Devon after school than from our place.”

 

“So work’s good?”

 

“Yeah work’s fine.”

 

“So why haven’t you been returning my calls?”

 

Connor felt like he’d been punched in the gut. He looked at Oliver out of the corner of his eye, the anger and frustration in his voice mirrored on his face. Ah there was the Oliver he knew. The one who never held back what he felt. What was that like?

 

“I wasn’t avoiding you,” Connor said, his voice trembling slightly despite his best efforts.

 

“You suck at lying Connor. You always did,” Oliver said, his voice strained. “I told you we needed to talk.”

 

“Not now,” Connor said looking away.

 

“Then when? You won’t return my calls. You keep telling me to pick up Devon straight from school so I haven’t even seen you in months. So when the hell are we supposed to talk?”

 

Never if Connor could manage it. He roughly knew what Oliver wanted to talk about and he wasn’t ready for it. Would never be ready for it. If he knew years ago that they’d get to this point, that this would happen, he never would have acted so rashly. He never would have-. Well there was no point harping over the past. He had to deal with what lay before him. No matter how much he wished he could just grab Devon and run, run away from it all.

 

“Tomorrow. Devon has a playdate with Patrick in the afternoon. I’ll meet you at a cafe near our place,” Connor finally replied.

 

Oliver paused for a second then nodded. “Tomorrow.”

 

Connor nodded and was grateful when the curtain went up and he turned on his camera, ready to turn his attention back to Devon. To his son. The only person he loved. The only one who mattered. He wiped all thoughts of Oliver and their meeting tomorrow from his mind as the kids got on stage and he saw Devon, looking solemn and regal in his role as a castle guard and Connor felt tears forming in his eyes. Sometimes, it really hit him that his little boy was growing up. And it made him happy and sad all at the same time.

 

“Are you crying?” Oliver whispered next to him.

 

Why couldn’t the jerk just leave him alone?

 

“No,” Connor replied, his voice ice cold. “I don’t like crying.”

 

Oliver snorted and Connor’s hands curled into fists. Of course he wouldn’t believe him. According to Oliver, all Omegas ever did was cry, get emotional, throw tantrums, and be a general nuisance. And it never mattered to the stubborn Alpha that Connor always kept his emotions under a tight lid, controlling every expression, every thought and feeling so he never behaved the way Oliver claimed he hated. No, don’t think about that now. Devon. Focus on Devon. So Connor turned his attention back to the play, enjoying watching his son giving it his all.

 

The next day, Connor walked into the cafe, his eyes strained from lack of sleep. As usual when it came to Oliver, it didn’t take much to set his mind reeling, his thoughts in turmoil as he relived the past and went through future worst-case scenarios.

 

“Connor,” Oliver called out from where he was sitting at one of the tables.

 

Determined, placing his professional mask on, Connor walked across the cafe and sat in front of his ex.

 

“What did you want to talk about?” Connor asked cooly.

 

“Down to business huh?” Oliver said lightly. “You always did like to cut to the chase.”

 

Because you always said you hated it when people sugarcoated stuff or talked in subtext, Connor thought.

 

“It’s best to do it that way,” he replied, taking a gulp of water.

 

“Thanks for emailing me Devon’s pictures from last night,” Oliver said. “They turned out great.”

 

“No problem.”

 

They lapsed into silence, Connor almost jumping when the waiter appeared and took their order.

 

“Coffee for me, and tea for my friend,” Oliver said. “Two sugars and milk for him.”

 

He still knew how he liked his tea. That was annoying.

 

“What do you want Oliver?” Connor asked, his voice stronger.

 

Oliver sighed and rubbed his face warily. “You don’t have to be so tense. It makes everything worse. Can’t you ever just chill?”

 

A memory flashed through his mind. They were ten and Connor had tried to bake Oliver a cake. He’d tried to follow the recipe exactly but the cake got burnt. He’d been so upset but Oliver didn’t care, telling Connor he hated it when people got upset over the little things. So Connor stopped trying to get upset over the little things.

 

“I have a feeling this isn’t going to be an easy conversation,” Connor said, nodding his thanks to the waiter as he placed their order on the table.

 

Oliver looked out the window for a second then turned to look at him. “I want you to come back.”

 

For a second, Connor felt like his heart stopped beating. Everything froze and all he could hear was Oliver, asking him to come back. To be a family again. But he knew that wasn’t what the Alpha meant and steeled his expression.

 

“I won’t come back to your family business. I have my own job.”

 

“Come on Connor. If you take your old job back, you’ll still be a secretary, working in one of the departments, and you’ll have less hours.”

 

“I like my job Oliver.”

 

“You like a job where you’re not done till after five and Devon has to go to your neighbour’s because you can’t pick him up?” Oliver asked in disbelief.

 

Connor’s spine stiffened. “Don’t try and guilt trip me Oliver. It won’t work.”

 

“I’m not trying to guilt trip you!”

 

More memories flashed through him. The time when they were sixteen, and Oliver made him feel bad about talking to an Alpha at school by claiming he was sending out his pheromones and seducing people. It had made Connor so self conscious he didn’t talk to any Alphas all through high school. The time they were engaged and Oliver made him give up the wedding hall he wanted because he claimed Connor was being a spoiled Omega and asking for a luxurious wedding. The time that Connor was pregnant, and Oliver made him believe that if he didn’t rest all the time he’d endanger their baby. It had all been small, half-hearted comments the Alpha threw at him, cleverly worded to appear as if he was just guiding him, warning him, trying to protect him. As they got older, it happened more frequently as Oliver learned to phrase his words more carefully. It wasn’t until years later, after their divorce, that Connor realized how much he’d let Oliver control him. Did the Alpha even realize what he’d done? How much of Connor’s personality he had influenced with his off hand comments about emotional Omegas and small set downs that undermined Connor’s confidence?

 

He felt his chest constrict and knew he was going to start hyperventilating if he didn’t calm down. Clear your head. You need to clear your head. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. When he felt steadier, he opened his eyes, meeting Oliver’s gaze.

 

“Devon is fine Oliver. We both are. We’re happy with the life we have. Yes the apartment is smaller. Yes I have to work harder. But we’re happy.”

 

“Are you sure about that?” Oliver asked. “Are you sure Devon’s happy?”

 

Connor thought of Devon’s enthusiasm when Connor suggested they paint the apartment themselves. Devon’s joy whenever Connor came home from work, feeling like a responsible Alpha as he set the table. His little Alpha warrior.

 

“Yes,” Connor said firmly. “He’s happy.”

 

Oliver sighed and leaned back in his chair. “He’s seven.”

 

“I know how old my son is.”

 

“He’s growing up.”

 

“Again you’re stating the obvious.” He knew where this was going but still prayed Oliver wouldn’t say what he was about to. Prayers never worked well for him though.

 

“I think it’s time Devon came to live with me,” Oliver said, throwing the gauntlet they both knew was coming.

 

It didn’t make the blow any easier.

 

“No,” Connor stated.

 

“We agreed-”

 

“No, you said,” Connor shot back. “We never agreed. When we got divorced, you said I could have custody as long as I provided Devon a good life. And I accept your money to help pay his school expenses and daily life.”

 

“I had to. Your family made it clear they didn’t want anything to do with you after the divorce,” Oliver shot back.

 

That was a low blow. Connor seethed, knowing Oliver wouldn’t think twice about the words he tossed out, how they hurt Connor and tore him to shreds.

 

“Yes, as you stated so eloquently, my family wants nothing to do with me,” Connor replied calmly. “So I accepted your help. I accepted the apartment, the job, the money. A menial job that was just a courtesy title and all I got were angry and pitying looks from everyone as your ex. Can you imagine how that felt? HOw humiliating it was? I thought I had to accept it, that that was the only way to live. But I realized just because you have a permanent place in Devon’s life doesn’t mean you have to have one in mine. I can have my own place, my own job, my own money through my own efforts. I can provide for Devon a home and pay his daily expenses. When I want to buy him a cake or a toy, I know that I worked hard for the money I use to buy it for him. I am my own person now Oliver. And it feels that you’re punishing me for leaving that apartment and job and having my own life. You have your life, I have mine. We both got what we wanted.”

 

Oliver snapped. There was no other word for it. He snapped forward, banging his fist on the table and making everything shake. “Don’t you dare blame me for this,” he hissed.

 

“I don’t blame you Oliver,” Connor said calmly. “What I am doing, is making a clear distinction between how much influence you have over Devon and have over me.”

 

“This is about Devon,” Oliver said. “I want what’s best for him.”

 

“And taking him away from me is what’s best for him? How could you believe that? You may have a low opinion of me Oliver, but you know I’m a good mother. You know how much I love Devon.”

 

“That’s right. You are a good mother Connor. A mother .”

 

Connor was about to answer but stopped, uncertain where Oliver was going with this.

 

Oliver drew back, folding his hands on the table. “Connor, Devon is an Alpha. He needs an Alpha influence in his life.”

 

“He has you,” Connor said softly.

 

“Yeah, one weekend every two weeks. I mean a full time Alpha influence. Someone who is there for him every day.”

 

Connor swallowed, uncertain how to handle this new argument. “Are you that worried that an Omega is going to corrupt your precious Alpha son?”

 

Oliver looked away and Connor knew he was right. Really, he should have expected Oliver to feel this way. All his life, he’d made his low opinion of Omegas very clear. Which is why as his chosen spouse since they were born, Connor did his best to not be a typical Omega, or how Oliver viewed typical Omegas. He never cried, never screamed, never got emotional, never asked for things, never acted spoiled, never did...anything. By the time he realized what had happened it was too late. He was nineteen, had a child and realized he had no personality. No goal, no ambitions, no passion. Wearing mask after mask to get through the days, to make others happy. A mask for his parents, a mask for Oliver, a mask for his in-laws. The only time he ever felt he could even find a hint of an inner passion was when Devon was born. Suddenly, he had this whole person depending on him, someone Connor loved with all his heart. And it devastated him, holding his newborn in his arms while he wept, when he realized what an empty shell he was. How could he be a mother when he was so empty? So useless. So he swore he’d be the best mother his baby could ever have. He was a mom, but he felt it, lived it. It wasn’t a role. Wasn’t a mask. It was who he was. All he had in his life was Devon. All his love, passion, devotion was dedicated to his son. And now Oliver was threatening to take him away, because he still thought that Connor was too Omega.

 

“What does Veronica think of all this?” Connor asked.

 

“She loves Devon you know that,” Oliver replied. “And he gets along with his siblings. It would be a smooth transition.”

 

“My answer is still no,” Connor said firmly. “You already have Veronica and two children. You don’t need Devon too.”

 

“But you do?” Oliver asked pointedly. “Come on Connor. At some point, you have to cut the Omega maternal strings.”

 

“Maybe you need to cut the Alpha pride strings,” Connor retorted.

 

Oliver’s face flushed with anger. Considering how much he mocks Omegas and their emotional tantrums, Oliver was never good at controlling his own emotions. Why, oh why had it taken him so long to realize what a cowardly, hypocritical bully Oliver was? Growing up, he’d been his destined partner, and all he heard from his parents was that he needed to be the ideal mate for Oliver, to do anything to suit his tastes. And he’d tried. Oh he tried. And look what it cost him.

 

“Whatever you think, it doesn't change the fact that Devon needs an Alpha in his life,” Oliver hissed. “If you had your own Alpha then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

 

Connor felt a well of panic, an image of him chained to another Alpha, subject to their whims and mood swings, devoid of his free will. Not again. Never again.

 

“I don’t want to remarry,” Connor stated.

 

Oliver rubbed his face. “Look Connor. You’re still not that old. And you’re...pretty. We can find you someone.”

 

“It’s not that I don’t think an Alpha wouldn’t want me,” Connor said, blowing past the underhanded insults. “I don’t want to remarry. I like being single.”

 

Oliver snorted derisively and leaned back in his chair, arms crossed. “You can’t be serious.”

 

“Oh, I am. I like my life the way it is. I may not be an Alpha, but I know how to raise my son. You may think I’m lacking and he’s missing out, but I think he’s turning into an amazing person.”

 

“Yeah, one who settles for being second best.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“Come on Connor. What was it you said yesterday? ‘It doesn’t matter the part but that you play it well’ or some bullshit like that? No Alpha with a speck of pride should be OK with getting the small parts. I don’t want my son to ever think it’s OK for him to just be in the background, doing his little part. That might work for you, but not for me.”

 

So that’s what it was, Connor thought. He wanted Devon to become more confident. More authoritative. More of a bully, more abrasive. Like him. Well over his dead body!

 

“My son,” Connor stated, “Is a kind, generous, and strong Alpha. He may not be what you think an Alpha should be, but he is an Alpha. And I think he’s amazing.”

 

They stared at each other for a few seconds until Oliver finally looked away.

 

“This is all pointless. If you don’t see reason I’m going to have to settle this through my lawyer.”

 

Connor wanted to dive across the table and beg Oliver to leave him and Devon alone, to tell him he’ll do whatever Oliver wanted just as long as he was able to keep his son. But that was the old Connor. The one who did everything he could to make his mate happy, to make his parents proud. He wasn’t that Connor anymore, and he wasn’t going to let Oliver bully him into submission. Not again.

 

“Let’s give this some time,” Connor said, proud of how calm his voice sounded. “We’ll both watch Devon and see how he develops. If he stays confident and strong, you’ll leave us alone.”

 

Oliver contemplated this for a moment then nodded. Connor didn’t kid himself into believing he’d won. But, Oliver certainly thought he did based on the glint in his eye. And why shouldn’t he? After all, Connor sort of just agreed to let Oliver decide if Devon is ‘Alpha’ enough. All Connor did was buy himself some time. Which is what he wanted. Time to figure this out. To come up with a plan. Because no way was he going to let his stupid ex take his son.




Chapter Text

Matt kept his gaze steady on his grandfather while Connor placed two cups of tea on Matt’s conference table. The Omega was about to leave the room when Lucas barked out an order for him to stay.

“Everyone knows you’re deeply involved in all of Matt’s work,” Lucas stated. “It’ll save both of you time if you just listen and record everything now.”

Matt’s eyes flicked to Connor, trying to discern if he felt nervous but he hid all his emotions behind his usual mask and simply nodded, taking out his phone so he could record his notes during the meeting.

“So, I heard Cyril Hunter is suing you,” Lucas said, getting right to the point.

“Yes sir,” Matt replied calmly. “We’ve been trying to discover any clues linking him to the drugs but found nothing so far.”

“With Jason,” Lucas stated.

Matt paused, wondering what Lucas was fishing for. “Yes, we’ve been working with Jason since it was originally his case.”

“And what have you discovered so far?”

“Well, the Eagles did find evidence of the drugs leaving the premises, smuggled in a purse.”

“But you still don’t know who is supplying it and how it’s entering the building? Or how Cyril Hunter is involved.”

“No sir,” Matt replied calmly. “Our Eagles infiltrated his home and his cousin Larry’s but found nothing tying them to the drugs or the robberies.”

Lucas stared at him for a few seconds. “This isn’t good Matthew. We don’t need a lawsuit right now. Jason is finally starting to come into the office, Luke is off in Orpheus and Gareth still has three more months before he graduates and can join us. We need to show we’re capable and a force to be reckoned with. Having a lawsuit thrust on us by a middling family like the Hunters isn’t something that we can just let happen.”

“With all due respect sir. We aren’t just letting it happen. We’ve had Cyril under surveillance and the street and we are getting some results.”

“Some,” Lucas said, his tone becoming steely, raising the hair on the back of Matt’s neck. “But not enough.”

Uh-oh, he knew that look. Lucas was a pretty affable man with Matt because he was the favorite. He grew up knowing that and enjoyed the benefits that came with it. It didn’t mean though that he didn’t know what happens if Lucas loses his temper. He’d seen him do that with his various sons numerous times, but he usually held it together with his grandchildren. This time however, it appeared that the older man had been pushed too far. Which meant Matt had better prepare himself. He just wished Connor wasn’t here to witness it. The Omega had a strong sense of responsibility and would somehow turn some of this around and make it his fault. And that’s the last thing he wanted Connor to feel.

“I know why you are concerned sir. If the Hunters sue us, and win, then all the other families will think they can do that anytime they are under investigation.”

“Exactly,” Lucas barked, the cords in his neck tightening. “You have three days left. You’d better make sure this doesn’t reach the court level. Do you understand me?”

“Yes sir,” Matt said, secretly relieved that he’d once again managed to nip Lucas’s temper in the bud.

“And you,” Lucas said, suddenly turning to Connor, making Matt’s blood freeze. Crap, crap, crap. Connor looked up from his phone, his gaze unflinching, which didn’t help soothe Lucas’s temper. Matt tried to send him a silent warning but the Omega’s gaze was focused on the general.

“I heard you’ve been involving yourself with the Eagle training again.”

“Yes sir. Using Ren’s notes, I’ve been devising some training programs and adding some notes on the new Eagles’ surveillance so they can have better information.”

“I’ve told you this before,” Lucas said, his voice hard. “You’re an Omega secretary. That is your sole job. You don’t get yourself involved in the cases. I know Matt gives you a lot of freedom but I don’t need that kind of talk circulating around the base. All you have to do is write down what Matt tells you and that’s it. You understand?”

Matt wanted to tell Lucas to mind his own business, to leave Connor alone but knew if he stood up for the Omega it would only make things worse. He looked at Connor, not even surprised when he calmly nodded, his expression remaining passive.

“Yes sir.”

Lucas paused then finally got up and left the office. Matt sighed and looked sheepishly at Connor.

“Sorry about that. From the sound of it it isn’t the first time he’s told you off. I didn’t know he was giving you a hard time about your job.”

Connor simply got up, placing the unused tea cups on the tray. “It’s fine. It’s not something I hadn’t heard before. I know a lot of people think I’m overstepping my bounds and sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong. But until you tell me to stop I’m going to keep doing the job you expect me to do. You're my boss after all.”

Not for the first time in the last year, Matt was impressed with the steely determination hidden behind that stoic face. He heard the whispers when people thought he wasn’t around, about how presumptuous and silly Connor appeared to people across the base, how useless his efforts were. However to Matt, Connor was invaluable. Not just because his notes were amazingly organized, but everything else he brought to the table. His intelligence, his professionalism, his caring side he tried to keep hidden but came across clear as day in how observant and responsive he was of Matt and the Eagle’s every need. He kept waiting for the Omega to break, to crack under the pressure and the not too subtle looks and gossip. But everyday he came in, that same professional mask on his face, did his job and ignored the world around him. How did he do it?

“Can you call Jason and Ren for an impromptu meeting? I think we need to go over the case again.”

“Already scheduled one in half an hour with Ren,” Connor replied smoothly, nodding before he left the room. And there it was. The reason Matt valued Connor and knew how much untapped potential was hidden inside him. And why he and the Omega continued to do as they wished despite what anyone said. Matt smiled, whipping open his laptop and not even surprised when he saw that the meeting notes were already in his ShareDrive, everything his grandfather said, including his comments to Connor. Matt laughed, recognizing the passive aggressive move by including the insults. Damn, he loved seeing the Omega’s sassy side he thought, making a mental note to take more care of how often Connor and Lucas met. Which, if Matt had his way, would be as minimal as possible. He didn’t want anyone tearing his Omega down, not when Matt was trying so hard to ease him out of his shell and access all the passion, wit, and drive he knew burned deep inside him.

 

 

Jason strolled down the hall to Matt’s office, chewing his gum loudly and eyed Ren out of the corner of his eye. If his excessive chewing was bothering the Beta, he was doing a good job of hiding it. Liar. After working together for over a month, he knew that the Beta hated loud noises. Especially loud repetitive noises. Like a pen tapping on a desk or the loud typing of a keyboard. He hid his irritation well, so well it wasn’t until four days ago that Jason finally saw the small flicker of annoyance in his eyes. His devious mind zeroed in on it, deciding this was the perfect way to irritate the Beta. It was petty and silly, but anything to annoy his would be torturer was fine by him.

He blew a bubble and let it pop. Ah, looks like that got to him based on the small eye twitch. Hehe, this was fun.

“Don’t see why I have to be here,” Jason said, just to complain and whine. “You know everything, you can just tell Matty.”

“Because you owe me four hours and it’s only been one,” Ren replied simply.

Jason wanted to argue some more but they’d already reached Matt’s office. His gaze strayed up and landed on Connor who was busy typing away at his desk. He let his eyes narrow slightly. And here was someone else Jason didn’t really want to see. He couldn’t believe it when Connor suddenly appeared on the base around the same time he did a year ago. He thought it was a mistake, a fluke. Then he’d been assigned as Matt’s secretary and Jason thought it was the funniest thing ever. It must be driving Oliver crazy, having his ex working out in the open and out of his sight. Not that he spoke to Oliver much. They’d barely been acquaintances, if even that. He wondered if Matt knew about Connor’s family situation but decided it was none of his business to enlighten his cousin.

Connor’s eyes lifted from his screen and his eyes got colder, making Jason smile and wave happily. “Hey Con. You look your usual boring self today.”

Connor didn’t even reply, getting up and opening Matt’s office door. He waited for Ren and Jason to enter before he followed them inside, closing the door firmly behind him.

Jason flopped into one of the chairs at the conference table, took out his phone and proceeded to play his game. He’d managed to clear the first sixty levels, now came the hard part. He heard Ren droning on about the case, repeating the information he and Jason discussed a couple of days ago. None of this was new info, so why the hell were they still talking about it?

“We need to figure out how they’re bringing it in,” Matt said while Jason had his warrior call on his magic sword and begin hacking his way through the enemy’s army.

“So far we have no clues about that,” Ren said, his tone bellying his frustration.

Jason smirked as he chipped down ten enemy soldiers, making his way across to the other side of the ravine.

“Could it be coming in from out of the main city?” Connor asked. “Like Icarus or Tantalus?”

“We can’t even figure out what type of drug it is to determine where it’s coming from,” Ren replied. “If we could just get a sample and test it it would help us out a lot.”

The room went quiet and Jason actually felt a twinge of sympathy for them. They were trying so hard and circling the hoop but made no baskets.

“Do you think we can infiltrate?” Matt asked. “Send some Eagles in as potential customers.”

“It’ll be hard without knowing how they are organizing their clients,” Ren replied. “We run the risk of scaring them off.”

Again, silence. Again, he felt sorry for these poor idiots. He should throw them a bone. He really should. Should he?

“Just have someone go in and plant a bug on the dealer,” Jason said, not looking up from his phone.

Silence greeted his suggestion and Jason chanced a quick glance up, wincing inwardly at the shocked expressions on Connor and Matt’s faces. Surprisingly, Ren looked expectant. Damn, he’d accidentally dropped a few big clues because he couldn’t help it. Now Ren was going to expect him to keep doing so. He really should have kept his mouth shut.

“What do you mean?” Matt asked carefully.

Jason sighed, knowing he’d dug his own grave. “Well, we know where the dealer is. He frickin works in the store. And you can bet the other two employees are in on it. Just have someone shoot a bug on them. We can hear and see everything that way.”

Again, shock. Again, Ren looked excited. Damn. He really really needed to keep his mouth shut.

“Just felt logical,” Jason said defensively, turning back to his phone ad clicking away. The silence remained for a few moments but Jason refused to look up. Nope, he was done. He’d already done more than he expected. He wasn’t going to say anything else.

“I agree with Jason’s plan,” Ren said, emphasizing Jason’s name, making him grimace at the subtle reminder that Ren wasn’t going to let this go. Frickin tenacious Beta. “I’ll talk to the Eagles and have them place the tracers today. I’ll have the veterans do it. This is too important to let the new ones handle it. We can’t afford any more mistakes here.”

“Agreed. We only have three days left,” Connor said, reminding them once again of the deadline. As if they’d ever forget. “And the Eagles found nothing in Cyril and Larry Hunter’s apartments relating to the the robberies or the drugs. We need to find something quickly to tie Cyril to either case.”

Ren and Matt nodded in agreement.

“Want me to email you these notes?” Connor asked politely. Too politely. Jason had noticed how much Connor seemed to dislike Ren and he could figure out why. Not that he’d been watching Connor but even he’d heard and seen how hard the Omega worked. It must grate on his nerves to have a new Beta just waltz in and take over. Well, that made two of them. It was nice to see that there was someone else’s life that was being disrupted by the pain in the ass, oh-I’m-so-good-at-everything Beta.

“Yes please. Your notes are very helpful.”

Ah sounding so polite. Not surprisingly, the Beta noticed how frosty Connor was with him and the two were trying to be polite with each other. Too polite. He wondered when they’d finally crack. His money was on Connor cracking first. And he hoped he’d be there to see it. Nothing was more fun than seeing other people realize the futility of their efforts.

“Well, looks like we have a plan,” Jason said with finality, standing up quickly. “Good work team.” He walked out of the office, not bothering to look back.

 

Ren followed Jason with his eyes, turning to Matt and Connor and smiling triumphantly when he was sure Jason was out of hearing. Finally! Finally Jason said it. Ren had been sitting on the idea of planting a bug for days but kept it to himself, hoping Jason would say it instead when he saw no one was coming up with an actual plan. Seriously though, they should have planted the bug from day one. That’s what Ren would have done. But in his efforts to try and lure Jason to actual give a crap he’d, impatiently to be honest, waited. If Jason hadn’t spoken up today Ren probably would have finally cracked.

“Surprised?” Ren asked Matt and Connor.

Matt still looked shell shocked and simply nodded.

Ren chuckled and leaned back in his chair. “I told you. That cousin of yours in like a diamond in the rough. I’ll be honest though, he’s revealing a lot more than I ever expected. You know that all the major clues we figured out so far were from him?”

“You’re kidding!” Matt exclaimed, his eyes shining brightly. “That’s great.”

Ren frowned and leaned forward, boring holes into Matt. “Look, it’s good that he’s starting to show us some of what he can do. But if you make a big deal about it he’s going to shut himself down again. He doesn’t want to be seen as working or possessing a brain. He likes it that people don’t expect anything from him. So don’t even hint that you’ve noticed him changing or adding his input on the case. Just continue ignoring him. If he drops some good info, just nod and move on. Got it?”

Matt nodded quickly while Connor looked thoughtful. Ren really wished he could tell what the Omega was thinking. In the last week, they’ve reached a sort of truce. Which was funny considering they were never fighting in the first place. But they both seemed to understand they had to work together, both wanted to have their input and way of doing things, both needed to tolerate the other. So Ren let Connor organize some notes and vice versa, they shared everything they had as they got it. Connor came by and watched the training, added a few pointers and Ren nodded politely and thanked him. He even used a couple of Connor’s suggestions because they were pretty valid. The guy certainly knew his team well and Ren could see how hard he’d been working. He didn’t want to tear the Omega down or make him feel like his opinion didn’t matter. But nor was he going to relinquish his control. He was used to getting his own way and could let the Omega do as he wished up to a point. And for now, they both seemed content with that. He shuddered to think what would happen when that wasn’t enough. But he was determined that no matter what, he would win. He had a lot riding on this after all. He couldn’t give it up just to keep the Omega happy. No matter how much he admired the Omega’s work ethic and efforts.

Chapter Text

Luke hurriedly signed off on the report Patricia had in front of him and gave it back to her, beaming as he thanked her for her hard work that day.

Patricia seemed surprised but smiled back, thanking Luke for his hard work as well.

A week ago, Luke would have glared, growled, felt this was all ridiculous and let people know it. But that was two weeks ago. Before he and Kiryn became…whatever it is they were. After that night a week ago when they spent the whole night talking and slept in each other’s arms they’d met up everyday. Usually Luke would come during Kiryn’s evening shift, they’d eat dinner somewhere, walk around, holding hands and just talk. And it was…nice. It was like nothing Luke had ever done before and he enjoyed the simplicity of it. And the most amazing part was, he, Luke Blake, was turning into a chatterbox! If only his father knew!

“Five o'clock, see you tomorrow Pat,” Luke called out, racing out the door, leaving a flabbergasted Patricia in his wake. He chuckled at the expression on her face then quickly dismissed her from his mind. Kiryn. He was on his way to see Kiryn.

Thirty minutes later, he parked in front of the ‘Melody Café,’ and quickly walked into the building, smiling and waving brightly at Kiryn who was just getting set up. The Omega smiled and waved back before he turned his attention back to the customers. Luke strolled over to his spot, his spot! And sat down.

“You’re usual,” Bri said, placing his tea, with milk, and croissant on the table. Ever since Kiryn found out his true taste for milk tea and salty food he’d begun to bring Luke stuff he’d actually like. Just another thing that made Luke happy. It was so simple, but it was nice that someone knew you enough to know what you liked, and cared enough to try and get it for you.

“Thanks Bri,” Luke said.

“Better eat it now. It’s still fresh,” Bri advised.

Now that he’d gotten to know Bri a bit more based on Kiryn’s stories Luke knew how serious Bri took her food and nodded solemnly. “I'll eat it right away. Thanks for the advise.”

Bri nodded approvingly and walked away. Just in time, as Kiryn stuck his first note and Luke lost himself once again in the Omega’s voice.

An hour later, the two stepped out of the café, Kiryn automatically grasping Luke’s hand.

“What do you feel like eating tonight?” Kiryn asked.

Luke thought it over. Every night, Kiryn asked him what he wanted to eat. No one ever really bothered to ask before, mostly because Luke didn’t really answer. But with Kiryn everything was different.

“Something creamy,” Luke replied.

“Creamy it is. I know this place that makes these awesome wraps, drizzled with the creamiest, cheesiest sauce you’d find,”

Luke chuckled, “Sounds perfect.”

Kiryn smiled back, swinging their arms happily as they walked towards the food district. “How was work?”

“It was good. There was a woman who lost her granddaughter.”

“Did you find her?”

“Sort of. She came back on it’s own. Turns out she told her grandma she was going to the library but she forgot” Luke said sheepishly.

Kiryn laughed, his voice filling the night air. Luke wished he could laugh loudly like that. “See why I love it here! Why would anyone want to live somewhere with actual crimes when the worst you get is a couple of robberies and a lost kid who isn’t really lost.”

Luke felt a lump form in his throat and didn’t reply. Truth was, he was enjoying his time with Kiryn. But that was all. Did he love his life in Orpheus? He didn’t know. It was still so new and he was still struggling with his dad’s daily calls that made him too anxious to sleep right away. He missed Matt, he missed what he knew. He loved being with Kiryn, loved who he was with him, but he didn’t know if he loved this life. Not the way Kiryn did anyway.

“There was a new song right. When did you make it?” Luke asked, desperate to change the subject.

Kiryn gave him a look that let him know he noticed Luke’s fumbling attempt but answered his question. “Frit and I were messing around with our guitars the other day. We hit a couple of notes that worked and viola.”

“Is it really that easy?”

“Not always. Some songs just flow out. Sometimes we get music block and can’t come up with anything for months.” Kiryn frowned and Luke could imagine why. Music was Kiryn’s life. Not being able to create, to compose, it basically meant he was unable to express himself. It must kill him when it happened.

“That sucks,” Luke said.

“Yeah it does,” Kiryn replied.

They walked in silence for a few minutes until they reached the entrance of the food district.

“The place is just a couple of blocks over,” Kiryn said.

“Good, I’m starving.”

“Not surprised,” Kiryn said dryly. “You keep coming over for lunch and get a simple sandwich. I told you that’s not filling enough.”

“It’s OK. Leaves room for a big dinner with you,” Luke said brightly.

“You sure this is all new to you?” Kiryn asked suddenly.

“Why do you say that?” Luke asked cautiously.

“Because you’re becoming really good with your compliments and flirting.”

Luke froze in his tracks. “Flirting? Me?”

Kiryn chuckled. “Yeah you. What else do you call what you’ve been doing with me?”

“Making conversation?” Luke said lamely.

Kiryn chuckled and stood on his tiptoes, planting a kiss on Luke’s cheek. “You’re just too cute.”

Luke stood still. That was the second time Kiryn kissed him. On the cheek but it was still a kiss. His throat constricted and Kiryn just smiled up at him.

Kiryn swore he always tried to live life based on his instincts. Luke knew he couldn’t do that, but right now he wanted to. So he swooped down, capturing Kiryn’s lips with his own. He rested his lips on the Omega’s for a few seconds then lifted his head.

“Was that…OK?’ Luke asked quietly, his heart racing.

“Not really,” Kiryn said softly.

Luke panicked for a second before Kiryn looped his arms behind his neck, planting a firm kiss on his lips. Luke moaned, placing his hands tentatively on Kiryn’s hips, his nerves spiking when he felt his hands trembling.

Kiryn chuckled against his lips and deepened the kiss. He felt Kiryn’s tongue trace his lips and opened them slowly, letting Kiryn’s tongue tangle with his own. Soon, he lost all thoughts, forgot to even feel nervous as he just felt. Felt his hands on Kiryn’s slender waist. Felt Kiryn’s tongue against his own. Felt…everything.

He didn’t know how long they stood there, lost in each other. Finally, Kiryn pulled back, his lips puffy. Luke knew his probably looked equally puffy.

“Does…this mean…we’re dating?” Luke asked carefully.

Kiryn started then laughed, throwing his head back, his hands still wrapped behind Luke’s head. “Figures the anti-social Luke wouldn’t know that what we’ve been doing is dating.”

Luke’s eyes widened. “Sorry! I…didn’t know for sure. We never talked about it.”

Kiryn pulled Luke’s head forward and placed a soft kiss on his lips. “You’re right. We didn’t. I think with you, I really will have to spell everything out huh.”

“That would be really helpful thanks.”

Again Kiryn laughed, releasing Luke and grasping his hand again, pulling him forward.

“Come on boyfriend. We need to get you fed.”

Boyfriend. He was a boyfriend. Kiryn’s boyfriend. Luke smiled widely, his heart lightening at the thought.

 

Ren looked down at his watch. It was a bit after midnight. According to his surveillance on Jason, he knew that the guy was either at a club looking for a hookup, or in his gym. He’d been debating this idea for several days but knew it might be the best plan at the moment. So he steeled himself and walked down the hall to Jason’s apartment. Without breaking his stride, he opened Jason’s door and walked into the apartment, heading to the gym room. As he drew closer, he could hear music blaring from the stereo. Bingo.

Pasting a bright smile on his face Ren stepped into the room.

“Hey boss!” Ren called out.

Ren kinda regretted it as soon as he called out. Jason was on the treadmill and having Ren suddenly yell to him shocked the Alpha so much he tripped and almost flew off the machine. Luckily, he managed to grasp the handles and pull himself off of the rapidly spinning belt and stared at Ren in shock. OK that was kinda fun. It had been so long since Jason looked so nonplussed.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Jason called out, hitting the mute button for the music.

“I figured I’d get in a work out,” Ren said casually, walking over to an empty part of the gym and starting to stretch.

“Good for you. Do it in your own gym.”

“Don’t have one.”

“Then do it in the family gym like you’ve been doing.”

“But your machines are better,” Ren said.

“Like hell! I know that the family spares no expense on getting the best machines in that room.”

Ren grinned. “Exactly. They’re too fancy and flashy. I like your stuff. More basic and down to earth.”

“What the hell does that even mean?” Jason practically screamed.

“It means I’m going to work out here. OK? What’s the big deal? You have two treadmills.”

“Because one is older. And no, not OK!”

“Geez, you sound like a child,” Ren said, rolling his eyes as he did a handstand. “Whine whine whine. Can’t you just take it like a man?”

Jason’s face mottled with fury and Ren wondered what the Alpha would do. Spine stiff, Jason turned his back on Ren, hit the unmute button on his remote and resumed his jog on the treadmill.

Well, that went easier than he assumed it would Ren thought as he lightly lowered his legs and went into a split. He looked up surreptitiously, wondering if Jason really was ignoring him. The Alpha’s eyes were glued in front of him.

Ten minutes later, Ren got on the extra treadmill next to Jason, who continued to pretend he didn’t exist. Taking his time, Ren warmed up on the machine, letting his body start to heat up, his muscles relax. Once he felt his body was ready, he began to pick up the pace. Soon, he was moving so fast Jason couldn’t ignore him. The Alpha gaped slightly, hitting a button on his treadmill and starting to sprint now. Ren smirked and incrased his speed as well, easily outsriping Jason. Jason growled and increased his speed. This continued until both of them were practically racing, running like the hounds of hell were chasing after them.

It had been a while since Ren had any serious competition and he could feel his adrenaline pumping overtime and let out a whoop of delight. Jason looked over with a confused expression and Ren grinned back.

“Isn’t this fun?” he called out.

Jason looked shocked and turned his attention forward again.

“Bet you can’t last like this for ten minutes,” Ren yelled.

“You’re on!” Jason yelled back.

Grinning, Ren focused on the speed, the rush. He loved this, the pure joy of a race, of running for no reason than to simply let loose and have fun. He whooped again and this time Jason shook his head.

Ten minutes later Ren hit the ‘Cool Down’ button and Jason followed suit, both panting as their bodies started to cool down.

“Pretty good,” Ren panted.

“Yeah,” Jason said.

“But I bet you can’t do well in a real race.”

Jason’s head whipped around and he glared. “Just try me.”

“Alright. Tomorrow night. We head to the lakefront and race there. What do you say?”

“You’re on.”

Ren grinned and gazed forward, crowing silently at his small victory. A race tomorrow, and soon, maybe they can actually have a somewhat decent relationship. Maybe.

 

 

Connor finished typing his notes about what they discovered from the newly placed bugs when Matt came out of his office.

“Almost done?”

“Just about,” Connor said, typing faster.

“Relax. I’m not in a rush,” Matt said.

Connor swallowed and kept his quick pace. “The sooner you get this the better.”

Matt chuckled. “That good huh? Can’t wait.” With that, Matt walked back into his office and Connor felt himself relax a bit.

They’d only placed the bugs yesterday but already they had a breakthrough. And he had to let Matt know ASAP.

Two minutes later he walked into Matt’s office. “I just posted it.”

Wordlessly, Matt opened their ShareDrive and pulled up Connor’s notes. Connor sat in front of the desk, waiting for him to finish going through the file, his body tense.

“So the supplier went to the Tantalus border?” Matt said.

“Yes. We probably got lucky that he happened to be heading there today. He went in broad daylight as well. Meaning that the whole store really is in on it, or they wouldn’t just let him go off for a few hours during working hours.”

Matt nodded thoughtfully. “This is great stuff. Did Ren see it yet?”

Conor felt that familiar twinge of irritation whenever he heard the Beta’s name or thought about him. “Yes. He said we should send some Eagles to scout the area he went to. They might find clues there.”

“Good. Let me know what they find.”

Connor nodded and was about to get up when Matt’s voice stopped him.

“Are you OK?”

Connor halted, his butt slightly above the seat and looked up at Matt. The Alpha was staring at him, unblinking, and Connor knew he wasn’t going to let this go.

Groaning inwardly, he sank back into his seat. “Why wouldn’t I be?

“I mean, I was all excited when Ren came and took over that I didn’t think about how you would feel about it.”

Connor’s eyebrows flew he was so shocked. Had he let his discomfort show in front of Matt? He and Ren both knew there was tension between them but he thought they’d hid it pretty well from anyone else. Damn Matt and his perceptiveness.

“I’m fine. He’s great.”

Matt continued to stare at him and Connor swallowed. He wanted to leave, just walk out the door, but knew Matt wasn’t going to let him off easy.

“What more do you want me to say?” he asked, almost desperately.

“I can’t do anything about Ren’s presence. The fact is we do need him. And he is having a positive effect on the Eagles and Jason. I’m glad you two seem to be able to work together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t resent having him here. Involved with our Eagles.”

Connor’s hands curled into fists and he tried to keep his expression blank. “I have no problem with Ren,” he said tightly.

“Really? Then why do you look like you want to bite my head off?”

“I don’t want to bite your head off!” Connor exclaimed.

Matt smiled. “Then Ren’s head?”

Connor looked away for a second. He shouldn’t say it. Even if Matt was telling him it was OK to vent, he still shouldn’t. Venting didn’t solve anything. And as nice as Matt was, he would quickly get bored of listening to him. Oliver always said nothing was worse than a whiny Omega. But then again, to Oliver, everything was the worst when it came to an Omega.

“Maybe,” Connor relented a bit, biting his lip to keep the words from spilling forth.

“Maybe huh. Because he does seem to be taking over.”

Don’t do it Connor. Don’t do it.

“And he’s throwing his weight around. I heard he even created that new regimen to improve the Eagles’ target practice.”

“I designed that!” Connor burst out before he could stop himself. “Did he tell you he did it? Because I designed it. I watched the Eagles and figured out what they were doing wrong and wrote a plan for each of them to correct their aim and stance.”

Matt cocked an eyebrow which increased Connor’s fury. “Really? I didn’t know that.”

“That jerk,” Connor hissed. “It’s one thing to come and do whatever he likes, and another to steal the credit. I didn’t think he’d do that. Sure I find him annoying. He’s so good at everything. So perfect. The elite super Eagle from God knows where with that cocky attitude to boot. But he didn’t seem like a snake in the grass.”

Connor looked up, his blood freezing at the amused look on Matt’s face.

“You tricked me,” he said in a hushed voice.

“Just a bit,” Matt admitted sheepishly. “I just wanted you to open up a little.”

Connor swallowed uncomfortably and sat back. “I don't hate Ren.”

“I know,” Matt said softly.

“But I’ve worked so hard,” Connor said, hating how whiny he sounded. He could hear Oliver’s voice in his head, telling him to shut up, to stop sounding like a whiny bitch and pushed it away. Matt wasn’t Oliver. And Oliver had no control over him anymore. “No one ever listened to me. But now that Ren is using my ideas, suddenly everyone is singing it praises. Just because he’s a Beta and I’m an Omega.”

“Youre right,” Matt said, “It’s not fair that no one listened before but they are now.”

Connor stared at Matt in shock. He didn’t expect his boss to agree with him. Nod sympathetically and feel pity for him maybe. But to agree? To validate Connor’s feelings?

“Why do you think I asked you to sign all the documents you plan since you got here?” Matt continued, heedless of the turmoil raging inside Connor. “I knew people would never accept that you actually came up with good plans. But now, with your regimen actually being implemented, and me and Ren giving you the credit, no one can deny it.”

“Ren…is giving me the credit?” Connor asked in disbelief.

“Yeah,” Matt said. “Grandfather and Uncle Quinton were asking him about it today and he told them which parts he designed and which parts were yours, and told them how effective your plans were.”

Connor felt a tight ball form in his throat, his eyes welling with tears. He was getting credit. People knew it was him. They knew he could do something worthwhile. That he wasn't useless like his parents and Oliver always told him. He swallowed back his tears, his whole body shaking from the effort and closed his eyes. He took big gulping breaths of air, trying to hold his emotions in the way he’d done his whole life.

Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder and his eyes flew open, meeting Matt’s comforting gaze.

“It’s OK. I know how long you waited for this. You can just let it out.”

Connor shook his head, biting his lips. “I….no….”

“It’s OK,” Matt repeated assuringly. “Wouldn’t you rather cry in here, just with me, than accidentally once you leave the room and people might see you?”

Connor’s eyes flew to Matt’s, tears blurring his vision and his lips trembling. Matt continued smiling and Connor lost it. He covered his face with his hands and wept. He wept for the last twenty-six years. He wept for all the times his parents told him what an Omega should or shouldn't do. The times his parents glared and frowned with disapproval. “When will you know your limits” Oliver’s voice played in his head again. That’s all he ever heard, over and over until it became a mantra in his head, holding him back, making him believe he really was useless. That he couldn’t do anything.

He fought so long, so hard, to try and prove that wasn’t true, and everywhere he turned people kept shutting him down. Except Matt. Only Matt gave him a chance. Only Matt told him to try his best, that he mattered, that he had a voice and an opinion and ideas. That he wasn’t…useless.

“It’s OK,” Matt said, rubbing his shoulder comfortingly. “You did well Connor. It’s OK.”

Connor broke, wailing like Devon when he dropped his ice cream when he was four. And for once, he didn’t care. Because it was Matt. And Matt accepted him. And he cried for that as well. Because he knew if he let himself, he could fall in love with this Alpha. But he shouldn’t. He couldn’t. So he cried instead until he was wrung dry.

“Feel better?” Matt asked handing him a bunch of tissues.

Connor nodded, hiding his face as he wiped away the snot that dribbled from his nose. “Thanks.”

“Anytime,” Matt said. “And maybe one day you can return the favor when I need to have a little cry.”

Connor chuckled, unsure which statement was funnier. That Matt would need to cry or that Matt was calling Connor’s break down a ‘little cry.’

“Yeah maybe,” he replied dryly.

“Hey, I’ll have you know I’ve had a little cry now and then myself,” Matt protested.

“Yeah when?” Connor asked, his voice full of challenge.

“Actually just last year,” Matt said.

“What was it about? Because if it was sports related then it doesn’t count.”

“Why not?” Matt whined and Connor laughed.

“So it was sports related.”

“No it wasn’t,” Matt said. “But it should still count.”

“Nope, doesn’t count,” Connor shot back.

Matt continued, explaining why crying over sports should be considered legit crying and Connor laughed, his heart feeling lighter for the first time in years.

Chapter Text

Ren stared at the two lines of eagerly waiting Eagles in the parking lot. Their stances were straight, eyes forward, tension vibrating from their bodies. Ren didn’t blame them. For some of them, this was their first real mission. And they couldn’t afford to screw it up.

There were Matt’s veteran Eagles, Owen, Susan, Violet, and Josh who were standing still, waiting patiently to do their part. On the other hand, you had Jason’s Eagles. Shawn and Zack looked especially nervous. Charles looked green and even Leo, who usually acted like everything was a big joke, appeared serious, his hands clenching and unclenching at his side. Ashley was still, eerily still.

His eyes shifted to Matt’s new Eagles. West was the most jumpy of the group, but also the most determined to do well. There was also Naomi, Terry, and Adam, looking just as anxious as their comrades. Ren had grown attached to this motley bunch and really felt for them. Which is why he had to get them out there.

“I’m not going to lie,” Ren started, feeling Matt, Connor and Jason’s gazes from behind him. “This mission is important. We can’t afford to lose.”

Some of them barely blinked, the veterans especially. But a few of the newer Eagles shifted nervously.

“You guys have been training with me for a few weeks now, and I decided that it’s time to test you out on the field. Not only do you need the field experience, but I feel like you’re ready for this.”

Some of the Eagles settled, their expressions tense. Ren eyed Ashley. She was like a statue and Ren knew she was nervous but very focused. Good.

“I’m not going to just throw you out there and let you deal with everything. Not only am I going to be in the field too, guiding where I can, but I also assigned each of you a role that I believe fits your current level. Agreed?”

All the Eagles nodded and some of them relaxed a bit. Perfect. Those were the ones with the less intense jobs, the ones who were still too jumpy and Ren needed them to relax.

“You know what you have to do. I don’t see the point in repeating it again. Go.”

Like a shot all the Eagles spread out to their respective vehicles, got in and drove off. All except the one with Owen, Violet and Josh, who were waiting for Ren. He sent Susan off with the third group, figuring they needed the support. Ren turned to look at the three behind him and saw how tense Matt and Connor looked. They had a lot more riding on this than he did. His gaze turned to Jason, knowing now that the bland and relaxed expression and stance didn’t reflect his true feelings. What was the guy thinking right now?

“I’ll contact you when we arrive,” he addressed Matt and Connor. “You have the blueprints and have eyes on everyone so you have to be really on it. I’ll just be calling the shots from where I am, when I can.”

Two heads nodded, one person yawned.

“Good luck,” Connor said. Ren eyed him, sensing the complete sincerity in his words and smiled.

“You too.” Ren walked away, one hand resting on his gun while the other adjusted the collar of his uniform. While everyone else was wearing the standard dark green Plutus Eagle uniforms, he’d chosen to don his plain black one. He was used to it and this is the one he always wore. And he always succeeded. He was not really superstitious, but it did have some sentimental value so what the hell.

They’d be needing all the luck they could get right now.

 

Matt’s eyes flicked from one screen to another, watching as all three vehicles went to their destinations. They had access to all the body cameras if they wished, plus prearranged thermal images located outside the buildings, giving them a wide view. There were also enough screen to keep on eye on everything. He hoped it was enough.

“Looking good so far,” he murmured.

“Well, at least we know they can drive,” Jason drawled the chair next to him, legs outstretched while he stared at his phone.

Matt’s jaw clenched and he longed to grab Jason’s phone, throw it across the room and scream at his cousin to get his shit together. But he knew all it would do would satisfy Jason’s perverse satisfaction at getting a rile out of him. So he dismissed his cousin from his eyes and mind.

“Group B is approaching their target,” Connor murmured into the mic.

“Good,” Ren’s voice crackled over the speakers. “Tell them to wait there until we give the signal. We have to make sure we all move in together.”

Matt nodded, relaying the information. Even though they knew their orders, it was good to have it repeated. His hands curled then he rubbed them nervously on his pants. Damn, he was nervous, just like when he coordinated his first mission. It was no surprise though. None of his previous missions were on such a large scale as this one.

“Group C in position,” Connor murmured.

“We’re almost there,” Ren replied.

They sat in tense silence, even Jason appeared to be listening, his hands still on his phone.

“We’re here,” Ren said about twenty minutes later.

OK, here we go.

“Tell all teams to move in!” Ren barked. Seconds later, Ren and his team burst out of their vehicle in front of the border checkpoint between Plutus and Tantalus they tracked the dealer to. Matt’s eyes flew to the next screen as Group B, led by Ashley, burst into the store the drugs were being sold from.

“Group C is infiltrating now,” Connor said loudly. Matt looked over, watching his new Eagles, led by Susan, break into the dealer’s apartment, their body cameras revealing a large group of people inside.

After that, all hell broke loose and all Matt could do was watch as all three teams fought to secure their respective locations.

“Matt!” Connor yelled, pointing at the thermal image from the third location. Matt quickly looked over, cursing silently when he saw three individuals creeping out of the back room.

“Group C, you have three perps in the next room making a break for it!”

“You come with me!” Susan yelled and she and Adam raced off, leaving Terry, West and Naomi behind. Matt felt a bit relieved when he saw they were doing pretty well holding their own against the three dealers in the main room. Seconds later, the three dealers dropped to the floor, stunned by the Eagle’s lasers. Matt watched, his heart racing as Susan and Adam shot the three individuals, stunning them and headed back to the main room. It was over in moments. Soon all the criminals were down and the Eagles quickly started to handcuff them.

“Location C secured,” Connor said, his voice still tight.

“Great,” Ren panted over the mic. “We’re having some trouble here. Stand by.”

Crap. Matt quickly looked at Ren’s screen, trying to ascertain what was happening through the jostling and frantic movements displayed through Ren’s body cam. He didn’t know what was happening but it looked messy. Ren warned them that if he told them to stand by then he needed to do some damage control, that something unexpected had happened and Ren needed to focus. Which meant all they could do was sit and wait.

“Group B need a bit of help,” Jason said.

Matt spun to stare at his cousin then quickly looked at the second screen and swore aloud this time, banishing Ren from his mind. He was better at this than them and could handle himself. There were two other groups who needed his attention.

“Ashley. The main dealer is escaping through a floor hatch in the back of the store!”

Silence reigned as they watched Ashley and Zack give chase, leaving Shawn, Charles, and Leo behind to finish securing the criminals upstairs as they zipped down the hidden staircase. The world turned black and they couldn’t see anything. Which meant neither could Ashley or Zack.

“Do you have your night goggles on?” Connor barked.

“Got mine,” Ashley replied.

“Almost got mine,” Zack panted and Matt wanted to scream at him to hurry up. Suddenly, there was a loud boom and Ashley screamed.

“What happened? Ashley? Zack?” Matt screamed. “Can you hear me?”

“Bastard had a booby trap,” Ashley finally replied.

“You guys OK?” Matt asked.

“Yeah. But we can’t get to him.”

Matt turned to look at Connor who was already pulling up some blueprints of the street on his laptop, scanning it to try and figure out where the dealer may come out.

“There,” Jason said from above them, pointing at one of the sewage grates.

Matt looked up at him. “You sure?”

“No,” Jason replied.

Matt stared at him for a few seconds then turned back to the console. “Shawn and Leo, head as fast as you can to the manhole cover on Law street, four blocks east. Charles you stay behind and keep an eye on the people there.”

“Yes sir,” Shawn and Leo replied.

Connor hit the button to switch from Ashley to Shawn’s body camera and they watched in tense silence as their car sped around corners, screeching to a halt at the manhole cover Matt indicated. Matt held his breath, watching the two Eagles step out of their car, guns trained on the hole. And waited. Seconds ticked by and nothing happened.

Shit shit shit. Why did he trust Jason? Why did he let him call the shots?

Suddenly, the cover shifted and a head poked out. The dealer’s face appeared and his shoulders barely cleared the hole when Shawn and Leo grabbed him underneath each armpit and tossed him out, stunning him as soon as he hit the ground.

“Not bad,” Jason said mildly. “Looks like they learned a thing or two.”

“All good here,” Ren’s voice finally sounded over the speakers.

Matt and Connor both breathed in relief. “Good. Good. All good here too.”

Matt looked at Connor, taking in the sweat on the Omega’s face and knew he probably looked just as bad. His clothes felt sticky and he knew he’d been sweating buckets.

“Well, good job team,” Jason said.

Matt looked at him, not even surprised that the Alpha seemed completely unfazed. “Well, if you got this, I’m gonna head out.”

Silently, Matt and Connor watched him leave, their minds still reeling from the last thirty minutes.

“We should shower then meet General Lucas,” Connor finally said.

“Good idea.”

 


“So you caught everyone involved in the various locations,” Lucas said two hours later, his eyes roaming over Jason, Ren, Matt and Connor.

“Yes sir,” Matt replied. “We secured the border checkpoint and it’s been dismantled. It can no longer be used. And we got the list of clients the dealer had saved in his apartment. There were twenty clients.”

Connor still marveled at the number. They knew there would be an extensive list, but they figured eight, maybe ten. But twenty! He and Matt couldn’t hide their shock when they scanned the list, recognizing all the names as families in the main Plutus area. It was going to be hell going through all of them.

“Is Cyril Hunter’s name on it?” Lucas asked the most important question.

Matt turned to look at Connor and the Omega cleared his throat and spoke. “Yes sir. We scoured the whole list, which not only includes the name of each client, but each transition and amount purchased.”

Lucas grunted. “Seems stupid to document all of it.”

“Not really sir,” Ren cut in. “The criminals grew up in Plutus. They’re used to keeping a record of every business transaction. I understand that’s what every person is raised to do. I definitely noticed how neat everyone’s notes are on the base. Very detailed.”

Lucas didn’t reply but turned to Matt instead. “Good work. Have the Eagles go and secure every single person from the list and arrest them for drug possession.”

“Will the documents be enough?” Matt asked.

“You caught several people. I’m sure one of them will be more than willing to divulge some names to reduce their sentence. Especially since the drugs were coming in from Tantalus. They’d want to distance themselves from that place as much as possible. It’s bad enough they’re arrested and doing drugs, it would be worse to have the name Tantalus added to the scandal.”

Connor partly agreed. He never thought about Tantalus much but everything he’d ever heard about the place made it sound horrific. Lucas was right that the families would try to distance themselves from Tantalus as much as possible given the type of people who lived there and the rough environment. But what else did Dracus expect when they turned it into a mining area for the Plutus gold and filled the rest with the worst criminals in the country?

“We should have known it was coming from there,” Lucas continued. “Nothing but murderers, thieves, and rapists. The worst people Dracus has. I’ll send a note to the Prime Minister that the borders need to be tightened. We need to maintain a strong division between the two cities. You can go now.”

Connor, Matt, and Ren nodded and the four walked out. The next few hours were a mess and Connor didn’t even get the chance to breathe. He was glad it was Oliver’s turn to have Devon because they didn’t finish until late in the evening. Between placing all the dealers in prison cells until they could question them, bringing in all the rich Plutus clients who were followed by angry family members and lawyers, it was chaos. They had planned on questioning everyone today but everything was so manic they barely got through the main dealer at the checkpoint and store and Cyril Hunter. At 10 PM Matt called it a day and Connor was so relieved he almost collapsed in the hallway outside the interrogation room.

Connor was able to hold it together until he reached Matt’s office. But once he closed the door behind him all the energy and tension left his body and he almost sank to the floor.

“I know the feeling,” Matt said, chuckling dryly. He walked over to his desk and pulled out a bottle of scotch.

“I didn’t know you had that,” Connor commented, walking to the desk and sitting in one of the chairs.

“I don’t. I brought it in today. Figured if we succeed, we’d have a victory drink. If we fail…well you get the picture.”

Connor smiled warily as Matt poured him a quarter of a glass.

“Never had this before,” he said, running his hand across the top of the crystal glass.

“Right,” Matt said, wincing. “You probably prefer the berry and sweet flavoured stuff.”

“Not really,” Connor replied, still running his fingers up and down the glass. “I’ve always been curious how it tastes. Never got the chance to try it.”

“Well then I recommend you take a small sip. It kinda burns on the way down.”

Connor picked up the glass and took a tiny sip, and felt like his throat all the way to his chest was on fire. He gasped and Matt chuckled.

“Good?”

“I don’t know,” Connor replied, eyeing the glass suspiciously. “It’s definitely different.” He took another careful sip and this time he held in his gasp but his body shuddered. He took a third sip, then a fourth, then a fifth. It seemed to taste better and burn less the more he drank. Interesting.

“And?” Matt asked once they both drained their glasses.

“Not bad,” Connor replied mildly and Matt laughed. Connor smiled and began to chuckle as well. He couldn’t help it. He felt…warm. Kinda giddy a bit. It was nice.

“Well, I think we can call it a day,” Matt said, getting out of his seat. “We have a long day tomorrow between talking to the rest of the dealers and making our way through the clients. And their lawyers. This could take a few days. We should go home and rest when we can.”

Connor hummed, silently agreeing with Matt. It was good Devon wasn’t home. He didn’t think he’d could be a good and responsible mom right now. He should go home and eat. He hadn’t eaten all day. Hmm, probably why he felt so giddy now. He needed food. Food was good. He liked food. Fooood. He giggled, enjoying how funny the word sounded when he extended the sound of the vowels. Words are funny.

“Why don’t I drive you home?” Matt said, reaching a hand out to help Connor out of his chair.

Connor looked up, feeling his gaze waver for a second then blinked, happy when the world became right again.

