Jason knew the alpha wanted him from the moment he caught his glance from across the market. He also knew if the alpha laid a fucking hand on him, he’d bite it clean off.
Stretching up, Jason folded his arms over his head and leaned on the bars, staring at and refusing to blink. The alpha wore a black doublet, cut short at the hips to denote his station. As if anyone needed the clue. Jason could smell him from across the market.
One glance at Jason, and the alpha stopped dead. Turning, he murmured something to the younger man behind him, in the knee-length jacket of a beta, and Jason first saw the eyepatch.
He bared his teeth, back arching instinctively. The eyepatch was black, stark against the alpha’s pale skin and hair. A faint red scar crept out the corner of the patch. This alpha had survived a hell of a scrap. Probably more than one.
The beta looked up at Jason, frowned, then nodded. He said something to his alpha Jason couldn’t catch.
A bang on the bars made Jason flinch. He snarled at the thick-set man who owned him. In response, his owner smacked the riding crop in his fist against the bars a second time. Jason snatched for it, but too slow.
‘Stop snarling at our customers.’
‘Go fuck yourself, Bastard.’ Jason refused to learn his owner’s real name.
Bastard went red in the face, but then spotted the alpha and his beta cutting through the crowd towards him. He spread his face into a broad smile, turned his back on Jason, and opened his arms in welcome. ‘Lord Wilson! Can I be of assistance?’
In the cage beside Jason’s, a few heads lifted in vague, miserable interest. But the alpha headed straight for Jason.
‘That one. How much?’
Bastard hesitated, glancing at Jason over his shoulder. Jason leered back. ‘Ah, yes. I ought to warn you, that particular beta is especially troublesome. I’ve had to separate him to keep him from going at the others. He’ll make a weapon out of anything he can get his hands on, and with no weapon he’ll use his bare fists. Rotten little shit, if I’m honest. I have much better behaved specimens …’
The alpha—Lord Wilson—stepped closer to Jason, ignoring Bastard entirely. Jason leaned closer against the bars, drawing himself tall. Still, he got the impression that, if his cage weren’t raised on wheels, the alpha would easily tower over him. He carried himself like a man that towered over giants.
A few steps back, the beta murmured, ‘Slade …’
And now Jason had his full name. He grinned as Slade halted, just out of arm’s reach. ‘Stay back, Slade Wilson. I bite.’
He thrust an arm between the bars, swiping like an animal at Slade’s face.
As expected, Bastard recoiled with a loud yelp. But Slade’s beta scarcely blinked, and Slade himself didn’t react at all.
His single grey eye flicked down Jason’s naked torso, marking each scar, each bruise, each tight cord of muscle. Then his glance slipped down further. And even though Jason was wearing trousers, he felt stripped under that stare. He gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to back off, to cover himself.
‘How much?’ Slade asked again, quietly.
Bastard named a price that made Jason snort. But Slade nodded, and his beta handed over a pile of gold coins like they were worthless.
‘I’ll open the cage.’ Bastard drew a ring of keys off his belt. ‘He’s your problem now.’ He crossed to the door and Jason prowled closer. Bastard gave him a wary glance, but Jason hung back. No point attacking now.
At least, not until the lock clicked, and Bastard swung the door open.
Jason leaped in with a kick straight to Bastard’s chest.
Bastard went down with a wheeze, breath knocked clean out of him. Swinging on the door frame, Jason leaped down and whirled on Slade—who side-stepped him easily, foot snapping out to trip him. Jason staggered, but recovered fast, whirling around with his fists up. He tossed a punch that Slade blocked and returned, his movements controlled but lazy, like Jason wasn’t even challenging him.
Arrogant alpha prick!
Snarling, Jason lunged in, fists whirling, throwing all his strength into every strike. He’d knocked alphas down before, no problem. Slade was big, and each punch felt heavy even as Jason shoved them aside, but so what? Alphas only thought they were the shit.
With a grunt, Jason dodged Slade’s strike and barrelled in with his shoulder. He smacked into Slade’s chest, and Slade hissed, stumbling back. Jason straightened, teeth flashing in a grin.
And that was when sharp, hot pain splintered through his knee. He barely managed a gasp before something hard struck the side of his head.