“Good idea,” Connor replied easing himself out of the chair. “I don’t think I can drive right now.”

“Probably not. Come on.”

He didn’t know how he got home, maybe he dozed off a bit on the drive over, but when Connor next opened his eyes, he found himself in front of his apartment building. “Thanks for the ride,” he said, stretching his hands up and banging them into the roof.

“Maybe I’ll give you half the amount next time,” Matt said warily.

Connor giggled. “So there’s going to be a next time?”

“Of course,” Matt replied. “If you want.”

He was a good man. A really good man. He knew that. That’s why he loved working for him. With him. That’s why he needed to keep his cool. Keep it together. Because while Matt was the nicest person he knew, the only person he’s ever respected, he wasn’t for him.

“Good night,” Connor said, his voice sounding cooler.

Matt’s eyes shuttered for a second then he nodded. Connor got out, closing the door carefully behind him and wobbled to the front entrance. Devon won’t be home until tomorrow night. He should cook him his favorite food. That’ll make him happy. Minutes later, Connor passed out, picturing Devon’s smiling face in his mind, his brain slipping into oblivious just as an image of Matt appeared as well, holding Devon’s hand and waving at him happily.

 


Ren could feel his adrenaline pumping, lingering energy from the mission still coursing through him. It had been a while since he’d been in the field. His last mission was a week before he came to Plutus and he missed the excitement. The thrill of infiltrating an enemy base, subduing his opponents through sheer instincts, his every muscle adapting to the slightest change. It was a rush and Ren loved every second of it.

Whistling, he entered Jason’s apartment, Ari padding at his feed. He found the Alpha lounging in his living room, on his phone as usual.

Jason looked up at him. “Didn’t think I’d see you tonight. Figured you’d be passed out in your room.”

“Too excited to sleep,” Ren replied, pacing in front of the coffee table. “Wanna race?”

Jason eyed him for a second, his eyes straying to Ari who was pacing with Ren, the dog feeding off of its owner's energy. Jason looked like he was going to say no. Then he grinned. “Why not? You sure your mutt can keep up with us?”

Ren smirked, “Question is, can you keep up with him?”

Jason laughed and got up, “We’ll see about that.”

Twenty minutes later, they were both racing down the lakefront, Jason’s parked car fading into the distance while Ari sprinted in front of them, looking back and barking occasionally. Every time he did that, Ren would smile and pick up the pace, enjoying their regular game of tag. This was what he wanted, what he needed. Ren felt his blood pumping, his legs burning, his ears ringing as the wind rushed past. This was what he loved. Open space and all he had to do was focus on running. He missed this. While he was glad to finally leave home, he missed the open space.

They must have been running for forty minutes when Ren finally signaled that they should slow down. When they finally stopped he looked over at Jason, noting again how flushed the Alpha looked as he stood with his hands on his waist, taking in huge gulps of air. This was only their second outdoor run but the sight was already feeling familiar. For a guy who exercised a lot, he wasn’t really used to running. Sure he ran on his treadmill almost every night, but it wasn’t the same as running down an open road with the wind against you.

Ren grinned. “You OK there?” he asked as he crouched down and patted Ari who was panting heavily.

Jason turned and glared at him. “Why…wouldn’t...I be….OK?”

Ren chuckled and turned away, stretching his arms behind his head and then up, lifting his face to the moonlight. He inhaled deeply and smiled.

“I love the clean air,” Ren said.

“Don’t get that back home?” Jason asked.

Ren tensed, wondering if Jason would actually ask him where he was from. So far, Jason hadn’t asked him any personal questions. He didn’t seem that interested and Ren didn’t volunteer any information. If possible, he didn’t want anyone to ever find out his background. Things would be…different if they knew. Which is why he made sealing his file his second condition when he accepted the job. Only Quinton knew the truth and Ren prefered to keep it that way.

“Not really,” he replied absently, turning and walking towards the railing, gazing down at the lake that cut through central Plutus. He felt Jason follow him and stand next to him, back turned to the water, elbows resting on the railings.

“You were pretty good today,” Jason said, shocking Ren so badly he actually let his jaw drop.

“Ah, thanks,” Ren said carefully, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Jason didn’t reply and Ren let his tension last for a few more seconds before he finally let it go. Jason had become...unpredictable lately. And Ren didn’t like it. He was glad that Jason was actually showing signs of caring about his work, but other things like taking an interest in Ren, showing a side that actually cared or was curious was something he could do without.

“Your dog seems happy,” Jason said casually.

Ren turned and looked back at Ari, who was leaping through the air, chasing some flying insects. He smiled. “He’s not really used to being cooped up. So he’s loving this.”

“The white dove and the crow.”

Ren froze, a roaring wind sounding in his ears. “What did you say?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper and he realized his hands trembled slightly.

“His name, Ari. It means white dove right? And Ren means crow. So the white dove and the crow. Kinda ironic but you go together I guess. But given how dark his hair is, I’m surprised you didn’t call him Raven or something like that.”

Ren swallowed, shoving his balled fists into his pockets. He hadn’t heard that sentence in a long time. And having it said by someone like Jason so suddenly, out of the blue and when his defences were down, made it hard for Ren to recover his compuser. There was also the fact that Jason was able to extract the meanings. It wasn’t unusual for him to know what they meant, but people in Plutus never based their names on their meanings. If he knew, if he understood that much, maybe he could figure out Ren’s background. The guy wasn’t stupid after all. Which usually made Ren happy but he really wished Jason could be a bit more ignorant right now.

“Yeah well, it’s a nice name,” Ren said, glad how off hand he sounded. “Someone mentioned it to me once and said it means lion heart. I liked the idea and went with it.”

Ren kept his gaze trained on Ari, praying Jason accepted his lie. It was kind of true, in a way. It did have that meaning.

“Huh, guess so,” Jason took out his hair tie, shook out his red hair and hand combed it briefly before pulling it back into it’s customary ponytail when he was exercising. “Figures you’d want a vicious symbolic name. Suits your sadistic nature.”

Ren forced himself to laugh. “Well, it goes well with your masochistic nature.”

Jason spun around to look at him, his eyes as wide as saucers. “What masochistic side? I don’t have a masochistic side.”

Ren laughed, for real this time, feeling more confident now that the tables had been turned. “Sure you don’t. What else do you call all that crap you put your body through.”

Jason frowned. “So I like to work out. So what?”

“It’s not healthy, exercising so much. If you’re that eager to burn off your excess energy, come for runs with me. You get to blow off some steam, build up some muscles and stamina, but not push yourself past what your body can handle.”

Jason stared at him and Ren stared back, uncertain what the strange Alpha was thinking. He really was unpredictable. He hated that.

“Maybe I will,” Jason said.

See, there it was. Ren figured he’d protest, say he could handle it. Tell Ren to mind his own business. Really, what went through the Alpha’s mind?

“We should head back,” Ren said, his tone even. He whistled and Ari looped over, wagging his tail excitedly, anticipating their sprint back to the car.

“Does that dog ever get tired?” Jason asked, frowning down at the excited animal.

Ren chuckled. “Nope. Never.”

Jason groaned and the three took off, Ren trying to banish the last few minutes and the inherent panic he felt, while keeping in mind that he needed to be more careful around Jason from now on. Despite needing to work with him everyday. And he just invited him to run with him every night. Not complicated at all.

Chapter Text

Connor sighed and cracked his neck right then left, feeling a strange satisfaction when he heard it pop. No surprise there. He’d been glued to two seats lately. The one in the interrogation room and his desk, typing one confession and set of notes after another. It had been two week and they still had three more suspects and five more Plutus civilians to question. They knew it would take a while, that there would be interference at every turn from the various families as they tried to protect their precious offspring. But there was no denying the evidence and the current PM was giving them his full support. They’d get their convictions. But they had to deal with at least two arguments with angry parents, three lawyer sit downs, and two sessions with either terrified or pissed off clients. For each person. This led to a slow but steady pace as they ticked the boxes and filed the required forms and sent each person to the prison where they would await trial.

It was long. Tedious. Exhausting. But he loved it. Seeing all these people being brought down, treated as equal to petty drug dealers and realizing how powerless they were in the face of the law for the first time was a sight to behold.

It was even more interesting seeing how the population reacted. The news vans were permanently parked outside, filming every single family member who walked in and out of the base, hurling questions at them while the mothers tried to hide their tears and the fathers seethed with suppressed, or sometimes obvious, anger. And people were lapping it up. Every precious second. And they all knew why. Because they finally realized they weren’t safe. That the military really was investigating their crimes, and was actually making arrests. In the last five years since the military task force was created, this was the biggest bust they’d ever made. Twenty families brought down in one fell swoop. And everyone was running scared, terrified that they’d be next.

And they should be. After the Blake family’s big win, the other military families were upping their game, sending their Eagles and Panthers out to investigate even the tiniest rumor to see if there really was a case that could boost their ranking. And Lucas Blake loved every second of it, waltzing around the base like he owned it. Typical Alpha behaviour. Meanwhile Jason hid in his apartment or office and Matt had to deal with the dozens of interviews Lucas made him take, shoving his successful grandson in front of the cameras. That, Connor could do without and he and Matt were always eager to finish the interviews and rush back to the interrogation rooms where they felt more comfortable.

He heard Matt’s door swing open. “I’m beat,” Matt said, stepping out of his office and stretching his arms above his head.

Connor sighed as well. “I know what you mean.”

“Want to grab some lunch?”

Connor was about to say no, he should say no. As he usually did. But he also really needed a break, to get away from the base for a while. So he nodded and was about to get out of his chair when his cellphone rang. He looked down at it and his heart dropped to his stomach when he saw Devon’s school name appear on his screen.

He swooped down and swiftly answered the call. “Hello,” he barked.

“Mr. Lawrence. This is Mrs. Conrad, Principal Stevens secretary.”

“Yes Mrs. Conrad I know. Is Devon alright?” he held his breath, his heart racing as he clutched the phone to his ear.

“We need you to come in Mr. Lawrence. Devon was involved in an…altercation with another student.”

“Is he alright?” Connor demanded.

“You should come in Mr. Lawrence.”

“I asked you if my son’s alright!” Connor screamed, not caring how crazy he looked or sounded. If something happened to Devon…

“He’s fine Mr. Lawrence.”

Connor collapsed into his chair, his free hand on his forehead. “He’s not hurt?” he asked, his voice and hands trembling.

“He’s not hurt. But you do need to come in.”

“Yes, I’ll be right there.” Connor hung up and leaned forward, trying to calm the raging tide inside him now that he knew Devon wasn’t bleeding or lying injured somewhere.

He closed his eyes and took a shuddering breath, his hands clasping each other tightly. Breath in, breath out. Suddenly, he felt a comforting hand making circular motions on his back and tensed. He looked up, realizing that Matt was standing there, his expression soothing him, telling him it was OK to just sit and take a moment to collect himself.

“Just breathe,” the Alpha said.

Connor nodded and looked back at the ground, unable to do anything else. He needed to get up, to go to Devon. He had to take care of him. He had to be strong. In control. But he couldn’t. His nerves were still frayed and he needed a minute. Just a minute. So he sat there, hunched over while Matt continued patting him and running his palm across his back.

A couple minutes later Connor felt more in control and opened his eyes, his professional mask back in place. He stood up and turned to face Matt who took a step back, giving him his space.

“Thank you.”

“You OK?” Matt asked, his voice dripping with concern.

“I’m fine. There was an emergency and I have to leave.”

Matt nodded. “I heard. Your son.”

Connor winced inwardly. He’d been so freaked out he forgot Matt was there when he answered the call. Well, Matt knew he had a son. He wasn’t hiding it…exactly. He just…preferred it if people didn’t know anything about his private life. It could cause...issues. But the cat was out of the bag and Connor didn’t want to make a big deal about it. It was Matt after all. Matt. His boss. The one person in his life he actually respected. He probably wouldn’t judge him for it the way others would.

“Yes. I don’t know what happened but I have to go in.”

Matt nodded again. “Need me to drive you?”

Connor shook his head, using all his effort not to appear too dismissive. “No thank you. I’m fine now. And it’s a personal issue. There’s still a lot of work to do. I don’t know how long this will take and what time I can come back-“

Matt snorted. “Don’t bother coming back today. Don’t worry about work. Just focus on...Devon I think you said. I got it covered.”

Connor felt his heart lurch. “No, it’s bad enough I’m leaving during work hours. I promise I’ll come back and work a bit longer tonight.”

Matt shook his head. “I said don’t worry about it. Your son comes first. And you’ll probably want to spend some time with him. I’ll have Ren help me with the interrogations we have left today. I’m sure you’ll approve of his notes.” Matt cracked a smile. “They’re not as good as yours, but they’re a close second.”

Connor forced himself to chuckle, knowing how hard Matt was trying to comfort him. “Yes. That’s a good idea. I’m sorry Matt.”

Matt sighed, leaned down and grabbed Connor’s phone and dropped it in his bag under his desk and handed the bag to him. “Stop apologizing and get going.”

Wordlessly, Connor nodded, took the bag and walked away, practically sprinting to his car, his mind consumed with Devon.

 

So…Connor was a mother, Matt thought as he watched his secretary practically run out the door. He knew Connor guarded his private life, refusing to give any hints beyond his last name and where he came from. Matt respected his privacy and never pried beyond looking at his file when he first arrived at the base. He’d imagined a lover. A broken heart. A cold family. But a child?

He was probably divorced. His file did say he was single and he had no bite mark on the back of his neck. If that’s the truth, then he could have had the surgery to remove it. They’d discovered how to reverse it a few years ago and used it exclusively in Plutus. It was mostly done by families who wished to break their business and marriage ties and wanted their Omegas to wipe away their past before they got shoved into another arranged marriage. Is that what happened to Connor? Or was it worse. Did he have a child out of wedlock?

Whichever of these two theories was true, it didn’t change the fact that his secretary was even tougher than Matt imagined. He always admired his mettle, his professionalism and commitment. Knowing what he did now, knowing how single mother Omegas are treated and seen in Plutus, Matt was even more awed by the strong willed Omega. No wonder he took his job so seriously. No one probably gave him a chance before. Suddenly, Matt was grateful that Connor’s file was placed on his desk instead of anyone else’s. Because if others knew about Connor’s child and single status, they might consider letting him go. But Matt wasn’t an idiot and knew how much more this job meant to Connor, and he was determined to help him in whatever way he needed so he could be the best damn Omega secretary and mother he could be.

He wondered if little Devon looked like his mother. Was he an Omega or an Alpha? He pictured a small Omega who looked like Connor, with the same hazel eyes and light brown hair. He smiled, wishing he could meet the little guy. But knowing the secretive Omega, he doubted that would ever happen.

 

Connor tore into Mrs. Conrad’s office, ready to demand to see his son when he saw Devon sitting alone next to her desk. He released a sigh of relief when he saw that Devon appeared unharmed and swooped down, placing his hands on Devon’s shoulders and looked at his face. He was about to ask Devon what happened when he realized that his son refused to meet his gaze.

He froze, uncertain how to proceed. Devon never behaved this way. Even if he made a mistake or broke something he would confess, his head bowed in apology but his eyes strong, willing to accept the consequences of his actions. What could have happened to make Devon this reticent?

“Mr. Lawrence,” Mrs. Conrad said. “Principal Stevens is ready to see you.”

Connor continued staring at Devon but he refused to look at him. “You OK kiddo?” he asked, his tone neutral.

Devon nodded. Connor wanted to push, to demand Devon tell him what happened but knew the situation called for a calm and collected response. He needed to know what happened and it didn’t look like Devon was going to tell him anything.

Reluctantly, he got up and walked into the principal’s office, closing the door softly behind him.

“Can you please tell me what happened?” Connor asked formally as he sat down across from the Alpha principal.

“We should wait for Mr. Oliver Lawrence to arrive,” Principal Stevens said.

Connor’s hands balled into fists and he wanted to scream at Stevens for calling Oliver, for thinking he needed an Alpha to deal with his son. But he knew how pointless that would be and that he needed to pick his battles. Especially with a sexist Alpha like Stevens. So he nodded and sat quietly, waiting for his ex to show up.

Finally, after a tense five minutes in silence, the door flew open and Oliver stomped in. “What happened? Devon won’t tell me anything.”

“Sit down Oliver,” Connor said quietly.

Oliver quickly shut the door and sat down in the chair next to him, his body leaning forward and not for the first time, Connor marvelled that despite their differences and their past, when it came to how much they cared about Devon they were equal.

“Well, I should start by saying this was certainly unexpected,” Stevens said, placing his hands on the table. “Devon is usually bright and cheerful. Very sociable. There’s no one in this school who has a problem with him.”

While he normally loved hearing how wonderful his son is, Connor wanted to snap at Stevens to hurry up and get to the point.

“What happened?” Oliver asked, his voice strained. Connor silently cheered him on, urging him to push Stevens till the little worm told them every frickin detail.

“Devon got in a fight in the playground during lunch today,” Stevens said.

Oliver and Connor froze, both thinking they misheard what the principal said.

“There must be a mistake,” Connor finally said. “Devon isn’t a violent child.”

“I’m as flummoxed as you are,” Stevens said. “We asked the teacher on duty and checked the cameras since both boys refuse to tell us what happened. One minute, they were standing on the edge of the playground talking, the next minute Devon was on top of him and hitting him.”

“Who was it?” Oliver asked.

“Vincent Doner,” Stevens replied.

Alarm bells went off in Connor’s head and he stiffened. Oliver was about to reply when he saw Connor’s demeanour change and looked at him questioningly.

“You know him?”

Connor swallowed and nodded, hating what he was about to say next but knew he had to tell the truth. “His family. We arrested one of the Doner members two weeks ago when we infiltrated a drug ring.”

“So this is your fault,” Oliver said, his voice laced with anger.

Connor wanted to reply but he was too busy blaming himself. He should have known this might happen. His picture was out there, standing behind Matt in the news reports. They’d attacked some of the important families in their community. Of course the repercussions would be vast.

“Whatever the reason,” Steven said, clearly trying to avoid having an argument erupt in front of him. “Devon was wrong in attacking a classmate. I’m sure you both agree that using your fists is not the way to solve a problem. We encourage students to use their words.”

“As do we,” Oliver said, his voice still full of suppressed fury. “Believe us Principal Stevens, we do not condone Devon’s behaviour, no matter the reason. We will speak to Devon and make sure he gets the punishment he deserves.”

“We’ll have to punish him as well,” Steven said. “Usually we have both parents come in and have a rational conversation. But given the circumstances and how they currently feel about Mr. Lawrence being involved in a family member’s arrest we think it would be best to avoid such a conversation.”

Oliver nodded while Connor sat in silence, still chastising himself and knowing he had no one to blame but himself. He listened quietly as the two Alphas continued speaking, his entire being deflated. Finally, it was time to leave and he and Oliver walked out.

“Devon let’s go,” Oliver said, his voice still tight as he stared at his son. Wordlessly, his expression belligerent, Devon got off the chair and walked out ahead of them.

“We’ll talk about this later,” Oliver hissed at him.

Connor didn’t respond. He didn’t really owe Oliver anything and his ex didn’t have the right to berate him anymore. They were divorced. He just wished all these logical thoughts banished the guilt he felt and knowledge that he’ll probably accept whatever recriminations Oliver heaped on him as Devon’s father.

The trio walked to the parking lot and they stopped next to Oliver’s car which was parked next to Connor’s. For the first time in the last half an hour Devon looked uncertain, his head flitting from one car to the other.

“I’ll take Devon to your place,” Oliver said. “I’ll meet you there.”

Connor wanted to protest, tell Oliver that he wanted to talk to Devon first. But he didn’t want to have an argument in front of his son even more so he simply nodded and got into his car and drove off. As soon as he knew Devon and Oliver were far behind and they couldn’t see him anymore he let his tears flow. Tears of regret, of mortification. He’d been so proud of his job. So confident that he was doing the right thing by Devon. Supporting his son through his own hard work. Work he did well. Instead, he hurt his son. Caused him to become a victim of a verbal attack from an angry family Connor helped imprison. He’d hurt his son. And he couldn’t change that fact, no matter how righteous his cause was.

By the time he pulled into his parking spot he managed to calm himself, at least on the outside. He got out of the car and waited a couple of minutes until Oliver’s car appeared and he parked across the street. Connor was about to walk over when Devon jumped out of the vehicle and ran out, past Connor and into the building.

Connor stared at Devon’s retreating figure in shock then turned an accusing gaze on Oliver who walked up to him, his face full of confusion and...pain.

“What the hell did you say to him?” Connor demanded.

“I kept asking him what happened and what Vincent said but he wouldn’t say anything. I told him he would have to be punished and he was grounded for two weeks. He still didn’t say anything and I kept waiting for him to react or something but he didn’t. I got worried and started to tell him I understand why he’s angry. That being attacked by someone who blamed him for something he didn’t do isn’t right. I defended him.” Oliver's jaw tightened and Connor waited, wondering what happened next that made Oliver so hesitant to speak. Oliver sighed and rushed on. “He called me a stupid father and ran out as soon as I stopped the car.”

He didn’t like Oliver. He was selfish and a bully and never once cared how Connor felt. But he was a caring father and he loved Devon. Having his son call him stupid was hard for him to admit and must have really hurt him.

“I’m sorry Olly,” Connor said softly, subconsciously using his childhood nickname for his childhood friend and ex-husband.

Oliver waved away his words but Connor could still tell he was upset. “Forget it. It’s impossible for kids to love their parents all the time. We’re both bound to disappoint him a few more times in the future.”

“But still, I’m sorry.”

Oliver looked at him, taking in his sincere expression and nodded. “Thanks. I’d better go. I don’t think he wants to see me right now.” He winced and Connor’s heart went out to him. He grasped Oliver’s sleeve and looked up at him, smiling gently.

“I’ll talk to him. We’ll figure this out.”

Oliver nodded. “Thanks. Good luck by the way.”

Connor chuckled. “Gee thanks.”

Oliver grinned and walked away, leaving Connor wondering what the hell he could do to make Devon feel better where Oliver failed.

Ten minutes later, he still stood in front of Devon’s room, still uncertain what he should say. Blaming the other boy and telling Devon he didn’t deserve what happened clearly backfired. So what else could Connor say? Taking a deep breath, he decided to just wing it and knocked lightly before he walked into the room.

“Can I come in?” he asked softly, spotting Devon playing with something on the floor in front of his bed. Devon didn’t say a word so Connor closed the door behind him and sat down cross legged behind Devon, trying to figure out what to say.

“You called your dad stupid,” he finally said, figuring he should face one issue at a time.

“He is,” Devon replied, his voice firm.

“Well, I won’t argue with you there. Sometimes he is stupid. But then again, so am I sometimes.” Connor was about to chuckle, hoping to break the ice, but Devon spun to look at him, tears forming in his eyes, his face flushed and lips trembling.

“You’re not stupid!” Devon yelled.

Connor paused, knowing no matter how angry Oliver was he’d never call him stupid in front of Devon. So who said it?

“Did Vincent call me stupid?” Connor asked softly.

Tears started to fall and roll down Devon’s cheek. “That jerk said you were a useless stupid Omega who didn’t know his place. Just because his stupid uncle is a criminal and you caught him. I told him his uncle broke the law and he deserved to go to jail! And he said..” Devon choked back a sob. “He said that you’re a loser and an embarrassment as an Omega because you couldn’t hold onto an Alpha. So I hit him! I hit him and I’m not sorry.”

Connor felt tears welling in his own eyes and reached out a hand, stroking his son’s face. “Oh my brave little warrior,” he said, his voice constrained by the lump in his throat. “You just keep trying to protect me don’t you.”

Devon broke down, throwing himself into Connor’s arms, his hands forming like a vice around his waist as he bawled. Connor held his son, his own tears flowing as he rocked them both. He felt something poke him and looked down, realizing what Devon had been playing with and still held in his hand, jabbing Connor’s waist. The toy soldier Connor bought him when he first got his job. Devon had asked for it, picking one with Connor’s hair color and saying he had a mini mom soldier he could show off to his friends. Connor buried his face in Devon’s shoulder and wept.

An hour later, Connor eased his bedroom door shut, taking one last look at Devon who was slumbering on his bed, his arms flopped on the mattress where he’d had a deathgrip on him. Warily, preparing himself for the difficult conversation he knew he was about to have he hit speed dial three and almost smiled when Oliver answered in the middle of the first ring. He probably had been tensely waiting for Connor’s call after the shock of his son calling his hero a stupid father.

“Well?” Oliver asked breathlessly.

“Well, turns out that little Vincent was resentful that I was involved in his uncle going to jail.”

“Yes and?” Oliver said impatiently.

“And when Devon pointed out that his uncle broke the law and deserved to go to jail, Vincent decided to attack me instead and my…divorced status.”

Silence greeted him then Oliver groaned. “Oh shit.”

“What did you say to him Oliver?” Connor asked, his voice laced with forced politeness, letting Oliver know he was on thin ice.

“I didn’t bash you! I swear!” Oliver protested. “We agreed we’d never do that or put Devon in the middle.”

“So what did you say?” Connor asked, his tone biting.

He could actually hear Oliver wince when he answered. “I told him Vincent was right to feel upset. And it sucked that his uncle went to jail.”

Connor exhaled loudly. “Oh Oliver.” No wonder Devon went berserk. Not only had Vincent insulted his mom for catching a criminal, but then his father said it was OK for Vincent to feel wronged. For someone who had a strong sense of justice and was proud of the ‘soldier’ status Connor had, he probably felt it was a betrayal when his dad didn’t side with his mom, but with the criminals instead.

“I know,” Oliver said, his voice defeated and Connor almost felt bad for him. Almost. He was still an idiot who basically told his son that Vincent was right in insulting Connor, in a roundabout way.

“You should come by tonight and talk to him,” Connor said. “I’ll be here and we’ll smooth things out. We’ll explain to him what you really meant was it’s important to empathize and understand other people’s points of view. Even if they’re wrong.”

Oliver paused then finally agreed begrudgingly. Connor could imagine how much Oliver wanted to say no. It went against his Alpha instinct to see another person’s point of view and sympathize. Especially an Alpha like Oliver who rarely bothered to figure out how people feel unless he really, really wanted to. They hung up, Oliver agreeing to come to dinner and bring Devon’s favorite pizza to try and win some brownie points.

Connor was about to put his phone down on the coffee table when he got a message notification. His eyes flew when he saw it was from Matt and he panicked for a second, thinking something had gone wrong with the interrogation. Or his notes. But Ren was there and he was pretty capable. It should be fine.

Connor opened the message and what he read didn’t set his mind at ease. “Can I call?”

He hit the call button, impatient to find out what Matt wanted.

“Hey,” Matt said after one ring. “Are you OK to talk?”

“Yes fine. Is everything alright?”

“Yeah everything’s fine.”

“Was there a problem with my notes?”

Matt chuckled and Connor felt his heart ease a bit at the sound. “When would there ever be something wrong with your notes?”

Connor smiled and blushed, allowing himself his little moment since no one, especially Matt, could see him. “Yeah I guess you’re right.”

Matt chuckled again. “That’s the confidence we know and love.”

Connor’s heart skipped a beat and he had to clear his throat. Quickly. “Did you need something?”

“No I just wanted to call and see how you and Devon are doing. Is he OK?”

What was this Alpha doing to him? Connor groaned inwardly and flopped back on the couch. Why did he have to be so damn nice and caring? This would be easier if he was more abrasive like Oliver or Jason.

“He’s fine.” Connor debated telling Matt what happened. The fight was caused by a military issue. But it was personal.

“I’m glad to hear it. If you need another day or two, let me know.”

Connor shook his head, knowing Matt would just worry if he found out the truth. And he would rather not. He was never the type to complain and confide in others. He really shouldn’t. He had it covered.

“One of the Doner kids goes to Devon’s school,” Connor blurted and his eyes widened when he realized what he did. He pounded his fist lightly on his head. Stupid, stupid. Why was he confiding in Matt? What did he hope would happen?

“Oh man. I can imagine what happened,” Matt said, his voice laced with sympathy and consternation. “I’m sorry Connor. I knew there would be consequences but I didn’t think it would spill on to you.”

Connor shook his head. “No it’s fine. We handled it. If anything, Devon is proud that we arrested the kid’s uncle and angry that people don’t understand why we did it.”

There was a pause then Matt laughed. “Like mother like son huh. Devon sounds like a great kid.”

Connor smiled. “He’s the best.”

“Of course he is,” Matt said, and Connor knew he meant it. Usually all parents thought their kids were the best and people listened and nodded politely, humoring the gushing parent. But not Matt. If he didn’t believe it, he wouldn’t say it. He really did think that being his son would mean Devon would be a wonderful person.

He swallowed uncomfortably, knowing he was only causing himself more difficulty in resisting the Alpha’s natural kind spirit and charm the more he talked to him. So he should hang up.

“He punched the other kid though,” he said.

Matt whistled. “Damn. Well that’s not good.”

“We’re handling it.”

There was a pause and Connor mentally punched himself for being stupid. In one day Matt found out he had a son…and an ex.

“Well, it’s good if you and your ex agree on your parenting style,” Matt finally said.

“Yeah. For the most part.” Shut up Connor!

“I’m sure it’s difficult, for all of you,” Matt continued. “But I’m also sure you’re both doing your best. And if Devon felt the need to defend you and the law, then I think he’s doing just fine.”

Connor closed his eyes, willing the tears to just dry up. No more. He really needed to get off the phone. Matt was saying exactly what Connor always wished someone would say to him. Perfect Matt with the comforting pats on the back and beaming smiles and caring personality that made him hover over Connor’s desk to make sure he was OK, who wanted him, an Omega, to succeed and trusted him completely.

“I have to go,” Connor blurted, wincing at how desperate he sounded.

“Sure. Try and relax. Spend time with Devon and just chill.”

Would he just stop! Did he have a script that told him exactly what Connor wanted to hear?

“Bye.” Connor hit the end call button and flopped sideways on the couch, burying his face in the cushion and screamed into it. He needed to get a grip on himself before Oliver came. Not that he was very observant but he didn’t want to give any hints that Connor felt less than confident and in control. And tomorrow, he had to face Matt. And convince him that his sympathetic and perfect words didn’t affect him one bit.

Chapter Text

“I’m bored,” Jason whined as he spun his chair right then left.

“You wouldn’t be bored if you actually asked any questions during the interrogations,” Ren replied patiently, his eyes on his screen as his fingers flew over the keyboard, finishing up the notes from the last person they questioned.

“What’s the point? You’re already asking all the important questions anyway,” Jason said, his head lolling to the side. He stared at Ren, waiting for the Beta to react. Nothing. Again. Either Jason was losing his touch or the Beta was getting too used to him. He hoped it was the latter. He would hate it if he lost the one skill he’d worked on and perfected his whole life.

It was those stupid runs they did every night. Jason still didn’t know why he agreed to them when Ren asked him two weeks ago. It really wasn’t his style to work out with someone. He’d always prefered his own company. He could blame the crisp fresh air, a natural commodity Jason wasn’t used to given all his activities were more indoor style. Or that stupid energetic dog who made Jason feel like a complete loser. Or that wide smile on Ren’s face as they raced, appearing like he was having the best time of his life. Just running. Whatever the reason, he agreed and now he was stuck running almost an hour and a half every night with Ren and Ari. He couldn’t even back out because...well...he just couldn’t.

He frowned, not happy with his train of thoughts. He prefered not to think too hard about anything. Maybe he was getting pent up? When was the last time he hooked up with someone? He did the math and when he actually landed on a number he was so shocked he actually shot out of his chair.

Ren looked up at him. “You OK?”

Hell no he wasn’t! He just realized he hadn’t had sex in almost a month! Every since Ren started coming to his gym and exercising with him. This wasn’t like him. How the hell had it happened?

He glared at Ren who calmly stared back. It was all his fault! Him and his stupid races and stupid dog! Distracting him. Making him forget how he normally liked to spend his time. Well, enough was enough!

“I can’t join you tonight,” Jason said firmly, his gaze trained on Ren, waiting to discern the slightest change in his demeanour. “I have to go meet some friends at the club.”

Ren didn’t even so much as blink as he turned back to his computer. “Cool. Thanks for letting me know.”

He stood there, uncertain what he hoped would happen, but knowing he didn’t get the reaction he desired. He felt anger begin to unfurl in his body, frustration at not getting a rise or anything out of the stoic Beta. What would it take to freak him out? To make him show some kind of emotion? He knew he’d shocked him once a couple of weeks back when he talked about Ari. Ren tried to hide it but Jason noticed how his face paled slightly and his hands and voice shook. Was that it? Was the dog the only thing Ren cared about? Reacted to? Well, he figured out Ren’s weakness. Now what?

“You can go,” Ren said. “Your four hours are up.”

It took Jason a few seconds to register what he said then looked at his watch. “You’re right. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See ya,” Ren replied, not looking up.

Slowly, Jason made his way to the door. Would Ren stop him? Maybe when he got closer to the door? Maybe when he was in the hall? Maybe- Soon, Jason was outside in the parking lot, alone. He looked back at the building, feeling a keen sense of dissatisfaction which quickly turned to contempt. Contempt aimed at himself and at Ren. He’d gotten to him. The frickin Beta got to him. And he’d let it happen.

Growling, Jason wrenched open his car door and zoomed off, heading towards his favorite club where he knew he could lose himself in the atmosphere and a hook up he knew was a sure thing.

Three hours later, Jason was bored. Again. But for a different reason. He’d gotten what he wanted. He was with his usual group. Everyone was busy getting jazzed up, some people were dancing, some laughing hysterically. The usual Omegas who were his type were around and he knew he could pick any of them. They’d certainly made their availability and willingness clear, trying to lure him with their scents. And yet, he was bored.

He frowned, knowing what caused his current state of detachment. It was that frickin Beta. Jason hated to admit it, but the last few weeks had gotten kinda interesting. He didn’t like the guy. No way. He was a pain in the ass and a know it all, always smirking, mocking, never showing any weakness. He’d disturbed Jason’s routine life that he’d worked so hard to mold. He’d been so angry at first, furious at how easily the Beta ruined everything, ruined his pace. And yet, now that he was back in his routine life, he found he couldn’t enjoy it anymore. He needed...something. He just didn’t know what.

He was still trying to figure out what he was missing when his phone rang. He looked down at the screen and was surprised to see Ashley’s name appear. She never called him. At least, not after the first month of constantly badgering him and trying to get him to come in to work.

“Hello,” Jason said cooly.

“I know you don’t really care about us,” Ashley said brusquely, “But I thought you should know that Ren was attacked tonight.”

His world went white for a second and it took Jason a few moments to realize he still held the phone in his hand, that he was still sitting down, the Omegas on his left and right trying to get his attention by running their hands up his thighs and arms.

He sat forward, the world numb and quiet. “What?”

“Someone from the Hunter family tried to attack him. Larry Hunter. Cyril’s cousin. He came after Ren with a gun while he was out on his evening run.”

“Is he...alright?” Why did his voice sound so hollow?

“He’s fine,” Ashley said and Jason was about to release the breathe he didn’t know he’d been holding when she continued. “But his dog was shot. Looks like it sniffed out Larry and tried to attack him first so Larry shot him. Ren leaped in and subdued him and called us. He’s in custody now. Don’t know how he figured out about Ren. Probably his family fished out the info.”

Crap. Jason stood up, heading out the door before he realized what he was doing. “Is Ari OK?”

“Who?”

“The dog! Ari!” Jason practically screamed, making his way down the street to his car.

“Oh. Ren took him to the vet. I’m not sure. He looked...kind of out of it. That’s why I figured I should call you. I think Ren’s going to be busy with his dog.”

Jason growled and hung up. Useless. All of them. Didn’t they know? Didn’t they understand? He knew! He understood! And he was considered a worthless piece of shit. He practically stabbed his phone as he called up Ren’s number and waited for the Beta to answer, his heart racing as he got in his car and waited.

“Hello,” Ren answered, his voice cool.

“Where are you?” Jason asked.

“At the vet.”

“Which vet?”

“Rogerson. Ashley said they’re good.”

“Ashle doesn’t know shit,” Jason hissed, pulling out into traffic and causing someone to honk at him angrily when he cut them off. “Go to Pelt’s. They’re good. That’s where we send our attack dogs. We even get a discount. And the base will cover all the costs there.”

There was a pause. “I don’t know where it is.”

“Just wait for me. I’ll be right there.”

Cursing, Jason hit the gas, not caring as he zipped through traffic, willing himself not to go too fast. He didn’t have the time to deal with a ticket cop right now.

Minutes later, he pulled up in front of “Rogerson Veterinary Clinic,” his car screeching to a halt and he left it on, running into the building. He looked around frantically, finding Ren sitting on the seats to the left, a blanket with a black covered nose peeked out in his lap.

“Come on!” Jason barked.

Wordlessly, Ren followed Jason to his car.

“In the back,” Jason said, pulling the door open. Ren stepped in, sitting down with Ari in his lap, his gaze forward. Jason slammed the door shut and ran over to the driver’s side, peeling back into traffic.

A few minutes later, he screeched to a halt in front of Pelt’s clinic, turning the car off. He quickly opened Ren’s door and waited for the Beta to get out.

“I already called them and they should still be open. Rogerson said they already scanned Ari when I called them and promised to send the scans over.”

Ren nodded and Jason knew he was too far gone to even ask how he did all that and what strings he pulled to get it done so fast. Or if he understood anything Jason just told him. Placing his hand on Ren’s back they walked quickly into the building where a nurse greeted them.

“Mr. Blake?” he asked.

“Yes yes. This is Ari. Rogerson said they sent his scans.”

“Yes sir,” he replied brusquely. “The OR is already prepped and the doctor is just scrubbing in. If you could just give him to me.”

He held his arms out and Jason looked at Ren, glaring with frustration when the Beta refused to move.

“They can’t get the bullet out and treat him unless you hand him over,” Jason said softly, willing his voice to sound calm.

Ren didn’t budge. Godammit!

“I know how much he means to you,” Jason rushed. “I get you don’t want to let him go. But you have to hand him over if you want him to live.”

That seemed to penetrate the fog Ren was in and he numbly handed the bundle over, the nurse slightly grunting and his arms strained as he walked off with the injured dog. Jason grasped Ren’s hand and pulled him towards the waiting room, shoving him down into one of the chairs.

“He’ll be fine. This is the best clinic around. That’s why we use them,” Jason assured Ren.

The Beta nodded numbly and Jason knew he wouldn’t get anything more out of him. He settled back into his seat, tapping his foot nervously while Ren sat in stony silence, back straight.

It felt like hours later when the vet finally appeared. As soon as they saw him, Ren and Jason both leaped out of their seats.

“Is he alright?” they asked in unison.

The vet smiled. “He’s a lucky dog. The bullet went through the shoulder so there was a lot of bleeding.That’s probably why he looked more injured than he actually is. It was a clean shot and it missed any important nerves or organs. He won’t be running around for while. But he’ll live.”

Ren exhaled and sank back into his chair, hands covering his face.

Jason turned back to the vet. “How long before we can take him home?”

“We’ll keep him here to make sure he doesn’t get an infection or move too much and tear up his stitches. About five days. Then he needs at least three weeks of almost constant rest. After that he can handle small walks.”

“When can he start running again?” Jason asked eagerly, one of his main concerns.

“Probably two months until he makes a full recovery. He’s a lucky dog. If the bullet had just gone a hair to the side he could have been paralyzed.”

Jason looked down at Ren who flinched at the word. Moron Jason thought, glaring at the insensitive vet.

“Yeah well. He’s fine like you said.”

The vet stared at him then nodded glumly and walked away.

Suddenly, Ren leaped up, his face still pale and face distorted as if he was in pain. “When can I see him?”

“You can see him now if you like,” the vet said, stopping mid turn. “We put him in an incubator for the time being. Keep him safe and quiet. He’s in that room down the hall. Second door on the right.”

“Thank you doctor,” Ren said.

The vet nodded and walked away.

“Idiot,” Jason hissed.

“He saved Ari. That makes him a hero in my book,” Ren said softly.

“Yeah I mean, he did that. But he didn’t have to be a putz and tell you all that other stuff. The what ifs. What do they matter? What’s important is Ari’s alive.” He turned to look at Ren, to see if he agreed with him but the Beta still looked shaken.

Jason sighed and placed his hands on Ren’s shoulders, waiting for the shorter man to look up at him. “Look, Ari’s fine. The doctor said it. Just a few weeks and he’ll be running past us, leaving us in the dust. Just the way that stubborn dog likes.”

“He saved me,” Ren said. “It’s not the first time. He’s done it before. But it’s the first time he’s gotten hurt.”

Shit, Jason thought as he realized that Ren needed way more comforting than he thought. He sucked at this. He’d never had to comfort anyone before! This was more Matt’s area. What would his cousin do right now? Say some pretty words. Offer some pats on the back? But that wasn’t Jason’s style. And he had a feeling it wasn’t Ren’s either.

So he acted on instinct. He pulled Ren closer, hugging him lightly. The Beta must have been shocked too because he stiffened in his arms.

“I don’t know if this helps,” Jason mumbled. “But whatever.”

They stood awkwardly for a few moments, then suddenly, Ren relaxed slightly, resting his head on Jason’s chest. Jason stopped breathing, worried he’d do something, move a muscle even, and ruin this. And he really, really didn’t want to. Because it looked like it was actually working!

“Thanks. For your help. I really didn’t know what to do,” Ren mumbled against his chest.

Jason sucked in a shallow breath. “No problem. I know how much that dog means to you.”

Ren sighed and didn’t reply. Jason didn’t know how long he should hug him for so he just stood there, keeping his arms a few centimeters away from Ren’s body.

“I’m good now,” Ren finally said and stepped back.

Jason sighed with relief, his body deflating. “Good good. You should go see Ari. I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you.”

Ren smiled weakly and walked away, leaving Jason feeling like he’d saved the day. Again. Which he kinda did. He was the one who brought Ren and Ari here. He’s the one who called the clinics and got everything sorted. Hell, he even paid for the surgery when the clinic told him Ren still wasn’t registered as a full time soldier and therefore the military couldn’t cover the cost. Not that he was looking for Ren to thank him or anything. He wasn’t. Really. And he wasn’t going to brag and tell him what he actually did, how many people he yelled at and strings he pulled as he raced over to Rogerson.

He didn’t do this so Ren would be grateful. He did it because...His eyes widened and he realized he didn’t know why he did it. He just heard Ari was hurt and his body reacted before he could think. He sank down into one of the chairs, willing his brain to catch up, to process what just happened the last few hours.

He’d been fine. OK, not true, he’d been bored out of his mind. But then he’d gotten that call and he felt...numb when he heard Ren was attacked. No other way to describe it. When Ashley said he was fine he felt like he could finally breathe again. Then he heard Ari was hurt and that’s when all the crazy stuff happened. So why did he do it? He racked his brain, trying to find an answer. And what he concluded didn’t make him any happier. Because he realized the reason he did it was because he didn’t want Ren to be sad. Jason didn’t have anyone in his life he cared about, but Ren did. And even though it was just a dog, Jason could see how much Ren cared about Ari.

So his body moved, his emotions screaming at him to do something, to save Ari and make sure Ren got to keep the one thing he cared about. Because...he didn’t want Ren to be like him. Living an empty life.

Well crap. Jason sighed and leaned back in the chair, his head flopping back. This is why he hated getting introspective. He always came up with answers he didn’t like and were a pain in the ass.

 

Ren tried to swallow but his throat was too dry. He felt like he was walking down a dark tunnel even though the clinic corridors were brightly lit. His hand trembling, he pushed open the door the nurse pointed out to him and walked in.

He saw the glass incubator, saw the dark haired body inside and stopped. He closed his eyes and willed himself to walk in. To see Ari. He was alive. The doctor said he was alive and would make a full recovery. He hadn’t lost him. Again.

Drawing in a deep breath for courage, he finally stepped into the room, counting the steps until he reached the incubator and looked inside. He whimpered in pain as he stared down at Ari. He looked so helpless, his entire right shoulder covered in bandages. His body looked thinner even though he knew there was no way he lost any weight in the last few hours.

He saw the hole cut into the side of the incubator and reached his hand in, laying it softly on Ari’s head. He felt Ari shudder under his fingertips, whining as he moved his head slightly, sniffing the air.

“I’m here Ari,” Ren said gently. “I’m here.” He ran his hand up and down Ari’s body, letting the dog scent his hand, trying to comfort and assure him of his presence.

Ari was alive. He was here and alive. He wouldn’t have to go through the heartbreak of losing Ari again. The pain of his loss resurfaced, a pain he had been suppressing for years. Everytime he felt it coming back, he pushed it aside, reminding himself that he needed to be strong. That he had to live in the present. But he couldn’t seem to do it this time. Memories flashed through his mind. Him and Ari playing in the mountains in their secret place, lost in their imaginary ideal world. Running between the ramshackle houses from various pursuers, confident in their ability to escape. For now. That night...the night it all changed...when he lost Ari.

Ren closed his eyes, letting the memories wash over him and his body shook from the effort of holding back his tears. He swore he’d never cry. He promised Ari he’d never cry over him. That he would live. And he did. Everytime he wanted to give up. Everytime he felt that his hellish life was too unbearable he remembered his promise to Ari and kept going. That and-

Slowly, Ren reached his free hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone. Swallowing nervously, he punched in speed dial one and waited as the phone rang, waiting for his call to be answered.

“Hello,” a female voice said.

Ren released a silent gasp of relief and closed his eyes, feeling the tears forming again at the sound of his mother’s voice. Lin’s voice. The one that always made him tremble with fear when she was angry, and feel safe and protected when she comforted him.

“Ren? You there?”

“Yeah Mom,” Ren said, voice shaking. “I’m here.”

“You OK? This isn’t the usual time you call me.”

“Yeah, just...wanted to hear your voice.”

“Ren,” Lin said patiently. “What’s wrong?”

Ren grinned. “You always did know when I was lying.”

“Don’t take it to heart,” Lin said chuckling. “All that training doesn’t change the fact that I raised you and can tell.”

Ren chuckled briefly, feeling Ari vibrating beneath his hand, adding his two cents in on the joke. He almost sobbed and closed his mouth tightly.

“Ren,” his mom said softly. “Tell me what happened.”

“Ari was shot,” Ren gasped, his body shaking again.

“Oh honey. Is he alright?”

“Yes, the doctor said the bullet went through. No permanent damage. He should be fine.”

“That’s great,” Lin said, her voice stronger. “He’s going to be just fine.”

“Yeah.”

There was silence and Ren wondered what his mom would say next. What words of comfort did she have for him?

“How’s your boss?”

Ren blinked, wondering if he heard her wrong. “What?”

“Your boss. Jason. You said you two have been running and making some progress. How’s it going?”

“Umm, fine. He helped me tonight. Got me and Ari to a good vet and everything.”

“Really?” Lin’s voice grew even higher and Ren frowned with annoyance. Why was she talking about Jason right now? “Never thought he’d be the caring type.”

“He isn’t really the caring type,” Ren snapped. “He just-” Ren stopped. Why did Jason help him? He went through a lot of effort as well based on what he told him. Ren vaguely heard his explanation, too numb to even think. He was so busy trying to come up with an answer, any answer really when his mom chuckled again and he glared down at the phone. “Is this really important right now?”

“Maybe. But it did calm you down didn’t it.”

His spine stiffened as he realized what his mother did. Then he snorted. “You always did know what to do.”

“Of course. I’m your mother after all.” Lin laughed mischievously and Ren laughed as well. He missed her. He was ecstatic to leave home, but he missed Lin.

“I solved my first case,” Ren said.

“Yeah, you mentioned,” Lin replied, her tone only slightly patronizing.

“Only a bit more and I can finally get the proper documents to become a Plutus citizen and bring you as well.”

“I’m fine where I am Ren,” Lin assured him for the hundredth time.

“I’m going to get you,” Ren said firmly. “That was the deal you, Quinton and I agreed on when I took this job. You promised that if the paperwork was in order you’d come.”

“I just don’t want you to feel pressured,” Lin said. “You got out Ren. That was always our goal. I’m fine where I am. It’s not a great life but I’m used to it.”

Ren clutched the phone more tightly and resisted the urge scream at his mom that it wasn’t alright. The life she led, the things she had to do and put up with, it wasn’t right. And he was going to get her out. He couldn’t get Ari out, but he could save his mom.

“This is pointless,” Ren said. “We’ll talk about it when the paperwork comes.”

“Hey, you’re the one who keeps bringing it up buster,” Lin mocked him and Ren rolled his eyes, knowing he’d walked into that one. But really, it was hard to stay ahead of Lin. She was always so quick, her tongue keeping up with her sharp mind. Which made it easier for him to sharpen his own wit and outsmart most of his superiors and coworkers. Like Jason. At the thought of Jason he once again wondered what the hell the Alpha was thinking tonight. Then decided it wasn’t worth thinking about right now. He had enough on his plate. But he would keep it in mind if Jason repeated a similar gesture. Maybe there was a slim chance Jason could actually care and do something for others. He wasn’t going to hold his breath but he’d keep an eye out.

“So tell me about the new Eagles. How are they doing now?”

Ren leaped onto the distraction, detailing how he’d had the Eagles watch some of the intergotation videos so they knew what to look for when they were on surveillance. And with that, his mind was occupied, no more room for thoughts about Ari, or Jason.

Chapter Text

 

“Ready?” Kiryn asked as he held Luke’s hand in his, secretly smiling when he felt the Beta squeeze his hand. Whether it was for courage or confirmation he couldn’t tell.

 

“If I say no will it make a difference?” Luke asked, his tone half pleading and half resigned. Ah, hesitancy then.

 

“Nope!” Kiryn said cheerfully before he wrenched the door of the “Melody Lounge” open and pulled the reluctant Luke inside. “Into the lion’s den we go!”

 

Luke groaned and Kiryn couldn’t help laughing at the tortured expression on his face. He felt bad about it. Sort of. OK, not really. Luke was just too cute it was hard not to enjoy messing with him. He’d always been accused of having a sadistic sense of humor, but with Luke he seemed to be worse. It’s just that the Beta had so many expressions Kiryn couldn’t help it and would say things just to see how Luke would react. He knew he had to draw the line at some point but so far Luke hadn’t seemed too uncomfortable with anything Kiryn did. Hopefully this was also going to be fine.

 

“I still don’t get why we have to meet so soon,” Luke whined. “We just started dating three weeks ago. Shouldn’t these things take more time?”

 

Kiryn gave him an exasperated look. “Because they’re my friends. And they won’t let up until they meet you.”

 

“So you’re trying to get them to stop annoying you by making me do this,” Luke said resignedly.

 

Kiryn grinned, spotting his friends in their favorite corner and waved manically. “Exactly.” Without further ado, he towed Luke towards the table. They barely reached it when Kiryn pulled Luke forward and wrapped his right arm around Luke’s and pulled him close into his side.

 

“Here he is!” he proclaimed. “Luke, this is Tig, Frit, and Jaz. Guys this is Luke. Satisfied?”

 

The three stared at them, Tig looking skeptical, Jaz his usual calm self while Frit stared with open curiosity. Kiryn spared Luke a quick glance and saw that the Beta genuinely looked uncomfortable. Really, enough was enough.

 

“Let’s grab some seats,” he told Luke. Grateful to have something to do, the Beta walked to the side, grabbing two chairs and dragging them over. He held Kiryn’s out and he couldn’t help smirking at his friends as Luke helped him get settled into his chair. His boyfriend was quite the gentleman. A rare commodity in Orpheus where equality and freedom ruled the day and manners flew out the window.

 

“So Luke,” Tig started, breaking the ice as usual. “Kiryn says you work on the base.”

 

Kiryn frowned and kicked Tig under the table, which the Beta totally ignored. He’d warned them not to ask about Luke’s work or his family. Trust Tig not to give a crap and just plunge right in. He always did like getting into the thick of things. And they called him sadistic.

 

Luke cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “Um, yes I do. I just moved there a couple of months ago.”

 

“Must be pretty boring,” Jaz said, smiling sympathetically.

 

Luke blinked then nodded. “Yeah sometimes. The people are nice though.”

 

Jaz and Frit nodded while Tig kept staring at him.

 

Kiryn sighed and leaned forward. “So I was thinking about our next gig.”

 

All three turned to look at him, surprised at the sudden change of subject but Luke looked relieved, his gaze shifting down to the table.  Good. He hated seeing Luke so uncomfortable. It riled a protective instinct in him he didn’t even know existed. He didn’t mind if he made Luke feel awkward, but not other people. Weird.

 

“Our gig?” Frit asked. “But we’re talk-”

 

“I was thinking we could do something new,” Kiryn continued. “Maybe add a ballad or two.”

 

They gaped at him.

 

“We don’t do ballads,” Jaz pointed out.

 

“Yeah because we don’t write them,” Kiryn replied, his voice rising with excitement. “But if we tried, I think it would be great. We can start off easy and re-work some our existing songs first. As a trial run.”

 

No one said anything but Kiryn knew they were thinking about it. And that’s what he wanted.

 

“Shall I get us some drinks?” Luke suddenly asked, getting up abruptly.

 

“Sure,” Tig said smoothly. “I’ll help.”

 

“No, it’s OK. It’s my treat since it’s our first time meeting and all.” Luke smiled, a genuine smile and Kiryn felt himself loosen up. Now that he was doing something, not feeling like the center of attention, Luke was able to relax.

 

“Thanks Luke,” Kiryn said. “Frit likes a rum and cranberry cocktail, Tig likes beer, and Jaz likes a gin and tonic.”

 

Luke nodded and walked over to the bar. As soon as he was sure Luke was out of earshot, Kiryn leaned forward, elbows on the table and looked at his friends, his voice and eyes shining with excitement.

 

“Isn’t he just the cutest?” Kiryn asked eagerly.

 

“Well, he seems nice,” Jaz said politely.

 

Kiryn frowned. “What’s your problem?”

 

Frit looked away, Jaz seemed to be searching for the right words while Tig crossed his arms and glared at him.

 

“He’s not your usual type,” Tig stated, going for the kill as usual.

 

Kiryn raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware I had a type.”

 

“Usually you go for people who are easy going. Like you. This guy isn’t.”

 

Kiryn frowned, willing himself to remain calm. If he blew up at Tig it would just make everything worse. “Well, maybe that wasn’t what I was looking for since those relationships ended. Maybe Luke is actually more my type.”

 

Tig stared at him in disbelief. “You really think you can actually have a long term relationship with that.”

 

His blood boiling, Kiryn stood up. “ That as you so eloquently put it, is my boyfriend. And yeah, he’s awkward and different, and not from around here. But I like him. A lot. And when you asked to meet him I thought you were interested in meeting the person I like. Not interrogate him and point out why he’s all wrong for me.”

 

Tig frowned while Frit looked a bit nervous and Jaz sighed and lifted a hand, trying to restore the peace.

 

“OK you two. That’s enough. Kiryn, we’re sorry. We do support you. We were just concerned because he’s..different like you said. But if you genuinely like him-”

 

“I do,” Kiryn said fervently. “And you would too if you actually got to know him. He’s really sweet, and nice, and tries his best at everything.”

 

Jaz smiled. “Then he sounds great. And we’re going to try harder to get to know him. Right guys?”

 

Frit nodded, eager to get the argument over with. Tig didn’t seem appeased though and they all had to stare him down until he finally rolled his eyes and nodded.

 

Just in time too since Luke arrived at their table, placing the tray full of drinks down and handing them out. Kiryn noticed he smiled gently as he gave each drink and felt his heart thump, Luke’s smile softening when he gave Kiryn his favorite drink, without him asking for it.  It wasn’t an erratic, passionate thumping. More calm and happy. Content. And he loved it. Maybe Tig was right and Luke was different from anyone he ever dated. But he liked Luke a lot more than he liked any of those other people. He felt comfortable with him. And that was more important than fun and excitement.

 

“So you were saying we should try writing and singing some ballads,” Jaz said smoothly, taking a sip of his drink.

 

Grateful for the clear change in topic, Kiryn leaped onto Jaz’s comment. “Yup. We mostly dabble in various rock genres, but I think with my voice and you and Frit’s playing skills, we could actually create a decent ballad.”

 

“What about me?” Tig asked tightly.

 

“We could add you as a soft accompaniment,” Kiryn said, not breaking a sweat. He’d thought this through and he needed to convince them of that. “You can also add to the climax of the songs. I think it would be epic.”

 

There was silence and Kiryn knew they were seriously considering his idea. Smirking, he took a sip of his drink.

 

“It’s a cool idea,” Frit finally said. “How’d you come up with it?”

 

“Luke told me,” Kiryn said.

 

All eyes flew to Luke who suddenly looked uncomfortable again.

 

“Um, yeah. Kiryn was just...playing the other night on his guitar and singing softly. It didn’t sound like a ballad but I told him if he sang it like one it would be a good song.”

 

“What song was it?” Jaz asked curiously, turning his gaze back to Kiryn.

 

“‘Ends of the Earth.’”

 

Tig’s eyes widened while Frit began to nod his head slowly, singing the song in his head. Jaz started to actually pluck his fingers through the air, playing out the notes. They sat in silence, each imagining how the song would sound if they reworked it, took it and molded it into something new.

 

Suddenly, Jaz and Frit smiled.

 

“I think it could work!” Jaz exclaimed.

 

Frit nodded eagerly. “The lyrics lend themselves to a ballad really well. And if we change the tone, add soften the cords. It would be great!”

 

And we’re off, Kiryn thought happily as they started to discuss how they would rework the song. His sense of triumph increased when Tig joined in as well, excitedly adding his two cents, as committed as the rest of them now. The guy really was passionate about his music and a good and loyal friend. He knew he was genuinely trying to look out for him, worried about Kiryn falling for someone who didn’t deserve him. The Beta really was overprotective. Which was great sometimes when he went out and beyond to help him and make sure he wasn’t lonely, like coming to the cafe once a day just to talk to him. But sometimes, Kiryn wished he’d take a step back, like now.

 

He looked over at Luke who stared in amazement and awe at the musicians at work. Slowly, Kiryn reached his hand under the table and grasped Luke’s hand. The Beta jumped slightly and looked at him. Kiryn smiled and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. Luke smiled and squeezed his hand back.

 

Well, overall not the best first meeting. But it was a start.




“Man that was intense!” Luke exclaimed as they left the lounge a few hours later.

 

Kiryn chuckled. “Yeah but you did so well!”

 

Luke rolled his eyes and blushed. “Yeah right. I barely said anything. You guys did most of the talking.”

 

“And wasn’t that perfect?” Kiryn asked, chuckling so happily Luke couldn’t help laughing as well.

 

“Yeah I guess. It was pretty fun watching you guys rewrite the song then and there. I can’t wait to hear it.”

 

Kiryn’s eyes shone. “Me neither.”

 

Luke stared at him, mesmerized. He loved seeing Kiryn when he was thinking about his music or playing. There was so much love, so much passion, it was hard not to feel drawn to it. What would it be like, to have something you cared about so passionately. A memory flashed through his mind but before it could take form he shoved it away. No, that wasn’t passion. It was an interest. Something he thought of dabbling in. Until his father and mother told him it wouldn’t be appropriate and he quickly stopped. No point in thinking about it now. It wasn’t like he was that commited to it, even back then, And he probably wouldn’t be very good at it now.

 

Why was he even thinking about it? Luke swallowed knowing the answer. It was being with Kiryn. It was being in Orpheus. The environment itself encouraged people to pursue a hobby, a passion, an art. It was hard not to get swept up into it. But he had to. Because eventually he would have to go back to Plutus where he’d have to give up his passion. Again. And he didn’t think he could do it again.

 

“They weren't what I was expecting,” Luke said desperately, hoping to distract himself.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, Tig was acting more like an Alpha than Jaz. Usually it’s Betas who are more quiet, gentler. But Tig seemed more...in your face.”

 

Kirby chuckled. “Yeah I guess you could say they're unusual if you compare them to the ‘normal’ gender rules. Jaz is pretty laid back. But don’t let it fool you. He can be pretty vicious and dominant when he wants to be.”

 

“And Tig?  

 

Kiran paused and Luke wondered what the Omega was thinking about.

 

“Tig is..special I guess you could say. He has a gentle and perceptive side like a typical Beta, or even Omega. But he is pretty strong willed.”

 

“Hmm,” Luke pondered what Kiryn was telling him, adding what he noticed about the citizens in Orpheus in the two months he’d been here. Was Tig the kind of person his dad envisioned when he told Luke to act more like an Alpha? Because Tig was probably the toughest and most strong willed Beta he ever met.

 

It was interesting really. In Plutus, he and his father were seen as abnormal. Nathan because he was ‘weak’ for an Alpha, and Luke because he was a Beta born into a predominantly Omega and Alpha family. And because they didn't fit the norms, they were seem as strange and wrong. But here, everyone messed around with the gender norms and no one batted an eye. Sure some adhered a bit more. Patricia, his secretary, was more nurturing the way an Omega was expected to be. Frit seemed pretty quiet and reserved. But Jaz and Tig were different. Bri was too, behaving more authoritatively than Betas usually did. And Kiryn told him she was married to an Alpha! Who made jewelry! Leaving Bri, the Beta in the relationship, to run the main business and make most of their income. It was mind boggling really. And Luke didn’t know what to make of it all.

 

“It’s still kinda early,” Kiryn said, breaking into his thoughts. “Wanna go somewhere?”

 

“Anywhere is fine,” Luke replied.

 

“Then how about we chill at my place for a bit?”

 

“Sure,” Luke said, happy at how calm he sounded when his heart was racing a mile a minute. Sure they’d gone to each other’s apartments a couple of times in the last three weeks, but they always just stopped by to pick something up. Usually Kiryn would grab his guitar and they’d head over to his favorite park and Luke would listen to him play and sing. But actually sit in his apartment, and actually just sit there? Luke thought he might know what that meant and the thought made him beyond nervous. But if that’s what Kiryn wanted...then he had to figure out a way to deal with it.

 

He was so focused on trying to appear natural he didn’t realize they’d reached their destination so quickly. Suddenly, his tongue felt frozen and he couldn’t utter another word. Luckily, Kiryn was in the zone, chatting about another song they could turn into a ballad, oblivious of Luke’s sudden mute status.

 

“Sit anywhere,” Kiryn said, waving absently at the living room while he stepped into the kitchen.

 

“Ah, yeah, anywhere.” Gulping, Luke walked into the living room, eyeing the big, three person couch, then the single person armchair. Couch, armchair, couch, armchair.

 

“Hope you’re OK with juice. I don’t usually drink at home,” Kiryn called out and Luke jumped at the sound, leaping into the armchair before he realized what he was doing. Stupid, stupid. Now Kiryn would think he didn’t want to sit next to him. He was debating if he should shift over to the couch when Kiryn walked back into the room. He placed the two glasses of orange juice on the table and gave Luke a puzzled look.

 

“I said you can sit anywhere, but I didn’t think you’d go for the armchair.”

 

“Yeah, you know,” Luke said, licking his lips nervously and moving his hands up and down the armrest. “Looks comfortable.”

 

Kiryn still looked unconvinced but sat on the couch, as close to Luke as he could get. “Anyway, like I was saying. You probably don’t remember it, but I really think that-”

 

“I can’t do it!” Luke blurted.

 

Kiryn’s eyes widened. “Can’t do what?”

 

Luke swallowed and slid forward, placing his arms on his knees. Crap, why did he even say anything? But he felt he needed to clear the air, communicate properly. Matt always told him to say what he felt. And Kiryn had been encouraging him to do that as well. And he’s gotten better. But you’d think he would have figured out a better way to broach the topic instead of screaming and freaking out like this.

 

“I...ahem,” Luke exhaled deeply, closing his eyes and shaking his head, hoping the words would just spill forth. “I’m not...comfortable having sex yet.” There he said it. Slowly, he cracked one eye open then the other, turning his head up slightly to gauge Kiryn’s reaction.

 

Kiryn looked surprised and Luke wondered if he’d really screwed up this time. Suddenly, the Omega smiled and placed his glass on the table. “Good. Glad you think so. Me neither.”

 

Luke blinked, certain he’d heard him wrong. “Um, you’re...OK...with this?”

 

Kiryn chuckled nervously and brushed a few loose strands of dark black curly hair away from his face. “Actually, I was trying to figure out how to bring up the topic. Glad you beat me to it.” He suddenly grinned. “You’re really coming out of your shell aren’t you?”

 

Luke smiled with relief. “Yeah, I guess I am.”

 

Kiryn’s smile dimmed slightly and he leaned back into the couch. “I always find this a difficult topic to bring up. Especially living in Orpheus.”

 

“Why’s that?”

 

Kiryn sighed deeply. “Because, like everything else, they’re so flexible about the topic of sex. If you feel like it, do it, if you don't then don’t. It’s not really something to think about too deeply or wonder about. And I find that...that doesn’t work for me.”

 

Something was off about the way Kiryn phrased his answer but he couldn’t figure out what it was. “So..what is your view on sex?”

 

For the first time since they met, Kiryn seemed uncomfortable, his gaze shifting away, arms crossed. Luke felt a stab of guilt. He didn’t want Kiryn to ever feel nervous around him. It was bad enough Luke was usually a twitchy wreck.

 

“Forget it,” Luke rushed. “You don’t have to say anything.”

 

“No, it’s fine,” Kiryn replied, his tone morose. “I guess, if we’re getting serious we need to talk about it. And I’m fine talking to you about it.”

 

Luke’s heart lifted when Kiryn said ‘you’ in association with confiding his feelings. It made him feel...special.

 

“OK,” Kiryn said, placing his hands on his thighs and looking at Luke with determination, his green eyes boring into Luke’s brown ones. “Here goes. I’m a virgin.”

 

Luke blinked. Then blinked again. His jaw dropped and he realized he was still staring and being pretty rude. “Oh?” Great. Smart answer Luke. Ten points for creativity.

 

Kiryn sighed and flopped back into the couch. “Yeah, I get that a lot when I tell people. I dated some and usually this becomes a big issue. Like I said, sex is pretty much do what you want when you want here. So they don’t get why I wouldn’t want to. They keep waiting, thinking I’ll change my mind. But I never do.”

 

“Why would they expect you to change your mind?” Luke asked. “If you told them you don’t want to then they should listen to you.”

 

Kiryn looked at him in surprise and Luke wondered if he’d said something wrong, or right.

 

“Are you OK with it? With us not having sex?”

 

Luke licked his lips. “To be honest, I’ve only ever really dated and had sex with one person. It was...uncomfortable. She was a Beta Matt introduced me to. She was pretty nice and patient. I was...awkward and I didn’t really know what I was doing.” Luke couldn’t believe he was saying this and knew he should feel embarrassed. But honestly, it was Kiryn and Luke wanted him to know. “She was OK with it the first time and told me it would get better. Then she became...less patient. I never really got used to it, or the relationship to be honest, and she dumped me.”

 

“That sucks,” Kiryn said. “But you shouldn’t have done it if you weren’t comfortable.”

 

Luke chuckled. “True. I just figured, hey it’s normal. I should try and do it and eventually I’ll be fine. But I just...didn’t feel comfortable. With her.”

 

Kiryn smiled gently and leaned forward, grasping Luke’s hand. “Well, hopefully one day it won’t be like that.”

 

Like smiled back. “What about you?”

 

Kiryn froze and his smile dropped. “Um, well.” He looked away and Luke realized he’d made the Omega uncomfortable again.

 

“You don’t have to tell me the details if you don’t want to,” he said. As a private person, he knew how difficult it was to confess your beliefs and views to others, especially if they differed from what everyone else thought. He made the decision to trust and confess to Kiryn, but he didn’t expect Kiryn to reciprocate. He hoped he would. One day. He could wait.

 

Kiryn exhaled and looked up at him again. “I just don’t want to have sex before marriage.”

 

That was not what Luke was expecting and it took him a few seconds to absorb what Kiryn said and actually formulate an answer. “OK. I can understand that. Some people want a strong commitment. I get it.”

 

Kiryn scanned his face. “Do you really?”

 

“Well, sort of. I mean I get what you want. And it’s your belief. It’s how you choose to live. I’m not going to question it or criticize it.”

 

“You’re not going to ask? Why I made that decision?”

 

Luke stroked Kiryn’s jet black hair, the same way Matt and his mom had done for him so many times. “I figure you’ll tell me when you want to. Just because I decided to tell you about my past, doesn’t mean I expect you to. It’s your life.”

 

“You’re...a unique person Luke Blake,” Kiryn said softly.

 

Luke’s lips tipped up. “I hope that’s a good unique.”

 

Kiryn blinked rapidly and Luke realized the Omega was blinking back tears. “The best kind,” he said, his voice husky.

 

Without thinking, Luke got up, sat down next to Kiryn and pulled the Omega into his arms. He felt his heart warm when he felt his boyfriend’s shorter arms wrap around his own waist. Taking a deep breath, he smelled Kiryn’s shampoo and wondered what his scent would be like. He never bothered to find out how other people smelled before. As a Beta, his senses were pretty dull. But he was suddenly curious and hoped that one day he will find out. When he and Kiryn could take that step. Gently, he placed his head on top of Kiryn’s and sat, content to hold the Omega in his arms.




Kiryn closed the door behind Luke, sighed and leaned against the wall. Well, tonight was definitely full of surprises. First, there was Tig who, for some reason, didn’t really like Luke. That was a situation Kiryn would have to rectify, and quick. Because if it turned into a bigger issue then he and Tig were going to have a very, very horrible confrontation.

 

Then there was his intense discussion with Luke about sex. He knew they would have to talk about it eventually but figured it might come up later. His other dates usually brought it up within the first week or two, hence why his relationships never really lasted. Not that he minded. He liked all of them, but never completely felt committed. He certainly didn’t feel any loss when they left. And Kiryn figured it wasn’t a big deal since he wasn’t emotionally attached anyway.

 

But Luke was different. Sure he was awkward and bumbling and pretty insecure. While Kiryn always thought he’d find people like that annoying, when it came to Luke he actually found it endearing. He never really knew what the Beta would do or say. Like tonight. He never would have imagined that Luke would take the initiative and bring up the topic of sex. Kiryn always figured he’d have to bring it up in a month or two himself. And he accepted Kiryn’s decision, telling him he was right to hold onto his desire not to have premarital sex, and didn’t even question it! No one, not even his band, reacted that way. They thought he was strange. That he would eventually meet someone and change his mind. But Luke believed it. And Kiryn knew, somehow he knew, that he meant it. He wouldn’t push Kiryn for sex. And Kiryn found himself loving the awkward Beta for that.

 

He could feel himself falling for him even more when Luke told him about his past. It still seemed to pain Luke to recall it, but he talked about it anyway, confessing his inadequeces to his new lover. Kiryn wanted to reciprocate, tell Luke everything. But then he’d have to dig into his past, actually think about it. And when he arrived in Orpheus he swore he’d never do that. He’d locked his past, his memories, everything he left behind in a box and swore he’d never open it. And so far, he hadn’t. And he wanted to keep it that way. Because if he opened that box, if he let himself face his past, relive it…

 

Kiryn shook his head and walked over to the wall calendar he put up in his bedroom. It was the fifteenth. His heat cycle was due to start on the nineteenth, give or take a day or two. His expression twisted in agony and pain, Kiryn ripped open his nightstand drawer, pulled out the bottle of suppressants and swallowed one. He sat heavily on his bed and grasped his head.

 

It was OK. He would be OK. He was taking his suppressants. He wouldn’t experience his heat. His suppressants were strong. Even the doctor said he didn’t need such a high dosage. But Kiryn wasn't taking any risks. He didn’t want the slightest chance of any of his heat appearing, of feeling that burning heat flowing through his body. His body shuddered as he recalled the sensation of his first heat. His body out of his control, his mind beyond reason, longing for an Alpha, to be penetrated, his body thrashing with pain and need.

 

He grasped his head more tightly, forcing the memories that were threatening to come out back into the recesses of his mind. Why did he have to be born like this? Why did he have to go through this every month? He tried so hard to forget. To pretend he was always Kiryn, that his past didn’t exist. But every month, he got a reminder. One he did his best to ignore through medication. So far, he’d been able to suppress his heats. Since that first time he hadn’t felt it again. And Kiryn swore he would keep it that way.

Chapter Text

Ren crouched down next to Ari’s body on his bed and patted his head gently. The dog stirred and Ren quickly pulled his hand back. He really needed to give the dog some space but he couldn’t help hovering, trying to make sure he was recovering and didn’t suffer any discomfort. In the week since he was shot, Ari had been recovering well. At least, the doctor assured him of that multiple times, getting a bit impatient yesterday with Ren’s stubborn questions and doubts. As if sensing Ren’s anxious disbelief, Ari growled loudly from the vet’s examination table yesterday, convincing Ren that he was just fine. The vet said it would take a few weeks before he could walk and run around. Considering how often he’d been injured, he knew that healing took time. He was ashamed of how often he needed to remind himself of that, otherwise he’d never leave the dog’s side.

He felt Ari nudge his hand forcefully and laughed. “OK, OK I’m going.” Ari growled and Ren got up, chuckling. “You’re worse than Mom you know that.”

Ari barked then settled back into the blankets. With one last quick look, Ren finally exited the room and made his way to Jason’s apartment. He winced, imagining the scene he was probably going to walk into. He’d been so busy with Ari, wrapping up the last interrogations for the drug case, and the Eagle’s training he hadn’t had a spare minute for his boss. He hadn’t seen him in the office, not that he went in that much recently, and was unsure if Jason came and did his mandatory hours and left or never showed up at all. Now that Ari was back home and shoving him out the door he really needed to focus more on Jason. He was just starting to make some headway with the guy. He really hoped his absence the last week hadn’t ruined everything he’d done so far.

He opened the door to Jason’s place, mentally preparing himself to once again drag Jason back to the office- and froze.

“Hey!” Jason said, waving from his kitchen where he was putting away his used plate in the sink, fully dressed in his uniform, red hair in it’s normal disarray and jacket open over a green shirt. “Haven’t seen you for a while. How’s Ari?”

“Ahh,” Ren knew he probably looked like an idiot, jaw wide open, frozen in the doorway. But he couldn’t help it! Jason had been surprising him lately but this, this was beyond anything he expected.

“You OK?” Jason asked, raising one eyebrow.

Ren cleared his throat. “Yeah. He’s..fine. Doing better. I finally brought him home yesterday.”

“I thought the vet said he could leave after five days,” Jason said, his brow furrowed in puzzlement.

Ren felt his face flush and looked away. “Um, yeah he was.”

Jason’s eyes widened with comprehension. “Ah I get it. You were being a worry wart and kept him there longer.” He laughed and Ren felt his skin prickle with irritation.

“I wasn’t being a worry wart,” he said defensively.

“Yeah right.” Jason strolling over to Ren. “I bet it annoyed Ari needing to stay longer than he needed to.”

Ren recalled how Ari growled at him, repeatedly, the last couple of days and looked at the ground to hide his embarrassment. Damn, how had this happened? Not only had Jason surprised him by actually being ready for work, but he also seemed to be..teasing him. Which Ren wasn’t used to. Not from Jason, or many people to be honest. He wasn’t really the type people felt comfortable teasing.

He needed to get a grip on himself and reestablish the relationship he had built with Jason so far. The one where he was in charge and Jason had to just accept it. He opened his mouth, ready to reassert his authority when Jason walked past him and out the door.

“Come on or we’re going to be late.”

Ren cursed silently and quickly turned and followed Jason out the door. Not good. Definitely not good.

 

Jason smirked from behind his phone, knowing how uncomfortable Ren probably felt right now. He’d been coming in to work on time the last week, waiting in his apartment patiently to see if Ren would finally show up and find him ready and waiting to head off to work. He didn’t know why he started doing it. It wasn’t like he actually did anything the last week. He just sat at his desk and played on his phone as usual while his three partners in crime finished off the case.

It wasn’t like he was trying to be nice to Ren after his dog was shot. This is not what it was. He just, well he was bored. Probably. He had nothing better to do. And he could wake up early on his own if he wanted to. So he did. And came to work. And did nothing. No big deal.

“Did you hear the news about Tantalus?” Jason asked, eyeing Ren’s response to his interest in their previous case.

“I heard,” Ren said noncommittally. “Seems like they’re tightening the border between Tantalus and Plutus.”

“People aren’t happy the drugs made their way in. They think that since it’s full of the worst criminals in all of Dracus, that it’s their fault their precious sons and daughters became corrupt and bought drugs.” Jason snorted derisively. “Like they weren’t already corrupt. Everyone has hidden skeletons in their closets in this city. Everyone has done something criminal. They just haven’t been caught yet.”

“Even your family?” Ren asked politely, eyeing him from the corner of his eye.

Jason started, knowing he’d stepped into that one. He’d just been so caught up in the absurdity of Plutus blaming a neighbouring city for it’s problems. The hypocrisy of it! As if Plutus didn’t start the problem by setting up those mines and Dracus sending all those criminals. The whole country caused the problem, then blamed Tantalus for the problems that resulted from their decision, and said Tantalus as a whole was at fault. It was like victim blaming, which pissed him off completely. No one in Plutus ever knew how to own up to their mistakes, tossing responsibility out the window. Including his family. So he bared his teeth and answered. “Of course. Everyone has some hidden secrets. Some criminally related, some just scandalous. You can’t escape it in this society.”

Ren stared at him for a few more seconds, then turned back to his laptop. “Speaking of family, I just got an email from Lieutenant General Quinton.”

Jason groaned. Loudly. “What does he want?”

“He’s assigning us a new case.”

“Just pass it on to Matt. That was the deal remember. I worked with him, now he has to take on my next case.”

Ren finally looked at him and Jason almost grimaced when he saw that same patient and disappointed look was back on Ren’s face. Damn, he hated that expression.

“I thought you weren’t serious about that.”

Jason grinned, ignoring that little bell warning him not to do it. “I’m always serious when it comes to avoiding actual work. Matt knew I meant it. Just pass it on to him. He’ll actually be surprised if you don’t.”

Ren stared at him for a few more seconds, making Jason nervous. So he turned back to his phone, rolling his chair sideways so he wouldn’t have to look at Ren at all. Not even from the corner of his eye if he turned his chair just a bit more...just a bit more. Perfect.

After a few seconds he heard Ren tapping away on his computer and sighed with relief. Really, what was happening to him? He actually felt ...something when he saw that Ren was unhappy with him. Again. It used to be fun. Every time Ren would throw out a tidbit of info or a question, he’d wait eagerly to see if Jason would react or say something. He hid it pretty well but Jason had a knack for reading people and could tell what Ren was up to. So he humored him, playing the careless boss, except those few times he really couldn’t help giving an actual answer. And look where that got him! He’d ended up even showing Connor and Matt that he could actually help with the case. And when the Eagles were out in the field, he did help even though he’d planned on sitting in the command room and do absolutely nothing.

He frowned down at his phone, watching his warrior get sliced in half. Kinda how he felt right now. He didn’t want Ren to think he was a useless and pathetic person, but he didn’t want him to expect anything from him either. Well, he was in quite a predicament. And he really didn’t know how to get out of it.

He contemplated the matter for a few moments and decided to try a different tactic.

“Are you training the Eagles today?”

“Yeah. In an hour,” Ren replied.

“I’ll join you.”

The tapping stopped and Jason wanted to kick himself. Stupid, stupid. He’d just thrown Ren off his scent by passing his case along. Now he was really going to get it. Why’d he have to try and play nice?

“Sure. Sounds good.” The clicking resumed and Jason was glad Ren didn’t make a big deal of the moment. He just hoped his Eagles reacted the same way.

He pictured Shawn and Zack’s temperamental faces, Leo’s mocking smiles and Charles and Ashley's impatient glares. He snorted. Fat chance. They were probably gonna put him through the wringer. And he had no one to blame but himself.

 

“We should be able to improve their reflexes if we run through this simulation,” Connor said, pointing at the diagram of his plan on his laptop as they walked down to the training room. “I ran it past Ren, and he agreed it has some key moments that really push the Eagles to react on instinct.”

“Looks good,” Matt said, smiling encouragingly at Connor.

The Omega briefly flicked his hazel eyes in his direction, then away and Matt stifled a sigh of frustration. Ever since he found out about Connor’s son, he’d been more stoic. It was like all the progress they’d made the last few weeks had disappeared. All his jokes and smiles were greeted with a blank expression. The Connor who confided in him, talked to him and started to show how he felt was gone. Not that he did it a lot but compared to the last year, Connor had become more open with him.

Matt felt a keen sense of disappointment and loss. He liked the sarcastic and gentle Connor he’d caught glimpses of recently, and hoped that this moment would pass. He was probably just upset that his secret had been revealed. But he’d sounded so normal when Matt called him later that night and even told him what happened with Devon at school. Hell, he even mentioned his ex! So what the hell happened between that night and the next morning to make Connor withdraw again?

“What’s wrong?” Connor asked.

Matt shook his head, realizing that he’d let some of his frustration show on his face. “Nothing. Just thinking about this new simulation.”

Connor didn’t reply and Matt wanted to shake him, destroy that perfectly combed short brown hair so the Omega didn’t look like a walking automaton. To reflect the chaos that had been surging inside him for days. Not only had he lost Luke, but per his agreement with Jason, he wasn’t allowed to talk to his cousin for another two weeks. And now Connor, the only person he really talked to, was doing a very good impression of a brick wall. Matt struggled to smooth out his features and forced himself to smile. Connor’s eyes widened a bit, which probably meant he wasn’t doing a good job of hiding his bitterness.

“It’s fine,” he forced out, his blue eyes fixed on the doors to the training room down the hall. “Let’s just go talk to the Eagles.” He quickened his pace, desperate to escape Connor before he let more of his emotions show. He swung the door open, walked inside, ...and felt like his whole world had been turned upside down. He heard the door open behind him and felt Connor halt next to him.

They stood in silence for several moments, eyes trained on the foreign entity in the room. Jason. In the gym. Talking to his Eagles.

“You see it too right?” Matt whispered. He didn’t know why he was whispering, but he felt that if he made a single sound or movement, the entire scene would vanish.

“Yeah. I see it,” Connor said, his bewilderment clear.

Ren saw them from where he was standing with Jason and the Eagles and waved them over. Jason turned his head as well and dramatically groaned, his face taking on that world weary expression his cousin used whenever he was asked or pushed to do something. Or saw Matt.

Ah, so it really was happening. Standing straighter, Matt walked over, determined to be as blase as Ren cautioned him to be when he dealt with his skittish cousin.

“Connor finalized the simulation he told you about,” Matt said once he reached Jason and Ren. Without hesitation, Ren whistled and Matt’s Eagles joined them, the nine soldiers forming into a single line in front of them.

“Mr. Lawrence completed a new simulation for you guys,” Ren said to the soldiers. “It’s aim is to improve your teamwork. If you all head over to the simulation room we can get started.”

The Eagles saluted them and walked out. As soon as they were alone Jason turned to look at Ren.

“Lying to the Eagles about the purpose of the simulation. Nice,” Jason nodded approvingly.

Ren didn’t so much as bat an eye. “It’ll actually help them hone their reflexes more if they are just reacting instead of waiting for something to happen.”

“Smart,” Matt said.

“I think we covered that already,” Jason drawled.

“Ah. So you can talk to me. I thought you were going to pretend that we were just air blowing past each other for the next couple of weeks.” Damn, what was he doing? He was pissed off at Json sure, but he knew that his biting comments were also fueled by his frustration with Connor. It wasn’t fair to take it out on Jason. Although he really did deserve it.

Slapping his forehead dramatically, Jason said “Oh right. Forgot,” and walked out of the room, waving casually over his shoulder to Ren. “I’ll be in the observation room. Gonna enjoy the show.”

Matt sighed and rubbed his face as Jason left the room and turned apologetically to Ren. “Sorry about that. I’ve been having a grumpy day I guess you could say.”

“I get it,” Ren said. “Happens to everyone. Maybe it would be best then if you stick with me in the simulation room. Connor, you can go ahead to the observation room and run the course you planned out.”

Matt turned to tell Connor goodbye and saw the Omega’s face pale. He stopped, uncertain what he should do. If this was a few days ago, he would have asked him what was wrong, tried to make that ashen expression disappear. But given how stand-offish Connor has been lately, he couldn’t bring himself to ask.

“Problem?” Ren asked.

Connor shook his head. “No. It’s fine. I’ll head over there now.”

Matt watched Connor walk out the door and fought with himself. Part of him knew he should leave the forlorn and clearly anxious Omega alone, as he kept making it clear through his constant rejections. But another part urged him to try and fix whatever the problem was, make it all better for him.

“He doesn’t like Jason,” Ren said, cutting into his thoughts.

Matt looked at Ren and blinked, certain he’d heard him wrong. “What?”

Ren shrugged. “Connor. He doesn't like Jason. It’s pretty obvious.”

Matt blinked again, trying to recall if Connor ever treated Jason more coldly or dismissively than he did anyone else. But the Omega was always such a closed book it was hard to tell who he liked and didn't. Part of Ren’s training was perceptiveness, so it wasn’t a complete surprise if he picked up on Connor’s emotions more than Matt. Which didn’t make him feel like crap at all. Nope.

“Well, if you knew, then why’d you send them off together? Matt demanded.

“I didn’t,” Ren stated, his almost pitch black eyes coolly meeting his, reminding Matt of a dark abyss. “Connor has to run the simulation since he designed it. I have to be in the room to guide them. You and Jason clearly can’t be in the same room together right now. And Jason made the decision himself to go to the observation room.”

Matt felt his neck muscles tighten and he realized how furious he actually was. “I’m going with him.” He turned and was about to walk away when Ren’s next words halted him.

“Or, we can leave them alone and see what happens. Maybe finally get to the bottom of what’s actually going on between them.”

Matt closed his eyes. Ren was wrong. He was acting out of pure curiosity. He didn’t care if Connor got hurt or upset. He just wanted to put Jason in a new situation and see what happens, like a lab rat in a new maze. Matt knew what would happen. How volatile the situation could get with two stubborn and strong willed people. He should go. But he couldn’t get his feet to move. He kept recalling Connor’s stoic and cold demeanour, Jason’s snide comments and years of dismissal. His hands curled at his side and his body tightened. If he did nothing, if he let them meet, probably alone for the first time in the year they’ve worked here, something might happen. He didn’t know who would be worse, Jason and his piercing comments or Connor and his sharp tongue, when he chose to unleash it. But something would happen. And maybe, that something might cause one of them to finally crack a bit.

But it wasn’t right. He should stop them. But then….

 

How the hell did this happen? Connor thought as he stomped down the hall to the observation room. He was supposed to be with either Matt or Ren, not Jason. This was one of his worst nightmares. Ever since he ran into Jason the first time outside Matt’s office a bit over a year ago. He could barely hold it together and Jason clearly looked shocked. But then he’d smirked, a knowing, cat ate the canary smile, and Connor felt his resolve harden. He had decided that day that he’d never be alone with Jason and he’d always remain professional when he was around him. And for a year, he’d done just that. So why now? Wasn’t it bad enough he’d had to distance himself from Matt, again, after he realized how much he’d been longing to lean on and open up to the Alpha. It took everything he had not to engage him in conversation or have one of their casual talks like they did before. Now he had to sit in a room with Jason. Alone. For at least thirty minutes. Somewhere, Fate was sitting around, watching him and laughing.

Taking a deep breath, Connor walked into the observation room, his face breaking into a look of disgust as soon as his eyes settled on Jason, his feet propped on the empty part of the console table. For his part, the Alpha smiled, a wide grin as if he were genuinely happy to see Connor.

“Conn! Is it just you and me? This is going to be fun!” He kept smiling; Connor kept glaring. “Well, are you gonna start or not?”

Determined to dismiss Jason completely, he walked over to the console and plugged in his computer, inserting his simulation into the database and starting to set it up. He kept his eyes trained either on his laptop or the big screen mounted on the wall in front of him as he skimmed through the simulation plans, dragging and dropping the various obstacles he was going to set up into the prepared blueprint in the main database. He clicked buttons on the console board, tweaking bits here and there, focused on the complex plan he set up.

Jason remained silent, but Connor could feel his eyes on him, which made him squirm on the inside. It felt like a mountain of ants was crawling across his skin and he wanted to run out of the room and take a shower. Lots of showers. In boiling water. Anything to get rid of the skeevy feelings Jason gave him.

“We’re ready,” Ren’s voice came over the speakers.

“Just a minute,” Connor replied, finishing the last few steps so the simulation could run without needing too much interference from him. When he felt it was ready he hit the button to count it down in the simulation room and hit play.

The room plunged into darkness, leaving the Eagles to scramble for their night vision goggles. Connor hit one of the several timers he had set up on one of the split screens he set up at the bottom of the main screen, recording how long it took them to react and get ready in the dark room. They got their goggles in place and Connor stopped the timer, the number automatically registered in the datasheet to be assessed later.

“What’s the scenario?” Jason asked.

Connor’s jaw tightened and he watched as a bomb went off to the Eagles’ right. A couple of them yelped but the rest remained quiet, diving right and left where Connor had set up some crates for them to use as shelter.

“Abandoned warehouse,” Connor replied, eyes glued to the screen and listened to the Eagles discuss which warehouse they needed to get to.

“You mission is to retrieve the stolen weapons in warehouse sixteen,” Connor said into the mic, finally communicating the mission to the anxious soldiers. The Eagles quickly discussed their strategy, finding the warehouse they needed out of the several Connor had set up. As soon as they started to move their view changed and warehouse sixteen expanded, filling up most of the simulation room. He waited, tense for the moment he had to hit the button for the next part.

“Nice. Pretty creative set up.”

Would the guy just shut up! Didn’t he understand how much he needed to focus?

The Eagles drew closer to their target warehouse, past the one that was on fire. And...now! He hit the button and bullets started flying from the entrance of the warehouse. Again, the Eagles dived out of sight. Good, they were doing well so far. Nothing too new. This was something they learned before.

“You’ve come a long way my dear Connor. A long way from that subservient and quiet Omega Oliver introduced me to years ago.”

Ignore him. There was nothing new in the insults he was throwing out. He’d heard them before and even worse all his life. First from his parents, then Oliver when they were growing up. Which only got worse when they got married. And there was no end to the verbal whip lashings he received from his parents and Oliver’s during and after the divorce. Nothing new here.

The Eagles ran forward in turns, covering each other and shooting at the warehouse. Connor watched as their shots hit the armed shadow men he programmed. Three, two, one. All down. The Eagles waited a few seconds, making sure the coast was clear and inched closer to the building and entered it.

“Never figured I’d ever see you working, much less on the base. I wish I could have seen Oliver’s face when you told him.” Jason laughed and Connor hit the next command, causing ten armed men to shoot at the Eagles from the rafters. They yelled to each other, trying to coordinate their defense while Connor tried to ignore Jason’s barbs. Just ignore. That was the best way to defend himself from Jason’s poisonous words. Pretend they didn’t even exist.

“He must have been so shocked. He always used to complain about how you never did anything with your life. And yet here you are. The prized secretary to the amazing, spectacular Matthew Blake.”

Ignore, ignore, Connor chanted in his head, watching the Eagles try and maneuver themselves so they were out of line of fire but could still retaliate. Suddenly there was a grunt and Terry went down. One of the nine lights indicating each soldier on the side of the big screen winked out.

“Oh, that sucks. He should have been more careful, avoided getting hurt.”

Connor winced, trying to shove Jason’s face out of his mind. Not the present Jason, but the one from six years ago. The one who kept sending him pitying and mocking looks. The one who triggered the end of his marriage with a carelessly tossed comment, aimed to draw blood.

“You’re not still mad are you?” Jason continued, crossing his hands behind his head. “I did you a favour after all. Was trying to make sure you didn’t get hurt. You’re the only one who didn’t know. Didn’t really seem fair.”

Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Connor felt his whole body shake with suppressed anger, longing to grab something, anything, and hit Jason with it. The way he should have years ago. Some of the Eagles made their way up the staircase, finally getting clearer shots at their opponents and taking them down. Unfortunately, they took Charles, Adam, and Naomi down with them.

“And it all worked out in the end. Oliver married someone he actually cares about and you got him out of your life. Living in the lap of success.”

The Eagles ran down the now empty corridor Connor set up, speeding up when they saw no one was around. His body almost spasming, he hit the next command, and watched as the floor in front of the Eagles burst into flames. He stared, face blank, as Zack and Shawn who had been leading the charge got burnt, their lights winking out, indicating that they were dead and out of the simulation.

Connor swallowed, his throat and lips shaking with the effort to suppress his tears of humiliation and anger.

“Sure, it must be tough with your kid and all. But what does it really matter. You got away from an abusive bully and Oliver got the mate he really wanted. It’s a win-win. You should be happy.”

He felt like a bomb went off in his head and he hit the last command button, ignoring the rest of the simulation and causing one last big explosion that took out the entire team. There were yells of confusion from the speakers and Connor hit the mute button. He abruptly stood up from his chair, sending it rolling back and glared down at Jason, his lips curled back, face flushed and arms stiff at his side, every muscle tight with repressed rage.

“Happy? You think I should be happy with what you did!” Connor screamed. “You want me to thank you?”

“Well, I’m not taking all the credit,” Jason drawled, clearly unimpressed with Connor’s outburst. “But yeah, maybe some acknowledgement of the nice thing I did. You know I’m not usually nice.”

“What you did wasn’t to be nice,” Connor yelled, his hands tightly clenched, his whole body shaking uncontrollably. “You did it to hurt me. To hurt my marriage. To destroy everything!”

Jason’s smile disappeared, and he dropped his hands, his expression serene as he stared at Connor. “What I destroyed? Your pathetic marriage where you were chained to a guy who didn’t give a damn about you. Who was in love with someone else and complained about you in public. Who didn’t bother to hide how much he hated Omegas. Doesn’t sound like I destroyed anything.”

“It wasn’t your call to make!” Connor yelled.

“You’re right,” Jason said, standing up and towering over Connor. “It was yours. All I did was tell you what Oliver was doing. You’re the one who decided to get a divorce. I never told you to do that. I didn’t even think you would do it, you were so whipped and scared of everyone.”

“What other choice did I have?” Connor said, his voice hushed and felt the tears drip down his chin. “What choice did I have when you told me he was cheating on me, in love with someone else. How could I move past that?”

Jason gave him a sardonic look. “Wake up Connor. Everyone cheats in Plutus. It happens all the time and no one makes a fuss. It’s your own problem that you made a big deal about it and actually divorced Oliver.”

“I hate you,” Connor hissed.

“That’s fine,” Jason replied calmly. “I’m used to being hated.”

He couldn’t look at him anymore, couldn’t stand the sight of his face. All he could see was that memory from six years ago, when Jason gleefully cornered him in the house when Oliver was out, and told him with the biggest and most derisive smile that Oliver had been cheating on him with someone he’d loved for years. It was the moment Connor knew he couldn’t do it anymore. The moment he just reacted. Took Devon and ran. He was so ignorant, not realizing the legal and personal ramifications. How his parents would disown him. Oliver’s parents try and prosecute him for breaching their marriage contract. Oliver try and take Devon, complete physical and legal custody. It was one of the biggest mistakes he ever made and he’d lived for a year, terrified of what he’d done. Of what he’d lose.

The fact that things worked out eventually and he got a job and was able to keep Devon didn’t make it alright. Nothing would make it alright. If Jason really had told him out of the goodness of his heart, so Connor wasn’t walking around, a cuckolded fool, then he may have been able to tolerate the bastard. But that’s not why he did it. There was no hiding his glee as he told Connor the truth, his enjoyment in seeing Connor’s pain. Just like now.

“You’re sick,” Connor whispered, then spun on his heel and ran out of the room. He’d barely made it halfway down the hall when he saw Matt and Ren coming towards him.

“What happened? The simu-” Matt froze in his tracks, eyes wide as he saw Connor properly. He must look like crap. His brown hair was in disarray from screaming, his hazel eyes wide and frantic, hands still tightly clenched, his entire body flushed a deep crimson and tears streaking down his pale face.

Connor barely looked at them as he ran past, his only thought getting his bag and getting out. Away. From everything.

 

Matt stared after Connor, eyes wide and he gulped. Shit, shit. He miscalculated. All he’d wanted was to get a bit of a reaction from Connor. He didn’t mean to hurt the Omega and send him running.

“Idiot,” Ren hissed.

Matt turned to tell him off for insulting Connor but saw Jason walking towards them.

“Hey, I didn’t do anything,” Jason said, raising his hands in self defense. “He’s just too sensitive.”

Matt growled, fighting down the urge to slam Jason against the wall and beat him to a bloody pulp for causing Connor pain. But he had to deal with his cousin later. He spun on his heel and took off after Connor, determined to catch him before he left the base. He managed to catch him in the parking lot, walking rapidly towards his car.

“Connor!” Matt called out.

Connor flinched and walked faster, probably too tired to actually run anymore. Which made it easy for Matt to catch up. He grabbed Connor’s elbow and yanked him to a halt.

“Let go of me!” Connor snapped, trying to wrench his arm out of Matt’s grasp. He held on tighter.

“I’m sorry about what Jason said.”

Connor laughed dryly. “You don’t even know what he said. And it has nothing to do with you anyway. You’re not your cousin’s keeper.”

Matt swallowed past that ball of guilt. He may not have been directly involved in whatever happened in that room, but he’d allowed it to happen. So, it was partly his fault. And the thought didn’t sit well with him.

“I shouldn’t have left you alone with him when you clearly felt uncomfortable,” Matt said, trying to find a way to admit his mistake without making himself sound like the complete dickwad he felt right now. “I should have gone with you.”
“I don’t need you to babysit or protect me,” Connor yelled.

Matt’s gut clenched at the sight of the usually calm Omega screaming, spit almost flying and face contorted with rage. “I don’t know what Jason said, but I’ll get him to apologize.”

“I don’t want an apology from that asshole,” Connor snapped. “I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want to see him.”

“OK, you won’t,” Matt said desperately.

Connor snorted derisively. “Yeah right. He’s a colonel on the base. And you two are working together. And he’s your cousin. It’s obvious I’m going to see him.”

“So, what are you going to do? Quit?”

Connor froze and Matt felt a bit of relief that the Omega seemed to finally calm down and think for a second.

“No,” Connor said quietly. “I won’t quit. I need this job. You know that. I can’t afford to quit and I’ll never find a job as good as this one.”

Matt nodded. “Yeah, yeah. Quitting isn’t the right call. So we’ll figure something out. I’ll talk to Jason, and we’ll smooth this all out.”

Connor looked up, giving him a pitying look that broke Matt’s heart. Slowly, he extricated his arm from Matt’s hold and this time he let him.

“You can’t fix everything Matt. Nor should you have to. You’ve tried to get through to Jason so many times and it never worked. I know your intentions are good, but you can’t fix this.”

He swallowed, uncomfortable with the stark truth. “But I can try.”

Connor smiled, the kind of gentle smile he probably bestowed on his son when he was breaking a sad truth to him. “You can’t fix everything. So just leave it be. I’ll handle it. I’m used to that.”

Matt wanted to answer, to tell Connor that he shouldn’t have to put up with Jason’s crap. That he could lash out and make Jason pay. But no words came out.

“I’m going to take the rest of the day off if you don’t mind. I don’t think I’d be much use right now.”

Matt wanted to scream that Connor didn’t always have to be useful, that it made Matt happy just to have him around. Again, he couldn’t say anything. He watched silently as Connor got in his car and drove off, knowing the Omega was right, and hating that he couldn’t change the world and make it a better place for him.

Chapter Text

Jason nervously flicked his gaze from his phone to Ren who was seated at his desk again, typing away on his laptop. After giving him a searing and disgusted look when Matt and Connor took off, the Beta had walked away and wouldn’t look at him for the last hour.

“What are you typing?” he called out in a mock cheerful voice.

No response.

Crap. He really should have thought this through. It had just been too delicious of an opportunity. He’d seen Connor around the base for a year, always wearing that stoic expression on his face, and longed to rip it off. To see what the Omega was like when expressing his raw emotions. How was he to know he’d react so badly and run off? It was Connor’s fault really. He didn’t have to get so emotional. Like he was the only one who had ever been cheated on. The only one with a difficult family to deal with. He was making a big fuss about nothing! And now he ruined whatever this was between Jason and Ren. Stupid Omegas. This is why he hated dealing with them.

“The Eagles are training on their own now?” Jason called out, trying to ignore the tiny trace of desperation he detected in his voice.

Ren hit the remote to switch on the TV in the room, displaying the Eagles in the training room. Jason barely spared them a glance and growled. This was not going well at all. He imagined Ren coming back, seeing how well Jason was doing, getting up and coming in to work on his own. And feel…what? What had he hoped would happen? That the Beta would praise him? He snorted. Like he cared if he got the uptight, hard ass Beta’s approval. He never cared what anyone thought of him. Not even Matt. And yet, he didn’t like this. He didn’t like that the Beta was genuinely angry at him. Sure he’d been irritated when Jason was being lazy and difficult but not like this. It was like he was…disappointed. And disgusted. Let’s not forget that dismissive look on his face after Connor ran off.

Jason flopped his head back and massaged his temple a bit. What to do? What could he do to make Ren less angry at him? Because although he tried to avoid thinking too hard about how he felt, he was honest enough to know that he wanted the Beta to talk to him. He just needed to figure out what he could do. He tried to think and drew a blank. After several minutes he felt his brow creasing further and further as he dismissed one flimsy idea after another.

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and screamed. Literally.

“Ahhh!” He leaped out of his chair and stomped over to Ren’s desk. “What do you want me to do? You want me to apologize to the guy?” he screamed.

Ren’s fingers froze on his keyboard and Jason drew in a quick breath and held it. Slowly, excruciatingly slowly, Ren lifted his gaze, his eyes piercing into Jason’s. He felt his heart rate speed up, his palms becoming sweaty.

“Do you feel sorry?” Ren asked pointedly.

Jason thought for a moment. He could lie, but Ren would see right through it and they’d be back to square one. “No,” Jason yelled, his hands flapping helplessly. “I’m not really sorry OK. I just told him the truth and he got angry and took off. It’s not my fault.”

Ren turned his gaze back to his screen and Jason felt a well of panic as his fingers began to move across the keyboard again.

“But I know I was wrong!” he yelled desperately.

Ren stopped again and looked up at him. “Really?”

Jason huffed and nodded. “Yes. What I said was right, but I didn’t have to say it. There, happy?”

Ren stared at him for a few more seconds then looked back at his screen and Jason’s heart dropped. “I’m not happy. I wish you hadn’t done it in the first place. I like Connor. He’s professional, cares about his job and is pretty smart. He’d been given the short stick while he’s been here and is finally showing people what he can do. What an Omega can do. And you tried to ruin that.” He suddenly looked up at him. “Do you really hate Omegas that much you want to see Connor fail?”

Jason staggered back. He couldn’t help it. He just couldn’t believe what Ren just stated, as if it were a fact. Something Jason had been denying even to himself, choosing not to put it into actual words.

“Why do you say I hate Omegas?” he asked quietly, trying to give himself time to calm down.

“It’s the way you treat them,” Ren continued, his tone factual. “You sleep with them, use them to get what you want, then leave them. And I’ve seen how you are with them. Complete disregard, you probably don’t know anything beyond their names. Besides the Omegas you sleep with, you never interact with Omegas, ever. And I’ve seen how you look at the ones on the base, including Connor. Sometimes you ignore them completely, but to me, it’s like you can’t stand to look at them.”

Jason’s heart was so loud at this point he was sure Ren could hear it. He was pretty sure he’d soaked through his T-shirt as well. He thought he’d hidden it so well. His distaste for Omegas was so ingrained in him, had been a part of him for so long, he never thought about it. No one ever noticed it before, not Matt and not even his ‘friends’ at the clubs who he’d known for years. Not even the Omegas he slept with! And yet, Ren figured it out, through simple intuition and small observations. Well fuck.

He opened his mouth trying to formulate an answer, a way to get out of this and dismiss Ren’s accusation. “They’re annoying,” he found himself saying, his voice barely above a whisper as he confessed what he had denied for so long. “They think they’re owed something, just because of their gender. That they need to be treated more gently, special. When really, deep down, they’re nothing but horny, disloyal and selfish creatures who only do whatever they want. Without thinking about the consequences or how others feel. Omegas are vain, spoiled, and are only really needed for breeding. Otherwise, they would have no use.”

Ren listened to him in silence, his expression never changing. Jason waited, wondering what the Beta would say. He felt sweat roll down his face, knowing he’d thrown out harsh statements…but he meant them.

“You have had horrible experiences with Omegas. Haven’t you?” Ren said softly.

Jason swallowed and flexed his fingers. “I’ve never met an Omega who made me think any differently,” he confessed.

Ren sighed and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. “I have. I met so many Omegas, who were strong inside and out. I admire them, look up to them. What Omegas put up with, what they go through as the main breeders of our species, it’s beyond horrific. And yet they keep going. Just like Connor. I don’t know what happened to him in the past, but he’s moving forward, building a great career and reputation for himself, as a man and as an Omega. And I respect him for that. The way I respect very few people.”

Meaning, Jason hadn’t earned that same respect. He was just processing that when Ren continued.

“To be honest, I’ve had crappy Alpha experiences. Growing up, I felt they were nothing but bullies, people who liked to throw their weight around just because society deemed them the superior gender. I hated them.”

Jason swallowed and closed his eyes briefly, knowing he’d done little to dispel that image.

“But I know that not all Alphas are like that. Some of them are kind, sympathetic, and genuinely want to help others. Like Matt.”

Jason bared his teeth, hating hearing Matt’s name, again, being used as a comparison to show him how shitty he is.

“That night, when you helped me with Ari, I felt that you had that same compassion and ability to care for others.”

His head snapped up and he stared at Ren in shock. He must have misheard him. He had to have. No one complimented him before. Ever.

“It gave me hope that you could actually be a decent person under that long unruly hair and ratty T-shirts.” Ren sighed and his expression displayed his keen disappointment, making Jason feel like he was an inch tall. “But after today, it’s like you pick and choose when to be nice. The fact that you lashed out at Connor, just for the hell of it, is pretty disappointing.” His tone was so soft, making the blows even stronger than if he’d screamed at him the way Quinton had done his whole life. Not since he decided the world could screw itself fifteen years ago had someone actually made him feel guilty. Or hurt.

Jason didn’t know what to say so he simply stood there. Ren shook his head, closed his laptop and walked out, leaving Jason’s mind and spirit in complete chaos as he tried to sort through the dozens of emotions Ren just unleashed in him. And the memories he had ignored since he was ten years old and swore no one would ever hurt him again.

 

Matt sighed wearily as he sank onto his living room couch, lifting his feet and placing them on his coffee table. What a week. After Connor ran off the base following his argument with Jason, he wasn’t sure if the Omega would ever come back, despite his promise that he would. But he’d shown up the next day, his cold mask back in place and Matt was too nervous about setting him off again he felt like he’d been walking on eggshells all week. He felt like was going to crack from the pressure any second.

Add to that his ever present guilt that he could have prevented this if he’d just gone with them when Ren told him how much Connor dislikes Jason. He moaned and sank further into the couch, lying almost on his back. Things couldn’t get any worse.

Que his doorbell connecting him to the security desk. Of course someone wanted to see him when he was at his lowest. With a groan he got up and walked over to the console, hitting the button to connect him to the security desk in the lobby.

“What is it Bobby?” he asked the Beta when his face appeared on the screen.

Bobby looked uncomfortable as he answered. “Sorry to bother you Mr. Matthew, but the kid won’t leave.”

Matt’s brow furrowed with confusion. “Kid?”

Bobby turned the camera around, aiming it at a child, a very angry and determined looking child. With hazel eyes. Connor’s eyes. Well shit.

“Let him in Bobby.” He hit the off button, running his hand through his hair nervously and looking around the apartment. As usual, the place was clean and organized. He ran his hands down his shirt, then his pants. God he was nervous. He never expected this. Why the hell was the kid here?

Moments later, his main doorbell rang. Drawing in a deep breath for courage and pasting a wide smile on his face, he swung the door open. He was greeted by a child with dirty blonde hair (which he probably got from his dad since Connor’s hair was a nice chestnut brown), sharp hazel eyes, wearing a red T-shirt with some kind of cartoon character on it, and blue jeans. He stood straight, hands shoved into his pants pocket.

“Hi, you must be Devon,” Matt said a bit too loudly. Smooth you idiot. Just chill!

The kid looked him up and down, as if judging and analyzing Matt’s personality, appearance intentions and everything else in between. He almost shifted nervously but told himself to hold it together. No reason to feel intimidated by a little kid. He’d faced more intense people before.

“You must be Matthew Blake,” Devon answered, his voice strong as his eyes bored into Matt’s from almost three and a half feet below his eye level. The way the kid spoke and stared at him, self-assured and authoritative, he might be an Alpha.

“Want to come in?” Matt stepped aside, gesturing into the apartment.

Without hesitation, Devon walked in, barely sparing Matt a glance.

“OK,” Matt muttered, silently congratulating Connor for raising such a confident kid. “Want any juice or anything?” he asked as he followed Devon into the living room.

“No thanks,” Devon said, dismissing the room with a quick glance and turning to him. “Mind if we sit down?”

Polite too. If he wasn’t so nervous he’d actually like to get to know this kid.

“Of course. Sit here,” Matt said, indicating the left side of the couch while he settled on the right. He’d barely sat down when Devon spoke, causing his back to straighten at his words.

“You made my mom cry,” Devon said, his tone accusing.

Matt’s jaw dropped. “What? Connor cried?”

Devon frowned. “You didn’t know?”

“No,” Matt burst out, desperate to fix the situation and find out what actually happened at home. “Your mom never really tells me how he feels. Or shows it.”

Devon nodded. “Yeah, he doesn’t like to let people know what he’s feeling. Most of the time.”

“But he’s not like that at home?” Matt asked, knowing he was fishing, but hey if the kid volunteered the info he wasn’t going to question it.

Devon’s eyes lit up, warming Matt’s heart a bit at the sudden joy after the fierce expressions he’d seen so far. “No way! He’s so much fun at home. He’s funny, and smart, and always has something to say. I wish he was less smart sometimes to be honest. He always busts me before I even try anything.” He frowned and Matt chuckled, feeling himself relax slightly.

“Sounds like your mom really is a soldier on and off the base.”

Devon looked confused for a second then his expression cleared. “My mom’s pretty good at his job huh?”

“The best,” Matt said, his voice emphatic.

“I thought so. He loves his job. He mentioned you at home a few times.”

“Really?” Matt said, shifting on the couch a bit. “What did he say?”

Devon gave him a knowing look. “That’s between me and my mom.”

Damn, the kid was just as sharp as Connor. He was liking him more and more.

“So, you said your mom cried,” Matt said gently.

Devon looked down, anxiety radiating from his body and it suddenly hit Matt. He wasn’t used to kids since his cousins were close to him in age so he was ashamed how long it took him to realize how nervous Devon must be. He was still a kid, had somehow probably taken a bus or a cab on his own to Matt’s place, after tracking it down, and marched into a stranger’s home, not knowing what Matt would do to him. If Connor knew…

“I’m sorry your mom was upset,” Matt said, his tone as soothing as he could make it. “Something happened at work a few days ago that really got to him. He was upset but seemed fine at work after that. I didn’t realize he was still sad at home.”

Devon nodded, his expression so lost and forlorn Matt wanted to just hug him. “He said he just had a bad day. But it’s been a few days and he’s still not happy. He tries to smile and joke around with me as usual, but I can tell he doesn’t mean it.” He started to nervously play with the knee of his jeans. “I figured, maybe you’d know why. And, since mom likes you and all, maybe you can help him.”

Matt inhaled, feeling the weight of responsibility Devon just placed on him. And found he couldn’t say no. Because he wanted to help Connor too. Had been struggling to figure out how for days. Having Devon come and actually ask solidified Matt’s resolve and finally, he had a plan. Well, an idea more like.

“Of course I’ll help your mom,” Matt said firmly. “I like him too. He’s a pretty awesome guy.”

Devon smiled and he looked so much like Connor Matt felt his heart warm further. What would it be like if he could make Connor and Devon genuinely smile? He was surprised by how much he wanted that.

“Thanks Colonel Matthew.”

“Please, call me Matt. Only my subordinates call me Colonel Matthew.”

Devon’s eyes brightened. “No way! You’re a colonel and I’m gonna call you that!”

Matt chuckled. “Looks like you like the military title.”

Devon nodded eagerly. “I love the military. It’s where my mom got his first real job and he’s a soldier, fighting the bad guys just like everyone else. He’s a hero!”

Matt hoped that Connor knew just how much his son looked up to him. The Omega clearly dealt with a lot of insecurities due to society’s treatment of him. He should know that the most important person in his life thought he was a hero.

“You’re right. He is. You know he tests out the soldiers and trains them?”

Devon’s eyes widened. “Really?”

“Sure! The other day, he made a simulation, thought it up himself, and ran it. He was testing the soldiers and making things explode and guns fire at them.”

He gazed at him in awe and Matt longed to tell him more, show him just how amazing his mom actually was.

Suddenly, Devon’s face reddened and he looked down at the ground uncertainty. “Do you..do you mind if I get your phone number? Mom never really tells me stories from work. If you don’t mind, maybe, you can text me sometimes and tell me what he’s doing?”

Matt’s heart went out to the poor kid. He wasn’t surprised Connor’s didn’t confide in his son about his job. Some of it was inappropriate for a child. He probably wouldn’t like it if he found out what Matt told him today. But he was also a kid, eager and excited to hear about the action that went on in the base. The ones Matt could tell him about anyway. And it was just about Connor. What’s the harm?

“Sure, I can do that.”

The smile he received was so bright Matt thought if he asked him for a new car, his wallet, and a kidney he’d give it to him, just to keep him happy. Damn, who knew the little kid would have him wrapped around his finger so fast! And he knew, it was because he was Connor’s son. And he had a soft spot for the hard working Omega. How could he not feel the same way about his child?

After they exchanged numbers Matt asked if Devon needed a ride.

“Nah. I took a cab. My dad gives me a good allowance every week so I usually have a lot of money left over.”

Matt nodded, secretly wondering what Devon’s father, Connor’s ex, was like. Was he nice? Abusive? Did he support his ex’s desire to work? And the big question, why did they get a divorce? Not that it was any of his business. He’d already inserted himself in Connor’s personal life more than the Omega would like by even talking to Devon, much less exchanging phone numbers. He should just be content with that.

“That’s good,” Matt said as he held the front door open. “Then, I’ll see you around Devon.”

With an excited wave, the kid walked out, leaving with the same confident stride he walked in with. Damn, he liked this kid.

Chapter Text

Connor stared down at the email from Ren, detailing their new case. He hadn’t opened it yet. They just finished wrapping up their drug case, which meant he didn’t have to talk to Matt too much. But with this he’d have to. There would be meetings at least twice a day about the research, surveillance, any evidence or stake out, plus the Eagles’ training.

Just the thought of sitting across from Matt for hours, pretending to be calm on the outside when he felt squeamish, embarrassed, and kinda fluffy on the inside was the last thing he wanted. He groaned and thumped his head on the table. Twice. It’s all his fault. If he hadn’t over reacted to Jason’s stupid comments, things wouldn’t have gotten so awkward. He was just starting to settle his heart after Matt’s concerned phone call about Devon. He was almost able to talk to Matt normally. Then he’d run off, screaming and crying and acting like the emotional Omega wreck Oliver always accused him of being. And he was filled with such embarrassment and shame he couldn’t even look at Matt. Matt didn’t seem to be doing any better either, speaking to him carefully and avoiding eye contact. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It was all his fault.

He shot up, his eyes widening with hope. Maybe this case was a good thing! A way for them to regain their momentum. Yeah! With a case, they’d be so focused they could just slip back into their professional roles. And soon everything would be back to normal!

Filled with a rare sense of optimism, or maybe desperation, he slammed his laptop shut, knocked purposefully on Matt’s door and walked in.

The Alpha jumped when he swung the door open, fumbling with his phone before he dropped it onto his desk. With one quick motion, he swiped it off his desk and into his drawer, then turned and smiled at him, arms folded on the tabletop. Connor stopped halfway into the room, feeling he’d walked in on something he shouldn’t have.

“You OK?” he asked.

“Yeah, yeah!” Matt gasped, one hand coming up to smooth the hair on the back of his head. “Just...talking to Luke.”