Jason slumped, vision flashing white. Then throbbing red. He didn’t feel when his face hit the ground, but next thing he blinked and his cheek was pressed into cold dirt, his lips crusted with dry mud. He groaned; tried to push himself up. The ground swayed and he toppled again.
A shadow flashed over him, and the beta said, ‘Slade, are you hurt?’
The beta. Fuck. He forgot.
Long time since he’d known a beta loyal enough to run in swinging for his alpha.
‘I’m fine, Dick,’ Slade said. ‘Tie his hands and get him up.’
The shadow fell over Jason again and he groaned, then snarled and swiped up as something grabbed his shoulder, shoving him on his back.
‘Calm down,’ the beta said. Dick. ‘I’m not going to hurt you.’
‘Fuck you, dick,’ Jason snapped.
Dick laughed softly, drawing Jason’s wrists together in front of him, even as he tried to scratch up at Dick’s face. He lashed Jason’s hands so fast, Jason barely had a chance to struggle. ‘I suppose I deserve that,’ Dick said. ‘Up you get.’
Hands hooked under his arms, and next thing Jason was hauled up to his feet. He snarled, staggered, and closed his eyes as everything tilted. A steadying hand touched his arm, and he wrenched away. ‘Get off me!’
‘I told you!’ Bastard was back on his feet, staggering over with the riding crop tight in his fat fist. ‘He’s more trouble than he’s worth!’
Jason curled his lip, but Slade seemed unperturbed. ‘A good thing, then, I’m taking him off your hands.’
Bastard narrowed his eyes at Jason, but finally exhaled and nodded at Slade. ‘I’m sure you can handle him.’ He shook his head. ‘I’ve never known a beta to be such a menace.’
Mouth twitching, Slade glanced at Jason. ‘He’s not a beta.’
Jason’s stomach dropped.
No. No, he’d been so careful. His scent, his stature, his manners. Ever since he was a boy, he’d done everything in his power to hide it. No one knew. No one.
Glancing between Jason and Slade, Bastard frowned. ‘What are you—?’
But Slade only waved farewell and walked away, and after a sharp nudge from Dick, Jason staggered after him.
The carriage was clearly expensive, all cushioned silk on the inside. Half-surprised he wasn’t being dragged behind it, settled into the pillows and rested his pounding head against the door. His wrists ached in their bindings, but he gritted his teeth and refused to show it.
Slade took the seat opposite, and as Dick climbed in a sharp, meaningful glance passed between them. Then Dick sat beside Jason, just a little closer than strictly necessary. Jason pulled his leg away, hating that it made him curl in tighter, like a … like a …
‘How did you hide it?’ Slade asked, as outside the horses’ hooves struck against the road and the carriage lurched forward.
Jason narrowed his eyes and said nothing.
‘Poppy seeds to prevent the heat?’ Slade guessed, Jason’s expression not daunting him in the slightest. ‘You must’ve had to trade in some favours for those. Then again, if you gave your dealer a taste of omega cunt—’
‘Shut the hell up!’ Jason snarled.
Slade raised his eyebrows. ‘And the scent?’
Jason bared his teeth.
‘It’s not as strong when an omega’s been so long out of heat,’ Dick said. ‘I can barely smell him now.’
‘You’re a beta,’ Slade murmured. ‘You wouldn’t.’
Ignoring the scathing look Jason shot his way, Dick shrugged, unoffended.
Twisting his hands against his bindings, Jason stared at Slade and curled his lip. He’d been careful, ever since his very first heat. Thirteen years old, curled up in bed and whimpering, arms tight around his stomach. His mother stroking his hair, telling him it was all right. She was alive back then. There’d been one or two slip-ups since—always contained. Usually just baring his teeth and throwing a couple of punches was enough to convince anyone he was beta at least.
And Slade stared back, smug fucking prick.
Jason sat back, every muscle tense. ‘I am not your omega bitch.’
Slade only smirked. ‘Yes. You are.’
Jason had never been allowed in a house like this. At least, not through the front door.
Slade’s home was surrounded on all sides by woods so thick Jason couldn’t see more than two trees deep. Somewhere distant over the evergreens, purple mountains peaked into a cold blue sky. The house was grand, broad and dark. The highest windows on the third floor still didn’t quite overlook the trees, and the garden around it was sparse, dotted with saplings, like the forest was trying to take back the stolen space.