“How’s he doing?” He tried to inflict as much concern as he could into his voice. He knew how much Matt missed his cousin. How worried he was about him on his own.

“He’s fine. Fine. Seems he’s making some friends,” Matt said, his expression settling into a happy smile.

Connor smiled gently. “That’s good. I’m glad.”

They fell into an awkward silence, the kind of thing Connor was hoping to avoid. Suddenly, he thrust his laptop forward, clutching it in both hands. “Ren sent us a new case!”

Matt’s eyes widened. “Great! Let’s see it.”

Eager, Connor walked forward rapidly, falling into the chair and almost dropping his laptop on the desk. Smooth Connor, smooth. You need to calm the hell down!

Clearing his throat, Connor calmly and slowly opened the laptop and pulled up the email. “I haven’t looked at it yet. Figured we could do that together.”

Matt’s eyes widened and his expression became more gentle. “Good idea. New case and all.”

Connor fought the urge to smile back and turned his attention to the document, turning the laptop more to face Matt. Silently, they began to read. The more they read, the more their eyes widened. It took them at least ten minutes to read through the whole thing and when they finished they both sat back, overwhelmed by what they had to deal with next.

“Do Jason or Ren know what they sent us?” Matt asked.

“I don’t know,” Connor replied warily. “I doubt Jason actually looked at it. Ren, maybe.”

“Can you call him in? I think we’re going to need all the help we can get with this.”

Wordlessly, Connor emailed Ren, asking him to join them and was glad when he immediately replied. Less than two minutes later the Beta walked in.

“I’m guessing you saw the case,” Ren said soberly.

“Are you sure you want to turn this one over to us?” Matt asked. “It’s...pretty tricky.”

Ren crossed his arms and eyed them. “Look, it’s a tough case. And I would love to tackle it. But per your agreement with your cousin, you have to take the next case he’s given. It’s just your bad luck that this is the case Quinton chose to give us.”

“I can see why,” Connor said, his tone resentful. “Jason got almost no credit for the drug case, so he wants him to deal with another high profile one. Never mind Jason is the one who avoided all the press and accolades himself.”

He winced inwardly, knowing how angry he sounded, which probably reminded the two other people he really wanted to impress of his atrocious behaviour last week. If they picked up on it, they chose to ignore it which Connor was grateful for.

“We could use your help. And Jason’s,” Matt said.

Ren shook his head. “You’ll have to talk to him.”

“But he listens to you,” Matt said, sounding desperate.

Ren raised an eyebrow.

“Well, more than he listens to any of use. Please Ren.”

Connor’s eyes widened and Ren seemed surprised as well at seeing the Alpha practically begging Ren for help. It wasn’t normal Alpha behaviour, not in Plutus and, based on Ren’s reaction, not where he came from either. Which is probably why Ren relented.

“I’m going to try. But no promises.”

Matt nodded frantically. “Of course. I appreciate anything you can do.”

With a final nod, Ren walked out, leaving Connor and Matt lost in their thoughts, contemplating the case they both wished they could just toss onto someone else.

“This is going to take a lot of work,” Connor murmured.

Matt nodded. “Hopefully, with Jason and Ren’s help we might be able to handle it.”

“You really think Ren can change Jason’s mind?”

Silence met his question and Connor looked at him, searching Matt’s face to detect how he felt.

“I don’t know.”

Connor sighed and shook his head, wondering if Fate was enjoying watching him suffer. Not only did he have to deal with a case that could completely change all of Dracus and ruin his career, but he’d have to work with Jason. Truth be told, the Alpha wouldn’t help much but they definitely needed Ren. They were too far out of their element.

“I guess we can at least get the preliminary investigation started,” Connor finally said.

“Good idea,” Matt replied. “These notes have so many gaps, filling them is our main priority right now.”

“I’ll make a list of everything we need to know.” Connor was about to get out of his chair when Matt’s next sentence made him stop, his butt hovering slightly above the cushion and one arm on an armrest.

“Send it to me as well and I’ll help.”

Certain he’d heard him wrong, Connor slowly looked up at the Alpha’s face. “You...want to help with the research?”

Matt nodded. “This is a big case. It wouldn’t be fair to expect you to do most of the grunt and paperwork.” He smiled, what he probably perceived as an encouraging smile, but it just made Connor want to howl with despair.

He suddenly lost all the strength in his body and thumped back into the chair. The Alpha seemed puzzled and Connor didn’t blame him. He was doing something nice and yet, Connor probably looked crushed. It’s how he felt.

“Is this….because of my outburst last week?” His voice was shaky and weak and he hated that he couldn't change it. He wanted Matt to always view him as strong and confident, and right now he was on thin ice. Speaking in such a quavering voice wasn’t helping.

Matt’s eyes widened and he seemed at a loss for words himself. “What do you mean?”

Swallowing, Connor leaned forward, desperation radiating through his body and voice. “I know that I behaved badly after my talk with Jason. I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did and I’m ashamed that I lost control. And just..ran off. I understand if after seeing that you’d question if I can handle my job well but I can! That was just….it won’t happen again.”

Matt stared at him, his expression slightly angry and Connor licked his lips nervously.

Finally, Matt spoke. “Do you seriously think that I would look down on you or question your abilities because Jason upset you?”

Bewildered, Connor analyzed Matt’s question. He didn’t know what Matt was thinking and why he sounded so upset.

“Well,” he said, trying to choose his words carefully. “I ran off. And cried. And screamed at you. That’s not exactly proper secretary behaviour. It’s more-” he swallowed, hating what he was about to say but couldn’t think of any other words. “It’s the kind of emotional outburst you’d expect from an over emotional and dramatic Omega. And I know better than to do that, especially on the base.”

Matt leaned back in his chair, his gaze speculative and Connor felt sweat forming on his palms. What was the Alpha thinking? He was usually easy to understand. That’s one of the reasons they were such a good team.

“First of all, you’re not the first person Jason reduced into a screaming mess. He does that pretty much on a daily basis with Uncle Quentin and some of the other family members. Even I lose my patience with him sometimes, despite my best efforts. He has a way of getting under people’s skin and saying just the right words to set them off. It’s a sick talent he has. Second. While your behaviour may be seen as unprofessional, I’m guessing Jason said something way too personal, in which case he crossed the line first.”

Connor’s eyes widened, shocked that Matt seemed to be dismissing his outburst as something legitimate. If anything, he was saying that Connor was right to be upset. But that couldn’t be right! All his life, his parents and Oliver always told him he had to control his emotions, never reveal anything negative. Never cry, never get upset, never get angry, never smile too much or laugh too hard. The way a proper and polished Omega behaved. None of this was making sense and he felt his mind reel further when Matt continued.

“Third, I don’t like you talking about Omegas that way. Because my mom and grandmother are Omegas and I think they’re wonderful, strong willed women. I’d hate to think someone, anyone, would tell them it’s not OK for them to cry or argue if they’re angry. And I hate to think that you keep your emotions on such a tight leash because you think of yourself that way. You’re not just an Omega, you’re a person. Everyone has the right to laugh, cry, joke around, get angry, and feel all the emotions we have as humans. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if I ever meet the person who convinced you otherwise, I’d like to beat him to a bloody pulp.”

Hands shaking, Connor stared open mouthed at Matt. He couldn’t think, much less say anything. Matt was angry, genuinely angry, that Connor held any negative views of Omegas. Of himself. And he wanted to beat up Oliver. Indirectly, but still! And...and..He covered his face with his hands and drew in deep breaths, trying to calm his racing heart and frayed nerves. What was this Alpha doing to him? Why was he saying that Connor had the right to feel, that he was free to express himself? And he spoke positively, about Omegas! No one in his life had ever done that.

After a couple of minutes, Connor felt calm enough to slowly lower his hands and flushed with embarrassment when he realized Matt had been staring at him for two minutes while he tried to calm down. He gazed down at his thighs. He should say something, he thought as he rubbed his sweaty palms across his thighs. But what?

“Umm, thank you. For...your support.”

Matt stared at him until Connor finally looked up and met his eye.

“I meant it Connor,” Matt said softly. “The last couple of weeks have been hell. We were finally getting to a good place and you were starting to show me more of your thoughts and feelings. And I loved that. I know I’m your boss, but I like to think that we also care about each other. We could be friends in a way. I know you guard your personal life, being a single mother means you have to. But at least, on the base, I hope we can become friendlier. And you learn to let loose. At least in front of me.”

Licking his lips, Connor wondered at the wisdom of granting such a request. On one hand, he missed talking to Matt as well. He felt lighter recently, joking and letting his sarcastic side show in front of Matt. He didn’t think it was a good idea though. Because as much as he tried to deny it, he knew he was falling in love with this amazing Alpha. How could he not? He was the complete opposite of everything Connor grew up with. He was kind, smart, supportive, empathetic, and wanted Connor to be himself. Connor didn’t even know what ‘himself’ was but he felt a thread of excitement at the idea. Maybe, with Matt, he could actually develop into a person. With Devon, he became a mother. And he loved that. But he still didn’t know who he was outside of that since he always kept wearing mask after mask. He had to be careful about this. He could get closer to Matt and become ‘friends’ as he said, but he had to make sure he never crossed the line. Never fully loved him. Because that would just be an endless abyss of heartache. He’d crawled out of one dark abyss when he divorced Oliver, gained his independence and got this job. He didn’t want to fall into another one.

Resolved, he finally met Matt’s gaze again and smiled gently, his heart thumping a beat faster when he saw the look of relief on the Alpha’s face. “I’d like that.”

 

Ren walked down the hall to Jason’s office, his mind spinning with how to approach the topic of working with Matt again. Or talk to Jason at all. Since their tense confession scene last week there’s been an awkward and tense vibe between them. And Ren didn’t like it. Sure he didn’t completely like the guy. He was a lazy douche. But he didn’t like this tension either.

He’d tried to break the ice a few times, but every time he opened his mouth the words wouldn’t spill forth. Mostly because he didn’t know what to say. Usually, talking about work helped. And now he had the perfect excuse. He just...needed to actually talk.

He walked into the room and stopped in the doorway, his eyes trained on the Alpha who, for once, was not lounging in his chair. He was still on his phone, but for the first time in the two and a half months he’d been there, Jason was actually sitting in his seat properly.

Well, here goes nothing. Drawing a deep breath for courage, Ren walked across the room, stopping in front of Jason’s desk. He waited a couple of seconds until Jason looked up, his gaze slowly tracing a line from his phone, across the desk to him.

“You need something?” Jason asked, his tone cautious.

He wasn’t sure what Jason was so nervous about. Ren was the one who told him he didn’t like Alphas, and him by extension. Actually, scratch that. The dude had every right to be anxious. Ren had told him he was a disappointment. After he helped save Ari. Ren winced and Jason’s eyes narrowed.

Clearing his throat, he spoke. “The case your dad gave us that we passed on to Matt. It’s a difficult case and they need our help.”

Jason leaned back in his chair, placing his phone on his desk and clasping his hands together. Ren’s eyes widened at the formal and professional stance in front of him. He didn’t think Jason even knew how to sit like that.

“Tell me about the case.”

“It’s a weapons smuggling ring,” Ren rushed to say, trying to hide and get over his discomfort with Jason’s, once again, unpredictable behaviour. “It looks like the weapons are being manufactured here, or at least sold through Plutus.”

“Who are they sold to?”

Ren swallowed, curling sweat dampened hands. “Tantalus.”

Jason didn’t so much as twitch an eye. Ren waited, wondering what the Alpha was thinking.

“I can see why Matt said it’s a difficult case. There’s a lot of factors. Such as who is making the weapons, how they’re actually being made, and how they’re transported. There’s also the fact that we once again will have to tackle the families involved. And based on the scope of this operation, it has to be people with money. No way people in Icarus or Midas can finance it. There’s also the fact that by selling weapons to Tantalus, they might be helping certain sides. Which is a whole other issue.”

Ren nodded. “The military controls every aspect of the city, but there are some rebel factions. Either side could benefit from new weapons. Based on what I hear.”

“It’s in Plutus, actually all of Dracus’s, best interests if the prison remains intact, with only certain inmates allowed the freedom to work the mines. All major criminals are housed there after all. If the prison falls, then the criminals will be free, and Dracus has to find a new way to hold them and future violent criminals. There’s also the rebels as you mentioned, who hate how Tantalus is treated and want a change. They’re the ones trying to pick fights with the rest of the country. So, the question is, is someone helping the criminals and/or rebels and their cause, or helping reinforce the prison? If it’s the former, we have a Dracus wide issue, not just a Plutus one.”

How could he do it? How did he take such a big political issue, and discuss it in such a detached way? Summarizing years of atrocities and potential cataclysmic consequences in a few sentences? Did he not understand? Did he not get why this was a big deal?

He wanted to scream at Jason to wake up, to understand the situation for what it was. To give a crap for once.

“I’ll do it.”

It took Ren a few seconds to absorb Jason’s answer. And then he could only blink, gaping like an idiot.

“What did you say?”

“I’ll do it,” Jason replied calmly. “It’s a big case, Matt’s going to need all the help he can get. There’s also the other reason.”

“What other reason?”

“It’s your hometown.”

Ren felt his brain explode and almost staggered. He was pretty sure he stopped breathing, certain he’d misheard him.

“What?” he barely whispered, sweat forming on his upper lip.

Jason kept gazing at him, his expression unchanged. “I know you’re from Tantalus. Figured it out a while ago and when I met Ari it confirmed it.”

Ren forced himself to speak past the giant frog he felt take permanent place in his throat. “What...how?”

“Your name. Only Orpheus and Tantalus choose names based on their meaning. It was obvious your parents took one look at you and your coloring and decided a crow would be the perfect name for you. I also teased you about being a crow early on and you didn't deny it. Two, your files are sealed. No one would care if you came from Theus, Heracles or Argo. But everyone would freak if they found out you’re from Tantalus. Given how the rest of the country sees them.”

He should stop him, Ren thought desperately, legs shaking. Deny it all. Tell him it wasn’t true. But he couldn’t, because it was.

“Point three, your training. You said you’d been training for years. I don’t think you’re older than twenty-two, which means you’ve been training since you were a child. Only in Tantalus would they do that. And when I met Ari, and told you that I understood his name means white dove, and you freaked when I tested you, that was it. All the pieces fit.”

Jason stopped, gazing at him and waiting for him to respond. Ren didn’t know what to say, what to think. He felt like he’d been stripped down, flesh and bone, completely exposed. He knew Jason was smart. Knew he was actually good at puzzles, despite what he made people believe. He should have known this could happen. Should have taken measures. He never wanted anyone to know. No one! And yet, here was Jason, and he knew everything. So now what?

“Don’t worry,” Jason said. “I won’t tell anyone. Who would I tell really? You’re the only one I talk to.”

Ren licked his dry lips, realizing his mouth was parched as well. It was true. As much of an ass as Jason was as evidenced by his treatment of Connor last week, he probably wasn’t going to tell anyone. What would he gain by doing that? Maybe some sadistic pleasure in seeing how people reacted and treated Ren. He’d be ostracized, labelled a criminal bastard or something way worse. General Lucas would immediately expel him to avoid any further scandal. He’d made his poor opinion of Tantalus and any relation to the rejected city perfectly clear when they arrested the drug dealers. No way would he allow Ren to stay. And then his mom would lose her chance to get out as well. That couldn’t happen! He wasn’t going to let it happen.

So he did something he rarely, if ever, did. “Please,” he begged, not even bothering to quell the desperation and fear in his voice. “Please don’t tell anyone.”

Jason sighed, as if Ren was just a troublesome child who didn’t know any better. “I already told you I won’t. What would I gain from that? You’re doing a great job with my Eagles. And really, if I wanted to get rid of you this way, I would have done it weeks ago. Back when I still hated you.”

“You don’t hate me?” Ren asked in disbelief.

Jason gazed at him solemnly. “No. Do you hate me?”

Did he? Did he hate this lazy, self-entitled rich brat? The one who began to show that he cared about him, about his dog. Who kept Ren’s secrets for weeks, even though he easily could have used it to get rid of the thorn in his side? The one who showed true potential to be an amazing colonel, if he tried?

“No, I don’t hate you,” Ren finally said. “Not sure why. You’re a jerk who lashes out at others to make yourself feel better.”

Jason chuckled warily. “That’s true. I don’t know why you don’t hate me either. I’m not exactly the nicest person here. And this is Plutus we’re talking about.”

Ren snorted a bit at that and they shared a knowing look.

Grin fading, Jason leaned forward, his tone earnest. “Look, I don’t care about this job. I don’t care about the Blake pride and their standing in society. I don’t care if this case gets solved or not. But this week has not been the best and I don’t like it. I don’t know why, but...I don’t want you to be angry at me.”

That made two of them. Because as much as he told himself Jason was a heartless jerk, the last week hadn’t been easy for him either. All because he missed verbally sparring and trying to coax the Alpha to do something. It was strange and unexpected and he would prefer if he didn’t give a damn about the Alpha. But he kinda did. God knows why.

“I get it. I do.” Ren sighed and massaged his forehead. “So let’s just focus on the case for now. And we’ll just get back to how we used to be. Sounds good?”

Jason smiled, the first genuine smile Ren had seen adorn the Alpha’s sardonic face and he blinked, wondering if it would vanish and turn out to be a figment of his imagination.

“Perfect.”

Ren nodded, wondering what the hell that queasy feeling in his stomach was. Because he didn’t like it. Not one bit.

 

Luke parked his car in front of the ‘Harmony Cafe,’ whistling as he found his usual spot. His usual parking spot, then sit at his usual table in the cafe, then take the usual walk to the food district with Kiryn so they can have dinner. Just like usual. The assurance that today was going to be a happy repeat of yesterday, and the day before, and pretty much the last few weeks filled Luke with a sense of joy and contentment.

Is this how his dad felt when he was dating Luke’s mom? This sense of comfort at knowing you were welcomed, the joy of knowing you were wanted and accepted. It felt...amazing.

He reached his hand out to open the door when a voice stopped him.

“Fancy meeting you here.”

Luke winced at the sound then quickly wiped the expression away and turned to face his recent enemy.

“Hi Tig. Just got off work?”

The Beta nodded as he walked over, hands jammed into his jeans pockets. “Yeah. You?”

Luke nodded and they stood in awkward silence. Well, awkward for Luke since he didn’t know what to do or say. Tig didn’t seem to have that problem, staring at Luke unabashadley.

“Had another exciting day on the base?” Tig asked with mock cheer.

“Same old,” Luke murmured, shifting his feet nervously. Should they just go in? This was going nowhere.

“Let’s head inside,” Tig said, walking past Luke and opening the door. Luke followed him inside, berating himself for not making that decision himself.

It had been this way since he met the entire band last week. Sure, he used to spot Tig every once in awhile when he came in for lunch. But now, Tig was around every lunch and every evening, sitting with Luke and basically making him as uncomfortable as possible. He never said anything directly, was never mean or rude. He just sat there, making small talk, asking simple questions, just letting Luke know he was around. And he didn’t like him.

As soon as they walked in Kiryn turned to them and his face turned thunderous when he caught sight of the two of them together. Again. Luke’s eyes widened a bit when he saw Kiryn march towards them. Looks like the Omega had enough. He shot a quick glance at Tig and saw the expectant look on the Beta’s face.

Without thinking, he made a snap decision and walked forward, meeting Kiryn halfway.

“It’s OK,” he whispered, hoping they were far enough from Tig to be out of earshot.

“It’s not OK,” Kiryn replied, not shouting but not bothering to keep his voice down either. “He’s being such a pain in the ass. And I’m gonna tell him!” He tried to move past Luke but he stepped in front of him, arms up to try and calm the riled Omega.

“He’s just worried about who you’re dating. It’s fine. I’m fine with it.”

Kiryn raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “You’re fine with him sitting there, being a nuisance, and making you feel uncomfortable?”

“Well, no. But he’s your friend. He’s looking out for you. I’m going to take it as a compliment that he wants to get to know me. A strange and unwanted compliment but still.”

Kiryn blinked. “Are you making a joke right now?”

Luke smiled warily. “Maybe. Look, all I know is, Tig is one of your closest friends. And I don’t want you guys getting in a fight or something because of me. I’ll handle it.”

Kiryn stared at him for several moments. “You’ll handle it,” he said slowly.

Luke didn’t blame him for looking so skeptical. He didn’t even know what he was saying and if he could actually ‘handle’ the hovering Beta, or what ‘handling’ would even entail. But he was determined to make his relationship with Kiryn work and starting a fight between him and his best friend was not the way to keep the relationship going. Even he knew that much.

So he nodded confidently. “Yes,” he said, proud of how strong his voice sounded. “Yes, I can handle it.”

Kiryn still didn’t look convinced so Luke pointed at the main staging area Kiryn set up. “You just go get ready. You’re supposed to start soon.”

“Call me if you need help.” Kiryn turned and walked away, casting uncertain glances over his shoulder.

With a sigh, Luke turned and faced Tig, who stood with his arms crossed, expression blank. He smiled. “Should we go sit?”

Without a word, Tig walked over to Luke’s regular spot and sat down. They spent the next few minutes in silence, which suited Luke well since he could focus on Kiryn’s singing. He didn’t think he’d ever get bored of his voice.

“You’re gutsier than I thought,” Tig finally said while Kiryn took a break to talk to a few people before he started on his next song.

“What do you mean?”

“The way you stood up to Kiryn just now. I figured you were just a wuss who Kiryn had wrapped around his finger, eager to please him and do whatever he wanted.”

It wasn’t a very flattering picture, but he had to admit, it was kinda accurate. “Well, I do want Kiryn to be happy.”

Tig finally turned to look at him, his gaze thoughtful. “Yeah, which is part of my issue with you. Kiryn is like a loose canon sometimes. He acts without thinking. Sometimes he needs someone to reign him in, to calm the waters.”

Luke frowned, unhappy with that image as well. “I’m not looking to chain him or constrain him. Sure, Kiryn is impulsive, but he doesn’t hurt people.”

Tig snorted. “You sure about that? He never said or did anything to make you squirm?”

Luke recalled how Kiryn tricked him into eating a spicy wrap the other night, laughing uproaresly when Luke gasped and sputtered, his face red and sweaty. He grinned ruefully. “Sure, he likes to pull pranks and mess with people. But he doesn’t mean any harm. There’s a line he won’t cross, and as long as he stays within that line, then I don’t see what the problem is.”

Tig’s jaw dropped slightly. “You’re way too nice. You sure you want to date Kiryn? That guy’s gonna eat you alive.”

Luke blushed, knowing that Tig was partly right. “Maybe. But I like him. He’s...not like anyone I’ve ever met. And I really want to try being with him.”

“Well, you’re not like anyone he’s ever met either,” Tig murmured. “Most of those guys were drawn to Kiryn’s free spirit, same as you. But eventually, they got tired or annoyed and left.” He frowned and his eyes narrowed, boring into Luke’s. “Kiryn is my best friend, but even I know he’s a handful. Are you sure you can handle him? Because he’s starting to really like you. I can tell. If you’re going to just bail when you get bored, then it’s best if you do it now.”

He wanted to just say yes, to everything. But he knew Tig was being honest with him, and he deserved an honest and well thought out answer. So he thought about it. Did he like Kiryn? Yes. Did he dislike when Kiryn pranked him or made him uncomfortable? Sometimes, but usually Kiryn figured out quickly when to stop and made it up to him. So it didn’t bother him overly much. Was he planning on being with him long term? Well, based on his grandfather’s orders, the fact that Gareth was going to replace him in a month and a half and Luke’s lack of success in the military here, it didn’t look like he was going anywhere. And if he did end up needing to go back to Plutus..well, he’d deal with that later.

“Yes,” Luke said firmly. “I want to be with him.”

Tig gazed at him for a few more minutes then turned back to the front of the room, just as Kiryn started his next song. “You’re a brave man.”

Luke chuckled. “Maybe. But it’s pretty fun.”

Tig shot him a disbelieving look which made Luke laugh out loud.

“You’re pretty strange yourself,” Tig stated.

“Probably,” Luke agreed. “But you’re strange too. I’ve never seen a Beta like you before.”

Tig looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“Well, back home, Betas are pretty quiet and reserved. Not as much as me. Even by Beta standards I’m pretty awkward and shy. But they’re definitely not as strong as you. You’re more like an Alpha. By our standards.”

“Huh. Sounds like an oppressive place.”

Luke thought about the criticism his dad got, from family and acquaintances about his marriage. Some weren’t even subtle. The harsh comments Uncle Quinton threw out about how his dad lacked a spine and was a disappointing Alpha. The times he’d overheard his grandfather urging or screaming at Nathan to toughen up, to show people what a Blake Alpha could do. And how nervous and twitchy Nathan was afterwards. How downcast and hopeless he seemed.

Not for the first time, he felt anger unfurl within him at what his father had gone through. Was still going through. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. His father was a good man. He was caring, and kind, and always tried to do the right thing. Which is why he pressured Luke so much. Because he didn’t want him to go through what he did. So he could be accepted by everyone, as a strong and confident Beta. Even though he wasn’t.

“Yeah, it’s not the best place to live,” Luke murmured.

“Then it’s a good thing you’re here,” Tig continued, oblivious of Luke’s rising anger. “Here, anyone can be who they want. I can act like an Alpha as you say, Kiryn can be as easy going as he wants, and Jaz can be kind and warm. I’m guessing they can’t be that way in every city in Dracus.”

Luke tried to imagine Kiryn, the free spirited and happy go lucky Kiryn he was falling for, living in Plutus. Expected to adhere to his gender role. He would be expected to remain quiet, poised, constrained. Only speak when he is spoken to or has to. His music would be considered a hobby, and even then, he’d only be allowed to play formal, high brow music. It would kill him. Just like it was killing Luke.

“No,” Luke whispered, his eyes widening as he realized the decision that was slowly coming to him. “No, he can’t.” And for the first time since he arrived almost three months ago, he started to actually imagine what it would be like if he lived in Orpheus. Forever. And was surprised by how much he wanted it.

He shifted his gaze up from the table top to Kiryn, watching his lover sing, his fingers flying across the cords. He caught Luke’s eye and winked at him, causing his heart to skip a beat. Here, there was Kiryn. Here there was freedom to be himself. To do what he wanted. No Blake family pressure, no expectations, no one telling him he wasn’t good enough.

He was staying, Luke decided, sitting straighter and smiling widely back at Kiryn who also grinned. He was staying, and no one was going to tell him no.

End of Part 1

Chapter Text

Two weeks later

Matt finished typing the last line on his report, hit save and looked up at Connor who was sitting across from him at the conference table in his office. The Omega was hard at work, his eyes focused on his screen while his fingers flew across the keyboard.

Without moving a muscle, Matt continued watching him. If he moved Connor would know he was finished and feel even more pressured to complete his part of the report faster. Since their honest conversation two weeks ago, Connor had become more relaxed around him. Which allowed Matt to understand the Omega even more, gaining new insights into the so far closed off secretary. Which is how he realized just how much pressure Connor put himself under. He not only wanted to do his best, but didn’t understand what his best was. What other people would consider good enough. Considering this was his first ‘real’ job, Matt understood that. Having no one to really work with before, Connor had no one to compare himself to. Matt was tempted to show him the reports other secretaries write to prove to him how superior his in-depth notes were. But he didn’t think it would help much. The guy was a perfectionist and harsh with himself.

Something else he realized is how eager Connor was to impress Matt. He valued Matt’s opinion and respected him, not just as his superior, but as a person. And that humbled Matt. He’d had other people openly admire him before. He was good looking by Plutus standards with his height, blonde hair and blue eyes. He was charming and nice and people were naturally drawn to him. All his life, Luke had looked up to him as a hero and as a surrogate older brother. But none of that came close to how Connor’s admiration of him made him feel. Because it wasn’t based on his looks and status as an Alpha Blake, or his role as a supportive relative, but because of who he was. Matthew Blake.

Connor didn’t say it, but Matt could tell based on the little hints he dropped here and there. Like the other day. They were going through the research they compiled that day and Connor casually said, “You understand the difficult situation Tantalus is in in this case pretty well. No surprise, you always try your best to empathize with people.”

Matt had been so shocked by the unexpected compliment he didn’t know how to react. Apparently, Connor didn’t realize what he’d said and continued speaking about the case. Or he did and decided to blow past it. But Matt couldn’t. He didn’t want to. Because he felt…good. He liked that Connor thought well of him. He’d obviously been through a lot and his divorce probably wasn’t easy to deal with. It was obvious he had trust issues. And based on his texts from Devon which detailed how much time he and Connor spent together, Connor didn’t seem to have any friends besides some of the parents at Devon’s school. And yet, he admired Matt. There was something humbling and flattering about that.

“Done,” Connor announced, hitting save and looking up at him.

Matt gave himself a mental shake and smiled. “Good. Jason and Ren will be here any minute.”

“I’ll get the computer setup.” Connor said. He switched on the large flat screen TV mounted on the wall at the end of the conference table. He hit some buttons on his keyboard so it would wirelessly connect to the television and a few clicks their his blank computer screen appeared on the TV. Just in time as there was a knock on the door and Ren and Jason walked in.

“I just sent you the files,” Ren said as he sat down on Matt’s left. Quietly, Jason sat next to his lead Eagle and it took all of Matt’s effort not to stare at his cousin. Here was someone else who had suddenly changed on him. And Matt didn’t know what to do about it. He didn’t know what happened after his confrontation with Connor, but Jason was like a completely different person. He barely spoke anymore. He avoided looking at Connor and seemed to be in the office all day instead of the four hours he forced himself to complete before. He asked Ren about it last week but all he got was a vague response and it became clear to him that Ren didn’t want to share what happened.

Whatever the reason, Jason was working hard on their case, letting Ren do most of the talking and adding his two cents in when needed. Which worked for everyone just fine.

“Let’s get started,” Matt said, leaning forward as Connor pulled up their combined list onto the screen and slid his laptop towards him. “We went through our half of the list, analyzed all the families in Plutus who may have a stake or are able to play a part in this weapon trafficking ring. And we came up with these names.” He nodded towards the screen, and sat quietly while Ren and Jason silently read the list.

“That’s a long list,” Ren finally said. “I’m sad to say, ours is just as long.”

Connor hit a couple of buttons and pulled up Jason and Ren’s list, placing it next to theirs. All four looked in silence.

“Forty families,” Jason murmured. “This is gonna take a while.”

“No surprise,” Matt said. “We had nothing to work with, no initial list or way to narrow it down. It took us two weeks just to decide through business ventures and geographical locations who might make the initial suspect list. We don’t even know how many families are actually involved or anything, or if the real culprits are actually on this list.”

“Did you say anything to anyone?” Ren asked.

Matt knew what Ren was hinting at and shook his head. “I didn’t tell General Lucas or my dad. This is a sensitive case and we need to keep it contained. We can’t risk any of these families knowing we’re looking into them. Everyone’s still spooked by our drug case. All it would take is one look from Grandfather or a slip of the tongue about us working a Tantalus related case for the families to go on high alert. The less people we involve the better.”

Ren nodded. “Good. For my part, I lied and told Lieutenant General Quinton that we’re passing on the case. I claimed it’s too difficult and will actually stall and hurt Jason’s reputation more. I made up an embezzlement case and told him you two are working together again. Connor and I will make up random reports every once and a while that you can show General Lucas.”

Matt and Connor nodded while Jason kept staring at the screen. Ren leaned forward, his authority as an expert clear and accepted by everyone.

“Now that we have the preliminary list, we can start investigating so we can narrow it down. I suggest we look into the bank transactions first. See if any of the families are making more money than they should. Any strange transactions,” Ren said.

“There’s no guarantee the families are recording everything through their banks. They could have offshore accounts or just keep everything in cash in their safes or something,” Connor stated.

“Exactly. So we start with the legit bank accounts, and start hacking into the computer systems, both their business and home ones. After that, we start having the Eagles actually go into the homes and search them, from top to bottom.”

Matt listened, his heart sinking with each word Ren uttered. He knew this case was going to be difficult, but this was more than he ever imagined. The hours they’d spend on this, the risks they were taking. They’d have to get the tech investigators involved since they’d have to hack into various servers and networks, something Connor and Matt knew very little about. So much for trying to keep it contained.

“I know some reliable hackers we can use,” Ren suddenly said.

Matt and Connor stared in shock while Jason’s face remained impassive. They must have already discussed this.

“Who are they?” Matt asked.

‘Some people I know,” Ren replied vaguely.

Matt frowned, not liking the answer. “Are they…trustworthy and legitimate?”

Ren turned and stared at him, his expression somber. “Yes, they are. They’re not criminals or anything. They just…work on a different base. But I guarantee they’re more trustworthy and can keep their mouths shut than the people here. And that’s what we need. I’ll do it as well. I have ways of accessing hidden material without getting caught. I’d do it myself but it would take me months. I need at least one or two more people to help.”

He should say no. There was no guarantee these people were legitimate, despite Ren’s assurances. Sure they were allowed to break into people’s private lives due to their military status, but they still had to go through the proper channels. There had to be approvals by the Panthers, the soldiers had to be trained Eagles. If they collected information through a third party, could they even use the evidence in court?

“The evidence won’t be thrown out,” Jason suddenly said. “We can trust these people.”

Matt looked at his cousin, noting the serious expression on his face, the first time he’d ever seen it when it came to work, and finally nodded. “OK. I’ll trust you guys. We’ll handle the legitimate bank statements and you guys take care of the …less legal and obvious ones.”

They spoke for a few more minutes to finalize their plans then Ren and Jason left. As soon as the door closed behind them Matt sighed and leaned back in his chair.

“I hope we’re doing the right thing.”

“Me too,” Connor said softly. “I trust Ren and I know he wouldn’t risk our investigation. But I’m also pretty nervous.”

Matt looked at his secretary who finally looked up and met his gaze. They stared at each other for a few moments until Connor looked away, disconnecting his laptop from the TV.

“How’s Devon?” Matt asked, eager to reestablish their connection after that awkward moment.

Connor smiled, the same way he always did when he spoke about his son. Another thing Matt was excited about. Over the last two weeks, Connor had started sharing tidbits about Devon and Matt felt it was OK to ask about him. A major leap for both of them. “He’s fine. He has a presentation for Show and Tell next week.”

Matt chuckled. “Kids still do that huh? Well, I guess it is fun. For the kids I mean.”

Connor suddenly blushed and Matt tensed, fighting the urge to demand Connor tell him what made him look like that.

“He..asked me if he can present me,” Connor said slowly.

Matt’s eyes widened and he practically leaped forward and banged his thighs against the bottom of the table but ignored the throbbing in his muscles. Connor spun and his eyes widened at the sound and the crazed expression that was probably on Matt’s face. “That’s great Connor! You’re going to say yes right?’

Connor looked away, his concern replaced with a frown and Matt’s heart sank and he could feel that now familiar anger unfurling inside him again. He knew what Connor was going to say before he said it, so he decided to cut him off, and fast.

“Don’t you dare say you’re worried Devon will be shamed by his classmates for having a single working mother,” Matt bit out and Connor’s jaw dropped as he stared at him. “I can figure out a bit of how you think now and I know how much you want to go.” His expression softened. “And I know how much Devon loves you and would want you to be there. So do it.”

Connor remained silent and Matt wondered if he needed to say more to convince him. Suddenly, Connor nodded.

“I think you’re right. Devon loves my job and probably wants to brag about it to his friends. So far, Oliver has done most school related presentations. He did Career Day a few months back. It would be nice to do something for a change. And besides,” Connor grinned ruefully but there was a sparkle in his eye that made Matt’s heart thump for a second. “Everyone already knows who I am and that I’m divorced. Can’t make it any worse.”

Matt wanted to leap out of his chair, hug Connor and squeeze him tight for being so brave. So he curled his hands into fists and placed them in his lap instead. He didn’t know what he was excited about more. The fact that Connor took his advice or that Connor was stepping out of his shell. Both were awesome reasons for Matt to do a happy dance. But he knew it would make Connor feel uncomfortable so he decided a change of topic was necessary so he could calm down.

“We should get started on our research. How do you want to divide the list?”

Connor pulled his chair closer to him, pointing out various names on the list while Matt nodded, wondering when his heart would stop thumping so loudly.

 

Jason sat next to Ren as he connected his phone to the signal scrambling device he pulled out of his bag. Suddenly, Ren froze and turned to look at him.

“You sure you want me to do this?” Ren asked. “There’s no going back once I make the call.”

Jason licked his lips, feeling a twinge of nerves and squashed it. “I’m sure. You said you trust them. And you’re using a secure line and no one can trace it. If this case does get as big as we think it will, we’ll need their help anyway. Might as well get it over with now.”

“You know any evidence they find might be dismissed though by Tantalus,” Ren repeated for the hundredth time since he came up with this plan. “You understand that?”

Jason suppressed a growl of frustration. This was Ren’s plan so why the hell was the guy being all hesitant all of a sudden? And since he’d been trying his best to be supportive and less of a ‘lazy douche’ as Ren put it, he had to speak logically and calmly when all he really wanted to do was tell Ren to stop being such a wuss and make the call.

He drew in a deep breath for patience and pasted his best understanding smile on his face, baring his teeth. “I understand. And I think we agreed the merit outweighs the risks. Who knows, by the time we have to present our sources the relationship with the Tantalus authorities might be different and it can be used to build stronger relations with the rest of the country.”

Ren blinked and continued staring at him. Jason waited for him to say something, his patience running out.

Finally Ren looked away and began to punch some buttons on his phone. “Fine, up to you. You’re the Panther anyway,” he mumbled.

Jason wanted to scream. What was the guy’s problem? Didn’t he realize how much Jason had been holding back the last couple of weeks? How much effort it took for him to suppress his natural sarcastic comments. Being nice wasn’t easy. And Ren wasn’t making it any easier. It was like the guy was purposely trying to rile him up. Jason was finally about to yell at him when the Beta started speaking into his phone.

“Hi Kale, it’s me. Yeah I’m fine. All good here. Listen, I need your help. It’s a stealth mission and you need to keep it hidden from everyone. Yeah even the general. No one can know about this. You in?” Ren grinned. “Figured. So here’s what I need you to do. There’s a group of people in Plutus smuggling weapons into Tantalus. Yeah I know, you’d think it’s the other way around. Anyway, we need to figure out how it’s being done. We’re gonna take care of our end, but I need you to figure out who is receiving the weapons in Tantalus. It could be anyone.”

Ren paused to listen and Jason strained his ears even though he knew he wouldn’t be able to hear anything. He suppressed a growl, fighting the urge to just step into the conversation. He didn’t know why. Probably didn’t like feeling left out. Which was stupid. He didn’t care about that. He liked being left out of things. Until now.

“Great. I’ll be in touch. It’s best if you don’t contact me. I’ll call every three days for an update.” Ren’s expression changed and his tone became more low pitched. “Be careful Kale. We don’t know who's getting the weapons and if they find you-. Good. Don’t want to lose my sparring buddy.” With a final smile Ren hung up and turned to look up at Jason. “We’re all set. Kale is gonna try and find out who is receiving the weapons.”

“And the hackers you promised Matt?”

Ren picked up the phone and began to dial another number. “On it. Just wanted to make sure Kale was on board. Especially since I’m keeping him secret from Matt until we find something.”

“Yeah, why did you do that? I mean, I get you don’t want him figuring out where you’re from, but there could have been ways around it.”

Ren paused before he hit the call button and looked at Jason. “I don’t know. Partly because I don’t want to drop anymore clues and have someone else figure out I’m from Tantalus. Partly...it’s risky. Kale is putting his life on the line here. It’s enough that I even told you. I trust Connor and Matt, but I’d really rather just keep this a secret.”

Jason felt his heart race at what Ren just said. He trusted him. Jason. More than he trusted Matt. No one had ever compared him to his cousin, and found his cousin lacking before. His hands shook slightly and he was shocked to realize just how much of an impact Ren’s words had on him. He curled his fingers and gazed down at Ren, projecting a calm demeanour while Ren waited for his call to connect.

“Hi Priya? It’s me. I’m good. Staying busy. Listen I need your help. It’s risky and needs to be completely confidential. You in?” Ren chuckled. “OK, OK, sorry I asked. Just needed to check. You Alphas are just so testy.” Jason listened while Ren briefly explained the case to her, asking her to hack into any and all Plutus offshore accounts she could find. “It will take a while, so I’ll do half and you do half. I know you have your own cases. But I appreciate any time and help you can give us.” Ren rolled his eyes. “No, I’m not belittling your computer expertise and skills. You are the goddess of technology. That’s why I’m asking you. Pardon me for trying to be nice.” He suddenly laughed and Jason felt...something. It wasn’t a good feeling and he refused to think for even a second that he was jealous that someone made Ren laugh. “Yeah, looks like Plutus is making me softer. I’ll call you every couple of days to check in.” Ren wrapped up the call and hung up.

“What did she say?” Jason asked, trying to appear as casual as possible. He even crossed his arms, then crossed one leg in front of the other. See, no big deal.

“She’s on it,” Ren replied looking at him. “She’ll give us the first set in a couple of days.”

Jason whistled. “That’s fast. She sure she can do that much so quickly?”

Ren smirked. “You saw what just happened. I just say ‘Yes ma’am’ and hope she doesn’t bite my head off.”

Jason tapped his foot, then stopped. “Your friends seem...interesting.”

“They are. I’ve known them for years.”

Jason waited for Ren to continue but the Beta just turned around in his seat. “I need to meet the Eagles in a bit to train. What are you going to do?”

Jason held back a growl of frustration. Ren was running away, again. Any time he tried to learn anything about the Beta he quickly and deftly changed the subject. It wasn’t like he was asking to learn every single detail of his life. Just a bit. He was his boss after all. It was weird if he didn’t know anything. But if he pressed him then he might drive Ren off. He needed to be smooth about this. A change in tactics was in order.

“I’m going to start on the bank accounts. Help Matt and Connor out.”

Ren nodded absently. “Sounds good. They’ll probably appreciate the help.”

That wasn’t what he wanted to hear. He didn’t know what he wanted to hear but that wasn’t it.

“Or maybe I’ll join you with the Eagle training. Get to know them a bit better.”

Ren nodded again. “Sounds good.” He kept typing on his computer. What the hell was he even typing about? Jason longed to just scream at him, do something to get some kind of reaction. The last couple of weeks have been torture. He was on his best behaviour at all times. Which was frickin exhausting. Plus, Ren was so busy with the case and trying to help Ari get back on his feet he hadn’t been coming to Jason’s gym or their evening runs. He’d thought of going alone but he felt like a loser. So he just ran on his treadmill, releasing all his frustration. And the Beta didn’t even know! He just sat there, typing away, pretending not to notice, because he’d have to be blind not notice how tense Jason had been lately. And the guy wasn’t stupid. He was just-

“Ahhh why are you being such a pain!” Jason screamed.

Ren calmly turned to look at him. “Excuse me?”

“You!” Jason yelled, pointing his finger in Ren’s face and not even caring how crazy he looked. “Here I am, busting my ass to be all nice and proper and nothing from you. Zilch. Nada. At least acknowledge it would you? What’s the point of me being all helpful and crap if you’re not even going to say anything about it.”

Suddenly, Ren grinned, a sly grin. Which was the first sign that Jason had stepped into something without realizing it. Again.

“Ah, you finally cracked huh?” The Beta chuckled while Jason’s chest heaved after screaming so much and he blinked in confusion.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been walking on eggshells around me for two weeks,” Ren said in exasperation. “I have to say, it was getting annoying.”

Jason’s jaw dropped and it took him a few seconds to form any thoughts at all. “But….you told me to be nicer.”

“I told you to stop being a dick to people,” Ren said pointedly. “I didn’t tell you to get a personality change. There’s a big difference between being reasonable and working, and just turning into a simpering yes man.”

That wasn’t a very flattering picture and Jason frowned. “I’m not simpering.”

Ren smirked. “Then what do you call what you just did, telling me you’ll work with Matt or the Eagles. You were trying to show me that you’re being helpful. And want me to say something about it.”

Jason hated that pathetic picture even more and despised himself for not having a counter argument. Because it was true. He’d been desperate for some positive words from Ren. He didn’t know why. Probably because he said Jason had potential, then called him a disappointment during their argument weeks ago.

Ren’s expression softened. “Look, I’m glad you’re turning over a new leaf. You’re smart, intuitive, great at solving and picking up on clues. If you worked hard you might be an ever better Eagle than Matt.”

Jason's jaw dropped again. He couldn’t help it. He’d been struggling to get a single compliment from Ren for two weeks. And he’d just received a mountain of compliments and he didn’t know what to do. He felt like there was a lump in his throat and couldn’t even find the energy to swallow. He was scared to ruin the moment. Because this had to be a dream.

“I don’t mean that you’re a great person,” Ren said and it was like he dumped a bit of cold water on him. Not a bucket. But a bit. “You’re still a work in progress. But you’re trying, and that’s great. But that also doesn’t mean you have to change everything about yourself. I’m used to you being sarcastic and honest and blunt. I’m like that myself so it works out well. It’s weird for me if you’re being all up tight, because then I can’t be myself. It’s not fun throwing out sarcastic barbs at you if I get nothing back.”

He shifted through Ren’s speech, trying to figure out what the Beta actually wanted from him. After a minute of thinking he said, “So, you want me to be a better person, but you don’t want me to completely stop being an ass.”

Ren tilted his head in thought. “Sort of. Yeah I guess.”

He stared at Ren for a few more seconds then shook his head. “You’re weird and you make absolutely no sense.”

Ren laughed and Jason froze, certain he’d done something wrong. No way was Ren actually laughing about something Jason said!

The Beta smiled at him. “See. Just like that. Now didn’t that feel good?”

Jason thought about it then smiled back. “Yeah it did. I feel better.”

Ren chuckled. “Great. Glad to hear it. Because I don’t like the idea of working for a guy who has a stick up his butt. It’s kinda a pain.”

“You’re a pain,” Jason shot back.

“Maybe you need better quips. That sounded like something a seven year-old would say. But then again, most of your sentences do sound like that.” Ren eyes widened and Jason braced himself for whatever demeaning comment the Beta would throw at him next. “Hey! Why don’t I get you a vocabulary book! A pretty and simple one with helpful pictures. A nice present from me to you in an effort to help you during this big transition in your life.”

Jason bared his teeth and crossed his arms. “While I appreciate your unflinching effort to aid me during this convoluted and transitional period of my life, I must wholeheartedly decline your humble and earnest overture of support. I would also advise you to find a contortionist to assist you in sticking your male member into your tight and superlicious backside.”

Ren broke. He flopped back in his chair, clutching his stomach and doubled over with laughter. Jason was surprised when he saw tears on his face and stared in open amazement at his lead Eagle, breaking out into fits of laughter. It took a few moments for Ren to finally calm down, his chest heaving and wiping tears of mirth from his eyes.

“Oh, that was epic. Very nicely said. I don’t think anyone has ever so eloquently told me to go screw myself.” He chuckled a bit more and Jason shrugged.

“Well, you asked for it,” Jason mumbled.

Ren grinned. “Sure did.” He stood up suddenly, clapping Jason on the shoulder. “Come on, I could use your help with the training today. We’re focusing on stealth, and you can help make some noises from the observation room. You’d like that.”

Jason smirked. “Can I make weird and funny sounds go off here and there?”

“Sure, gotta keep those Eagles on their toes.”

Grinning, the two walked out, Jason feeling lighter for the first time in two weeks. And he refused to think about why that was.

 

 

Luke finished reading the document Drew placed on his desk, tallying up the number of equipment that needed to go through a maintenance check and how many would be left in case of an emergency. He almost smiled at the thought of an Orpheus emergency but covered it well by placing his hand over his mouth, appearing deep in thought.

“Looks good Drew,” Luke said, smiling encouragingly at his lead Sparrow.

Drew grinned back and placed the papers back in his folder. “Thanks. The maintenance should only take about a week.”

In Plutus they expected their weapons to be back within twenty-four hours. Yet another reason he was starting to enjoy the slower paced lifestyle here.

“Great. I’m sure the reserve weapons will serve us just fine.”

Luke waited for Drew to leave, but the other Beta simply stood there, smiling at him.

“Did you need something?” Luke asked.

“Just..noticed that you’ve seemed better lately. Happier. Like you’re finally settling in,” Drew explained.

Luke didn’t even need to think before he answered. “I am,” he said firmly.

Drew opened his mouth and Luke thought he was going to ask him for the reason he was so cheerful lately. He didn’t know how to answer if Drew did ask. He wanted to brag about Kiryn, but he also still valued his privacy. He wasn’t sure if he was laid back enough to actually open up about his personal life to his employees yet.

“I’m glad. You didn’t seem too happy when you first got here,” Drew said instead and Luke felt his indecision fly out the window. “We were worried since life here really is different. But I’m glad you’re OK now.”

Luke nodded, “Thanks Drew. And thank you, for being so patient with me while I ..adjusted.”

Drew smiled widely and saluted him a bit too dramatically. “No problem boss.” With a wink, he walked out. Luke caught sight of Patricia smiling at him as he followed Drew out the door with his eyes and smiled back at her before quickly looking away.

While he had begun to embrace his new life, having Patricia in his personal space was still taking some getting used to. For the most part, he tried to ignore her, pretend he was alone while he texted Kiryn or Matt or read through Drew’s reports. But she made her presence felt at least every hour by asking him questions, giving him documents to look at or just talking to him about something random. Luke didn’t know if he’d ever get used to having her in his office and knew he had to figure out a solution since he’d decided to stay here. Permanently.

Luke looked at his watch and fet his heart swell the same way it always did when he thought about Kiryn. Just a couple more hours, then he can go see him. They were supposed to go on a picnic tonight. Luke never went on a picnic before, much less an evening one. But Kiryn said it was the best thing ever and Luke believed him. He decided it would be easier that way. He also asked Kiryn exactly what he should bring, to make sure he didn’t mess this up. He’d spent a good forty minutes this morning picking the best salad and juices at the supermarket before he came to work. He wanted everything to be perfect.

Two hours later, he picked up an excited Kiryn in front of his apartment, unable to hold back the grin that spread across his face as the Omega got in his car. Kiryn barely plopped into the seat before he swooped in, landing a firm kiss on Luke’s lips.

“Hi,” Kiryn murmured when he leaned back, keeping his face a few centimeters from Luke’s.

“Hi,” Luke replied, proud that he didn’t stammer. He and Kiryn had gotten into the habit of kissing each other hello and goodbye, but he still wasn’t used to it. He still couldn’t believe he was dating such a carefree and amazing person, much less kissing him every chance he got.

“Ready to go?” Kiryn asked.

“Yup. As soon as you put on your seatbelt.”

Kiryn rolled his eyes, but began to buckle up. “Goody two shoes, law abiding worry wart.”

Hearing such words from anyone else would make Luke deflate and strike at his confidence. But coming from Kiryn, he knew it was all said with affection and made him feel warm inside. He liked when Kiryn teased him about qualities other people usually criticised him for. Because he knew Kiryn liked those qualities about him. He flat out told him so several times, telling him how much fun he was to tease and how he was an easy target. But he’d never get tired of hearing it and the teasing way Kiryn looked at him.

“So where are we going?” Luke asked as he pulled onto the road.

“Just keep going straight. I’ll guide you.”

Half an hour later, they left the main city and entered the woodland area that surrounded the city of Orpheus.

“Follow that path,” Kiryn said, pointing at one of the side roads.

Luke turned right, surprised by how organized and smooth the path was. Looks like it was a designated area for people to come on hikes and go camping. Ten minutes later, Luke pulled into the deserted parking lot and stopped the car.

“We’ll just walk in a bit further. It’s nicer the deeper you go,” Kiryn explained as he took out the cooler of food he’d brought.

Luke reached a hand out to take the cooler but Kiryn pulled it back.

“I can carry my own stuff,” the Omega said, staring at him pointedly.

Luke panicked for a second, thinking he’d offended his independent boyfriend. Then he took a deep breath and spoke. “I know. Just wanted to help. You have your guitar as well. If you want, you can carry that, and I’ll carry the food.”

Kiryn thought about it for a second, then nodded. “Fair enough.” He handed Luke the cooler and pulled out the paper bag Luke brought and handed it to him. Then he reached back into the trunk and pulled out a blanket Luke hadn’t seen him put in there. “Now we’re even.” Kiryn laughed as he walked away and Luke grinned.

They’d barely walked five minutes before Kiryn stopped, dropping the blanket on the ground. “We should stop here. Don’t want to go in too deep. There are wild animals further in.”

Luke’s eyes widened and he was rooted to the spot while Kiryn placed his guitar gently against a tree and began to set things up. “Wid animals?” he asked in a whisper.

Kiryn looked at him and seemed to finally realize he’d actually scared him. “Yeah, but don’t worry. They don’t come into this area. There are machines placed around the perimeter to keep them out. They release a strong scent so they all stay away. We’ve never had problems with them before.”

Luke couldn't move and Kiryn took pity on him, placing a hand gently on his arm. “It’s fine. Trust me.”

And he did trust him. And he did want to embrace his new life and stop being such a worrywart. So he took a deep breath and nodded, letting Kiryn guide him until they were both sitting on the blanket. He felt himself relax as they ate, talking about how people reacted to the band’s first attempt at a ballad.

“The response was just so great,” Kiryn said for the hundredth time.

For the hundredth time, Luke smiled, “I know. I was blown away too. I knew you guys would be good.”

Kiryn grinned sheepishly as they repacked the used packages of food in the cooler. “You’re sweet, saying that over and over again. I know I keep repeating myself. I’m just really happy.”

“It’s fine,” Luke assured him. “I like talking about your music. And I like seeing you so excited.”

Kiryn blushed and Luke’s heart raced. He’d done that. He’d made the Omega blush. Awkward, antisocial, barely dated Luke. And it made him feel like he was ten feet tall. Riding on the wave of his swollen confidence, Luke leaned forward, kissing Kiryn deeply and moaning when he swept his tongue into his lover’s mouth. He felt Kiryn’s arms come around his neck and wrapped his around the Omega’s narrow waist. He wanted to keep going. The realization shocked him so much he whipped his head back.

Kiryn blinked himself out of his daze and smiled. “You’re getting pretty good at that.”

Luke grinned weakly, trying to hide his growing erection. He’d never gotten so turned on before and didn’t want Kiryn to know. He’d sworn that he wouldn’t push Kiryn for sex. Getting a hardon seconds into a kiss was not a good sign of him keeping his promise. He needed to calm down. And change the subject. “Why did you want to come here?” he asked desperately in a too bright voice.

Without a word, Kiryn grasped his hand and pulled him down. Luke’s heart raced and he could feel his erection increasing as he lay down next to Kiryn, staring into his green eyes. Slowly, Kiryn turned onto his back and stared at the sky. “Look.”

Slowly, Luke turned over as well and turned his gaze to the sky. What he saw made his jaw slacken in shock. Stars. Hundreds of them.

“It’s...beautiful.”

Kiryn chuckled, his body vibrating next to his. “I know. I love coming here. I can usually see the stars in the park when I play, but it’s nothing like this.”

Luke wanted to agree but was still mesmerized by the sight in front of him. In Plutus, the sky was full of skyscrapers. Everyone was busy, bustling from place to place. There were small parks scattered here and there for children to play, but they were mostly expected to stay indoors. Which is why Luke and Matt only went on brief day trips to Midas to hike and fish. And that only happened twice. They’d had to sneak out because their family wouldn’t have allowed them to leave the main city. And the second time they had gotten caught. It was his fault. He’d left some rocks he picked up in his pants pocket and the maid, not knowing what they were, left them on the living room table. It didn’t take his parents long to notice them and ask him about it. He’d been so freaked out he’d told them the truth. And that was the end of their woodland excursions. All of this added up to Luke never actually seeing stars properly his whole life. Until now.

He swallowed and realized he was close to tears as he stared at the hundreds of blinking white lights above him. How had he never seen the night sky clearly in his twenty-three years? How had he lived this long, and never even looked at the sky? Never noticed how beautiful the stars were?

“Pretty breathtaking right?” Kiryn asked, oblivious of the inner turmoil raging inside Luke.

Desperate to hold onto the moment, Luke grabbed Kiryn’s hand and squeezed it. “Thank you. For bringing me here,” he choked out.

Kiryn looked at him then stared back at the sky. “We should come here more often.”

Luke nodded, eyes frozen on the stars, vowing that his life in Orpheus would be different than his life in Plutus. It would be better. Richer. He was done holding himself back and letting his family and society tell him who he had to be and what he had to do. He was going to live his life differently. Starting with watching the stars with Kiryn every chance he got.

Chapter Text

Ren smirked as he broke through yet another firewall. “Come to me, you mysterious creature.”

“You’re weird you know that? You’re acting like a perv,” Jason stated in mild disgust across the conference table from him.

“Well, hacking through computer systems is a sort of seduction,” Ren replied, his eyes glued to the screen and he licked his lips in anticipation. “The way you navigate, try and find the hidden buttons and codes that let you in, just like how you caress someone, find their good spots and make them moan.”

Silence greeted him and Ren flicked his eyes briefly upwards, stifling a chuckle at Jason’s horrified expression. He felt Jason turn his attention back to his computer, navigating through the legitimate bank statements.

Just a bit more, just a bit more, Ren chanted to himself, clicking one key after another carefully. Now, if he could just type the last decryption code he figured out yesterday...and…

“Got it!” Ren crowed. “One down.”

“And nineteen more to go,” Jason replied blandly. “It took you a two full days to access one offshore account. At this rate we’ll be at it forever.”

Ren didn’t let Jason’s pessimistic attitude affect him. “That’s why I asked Priya to help. She’s a pro at this while I’m just able to get by. So obviously it would take me longer. But that’s fine. I’ll make them come eventually.”

Jason groaned. “Would you stop with the double entendre. You’re making everything so weird.”

Ren chuckled, skimming through the bank statement and looking for any tell tale signs of criminal behaviour. There were small amounts of money being transfered intermittently. The dates were sporadic and the amounts kept fluctuating. Hmm, probably not related to their case. Their dealers would have a set amount transferred. The dates may vary, but there should be some kind of pattern. Ren downloaded the statement, setting it aside to investigate further to determine if the account holder was doing anything criminal.

“Didn’t realize there was a lot of cyber related crimes in Tantalus,” Jason said.

“Not really. Which is why my skills are kinda basic. I can hack into some servers, given time. But if it’s complicated it’s beyond me.”

“What kind of crimes do you mostly have in Tantalus?”

Ren could ignore him, the way he’d done a few times already when Jason was fishing for information about him and his past. But it seemed a harmless question and might even be relevant to their case if they need to probe deeper into Tantalus.

“Most crimes are pretty violent. You have to remember, the most dangerous criminals are housed there. Some of them are allowed to work the mines if they prove they can behave. Sometimes though, they use that as a way to pass their criminal skills onto others. Most of the people they interact with are miners, who are rough themselves. You have to be, to work the mines and survive the cave ins and pressure from the supervisors to dig deeper, dig faster.”

Ren let that sink in, waiting for Jason’s response.

“I didn’t realize they pressured the miners so much,” Jason murmured. “I had a feeling it was rough, but Plutus doesn’t look into what happens in the mines.”

Rne snorted. “Of course they wouldn’t. Wouldn’t want their sensitive pearly white hands to get tainted. What does it matter to them what happens to the people as long as they go their gold.” He realized he may have crossed a line, but dismissed it. Jason had made his hatred of Plutus fairly clear, which is the only reason Ren felt comfortable enough telling him all this.

“I told you, Plutus is all about hiding the truth,” Jason said with a trace of anger in his voice. “Are there normal people, besides the criminals and the miners?”

“There is a town outside the mining area where ‘normal’ people live as you called them. They run restaurants, supply stores, small grocery stores. Nothing big or as diverse as what you get here. No antique shops or libraries or schools.”

That seemed to be the biggest shock to Jason and he couldn’t hide his surprise. “You don’t have schools?”

“Not the way the rest of Dracus does. Kids learn basic reading and writing, then are sent on their way. And some opt out of that as well,” Ren said, meeting Jason’s eyes. “Most people either focus on a skill, like shoe repair or sewing, or do small jobs at the mine. The government doesn’t see the point in educating them if they’re just going to work these jobs in the future anyway. That’s one of the reasons I joined the military when I was a kid. The minimum age to start training is eight, and they teach you how to read, write, essential arithmetic, some science. Then as you get older, the training becomes more diverse and kind of what they have in Heracles. Bomb disarming, stealth missions, combat skills, all that physical stuff. Plus some extras like basic hacking, geography and mountain survival.”

“So that’s why you joined the military,” Jason said.”So you could do something different. Something where you’d have to think.”

The guy was figuring him out. As a private person, Ren hated when people probed into his life and tried to pin him down, forcing their own perceptions onto him. But Jason was different. He saw the world differently; sometimes he was right and other times it was more twisted. This was one of those times where he hit the nail on the head. “Pretty much. Working a boring and repetitive job didn’t interest me. When I heard about the military training I begged my mom to let me sign up. She wasn’t excited about me joining them, considering the hellish training we go through and the kind of missions we get. But I got her to change her mind. And I never regretted it.”

“You still didn’t tell me about the missions,” Jason pointed out.

Ren chuckled. “You’re like Ari when he won’t let go of his favorite chew toy. We mostly deal with murders. Lots of people would get violent, angry with family or friends or even random people. Death was something normal, even in the town since people get sick a lot and die. No surprise, our hospitals aren’t the best. So there’s that. We also have to deal with the rebels who plan ways to overthrow the government. Sometimes that would involve tracking down their bases, thwarting their attacks head on, or stopping their weapons or resources being smuggled in. Then you have your drug dealers. Because of how barren Tantalus is, people can find small areas outside of public eye and make their own drugs. They get supplies inside or outside Tantalus and make them. If they’re selling them to other cities, like the ones we busted a few weeks ago, there’s even more pressure to stop the whole organization. Otherwise the other cities will blame Tantalus and it turns into a big thing. Once a drug ring smuggled a huge amount to Heracles and it was actually tainted. People died there. Heracles ended up stopping supplies into Tantalus for a month and pressured other cities to do so as well. It was...pretty bad since we can’t grow any plants or anything. We need external supplies just to live day to day.”

Ren paused, wondering if he overwhelmed Jason. The Alpha seemed to be deep in thought.

“That’s pretty shitty. From what I know, we also send lots of different supplies to Tantalus, like food and medical equipment and even tools. I can’t imagine what it would be like inside the city if things stopped coming in.”

“I was a kid the last time it happened. I only remember being really hungry and my mom trying her best to get us some food. We had to make it last for days and hide it so people didn’t attack us for it.” Was he revealing too much? He never told anyone that story. Who would he tell? Everyone he knew was in Tantalus and they all went through the same problems. So they never talked about them.

“Sounds rough,” Jason said, then snorted. “I know, I know. Stupid understatement.”

Ren chuckled and turned back to his laptop, “Yup, pretty stupid.”

They sat in silence for several minutes and Ren somehow knew Jason was still thinking about everything he’d just told him. He’d only scratched the surface of the issues and life style in Tantalus. Did Jason want to know more? Did he even want to tell him? It didn’t feel great to relive certain memories, but a lot of what he said was still the current lifestyle. It’s sad how little Tantalus had changed in the last three hundred years since the gold was first found. And it only got worse when the prison opened. At least, that’s what he’d heard. And he’d never seen evidence to the contrary.

Jason summed it up well. Tantalus was rough. Life was rough, so the people got rougher, just to survive. The things people did, just to live an extra day-.

Ren’s hands curled and he took a deep breath to clear his mind. No reason to think about it now. Or ever. That was the motto in Tantalus. Just live each day, and try to get to the next. It’s how he and his friends and family managed to get this far. Speaking of his friends, it’s been a while since he’d connected with anyone besides Jason. Back home, he had a big circle of friends. Friends in the military, some miners, even criminals. Some friends he was closer with than others. A lot closer. He frowned and started to count backwards, wincing when he realized the last time he had sex was right before he left Tantalus over three months ago. No wonder he was feeling frustrated. He was used to letting loose every few weeks, blowing off some steam whenever he needed to. Like now. But where? And with who?

He glanced up at Jason then shook his head. Nope, too complicated. He didn’t mind sleeping with his coworkers, but they had a certain understanding. It worked. Somehow, despite Jason’s loose attitude about sex, he doubted he’d be so blase about sleeping with him. Besides, he only slept with Omegas. But he could use Jason for something else.

“Hey, are you going to a club anytime soon? I was thinking of tagging along,” Ren said.

“Tagging along for what?” Jason drawled, boredom dripping from his voice.

“To get to know people.”

It took Jason a few seconds to understand what Ren was asking him. When it did, he slowly lifted his gaze, his eyes wide. “Are you asking me for a place you can hook up?” he asked in disbelief.

Ren would have laughed but knew it would only set Jason off. And he genuinely did want his opinion. This was his area of expertise after all. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “Well, yeah. I haven’t been with anyone since I got here. Feeling a bit pent up you know. Figured you’d know a good place. I’m not exactly looking for anything serious. Just a good time.”

Jason continued to stare at him and Ren didn’t blame him. He probably figured based on Ren’s attitude towards his one night stands that he was some kind of prude. Which he wasn’t. But neither was he a horn dog like Jason.

“Look, back home, I knew where to go,” Ren said, using his most reasonable tone. “I had my friends and I knew most of the people around. Sex was….casual. We did it when we wanted to, because we wanted to. I’m not saying I slept around a lot, at least not compared to you. But I did ‘hook up’ as you so eloquently put it, when I felt like it. Since I got here, I haven’t had any time. Plus, I don’t know anyone here besides you. Not yet any way.”

He waited, wondering what Jason was thinking. The Alpha still seemed in shock and Ren sighed. He should have just gone off on his own like he originally planned. He should never have tried to involve Jason. But with his casual view of sex, he figured Jason wouldn’t mind helping him out. He hadn’t gone out much either since Ren got here.

“We can go to one of your clubs,” Ren offered. “I think we both need to blow off some steam.”

Jason swallowed and looked away, his fingers tapping against the table top. This time, Ren waited, letting Jason make the next move.

“You really want to do this?” Jason asked. Ren couldn’t figure out Jason’s mood but his tone seemed a mixture of tension and resignation. Really, what was the guy thinking?

“Yeah. Seems like the perfect time. Ari should be up and running in another week or two. The case is going to take over our lives soon. Might as well get out there before things get crazy busy.”

Jason continued to stare at the table and Ren almost growled in frustration. What was the guy’s problem? For months he’d tried to sneak out to his clubs and Ren kept giving him a tough time. Now, he was telling him to go and the guy turned reticent. What would make him happy?

“OK,” Jason finally said. “I’ll take you.”

“Thanks,” Ren said, pasting a smile on his face. “Should be fun. I followed you to a bunch of your clubs before but was too busy watching you to really get a vibe for the places. Don’t know which one would have people with the same mind set or which would have freaks.”

“If you’re that worried about sleeping with a stranger, you don’t have to,” Jason said casually.

Ren shook his head. “It’s fine. Gotta start somewhere right. Although, I am worried about the Plutus gender rules when it comes to sex. Back in Tantalus, it was pretty messed up sometimes.”

Jason looked up at him, genuine curiosity on his face. “What do you mean?”

Ren sighed, knowing he’d walked into that one. “Well, it’s complicated. But basically Omegas were fair game to anyone, as long as they could pay. Whether if it was for one night or longer. It was mostly Alphas who paid and some Betas. Betas mostly slept with each other. But I had a group of friends who were more….open-minded let’s say. Not everyone likes how sex is treated like a business. So we slept with each other when the mood hit us and because we liked each other. As friends. We saw sex as a form of stress relief as well as a connection with each other. And in a way, a rebellion against how Tantalus tried to get us to treat sex.” Ren frowned, his mind flashing with images of the ‘Omega Sanctuaries’ but quickly shoved it aside. No need to tell Jason about any of that. What he said was enough. He would rather not think about the details right now.

“I didn’t expect that,” Jason said.

“Yeah well, every city is different. When you have one full of rough miners, angry and idealistic rebels and hardened criminals, you have to have your own set of rules and expectations. By making it more business like, it stops people from raping Omegas.”

“What do you mean?”

Ren sighed. He didn’t plan on getting into this. Didn’t really want to share the horrific details about his city. But he opened the door and he didn’t blame Jason for being curious. Especially given how he viewed Omegas.

“I told you before. Omegas have it tough in Tantalus. That’s because they’re seen as nothing but a way for people to breed and release their sexual frustrations. Before the payment system was set up, people were kidnapping and raping Omegas left and right. Treating them however they wanted, no matter who the Omega was. It could be a prisoner, or a regular citizen. Didn’t matter.” Ren’s hands curled into fists and he struggled to control his rage. “In order to stop the chaotic treatment, they set up a system. They made it so some Omegas were free game, as long as you were willing to pay. If you couldn’t pay and rape an Omega anyway, you were punished. Publicly.”

“Were all Omegas expected to follow this system?”

Ren swallowed, sweat soaking the back of his shirt and he shoved his memories aside. “No. Not all Omegas. Some of the normal citizens find mates and marry quickly. Only the ones who agree to it or were born from the prisoners or miners are expected to do it.” Unless they are forced into it, Ren silently reminded himself, his hands becoming white as he clenched them harder.

“Can’t imagine anyone agreeing to that.”

Ren wanted to punch him, yell at him that he didn’t understand because he didn’t live through it. Didn’t see how desperate the Omegas got during their heats, unable to access suppressants that were an everyday commodity in the rest of Dracus. If Omegas didn’t sell themselves during their heats, staying in the ‘Omega Sanctuaries’ with Beta bodyguards from the military to protect them while an Alpha slept with them, then they ran the risk of being out in the open, fair game to anyone who found them alone. No one cried rape then because the Omega was to blame, for not having a partner during their heat. It was a clever and sick loophole the government created in an effort to control the Omegas. To make sure they had to sell themselves. It wasn’t a choice. It was never a choice. They just said it was, to make the Omegas feel like it was their own free will to step into the Omega sex houses month after month. Even the name itself, “Omega Sanctuary” was used to make them feel safe, as if the government was actually looking out for them, instead of forcing them to prostitute themselves out of fear or desperation. He could feel that familiar wave of nausea and fury in his stomach and tried to suppress it.

“There are reasons,” Ren said flatly. “The system has to work after all. So they find ways to make it work.”

Jason didn’t reply and Ren looked up, thrown aback by the intense look on Jason’s face. He wanted to know more, was waiting for Ren to explain himself. But he’d already revealed more than he ever wanted to. So he closed his laptop and stood up.

“We’ll go to your club another time. I have to go meet the Eagles now.”

He waited for Jason to say something while he made his quick escape, and felt intense relief and surprise when the Alpha quietly let him leave. But he could feel his intense eyes following him, knowing that his mind was contemplating everything Ren just told him. What did he think of it all, given his hatred towards Omegas? He longed to ask him. But if he still insisted on painting Omegas negatively….Ren couldn’t stomach it. And they were just starting to get along again. He didn’t want to ruin it.

He shouldn’t have said anything. He should have just picked a club and gone himself. Instead he now had a curious Alpha who didn’t understand how Tantalus worked, making his own judgements on the people Ren cares about. The thought made his stomach churl with anger and he forced it down. No. Jason was unpredictable. He couldn’t guess what he thought of Tantalus. And it would be better for both their sakes if he didn’t try and guess. Or think about it at all. Just let it go Ren, let it go. It was the best, the only way, to survive in Tantalus. Just let everything go.

 

 

Jason watched the monitoring screen as Ren explained, again, how to surround a building to the nine Eagles. He was still trying to wrap his head around what Ren told him about Tantalus. The lack of schools, the rough environment, how they relied on the other cities, the fact that he started training when he was eight. But mostly, what he told him about the Omegas. The picture he painted of how the Omegas are treated, are basically forced to prostitute themselves, went against everything he’d ever seen or believed about Omegas.

It was horrific, as Ren stated. No way around it. Despite how much Jason dislikes Omegas, he did feel sympathy for the ones in Tantalus. As someone who lived his whole life in the cage his father built for him, he understood the frustration and fear of not having a choice. But he’d managed to find a way to deal with it. He’d been able to make his own choices as he got older. But those Omegas could never escape.

Was it like that for some Plutus Omegas? Jason snorted. Of course not. Sure, marriage was treated like a business transaction, but that applied to both the Alpha and Omega, and in some cases, the Beta, involved. And while their families wanted and encouraged the marriages, both parties understood why it had to be done and did it. And if one of them became dissatisfied…

Nope, not going there. Jason shook his head, determined to focus on the training when the door swung open. He turned his head and froze when he saw Connor enter the room. The Omega spotted him and halted in the doorway, eyes wide. He saw Connor’s hand tremble slightly on the doorknob and knew he was about to turn around and leave.

“It’s fine. I was just on my way out.” Jason got up and walked out of the room, past a wary Connor. It wasn’t until he was back in his office, feet propped up on the desk as usual, that he asked himself why he did that. Normally, he would have enjoyed watching the Omega squirm. Probably because if something happened again, Ren would hear about it and give him hell. And he really wanted to avoid that. Ren was opening up to him, talking to him. Telling him about his life in Tantalus. Hell, he felt so comfortable with him he even asked Jason to take him to one of his clubs.

Jason frowned as he recalled Ren’s eager expression when he talked about it and snorted. His little Eagle was a frickin hypocrit! The number of times he criticised Jason’s nightly outings, and he turned out to be just as horny as he was. Although, Jason didn’t actually do it just because he was honry. It was a great way to blow off steam. To exhaust himself so he could sleep. It was also-

Jason’s eyes widened and he let his feet fall to the ground. No! He wasn’t like those people in Tantalus. He didn’t view sleeping with Omegas as their duty. He wasn’t paying them for sex. They wanted it! They needed it. To feel needed and wanted by an Alpha. They got off on it. It was mutual. Jason released his pent up frustrations while they reveled in the attention of an Alpha. That was all.

He repeated that to himself several times, trying to ignore that little voice in his head that told him he was just like them. Tantalus scum who used Omegas as whores and forced them into it. He wasn’t. He wasn’t.

Chapter Text

Matt was leaning back in his chair, massaging his forehead when Connor stopping in the office doorway. He felt a wave of sympathy for his boss. They’d been scanning bank statements for almost a week now and still had thirty-two more families to go through. He felt his own headache throb lightly and knew Matt’s must be worse. He was used to researching and staring at a screen for hours. Matt wasn’t.

 

“Head hurts again?” Connor asked sympathetically as he walked into the office.

 

Matt sighed. “Too many numbers. It makes my brain hurt. How do you not have a headache?”

 

Connor’s eyes flicked away then back. He should lie. But he swore he’d be more honest with Matt from now on. “I do actually.”

 

“What? Then why didn’t you say anything?”

 

Connor shrugged. “What’s the point in both of us complaining?”

 

Matt cocked an eyebrow, his eyes narrowing. “Did you just accuse me of whining and complaining”

 

His eyes widened and he raised his arms in protest, anxious about offending the only person in his life he respected. “No! Definitely not! That’s not what I meant. I …”

 

Suddenly Matt smiled. “Just teasing you.”

 

Connor blinked then sighed, his shoulders dropping slightly. “I hate when you do that.”

 

Matt chuckled, his blue eyes twinkling humorously. “But it’s so much fun.”

 

He should argue, tell him it wasn’t fun for him. But the truth was, it kinda was. No one had ever teased him before. Teasing implied a friendly relationship, the ability to poke fun at someone about a flaw in a familiar manner without actually meaning to hurt them. All he’d ever heard was criticism, aimed to dismantle his self-esteem. He wasn’t used to being teased. But he didn’t seem to mind it. Not when it was Matt doing it, because he knew he did as a sign of their ‘friendship.’

 

“We should start taking breaks. The case isn’t going anywhere and we know it’s going to take at least a few months. No reason to force ourselves to speed through it.” Connor couldn’t believe he was advising his superior to slack off at work. But he wasn’t telling him to slack off, not exactly. He was just concerned and wanted to help Matt out.

 

“Good idea,” Matt said, getting out of his chair. “Get your stuff and let’s go.”

 

“Go where?”

 

“Lunch,” Matt said, shrugging on his dark blue military blazer over his light blue buttoned shirt and tie. “It is lunch time. And we haven’t eaten yet. We both need a break. So let’s do it.”

 

Connor wanted to protest, tell Matt that it wasn’t necessary. That it wasn’t professional of them to go off the base together when it wasn’t related to work. That he had his own lunch in the fridge. Instead he found himself nodding and grabbing his wallet and phone. Next thing he knew, he was sitting next to Matt in his car as they drove off the base. He was being stupid. He shouldn’t be doing this. This is what he warned himself about. Of getting too close. But his body wasn’t listening to him and he sat in silence, listening to the radio.

 

“You like pasta right?” Matt asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Good. I know a great place. It’s nice and not too fancy, by Plutus standards anyway.”

 

Connor nodded and turned his head, watching the view out the window as they sped down the highway to the restaurant. Fifteen minutes later they were seated at a cozy place that was out of the main shopping area with Matt pointing out some of the best dishes on the menu.

 

“You seem to know this place really well,” Connor commented after they ordered, all his senses taking in the aromatic smells of the food and soft bulbs lighting up the small alcove they were in. It seemed like a restaurant designed for couples, or families. Anyone really. It was very warm and homey and Connor liked it instantly.

 

“One of my friends own this place. She always loved food and cooking. But since she can’t be a chef she figured the next best thing is owning a restaurant. She still works in her family business and they see this place as a hobby, but to her, this is what she really loves.”

 

“Must be nice, doing something she’s always loved to do,” Connor murmured.

 

Matt gazed at him and Connor knew he was trying to analyze him. “You don’t love your job?”

 

Connor almost panicked, but caught the gleam in Matt’s eyes. He wasn’t going to fall for it a second time. “I do and you know it. I just meant, she dreamed of working with food her whole life. I didn’t even know I wanted to do this job until I started doing it.”

 

Matt nodded. “I get what you mean. I was always told that I would help out with the family business. As the oldest grandson, I was expected to take over.”

 

“So why’d you switch to the military?”

 

“None of us really had a choice,” Matt said as the waiter placed their salads on the table. Matt nodded his thanks and gestured for Connor to start eating. He ate a couple of bites then continued. “As you know, the mines aren’t producing as much gold as they used to. Luckily, grandfather already predicted that and set up a trading business. It’s doing well. Not great but well enough. It’s established and doesn’t need to expand. Can’t expand really. So when the military sector opened, the family saw it as a way to increase and diversify our family interests. I was in the middle of a business degree when Dad told me I had to switch and enter the military academy. Jason was just about to start university and switched right away. And Luke joined when he was old enough. The second cousins are still mostly studying business so they can keep handling that part of the family interests.”

 

“Do you like it?” Connor asked, feeling a bit nervous about Matt’s answer.

 

Matt thought about it for a moment then nodded. “I do. It’s different from what I thought I’d spend my life doing, but it’s interesting. There are so many elements involved. The politics. Dealing with the families. The investigations. The training. The missions. It never gets boring.”

 

Connor smiled, glad Matt liked their job as much as he did. He would have felt horribly guilty if Matt was unhappy while Connor was enjoying himself.

 

“What about you?” Matt suddenly asked and Connor’s blood froze. “Was there ever anything else you wanted to be or were interested in?”

 

Connor saw his hand holding his fork tremble and lowered it carefully, pretending to straighten his napkin to give himself a moment to think. He’d promised himself to be more honest and open with Matt. But did that include talking about his past? He’d never talked about it with anyone before and didn’t know what would be considered acceptable or too personal. What if he said the wrong thing and made Matt uncomfortable? What if he revealed too much and he became uncomfortable?

 

“You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” Matt suddenly said. Connor looked up at him, noting the understanding look Matt gave him. And his heart swelled.

 

“I grew up in Midas as you know,” he started, speaking formally so he’d feel less awkward about the whole thing. “Similar to Plutus, marriages are mostly arranged. Since I was born I was told I would marry Oliver. He’s the son of my parent’s closest friends. They wanted a stronger connection between the two of them. It wasn’t a business move the same way marriage is in Plutus. It was more...personal I guess you could say.”

 

“Huh. That is different,” Matt said, taking a bite of his salad. “So I guess you knew...Oliver your whole life.”

 

Connor drew in a deep breath and took a sip of his water. His throat felt parched and his hands still shook, but he wanted to talk about it. Finally, he had the chance to tell someone what happened. His side of the story. At least part of it.

 

“Yes. Oliver and I were childhood friends. He’s an Alpha and when I was born a few months later as an Omega it seemed perfect. We both knew it was going to happen so I spent my whole life focused on that. I didn’t really think about anything else beyond being his mate and having kids.”

 

Connor stopped, realizing he was about to divulge everything. The insults and emotional abuse he’d gone through growing up and marrying Oliver. The reason they got divorced. The chaos afterwards. The fear. But it was too personal. He thought it was too personal.

 

So he shrugged and took a bite of his food, speaking casually, almost factual about the most traumatic period in his life. “When I got divorced I had to support myself. Oliver agreed to pay for Devon’s daily life and school when he got older. But since I was the one who divorced Oliver I got nothing. So I had to work. I had no skills or experience. Oliver offered me a secretarial job in his company and I accepted. It was...an OK job. But pretty meaningless. I felt like I wasn’t really doing anything. So I decided to look for another job. I heard about the position in the military for a secretary, applied and got it. And you know the rest.” There, that was good enough. That’s what everyone else knew and said, with a couple of personal touches. He was just repeating it.

 

He took another bite of his food, chewing slowly, his eyes glued to his plate. Eventually, all the food was gone and he had to look up. His eyes widened when he saw Matt’s plate was still half full, the Alpha’s gaze trained on him. He couldn’t read his expression and felt nervous.

 

“You asked for the divorce?” Matt asked.

 

Connor licked his lips nervously. “Yes. I did.” Was he going to ask why? He really hoped he didn’t. It would be shameful to admit he’d been cheated on.

 

Matt’s expression remained tense. “That was pretty brave of you. Not many Omegas would ask for a divorce considering the law is on the Alpha’s side. Or the richest family’s.”

 

Connor took another sip of his water to hide his surprise. Matt was always saying the unexpected. Here, he expected an interrogation. Instead he received admiration and praise. No one ever praised him for his divorce. He’d been called stupid, selfish, short sighted. By family members and even by parents at Devon’s school when they thought he wasn’t listening. Everyone agreed that Connor was wrong. Except Matt.

 

“Yes well. When it isn’t working it isn’t working,” Connor said, trying to make his voice sound as light and carefree as possible. Matt kept staring at him and Connor knew he hadn’t fooled him.

 

He sighed and placed his hands in his lap. “I couldn’t stay married to Oliver. I don’t want to say why, but I had to divorce him. The fall out wasn’t...great. I almost lost everything.”

 

“You got to keep Devon. And Oliver gave you a job. Doesn’t sound like you lost everything.”

 

Connor frowned, knowing how good Oliver appeared in this situation. Everyone always said Oliver was too nice to him, letting him keep their child, an Alpha child. That he was being generous by giving Connor a job. And Connor always smiled and let them insult him, unable to argue or defend himself. His hands curled and he felt that wave of anger return. No one ever let him speak. No one ever let him say his part. But Matt was listening. He was on Connor’s side. And he wanted Matt to understand. He needed just one person to understand.

 

“Yes, Oliver was kind enough to let me keep Devon and gave me a job.” He could hear his voice shaking but couldn’t stop it. Years of suppressed anger and the injustice of it all stabbing into his heart repeatedly was too much to bear. He couldn’t hold back, not with Matt staring at him, listening to him, supporting him.  His words spilled forth and he stared at the table top as everything poured out. “After all, my parents disowned me. They refused to care for me in any way if I divorced Oliver. Oliver’s parents cut me off as well, told me I was a shameless Omega who didn’t know his place. They even wanted to sue me for breaking the marriage contract. They tried to take Devon from me when he was only a year old! Oliver didn’t even really want him, but he tried to take him anyway, because his parents wanted their grandchild. I couldn’t get a job anywhere because no one would hire a divorced, single mother with no experience.  Everything was falling apart because I made a stupid mistake and divorced him. And no one was going to let me get away with it until they took everything from me. So you know what I did?” He looked up at Matt, feeling tears of shame rolling down his cheeks and couldn’t stop himself anyway. “I begged. I used Oliver’s guilt to beg him and convince him to let me keep Devon. That’s all I wanted. Oliver’s the reason we got divorced. He’s the one who cheated. He should pay the price. He should lose something. So I told him that. I told him how I was losing everything for his mistake. For his happiness. And he agreed. Told me I should keep Devon until he’s older. He’d give me a job so I can support myself.” Connor laughed, a bitter, brittle laugh full of disbelief. “The person who ruined everything, the one who took everything from me, the person I tried to get away from, ended up becoming my saviour. Isn’t that the most ridiculous and ironic thing you ever heard?”

 

Connor bowed his head, his hands shaking on his thighs and tears lightly rolling down his cheeks. He heard Matt murmur something but couldn’t bring himself to care or look up. He’d said it. He’d finally said it. Years of fury and frustration. Of living in fear of what his parents or Oliver’s might do. Of facing scorn and rejection everywhere he looked.  Of hating Oliver but knowing he owed him so much. His pride shredded beyond repair.

 

He felt an arm come around his shoulder and flinched.

 

“You are amazing Connor,” Matt whispered near his ear, causing him to tremble.  “To be in the situation you were in, and still beg for your son. I don’t know many parents who would do that. Most divorced parents leave Plutus, leave their children and family and just run. They don’t even try to rebuild their lives because they know how Plutus will treat them. How difficult it would be. But you stayed. You fought. And you built a life for yourself. Yeah, maybe you owed Oliver for helping you. But you built an independent life for yourself along the way. You accomplished more than any Omega I’ve heard of in all of Plutus. I can imagine the frustration and anger that Oliver was the one who helped you. But you did what you had to do. For Devon.”

 

Connor sobbed and covered his mouth, not caring that he was making a spectacle of himself. He’d held back his tears for so long, hiding it from Oliver when he insulted him, when he begged him for Devon, when he confronted him about the affair, knowing his tears would only anger Oliver more. Hiding his pain from his parents when they screamed at him for being an ungrateful bitch and slammed the door in his face, refusing to let them see how much their words broke him. From Oliver’s parents when they threatened to never let him see Devon again and that they’d take him to court and sue him, concealing his fear of their retribution and hatred. He held it all in for so long. And yet, here he was crying, again, in front of Matt. And it was OK.

 

“Devon is lucky to have you for a mother,” Matt said and Connor lost it, covering his face with both hands and sobbing. Matt held him close to his chest and Connor could hear his heartbeat. He longed to lean into his chest, to grasp his shirt and cry into his embrace. But he’d already crossed so many lines today. He felt a napkin gently being pushed into his hand and held it against his eyes and nose, grateful for the small consideration.

 

He didn’t know how long he cried for but when he finally stopped his eyes were swollen, his napkin soaked with snot and tears. His throat was dry too and he reached out a shaking hand to grasp his glass when he saw Matt’s larger hand pick it up and hold it out to him. He took deep gulps and sighed.

 

“Thank you,” he murmured.

 

“No problem,” Matt said. “Thank you, for trusting me.”

 

Connor chuckled warily. “I basically poured out all my problems and cried.”

 

“Yes. And I bet you’ve never done that. So I repeat. Thanks for trusting me.”

 

Connor looked up, about to tell Matt that he was probably getting more than he bargained for when he saw the screens around their table. “What are those?”

 

Matt looked behind him and smiled. “Oh that. When I realized you were crying I asked the waiters to put them up. They have these screens ready to give certain people privacy.”

 

For people who were cheating and didn’t want to be disturbed, Connor thought grously. He knew all about those. Had even spotted Oliver ducking behind one once when he was passing by the restaurant he was in. In his naivete at that time, he thought it was a business meeting. It wasn’t until much later that he realized what the screens are actually used for. Kinda ironic that Connor was using them now, to hide his own tender feelings for his boss.

 

“Thanks. I would have hated it if other people saw.”

 

Matt grinned down at him. “No problem. I always got your back.”

 

And that’s when he knew. He wasn’t falling for Matt. He was already in love with him. Had been for months though he tried to deny it. But he couldn’t. Not anymore. He thought the idea would terrify him, come as a shocking realization at least. But it was more like a light dawning, his willingness to finally accept something that had been there all along. It was a fact. He was in love with Matthew Blake.

 

However, just because he finally accepted his feeling didn’t mean he would act on them. He couldn’t. He had Devon after all. And Matt was the oldest Blake heir. No way would his family allow their match to happen. There was also the fact that Matt didn’t see him that way. Despite his tenderness towards him, Connor knew Matt was treating him the same gentle and caring way he treated Luke. Matt was a natural mother hen despite being an Alpha. And he always needed someone to care for. And right now, that injured person in need of support was Connor.

 

He loved Matt. Matt cared for him because of his kind heart. Nothing could ever happen between them. So couldn’t Connor just enjoy what they had for now?

 

“Ready to eat the rest of our meal?” Matt asked brightly.

 

Connor smiled and nodded. “I’m starving.”

 

Matt grinned, gave his shoulders a last squeeze then got up and walked to his side of the table. “You’re gonna love the dish you picked out. They’re all great really. Even Devon wold like this place since it’s geared to everyone. You should bring him sometime.”

 

Connor imagined bringing Devon here, sitting in the same place he sat with Matt. It was a romantic image and he savored it for a moment then dismissed it. He should bring Devon here, but he was going to be practical about it. No reason to suddenly turn whimsical just because he realized he was in love.

 

He’d learned the hard way, love wasn’t for him.

 

So he nodded, his expression casual as the waiter appeared and placed their dishes on the table. “Sure, good idea. Thanks for the suggestion.”

 

And they ate the rest of the meal in casual conversation, laughing a couple of times, all the while Connor ignored how warm his heart felt.



Chapter Text

Kiryn whistled the tune to one of his favorite songs as he locked the door to his apartment and went down the staircase. It was his weekend off and he and Luke were going to meet in the entertainment district and go watch a movie. Kiryn wasn’t really a movie person but this one had a wicked soundtrack and one of his favorite composers. Luke seemed excited as well. But then again, Luke has been excited about everything lately. Well, excited for Luke. And Kiryn loved it.

It seemed like Luke was finally embracing the Orpheus lifestyle. In addition to their evening walks in the park after dinner, they’d gone to the woods a couple of times just to look at the stars. They’d also gone bowling, which was hilarious to watch. It was obvious Luke had been trained physically in the military and had good aim, but that did not translate well to the wrist action required to hurl a ball straight down a lane. Kiryn snorted as he recalled how many gutter balls Luke sank that time, and how determined he looked as he kept going. Kiryn cheered loudly when Luke finally hit a couple of pins and the shy look of pride on Luke’s face was priceless. It was one of his favorite dates so far.

He spotted Luke down the street and smiled, sprinting lightly and popping up behind him.

“Gotcha!” Kiryn yelled.

Luke jumped and spun quickly, his shock giving way to a smile when he saw him and Kiryn grinned widely.

“Never gets old,” Kiryn said chuckling.

“You’d think I’d be used to it by now,” Luke said sheepishly.

“Well, you probably would have if you weren’t so busy looking at-” Kiryn looked through the store window Luke was standing in front of. “An art supply store.” He looked at Luke curiously and the Beta blushed and looked away.

“Just killing time,” Luke said, scuffing his shoe on the pavement.

Kiryn looked back at the store front, then back at Luke a couple of times but he refused to look at him. Curiouser and curiouser. Luke only avoided eye contact when he really didn’t want to share something. Which was rare since he’d become an open book the last few weeks. What was he hiding?

“We should go,” Kiryn said, his eyes still narrowed in thought. “We’re going to miss the previews.”

Luke sighed with relief and Kiryn knew he was right. Luke was hiding something. As they walked away, he turned to look back at the store one more time, wondering if his hunch was right.

The next day, Kiryn knocked on Luke’s front door, holding the bag with his surprise inside in his hand tightly. He hoped he was right. Because if not this was going to be annoying to get rid of. Maybe he could just donate it to Bri’s cafe if this went south.

The door swung open and Luke looked at him in surprise. “Kiryn. Didn’t know you were coming over.”

Kiryn smiled as he stepped past Luke and entered the living room. “Figured I’d surprise you. And I bear presents.” He held up the bag, eager to see how Luke would react.

He seemed speechless and Kiryn chuckled. “Come on so I can give my boyfriend his first present.” He grabbed Luke’s hand and towed him to the couch, pulling him down so they were sitting next to each other. “Open it.”

Luke carefully took the bag, and Kiryn rubbed his hands in anticipation. Would Luke smile? Blush? Look touched? Kiryn didn’t often buy presents for people when it wasn’t their birthday and it was his first time buying a present for one of his lovers. All his relationships had been so short lived there hadn’t been birthdays involved. And he didn’t feel the urge to make them happy and spoil them the way he did with Luke. Just another reminder that this Beta was special to him. He realized his feet were bouncing a bit in anticipation and stopped, biting his lips gently and eyes frozen on Luke’s face, vowing not to miss a single second.

He watched in slow motion as Luke pulled the sketch book out of the bag. His expression didn’t alter. He placed the book on the coffee table and took out the aluminum case full of various sized pencils. Perfect for any artist to use.

Kiryn waited for Luke to react, for any emotion to show on his face, but nothing happened. Slowly, his excitement faded and so did his smile.

“Did..did you not like it?” he asked cautiously.

“Why did you buy me this?” Luke asked in a flat voice, not looking at him..

“Because I saw you eyeing it in the store yesterday. I figured you might like to try drawing.”

“I’m not interested,” Luke replied, his voice slightly strained.

“But you were lookin-”

“I wasn’t looking!” Luke burst out and Kiryn flinched, surprised that the Beta could actually get angry. Actually yell.

His movements jerky, Luke shoved the art equipment back into the bag and shoved it at him. “Take it back. I don’t want it.”

Slowly, Kiryn reached out and took the bag. They sat in awkward silence and he didn’t know what to do. Luke still wouldn’t look at him, his hands clenched tightly on his thighs. “I should go home,” he said softly. He waited for Luke to stop him, to revert back to the bumbling and dorky Luke who tried to do everything right, to make Kiryn happy.

Instead, Luke nodded. “That’s a good idea,” he said, his voice flat again.

His mind and emotions reeling, Kiryn left the apartment in a daze, surprised when Luke didn’t come after him. He took the elevator down, his mind in a jumble. What the hell just happened? That wasn’t the Luke he knew. He knew Luke was bound to get upset at some point, probably over something stupid he did. But he really didn’t get what he did wrong. And the way Luke snapped at him, rejected him. It was like he was a different person. And Kiryn didn’t like it. He didn’t like it at all. Especially since he now had the rare predicament of not knowing what to do.

 

Luke sat in silence, waiting for his emotions to settle. He must have sat there for several minutes, unmoving. Finally, he sighed and flopped back into the couch, covering his face with his hands. Well, he blew it. He knew he’d ruin everything eventually. But he thought it would take more time, would happen because Kiryn got bored of him. In all the worst case scenarios he created, none of them involved him yelling at Kiryn and pushing him away.

He screamed into his hands in frustration and let his arms flop to his sides, staring at the ceiling. Kiryn was bound to dump him now. No way would he be OK with Luke yelling at him and tossing his present back in his face. He felt empty and couldn’t find the energy to move a single muscle. He saw the sunset outside his window at some point and knew he’d been sitting still for hours. He should eat dinner. He was about to eat lunch when Kiryn showed up and hadn’t eaten a proper breakfast.

Suddenly, his phone rang on the coffee table in front of him and his eyes widened when he saw Matt’s name flash across his screen. He quickly sat up, picked up the phone and froze, realizing he really didn’t know what to say. What could he say? He hadn’t told anyone about his relationship with Kiryn, not even Matt. So how could he suddenly ask his cousin for relationship advice out of the blue?

Reluctantly, he clicked the answer button and hit video mode, Matt’s face appearing as a projection above the phone in seconds. Matt as usual was smiling and Luke felt like his lips turned to stone.

“Hello,” he said, forcing his voice to sound even.

“Hey,” Matt said cheerfully and Luke felt that familiar ball in his throat whenever he spoke to his childhood hero, especially when he gave him that cheerful and excited smile, like he was always eager to see him. “How you doing? Enjoyed your weekend?”

He missed him. He missed Matt. He’d been with him his whole life. He was the one who played with him when no one else did. He protected him from the bullies at school. He held him when he cried after his mom died. He took him fishing and taught him how to drive because the instructors made Luke too nervous. All his life he’d depended on Matt. He never ever thought the day would come when he didn’t have Matt in his life. They talked everyday, but it wasn’t the same. He missed his cousin. He wanted to see him.

“It’s OK,” Luke replied, his voice shaking slightly.

“What’s wrong?” Matt asked, his tone changing and brows knitting with concern.

He knew. He always knew when Luke wasn’t alright. And he wasn’t. He’d just driven away the only person he ever liked. Although he didn’t see his face, he knew Kiryn must have looked hurt. He was probably still hurt, uncertain why Luke yelled at him. Why he rejected him.

“Do you ever-” Luke stopped, not even sure what he was going to ask.

“Do I ever what?”

Luke bent his head, calling himself an idiot. Was he really going to ask Matt if he ever wondered what it was like not to be born a Blake? Really? The most loyal guy in the family? It was like a slap in the face to ask him that after everything he’d done for him and Jason and the rest of their relatives over the years. Matt was a Blake through and through. Nothing was more important to him than family.

“Do you ever get tired during a case?” Luke asked lamely.

Matt paused then chuckled. “Are you that bored?”

“Kinda,”

“Well why don’t you spend more time with your friends? You mentioned you met a great group of musicians you get along with. That’s pretty cool.”

Luke swallowed and forced himself to sound as normal as possible. “Yeah, but they’re busy these days. Practicing a lot. I probably won’t see them for a while.”

“Tell me about them. You haven’t told me anything beyond what they do.”

Luke scratched his head, unsure where to even start. “Well, there’s a guy called Tig. He’s a Beta like me, but he doesn’t act like one.”

“Really? A Beta who doesn’t act like a Beta. Sounds like Ren.”

“That new lead Eagle working with Jason?”

“Yup that’s him. If it wasn’t for his height and Beta status you’d swear he’s an Alpha.” Matt laughed. “He sure is more in charge when it comes to Jason.”

Luke’s eyes widened. “Really? Ren beat Jason?”

“Well not in a physical fight I think. But he is in charge and Jason seems to listen to him.”

Luke couldn’t believe it. He wasn’t very close with Jason. He had vague memories of them playing together until he was about eight. Then everything changed and Jason turned on him, on all of them. Even Matt. He never bullied Luke, but he wasn’t nice to him either. He longed to meet this Beta who turned his cousin into a decent human being. He wanted to see what a more amiable Jason was like.

“Do you talk to him now?”

“Well, we are working a case together,” Matt said carefully. “But we aren’t really getting along or anything. He’s pretty quiet most of the time.”

The sarcastic and droll Jason was quiet! He really wanted to see that.

“Can you send me a video or something?” Luke asked eagerly.

Matt chuckled. “I can’t film a meeting but I can try to swing something. So tell me about Tig and the others.”

Luke longed to ask Matt more about Jason, but could sense that Matt was digging and wanted to know more about his life before they got carried away. “Well, Tig’s nice. He’s a bit rough around the edges but he means well. He plays the drums. There’s Jaz the bassist. He’s an Alpha but is nice. Kinda like you. Calm and tries to keep the peace in the group.”

“And here I thought I was a rare species,” Matt joked.

Luke smiled. “You are definitely a rare species. Anyway, there’s an Omega guitarist called Frit. He’s more normal and acts like an Omega. Then there’s-” Luke stopped, Kiryn’s name on the tip of his tongue.

“I’m guessing the vocalist is the only one left. What’s his name?”

It took Luke a few moments to answer and it took a Herculean effort. “Kiryn” he said in a hushed voice. “His name is Kiryn.”

There was silence on the other end and Luke knew that Matt picked up on the fact that Kiryn was different. Special.

“That’s a unique name. But all Orpheus names sound unique from what I hear. What’s he like?”

Luke licked his lips but knew he had to answer. It was Matt. He told his cousin everything. Even though he started dating Kiryn for a month and never told him. “He’s an Omega. He loves to sing and play his guitar and writes songs. He’s talented and has an amazing voice.”

“You should send me a recording of him playing one day. We can switch. I’ll send you a video of Jason and you send me one of Kiryn.”

If he ever saw him again. Given the way Kiryn left there was only a slim chance that would happen. “Maybe.”

“What else? What’s he like as a person?”

“He’s smart. And funny. He likes to play pranks on people. He teases me a lot.”

“No kidding!” Matt exclaimed, his eyes lighting up and Luke winced warily. “He teases you and you’re fine with it? I tease you a bit sometimes but generally you feel awkward about that stuff.”

“Yeah normally,” Luke said slowly. “But for some reason I don’t feel like that with him. He doesn’t do it to be mean, so it’s all good.”

“I gotta meet this guy. He sounds special. Not only is he getting you out of your shell, he’s opening up a new side to you.”

Which is why Luke had decided to throw himself into the relationship and his new life in Orpheus. Before he screwed it up by letting his family issues control his behaviour.

“Yeah,” Luke mumbled. “He is.”

Matt paused again. “You sure you OK? You look kind of down. Did you fight with Kiryn?”

Luke closed his eyes. Of course Matt would figure it out. He always paid attention to every expression and word, trying to figure out how people really felt. “Sort of.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Matt said sympathetically. “Want to talk about it?”

Luke sighed. “Not really. Well, maybe. He was being nice and bought me something.”

“What did he buy?”

Luke licked his lips again. He really needed to drink some water. He was getting nervous again. “A sketchbook and some pencils.”

“Oh Luke,” Matt said, his face and voice full of compassion.

“Yeah. So, I got upset. Told him to take it back and he- left.”

“You’re not going to explain it to him?”

“Explain what?” Luke said. “It’s all in the past. Doesn’t matter now.”

“If that were true then you wouldn’t have gotten upset with him,” Matt said firmly. Luke recognized that tone. It was his tough love voice. Luke hated it but knew Matt meant well. And it usually worked out. “You should talk to him. He’s probably just confused.”

“I yelled at him Matt,” he protested. “He’s not going to forgive me for that.”

“If you just let it go then yes. But if you talk to him, explain, he’ll understand. Unless he’s a mean person.”

“He’s not,” Luke said tightly.

“See, there you go. So what do you have to be afraid of?”

Luke paused, then whispered. “You know why.”

Matt sighed and Luke longed to just curl up in a ball and hide. “Luke, it happened years ago. And you’re far away in Orpheus now. When you come back, we’ll deal with it. We’ll make sure you won’t go through the same thing again. You shouldn’t hold yourself back anymore.”

Memories flashed through Luke’s mind and he closed his eyes, letting them wash over him. The joy he felt the first time he held a pencil and drew Matt. How proud he’d been when Matt thanked him, praising his skill. The feverish rush of drawing one sketch after another. Then the day it all ended. The heartbreak and despair he felt when that all disappeared. How he’d promised to never draw anything again. He couldn’t do it. Matt said it would work out fine, but Luke didn’t know that. And he didn’t want to go through it again.

“I don’t know,” he finally replied.

“I won’t push you,” Matt said. “But I want you to think about it, alright. At least make sure you make up with Kiryn. He sounds like an important person to you.”

And that was the main problem. How was he going to explain all this to Kiryn when he didn’t want to talk about it? Could he even get Kiryn to forgive him after rejecting him so roughly?

“Yeah, he is,” Luke said. He had to try. He had to at least try.

Chapter Text

“You sure about this?” Jason asked, again.

Ren sighed and shook his head. “For the thousandth time, yes, I’m sure.”

Ah, so he really did ask too many times, Jason thought. But he couldn’t help it. This was all too weird. His lips curled as he looked up at the sign for his favorite club, wondering if a miracle would occur and the whole place would suddenly burn to the ground. He kept staring, but nothing happened. Stupid wishful thinking. This is why he never bothered to do it.

“Ready to go in?” Ren asked.

Nope, nothing. With a weary sigh Jason wordlessly walked up to the front doors. The bouncer at the entrance recognized him and opened the door, waving him in with a smile. Oh the joy of being a regular. As soon as they walked in Jason felt like he wanted to throw up. It was all so familiar, and yet not. The music was the same. The people he saw were the same, greeting him as he and Ren walked by them. The DJ waved at him from across the room and Jason absently nodded back. Nothing looked different. So why did he feel different?

“This place is different from back home,” Ren said from next to him. They were standing pretty close so they could hear each other over the booming speakers. Jason leaned down just in case. He was at least five inches taller than the Beta and wanted to make sure they heard each other clearly.

“Did you even have clubs?” Jason asked.

Ren smirked, “Not like this. It was more….wild.”

Jason shot back up, staring mouth agape at Ren who laughed up at him. “What do you mean wild?”

Ren tilted his head to the side and they walked over to the bar. “Well for starters, the drinks just flowed. We had stations set up and people just served themselves. The clubs were a way to escape, not a business. So everything was free. Which also meant it was always crowded.”

“If they didn’t make any money how did they finance it?”

“It was one of the few things the government was willing to shell out money for. People needed an outlet, a way to blow off steam. So every month they’d clear out some warehouses, set up the alcohol stations and people would just come in and party. Usually, people took turns bringing in speakers and music from their own collections. It was the same people and they took turns.”

“You guys have music?” Jason knew he was being rude and ignorant, but based on the desolate and barren image he’d always had of Tantalus he couldn’t help it.

“We have some. Music isn’t big back home, but we do smuggle in music and stuff from outside the city. Mostly from Orpheus since they have the biggest selection of music and don’t mind people downloading their stuff for free.”

They reached the bar and just got into the line when the bartender spotted Jason. With a nod he quickly brought Jason his regular drink and Ren asked for a beer. They got their drinks and started walking the perimeter of the room.

“Anyway,” Ren continued, “People would dance, talk, laugh and drink. Your dancing is pretty chilled. Picture a mosh pit with people gyrating and shoving each other. Or just cutting loose. Usually there would be a couple of fights. Sometimes people go off into corners out of sight and have sex and come back. Like I said, a bit more wild than this.”

Jason took a sip of his drink, trying to hide his shock. He figured bringing Ren here would be too much for the Beta. Never would he have believed that his biggest scene was considered too tame by Ren’s standards. He was about to ask Ren what he usually did at these parties when someone stopped in front of him.

“Jason!” Tiffany said, the Omega smiling up at him brightly. “I haven’t seen you in so long.” She grabbed Jason’s arm, shoving his elbow not too subtly into her left breast. “We missed you.”

Jason’s eyes quickly flicked to Ren who was too busy scanning the room. He felt like a snake was coiling itself around him and longed to just thrust the Omega away from him. Months ago, he would have done just that and not cared how she felt. But for some reason, he couldn’t do it. Not now. As much as he hated to admit it, Ren’s words about the Omegas in Tantalus still stayed with him, causing a pit to open up in his stomach.

Swiftly, and with a forced smile, he extricated his arm and lightly pushed Tiffany away from him. “Sorry Tiff, here with a friend. Gotta show him around.”

Tiffany eyed Ren who was still looking around the room, his eyes shining and Jason found himself surprised by that. Who knew the professional Beta would actually enjoy the noise and chaos of a club?

“Doesn’t seem like your usual type,” Tiffany said, her eyes narrowed.

Great, he really didn’t need this right now.

He bent down and whispered in Tiffany’s ear. “It’s a family-work thing. I gotta take care of him.”

Tiffany nodded and her eyes brightened. “OK. When you’re done babysitting come look for me.” With a small wave she walked off, her hips swaying probably for his benefit.

“Interesting that now you’re babysitting me,” Ren said with amusement.

Jason winced, really wishing Ren hadn’t heard any of that. “Yeah sorry. Only way to get rid of her.”

Ren shrugged. “It’s fine. We should go mingle.” Without sparing Jason a second look, he walked off and into the crowd. Jason scrambled to keep up with him but lost him when they got onto the dance floor. It was so crowded, people dancing and swaying to the upbeat music while Jason whipped his head around, trying to locate that familiar dark black hair.

He ran into a few people he knew and they kept trying to get him to dance but he managed to shake them off. He was starting to panic, sure someone had taken Ren away somewhere. He knew Ren could take care of himself. He took Jason down no problem even though he was twice his size. But still, he couldn’t stop his frenetic thoughts and movements as he kept trying to locate his Eagle. After twenty minutes of searching and trying to keep himself from screaming Ren’s name he finally found him. And what he saw had him rooted to the spot. Ren was dancing. With an Alpha. A gorgeous female Alpha. They seemed to be getting on well and both of them were laughing. Looks like he was panicking for no reason, Ren clearly knew how to handle himself. He shouldn’t just stand there. And yet, he couldn’t look away.

Suddenly, the Alpha’s arms slithered around Ren’s waist, pulling him closer and Jason snapped, rushing forward and grabbing Ren’s arm, pulling him away from that snake.

“Hey!” the female Alpha said as Ren disappeared from her embrace.

Jason thrust Ren behind him, maintaining a death grip on his forearm and released a scent of power and possession at the Alpha. Her face contorted with pain and she bowed her head. Jason barely spared her a second glance as he stomped off the dance floor, not letting go of Ren for even a second. It wasn’t until they were outside, away from the cacophony of the club and breathing fresh air that Jason realized Ren was struggling against his grip.

His heart racing and breathing hard he looked at Ren, and decided he shouldn’t release his grip just yet. If he did, the Beta was liable to kick his ass.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Ren demanded, his teeth bared in anger.

Jason was about to reply when he saw the bouncer and a crowd of people watching them.

“Let’s go,” he said.

“No,” Ren replied, trying to wrench his arm free again. Jason knew if Ren wanted to, he could easily twist out of his grip, subdue Jason in front of everyone. But he wouldn’t. Because Jason was an Alpha and this was his turf. Ren wouldn’t do that to him. So he was stuck using his bare strength against Jason’s own. When it came to skill, Ren was by far the surprior one. But physically, Jason was stronger.

Without a word, he towed Ren to his car. After a few steps Ren huffed in frustration and gave up, following Jason, his angry steps making his fury clear. They drove back to their building in silence, which suited Jason just fine because it gave him time to think. He usually didn’t like to think. Even tonight, he’d acted on instinct. And because of that he now had a furious Beta who would demand an explanation. An explanation Jason didn’t have. Damn it! Why’d he do it? He should have just let Ren go off with that Alpha. An image of the two of them on the dance floor popped into his head and Jason’s lips curled, his hands tightening on the steering wheel. Like hell he would have let them go off together!

Riding on that wave of anger, he drove home, screeching into his parking space. Ren got out, slamming the door behind him and they rode the elevator up in silence. Without a word, Ren marched into Jason’s apartment, spinning around to face him, hands on his hips in the middle of the living room.

“What to tell me what the hell that was all about?” Ren demanded, his nostrils flaring.

“I didn’t think it was a good idea,” Jason said, trying to seem calm and logical when he really was just scrambling to say anything. His mind was a mess and he didn’t know what he could say to appease the Beta.

“Why? You know her?”

Jason frowned, wondering if he should lie. But he’d avoided lying to Ren so far and didn’t want to start now. “No. But I know what she would have done. You said that back home sex was different. Well, it is here too. You don’t know the rules and she would have messed with you.”

“I think I can handle myself,” Ren said dryly, crossing his arms.

“Look, the fact that she even came on to you was weird. Alphas only sleep with Omegas here. She may have been setting you up and was into some weird shit. I was trying to look out for you.”

“Like I said,” Ren said through clenched teeth, “I can handle myself. Or do you need me to kick your ass to remind you?”

“I know you can. I’m not denying that. I was just worried that you were going to hook up with someone with a weird fetish. I’ve never seen an Alpha go for a Beta before.”

“Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize everyone has the same taste as you.”

Jason growled, knowing he was just making a muck of things but unsure what to say. “I’m not saying everyone is like me. Even Uncle Nathan married a Beta. I know it happens. But it’s unusual. Betas and Alphas don’t really mix.”

“So it would have been OK if I hit on an Omega?”

An image of Ren embracing one of those simpering, coy Omegas leaped into his mind and he could feel his anger return. “No. I’m not saying that.”

“So I can only be with other Betas, because that’s the only combination that makes sense in your narrow-minded world.”

For some reason, that didn’t settle well with him either and he couldn’t help shaking his head, whether in denial of his feelings or as no he wasn’t sure. “I’m not saying that.”

“Then what are you saying?” Ren screamed.

“I’m saying you shouldn’t sleep with strangers!” Jason yelled back. “You don’t know anyone here. You don’t know how things work.”

“So you’re telling me to stay celibate as long as I’m here,” Ren said, snorting derisively. “That’s pretty hypocritical coming from you of all people.”

Jason had no response to that and decided to switch tactics, trying to sound as reasonable as possible. “Look, all I’m saying is, you need to be careful. This is Plutus. There are a lot of weirdos out there.”

“No you look,” Ren said, glaring at him. “Just because you have a weird hang up with Omegas and never slept with a Beta doesn’t mean no one else would want to. Not all Alphas and Omegas think it’s wrong to sleep with a Beta.”

“I don’t have a problem sleeping with a Beta,” Jason growled.

Ren snorted. “Yeah right. You don’t even know how. You’d fumble through it and just embarrass yourself. Just stick to your regular Omegas.”

Jason felt like his whole body was on fire, hands curled and neck strained as he resisted the urge to rush at Ren and tackle him, make him just stop talking. “I would not embarrass myself!”

“Spoken like a true brat,” Ren shot back.

Before he knew what he was doing, Jason launched himself forward, grabbing Ren’s arms and slamming his mouth down on his. He felt Ren part his lips in shock and forced his tongue inside, wrapping his arms tightly around the Beta. He felt Ren writhing in his arms, trying to break out of his grip but he increased the pressure, keeping one arm looped around his waist and pinning his arms, the other snaking up his back and holding his head in place as he practically assaulted the Beta’s mouth.

He didn’t know what he was doing. Would probably kick himself for it later. But right now, he just needed Ren to shut up, to just stop talking. So he kept kissing him until Ren finally went limp. Slowly, he lifted his head, eyeing the Beta warily.

Ren just stared at him, his expression that of a long suffering parent. “I didn’t mean on me you idiot.”

Not the response he was expecting but if he wasn’t going to kick his ass he was gonna go with it. “Well, you’re a Beta. And you wanted to hook up tonight.”

Ren sighed. “Nope, I don’t think so.”

“Why not?” What was he saying? Did he really even want to sleep with Ren? He never thought about it, but now the idea was lodged in his mind and he couldn’t seem to let go.

“Because you’re gonna get all clingy and weird about it,” Ren replied, as if stating a fact.

Jason was so nonplussed by the statement he actually took a step back, releasing his grip on Ren. “What do you mean clingy and weird? I’ve never been clingy and weird! If anything, people are clingy and weird with me!”

“That's true,” Ren said. “But I can’t risk doing this if you’re going to change our relationship because of it.”

“What’s there to change? We’ll work together. We’ll argue. Nothing changes.”

Ren eyed him uncertinaly. “You sure?”

“Yes,” Jason said fimly.

Ren stared at him for a few more moments then shook his head. “Nope, not interested. I meant it when I said you’ve never been with a Beta. You wouldn’t even know how.”

Now it was a matter of pride and Jason could feel his competitive side rear it’s ugly head. “I can make you come and scream in pleasure you never even imagined.”

Ren’s eyebrows went up. “Really? You that confident?”

Wordlessly, Jason grabbed Ren’s hand and towed him towards his bedroom. He pulled Ren forward, tossing him onto the bed. Ren’s back barely hit the mattress before Jason was on top of him, kissing him deeply. This time, Ren opened his mouth willingly, twining his arms around Jason's neck. With a growl, Jason twisted one hand into Ren’s hair, surprised by how soft it was while the other ducked under his shirt, his fingers moving up the muscles of his abdomen. He’d never seen Ren shirtless before but knew the Beta was probably well built. Based on what he felt, the guy was all muscle. None of the Omegas he slept with were muscular. They were all soft. He thought the muscles would be a turn off, but they weren’t and he could feel his dick starting to respond.

He moaned as Ren’s tongue moved against his own and the Beta took the lead, thrusting his own tongue into Jason’s mouth and running it over the inside of his lips. None of his partners ever did that before either. All of them just lay back and let Jason do everything, moaning and urging him on.