Taking it all in with sharp, wary glances, Jason felt his chest constrict. How far would he get, if he ran into the woods?
He wasn’t given the chance. Dick touched his elbow as he climbed out the carriage, and then shrugged when Jason jerked away. Jason wished he wouldn’t look so calm. Then, as the servants took the carriage round the back of the house to the stables, Slade and Dick walked either side of Jason to the door.
The interior was as plush as the carriage; soft carpets underfoot, deep fireplaces and chandeliers fashioned from dozens of antlers. Jason wondered if Slade hunted them himself.
‘Dick will show you to your room,’ Slade said, as easily as if Jason were a guest and not a captive. ‘I’ll have the servants send up a bath.’
Jason snorted. Of course a bit of sweat and dirt offended the delicate nobility.
Not, he thought bitterly, that Slade seemed delicate.
Dick didn’t try to touch him this time; only gestured towards the stairs. ‘This way.’
Rolling his eyes, Jason traipsed upstairs. Dick followed, just a few steps behind, then led Jason through dark-beamed hallways and up to a room on the top floor, at the back of the house.
The room was … nice. Jason couldn’t help stopping to gawk, just a bit. Simultaneously spacious and cosy, with wide latticed windows and a sprawling four-poster bed, piled with velvet cushions. Jason kicked off his shoes and sank his toes in the rug by the fire, made from the skin of some anonymous animal, fur thick and deep.
‘This is the best guestroom,’ Dick said softly. ‘It’s yours.’
Remembering himself, Jason turned and gave him a withering look. ‘Wow. Thanks.’
Dick swallowed. He glanced over his shoulder into the corridor, then quietly shut the door. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered. ‘This must be fucking awful for you.’
‘Oh no.’ Jason went to fold his arms, remembered they were tied, and leaned against the fireplace instead. ‘This is the best day of my life. I always wanted to be a noble alpha’s whore.’
Without Slade, Dick’s perfect composure seemed frayed. He winced. ‘I felt the same way at first. But it won’t be so bad, I swear. Slade is … stern, but he’s not unreasonably cruel.’
‘You’re a beta,’ Jason snapped. ‘You have no goddamn idea how it feels.’
His mother, locked in that room half her life. Screaming and crying, sweating and writhing for hours, while Jason clung to her hand until another child came. Another child that didn’t cry. Another child lowered into a small, unmarked grave. Until she had a grave of her own: a lump of turned-over dirt shared with the child that killed her before it made it out. And the bastard fucking alpha, shaking his head and muttering, ‘Disappointing,’ before he purchased a new omega to torture.
He never found out Jason was an omega. Jason’s mother made damn sure of that. Jason made damn sure of that.
Jason realised he was breathing too hard, heart racing. How’d he let this happen? This room wasn’t impressive. It wasn’t cosy. It wasn’t nice. It was a prison. And that bed was his deathbed.
‘Hey, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, you’re right. I have no idea. You’re right, I’m sorry.’ Dick was suddenly close, and Jason had no idea how he’d crossed the room so fast or so quietly, but his voice was near and warm, and his hand was soft between Jason’s shoulders, and the comfortable scent of beta was so strong Jason wanted nothing more than to melt into it. To bury his face in Dick’s shoulder and sob.
He pulled away. ‘Don’t touch me.’
Dick raised his hands. ‘All right.’ A beat. ‘I can untie you.’
Gritting his teeth, Jason hesitated, then stretched out his arms.
Despite what Slade said, the servants didn’t draw a bath for Jason—Dick did. He seemed determined to stick close, carrying bucket after bucket of hot water from the dumbwaiter in the corridor and pouring it in the steel tub he’d dragged out in front of the fire.
Jason watched from near the windows. Outside, the horses grazed at the edge of the forest. At the very least, the woods couldn’t be too full of dangerous wildlife, if Slade was happy for his horses to wander freely.
Useful information, for when Jason inevitably broke out of here.
By the time Dick poured the last of the water, and then came back with a washbag, towel and clean clothes, Jason had regained his composure. He waited until Dick left before stripping out of his trousers and sinking into the hot water.
This wouldn’t be like his first alpha. What happened to his mother wouldn’t happen to him.