He could smell his aroused scent filling the room and felt a moment of shock when he realized there was no corresponding smell. Was Ren not aroused? But then again, he heard Betas didn’t release much smells. It was a bit disconcerting and he pulled back a bit. He barely lifted his head when he felt Ren follow him, running his tongue up his neck. Jason shuddered, his discomfort at the lack of smell fading as Ren began to nibble on his ear..

He felt Ren chuckle against his ear before he nipped it again. “You’re pretty sensitive.”

Jason didn’t know he was, and was starting to realize what Ren meant when he said he didn’t know what it was like to sleep with a Beta. Because he was definitely out of his element. That notion was reinforced when Ren whipped Jason’s shirt off, kissing a trail down his neck, across his collarbone and to his chest.

With a growl, Jason knew he had to retake control and pushed Ren back into the mattress, lifting his shirt and kissing his left nipple before he sucked on it. Omegas usually liked that. He kept waiting for Ren’s nipple to harden, to respond to his touch, but nothing happened. He frowned, about to try again when Ren twisted his head lightly.

“I’m more sensitive on the other side.”

Jason licked his right nipple and felt Ren shudder. Emboldened and feeling back on even ground, he ran his left hand up and down Ren’s side while he played with his right nipple. Ren gasped at one point which caused Jason’s erection to increase so much he really needed to take off his pants. Quickly, he sat up and took them off along with his underwear, tossing them to the side. He looked back at Ren, one eyebrow cocking upwards when he saw that the Beta had taken his outer shirt, pants, and underwear off too. All he had left was a skin tight short sleeved black undershirt. He was about to rip it off when Ren’s hand stopped him.

“I like keeping it on,” Ren said.

“That’s a weird fetish.”

“Soldier’s body. Got lots of scars. Better to just leave it on.”

With a shrug Jason kissed him again, feeling something metallic against his bare chest. He looked down, seeing two circular thin pieces of metal hanging on a chain around Ren’s neck. He frowned, wondering how he’d never noticed that Ren wore a necklace. He picked them up but barely noticed something was engraved on each one when Ren quickly snatached them back.

“ID tag,” he explained, stuffing it back under his shirt. “Everyone in Tantalus has to wear one.”

Jason shrugged, filing yet another tidbit about Tantalus away in the recesses of his mind. He kissed Ren again, his hand sliding down and grasping Ren’s erection. He stroked it, smirking into Ren’s mouth when he felt the Beta shudder and moan. Languidly, he moved his hand back, probing Ren’s entrance and tried to thrust a finger in.

That’s when he knew he’d messed up. Not only was Ren completely dry, but the Beta froze in his arms.

Jason moved his head back and Ren stared at him.

“You don’t know what you’re doing do you?” Ren stated.

“I….can figure it out,” Jason said, his mind desperately trying to form a solution. Omegas usually got wet on their own. He’d never encountered this problem before.

With a world weary sigh, Ren shoved his shoulders back and Jason eased off him. That’s it. It was over. His one chance to prove to Ren that he could arouse and please a Beta just as much as any Omega, and he’d blown it. He stared down at the bed, vaguely aware of Ren ruffling through his clothes. He was probably getting dressed and leaving, disgusted with Jason’s pathetic attempts.

“Here, use this.”

Jason looked up, blinking in incomprehension at the blue capsule Ren held in front of him.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a lubricant capsule,” Ren said. When Jason didn’t move, still shocked that Ren hadn’t just walked off in a disgusted huff, he grabbed Jason’s hand and pushed the capsule into it. “I had some in my pocket just in case. I’ll teach you how to use it.”

Ren crawled onto the bed, flopping onto his back. “You take the capsule and put it inside. It’ll take a minute to work but then you can start putting your finger in.”

Jason stared dubiously at the capsule, certain that this wouldn’t work. Ren was tricking him again.

“Would you just do it already? Otherwise our erections are gonna go to waste!” Ren snapped at him.

That’s all Jason needed to convince him that this was actually happening. Still uncertain, he eased the capsule inside Ren. He froze when the Beta shuddered, his eyes flickering briefly.

“You OK?” Jason asked.

“Yeah. It’s just cold. Just give me a minute.”

Jason sat still, his finger still holding the capsule inside. Suddenly, he felt the capsule turn into liquid and couldn’t help yelping with surprise.

Ren chuckled. “Told you. Now move your fingers inside. You gotta get me used to it.”

Jason didn’t know what that meant but tried anyway. He wiggled his fingers, marvelling at the odd sensation.

“Do Omegas need to do this too? The finger stuff?” He knew he sounded stupid but he couldn’t help asking.

“Some do, some don’t. Depends on how wet and turned on they are,” Ren said patiently, as if he was teaching one of his Eagles how to dismantle a bomb. “It usually widen naturally for them so sometimes you can thrust in with minimal preparation. Sometimes you need to prepare them more.”

Jason never knew that and wondered if any of his partners needed to prepare. He vaguely recalled that some of them went off to the bathroom before they got started. He felt a well of shame at the thought that he hadn’t done it right. After all this time. But really, it was the Omegas’ fault too. They could have said something!

“Just a bit more,” Ren said, his voice tightening.

His erection was becoming painful and it only increased when he felt Ren tighten around his fingers. Really, he should be ready by now. He reached into is nightstand drawer and pulled out a condom, ripping it open and putting it on. Quickly, he lifted Ren’s hips and barely heard the Beta exclaim ‘Wait’ before he thrust in. And it hurt. He grunted, surprised by how tight Ren was. He couldn’t go in too deep.

“You idiot!” Ren hissed. “I told you to wait. I haven’t done this in a while.”

“As big as my hands are, my fingers aren’t that big,” Jason hissed back. “It’s better to just get you used to me directly.”

Ren growled and tossed his head back. “Moron.”

Ignoring the Beta, Jason pushed forward slightly, his neck tightening as he felt some resistance. Ren’s legs tightened in his hands and he stopped, panting hard with the effort to hold himself back. He waited as long as he could then pushed in deeper, feeling a thrill of victory as he slid in a bit more. Good enough. He pulled out and thrust back in, his adrenaline pumping as he thrust himself in and out. He was so focused on making sure he was doing it right he didn’t have time to look at Ren. He probably felt good though, otherwise he’d say something.

He had to say, as strange as it was to thrust into someone this tight, he was getting used to it. The thought barely crossed his mind when Ren tightened around him and it was too much for Jason and he climaxed. He sat on his haunches, still holding Ren’s legs up while he panted after his climax. When his heart finally started to settle, he smirked and looked at Ren, ready to tell the Beta to shove his mocking comments about his sexual prowess. But the words died on his lips when he saw the Beta glaring at him.

“You suck,” Ren stated simply.

Numb, Jason’s arms dropped to his side, Ren’s lower half flopping onto the bed. With a sigh, Ren sat up, reached out for a tissue and wiped down the front of his shirt

“But...you came,” Jason stated, staring at Ren’s smeared shirt.

“Yeah, thanks to my own efforts,” Ren said, tossing the tissue into the trash can next to the night stand. No surprise, it went in Jason thought numbly.

“But..you didn’t say anything.”

“Because you were too busy feeling good all on your own,” Ren snapped. “I gotta say, I knew you were only used to Omegas but I didn’t expect that. You really just worried about yourself when you were with them, didn’t you?”

Jason stared, mouth agape, his mind in a daze. What did Ren mean about him worrying about himself? Didn’t he spend time trying to arouse him, licking and sucking his nipples? He even put his fingers inside, trying to widen him and get him comfortable. Did he get no credit for that?

“I think you should stick with Omegas,” Ren said as he got dressed. “They’re less high maintenance when it comes to sex. Anyway, see you later.” Without a backwards glance, the Beta walked out, leaving Jason in a mindless mess.

He said he sucked. Him. Jason Blake. The guy who’d been having sex since he was old enough to understand what it was. His confusion giving way to anger, Jason furiously ripped off the condom and tossed it into the trash, not caring that he didn’t actually throw it in properly and missed.

He’d show him! He’d show that arrogant and uptight Beta how good he was at sex. Naked, he stalked into his living room and turned on his laptop. Quickly, he opened up a browser and typed in ‘How to have sex with a Beta.” He should feel ashamed that he had to actually look it up, but he didn’t have anyone he could ask. And it would be even more embarrassing to bring someone else into this. He was going to show that Beta. He was going to figure this out, they were going to do it again, and he was going to get Ren to admit that Jason is the best sex he’s ever had!

His eyes shining gleefully, Jason read the first article and his stomach dropped. The more he read, the more he realized what Ren meant when he said Jason didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t. Because as he was discovering, there were a lot of steps to be taken when sleeping with a Beta, if you wanted to do it right. Damn.

Chapter Text

Come on, do it you wuss! Jason chanted to himself for the tenth time. He was going to do it. Come on! He looked at his hand, hovering over his office doorknob. His fingers didn’t so much as twitch. He glared at his hand, willing his body to move. OK, so you suck at sex. No big deal. It was his first time sleeping with a Beta and based on all those articles he read until the wee hours of the morning, it’s a lot more complicated than sleeping with an Omega. He was learning. Nothing wrong with learning. So the guy thought he was lame, selfish. That’s fine. It didn’t matter.

Jason sighed and his head flopped forward. Yeah, he’d been lying to himself all morning and it wasn’t working. Truth was, he was too embarrassed to face Ren after their disastrous sexual experience last night. And it was all his fault. He had to get pushy and, he shuddered, needy. Why, why did he stop Ren from hooking up with that Alpha in the club? If he’d just left him alone, none of this would have happened. So what if he slept with someone else? All his partners slept around and that never bothered him. So why now?

Because Ren was different. And he knew it. He just didn’t know what it meant.

He was so lost in thought he didn’t realize the door swung open till it smacked him in the face.

“Aghh,” Jason groaned, his hand on his throbbing forehead. “What the-.” He froze when he saw Ren staring at him, a look of pity on his face. Great, now he sucked at sex and ws an idiot who walked into doors. Just great.

“You OK?” Ren asked.

Jason stood straight, running his hands over his jacket even though he longed to find some ice for his sore head. “Fine. You?”

“Not bad. You coming in?”

Why’d he have to say it like that? Did he do it on purpose? To taunt him and remind him of how he failed? He searched Ren’s face but saw nothing. Well, there was some impatience there as Ren turned around and walked back into the office. With a last deep breath he followed him in.

“I was just about to get you. Priya sent me the first three account information. Thought you might want to see them.”

“Sure!” Jason said, wincing at how loud and excited he sounded. “Sure,” he repeated, his voice more normal. “I’ll take a look.”

Wordlessly, Ren tapped a few buttons on his computer and pulled up the list. His heart beating nervously, Jason sat next to him, keeping at least a foot of space between them.

“Are you really going to be like this?” Ren snapped.

“Like what?” Jason asked innocently.

Ren sighed and shook his head. “I told you sleeping together would be a mistake if you were going to act all weird about it.”

“I’m not acting weird!” Jason protested.

Ren raised an eyebrow and Jason sighed.

“OK, fine. I am. But you can’t tell me I suck at sex and then act all normal afterwards.”

Ren looking at him for a few seconds then nodded. “You’re right.”

Jason blinked, sure he’d misheard him. “Excuse me?”

“I said you’re right.” Ren looked away, his face flushing a bit and Jason was shocked to realize the Beta was actually embarrassed! “I shouldn’t have said that. I was just...frustrated and you rushed me and I wasn’t happy about it. So I lashed out. Sorry.”

“Thanks,” Jason said carefully. “I..appreciate that.”

Ren nodded and turned back to his computer. “Now, can we focus on work please?”

Jason rolled his chair closer and they were just about to scan the list when there was a knock on his door. Swiftly, Ren changed the screen and a report he started on the fake embezzlement case popped up. When did he have time to make that?

Once he was sure there were no traces of the case anywhere, Ren walked over to the door and opened it. Jason almost growled when Matt walked in. Just when he and Ren were almost back to normal.

“I need to talk to you,” Matt said, his expression somber.

“About what?” Jason asked, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair, his usual pose when he talked to his annoying older cousin.

“There’s a family lunch tomorrow.”

“Yeah I know, the weekly Saturday lunches. What about it?”

Matt stared straight into his eyes and Jason shuddered inwardly. He hated when Matt did that. It made him feel even more like a shit that he actually was. Like he was rejecting Matt. Which he was. For good reasons. Which he couldn’t remember when Matt looked at him like that. Like he cared, like he wanted Jason to reciprocate. Even though they both know Jason can’t.

“Uncle Nathan is having a bit of a tough time with Luke being gone. He’s become more...withdrawn. The last couple of weeks he barely talks.”

“And what do you want me to do about it?”

“He talks to you. For some reason.”

It was true, loath as Jason was to admit it. He didn’t get along with any of his family members, but when he was around Nathan, he couldn’t help being nice to him. It was that shy way he spoke, so awkward but so earnest. When Jason’s world fell apart, Nathan was the only one he could stand to sit next to at family gatherings. A few years later, when Nathan’s wife died, they still sat next to each other. They didn’t talk much, and that seemed to work for them. But they did talk to each other more than they did to the rest of the family. Just little jokes here and there. Jason might make a snide comment about his dad and Nathan would chuckle or blush. It was a strange relationship and he’d never say they were close, but they did feel comfortable around each other.

“He doesn’t talk to me that much,” Jason said. “Just more than usual.”

“And that’s something,” Matt said, his tone turning earnest, his eyes narrowing with determination. “I know you hate the family lunches and being around your dad, but do it for Uncle Nathan.”

Jason pictured Nathan’s lost expression when his wife died, desolate and inconsolable. How red his face turned whenever Quinton zeroed in on him, embarrassing him in front of the family. If Jason went, he’d have to see that. Even worse, his dad was bound to wail into him.

“Nope. Not interested,” Jason said.

Matt continued staring at him, as if waiting for him to change his mind. Jason stared back, his expression just as determined. Finally, Matt nodded in resignation, his shoulders slouching as he walked out of the room.

He barely exhaled in relief after that tense confrontation when Ren walked over and stood in front of him, a disgusted sneer on his face.

“What’s your problem?” Jason asked.

“You,” Ren said. “I don’t get you. Why do you hate Matt so much?”

“I don’t….hate him,” Jason said lamely.

“Then why do you keep rejecting him? He tries so hard to talk to you. Why won’t you give him anything?”

Jason felt that familiar sense of anger, an anger that always reared it’s ugly head where Matt was concerned. “Oh sure, blame me. Tell me how Matt’s soooo great, so perfect. And I’m the bad one.”

Ren cocked his head, his expression contemplative. “Are you jealous of Matt?”

Jason sputtered a few times before he could actually open his mouth and speak. “Me? Jealous? Of that frickin goody two shoes? Hell no!”

“Then why’d you talk about him like that?” Ren persisted.

Jason growled, longing to tell Ren to fuck off and leave him alone. But if he did that, Ren might actually leave him alone. And he knew now that he didn’t handle being ignored by the Beta very well. So he was stuck. He didn’t want to talk about it, nor could he tell Ren to mind his own business.

With a sigh, he decided to give Ren a small tidbit so he would back off. “Look I’m not jealous. It’s not jealousy. It’s...something else. All my life, Matt was the good one, the one everyone praised and looked up to. I was the reject. So I don’t appreciate it when people compare me to him or talk about how great he is. OK?”

Jason breathed heavily, ashamed of his feelings, and embarrassed that he actually shared them with someone. It felt so juvenile. But he had to say something or Ren wouldn’t let the matter go.

“Sounds fair,” Ren said and Jason was sure he heard him wrong.

“Say what now?”

“I said, you have every right to feel that way,” Ren said, his tone reasonable.

Jason couldn’t believe it. Was Ren saying he was right? Again! That was twice in one day! He gave himself a small pinch to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.

“It’s normal to feel insecure around someone when people keep comparing you, and finding you wanting,” Ren continued. “But that doesn’t mean it needs to taint your relationship. You said you don’t hate Matt.”

Jason thought about it for a second, wondering what Ren was aiming at. “No,” he said slowly, hoping to avoid whatever trick Ren had up his sleeve. “I don’t hate him hate him.”

“So you’re dealing with some resentment. Which is valid. But you shouldn't let what other people say make you treat Matt like crap. You should just create your own relationship with him, without the influence of other people.”

“You make it sound really simple,” Jason groused.

Ren chuckled. “I know it’s not. It’s like parents playing favorites. It’s bounds to create resentment in the less favored child. They can’t take it out on the parents, because they still want their approval. So they take it out on their sibling, blaming them for taking away all the parents’ attention and love.”

“I don’t care if I don’t get my family’s approval!” Jason snapped.

“Perfect,” Ren said, his smile widening and Jason knew he’d fallen into his trap despite his best efforts. “Then there really is no reason to treat Matt so badly.”

Jason glared at him, hoping an argument will come to him. Ren continued to smile.

“Gahh! Fine!” Jason yelled, throwing his hands up in the air. “You win! Again! You gotta stop doing that. It’s frickin annoying.”

Ren laughed, “To you maybe.”

Jason glared, causing the Beta to laugh even harder and he wished he could find something to throw at him.

 

Shoulders drooping, Matt walked back into his office, finding Connor at the conference table as usual.

“Didn’t go well?” Connor asked sympathetically.

“No,” Matt muttered, falling into the seat next to his secretary. “I thought maybe since I was asking for Uncle Nathan’s sake he’d say yes. He doesn't like any of us, but he and Uncle Nathan have a weird relationship.”

“You mentioned,” Connor murmured. “But to him, it’s one person he likes against a house full of people he wants to avoid. He probably thinks it’s not worth the effort.”

“Well, sometimes we have to do things we don’t like!” Matt snapped, his anger with Jason spilling forth. “Does he think I like taking my grandmother shopping? Or listening to my grandfather drone on and on about the Blake family pride? No! But I do it, because they’re family and I have to. So he should just suck it up every once in a while and do it!”

Matt breathed heavily, his body shaking. It took him a few seconds to realize Connor hadn’t said anything and looked up at him. The look of surprise on the Omega’s face made him realize that he’d actually been shouting. Something he rarely if ever did.

“Ah, sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I got carried away.”

Connor shook his head. “It’s fine. I cried in front of you twice and even yelled at you. I think it was about time you cracked in front of me. Now we’re even.”

Matt stared for a few seconds then smiled. “Actually, for us to be even I have to break down two more times.”

Connor’s eyes widened. “You’re right.” He spun in his chair, facing Matt squarely. “Come on. Anything else you want to rant about? You owe me two more rants.” Then he smiled, a genuine happy and cheeky smile.

Matt laughed, his heart feeling lighter at the teasing glint in Connor’s eyes. Was this what Devon meant when he said his mom was funny? Because he definitely could get used to this side of Connor.

He was about to reply when his door swung open. He and Connor quickly turned in their chairs and he felt his blood freeze when he saw Jason stomp into his office, stopping a couple of feet into the room.

“OK, I’ll go,” Jason said, arms stiff at his side and his voice sounding louder than the Alpha probably knew.

Matt couldn’t even open his mouth, his mind reeling from what Jason just said. He felt Connor poke him in the arm and snapped out of it. “OK. Good. Great. Want me to walk over with you?”

Jason paused, his hands shaking as if he was waging an internal battle with himself. He didn’t reply for a full minute and he and Connor exchanged concerned glances.

Finally Jason opened his mouth. “That would be great. Thanks.” And he turned around and walked out, leaving a shell shocked Connor and Matt behind as he slammed the door shut.

“What just happened?” Matt whispered. It was a dream. It had to be a dream. Not only had Jason agreed to come to their family lunch, but even agreed to go together. And thanked him for it!

“I think...he’s changing,” Connor replied, his voice equally soft.

Slowly, a grin spread across Matt’s face and he turned to look at Connor, his tone full of excitement. “He is! He is changing!”

Connor’s expression turned stern and he wagged a finger in front of him, probably the same way he told Devon off. “Remember what Ren said. If you get too excited or make it too obvious you care, you’ll scare Jason off.”

Matt nodded. “Right, right. I gotta be cool. Calm. How bout this?” Matt cleared his throat, trying to make his voice deeper when he spoke. “Hey Jason. Ready to go?”

“Too deep. You sound like you’re trying too hard.”

“Hey Jason, ready to go?”

“Too bright. He’ll probably just say no and head back into the building.”

“Hey Jason-”

“Too desperate.”

 

Jason took a deep breath, running his hands over his black suit one more time. He checked his reflection in the mirror, wincing at himself. He looked like he was trying too hard. His red hair was tied back, perfectly combed so there wasn’t even a curl. His suit was pressed and perfect, not a wrinkle on it. Even his cufflinks looked shiny.

“I look like an idiot,” he mumbled.

“You look good,” Ren said for the twentieth time. “Now would you stop whining. You said this is what everyone wears to these lunches.”

“Exactly!” Jason said, spinning to face the Beta as they stood in his walk in closet. “They all do this. And if I do it too, it’ll look like I’m trying to be one of them. Like I want them to accept me.”

As soon as he said it, he knew he’d said too much. Ren’s eyes narrowed, seizing on the small clues Jason just tossed out and he winced. Crap, crap. This is why he hated going to family events. It made him all nervous and twitchy and he said and thought things he usually ignored or pretended he never felt.

Ren opened his mouth and Jason was scrambling to come up with a plausible excuse or statement to mislead the frickin detective when his doorbell rang.

“It’s Matt. Gotta go.” Hoping his desperation and relief didn't show, he rushed out of the room, feeling Ren’s gaze still on him.

He opened the door, finding his cousin on the other side also wearing a suit, but his was dark blue.

“Hey Jason, ready to go?” Matt asked.

Eager to get away from Ren and his prying eyes he quickly closed the door behind him and marched down the hall. “Let’s go.”

It wasn’t until they were in the elevator that it hit him that he was actually going to face his family. All of them. In one room. For the first time since his grandfather’s birthday party almost three months ago. Back then it was a big event with hundreds of people and he was able to hide in a corner. He wouldn’t have that option this time. His palms began to sweat and he surreptitiously wiped them against his pants.

“Uncle Nathan will be happy you’re coming,” Matt said, his tone bright.

“Hmm.”

They stood in silence, watching the floors fly by. It was only twenty floors up but it felt like an eternity. And Jason wished it would last that long. All too soon, they reached the top floor where the front door to their grandparents’ three floor apartment was. Underneath that each one of the sons had his own two floors for their families. There were empty one floor apartments for Jason, Matt and Luke, plus a few extras, but all three opted for smaller apartments on the lower floors with the extended Blake family. Matt and Luke were on the same floor with two second cousins. Jason was lucky there was only a second uncle on his floor. And Ren. Lucas and Quinton didn’t like them so far down but Matt argued a whole floor when they were single was too much. Once they were married though, they’d be expected to move up to the higher floors, even closer to their immediate family.

“I’ll try and keep Uncle Quinton off your back,” Matt suddenly said as they got off the elevator.

“Don’t bother. I can handle him,” Jason said.

“Still, I asked you to come. I feel responsible.”

He felt a twinge of annoyance then remembered what Ren told him yesterday. Matt was a good person. A better person than Jason would ever be. Which was the whole problem. Which didn't mean he had to take his resentment out on him. Pretty words, but it was easier said than done. He couldn’t just banish years of feeling second rate, of feeling inadequate everytime he looked at his perfect older cousin. With his perfect Blake looks, matching Lucas and Robert Blake’s blonde hair and blue eyes exactly. His dedication to the Blake name. Everything Jason wasn’t and stood against. What he tried not to be.

“Whatever,” Jason said, and that was the best he could do.

Silently, they walked to the only door on the entire floor. Matt rang the doorbell and Jason could feel his anxiety return. Maybe it wasn’t too late to turn back? Maybe he could-

“Matthew!” his grandmother Stephanie exclaimed as she opened the door. Jason had to admit, despite being in her mid-sixties the Omega still looked good. She dyed her hair blonde so not even a grey hair showed and her skin looked great with minimal wrinkles around her mouth and eyes. The wonders of Plutus cosmetic surgeons. But unlike other Omegas, she didn’t overdo it so she retained her natural charm. Her grey eyes widened and she clapped her hands in joy and he felt himself shrivel up even further. “And Jason! I didn’t know you were coming! You should have told us.”

Jason forced himself to smile but it felt more like a grimace. “Hi Grandma.”

Stephanie laughed and grabbed his arm, pulling him into the main foyer. “You’re the only one who calls me that and I love it! Matthew and Luke are always so stiff. Grandmother this and Grandmother that.”

“That’s what we were told to call you,” Matt protested lightly. “It’s hard to change.”

“Well, I’m glad no one insisted you call me that,” Stephanie said. “It’s nice to have at least one grandchild who isn’t so formal.”

It wasn’t that no one insisted Jason thought bitterly. It’s that no one cared enough to tell him. And by the time his dad gave a crap, he was too old to change his ways. And then he didn’t want to.

“We’re still waiting for your father,” Stephanie told him.

Great. So he wouldn’t have to see his face right away. Jason felt a bit of his tension dissipate. Only a bit.

“Here we are!” Stephanie exclaimed as they entered the main living room, waving her arm grandly in the air. “Look who Matthew managed to bring.”

Jason really wished she didn’t say it like that, even though it was the truth. All eyes turned to them as they entered and Jason felt himself break out into a cold sweat as he smiled weakly and nodded at the room’s occupants.

“Jason,” Lucas Blake said, his voice thundering as usual. He was sitting in his favorite chair, a monstrous wooden one with purple cushions, appearing more like a throne, it’s presence and status obvious in the giant room. “Didn’t realize you were coming.”

“He managed to tear himself away from our case and come,” Matt said, coming to his rescue. As usual.

Jason nodded, trying to keep his gaze steady on Lucas as Stephanie towed him towards his grandfather so he could greet him. When they stood in front of each other, Jason lifted his hand.

“Hello Grandfather,” Jason murmured.

Lucas shook his hand while Stephanie tittered. “Hear that? He calls you Grandfather but me Grandma.”

Lucas frowned slightly and Jason really wished Stephanie would just stop talking. She meant well, but she really didn’t understand what she should or shouldn’t say. She was also pretty bad at reading the room which was why she was so oblivious of the obvious tension radiating from his body.

“Grandmother, you’re hogging Jason,” Matt said warmly, smiling down at the older woman.

“Oh right. Go say hello to your uncles. Nathaniel just stepped out for a minute.” Stephanie finally released his arm and Jason managed to fight the urge to shake it and get the blood flowing. It felt like she had a death grip on him, a noose even.

“Hello Jason,” Robert said formally as Jason and Matt walked across the room towards the couch he and his wife Evelyn sat at.

“Hello Uncle Rob, Aunt Evelyn. You look good,” Jason tried to smile, he really did, but the perfect Blake couple always made him uncomfortable. He knew why. It didn’t take a genius to figure out. They were the perfect Blake couple and parents, while his parents….were not. He never knew how to act around them and didn’t know what they thought of him and how much effort Matt put into building a relationship with him. Or how Jason rejected him. They probably hated him. Not that he blamed them. Which made him even more uncomfortable. Was it hot in here? He almost tugged his tie down but stopped with his hand halfway to his neck, putting it into his pocket instead. Steady Jason, steady. We didn’t even get to eat yet. And Quinton still hadn’t arrived. Then the shit really was going to hit the fan.

“Matt says you two have been working hard together on the case,” Evelyn said, smiling that warm smile she always seemed to have. Just like Matt.

“Yes. We have been. Busy with the case.” Great Jason, just great. Now you sound like a monosyllabic moron.

“Jason!” Nathan said, walking into the room.

Jason almost exhaled with relief as he walked over to his ‘favorite’ uncle and stopped short of actually giving him a hug. They felt comfortable with each other, but not that comfortable.

“Uncle Nate. Great to see you,” Jason shook his hand and this time, he felt his heart settle a bit. This is why he came. That and the fact that Ren talked him into cutting Matt some slack. “Have you been going to the gym or something?”

Nathan smiled shyly, a smile no Alpha ever wore. “I’ve been exercising more often yes. Matt and I swim every day and I play tennis with Robert in the afternoons.”

Jason didn’t know that but it made sense. Of course the perfect Blake Alphas would take care of their lost duck.

“That sounds great. It’s nice to get out and exercise.”

“You should know, you work out every day right?”

Jason grinned, crossing his arms so his muscles flexed. “Yup. Gotta stay fit. I’ve been into running lately though.”

Nathan’s eyebrows rose slightly. “Really? I thought you prefer staying in your gym. What made you change your mind?”

Ren’s name was on the tip of his tongue but he held back at the last second. No need for anyone in the family to know about his ‘relationship’ with Ren. Even Jason didn’t know what it was exactly. No need to bring other people into it. “Just wanted to get some fresh air.”

“You might want to try mingling in society then,” a voice boomed behind them.

Jason’s spine stiffened and Nathan’s smile fell as Quinton entered the room, his gaze focused on Jason.

“Jason. Didn’t know you were coming. Did Matt force you or something?” Quinton asked, his gaze and words cutting into him he was surprised blood didn’t actually flow and pool onto the floor

There it was. That familiar look of disgust and disdain Quinton had just for him. It didn’t matter what Jason did or said, it was always there. For as long as he could remember. As a child, he never knew what it meant or how to deal with it. He’d just curl up in a ball in his room and cry, question what he did wrong and vow he would make his dad proud of him. Until he realized he would never win his father’s approval and that it would be best if he fought back in his own way. Which is why he let his muscles slacken, taking on that bored expression he always had when he was around Quinton, a message that no matter what, Quinton’s words didn’t affect him.

“No force necessary. He just asked me nicely and I said yes. I can be reasonable if people ask nicely,” he drawled.

Quinton’s eyes narrowed and he could see that familiar vein throbbing in his neck, the one that always appeared when Jason talked back.

“Grandmother, is lunch ready?” Matt asked loudly, drawing everyone’s attention.

Stephanie may be ditzy, but she wasn’t a complete fool. “Yes, we should all head to the dining room,” she said, getting up from her seat gracefully and grabbing Jason’s arm on her way out. “Nathan and Jason, I want you two next to me. Such a breath of fresh air from two of my favorite people.”

“I bet you say that to everyone,” Jason quipped, remnants of his sarcastic side carrying over into this conversation. As long as Quiton was around, he’d be on his guard, even if he was talking to other people. Which is why he wasn’t even surprised when Stephanie expertly seated everyone and he, Nathan and Matt were next to each other at one end of the table and Quinton, Robert and Evelyn on the other side, his father sitting next to Lucas who was at the other end of the table. Like this, Quinton was mostly out of earshot, unless he raised his voice and called down the long table to talk to him. Which he probably wouldn’t do as it went against all dining room rules of etiquette.

Jason felt himself relax as everyone began talking, discussing a fundraiser.

“So tell me about your runs,” Nathan said.

“I just like to go down near the lake. It’s pretty nice there. No one is around at night. You should try it.” Jason’s eyes widened, wondering if he inadvertently invited Nathan to join him. Which is not what he wanted. He, Ren and Ari were finally going to start running together next week. He didn’t want anyone else joining them.

“I like to turn in early. Maybe in the afternoon,” Nathan said.

Jason sagged with relief and grinned. “Maybe watch the sunset. That would be nice.”

Nathan’s smile dimmed slightly. “Yes. I wonder if Luke can go on runs like that. He likes to exercise. Not as much as you, but he likes to be outdoors.”

Uh-oh, this is what they were trying to avoid. Jason looked past Nathan’s hunched shoulders towards Matt who gave him a pointed look.

Jason cleared his throat, not sure what he was going to say but decided to go with his gut. “I’m sure he is. Hey, did you read that new series by Megan Walther?”

As if waking from a daze, Nathan turned to look at him. “Who?”

“Megan Walther,” Jason said, inflicting a great deal of excitement in his voice. “She’s an author in Heracles. She writes fantasy novels. I know you like those. They’re making a big deal about her new series. The last book just came out.”

There was a sparkle in Nathan’s eye and he sat straighter. “Really?”

Jason smiled and could see Matt smile as well. He swore even Stephanie and Evelyn were giving them nods of approval as Jason explained the premise of the series. Which prompted Nathan to talk about his favorite series. The conversations flowed around them while they sat there, in their own little bubble. Soon, the meal ended and Lucas told them to head back to the living room for some tea and drinks.

“I’m going to hit the head. I’ll see you in there Uncle Nate,” Jason said, giving Nathan a jolly wave before he walked down the opposite end of the hall to the guest bathroom. So far so good. They were done with their meal and there were no major incidents. He did what he sought out to do, which was make Matt and Nathan happy. God knows why they wanted him for that but he did his part. And avoided his dad for the entire meal. He could do this. He can do this!

He barely opened the bathroom door, ready to head back when his dad pushed his way in, shoving Jason back and closing the door behind him.

“What are you doing here?” Quinton hissed.

Jason could hear the blood pumping in his ears, his heart racing a mile a minute. This is why he didn’t want to come. He didn’t want to deal with this crap. Not again.

“I came because I was invited,” Jason said evenly.

“I thought we agreed that you shouldn’t come to these gatherings. You don’t even like coming to them.”

“I don’t. But Matt asked me and it was hard to say no.”

Quinton snorted. “When was it ever hard for you to say no? Everything with you has always been no. I tell you to focus on Math instead of Science you said no. I told you not to go outside you said no. I told you-”

Jason rolled his eyes and huffed loudly, making Quinton’s eyes twitch. “I get it already. You don’t have to keep going or we’ll be here all day.”

Quinton snarled, his lips peeled back and that vein in his neck protruding even more. “I told you not to come, that having you here would embarrass me in front of everyone. You’re rude to Mother, you’re stiff with Robert and Evelyn, and you practically shake when Father speaks to you.”

None of that was strictly true. Or completely false. But it still hurt, the same way it did all those other hundreds of times Quinton tried to exclude him from family events.

“Uncle Nate and Matt wanted me to come,” Jason said, then kicked himself for it. God he sounded like a defensive and whiny kid. Which Quinton was bound to leap on.

Quinton snorted. “Nathan is a pathetic Alpha who needs someone to hold his hand all the time. The fact that he actually talks to you is meaningless and ridiculous. He needs to man up and stop being so whiny and weak just because Luke is gone. And Matt is obsessed with the Blake family. Of course he’d try and include you.”

Jason’s hands curled, his nails biting into his palms. There it was again. The same excuses. Any time someone in the family was nice to him, gave him a hint of support, Quinton would pull the rug out from under him. Remind him that he wasn’t wanted. Not by Quinton and not by the rest of the family. This is why he didn’t want to come. He was stupid to think that one stupid afternoon would change anything.

“If you would move out of my way, I have to get back to work. Ren and I are working overtime these days.” Jason kept his tone even, his gaze steady, making sure Quinton didn’t realize just how much he was bleeding on the inside. He shouldn’t have come. He shouldn't have let Ren convince him. He couldn’t be strong if he was here. Couldn’t pretend not to care.

With one last glare, Quinton moved out of the way and Jason walked out, taking the long way to avoid the living room and leaving the apartment without a backwards glance.

 

All eyes flew to Quinton as he entered the room, without Jason. Matt almost got out of his chair but felt his father’s eyes on him and sat still. But he didn’t bother to quell the waves of Alpha anger coming off him. Nor did Lucas.

“Did Jason leave?” Lucas barked.

Quinton froze halfway into the room then nodded. “He said he had work to do.”

“Bullshit!” Lucas roared, sending an even stronger wave of anger across the room. Evelyn and Stephanie shuddered, their Omega senses overwhelmed by the smell.

“Mom, Grandmother, maybe you should go somewhere else,” Matt said kindly. With a grateful look, Evelyn took Stephanie’s arm and they walked out.

“You always do this,” Lucas hissed. “Every time we try and get Jason to come to any family gatherings, you chase him away. Why?”

Quinton frowned, refusing to bow his head. “Because he doesn't behave the proper way he should. I told him he can come if he behaves himself.”

“He was behaving,” Robert said, his voice ice cold. “You’re the only one who saw any problems with him today. You always were quick to criticize him.”

“Sorry I don’t spoil my son the way you do,” Quinton hissed. “I want Jason to be the best. So I push him. What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong is you make him feel excluded,” Lucas said. “I may be tough with you three but I never made you feel like you don’t belong. You are all Blakes. No matter what happens that doesn’t change.”

“I don’t see it that way,” Quinton said. “Jason has been a constant disappointment. He is finally starting to work harder, to prove himself. Once he does that, once he becomes a decent person, then I’ll accept him.”

Matt wanted to yell at Quinton, tell him that’s not how it worked. You were supposed to love your children unconditionally. That’s how Robert raised him, and even though Nathan was tough on Luke sometimes, his love was obvious. Quinton was the only one who ever withheld his love. It killed everyone, watching Jason desperately trying over and over to win his father’s approval when he was a child. Then that feeling of anger and helplessness changed to despair when Jason stopped trying. They all tried to fill the gap, but Jason rejected all of them, making it clear he didn’t want anything to do with them.

“You can’t keep punishing Jason for Isabella’s mistakes,” Nathan said quietly.

Everyone froze, shocked that Nathan said the one thing they all avoided.

Quinton’s face flushed with anger and he sent a death glare at his younger brother who refused to look away. “My ex-wife has nothing to do with this. She made her choices. I’m making mine. I’m raising Jason the way I want my son to be raised. And if my style is too tough or my bar too high compared to yours well then you have to deal with it. Because Jason is my son, and I’ll do whatever I want.”

Before any of them could say anything Quinton walked out, leaving everyone’s mind a chaotic mess. Another Blake family gathering.

Chapter Text

Frickin Beta! Kiryn thought savagely as he kicked a loose pebble on the road. Why were they such a pain in the ass?

“You sure you don’t want to talk?” Tig asked.

Case in point Kiryn grously. Not only did Luke get angry at him for some bizarre reason and kick him out, but he’d been in such an obvious bad mood since yesterday’s rehearsal that his band noticed. Since then Tig hadn’t left him alone. He showed up at his apartment this morning and invited him out for the day. Kiryn longed to just slam the door in his face, curl up in a ball and hide under his covers. But that’s what cowards did and he was no coward. So he showered, got dressed and began a long ass hike with Tig. He didn’t know how far the Beta planned on walking but he needed to burn off his frustration. So he kept going.

“Did you and Luke have a fight?” Tig asked.

Kiryn stopped in his tracks and bared his teeth. “None of your business.”

Used to Kiryn’s bouts of temper, Tig didn’t so much as flinch. Instead, he crossed his arms casually behind his head and looked up at the sky. “Well, just thought I’d ask. You’ve been in a crap mood. Almost made Frit cry yesterday.”

Kiryn winced, recalling how he’d snapped at the other Omega for not getting the chords right. Which only made him more nervous. Kiryn knew better. Frit was an awesome guitarist, but he did take his time learning a new song. He was usually patient with him, but not yesterday. It wasn’t fair of him to take out his anger on the nervous Omega.

“Yeah, I know,” Kiryn mumbled. “I’ll go apologize to him later.”

“That’s a start. Another would be figuring out a solution to your problem.”

He could feel the hair rise on the back of his neck and began to walk away, more sedately now that his anger was doused with a bit of guilt. “There is no solution. Hell, I don’t even know what the problem actually is!”

“What do you mean?”

“The guy went nuts on me!” Kiryn exclaimed, spinning so he was walking backwards, his hands waving dramatically. “I got him a present. A nice, simple present, and he turned into a total diva, got mad, and kicked me out!”

He kept his gaze steady on Tig, eager to hear what logical explanation or words of wisdom the Beta would have for him.

“Huh, that is weird.”

Kiryn growled and longed to fling something at him. He thought Tig was going to help, not make stupid comments.

“You should ask him,” Tig said.

“Oh right. Just go knock on the guy’s door and say ‘Hey you totally flaked on me the other day and I want to know why.’”

“Pretty much. Sounds good. Best of luck to you.”

Kiryn stopped and narrowed his eyes. “That’s it? That’s all you have to say?”

Tig sighed. “What else do you want me to say? Luke was acting strange and told you to leave. You have two choices, either you confront him about it, or you just let it go and the relationship ends.”

He felt his heart drop into his stomach and swallowed painfully. “I don’t want that,” he whispered.

“I figured. This guy really is different for you, isn’t he,” Tig said softly.

Kiryn thought about it for a second then replied firmly. “Yes.”

“I can see that. You never got worked up over your old lovers like this before. Any time you argued with them or something happened you just walked away. Didn’t really seem to bother you that much when they were gone.”

It didn’t sound nice but it was true. As much fun as he had in his previous relationships, he was never emotionally invested. What made Luke different?

“I can see now why you like him,” Tig suddenly said, as if he could hear his thoughts. “He’s ...stable. And nice. And I guess that awkwardness can be sweet sometimes. He also puts up with your crap. I guess to sum it up, he’s just a really nice person.”

“When did you become a Luke fan?” Kiryn asked dryly.

Tig gazed up thoughtfully then grinned. “When he stood up to you and told you to leave me alone. Gotta admit, that took balls.”

Kiryn jabbed his elbow lightly into Tig’s stomach and walked off. He heard Tig chuckle behind him and smiled.

An hour later, Tig dropped him off at his apartment so he could shower before he confronted Luke. He wanted to feel refreshed. And practice what he wanted to say. He had to be calm. Reasonable. If he lashed out, it would only make Luke withdraw back into his shell. Maybe open up with a silly comment or something. He was in the middle of his fourth opening attempt when he reached his apartment and saw a figure standing at his door.

His eyes widened in surprise when the figure turned and he saw Luke, his expression tense. Kiryn opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Where’d all those lines he practiced go? But that was assuming he had to go search Luke out, not finding the Beta standing at his front door!

“Can we talk?” Luke asked, his voice low and calm.

For the second time in three days, Kiryn felt like he was looking at a Luke he didn’t know. It was disconcerting and he felt a pang of anxiety. But this was Luke. Sweet, gentle Luke. Swallowing his anxiety he nodded and proceeded to open his door.

They settled on the couch and again, Kiryn was surprised when Luke sat next to him instead of the armchair. He still didn’t know if this was going to turn out well or if Luke came to break up with him. It was like a vice formed around his neck. He didn’t want to break up!

He was just about to say it, scream it really, when Luke spoke first.

“I’m sorry I dismissed you the other day,” Luke said, his hands clasped together, head bowed. “It wasn’t fair of me to do that. You were being nice and I behaved abominably. I’m sorry.”

Kiryn felt the air rush back into his lungs. He took a deep breath to settle his nerves, going from full blown panic to relief. “Well, I can’t say it was OK. I’m just really confused. If you didn’t like the present you could have just told me.”

Luke sat immobile. If he hadn’t just spoken Kiryn would think he was a statue. He longed to ask Luke what was wrong, to confide in him. But he knew Luke needed a moment, he needed this moment to go how he wanted it to. So he sat silently, waiting for him to make the next move.

After two tense minutes of silence Luke finally looked up at him. “I told you about my dad before. How he tried, still tries, to make me into a strong Beta. Like an Alpha.”

Kiryn nodded, not daring to speak a single word lest Luke changed his mind.

“Well, sometimes it was simple things. Like how I walked or talked.”

Kiryn’s eyes widened and he almost shouted that dictating how someone walked or talked wasn’t ‘simple.’ But he held himself back, hands curling on his thighs to keep himself in check.

“But other times, it kinda got bad.” Luke took a deep breath and Kiryn tensed, questioning what big bombshell the Beta was going to drop next.

“I used to like art,” Luke stated. And stopped.

Kiryn waited for him to continue but Luke kept staring at him, his clasped hands shaking slightly. Kiryn cleared his throat, uncertain how to handle that statement. “OK. So you like art.”

Luke shook his head in frustration. “You don’t understand. Plutus isn’t like Orpheus. People can't be who they want and just be happy with it. There are rules, expectations.” Luke’s voice began to rise and Kiryn’s eyes widened, shocked by the wealth of emotions pouring out of the usually bland Beta.

“We are told since we’re born who we can talk to, how to talk, what to like, what not to like, who to marry and who to avoid. We don’t have a choice. Not really. And it’s worse when your family can’t accept you for who you are. They try you smother and destroy that part of you that’s different.” He paused, his breathing laboured.

“And that part of you was art,” Kiryn said, beginning to realize why his well meant present set him off.

Luke swallowed and continued, his voice softer. “I used to love to draw. Ever since I could pick up a pencil, before I could even write my own name. My parents were pretty supportive and let me do what I wanted. It wasn’t until I was eight and continued that they became concerned. I drew during my classes, at family gatherings, at home, everywhere. No matter what, I always had my sketchpad and pencil with me. I could see my dad giving me concerned looks every once in a while but he never said anything. It wasn’t right for an Alpha to create art. They can appreciate it, but actually creating it is something Omegas and some Betas do. A gentle hobby.”

Luke swallowed again, licking his lips nervously and his hands visibly shook. Kiryn reached out and clasped Luke’s hands inside his. Luke closed his eyes and took a shuddering breath. “One day when I was eight, he came home and went crazy. I don’t have any other way to describe it. Most times my dad is like me, shy and quiet, which caused him a lot of grief because he doesn’t act like a normal Alpha. Another person who isn’t accepted for who he is. He still gets a lot of flack for it, which is why he’s tough with me. So I can see why he flipped out, but I never expected it to be to that extent. He came barging into the house and I was drawing in the living room as usual. My mom was sitting there, reading a book. My dad came in, his hair and eyes wild. He snatched my sketchbook and tore it to shreds. My mom and I just stared at him in shock, unable to belief my gentle and calm father would behave that way. My mom tried to intervene but he just snapped at her. He snapped! At my mom. He always treated her like a queen, but that day, he looked at her like she was the enemy.” Luke’s whole body was shaking now.

“He tore down the hall to my room and I knew what he was going to do. I told myself to just let him, but I spent years collecting and creating those drawings. They were my treasure. So I followed him into my room and he was tearing down my pictures from the walls, stepping on them and ripping them to shreds. Then he opened my drawer full of my old sketches and started to tear them to pieces as well. I finally snapped and yelled at him to stop. That’s when he turned on me. He screamed at me that no self-respecting Alpha would ever draw. No one would ever take me seriously if they knew this is how I spent my days. That everyone would look down on me. Mock me. I tried to explain myself, tell him that this is what I wanted to do. And then-.”

Luke paused and closed his eyes. Kiryn wanted to tell him to stop, could see how much the trauma still affected him. But he also knew Luke had to finish it. He had to finish his story.

“He threw his scent at me,” Luke whispered. “It was strong, and angry, and full of frustration and rage. It was so strong I actually felt it and fell. It terrified me. I’d never smelled anyone before and having that much blasted at me was too much and I was too young to handle it. I can still smell it when I remember that moment. My dad finally seemed to collect himself when I fell and just stared at me. I still don’t know how he felt at that moment. He just walked out. Not even a word. He apologized to me the next day, said he lost control, but that I should stop drawing. I agreed. We avoided each other for the next few days, both of us only talking to my mom. A week later, my dad asked me how school was during dinner, I replied and told him a story. And we continued on, as if nothing ever happened.”

“I’m sorry Luke,” Kiryn whispered. “It’s terrible, when a parent betrays you, turns on you and you just have to accept it.”

Luke nodded. “Exactly. My dad and I weren't always close. Like I said, we’re not good at communicating. But even I could tell how much that day changed things between us. My dad became more persistent in trying to make me into an Alpha, I became more obedient. My mom became quieter when my dad pushed me, and even supported him sometimes. I think she felt guilty because I was a Beta and the gene came from her. So she never said anything. And it only got worse after my mom died when I was sixteen since she was the real communicator and peace keeper in the family. I still don’t know why my dad lost it that day. I think my grandfather or someone said something to him.”

“Probably,” Kiryn said absently, rubbing Luke’s hands in his own. “There’s always an explanation for people’s behaviour. Especially when they act different.”

“Yeah,” Luke murmured.

“So that’s why you kept trying to become more like an Alpha.”

“Pretty much.” Luke looked into his eyes, his gaze pleading. “I’m sorry I was mean to you. I never ever want you to feel the way my mom and I did that day. Seeing that sketchbook...it just reminded me too much of that moment. I never let myself touch a sketchbook after that. I never so much as doodled. I didn’t want to risk my dad finding out, feeling ashamed of me for not giving up a petty emasculating hobby as he called it.”

Kiryn felt his anger boil to the surface. He’d held it in throughout Luke’s story but not anymore. “No offence to your dad, but his reason is stupid. It’s not what you do that makes the man, it’s how you behave. And the fact is, you’ll never be an Alpha. You are who you are. And your dad should just accept that.”

Luke smiled wanly. “You make it sound so easy.”

Kiryn huffed. “It should be,” he muttered. “The world would be a lot easier and nicer if people just accepted others for who they are.”

“It’s OK, I’ve gotten used to it.”

Kiryn’s nostrils flared and he rose onto his knees, glaring down at Luke while still holding his hands. “It’s not OK! If it was OK you wouldn’t have gotten so upset by my present. You wouldn’t be sitting here, shaking, as you tell me what happened. It’s not OK. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that!”

Luke gazed up at him, eyes wide and lips slightly parted. Kiryn kept staring at him, holding his breath and waiting for Luke to make his move.

“I’m not OK,” Luke whispered, his voice shaking. “My dad used his scent to lash out at me. He tore up my drawings and made me feel like a failure. I’m not OK.”

Tears formed and started to roll down his cheeks and Kiryn hugged him, letting the Beta cry into his chest. “It’s not OK. But it will be someday,” Kiryn vowed. He repeated it, over and over, the same way he did himself for years. And eventually, he was OK. The same could happen to Luke. Kiryn refused to let his past and traumas follow him throughout his life. And damn if he was going to let Luke live with his traumas. He was going to fix this.

 

 

Jason slammed his apartment door shut, feeling a keen satisfaction when his windows rattled from the force. But not satisfied enough. With jerky movements, he removed his tie, shirt and jacket, tossing them on the floor on his way to his gym. Without breaking his stride, he picked up his boxing gloves and started wailing on the punching bag hanging in the left corner of the room.

His dad’s words repeated in his mind, reminding him once again that he wasn’t wanted. The same words, the same looks, the same sneers. They shouldn’t affect him by now. They shouldn’t! And yet they did.

He didn’t know how long he spent taking his anger out on the bag but at some point he recognized that his hands were numb, his arms shaking and slumped onto the floor, his body covered with sweat, panting from his exertions. He kept his head bowed, one arm propped on top of one bent leg.

“Here.”

As if waking from a daze, Jason lifted his head, his eyes slowly focusing on the glass of water in front of him. He recognized the hand that held it and felt the last of his anger drain. He struggled to remove his gloves so he could take the glass but his body was too sweaty, his arms too shaky to pull them off.

“Here, just drink,” Ren said, holding the glass to his mouth and tipping it up. Grateful, Jason took several deep gulps until Ren pulled the glass away.

“Easy,” Ren said soothingly.

Jason let his head drop again, his mind numb. He felt his arms being lifted, the gloves removed and winced as cold air hit his battered fingers. Carefully, Ren picked up his left hand and slowly began massaging it, bringing feeling back into his numb hand. He sighed with contentment and Ren turned his attention to his other hand. He closed his eyes, enjoying the sensation when he felt something settle on his lap, hair brushing against his chest.

“Looks like Ari’s up and about,” Jason said, his eyes still closed.

“He wanted to visit,” Ren said, and Jason could imagine the soft smile on his face.

“What do you think of my dad?” Jason suddenly asked. He didn’t plan the question. It just came out. But as soon as he said it, he knew how desperate he was to hear the answer.

“Why are you asking me?”

“Because, you’re a good judge of character. Hell, you figured out things about me that I didn’t even know. So tell me. What do you think of him.”

“Honestly?” Ren asked.

Jason opened his eyes, his eyes meeting Ren’s and the Beta stopped moving his fingers, but still kept Jason’s right hand between his. “Honestly.”

Ren drew in a deep breath, his black eyes widening a bit. “I think he’s a bully. I think he’s a very angry person who feels the world had done something horrible to him, and he can’t get over it. He feels like a victim but at the same time, denies it. So instead he takes it out on other people.”

Jason stared in silence for a few moments, surprised by how accurate Ren’s assessment was. If he only knew. “You figure all that out in the few conversations you’ve had with him.”

Ren shrugged. “Part of the job is reading people quickly.”

Jason almost smiled, wanted to smile, but still felt too numb to do so. “My dad thinks he can read people too.”

Ren cocked an eyebrow, his opinion of Jason’s statement clear and this time he did chuckle, a dry one, but he did it.

“I know, I know. He’s worse than me. He likes to think he knows people, like me. And my Uncle Nate. But he doesn't know us. He doesn't know the first thing about us.”

“I never met your Uncle Nathan. What’s he like?”

Jason sighed. “Uncle Nate is….different. Special you could say. He’s a rare Alpha. Even compared to Matt. It’s not that he’s nice per se, he’s just very ...uncertain. His confidence is weak. From what I hear, he’s always been like that. So all his life my grandfather and dad always bullied him about it. Told him he had to get tougher, stronger.”

“Must have been hard on him,” Ren said softly.

“It was. When he rebelled and married Aunt Erica, a Beta, it was a big deal from what I hear. My dad and Lucas were against it. Told him he was making a mistake. That he would taint the family line and bring a Beta into it. We have some Betas in the extended family, but the main line is all Alphas and Omegas. That’s why I never even thought of sleeping with a Beta before you. It was seen as unnatural. I wasn’t born back then of course, but I heard enough about it from my dad. How Nate stood up to them for the first time in his life and it was for a stupid reason. How he probably regretted it when they had Luke, a Beta, and everyone played the I-told-you-so game. You know Luke is only two years younger than me.”

Jason paused and looked at Ren, wondering if he understood, needing him to understand. “We’re close in age so I do remember some things. More than Luke probably does. Like how much Nate spoiled him. He was so gentle with him. Told Luke he could do whatever he wanted, that he didn’t have to follow the Blake family footsteps if he didn’t want to. I was five the first time I heard that and I still remember that moment. It’s ingrained in my memory. It was blasphemous almost, hearing an Alpha from the main family say you don’t have to follow the family rules. I don’t think Luke remembers it.”

Ren frowned in confusion. “But Luke is in the family business. I saw him before he left and he looked...not happy.”

He felt the cords in his neck tighten and glared across the room, his anger starting to unfurl within him as the memories resurfaced. “Because one day my uncle changed his mind. Luke wanted to be an artist and his mom and dad supported it. Lucas and Dad told Nate no, but he ignored them, telling them that Uncle Rob had Matt and Dad had me and they didn’t need Luke. In every memory I have of Luke until he was eight he always had a sketchbook with him. I was already distancing myself from him and the rest of the family at the time, too eager to please my dad after my mom left. But I remember clearly what happened. I’m the only one who really knows actually. One day, Luke stopped smiling, he stopped drawing, Uncle Nate started telling him to be more of an Alpha, pressuring him to be stronger, better. The same way Lucas and dad used to do to him.”

His hands curled and he could smell his fury in the room. With his dull sense of smell, he doubted Ren could scent it and was grateful for that. There was a mix of nausea and disgust in his scent that would have sent an Omega reeling out of the room.

“It made me so angry, seeing Luke like that, seeing Nate change. And I felt guilty,” he confessed, not only aloud for the first time, but even to himself.

“Why do you feel guilty?” Ren asked when Jason paused for too long.

He shouldn’t say it. He never talked about it, ever. Never told anyone. Not even his dad or Nathan knew that he knew. That he saw.

“Because my dad’s the reason,” Jason said, his voice barely above a whisper. He felt Ari nuzzle his stomach and patted the dog’s head, seeking his comfort. “Nate came over to our house. My mom wasn’t around anymore and dad didn’t know I was home. Didn’t even care to find out. Otherwise he would have made sure the door was shut at least. I heard voices, loud voices and thought maybe my mom was back. I crept down the hall and I saw my dad and Nate arguing. It was the same argument about how Luke was weak, could never be an Alpha, never be a Blake. But then, Nathan said something, and the argument changed.” Jason swallowed, knowing what he would say would reveal so much. But he had to. He couldn’t hold it in anymore. “He told my dad that it was his own fault that mom left, that she couldn’t stand being with him anymore and ran off with her lover. Dad lost it. No one ever talked about my mom, ever. And I didn’t even know that’s why she left. One day she was just gone and no one would tell me why. Dad would scream at me if I even brought up her name. Nathan crossed a line that day and my dad let him know it. He looked so angry, angrier than I’ve ever seen. I could smell it and I had to draw back a bit, was too young to handle it. But I still heard him. I still remember most of what he said. He said ‘No one will ever accept Luke, not the Blakes and no one in Plutus society. You’re kidding yourself if you think that just because you accept him the way he is others will. He’ll be rejected left and right. No one will let him work in anything besides the family business, especially as an artist. They’ll reject him, and break him, and he’ll end up a poor, pathetic mess. Even the family won’t accept him because he’s a weak Beta. And it’ll all be your fault. Because you had a weak and pathetic Beta.’ And the icing on the cake, he told him Lucas was already saying how he couldn’t trust Luke to take part in any of the family businesses. Not a single one.” Jason closed his eyes, focusing on the vibration of Ari against his stomach, his left hand resting on the dog’s head, his right hand still in Ren’s.

“That’s horrible,” Ren said, his voice still soothing. “I can’t imagine any parent being OK hearing their child is doomed. Especially adding that your grandfather was keeping him out of the family business. I haven’t been here long but even I know how obsessed you people are with family ties. That must have terrified Nathan.”

“Exactly. Which is why Nate changed. He freaked out that day, realized that his ideal world for Luke didn’t exist. That even the family might turn against him one day. So he needed to make sure Luke followed the norms. And Luke tried. He really did. And now look at him. After everything he and Uncle Nate sacrificed, they shipped him off to Orpheus because he still wasn’t good enough.”

“I get why you’d get angry at your dad and be nice to Nathan,” Ren said cautiously. “But why would you feel guilty?”

Jason opened his eyes and looked at Ren, wondering how he didn’t see it. “Because he’s my dad. My dad said it.”

Ren stared for a few moments, then his face creased with pity. “Jason, you’re not guilty for what your father did.”

“He hurt Uncle Nate,” Jason said, his voice deeper, stronger. He had to make Ren understand. He had to! “He’s the reason Nathan changed. He’s the reason Luke is the way he is. How could I look at Luke after that, knowing that my dad was the reason his perfect father changed, his life torn apart, his dreams and personality rejected.” The same way mine were.