The poppy seeds lasted longer than most people expected, especially with how long Jason had been taking them. ‘They can cause irreparable damage,’ the midwife warned his mother, when she purchased the very first bag for Jason when he was a boy. Jason thought that was fine. Irreparable damage was exactly what he wanted.
He’d find someone in this massive house to threaten, or bribe, or beg for the seeds. And even if he didn’t, it could be months yet before his heat cycle kicked in. Years, even. If it ever came back at all.
Sighing heavily, Jason bent his knees and lowered his head into the water.
It was fine. It was all going to be fine.
This was not fine.
Jason held up the jacket furiously, kicking his feet as it flapped around his calves. The doublet was black, embroidered in autumnal colours of red and gold, and obviously obscenely expensive. And it was ankle-length.
Omega clothes. Fucking omega clothes.
When Dick entered after a knock at the door, Jason turned and snarled.
‘I am not wearing this omega shit!’ He tossed the doublet at Dick, who caught it easily.
‘You could always come to dinner in your underclothes.’ Dick shook the jacket out, picking off an invisible speck of dust, completely unperturbed by Jason’s fury. ‘I’m sure Slade would appreciate that.’
Jason snatched the doublet from Dick, hating the faint smug smile on Dick’s face.
He yanked it on, started clipping the hooks together, and realised halfway down it was crooked. As he growled, Dick swept in and grabbed the front the doublet, swiftly popping the hooks open again. Jason went to shove him off, but a wave of beta scent hit him as Dick grew close, so powerful he felt instantly weak at the knees. Dick’s scent was like coming in from a cold day to a cosy fireplace and a warm drink. It relaxed him almost against his will.
With a quick tug, Dick straightened Jason’s collar. Then his clipped it up, one hook at a time. His hands, when they brushed Jason’s throat, were warm and soft. And Jason just wanted to close his eyes and sink into that smell.
The last hook clipped at Jason’s naval, and Dick stepped back with a satisfied nod. ‘I’ll show you down to dinner.’
He turned and headed for the door. No restraints. No attempt to drag him. Jason was almost tempted to stay here; see how far Dick got before he realised Jason wasn’t following. But his stomach growled. He hadn’t eaten since—god, how long ago? Bastard was always scared to get too close; Jason vaguely remembered him tossing bread his way, maybe yesterday, maybe before. Straightening, he followed Dick out into the hallway.
The table was way too big for just three people.
It stretched the length of the room, candelabras spaced all the way down, flickering gold. Only three places were set: Slade’s at the head of the table, where he already sat, and two more either side of him.
The servants must’ve already come and gone, Jason thought as he warily took the seat on Slade’s left, Dick automatically settling on his right. Cold meats, golden roast potatoes, and piles of vegetables filled the table, and the smell of food was almost strong enough to drown out Slade’s alpha scent right beside him.
‘Help yourself,’ Slade waved a hand.
Jason waited until Dick reached for the carrots before lunging in himself, piling his plate with some of everything.
‘There’s no need to gorge yourself,’ Slade said, picking out food at a much more sedate pace. ‘I’m not going to starve you.’
Jason ignored him, tearing into a chicken leg and letting out a moan of delight. This—this had herbs and shit on it. He’d barely swallowed his first mouthful when he moved on to the potatoes, shovelling with both hands.
Letting out an irritable sigh, Slade glanced sideways at Dick. ‘You have your work cut out with this one.’
Dick inclined his head, although his cheeks were twitching like he was trying not to laugh.
Jason swallowed in one big gulp, and then scowled at the both of them. ‘Your work cut out? What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘It means—’ Slade folded his arms on the table, leaning in, ‘—that as long as you are under my protection, you will behave.’
‘I don’t need your protection.’
Slade’s single eye slipped down, as if looking straight through Jason’s doublet at the scars underneath. ‘Yes, I noticed that.’ He straightened. ‘Tell me your name.’
Jason stilled, because shit, yeah, Bastard never actually told Slade his name. He considered making something up, but Slade seemed to read his mind; his single eye narrowed, cold. Jason snorted. Fine. Not like his name was a secret. ‘Jason Todd.’
A nod, as if Slade approved. ‘How many alphas have you had before me?’