“Key word being your dad. Your dad did all that. I’m guessing since he feels no guilt, you feel you have to make up for that. But you don’t.”

Jason wanted to argue, tell Ren he was wrong, that he still didn’t see, didn’t understand. But the truth was, Jason wasn’t sure he understood either. When he was a child, it all made sense. Of course he should feel guilty. It was natural to accept the burden for his dad’s sins. But he wasn’t a kid anymore, and Ren was right. It didn’t make sense anymore. He hated his dad. His dad hurt him more than he ever hurt Nathan or Luke. He rejected him on a daily basis. So why should he accept the guilt on his behalf? It wasn’t his problem.

So, now what? He’d just had an epiphany, exorcised years of misplaced guilt. And he didn’t know what it meant. Did it change anything? Did this mean he should talk to Luke more? They weren’t close and barely talked growing up. It wasn’t like he could suddenly call him up and talk to the guy. Did he even want to?

“Jason?” Ren asked in concern.

Jason shook his head, knowing he wasn’t going to find an easy answer any time soon. “Sorry, lost in thought. No, you’re right. It’s not my fault.”

Ren smiled. “Well, good you finally know that.”

Jason smiled back then looked down at Ari, stroking his head softly. “What are the chances you’ll forget any of what I just told you?”

“Oh zilch,” Ren crowed.

Jason sighed dramatically. “I thought so.”

Chapter Text

Connor stood and glared at the board, hoping the answer will suddenly appear. Nope, the numbers stayed the same, the names unchanged. Too much to hope that one would suddenly change to ‘I’m guilty!’

With a growl Connor turned around and started to pace Matt’s office. There had to be a clue somewhere. So far, through his, Jason, and Matt’s efforts they determined three families might be involved. Might. Out of their initial list of forty. He was getting a headache. He’d been at this for hours while Jason and Matt were at their family Saturday lunch. Matt always went which meant Connor could come into the office on the odd weekends to work.

He sighed and sank into one of the chairs at the conference table and was about to flop back in a very unsightly but comfortable position when the office door burst open. Like a shot, Connor jumped out of the chair, hands clasped politely in front of him as Matt ground to a halt halfway into the room, eyes wide when he saw him.

“What are you doing here?” Matt asked.

“Ah, working,” Connor said lamely. He didn’t know why he sounded so uncertain, it wasn’t like he was lying.

Matt looked at the board that displayed some of their notes, his eyes taking in the jumbled mass of papers strewn across the table. “I can see that,” he said softly. “But why on a weekend? Shouldn’t you be with Devon?”

And there it was. The reason Connor usually sneaks in every other Saturday when he knew Matt was not going to be around. But while he had to hide it before, he could be honest now. It was just hard to break old habits. So he took a deep breath and straightened his spine.

“Devon is at Oliver’s this weekend.”

He watched Matt’s face carefully, knowing Matt would read into the situation...and probably come up with the right answer. That Connor didn’t want to be home alone when Devon wasn’t there.

“Do you do this every weekend Devon is with Oliver? Come into the office?” Matt asked, each word weighed with heavy meaning.

“Pretty much,” Connor said, trying not to feel so pathetic.

“Well, you could have told me you don’t mind working some Saturdays. I usually come in on Sundays.”

Connor’s jaw dropped. “You do? You never told me that.”

Matt chuckled, walking across to his desk while removing his jacket and tie. “Because I knew you’d nag me about working alone and try and help me out. And weekends are for you. You shouldn’t have to work just because I want to.” He placed his jacket and tie on the chair carefully then looked up at Connor, placing his right hand on his hip. “But, since we’re clearly workaholics who don’t mind working on weekends, what do you say we band together.”

Connor smiled and nodded. “Sounds good. I could use the help.”

Matt walked over and indicated for Connor to sit down again. He sank into his seat, surprised when Matt sat next to him instead of at the head of the table as usual. Pretending to shuffle some papers, Connor subtly rolled his chair a bit further away. Space, he needed space.

“Where are you stuck?” Matt asked.

“Something doesn’t feel right about these two families. The Burnes and Solphites. Their records are perfect, the numbers add up and there’s nothing strange about their bank accounts.”

“Yes,” Matt said carefully. “That’s why we put them in the no pile. What made you change your mind and look at them again?”

Great. Based on his tone, Matt thought he was being weird. Why did he even say anything? He felt stupid.

“Connor?”

Well, too late now. Taking a deep breath, he recounted his concerns as fast as he could, eager to get the moment over with. “When I looked at their spending statements, they’re spending more than they should based on the income they have. Which means they might be getting their money from somewhere else. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are involved in our case, but there is something strange about it all.”

He waited as long as he could before he lifted his head to gauge Matt’s reaction. The Alpha was staring at the numbers on the big screen, trying to see what Connor was talking about.

“It’s not too much,” Connor said desperately. “An extra few thousands spent here and there. But when you add it all up, they have roughly an extra ten million than they should. Fifteen if you add the expenses by the extended family based on their salaries and allowance from the main family.”

He bit his lip, shaking his leg impatiently as Matt looked away, lost in thought.

“Actually, now that I think about it you may be right,” Matt said slowly, realization dawning. “We went to a party at the Burnes house a couple of months ago and my mom was saying how she was surprised by the decorations and the food because she heard they’d spent a lot of money renovating their homes a few weeks before. I didn’t think much of it at the time. But I’m sure if we retrace their expenses we’ll get proof that they’re spending more than they make.” He turned and looked at Connor. “You’re a genius Connor! I didn’t even think to question it.”

Don’t cry, don’t cry, Connor chanted to himself. Sure, he figured out an important piece of the puzzle. Something Matt and Jason both missed. And they were trained Panthers. Didn’t mean he should let get it to him. He could be calm about this. He drew in a deep breath and tried to speak evenly.

“Thanks. But I’m not sure it directly relates to our case.”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s something. Good job.”

Damn it was hard to swallow. And his eyes were still burning. He really needed to think about something else.

“How was lunch?” he asked.

It was like he threw a bucket of cold water on Matt. Or hot lava. Connor felt his anxiety spike again at the dark look on Matt’s face. He’d rarely seen Matt angry before, and never like this. He shouldn’t have said anything.

“It...could have been better,” Matt finally said, forcing his tone to sound light.

“I’m sorry,” Connor said. “Families can be...difficult.”

Matt nodded slowly, his expression still angry and Connor didn’t know what to do. He shouldn’t have said anything in the first place. Just because they’d been getting along he thought he could ask personal questions. He should know better.

“Jason was fine,” Matt suddenly said. “He and Uncle Nathan were great. It was just...my Uncle Quinton.” Matt’s lips tightened.

Connor pictured the aggressive and chauvinistic Alpha in his mind and almost shuddered. He rarely interacted with Quinton Blake, but the few times he did he was left shaking. He preferred talking to General Lucas. At least he was professional, despite his set downs. Quinton was just...rude. And very blunt. Everyone knew he and Jason didn’t get along and as much as Connor hated Jason the last few years, he did feel it was a good thing Jason didn’t get along with his dad. Otherwise they’d be exactly the same. He’d take a lazy and apathetic Jason over an angry, biting, and obnoxious Jason any day of the week.

“There’s always one person who ruins things,” Connor said consolingly. “Every family has a black sheep or a drama queen. Or king.”

“Yeah,” Matt said, his eyes still unfocused. “It kinda sucks though.”

Connor nodded, thinking about his own family, something he tried his best to avoid thinking about. “Yes. Yes, it does. It would be great if everyone cared about the other, showed it, and supported each other. It sucks that it doesn’t work that way. There’s always someone who ruins it.”

“Who was it in your family?” Matt asked, and Connor felt like he’d been stabbed with a hot poker. His pain must have shown on his face because Matt quickly sat up, hands up to placate him. “Sorry, sorry. We were just opening up, and you know about Uncle Quinton and I just...you don’t have to answer. Stupid question.”

There was an awkward silence and Connor tried to force some air back into his lungs. He could answer. He’d confided in Matt more recently. This was just one extra piece of the puzzle that was his life. But doing so would mean he would have to admit that the black sheep, the drama maker in his family, was him. He was the one who disobeyed his parents. He’s the one who got a divorce when he was married to a rich and handsome Alpha and had a child. He’s the one who had the audacity to stick around afterwards, fighting to keep his child when the law and society dictated Devon should be with Oliver. He broke his family apart. Because he couldn’t follow the rules. Quinton and Jason might be jerks, but they caused problems in the family by going against everyone. And while Connor knew why he had to do what he did, it didn’t change the fact that he went against his family as well. In some ways, he was just like Jason and Quinton, going against the family expectations.

And that was something he shouldn’t, couldn’t, talk about with Matthew Blake, the man who lived and breathed for his family.

“We should head out,” Connor finally said. “We’re going to have a long day tomorrow.”

Matt nodded. “Good idea. Do you need a ride?”

“No, I drove my car here.”

Matt chuckled forcefully. “Right of course. Stupid me.”

They lapsed into uncomfortable silence and Connor couldn’t take it anymore. He got up and put away his laptop, collecting all the papers on the table. Suddenly, he heard Matt move and saw his big hands collecting papers as well, putting them in a neat pile before holding them out to him. Connor nodded in thanks and put them away.

“Sorry,” Matt whispered. “I went too far. I shouldn’t have asked you that.”

Connor shook his head. “It’s fine. I told you about Oliver and some stuff about me. It was safe to assume I might tell you other things.”

“Tell you what, if I ever overstep, ask something too personal just say ‘Matt you're an idiot.’”

Connor’s head shot up, giving Matt a derisive look. “I can’t call you that.”

Matt grinned. “Sure you can! It’s not that hard. Here try it. ‘Matt, you’re an idiot.’”

Connor stared at him, but his lips refused to move. “Matt-”

“You’re getting there.”

Connor exhaled and thrust his laptop into his bag. “This is stupid.”

“Close. I can settle for stupid. You just gotta put my name in front of that.”

Connor shot Matt a sharp look. “Matt. You’re my boss. I can never call you an idiot.”

Matt looked affronted. “And here I thought we were becoming friends.”

Connor’s eyes widened and he sputtered a few times before he could finally speak. “Fri-Friends! We’re not- why would-”

Matt bowed his head and Connor was shocked to realize he looked hurt. “I thought we were becoming friends,” Matt murmured.

Connor couldn’t believe it. 6’2, strong Alpha Colonel Matthew Blake was pouting like...like...like a child! The same way Devon does! And while he could find ways to deal with Devon’s little bouts of sadness or deceptive pouting depending on the situation, he did not know what to do when a grown man was doing it!

“We...are becoming friends,” Connor said carefully.

Matt perked up, and if he was a dog Connor swore he’d see his tail wagging with happiness. “Good. I thought so. We should get going. See you tomorrow.”

And before he could say anything else, Matt walked out, his steps jaunty. It wasn’t until he was driving home that Connor realized he’d been played. By Matt. His boss. And God help him, he thought he was cute. What was wrong with him?!

 

“So, you think we should also look at people’s expenses and see whose spending more than they should,” Ren said, looking back and forth between Matt and Connor as they sat at the table in Matt’s office. His eyes flickered briefly to Jason, who was looking at the board and the numbers Connor was projecting. He wasn’t sure how focused Jason was on their meeting. He usually left all the talking to Ren so his silence wasn’t new. But since yesterday he’d been extra quiet, even with him. Despite their talk yesterday, Jason was still clearly reeling from the after effects of the disastrous family lunch.

“Yes,” Matt said, redirecting Ren’s attention back to the matter at hand. “Connor’s observation that there’s more to the official numbers has merit. We should look at all the angles.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Ren saw Connor blush slightly and almost smiled but managed to hold himself in check. The Omega was finally feeling like he was making a difference and Ren wanted to support him in that.

“It’s a good theory, but there’s a problem,” Jason suddenly said.

All eyes flew to the Alpha and there was a sizzle of tension in the air. Ren almost licked his lips but held back through pure instinct. His training taught him to never give any of his emotions away. He forced his muscles to relax and pasted a patient look on his face, hoping Jason wouldn’t tear the Omega down with his next words.

“What problem?”

“Almost all families in Plutus live above their means,” Jason stated. “They all try to outdo each other and the fact that their riches are shrinking doesn’t change that.” He turned to look at Matt. “Even we have some Blake relatives who spend more than they earn or are given by Grandfather Lucas. All to keep up appearances. So how do you propose we tell the difference between those who are actually shady, and those who are just putting up a front?”

Everyone froze, including Ren. Damn, Jason had a point. If Ren knew more about Plutus he would have made the connection as well. It he was planning on staying here long term he really needed to learn more about this place and how people work. He saw Connor shift out of the corner of his eye and turned his head, his heart filling with sympathy at the utter defeat radiating from the Omega’s body. Matt noticed it as well and was about to place a comforting hand on his shoulder but stopped, his gaze uncertain. He was scrambling to figure out a plan, a way to salvage Connor’s new-found sense of accomplishment while still deal with the reality when Jason spoke up again.

“I have a different idea. A new angle on this that might help us narrow down the field.”

“We’re listening,” Matt said, his tone serious.

“What Connor pointed out is important. But we need to find a way to use that information. I suggest we send in the Eagles undercover to try and glean any intel they can about how the families are getting their money and using it.”

“And how do we do that?” Matt asked.

“The servants,” Connor said quietly. Everyone turned to look at him and Connor blinked, coming out of his daze. “I just meant..servants. They’re there. They see everything. They listen. And they gossip. A lot. But the families ignore them for the most part. I’m not saying the families will be dumb enough to leave evidence lying around, but the servants usually keep tabs on everything the families buy. And they talk about it.”

“And you know this how?” Jason asked.

“Because when I worked as Oliver’s secretary I heard a lot of gossip in the office,” Connor said defensively, his eyes boring into Jason’s. “Even secretaries are viewed and treated like servants. They hear things, they talk about it, and are mostly ignored.”

The two continued staring at each other, neither so much as blinking. Ren didn’t know what the hell was going on but he clearly stepped into something. He looked at Matt and saw that his face looked thunderous. Looks like he was the only one not in the know.

“That sounds like a great idea you two,” Ren cut in, trying to bring everyone’s attention back to the case. “The veteran Eagles might be spotted if they went in. They’ve been in law enforcement for awhile and some odd person might recognize them. But we can send out the new Eagles. We’ll send one to each family in our list of forty. How long do you think they should be at each place Connor?”

“At least two weeks to really get good intel. And not arouse suspicions if they suddenly disappear.”

“Also, we don’t have to worry about them getting recognized,” Matt said, smiling for the first time in the last five minutes. “We have some technology that can place fake digital masks on their faces. And we can alter them as they go along so no one would see the same person hopping from one family to the next.”

Ren raised an eyebrow, trying his best to mask his emotions but seriously? Damn, that was cool! He’d have to remember it so he can use it if he ever needed to. “Sounds good. Then we can send all of them in. As maids or cleaners or something. With thirteen Eagles, on two week rotations, we should be able to finish our list in six weeks. Not bad. Meanwhile we’ll still continue hacking into legit and offshore accounts. Hopefully we’ll catch a big break soon and we can narrow down our list.”

They spent the next hour discussing their plan, deciding which Eagle should go where and any last minute tips they can give the new Eagles so they didn’t blow their cover. Ren would have to have a serious talk with some of them. They were too eager and were liable to spoil their cover by taking too many risks and asking too many questions. He needed to make sure they reigned it all in.

As soon as he they walked back into Jason’s office Ren had to ask.

“Did you already plan on having the Eagles go in as servants or not before Connor suggested it?”

Jason stopped in front of his desk and turned around, his expression blank. “No idea what you’re talking about.”

Ren rolled his eyes. “So you did do it on purpose. Let him make the suggestion. Question is, did you do it because you were trying to build up his confidence again after you broke his theory, or to piss him off by pointing out he was a secretary.”

“He is a secretary.”

“You know what I mean,” Ren huffed. “A real one who does meaningless jobs. Not at all at the same level as what he does here. So, which is it?”

Jason crossed his arms and leaned back against his desk. “Which would you prefer? That I was being nice to him or a jackass?”

“Obviously I want you to be nice to him,” Ren stated. “Connor works hard and his theory was a good one. It was something we missed.”

Jason looked at him for a few seconds before he answered. “Look, I felt a bit bad when I saw how sad he was. So I threw the guy a bone. But I still don’t like him.”

Well, that made Ren feel better. A bit. “Why don’t you like him? Just because he’s an Omega?”

Jason’s jaw tightened, the muscles in his arms bunching up a bit under his military jacket. “It’s not just that he’s an Omega. It’s the way he behaves. It’s how he’s got Matt wrapped around his finger.”

“So it’s a jealousy thing? He gets along with Matt better than you?”

Jason huffed and rolled his eyes. “It’s not a jealousy thing. Don’t turn this around and make it about my dysfunctional relationship with Matt. I just don’t like it when Omegas assume an Alpha is going to treat them well just because of their gender.”

“And you think Connor does that? That he uses his Omega wiles on Matt?”

“Well when you say it like that it sounds stupid,” Jason muttered.

“Because it is stupid,” Ren said. “Matt is nice to everyone. And Connor earned his trust through his hard work. Even you, with your head shoved up your ass for the last year probably heard about all the hard work he’s done. You’ve seen the training plans he’s designed. You can’t say he hasn’t earned his place at the table.”

Jason didn’t answer and Ren knew it must be killing him. Whatever the cause of their feud, he and Connor didn’t get along for a while, maybe before they both joined the base. Which probably made his antagonistic relationship with the Omega even more complicated.

“He’s divorced,” Jason suddenly stated.

“So?”

Jason sighed. “You don’t get it. No one gets a divorce in Plutus. Not if they can help it. And he divorced his husband years ago. And instead of just slinking off the way most Omegas do, he caused a huge fuss. I didn’t hear all of it. Didn’t want to really. But I heard enough to know how he used his status as a poor Omega to get a job in Oliver’s company.”

“Ah,” Ren said, the pieces finally falling into place. “I’m assuming Oliver is his ex and he was working in his company as a secretary.”

“Yes!” Jason said, starting to pace the room, his tone becoming more heated the more he spoke. “It was bad enough he caused a huge mess by even asking for a divorce, something Omegas never do. But then he continued making it all worse by forcing himself into Oliver’s life. He made Oliver give him a job. Everyone in our circle was talking about how audacious and shameless Connor was for doing that.”

“Your circle? You mean the superior Alphas who look down on Omegas?”

Jason glared at him. “Yes. So we were a group of Alphas who disliked Omegas. So what?”

“Then don’t you think your opinions were a bit biased? I mean, why did Connor even ask for a job? He could have just gone back to his family instead of working.” Something was wrong here, something wasn’t adding up. Ren’s curiosity was peaked and he knew he wasn’t going to let this go until he dissected every piece of evidence and finally came up with a solution.

“I don’t know,” Jason huffed. “It’s not like he needs a job. Like you said, his family has money and as Oliver’s ex he would have gotten something before they sent him off. If they weren’t pissed at him for divorcing Oliver. And Oliver had their kid so he didn’t have any big expenses.”

“Wait!” Ren said, leaping onto this new information, his instincts screaming at him that this is where the answer lay. “Connor has a kid?”

Jason sighed and finally stopped pacing. “Yeah. He had a kid. With Oliver. And as per the law, the kid would have gone to Oliver. Not that Connor would have kept him anyway. Too much of a hassle to be divorced and with a kid.”

That didn’t sound right. That didn’t sound like the Connor he got to know the last few months. That Connor was loyal, stubborn, hard working, and most of all caring. He cared about every single Eagle on their team. He knew things about their personal lives when Ren never bothered to find any of that out. Just because he cared. So how could a person who cares so much about complete strangers just give up his child?

Wordlessly, he walked over to the conference table and placed his laptop on it, opening it up and began clicking away.

“What are you doing?” Jason asked, walking over to stand behind him. “Are you reading Connor’s personnel file?”

“Yes,” Ren replied absently, skimming through the document and growled. “Nothing. Doesn’t even state he’s divorced.”

“Told you. It’s not something to be proud of and he’d hide it.”

Like a dog with a bone, Ren closed the HR file and began to access the Plutus government data base.

“What are you doing now?” Jason asked impatiently.

“Just shut up for a second,” Ren hissed, clicking buttons until he reached the main server. He put in his military authorization number and password, growling with frustration when a big red ‘Access Denied’ flashed across the screen. “Use your ID.”

“Why should I use mine?” Jason protested. “You’re the one who wants to do this.”

“Just do it!” Ren snapped, glaring up at the Alpha. They stared at each other for three seconds then Jason sighed.

“Fine. But this is stupid.” Leaning forward, he typed in his ID number and password, glaring at Ren when the Beta pushed him away as soon as the page opened up. “You’re welcome,” he stated sarcastically.

Ren didn’t reply, his mind focused on uncovering this new puzzle. He typed in Connor Lawrence, waited a few seconds until his file appeared and almost hooted with excitement. He began to go through his file, absently noting that he was from Midas and his maiden name was Rain before reaching the page on his marital status. “Divorced,” he murmured. “From Oliver Lawrence.”

“I told you,” Jason said, his tone dripping with condescension.

Ignoring the annoying Alpha, he scrolled down a bit more until he got what he wanted. “Son, Devon Lawrence. Age 7. Permanent residence Apartment 505, Building number 21 on Clarke Street.”

He looked at the picture of Devon and could tell he was Connor’s son. They had the same hazel eyes. The kid was cute he thought absently. He turned to tell Jason that he didn’t see anything suspicious and froze at the look of pure shock and disbelief on the Alpha’s face.

“That...that can’t be right,” Jason said, his voice barely a whisper. “That can’t be right.”

“What can’t be right?” Ren asked cautiously.

“That address. That’s not Oliver’s house. That can’t be right.”

Ren turned and looked at the screen again. “It says he’s been living there for a bit over a year. Before that he was-” Ren clicked on Devon’s name and his file opened up on a different page. He scrolled down for “Residence History.’ “He lived in an apartment on Bleak street for five and a half years.” He turned and looked at Jason, his heart dropping when he saw how pale his face was. “What’s wrong?”

Without a word, Jason leaped onto the laptop and pushed Ren aside. He clicked and went back to Connor’s page and looking at his residence history, then Devon’s, clicking back and forth between the two, reading them over and over again.

Ren was about to ask him what the hell he was trying to find when Jason finally stood up, his expression almost haunted. “He kept him. I can’t believe he kept him,” he said in a hollow voice.

“Jason,” Ren said carefully, anxious by the clear distress on Jason’s face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Jason’s head snapped and he looked down at Ren, leaning forward and grasping the arm rests of his chair and boxing him in, his face inches from Ren’s.

“Don’t you get it? Don’t you see?” Jason yelled desperately.

“See what?” Ren asked, hoping his calm tone would transfer to the agitated Alpha.

“He kept him! He kept his kid! No Omega does that! They all just up and leave. They never take the kid with them.”

Ren frowned, confused by the idea Jason presented. “Is this a Plutus thing again? Are you saying here Alphas keep the child?”

“Yes!”

Ren snorted. “That’s stupid. Not all Alphas want to keep their kids. In Tantalus there were so many single Omegas and orphanages because the Alphas didn’t claim them or want them. Sometimes it was Betas or Omegas who abandoned them. The gender doesn’t matter. You really do get hung up on the Alpha and Omega dynamics here don’t you?”

Jason stood up, his face still ashen but his eyes were a bit steadier. “Alphas abandon their children?” he whispered.

“Yes. Sometimes they do.”

“Then...why didn’t my dad leave me?” Jason said, his voice breaking. “Why didn’t that happen to me? My mom, the Omega left. She left. And my dad the Alpha couldn’t let me go. I thought it was just the way it was supposed to be. Genetics. But Connor kept his son. An Omega kept his son. And Oliver, an Alpha let him. Why?”

Ren wanted to answer, he really did. But Jason looked so broken, his expression so desolate he just stood up and hugged him. He could feel Jason’s body trembling, his arms frozen to his side but didn’t let that stop him, hugging Jason tighter. He didn’t know what to say, what would comfort the distraught Alpha, so he held him instead.

Chapter Text

“Mom come on, we’re going to be late!” Devon called from the front door of their apartment.

Connor took one last look at himself in his bedroom mirror, hoping once again that something would happen, an emergency, anything, and he wouldn’t have to go. For a week now he’d been in a knot of anxiety. Even Matt noticed and when he’d asked Connor just told him he was tense about the case. They sent the Eagles into the field three days ago and so far, none of them heard anything related to their case. None of them got busted either which was great. Looks like Ren’s crash course on undercover work paid off.

“Mom!” Devon yelled.

With a last sigh, Connor decided he couldn’t distract himself with work anymore and walked out of his bedroom, pasting an excited smile on his face.

“Can’t believe my little warrior is going to turn eight,” Connor said as he put on his shoes while Devon bounced with excitement.

“Mom, you’ve been saying that for weeks,” Devon moaned. “We have to go. Everyone is going to get there before us.”

If only. But he couldn’t do that to Devon. He can do this. It’s just one afternoon. He can do this. He kept chanting that as they got in the car and drove off to Oliver’s house, focusing on Devon’s endless chatter about the bouncy house Oliver rented, and the magician, and everything else his dad promised him for his big birthday bash.

Connor didn’t blame Devon for being so excited. It was the first time Oliver had thrown him such an elaborate party. Usually birthdays were more low key with just family and close friends. And two separate parties. Which is what made this whole situation worse. Until now, they’d managed to have their own celebrations for Devon. Oliver would host one with his friends while he and Devon would have a quieter one, just the two of them where they’d spend the whole day doing anything Devon wanted. It was their tradition and Connor and Devon loved it. But not this year. This year Oliver ruined everything by suddenly deciding to throw the biggest party imaginable. And because of it, Devon got so excited he wanted both his parents to be there. And Connor couldn’t say no, not when Devon was looking up at him with that expectant and hopeful look on his face.

He talked to Oliver about it twice in the last week since he told Connor about the sudden party, and both times he assured him that he just wanted Devon’s eighth birthday to be special. And that Connor wouldn’t even have to talk to Oliver’s parents, who just had to be at the big bash. Connor knew Oliver believed it was possible for them not to interact, but he had his doubts. At least he could hope they wouldn’t say anything in front of Devon. Oliver was firm with them about not saying anything negative about Connor in front of their son. His one redeeming feature. Especially after that whole debacle when Oliver accidentally and indirectly insulted him and Devon called him stupid and ran off. If Oliver wasn’t strict about that rule, Devon would have been. His little warrior had made it clear he wouldn’t let anyone talk badly about his mom. And even his grandparents knew better than to air their dirty laundry in front of the children.

“We’re here!” Devon called out, bouncing up and down and pointing at Oliver’s house.

He hadn’t been to Oliver’s house in over a year and managed to forget how big it was. It wasn’t as big as their family homes in Midas, but it was bigger than other Plutus homes considering the main families lived in giant apartment buildings. It was rare for people to live in houses but both Connor and Oliver grew up in homes with backyards and Oliver wanted the same for his kids. They both did. Which is why they bought the house in the first place as soon as they got married and moved to Plutus for Oliver’s university straight after graduating high school. Strange, but even though he lived in that house for almost two years, he didn’t feel bitter or nostalgic when he saw it. Probably because it never felt like a home. Oliver was always at school so Connor was left alone in the big place. Then Devon was born and sure they had some good memories there. It was where Devon learned to crawl and walk. But beyond that he didn’t have any positive recollections of the place. He didn’t miss it. To him it was Oliver’s home. His and Veronica’s.

They pulled into the driveway behind Oliver’s car and got out, Devon sprinting off as soon as his feet hit the pavement.

“Devon, don’t run!” Connor called out. He doubted Devon heard him, or would have listened if he did. The kid was just too excited, and Connor didn’t blame him. He took his time getting Devon’s present out of the back seat and entering the house, steeling himself for three of the worst hours of his life. This was going to suck.

So it was no surprise when he was greeted at the door by Veronica.

“Connor. Glad you came,” the Beta said, smiling warmly.

Once again, Connor felt the impact of that smile, so genuine and honest. The girl didn’t have a mean bone in her body. Which meant Connor couldn’t hate her even though he wanted to. When it came to their looks, Connor had the natural beauty of an Omega. But Veronica was gorgeous for a Beta with lush curly brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. If it wasn’t for her height, she was a bit taller than Connor, she could pass for an Omega.

“Hi Veronica. I like your dress,” Connor said, forcing himself to smile and feeling his heart break a little at the knowledge that his smiles would never be as heartfelt as hers.

“Thanks. I bought it recently. I wasn’t sure about the color, but I guess it works.” She ran her hands down the side of her dress, her cheeks pinkening slightly. “I like your outfit too. Is it new?”

Connor grimaced but covered it up quickly. “Yeah it is. I went on a bit of a shopping spree the other day.” Meaning, as soon as he knew he was coming to this thing, he rushed off to the department store and bought the nicest, and cheapest, day suit he could find. He knew Veronica wouldn’t judge him if he wore a suit that was broken in a bit, but the other parents would when they see them together. And Oliver would get mad that his ex looked shabby. And Oliver’s parents-

“Are Diane and Wallace here?” Connor asked, hoping his voice didn’t sound as shaken as he actually felt.

“They’re not here yet,” Veronica said, her expression turning to one of sympathy. “Oliver said you were nervous about seeing them. We’re going to do our best to keep them away from you.”

Connor exhaled, feeling a bit better that Veronica was commited to keeping him and his ex-in-laws apart. She’d do a better job than Oliver, because she actually cared. “Thanks. I haven’t seen them in a few years but our last encounter was...not good.” That was an understatement and even though it happened almost four years ago, he couldn’t forget the terror he’d felt that day. He’d been working at the company for three years at that point and they didn’t bother with him, didn’t even see him. But one day, the fact that Connor was Oliver’s ex came out and the shit hit the roof. Wallace had shown up at his place and screamed at him to quit, throwing all kinds of insults at him. When Connor called Oliver and told him they’d agreed to just act like normal and let the matter die down. It didn’t as people began to whisper behind his back, and sometimes to his face. He’d been able to bear though it all and held his head up high, pretending none of it bothered him. But Diane and Wallace left him alone after that. He didn’t know why but he was grateful. The less they saw of each other the better.

Eventually he did leave on his own, partly to get away from all the strange looks that never really went away, but mostly to get his own independence and feel like he was doing something important. He was actually ashamed how long it took him to gather the courage to finally step out of Oliver’s shadow. He should have left long, long before.

“We should head inside. The guests will arrive soon,” Veronica said.

Shaking himself mentally, Connor entered the house, his eyes flitting around to see how much it’s changed since Veronica moved in and redecorated. It was a shock every time, memories of how the house was before flashing through his mind, then settling on the present.

“Looks great as always,” Connor commented as they made their way through the dining room.

“Thanks. I redecorated recently. Got some new furniture.”

Connor was about to comment on it when Devon ran over to him.

“Mom! You have to see the bouncy house Dad got! It looks like a fort!”

Veronica and Connor chuckled as they walked through the kitchen and out into the backyard. He spotted the presents table on the way and placed his on it while trying to maintain his balance with Devon pulling on his arm.

“Wow! It looks awesome buddy,” Connor commented loudly, nodding his head at the huge fort. He had to admit, he would have loved something like that when he was a kid.

“And there’s going to be games! Look!” Devon pointed and Connor looked around the spacious yard, taking in the magician who was getting set up, the pinata, small basketball net and a mountain of games Veronica had planned ready to be used and off to the side.

“Thanks for this Veronica. It all looks amazing,” he said.

Veronica blushed again. “It’s OK. Oliver wanted to make a big deal so I might have gone a bit overboard. Leslie and Ben are going to expect it as well so I think I set myself up for future grief.”

Connor silently agreed and looked at the front of the fort where Leslie and Ben stood. He hadn’t seen them for awhile and realized how tall they’d gotten. He swallowed painfully as he realized that despite being barely two years younger, as an Alpha Ben was already catching up to Devon. As a Beta and a girl, Leslie would always be shorter but had somehow gotten Oliver’s hair and Veronica’s smile. She was going to be a beautiful Beta. He forced his eyes back to Ben, knowing he had to be able to look at the kid without feeling....anything. It was just hard, knowing that he was born so soon after Devon and what that meant. And that he looked so much like his son they looked like twins. They both looked like Oliver so it made sense. The only difference was Devon’s eyes. Connor’s eyes, he thought, his heart feeling warmer.

“Hey, you’re here,” Oliver said as he entered the backyard. “Everything is already set up. You won’t have to do anything.”

“I can see that. Veronica has done a wonderful job.”

“That she did,” Oliver said, smiling affectionately at his wife and placing a quick kiss on her cheek before he went over to talk to his three children.

“I told him not to do that in public,” Veronica said exasperatedly, shaking her head.

“It’s fine,” Connor said. “Guess he can’t help it.”

Veronica smiled apologetically and Connor wished once again that she was a horrible person, then he could hate her. But she wasn’t. The fact that Oliver fell in love with a kind, warm hearted, and understanding Beta who genuinely cared about Devon like he was her own and treated Connor like a friend just made him feel so much worse. Because he liked Veronica and could see why Oliver loved her. She was so different from the people they knew back in Midas. So different from Connor. Everyone they knew was cold, stoic, polite. But not Veronica. She was genuine and kind, a rare species to people in Plutus as a whole. Connor didn’t blame Oliver for falling for her. But he could feel it was unfair, that he never stood a chance being raised with the expectations he had.

Luckily, he had no more time to think about how insecure Veronica made him feel as the guests began to arrive. He greeted all the parents, thanking them for coming while standing next to Veronica. He could see the parents were uncertain who to pay more attention to. Connor was the legitimate parent and an Omega, but it was Veronica’s house and she organized the party. More importantly, Connor was the ex while Veronica was the current Mrs. Lawrence. Connor didn’t blame them for looking confused and uncomfortable. It was their first time together when it wasn’t just family and he didn’t know how to handle it either. And things only got worse half an hour into the party when Diane and Wallace Lawrence arrived.

As soon as he saw them he felt his heart race, his throat close up with anxiety. He couldn’t help it. His memories of the last few years were of them screaming at him and threatening to take away Devon. He couldn’t think of them in any other way besides a constant threat to his family.

“Connor,” Wallace said, his eyes piercing through him and speaking volumes. Neither he nor Connor raised their hands or nodded. Diane didn’t even say anything, turning to greet Veronica instead with that polite Plutus smile.

“Hello Veronica dear. This is a wonderful party. Thank you so much for always taking such wonderful care of our little Devon. He’s very lucky to have you.”

Veronica smiled back, shaking Wallace and Diane’s hands. “Thank you Diane. Connor helped though. He told me what kind of games Devon would prefer or I would have been completely lost.”

He wanted to relax, he really did. Veronica was defending him after all. But he couldn’t. Because he knew how futile her efforts were.

“Yes, but you organized it all,” Diance said, never missing a beat. “It’s really to your credit, spending so much effort on a child who isn’t even legally yours. Yet.”

Connor forced his body not to move, not to react. She was baiting him, trying to hurt him. But he wouldn’t respond. He was trained since he was a kid to mask his emotions and he could do it now.

“I’m going to check on Devon,” Connor said, nodding politely before he walked off, hoping his shaking legs could sustain him until he reached one of the chairs they set up for the parents. He sank down into one, his eyes searching for Devon and settling on him, sitting at the front of the crowd of children watching the magic show. The magician made a dove appear and Devon laughed and clapped and Connor’s heart constricted. He knew he was close to a panic attack and took deep steadying breaths, focusing on the joy on Devon’s face.

He can do this. He can do this.

An hour and a half later, Connor thought he might actually survive this party. They’d finished most of the games and lunch and were just about to cut the cake. Veronica asked him to help and he was once again the center of attention as Devon’s mom, helping light the candles while Devon and the other children waited impatiently.

“OK buddy, now remember, you have to make a wish before you blow out the candles,” Connor teased.

Devon rolled his eyes. “Moooom. I know that. I was four when I did that.”

Everyone chuckled and Connor began singing, the rest of the crowd joining him while Devon beamed. They finished and Devon blew out his candles, everyone clapped and Connor helped him cut the cake. He gave Devon the first slice then he and Veronica started handing out the other pieces. Going well so far. Just another hour. Presents then he could go. Devon was sleeping over so he didn’t even have to wait for his son to be ready.

“Mom, Mom,” Devon said, running over to where he was standing with some of the parents eating cake. “I want to show Ben and Leslie the new music we got the other day. Where’s the music player?”

“I left it in the car. I’ll go get it.”

Nodding to the parents, Connor walked across the yard and through the house. He quickly got the small music player and was walking back through the house when he spotted Wallace in the hallway, his eyes full of that disgusted look he always saved for Connor. Clearly he’d seen Connor leave and was waiting to get him alone. His stride slackened and he knew he’d been an idiot. He should have asked someone to come with him. Like Veronica. Then this wouldn’t have happened.

“Wallace. Enjoying the party?” No need to act aggressive if they could have a normal conversation.

“You have some nerve coming here,” Wallace said, his gaze steady.

“Devon wanted me to come. I couldn’t say no to my son.”

“Funny. If you really cared about him you never would have ruined everything the way you did. You just had to make a big dramatic scene and divorce Oliver. God knows why. He was nothing but good to you, even after you tossed him away. I always told him he was too soft on you while you never gave him the proper respect and attention he deserved.”

Don’t engage, don’t engage, Connor chanted. “Yes well, that’s between me and Oliver.”

Wallace stared at him and refused to move. “Veronica wasn’t at all what we would have accepted for our son. Not only is she a Beta, but she’s also from Theus. A barbaric city. But she’s been a much better mate to Oliver than you ever were.”

Diane had said something similar to Connor after Oliver and Veronica got engaged right after their divorce, came to rub it in Connor’s face. He kind of agreed with them. Veronica was a much better wife to Oliver than he ever was.

“Then it’s a good thing I divorced him, or he never would have married her,” Connor said.

“Don’t get cocky with me you shameless Omega,” Wallace hissed. “What you did was unbelievable and how you behaved after..I never would have expected it from you. Your poor parents were devastated by what you did, going against everything they taught you like that. It was no surprise they disowned you.”

So they could keep your friendship and save face, Connor thought angrily. Till the end, his parents’ decisions regarding him were still all about them. They didn’t disown him because they were disappointed with him, they did it because he went against them and everyone knew it. It was a statement to the precious Lawrence family and everyone in their community that they did not condone Connor’s behaviour.

“Yes, well, that was their choice and I made mine.”

“Yes,” Wallace said, his face relaxing again and Connor felt his anxiety spike further at the spark of victory in his eyes. “Yes you did. And we all think this has gone on long enough.”

“What do you mean?” Connor asked, his palms sweating like crazy, a roaring sound rushing through his ears. Don’t say it, don’t say it.

“It’s about time Oliver claimed what’s his. He’s been kind to you so far and let you raise Devon. But the boy needs his father. Oliver has proven today that he can raise Devon with Veronica, without you.”

Connor’s heart stopped. It had to. He couldn’t still be breathing, still be alive. Not if what Wallace said was true. He could see Wallace’s lips moving but couldn’t hear a word of it. It couldn’t be true. But then, it explained everything. From the moment Oliver called him a few days ago he felt something was strange about all of this. He knew there was more to this party than Oliver was letting on. He thought he was just showing off since Connor took the spot light at ‘Show and Tell’ a few weeks ago, his petty form of revenge and a way to show people who the most important person in Devon’s life is. But not this. Never this.

Was Veronica part of it? He quickly dismissed the idea. Veronica didn’t have a mean bone in her body. If she turned on Connor as well...he didn’t think he could handle it.

Without a word, he walked past Wallace, lightly pushing him aside. He heard Wallace protest but ignored him, his only thought of finding Oliver. He walked into the yard and it was like someone suddenly turned the sound back on and he was hit by the cacophony of the party. He couldn’t do this. Not here. He looked around and saw Oliver standing off to the side, showing Devon and some of his friends something in his hand.

No, not here, but he can do this now. Burning with anger, he re-entered the house and pulled out his phone. He quickly texted Oliver to meet him in the basement and walked down the staircase, knowing no one would be able to hear them with the door closed.

Two minutes later Oliver walked in and Connor stood with his back to him, still unable to look at him.

“Did you close the door?” he asked softly, trying to keep his anger in check.

“What? Yeah I closed it. What’s this-”

Connor spun on him, his face contorted with fury and arms crossed lest he punch Oliver in the face.

“Why did you throw this party?” he spat out.

Oliver froze, his eyes flitting nervously. “I told you. I wanted to do something special for Devon.”

“Liar! Your dad told me! He told me how you were proving to him, to everyone, that you and Veronica can raise Devon on your own. Without me.”

Oliver’s eyes widened and he seemed to panic for a second, before finally nodding. He hated him. He hated Oliver! How could he do this?

“You’re despicable,” Connor hissed. “It’s always about you. It always has to be about you. Here I thought you were trying to do something nice. For Devon.”

“Hey, I love Devon,” Oliver protested.

“Now!” Connor spat out. “Now you do. But back when we were married you didn’t give a crap about him. Even after the dirove you didn’t give a damn. But when Veronica started to feel bad for you, thinking you missed him, questioned why you didn’t spend time with him you started to come around and see him. You did it just so she wouldn’t know how much of an unfeeling bastard father you are. Along the way, you started to love him. Because Veronica made you realize you had a son. Even though he was from me, someone you hated, he was your son. That’s when you suddenly changed your mind. Don’t act otherwise. Not with me.’

Oliver’s neck tightened and it was clear he wanted to argue, but Connor knew he had nothing to say, because it was true.

“God, you really haven’t changed have you,” Connor said derisively. “Your dad tells you to jump and you ask how high.”

“What are you talking about?” Oliver asked impatiently.

“I’m talking about how you still do anything you can to please your dad. He told you to marry me, you did it. You wouldn’t even divorce me to marry Veronica because you were scared of what your dad would say. I had to be the one to take that step, so we can be free of each other and you can be with Veronica. Because you were too much of a coward to do it.”

“That’s not true! I would have done it eventually.”

Connor laughed dismissively. “Yeah right. You hid the fact that you were married. Probably hoped she’d agree to be your mistress when the topic of marriage finally came up. She told me, apologized to me for stealing you away you know. Before the divorce was finalized. She was already pregnant you asshole and told me she’d leave! So we could stay a family. She cried on her knees and apologized over and over. She told me how sorry she was and if she knew about me she never would have started to fall in love with you. I had to convince her that we were meant to be broken and you two belong to each other. Do you know how that felt? To sit there and tell the woman who was going to replace me to go ahead and do it! While she was already pregnant! I know Oliver. She might not know, but I know that you were never going to do it, never be man enough to go after what you want and go against your dad.”

“Shut up,” Oliver hissed.

“Even after, you only tried to keep Devon because your dad told you to. The only reason you finally agreed to let me keep him was because I begged you and you were scared that I would tell Veronica the truth about you. About how selfish you are. I’m surprised she still hasn’t figured it out. How black your heart really is.”

“Shut up,” Oliver said, his hands forming into fists at his side, face mottled red with anger.

“You probably wouldn’t have married her if your parents weren’t so eager to marry you off so quickly after our divorce. You used the timing of it to bring her in, this Beta from Theus. You knew they’d never approve otherwise. But they had to save face, had to have a second person they could flaunt in front of everyone and say, look, this is why the divorce happened. Because our son found someone better. You’re such a coward. Always were, always-”

CRACK. Connor fell backwards, his back slamming into some boxes behind him and his face burning. His whole body trembling, he lifted a shaking hand to his face, feeling the skin sting from the blow. Still in disbelief, he looked up at Oliver, taking in his surprised expression.

“I...I didn’t mean...you just...you wouldn’t stop talking,” Oliver said lamely.

Swallowing, Connor stood up, walking up to Oliver and making his ex back up a step. “My point exactly,” he said softly. “If you ever try and do something like this again, try and take away my son, I’m going to tell Veronica the truth. All of it.”

Oliver’s eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”

Connor looked at him steadily, seeing real fear in Oliver’s eyes when he realized that Connor’s threat was genuine. “You try and take my son, and you’ll see. I’ve already proven there’s nothing I’m not willing to do for him. Just test me Oliver. Now if you excuse me, I don’t want anyone seeing me like this. Just tell Devon there was an emergency on the base.”

Without a backwards glance, Connor walked up the staircase and out of the house. It wasn’t until he was in the car that he gave in to his emotions, his body shaking uncontrollably. He didn’t know which emotion sent him over the edge. Oliver actually slapping him, Wallace’s threats, Oliver’s underhanded behaviour, or once again, the threat of losing Devon. It was too much, all too much. He needed to calm down. He needed-

Trembling, he reaching his hand into his pocket and pulled out his phone, not giving himself time to think his actions through. He hit the call button and waited, listening to the phone ring on the other end. Please answer, please answer.

“Hello,” Matt’s voice filled his ear and Connor froze for a second, closing his eyes and feeling a small sense of relief. “Connor? You there?”

“Yeah,” Connor said, clearing his throat. “I’m here. You busy?”

“Nah, just chilling at home. You?”

“Oliver threw Devon a birthday party. I was just leaving.”

“No way!” Matt exclaimed. “It’s his birthday? You should have told me.”

“Oh, and what would you have done?”

“Got him a present at least,” Matt huffed. “I mean, he is your kid. I wanted to get him something. I’ll do that now. What kind of stuff does he like?”

Connor’s lips wobbled into a tiny smile and he hit the speaker button before he turned on the car and began to drive off. “Well, he likes hero stories and movies. Maybe you can get him an action figure or a military mini set. He’d like that.”

“Yeah, yeah that sounds good,” Matt said. Connor heard some rustling and chuckled when he realized Matt was going to shop now. He imagined the big Alpha inside a toy store, surrounded by tiny Omega mothers and laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Matt asked curiously.

“Nothing. Just life.”

“Yeah, life is funny sometimes,” Matt said.

They talked for a few more minutes, and by the time they hung up Connor felt steadier, stronger. Good, he needed to be. Otherwise he could never fight for his son.

 

Matt stared at the phone after he hung up, wondering if Connor was alright. It was the first time the Omega called him first, and just to talk.

He pulled up the message he was looking at before Connor called, whipping through the pictures Devon sent of his party. There was one of him and his friends playing basketball. Another with a child who looked just like him he had to be his brother. And one of Devon and Connor, smiling happily while holding a balloon giraffe.

And the fourth picture, of Devon with an adult version of himself. So, this was Oliver, Matt thought. He was good looking he guessed. But he didn’t like the look in the guy’s eyes. Even if Connor hadn’t told him some things about his ex, Matt would have known the guy was a piece of work. His eyes were hard, conniving. Even in a picture with his son he seemed to be hard. Connor was married to that person?

Matt felt his blood boil and wished he could go punch Oliver in the face and tell him to leave Connor alone. But he could never do that. He was just Connor’s boss and recently a friend. He had no right to interfere in their relationship. But it didn’t mean he had to like it.

Chapter Text

Kiryn watched Luke as he stared at the sketchpad and pencil on the coffee table surreptitiously while he pretended to tune his guitar. He’d already done that this morning but he needed something to do while he watched Luke without the Beta knowing. It had been almost two weeks since Luke confessed his desire to draw and what made him give up on that dream and still the guy couldn’t pick up a pencil. Kiryn told him to take his time, that he’d support him in his efforts and when he was ready he can start to draw again.

What he didn’t count on was the fact that Luke was so timid, still to traumatized without a chance to actually heal properly all these years. And Kiryn was really, really impatient. He was never good at just sitting still or waiting. He also never denied himself what he wanted. His dad wouldn’t get him a guitar, so he made one. His dad didn’t want him playing in the house, so he went off on his own and found his own secret spot. All his life he knew his passion was music and chased after it when other people told him he couldn’t. So he didn’t really understand why Luke was hesitating so much when there were no longer any barriers.

He’d consulted Jaz about it without giving too much away a couple days ago when he was at the end of his rope. The empathetic Alpha told him that sometimes mental barriers were stronger than physical ones and that people might need some kind of jolt to get them started. If only Kiryn could figure out what that jolt was.

Luke leaned forward, his eyes still trained on the sketchbook and Kiryn’s fingers froze on the strings. Maybe now, maybe, maybe.

With a defeated sigh Luke fell back into the couch, covering his face with his hands.

“OK, clearly this isn’t working,” Kiryn said as patiently as he could as he put his guitar away and twisted on the couch so he could face Luke.

“You think?” Luke said sarcastically. “This is never going to work. Might as well give up.”

“Well isn’t that a nice attitude,” Kiryn said bitingly, feeling a bit bad since he knew how much Luke was frustrated by this as well. Probably even more than Kiryn. He just wasn’t used to people who got hung up on things. Look at him! He couldn’t deal directly with his trauma and just blocked it out. He wasn’t running away, just choosing to pretend it doesn’t exist. And he was happier for it. Why couldn’t Luke do the same? Just box it up and ignore it.

“Maybe we can try something different,” Kiryn said consolingly.

“We tried going to the woods that didn’t help,” Luke said. “We went somewhere public, didn’t work. We went to an art center, didn’t work. We went-”

“Yes, yes I get it. You don’t have to list our failures.”

They both fell silent, Kiryn racking his brain while Luke probably dwelled on the negative and tore himself down. Kiryn was starting to realize how much his boyfriend did that, and he didn’t like it. He had to help Luke get over this. But how?

“What’s making it hard for you to start?” Kiryn asked, hoping if they broke it down they could get to the bottom of all this.

“Well, I’m worried how my dad would react if he found out,” Luke said slowly.

“Yes, but your dad isn’t here. I doubt he’d visit and you’re not going home till your grandpa tells you to. So that’s not something you have to worry about right now. Next.”

Luke frowned, his forehead creasing in thought. “I’m...anxious about not being very good at it. Last time I drew something I was eight. It’s been a while.”

“Well yeah of course. But it doesn’t matter if you’re good at it or not? You just want to draw because you like it right.” He raised an eyebrow. “You’ve seen the kind of crap people create here right?”

He hoped his comment would lighten Luke’s mood but the Beta just turned with a morose look on his face. Kiryn swallowed uncomfortably. He wasn’t good at this stuff. He liked to avoid emotional moments and was crap at comforting people. He was the one who was blunt, told it like it was and gave tough love. Clearly it wasn’t working with Luke and he was at a loss.

“You know,” Kiryn said desperately after a minute of silence. “Sometimes I get music block. I can’t think of anything and get super depressed and frustrated. Maybe that’s sort of what’s happening with you. You can’t get started.”

Luke thought about it for a few seconds then slowly began to nod. “That sounds about right. I can’t seem to come up with any ideas of what I should draw. I’ve been trying and thought about drawing Matt or you but I just can’t picture it.”

Kiryn sat up, hope restored and grabbed Luke’s hand. “Come with me.”

Luke gave him a puzzled look but Kiryn didn’t let that bother him, pulling Luke off the couch and out the door. Twenty minutes later, they pulled up in Luke’s car in front of a bright blue building.

“What is this place?” Luke asked.

“It’s a school,” Kiryn explained. “They have different classes for people.”

“You want me to go to school?” Luke asked skeptically. “I need to remind you I already went to college. I even have a job.”

Kiryn huffed, impatient to just get Luke inside and sitting on a stool. But he couldn’t do that till he explained it properly. “It’s not that kind of school. We actually don’t really have full time art schools. What we do have are classes. For adults. During weekends and after work hours and some during the day for people who work at night. You just pay a small fee and pay as you go and come in and take a class. No muss, no fuss.”

Luke gazed up at the building, his eyes scanning the bright blue color and Kiryn stood still, vowing that he’d wait until Luke was ready.

When Luke didn’t say anything he rushed to explain. “I just figured since you couldn’t get started creatively, then a class might help. They’ll tell you what to draw and you just have to sit there and do as you’re told. Think of it another way, if you don’t listen then you’re disobeying the teacher.”

Luke’s gaze turned back to Kiryn. “That would be bad,” he murmured.

Kiryn smiled, thinking how strange it was that he liked such a goody-two-shoes. It made some things annoying but it had it’s perks. And Luke was just so sweet Kiryn couldn’t leave him alone.

“Great. Let’s head inside and see. There might be a class starting in a bit.”

Luke’s eyes widened and he took a step back. “Now?”

Undaunted, Kiryn grabbed Luke and started towing him into the building. “Why not? We’re already here. Might as well get you in there before you talk yourself out of it.”

“You’re starting to know me a bit too well,” Luke muttered and Kiryn laughed, noticing that the Beta wasn’t dragging his feet anymore.

Luckily, there was a class starting in half an hour and Kiryn quickly registered Luke while the Beta looked on in tense silence. He longed to drag Luke to the class and make sure he went in, but knew he had to let the Beta handle the rest. He walked next to him as Luke walked to the designated classroom, his steps a bit shaky but at a steady pace. He froze in the classroom doorway for a few seconds and Kiryn wondered if he’d finally back down. But after taking a deep breath, inhaling the smell of the paint, he walked in and Kiryn stood at the door, feeling so proud he had to lean back against the wall next to the door for a minute. Just a minute. Then he’d leave and let Luke do his thing.

He heard voices from inside and risked a peek, seeing the teacher tell the class that they would draw a clay statue of a dancing woman today. His eyes flew to Luke, fixing his gaze on the Beta who sat on his stool, back straight, hands clasped in his lap. Everyone picked up their pencils and began to sketch. Except Luke.

Come on Luke, come on, Kiryn urged islently. You can do it. Come on. Almost robotically, Luke turned to look down at the stack of pencils on on the small table next to him. Slowly, hands clearly shaking, he picked up a pencil, took a deep breath and placed the tip on the paper. Slowly, almost like a baby taking it’s first steps he began to move his pencil awkwardly back and forth on the page, his eyes widening as he saw traces of his work on the blank page.

Kiryn felt a ball form in his throat and couldn’t stop staring, watching Luke for forty minutes as he shakily drew the clay statue. His hands were always trembling, his eyes flicking anxiously and briefly towards the statue, but he kept going. And Kiryn couldn’t have been prouder, his eyes and mind fixed on the hesitant Beta completely.

He barely heard the teacher tell the class to put their pencils down, anxious for the moment when she’d walk over to Luke and assess his work. What she said could either make or break him.

The teacher walked up to Luke and looked at his drawing. Kiryn strained his ears, barely hearing the teacher’s words and his heart pounded with each word she uttered.

“I can see you’ve been out of practice. But not bad for a first try. I’d like you to take it home and try again.”

Luke nodded and the teacher walked away. Kiryn eased himself back behind the door, leaning against the wall and almost slid to the floor. He hadn’t been so anxious in years and all for someone else. But he couldn’t help it. After years of not caring about anyone romantically, he was in love with Luke. He knew that now. He’d never been in love so he wasn’t sure what it actually meant, but there couldn’t be any other word to describe how he felt. This desire to always be with him, to make him happy, to help him and deal with the annoying moments rather than just walk away, the way he usually handled his relationships. He was in love. And it was exciting. And terrifying.

“Hey,” Luke said and Kiryn jumped, shocked to realize the class had ended while he was lost in thought.

“Hey,” Kiryn said, his voice trembling slightly, still reeling from his sudden realization. “How’d it go?”

Luke swallowed and Kiryn noticed that his shirt was damp with sweat, his hands still shaking as they clutched the sketch he’d made. “It was...good. I think. She wants me to redo it.”

“Well, you know what they say. Practice makes perfect,” Kiryn said, forcing himself to smile.

Luke stared down at him, then at the sketch. “Do you..want to see it?’

Kiryn’s heart hammered even louder and he nodded. Wordlessly, Luke held the sketch out and Kiryn took it, wondering if he could lie to Luke if the sketch was terrible. His eyes widened when he saw the drawing, taking a quick look back in the classroom at the statue then back at the sketch, staring in disbelief.

“You drew this?” Kiryn asked, his voice a bit too loud.

“Yeah. It’s not very good. I couldn’t really focus.”

Damn, if this was what Luke considered bad then Kiryn couldn’t wait to see his best. Sure the lines were shaky at several points, the statue’s arms weren’t angled correctly and the head slightly bigger, the skirt a bit too small, not flowing the way it was meant to. But overall, anyone who looked at it could tell what the sketch was about. The details were even there like the ruffles in the skirt, the ways the fingers appeared to dance in the air. It was like Luke caught the essence of the dancing woman in a blurry image.

“Luke,” Kiryn said, gazing up at the Beta solemnly. “This is good. Sure it needs some work, but this...it’s good.”

Luke’s Adam’s apple bobbed and Kiryn realized with shock that the Beta’s eyes were filling with tears. Suddenly, Luke hugged him, almost crushing him in his embrace. He was about to tell the Beta to ease off a bit so he could breath when he heard what Luke was murmuring into the top of his head.

“Thank you,” Luke whispered, his voice choked. “Thank you.” He said it over and over and Kiryn hugged him back, swallowing back his own tears. A memory flashed in his mind. His first guitar, hand crafted and gaudy and not at all how a guitar should be. The sounds that came out had a high-pitched tinge to them and the shape didn’t fit his lap properly. But it had been his first guitar. And he’d cried as he held it, grateful to even have that. To be able to play his music.

Sure Luke was older than he was back then, and he had access to art supplies when Kiryn couldn’t get his hands on anything, was told his music was meaningless. But deep down, it was the same. They both had something they loved, a passion, and were denied it. So he understood Luke’s tears only too well. Didn’t his own tears flow every time he completed a song, a form of gratitude and appreciation for being able to do what he loved? He never took the fact that he could play freely now for granted. Though he put his memories away in a box, the emotions sometimes filtered through, whether he liked it or not.

They were the same he and Luke. Despite their different backgrounds, their energy levels and some personality traits, they were the same where it counted. And Kiryn would never take that for granted either.

“You’re welcome,” he whispered back, holding his lover tighter.

 

Ren shot Jason small looks from across the table while his fingers clicked away on his computer. He couldn’t help it. Jason had broken down twice in two days this week. He couldn’t just ignore that. Ren hadn’t said anything to him after either one. The first because Jason seemed to recover well and was even joking around with him a few minutes afterwards. But the second time...the second time Jason just broke and didn’t speak to Ren after that unless it was about work. And Ren didn’t know what to do about it.