‘Six. Seven if you count Bastard back at the market.’
Across the table, Dick raised his eyebrows. Jason flashed his teeth. He knew that expression. That expression meant, Whore.
‘Stop that,’ Slade said, low and cool. ‘Dick is your beta, not your adversary.’
Jason wrinkled his nose, but turned from Dick, grabbed his knife and speared a roasted parsnip. The company was shit, but at least he could enjoy the food.
Slade shifted, folding his hands together on the edge of the table. ‘How many alphas bit you?’
‘Slade …’ Dick murmured, the same anxious tone he’d used when Slade stepped too close to Jason at the market.
Slade didn’t even glance at him. His eye was fixed on Jason. ‘Well?’
Clearing his throat, Jason sat up, leaning as far from Slade as he could. ‘That’s not—you can’t—’
‘I’m your alpha. I’ll ask whatever I want, and you will answer.’ Slade set his elbow on the table and leaned in, closing the distance between them. ‘How many bit you?’
Jason stared, heart thudding. You didn’t just ask someone that. Bites were … were private. Even if you saw a scar, hell, even if you saw a bandage with fucking blood still soaking through it, you didn’t ask.
‘Jason.’ Slade’s hand shot out and covered Jason’s wrist, grip tightening before Jason could jerk away. ‘Answer the question.’
His grip was hard enough to hurt; hard enough to force Jason’s fingers to spread open. His knife clattered to the plate. Jason gritted his teeth, refusing to cry out.
‘Let me go.’
Slade tilted his head, eye narrowing. He moved his fingers around Jason’s wrist, grinding the joint until Jason hissed. ‘Don’t make me ask a third time.’
Jason glanced over at Dick; he sat rigid in his chair, watching Slade with his brow drawn and his lips tight.
‘One,’ Jason finally growled. ‘Just one.’
His first alpha. His mother’s alpha. Idiot man didn’t even know Jason was an omega at the time. He was barely past his first heat when the alpha called him up in the middle of the night, pressed him into the bed face-down and sank his teeth into Jason’s neck. Jason had cried at the time. But then his alpha sent him away, and that was it. One curved white scar, to mark Jason as his property.
Quick as breath, Slade released Jason’s hand and sat back. Dick let out a soft sigh, his shoulders sinking. He shot Jason an apologetic glance. But he said nothing.
‘I told you, you will behave,’ Slade said mildly, returning to his food as though nothing had happened.
Slowly, Jason straightened. He picked up his knife, but suddenly his mouth was dry. Fuck Slade. Fuck Dick, for just sitting there. Fuck this whole place. He wasn’t staying here.
‘How many alphas fucked you?’ Slade said.
Jason didn’t remember standing up. Just the haze of red; the sharp focus on Slade’s throat; the knife in his hand. He lunged, screaming, fist snapping out. And now—now Dick shot to his feet with a cry. But not fast enough. The knife grazed Slade’s throat.
Slade’s arm cracked up into Jason’s wrist, knocking him away. The knife slipped out of Jason’s fingers a second time, flying across the room. Slade caught Jason’s wrist, and in one movement he stood smoothly, and yanked Jason forward and past him. Jason shrieked. Toppled. Just as he tried to right himself, a boot planted in his back and he crumpled to the floor.
The wooden floorboards hit him hard, jarring through his bones, sending shocks into his knees and jolts up his elbows. He bit his tongue and yelped at the hot, wet spread of pain.
Before he could take a breath, Slade’s hands landed on his arm, twisting it sharply behind him. Jason snarled as Slade yanked at his elbow, pulling up. His shoulder spasmed and Jason rocked to his feet, because otherwise Slade might just wrench his arm clean off.
‘Get off me!’
‘I am your alpha,’ Slade said, perfectly level, twisting Jason’s arm tighter, ‘and you will obey me, one way or another.’
He shoved Jason forward, bending him over the arm of Slade’s chair. Alpha scent wafted into Jason’s face, ingrained into the wood and cushions. Slade’s body pressed against the back of Jason’s legs, and Jason’s breathing came sharp and shallow.
A growl, right at his ear. Jason jerked, but movement only sent shards of pain racing down his arm and into his shoulder. He ground his teeth. Tried to growl back. Whimpered.
A scratch of beard against his neck.