He’d been acting normal so far and was working. So it wasn’t really an issue of his break down interfering with work. But he was so quiet; so withdrawn and Ren couldn’t just leave him alone. He hated comforting people. It was not his forte and people in Tantalus weren’t very good with bedside manner and coddling people. Even his mom wasn’t the best at it and people told her she was spoiling him. Usually he was blunt and in people’s faces, which is how he usually handled Jason. But somehow he didn’t think that would work this time.

He needed a different approach. But what?

“Can you check this?” Jason suddenly broke the silence. “I can’t be sure I understand Shawn’s notes. The guy keeps writing in shorthand and half sentences.”

“I told them to do that in case the messages get intercepted,” Ren explained. “I’ll give you a cheat sheet.”

Jason nodded and went back to staring at his notes while Ren got up and walked over to the other side of the table. Keeping a bit of space between them, he indicated what some of the codes meant while Jason listened patiently. He didn’t write any of it down which Ren applauded him for. What was the point of codes if people actually wrote them down, risking other people finding them?

“Thanks. I’ll memorize the ones you told me today. Just ease me into it and I’ll pick it up eventually.”

Ren nodded and was about to walk away when he had a sudden idea. “Ari and I are going on his first run since his recovery. Do you want to join us?”

Jason didn’t react and Ren felt nervous for some reason.

“Sure. Usual time?”

Ren almost sighed with relief but held back at the last second. No reason to tip Jason off to how nervous he was about the whole thing. Besides, Jason only agreed to go running. They hadn’t made any real progress. Yet.

Which is why he knocked on Jason’s door that evening, his heart beating faster than he liked. Why the hell was he so unsettled? He’d been trained since he was a kid to stay calm no matter what. Hell he’d kept it together, not even breaking a sweat when he busted into warehouses and was getting shot at. There was no reason for him to be nervous now. None!

The door flew open and Jason appeared, looking a bit perplexed. “I was wondering who it was. I don’t think you’ve ever knocked before.”

Idiot. He should have just burst in like usual. Now Jason knew something was up. But nothing was up with him. It was Jason who was acting strange!

Ari barked and trotted a few steps forward, nudging Jason’s leg. Jason chuckled and patted the black fur, smiling for the first time in days. “OK, OK. Looks like someone is eager to head out.”

“Yeah. He’s tired of being cooped up,” Ren agreed.

“So what have you been doing to keep him busy?” Jason asked as he closed the door and they walked down the hall. With an actual topic and Jason interested in Ari, they talked comfortably about the dog until they reached the lakefront. Once there they started their run, Ari leaped ahead of them until he soon disappeared out of sight.

Ren heard Jason laughing next to him and felt himself smile in response.

“Think we can catch up?” Ren asked.

“I don’t know,” Jason said, smiling widely with his red hair tied back, making him look innocent and happy. “He is a demon dog after all.”

“A demon dog?” Ren asked.

“Yeah. He’s obviously vicious, has all that black hair, is your friend which is the only real reason needed to be honest.”

“Are you saying I’m a demon?” Ren yelled.

“Only way to explain you.”

Ren thought that was the most ridiculous thing ever and was about to tell Jason just that when the Alpha suddenly began to sprint faster, smirking as he ran past him. With a growl Ren picked up his pace, easily catching up to Jason as they ran after Ari.

Ren didn’t know if it was because Ari was copped up for so long or they hadn’t been on a run for a while or Jason needed an outlet but they ran farther than they ever have. It wasn’t until fifty minutes later that the three of them finally stopped, panting heavily and wobbling off the pavement and collapsing onto the grass. Ren flopped onto his back, drawing in deep breaths while Jason did the same on his left and Ari panted on his right.

When he finally got his breath back he began to stroke Ari’s fur, feeling comfort in the familiar touch.

“Thanks,” Jason said.

“For what?”

“For not pushing me the last few days. Or making a big deal about what I said. And for taking me out tonight. I needed something good, familiar.”

Ren turned his head, watching Jason stare up at the black sky with a few sprinkles of stars here and there. That was something Ren still wasn’t used to. Back in Tantalus, they couldn’t see much of the sun or stars because of the mountains and smoke from the mines and factories where they extract, purify and melt down the gold before they send it to the family vaults in Plutus. However, he managed to sneak off every once in awhile to his secret spot in the woods and watch the stars, lying on his back like this in the woods and just enjoy the rare wonder before him that few people in Tantalus ever saw in their lifetimes even though it was only a forty minute walk away. But here, the stars weren’t visible because of all the skyscrapers and bright lights. Not even in the park. Had Jason ever even seen a sky full of stars? Mountains so high one marvelled at their existence?

“Well, it wasn’t much of an effort,” Ren said softly, trying to focus on the present. “You didn’t seem to want to talk. And I didn’t want to push you when you were….”

“Breaking down like a child,” Jason said with disgust.

“I wouldn’t say it like that,” Ren said carefully. “We all have our triggers, our little buttons that set us off. That make us cry or scream whether we want to or not. I grew up learning how to control and mask my every emotion. But even I know some emotions can’t be contained. It’s part of being human.”

Jason turned his head, looking into Ren’s eyes. “So you’re saying you have breakdowns too?”

Ren felt the weight of the chain and name tags on his neck and next thing he knew, he pulled them out. “See this? Whenever I look at it, really look at it, I start to shake, sweat, the whole nine yards and it takes me a while to feel steady again.”

“Then why would you look at it? Why wear it if it makes you feel that way?”

“Because….not having it on me, not seeing or feeling it on me everyday makes it worse,” Ren said, some of his sorrow seeping into his voice. “You can say it’s like a safety blanket and a noose that’s literally around my neck at the same time.”

“So not only are you a sadist, but also a masochist,” Jason said dryly.

Ren chuckled. “Maybe. I tried to get rid of it so many times. But I could never do it. I broke down at just the thought of not having it in my life anymore. It wasn't pretty and made me feel pathetic, weak.”

“That’s kind of how I felt,” Jason murmured.

“I know,” Ren replied. “I know how I recover, but I didn’t know what you would do, so I was kinda lost.”

“I don’t really deal,” Jason said. “I usually just burn through my anger or anxiety. But I never really deal with the emotions. And I haven’t broken down like that in a while. Sure I get angry, but never….broken.”

They stared into each other’s eyes in silence, both lost in their own memories of the tragedies in their lives, and the impact they still had on them.

“Well, hopefully today was a start in healing those scars,” Ren said.

“Yeah, maybe. I do enjoy these runs. But I don’t think I can keep them going if we always run like this,” Jason said dryly.

Ren chuckled and turned to look at Ari who perked up when his owner’s attention was back on him. “Nah, me neither. I don’t think I could move a muscle.”

“Really?” Jason drawled.

Ren slowly looked at Jason, wondering what the Alpha was aiming at. “Touch me and die.”

Jason chuckled. “Never think of it. Ari go!” With a battle cry Jason took off, Ari springing up and following him as they ran back to Jason’s car.

“Hey! Get back here! You stole my dog!” Laughing, Ren gave chase, his heart light for the first time in days.

Chapter Text

Matt listened as Connor presented what West and Susan found on their steakouts the last three days. There was a rumor in the house Susan was in about an illegitimate child in Theus. While illegitimate children weren’t rare in Plutus, they were worth looking into as some were attached to their parents, albeit from afar, and dealt with the less savory and more clandestine business dealings. Sometimes the child was approached with a promise of finally being accepted into the family and given the coveted family name.

“I’ll look into her today. See what her life in Theus is like,” Connor said, finishing off his report.

“Sounds good,” Ren said. “On our end, Leo is having a field day. Sounds like there’s a lot of rumors going around the Nors household.”

Jason snorted. “I could have told you that. That family is so full of drama and infighting. We’d spend weeks looking into everything.”

Matt listened with half an ear as Jason and Ren discussed how to deal with the troublesome Nors family, his attention focused on Connor. The Omega was quietly listening to the discussion and he knew he was paying attention, but something about his posture was off. He didn’t know if he was being extra sensitive since Connor’s rattled phone call last week after Devon’s birthday party or if the Omega really was acting differently. He thought he was. He made his reports, he checked in with the Eagles and his notes were immaculate as always. But he couldn’t shake the feeling something was off. He’d been observing the Omega closely the last few days, trying to figure out what that something was.

If he wasn’t looking so closely, he would have missed the sudden breath Connor drew, his eyes widened and his body shuddered for barely a second before he stopped it. His eyes slowly closed and he exhaled. When he opened his eyes again he was back to normal. It barely lasted ten seconds but Matt noticed. And he finally figured out what was wrong. Connor was still rattled. And clearly very anxious. He hid it very well but Matt had gotten to know him over the last year and a half and he knew Connor wasn’t fine, no matter what he claimed. So what was Matt gonna do about it?

“So it’s settled,” Ren said, cutting into Matt’s thoughts. “We have Leo stay a bit longer at the Nors house and dig in a bit more.” He looked at Connor. “This throws our schedule off a bit.”

Connor shook his head. “It’s fine. We knew we were going to be in this for the long haul. There are bound to be a few areas we need to investigate further. And the Nors family is on the top of our list of potential suspects. If Leo needs reinforcement let me know. I think we can cut one of our infiltrations short and send in an extra pair of ears.”

Ren smiled and nodded. “I’ll do that. Overall, I think we’re progressing pretty well. Investigating the family rumors and dark secrets was a good move.”

All eyes turned to Jason, but the Alpha didn’t even acknowledge them, staring at his phone instead. Matt almost leaped to the assumption that he was playing on his phone again, but Jason hadn’t done so in any of their meetings the last few weeks. He really had turned over a new leaf. Maybe now they could finally talk properly? But he didn’t want to push it. Or should he? His eyes flicked back and forth between Jason and Connor. Who should he focus on first?

“Well, good meeting everyone. We’ll see you tomorrow,” Ren said. He and Jason got up and rapidly left the room.

Connor it was then.

The Omega disconnected his laptop from the projector and settled in his chair to go through more bank statements. Damn, he was nervous. The last time he’d tried to get personal it blew up in his face. But Connor assured him he didn’t mind sharing some stuff. He’ll never know if he crossed a line if he didn’t try.

“Ah, you OK?” Matt asked, wincing at how weak his voice sounded.

Connor didn’t bother looking up from his laptop when he answered. “Fine.” After a short pause he asked, “And you?”

“Fine, fine,” Matt said, trying to sound casual, worried he sounded like he was trying too hard. It was just so difficult. He’d never really been able to get people to open up to him. Luke used to chase him around and Matt accepted him with open arms. There was never a process to go through. The only two people he’d ever actually tried to wiggle his way into their good graces are Connor and Jason. And look how those turned out. A cold secretary for a year who was still prickly and a cousin who could barely stand sitting in the same room with him.

He knew he should give up, at least relent for a bit, but he couldn’t. Not when Connor looked so fragile.

“I was just...worried. About you,” Matt said in a rush.

Connor’s fingers stopped on the keyboard but still wouldn’t meet Matt’s eyes. “About me? Why?”

Matt cleared his throat, placing his sweaty palms flat on his thighs. “Because, you seem a bit...anxious.”

He stared, barely breathing and waited to see if Connor would finally open up, or turn him down flat. After almost a minute of internal struggle the Omega finally opened his mouth and Matt’s breath hitched.

“Just...some stuff was said at Devon’s party last week. Oliver’s father was there and he hates me and he said...some stuff. He always has a way of rattling me. I just need a few days to get over it.”

Connor fell silent, and Matt longed to ask him more about it, tell Connor it was OK to share his concerns and vent more, that he’d listen and give him a shoulder to lean on. However, the part of him that still felt raw from Connor’s rejection two weeks ago screamed at him to back off. He let the battle rage inside him for a few moments before he finally said, “Well, if you ever want to talk, you know I’m here to listen.”

Connor smiled slightly, his face still turned away, but he smiled! “Thanks. I know. It’s just...really complicated and there’s really not much you can do to help. I have it covered.”

There it was again, the same things Jason always told him. That it wasn’t Matt’s problem, that he couldn’t do anything. That his presence and help was unwanted. He could feel the sting of rejection despite the positive intentions behind Connor’s words and wanted to snap at the Omega to give him a chance. Just one. But he knew from past experience how pointless that would be. He couldn’t force someone to open up. Just wait patiently, and let them know you were there when they needed you.

“OK. Well, I’m here. Whenever.”

 

 

“I want Leo to focus on Christina Nors for a while,” Jason said. “The rumor that she might be skimming money from her mother may be true. I’ve seen her at the clubs a few times and she spends like there’s no tomorrow. She disappeared for awhile and the rumor was she was cut off, but she came back a month later.”

“You think there’s more to this than her just taking money from her mom behind her back?” Ren asked.

“Yeah. If it was simply that then the family would make a bigger fuss about her spending. But they've been pretty quiet about it and she’s still going to the clubs and spending shitloads of money. It’s possible that she found an ‘alternative’ way to get money and that’s why her family leave her alone.”

Ren thought about it for a second then nodded. “Sounds like a solid theory. I’ll let Leo know.”

Jason didn’t reply, turning his attention back to the Nors family tree. He was trying to dredge up every dirty secret, any whispers he’d heard over the last few years about any of them. They were a middle class family at best, yet spent money on lavish parties, showing off expensive pieces of artwork and acting like they were as good as, well, the Blakes. He always found them fishy and crass. Which is why he didn’t mind investigating them now. If anyone was living above their means it was them. And he was going to figure out once and for all if they were legit or full of it.

He spent the next three hours pouring over the names, cross referencing them with the rumors Leo reported, adding his own notes and telling Ren his theories every once in a while. Otherwise, the two worked in silence. And Jason loved it. He’d avoided hard work so far and therefore never realized just how much fun it was to solve a mystery, dissecting every little hint or possible clue and determining how important it was. He could see why Ren loved doing it. He was certainly enjoying himself. Yet another thing Ren was making him discover about himself.

Which is why when they went on their evening jog a few hours later, he was feeling downright chipper and cordial to the Beta, joking with him about his shorter strides while he urged Ari to run faster, trying to outstrip the competitive Beta. As usual though, Jason’s bulk made him slower and Ren would outrun him, the two collapsing on the grass to rest and recharge before they raced back.

“You’re getting better,” Ren commented. “You’re almost as fast as I am.”

“Gee thanks,” Jason said. “Can you give a compliment without making it sound like an insult and like you’re flattering yourself?”

Ren chuckled, lying down on the grass and Jason lay down next to him. Ren seemed to do that a lot, just lie on the grass and stare up at the sky. After doing it for a week, Jason still couldn’t figure out why.

“Why do you keep staring up at the sky?” Jason finally asked, unable to keep his curiosity in check anymore.

“Because the stars are beautiful.”

Jason continued staring at the sky, squinted, then widened his eyes, then squinted again. “Nope, I don’t see it.”

Ren sighed. “I knew it. You’ve never seen the stars properly before.”

“Hey, I’ve seen stars,” Jason protested. “I’m looking at them right now.”

“I mean proper stars,” Ren argued. “Not this pathetic excuse of a snapshot. Hundreds of stars, with nothing to block your view. I can’t even describe how amazing it is, seeing them all shine up in the dark sky, winking down at you. Sometimes they even seem to be talking to us. If you’re whimsically minded.”

They both fell silent, Jason trying to make sense of what Ren just said. He was never into literature or art or any of that metaphorical stuff. That was more Luke’s thing. And Matt since he was so frickin sensitive towards people’s feelings. But not Jason. And for the life of him, it took everything he had not to tell Ren that his words sounded like BS.

“Interesting,” he said instead.

His tone must have sounded insincere because Ren snorted and rolled up, giving him a pitying look. “You know, you guys in Plutus have a lot of things we don’t have in Tantalus, but you don’t have heart.”

Jason could argue against that, but what was the point? It was kinda true. People in Plutus were cold. Look at his own family. And they were considered affectionate!

“True. To a certain extent,” Jason said, surprised that he hadn’t flat out contradicted Ren. “I mean, look at Nathan and Matt. They’re full of affection. And Matt’s parents too. They love him a lot. It’s rare but there are some people in Plutus who do give a crap about each other.”

“Guess you’re right,” Ren said. “Tantalus isn’t any better, believe me. We have parents who betray their kids, kids who turn on their parents, partners turning each other in. Not everyone has the luxury to care because they’re too busy trying to survive. Not everyone is like that of course, but more than I’d like. Especially in the mines compared to the town.” He paused and Jason saw his lips tip up into a gentle smile. “But when we care, it’s like a raging fire. It’s hard to put out, hard to control. All consuming.”

Jason felt a spark of jealousy at Ren’s words. They sounded too personal. Did Ren love someone before? Was that person still around? Was he still in love with however it was? The ball of jealousy continued to burn inside him until he couldn’t control it anymore.

He sat up, looking down at Ren, his eyes blazing with passion and determination after weeks of being dormant. “I want another shot,” he said firmly.

Considering how dramatic he felt the moment was, Ren’s apathetic response almost dampened his resolve, but he was determined not to let Ren’s attitude smother his desire. It took him weeks to work up the courage, the heat within him building up gradually. The Beta barely looked at him. “Another shot at what?”

“Sex,” Jason stated, leaving no room for Ren to misunderstand him.

That seemed to get the Beta’s attention and his eyes flew to Jason’s face. He held his breath, hoping Ren wouldn’t just shoot him down.

“Nah, I’m good,” Ren said, turning his eyes back to the sky.

Jason growled and leaned forward, placing his face inches from Ren’s. “Come on. I promise it’ll be better than last time.”

Ren sighed, his eyes closed and Jason could see him arguing with himself. He waited, staring down at him until Ren finally groaned and sat up. “Fine. But this is the last time. Got it?”

Jason nodded emphatically, swearing that he’d make this so good Ren would beg him to do it again.

 

He was an idiot, Ren told himself as he stepped out of his shower and looked at himself in the mirror. Why’d he say yes? Why did Jason ask for a repeat after the disastrous results last time? He knew the answer to both and neither improved his mood. Jason wanted to repair his bruised pride and Ren...found it hard to say no when the Alpha looked so earnest. He doubted Jason’s performance this time around would be any better, so he took time preparing himself in the shower. A lot of time. Last time hurt so bad and he didn’t want to deal with the aftermath again. And, he promised himself, no telling Jason he sucked, even if he does.

With a final groan, knowing he couldn’t keep postponing the inevitable, he put on one of his dozens of short sleeved black skin tight shirts and a pair of black jeans. He patted Ari for support and walked out, making the short but arduous trek down the hall to Jason’s apartment. He barely touched the doorknob when the door swung open, Jason’s determined face appearing before him.

Without a word, Ren stepped into the apartment, leading the way to Jason’s bedroom. He walked over to the bed, sat down on the edge and waited for Jason to join him. The Alpha sat down next to him, turning his body so he faced him.

Ren was about to tell Jason maybe this wasn’t a good idea when the Alpha cupped his cheek, drawing his face closer and laid his lips on his. Ren waited for Jason to thrust his tongue in, the same way he did before, but the Alpha exhibited more restraint this time, nipping Ren’s lips gently and running his tongue across them. Despite himself, Ren felt himself getting aroused. It was rare in Tantalus for people to be this gentle and he never knew how much he’d enjoy it. He sank into the kiss, kissing Jason back. Eventually, he felt it wasn’t enough and opened his mouth. Again, he waited for Jason to become more aggressive. Again, the Alpha surprised him, gently easing his tongue into his mouth and running it languidly inside.

Ren lost track of time as he and Jason kissed. He couldn’t remember the last time he enjoyed and took his time with a kiss. Usually he and his partner would already be getting down to business. Oddly enough, he didn’t feel that impatient. He barely finished the thought when Jason eased him back onto the bed, his lips still on his.

Here we go, Ren thought as Jason finally halted the kiss and lifted his shirt, kissing Ren’s chest. Ren waited, knowing Jason would just suck and lick his nipple a bit then move on. He almost bucked off the bed in shock when the Alpha slowly nibbled his neck, taking his time moving down the column of his throat to his collarbone, where he lavished his tongue for a few moments before finally reaching Ren’s right nipple. He swirled his tongue around the outside and Ren almost growled with frustration. Would he hurry up!

Suddenly, Jason placed his entire mouth on him and sucked and Ren groaned, feeling his nipples harden as Jason began to tease the other one with his hand. He didn’t know what happened to Jason since the last time they had sex, but it was like sleeping with a different person. It wasn’t long before Ren lay panting and squirming on the bed, covering his eyes with his hand as Jason continued to slowly, almost torturously slowly, to make his way down his chest to his stomach and belly button, his hands playing across his chest, his waist, any skin he could reach and making Ren’s skin burn. His pants were getting tighter, something Jason noticed and quickly divested him of them, leaving him once again in nothing but his shirt which was hiked up under his arm. He should roll it down but his body felt like putty and he didn’t think he could move.

Which is probably why he finally shot up when he felt Jason’s lips on his erection.

“What the hell are you-?” he stared at Jason, mouth agape as the Alpha simply smiled, his mouth still around him and sucked. Ren shuddered, grabbing Jason’s head for support as the Alpha lavished his full attention on him. It wasn’t the first time he’d gotten a blow job, but he had a feeling it was Jason’s. Or at least that he didn’t do it much because his mouth was a bit awkward, but he was doing it so gently, so carefully, Ren couldn’t stop shaking and groaning. He felt his stomach tighten and pulled Jason’s head back just in time as he climaxed, some of it getting onto Jason’s shirt.

Ren sat there, panting as Jason wiped his mouth then removed his shirt, easing Ren back onto the bed. He felt so disoriented, his body still reeling from his orgasm when he felt Jason’s fingers ease inside him, the cold feel of the lubricant capsule making him shudder even more.

He wanted to tell Jason to wait, that he couldn’t arouse him so soon and Ren needed time to recover. But he couldn’t even form a sentence in his mind, much less say it out loud. So he lay there, eyes closed and clutching the sheets near his head as Jason kissed his right inner thighs, his free hand playing across the skin of the opposite thigh, while his fingers moving inside him relentlessly, but gently. Always gently.

He really didn’t think he could get it up again, not so quickly. But Jason was taking his time arousing him, his mouth and lips roaming all over his body, up and down his legs while his hand made it’s way back up his waist and he teased his nipples again so his whole body felt like it was on fire. All the while, his fingers continued to move inside him. Gradually, he felt his erection returning, becoming more aroused with each passing minute.

“You ready now?” Jason asked.

Ren cracked one eye open, watching Jason lift his hips and couldn’t respond as the Alpha began to ease into him. Ren shuddered, every nerve hypersensitive to Jason’s touch. Jason took his time entering him, waiting for Ren to adjust ot him. Which made him more aroused and he moaned, panting Jason’s name.

Jason grinned at that then closed his eyes, his neck muscles tightening and Ren knew how much the Alpha was holding back.

“I’m good now,” he panted.

“You sure?” Jason asked, also panting, his voice strained.

“Yeah.”

He barely finished the sentence when Jason thrust a bit more deeply, making Ren’s toes curl and throw his head back.

“I think it’s here,” Jason said.

“Wha-?”

Jason suddenly twisted a bit and Ren gasped and shuddered again, his body craving the feeling it hadn’t had in months.

“Yup. Knew I’d find it,” Jason said, smiling triumphantly.

Next thing he knew, Jason began to ease himself in and out, pushing against that one spot that made Ren feel like he was about to break at any second. Which he eventually did, his body almost rising off the bed before he collapsed, breathing laboured and his entire body still burning and shaking in the aftershock. He felt Jason shudder as well before becoming still. They both sat there, trying to catch their breath when Jason finally eased out of him.

He heard some rustling and knew Jason was throwing away the condom. Then felt the bed dip as he flopped next to him.

“So, best you ever had?” Jason asked.

Groggy, Ren opened his eyes and turned his head, the slight movement feeling like a colossal effort. He took in Jason’s excited expression and the biting words he wanted to throw out to keep the guy’s ego in check died in his throat. “Definitely one of the best.”

Jason frowned. “One? One of the best? Come on you came twice!”

Ren chuckled weakly then closed his eyes again. “Just be glad I said anything, you big baby.”

Jason huffed, making the mattress shake. “Hey. Is that it? Is that all the credit I get? Do you know how hard that was?

“What do you want, a standing ovation?”

“At least some acknowledgement would be nice, yes.”

Relenting, knowing Jason was right and he did deserve some kind words Ren turned his head back to face him. “I never slept with anyone who paid me that much attention,” he said solemnly. “It felt….really good. Thanks.”

Jason stared into his eyes for a few moments, his expression serious. “You’re welcome.”

They grinned at each other and Ren sat up a bit, feeling he could finally move and smoothly pulled his shirt down. “How’d you get so good anyway?”

Jason froze and Ren looked at him, his curiosity peaked.

“I researched it OK!” Jason burst out, sitting up and crossing his arms in anger. And embarrassment.

If this was someone else, if Jason hadn’t put so much effort in loving him so gently and sweetly, Ren would have teased him for it. But he knew how much weight his words carried, how much Jason wanted to do well, how bruised his pride was at this moment and what it cost him to admit the truth.

“Smart. Looks like it all paid off,” he replied casually.

Jason cast him a disbelieving look. “You aren’t going to make fun of me?”

“Why should I?” Ren asked. “You know how much I love learning new things. Why should I make fun of you for learning and researching.”

Jason kept staring at him then shook his head. “You are definitely one of a kind.”

“Aww thanks. So are you,” Ren said, ruffling Jason’s tangled hair. Jason batted his hand away and glared at him.

“Don’t treat me like a kid. I am older than you.”

Ren smirked. “You really think so?”

Jason’s eyes narrowed, leaning forward as he scanned Ren’s face. “How old are you? You never said.”

“Well, you said you thought I was no older than twenty-two,” Ren said, crossing his arms behind his head.

“And? Was I right?”

“Close,” Ren replied, his grin widening at the look of frustrated puzzlement and determination on Jason’s face.

“Twenty-three?”

“Close.”

Jason’s eyes widened. “No way are you my age! You’re twenty-five!”

Ren’s smile widened even further. “Close.”

Jason's jaw dropped. “You’re...older than me?”

Ren leaned forward, ruffling Jason’s hair. “Yup. At the ripe old age of twenty-six, I’m a whole year older than you.”

It showed how shocked Jason was that he didn’t so much as move an inch to swat his hand away again.

“But...but…”

“What can I say?” Ren said, “I have good genes. You should see my mom. She’s in her forties but doesn’t look a day over thirty.”

Jason continued to gape at him and Ren was starting to get bored. “Gotta go. Ari’s waiting.”

He got up, picking up his pants and pulling them on. He was halfway to the front door when he heard Jason scream.

“Twenty-six!”

Chuckling, Ren left the apartment, feeling content and satisfied for the first time in a while.

Chapter Text

Connor just emailed Ren a new rumor West found in the house he was in when his phone rang. He glanced at the screen and felt like a fist clutched his heart and squeezed it when he saw it was Oliver. No need to feel nervous. Just because they had a fight and Wallace threatened to take Devon away, again, didn’t mean he had to break into a cold sweat every time Oliver called. Even though this was their first time speaking in two weeks. He’d only spoken to Veronica to arrange Devon’s after school pick up today so he could spend his usual weekend with his father. He had to talk to Oliver eventually.

 

The phone kept ringing and he knew he had to answer. His heart full of trepidation he hit the answer button.

 

“Hello,” Connor said, trying to sound normal and ignore how loud his heart was.

 

“Hey, it’s me,” Oliver said.

 

“Yeah I know.”

 

“Are you free for lunch?”

 

Connor wracked his mind, trying to find any excuse to avoid meeting Oliver. But as usual, Matt was a considerate boss and never planned anything during lunch time. He wanted to say no, but knew he couldn’t run away from Oliver forever.

 

“Yes, I’m free. Where do you want to meet?”

Quickly, Oliver told him the place and that he’d meet him in twenty minutes and hung up. Slowly to keep his hands from visibly shaking he put the phone down on his desk. He stared down at it, wondering what Oliver wanted to say now.

 

“Hey, want to go out for lunch?”

 

Connor jumped at Matt’s voice. His distress was probably obvious because Matt’s face creased with concern.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Connor shook his head, feeling a jolt of energy. He couldn’t keep leaning on Matt, especially not with this. It was too private and it wasn’t like Matt could actually do anything. “Nothing. I’m meeting someone for lunch. Sorry.”

 

Matt continued staring at him, his eyes full of concern. “Are you sure you’re OK?”

 

Connor nodded while avoiding Matt’s gaze by getting his wallet and phone. “Fine. Just didn’t get much sleep last night. I’ll see you later.”

 

Keeping his pace even so it didn’t look like he was running away from Matt and the false hope he gave, he went to his car and drove off to the restaurant. He arrived earlier than planned which gave him a few minutes to take long deep breaths to calm down. Once he felt he was ready, he exited the car and entered the restaurant.

 

“Hi,” he told the hostess. “I’m here to meet Oliver Lawrence.”

 

“This way sir,” the hostess said, leading him past the partially full dining room. Connor felt his heart beat louder, his palms getting sweatier as they bypassed all the tables and entered the hallway that led to the private dining rooms. This was not a good sign. When he entered the room, he knew this lunch was going to be hell when his eyes landed on Oliver- and Wallace sitting right next to him.

 

“Sit down Connor,” Wallace said tersely.

 

Legs shaking, Connor sank into the chair opposite Wallace, keeping his back straight and looking his ex-father-in-law in the eye. He may know how nervous he was, but no reason to let Wallace know. He checked himself, making sure his scent was suppressed, the way his mother always taught him so he didn’t offend any Alphas with his jitters. He shot Oliver a quick look and did not feel assured when his ex avoided his gaze.

 

“I’ll cut to the chase,” Wallace said. “It’s been a long time coming and I think we’ve been very patient. Oliver has been more than nice to you and gave you lots of chances to see reason but you’ve refused to understand the position you’re in. We are taking Devon back, officially appointing Oliver as his sole guardian.”

 

No! No! No! Connor silently screamed in his head. Not happening. He knew this might happen the minute he saw Wallace and Diane at Devon’s birthday party and they dropped not so subtle hints in front of him and Veronica about their plans for Devon. Had been preparing himself for weeks. But the blow still landed, hard, and he had to struggle to breath.

 

“I believe we’ve discussed this before,” Connor said, glad at how calm he sounded. “Oliver and I agreed that it was best for Devon to stay with me. His biological mother.”

 

Wallace snorted and Oliver looked away. “You gave up any right to keep Devon the minute you divorced my son. The fact that Oliver let you keep him a single day after that was misguided and more than you deserve. We have let this drag on long enough. Devon is Oliver’s first born son, an Alpha son, and he needs to be with his family.”

 

“I’m his family,” Connor said firmly.

 

“Your own family abandoned you. Once again, Oliver was kind enough to let you keep our family name since your parents refused to give you back theirs. You are not a family. We are .”

 

This wasn’t going well. Not as bad as when he divorced Oliver, but still, could be better. He could do this. He can convince Wallace.

 

He opened his mouth, about to explain the benefits of Devon being with him when Wallace cut him off.

 

“This is not up for debate Connor. I’ve lost patience with this entire situation. Having you appear at school events, flaunting your job and independence and divorced status is embarrassing to not only Oliver, but Devon as well. I told you at his birthday party, your audacious and flagrant disregard for the family reputation by flaunting your divorced and working status is something I can no longer tolerate”

 

So that was the trigger, Connor thought. Show and Tell. The first real event Connor went to, alone. Where Devon spent five minutes bragging about him and his job to his friends. Who then told their parents, who then told other parents because everyone loved to gossip about the strange divorced Omega mother. One of whom was a distant Lawrence relative and would have gone running to Wallace to tell him the whole story and get on his good side. He kicked himself silently. He should have known better. He should have listened when Wallace talked to him two weeks ago. He’d been so angry at Oliver’s involvement he’d tuned Wallace out and walked away. If he’d listened he would have understood how angry the Alpha was, maybe taken steps to redeem himself. He should have let Oliver go to the school, as usual. He did know better. It’s all because he listened to Matt, felt confident and wanted to come out of his shell. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

 

“I don’t feel like talking about this anymore,” Wallace continued, and the next words he uttered felt like a sword through Connor’s heart. “Either you give us Devon willingly, or we take him by force.”

 

Connor’s whole body began to shake, and he could feel his scent start to rise up. He couldn’t suppress it if he tried. A terrified, hopeless scent full of despair and heartbreak. Oliver’s nose wrinkled a bit, unused to Omega smells since Connor always hid his even when they were kids.

 

“Please, if you just let me explain-”

 

“We’re done,” Wallace said firmly. “You have two choices. Either you give up Devon and Oliver lets you see him once a month, supervised of course. Or you fight us on this and we will bring in the law and we take full custody of the boy, and you never see him. And you know we’ll win.”

 

No, this can’t be happening. Connor prayed this was a nightmare and he’d wake up. He couldn’t really be losing his son. He couldn’t! Not after everything he’d done, all his efforts. He got a job! A respectable one! He got an apartment. Made sure Devon went to school and was happy and clean and healthy. Didn’t any of that mean anything to Wallace?

 

His eyes flicked to Oliver, for some stupid reason hoping the Alpha would help him, say something. But Oliver kept his gaze averted, his expression blank and Connor knew it was over. His battle of seven years, and he lost. Wallace was right. No way could he win legally. The best he can hope for is to cooperate and maybe he can convince Oliver later to let him spend more time with Devon every other weekend. There had to be a way they could make it work.

 

“I understand,” Connor said, struggling to sound calm. “I’ll get Devon ready and drop him off this weekend-”

 

“We’ll pick him up afterschool,” Wallace cut in.

 

Connor froze, certain Wallace wasn’t saying what he thought he was. “What do you mean?” he said, his voice hushed.

 

“I’m not going to wait and take the risk you’ll just run off with Devon to another part of the country where you think you’ll be safe. No, Devon comes home with Oliver. Today.”

 

Connor swallowed, knowing he shouldn’t be surprised Wallace would think so lowly of him that he’d assume Connor would take Devon away from his family and friends. No way would he hurt his son that way.

 

“I won’t run,” Connor said firmly.

 

“Excuse me if I don’t believe you,” Wallace said dismissively. “Today Connor.”

 

He wanted to fight, to argue so he could have one last weekend with Devon. But the look on Wallace’s face told him anything he said was futile so he nodded.

 

“Alright. I’ll bring him after dinner tonight.”

 

“Oliver will pick him up after school. You don’t have to worry about that.”

 

“You won’t even let me see my son?” Connor burst out, anger and desperation tinting his scent that now filled the room. “He won’t understand! He’ll be confused! At least let me see him. Talk to him. You may hate me Wallace but I’ve been a good mother to Devon and he would react badly if you suddenly took him without even letting me see him.”

 

Connor’s breathing was shallow, his eyes beseeching Wallace to understand, to bend just a little.

 

“Fine. But Oliver will go with you and stay with you,” Wallace finally said.

 

Wallace waited, probably expecting Connor to thank him for relenting then got up and silently walked out. He and Oliver sat in silence for several moments, both still reeling from the last few minutes.

 

“I tried to tell him no,” Oliver said quietly.

 

Connor looked up, his body still trembling, drained body and soul. His brain was too numb to even acknowledge or process what Oliver was saying. Oliver was finally looking at him, his expression remorseful.

 

“I really did,” Oliver repeated. “You have to believe that.”

 

“Are you saying that because you really did try to think of me,” Connor whispered, “Or because you don’t want me telling Veronica the truth, or have her think badly of you for taking Devon away from me.”

 

Oliver licked his lips and looked away.

 

Silence reigned for another few moments and Connor wanted to make it last longer, even though his whole world was falling apart. Because as long as he sat here, Devon was still his. He wouldn’t have to look into those beautiful hazel eyes, just like his, and tell his son that he was letting him go. That he was finally giving up.

 

“We should go,” Oliver said.

 

He didn’t want to, wanted to just sit here forever but nodded. Silently, they left the restaurant and got into Oliver’s car.

 

“What about work?” Oliver asked as they drove down the street.

 

His mind still in a fog, Connor texted Matt that there was a situation and he couldn’t come back to work. He wasn’t sure if his message made sense and at that moment he didn’t care. He heard his phone ping, indicating Matt replied but didn’t bother to look. It didn’t matter anyway. Not much did right now. He looked out the window, not even noting the row of buildings as they sped by.

 

“Stop the car,” Connor said.

 

“We’ll get there soon.”

 

“I’m gonna throw up.”

 

Oliver pulled off to the side with a screech and Connor dazzidely got out, heading into an alleyway. He went down on his knees behind a dumpster and threw up. Or tried. His stomach was empty since he didn’t have lunch, nothing but stomach acid coming up. Nerves. That’s what it was. He heaved a few times, his throat straining and screaming in pain but he needed to get rid of the nerves. When he was done he sat back on his haunches, panting and clutching his throat.

 

When he was ready, he got up and walked back to Oliver’s car, getting in without a word.

 

Oliver opened his mouth then closed it, pulling back onto the road.

 

“We should take him to my place,” Connor said, his voice raspy. “He’ll probably want some of his stuff. And I want to talk to him. Properly.”

 

“OK,” Oliver said. “I’ll wait for you downstairs while you talk to him.”

 

Connor knew this was Oliver’s way of being nice, of showing Connor that unlike Wallace, he did trust him. If he wasn’t so numb he’d appreciate the gesture more. A few minutes later, they parked in front of Devon’s school and entered it. He’d been here hundreds of times in the last couple of years, but the halls suddenly felt unfamiliar, almost haunting.

 

He heard Oliver ask for Devon at the front office and continued staring at the ground. You have to pull yourself together Connor, he chanted. You’ll freak out Devon. He’s already going to know something is up. Don’t make it worse. He felt a hand on his elbow and Oliver towed him towards the chairs in the main lobby. They sat down and waited.

 

“Mom! Dad!” Devon yelled running over and stopping in front of them.

 

Connor forced himself to smile, hoping none of his anxiety and despair showed. “Hey buddy. Did you have a good day?”

 

Devon nodded. “Yeah. Why am I going home early? And why’s Dad here? I’m not going to your place until after school.”

 

Connor swallowed, keeping that smile on his face. “We’ll talk about it when we get home. Did you get all your stuff?”

 

Devon nodded, his forehead creasing slightly and Connor panicked, knowing he had to assure Devon everything was fine until they got home. He didn’t want to get into this here or in the car.

 

“Let’s go,” Oliver said. Connor grasped Devon’s hand, making sure to wipe the sweat off first, and they walked out of the school building together.

 

“What were you doing today?” Connor asked, glad to hear his voice sounded almost normal.

 

Devon gave him a skeptical look, but started talking anyway. Connor didn’t hear what he said but nodded and smiled, relishing the sound of his son’s voice. He got in the backseat with him still holding Devon’s hand when all he wanted to do was hug him close and never let him go.

 

All too soon, they pulled up in front of Connor’s building.

 

“I’ll wait here,” Oliver said.

 

“Why don’t you wait outside the front door instead?” Connor suggested. He couldn’t do it. Couldn’t walk Devon back to Oliver’s car and wave him off like nothing was wrong. The front door, the front door was the best he could do.

 

Oliver nodded and the three got out. They walked into the building in tense silence. Even Devon gave up trying to pretend nothing was wrong, his hand clutching Connor’s anxiously. They reached their floor and got off the elevator, each step feeling like a death gong. Connor placed his hand on the keypad and the door opened, closing with a snap behind him and Devon while Oliver stood outside.

 

“Mom,” Devon asked in a tremulous voice. “What’s wrong?”

 

Swallowing, Connor walked to the couch and sat down, never letting go of Devon’s hand. Keep it together Connor. Keep it together.

 

He stood Devon in front of him, grasped his shoulders and forced himself to smile. His body shaking and burning as he tried to control himself, he spoke the words he prayed he’d never have to. “Your dad and I talked, a lot. And we decided it would be best if you live with him.”

 

“For how long?” Devon asked, his eyes wide and Connor felt his throat close up. Come on, you can do this.

 

“From now on,” Connor said, his voice trembling slightly. “It’ll be better this way. Your dad has a bigger house. You’ll be with Ben and Leslie all the time. And you like Veronica right?”

 

“I do,” Devon said softly.

 

“See. It’ll be better there. Your room will be bigger, and you’ll still go to the same school. Nothing much will change. And I’ll come see you as often as I can.”

 

“Mom,” Devon said, tears pooling in his eyes and his lips trembling. “Are you giving me up?”

 

He felt like an entire building fell on him. There was no other way to describe how broken he felt. Even his spirit felt shattered.

 

“No!” Connor said fiercely. “I told you. We talked and we think this is best. And we’ll see each other all the time. You’ll see.”

 

“Because Alice and Vince’s parents are divorced,” Devon said, his voice high and desperate. “And their moms left!”

 

“That’s not going to happen,” Conor said firmly. “I’m not going anywhere. OK. So get that thought out of your head. You can call me anytime and we’ll see each other on weekends. OK.” This wasn’t at all what Wallace probably imagined but he would talk to Oliver. They would find a way to make this work. Even if they had to lie to Wallace. And himself. Because he knew as much as he wished he could keep his promise, eventually, their visits will lessen until they dwindled into nothing. It was inevitable now that Wallace had taken over the situation.

 

“Every weekend?” Devon asked, sensing Connor’s despair despite his lies.

 

“As much as I can buddy,” Connor vowed, talking past the giant lump in his throat.

 

Devon lurched forward, crying silently and hugging him in a death grip and Connor clutched his son, refusing to let his tears fall. Not now. Not now.

 

He didn’t know how long they sat there, clutching each other for dear life. Eventually, they got up, packing some of Devon’s essentials in silence.

 

“Just the stuff you really need. You have a lot at your Dad’s place and I’ll bring the rest by later,” Connor said.

 

Devon nodded, placing some books in the open bag on the bed. All too soon, everything they needed to pack was put away and they couldn’t stall anymore. Grasping Devon in one hand and his bag in the other, they walked to the front door. Is this what dying felt like? Because he definitely felt like his life was flashing before his eyes. But instead of his whole life, it was his life with Devon. The day he found out he was pregnant, the fear and joy mixing together. Holding Devon for the first time, making his vow that his son would always be happy. The first time Devon got sick and he rushed him to the emergency room and it turned out to be gas. First time he crawled, walked, ate on his own. His second birthday, when he and Devon spent the whole day together for the first time after Oliver married Veronica. So many memories went through his mind and he almost stopped in front of the door. But if he stopped he wouldn’t be able to go through with this. So he kept walking.

 

He released the bag and turned the handle, opening the door and finding Oliver on the other side, his expression blank.

 

“Ready buddy?” Oliver asked in a fake cheerful voice, reaching in for Devon’s bag.

 

Devon clutched his hand tightly and Connor bent down, giving his son one last tight hug. “I’ll see you soon OK.”

 

Devon nodded and he released him, his gaze unsteady as his son walked through the front door. As if seeing it through a tunnel in slow motion the door closed, slowly, slowly. There was Devon in his blue shirt. Then only the left side of his body, a bit of hair, the tips of his fingers. Then nothing. The door closed and Connor wondered if he was actually breathing. Actually still alive.

 

Lifeless, he wobbled back into the apartment, his eyes taking in some of Devon’s discarded toys and coloring books around the room, the pictures frames here and there, small traces of him in every part of the small living room. His brain registered nothing. He sank onto the couch and curled up into a ball, thinking nothing. Feeling….empty.

Chapter Text

Matt looked down at his phone, his anxiety spiking when he saw there was still no message from Connor. It was Monday, almost 10 AM and the Omega still hadn’t shown up to work. He hadn’t heard anything from him since that strange message after lunch on Friday saying he had a situation. No explanation, no reply to his queries if everything was alright. Nothing. It was like the guy dropped off the face of the earth.

Something was wrong. Really wrong. Which is why he was at Connor’s apartment, standing in uncertainty at his front door. It could be nothing. But then again, he would never know if he didn’t try. He rang the doorbell for the third time and there was no answer. Politeness dictated he leave since no one was answering. But this was so unlike Connor he couldn’t just leave now. Before he could change his mind, he marched down to the lobby and asked the security guard to open Connor’s door. The guy looked skeptical and Matt didn’t blame him. It wasn’t often an Alpha visited a single Omega, especially a single Omega mother. But once he explained he was Connor’s boss and showed his badge, add to that Matt’s obvious military uniform, he quickly opened the door.

Matt thanked him from outside the apartment, looking at the guard pointedly until he walked away before he slipped inside. And was plunged into darkness. It looked like the place was empty. There were no sounds, no lights. But he’d come this far and wasn’t going to turn back until he checked the place out.

He turned on the flashlight on his phone and walked into the apartment, scanning the kitchen with the bright beam of light before proceeding into the living room. It looked empty as well and he was about to walk through it and head to the bedrooms when he saw something that made him snap his head back. Was that-?

“Connor!” Matt gasped, running over to the still figure on the couch. He almost missed it since the Omega lay unmoving. He grabbed his shoulders, shaking him lightly. He looked pale, almost dead. He was about to check if he was breathing when Connor’s eyes flickered open.

“Matt?” he asked in a raspy voice.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Matt said. He eased the Omega up and set him against the back of the couch, surprised by how light he was. “Wait here. I’ll get you some water.”

The Omega didn’t respond, didn’t so much as blink and Matt felt his anxiety increase. Quickly, he found a half filled water glass on the counter, filled it to the brim from the tap and rushed back.

“Here,” he held the glass in front of Connor, wondering if he’d have to force him to drink it when the Omega reached out with shaking hands, grabbed the glass in both hands and took a long deep gulp. When he drained the glass, he handed it back to Matt, not bothering to wipe the traces of water running down the side of his mouth.

Matt took a proper look at Connor and was shocked by how haggard the Omega looked. His hair was greasy and messy, his eyes and cheeks sunken. He was still wearing the shirt and pants he’d had on on Friday, all wrinkled now.

“When was the last time you ate?” Matt asked.

“What’s today?” Connor asked, his voice still raspy. He should get him more water.

“Monday.”

“Then….breakfast Friday. I think. I know I drank some water at some point.”

Matt’s eyes widened and he couldn’t stop himself from grabbing Connor’s shoulders, looking at his face, scanning it in search of some sign of life in his eyes.

“What happened?” Matt asked.

He waited, and waited. Finally, as if it took a monumental effort, Connor answered in a quiet voice. “They took him. I couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t stop them. He’s gone.”

Matt didn’t have to ask who was gone and who had taken him. Even he knew how strange it was for Connor to keep Devon all this time. He wouldn’t be surprised if Oliver and his family tried to take Devon away over the years. And looks like they finally succeeded. He longed to jump up, tell Connor they'd go get Devon back. But he knew it was pointless. Connor had done everything he could. And Matt, despite his Blake and military status, had no real role in this, no power. He couldn’t fix this. And it killed him.

“We should get you something to eat,” Matt said. Easing Connor back gently into the cushions, he walked into the kitchen, determined that he could at least do this. He can help Connor come back to life. He hoped.

 

“Where are they? They’re late,” Jason huffed as he rolled back and forth on the desk chair in Matt’s office.

“They might have had an emergency,” Ren said.

“Text him again.”

“I already texted him three times. He isn’t replying.”

Jason sighed dramatically. “So much for the fantastic duo. The oh so wonderful team of Matt and Connor. They couldn’t even bother to show up to a scheduled meeting and couldn’t even be bothered to let us know why!”

Ren sighed. “Give them the benefit of the doubt. Unlike some people, this isn’t a repeated habit.”

Jason didn’t have a response to that so he just frowned and spun his chair some more. He was about to scream that he gave up when the door suddenly opened and Matt walked in.

“About time!” Jason exclaimed, spinning to face his cousin. “Where the f-” He froze when he saw the defeated look on Matt’s face, his shoulders slouched with despair. “What happened?”

As if waking from a daze, Matt shook his head. “Sorry. There was an emergency with Connor.”

“Is he alright?” Ren asked, his tone sympathetic.

“He-” Matt stopped and shook his head. “He’ll be gone for a while.”

His gut screaming at him that something wasn’t right, to dig deeper pushed Jason to ask, “What kind of emergency? A family one?”

Matt didn’t reply and Jason suddenly knew.

“Is his kid OK?”

Matt looked up, shock clearly written across his face. “You know about Devon?”

Jason waved off the question. “I used to know Oliver. What happened with his kid?”

Matt swallowed, his hands curling and uncurling with uncertainty. Finally he sighed. “Oliver took Devon.”

It was like a cannon went off in his head and Jason jumped out of his chair, stomping over to Matt, stopping when his face was inches from the other Alpha’s. “And he let him?”

Matt frowned. “He didn’t let him. He had to. They didn’t give him a choice.”

“And you’re not going to do anything?” Jason bit back, sneering at him.

“There’s nothing I can do,” Matt protested. “The law is on their side.”

“Screw the law,” Jason shot back, stomping past Matt and out the door. This wasn’t happening. No way did Connor let this happen. He was supposed to be different. The mother who cared. The mother who fought for his son. And now he just gave up? Because it was too hard? And frickin Matt, with his goody-two shoes, people pleasure attitude was going to do nothing! And everyone said Matt was sooo great, Matt was sooo caring. If he was so fucking fantastic he would do something about this. Well, if Matt wasn’t, he was.

After a quick stop in his office, his movements jerky, he got in his car and drove off, pulling out his phone and looking up Connor’s address at the same time. Twenty minutes, fifteen if he sped up. Which he did. Thirteen minutes later he screeched to a half in front of Connor’s apartment building, racing through the lobby and ignoring the protesting security guard, flashing his badge as he rushed past him. He hit the fifth floor on the elevator, his body jittery with suppressed rage. When he reached Connor’s apartment he rang the bell. Again, and again and again until the door finally eased open.

As soon as he saw Connor he knew he had his work cut out for him. The guy looked like shit. No way could they fix this if the Omega was so spiritless. He looked like a zombie, his eyes and cheeks sunken, his hair in obvious need of a wash. When was the last time the guy ate?

“When was the last time you ate?”

Connor blinked then looked back into the dark apartment. Damn it, how could Matt leave when Connor looked like this? Didn’t the guy do anything?

“Matt made me some food. I ate a bit,” Connor murmured. “I think..I think he said he had a meeting and was coming back.”

Jason winced, cursing himself for having Ren text Matt relentlessly. If he knew this is what he was doing, he would have left him alone.

“Well, first thing you gotta do is shower, finish whatever he made you and then we have to go,” Jason commanded.

Connor blinked and Jason was losing his patience with the dull Omega. Would the guy snap out of it? You’d think he’d want to rush off to get his son-

Jason rolled his eyes, calling himself all kinds of an idiot. No wonder Connor hadn’t snapped to. “I know how you can get your kid back,” he stated.

For the first time, some glimmer of emotion flickered across Connor’s face. Unfortunately, it looked like suspicion.

Growling, Jason pulled out his phone, scrolling until he found the document he wanted and shoved it under Connor’s nose. The Omega stared at the screen and Jason didn’t have to wait long for the savvy Omega to understand what he was looking at. His eyes widened and he grabbed the phone, clutching it desperately as his eyes flew over the document, skimming it till he reached the end. When he finished he gulped and looked up, hope in his eyes.

“Is this for real?” he asked, his voice reflecting his desperation.

“Its true. Now can we go?”

It was like someone lit a fire under the guy and he snapped, his eyes gaining that determined look Jason knew and his spine straightened. He was about to march past Jason when he grabbed the short Omega’s shoulder.

“Shower. Food. Shoes would be good too,” Jason said, trying to hold onto the last of his patience.

With a firm nod Connor walked back into the apartment. Jason wanted to stay outside but he needed to make sure Connor ate. Nothing like a growling stomach to ruin their dramatic ‘meeting.’ So he marched in, closing the door behind him. Luckily, Connor had some lights on inside the apartment, probably Matt’s doing. He strolled in, taking in the shabby yet comfortable apartment. Everywhere he looked, there were clear signs a child lived here. There was a game console hooked up to the TV, some pictures of Connor and Devon here and there, some drawings stuck up to the walls and windows. Hell there were even some toys scattered in a corner. So this is what a child centered home looked like. It was….nice.

He didn’t have to wait long for Connor to show up, his hair combed and blow dried, wearing a nice blue suit that looked new.

“Good. You look about ready. Eat first.”

“I’m fine,” Connor protested.

“You look like you’ve been starved. Eat something.”

Connor’s eye narrowed and he looked like he was going to argue but gave up, sitting down on the couch and wolfing down the sandwich Matt made him. Good. If he really hadn’t eaten for a while he needed something gentle on his stomach.

“I’m ready,” Connor said, wiping his mouth on a tissue and stood up, his stance ready for battle.

Thirty minutes later, Jason parked in front of the office building owned by the Lawrence family. Someone came to tell him he couldn’t park there but Jason and Connor just blew past him. On second thought.

Jason paused and looked at the flustered security guard. “Touch my car, and I’ll have you arrested,” he stated, flashing his badge. That should keep anyone’s paws off his car.

Following Connor, Jason marched to the reception desk in the lobby. The two female Omegas there stared at them, eyes wide at their clearly aggressive demeanour.

“We’re here to see Wallace and Oliver Lawrence,” Connor stated.

“Um, do you have an appointment?” one of them asked tremulously.

Pathetic. All their staff were so weak. Which suited their purpose perfectly. “Tell them Colonel Jason Blake is here to see them,” he said, pulling out his military badge again and showing it to them. The Omegas almost fell over themselves and Jason wasn’t sure what terrified them more. The name Blake or the fact that he was a colonel. Both Omegas leaped onto their phones, each calling a different office. Jason turned to look at Connor, making sure the Omega was keeping his cool.

It was finally happening Connor thought. After all these years he finally had something he could use to keep Devon. He finally had a weapon. He didn’t dwell on the fact that it was Jason who gave it to him, Jason who was standing by his side. All he cared about now was that the next few minutes went exactly as he needed it to.

“They’ll see you now,” one of the receptionists said, smiling weakly. “If you’ll follow me.”

Wordlessly, they followed the Omega to the elevators. Connor gave Jason a quick look to assure himself he was still there and was surprised when he saw that his military jacket was buttoned perfectly, his hair tied back. When did he fix himself up? Not that it mattered, but Connor appreciated that he did that. Their whole argument depended on Jason’s position as a colonel and he had to make sure his authority was clear and unchallenged.

His heart racing, blood pumping with anxiety and determination he walked down the familiar hallway to Wallace’s office. He hadn’t been here in years. Ever since their divorce, Connor avoided Wallace’s office and the Alpha made it clear he didn’t want to see him, forcing Connor to stay on his floor. So it all worked out.

“They’re just inside.”

Eyes trained forward, Connor and Jason entered Wallace’s office, hearing the door close behind them as the receptionist left. The office was the same as he remembered. Sure the furniture was probably new, but the feel of it was the same. The spacious room, the giant windows behind the gigantic desk that Wallace prized. And Wallace himself, sitting calmly behind his desk, his arms resting on the arm rest while Oliver stood behind him. It was almost funny, how obvious their use of their position in the room and the furniture to intimidate visitors.

“Colonel Blake. I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure,” Wallace said, smiling politely while Oliver stood as still as a statue.

Connor wanted to ask him how Devon was. Did he sleep OK? Did he eat? Did he go to school OK? Did he ask about him? Devon hadn’t called or texted him once despite the messages Connor sent him. He knew Oliver probably took Devon’s phone, his promise to let Devon contact him when he wished a lie to placate him before he obeyed his father and tried to cut off all contact.

“I can’t say it’s a pleasure to be honest,” Jason said, his tone formal but the words rude and Wallace’s expression changed slightly before he put on his professional mask again. “But I do know Oliver. We go way back.”

Wallace looked up at his son briefly and frowned at him. Ah, so little Oliver never told Wallace that he knew Jason Blake. That was interesting.

“It wasn’t much of a friendship. We just met a few times years ago,” Jason explained. “But, our acquaintance was long enough that I knew about Connor and even met him once or twice.”

Oliver's eyes widened at that and Connor didn’t blame him. Oliver was always careful about keeping his ‘friends’ away from Connor. He never even took him to his university campus to meet his classmates. Of course, later on Connor found out it was because he’d met Veronica quickly and wanted to keep Connor a secret. From everyone.

“Oh. That is an...interesting connection. Especially since I know Connor works with your cousin, Colonel Matthew Blake. I hear he’s more….courteous,” Wallace said, looking pointedly at Jason.

Connor almost laughed at Wallace’s pathetic attempts to cow Jason. The guy had a bastard of a father, someone worse than Wallace. And he stood up to Quinton all the time. Wallace Lawrence, middle class businessman from Midas, was nothing.

Jason smirked, clearly echoing Connor’s thoughts. “Well, maybe you’ll wish he came by since I’m less...courteous.” Without another word, Jason pulled out his phone and held it out. He and Wallace stared at each other for a few moments before Wallace caved first, nodding for Oliver to get the phone.

Oliver shot both of them nervous looks, his eyes lingering on Connor. He didn’t know what Oliver was trying to say to him, nor did he care. All that mattered right now was that Oliver took his son, and he wanted him back.

Oliver took the phone and walked back to his father, handing it to him. Wallace began to read, his eyes widening when he saw the content. Oliver looked over his shoulder and couldn’t stop his gasp when he saw the document.

“Yeah, it’s pretty thorough,” Jason drawled. “Records dating back at least fifteen years. That’s when your smuggling business started I think. I’ve been sitting on this baby for years, ever since I met Oliver when we were freshmen in university. It just struck me as odd, that a middle class family from Midas was able to buy homes and a whole building in Plutus. You might be rich by Midas standards, but that’s nowhere near Plutus level. So I did some digging and boy did I hit dirt fast. And I wasn’t even a colonel back then, just a freshman in the university, studying in the new military program. But I still managed to find allll the juicy details of how you smuggled bits of gold from the mines in Tantalus. Little by little so no one would notice.”

For the first time in his life, Connor watched as Wallace Lawrence lost his cool. Sweat was pouring down his face, his hands shaking as he put the phone down on his desk. He bowed his head, hands clasping each other tightly. Oliver didn’t look any better, his face ashen, eyes wide with panic. Connor didn’t blame them. Stealing gold from Plutus owned mines was a capital offence. The punishment….the family sent to Tantalus.

He won. And they all knew it.

“You’re doing all this, threatening to destroy my family,” Wallace said, his voice muffled with his head bent over his hands, “Just