It wasn’t as he’d remembered. Hard pressure, not a sharp slice. More like a bruise than a cut. And at first, he could still struggle, still groan, still try to kick Slade off him.
Then, as the omega in him slowly awakened, the strength eked out of his body.
Slade bit harder. The pressure grew to pain—warm, and then burning. Wetness spread between the arcs of teeth—Slade’s tongue, resting on his skin. One last twitch from Jason, and Slade cut through.
And there was that slice he remembered.
Haze swallowed up Jason’s mind like fog blowing down a mountain. He couldn’t fight Slade, the bite said. Better to submit. Better to please your alpha. His knees buckled and he let out a long, uncontrollable whine as Slade’s weight settled over him. Slade’s scent, like burning wood, filled his nose.
And still, Slade bit down harder and deeper.
Jason whined again. He was already under. He was already drowning.
Something touched his arm, soft. ‘Slade, he’s had enough.’
A snarl, but the hand didn’t pull away. Dick didn’t say anything more. But gradually, Slade opened his jaw. Jason whimpered, the pain flaring up fresh as Slade brushed his tongue roughly over the bite.
Then Slade’s weight was gone.
Jason staggered, vision blurry. Someone caught him, and by the gentle touch and the homely smell, he guessed it was Dick. His arm throbbed and his throat burned as Dick guided him back into his seat. Jason slumped back, gasping. Wanting to slide under the table and curl up and die.
No one … not since he was a boy …
Something bumped his jaw, and after a baffled blink he realised it was Dick, nuzzling into the crook of his neck, breathing deeply. He hissed, flinching at the first soft stroke of Dick’s tongue over Slade’s bite.
What the … what the hell?
Jason blinked at Slade, who watched with a satisfied expression as Dick lapped and kissed at Jason’s throat. Each touch sent another spike of pain through the skin, but it was less and less each time, Dick’s movements slow and gentle.
Cleaning up the blood, Jason realised. Was that normal? Was that something betas did for omegas?
He should have wanted to pull away, but it felt strangely right. Maybe it was that beta scent, or the fact Dick had sort of convinced Slade to stop, or the softness of his touch, but Jason found himself leaning into Dick’s shoulder.
‘No more arguments,’ Slade said. ‘No more pretending you are something you’re not. Next time you defy me, you’ll get worse than a bite.’ He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, eyed the red smear thoughtfully, then reached across the table to pour himself wine. His face was flushed, and there was a breathless, hungry look to him. ‘You’re not an alpha, Jason, and you’re not a beta either. You are an omega. You are my omega. Understood?’
Jason shivered. Nodded. He felt like Slade had grabbed his spine and rattled his bones. As his side, Dick stilled, resting his mouth on Jason’s shoulder, his beta smell warm and close. And not enough to overpower Slade’s alpha scent.
One raised eyebrow from Slade.
Jason swallowed. ‘Yes, Alpha.’ His voice was a dry croak.
‘Good.’ Slade waved at Dick, who trailed—reluctantly, it seemed—away from Jason and back to his own seat. ‘Dick will show you how to behave. He’s known omegas before.’ Slade smirked. ‘He’s your teacher. Try to be a good student.’
Jason flashed Dick the briefest of glares, but Dick had his head down, and didn’t notice. He wore a small frown, like he wasn’t quite sure why he’d licked Jason clean, either.
Slade picked up his knife and fork and cut through a slice of beef. Jason’s appetite shrivelled. He sat with his fists clenched in his lap, and tried to breathe slow, until gradually the shivers stopped.
Jason followed Dick back up to his room in silence. The alpha scent, earlier a soft kind of background noise to the house, now seemed to permeate every floorboard, soak though every rug, coat all the windows. It felt like grease clinging on Jason’s skin. His neck burned. Blood had soaked into the collar of his omega doublet.
In Jason’s room, Dick dug through the cupboards while Jason sank on the edge of the bed.
‘Let’s clean you up.’ Dick approached, bandages tucked under one arm, pouring water from the jug on the mantle into a wide washing bowl. He perched beside Jason on the bed, bowl in his lap, and Jason twitched but didn’t resist as Dick carefully unfastened the top of his doublet.
Dick’s expression was neutral, but Jason saw his Adam’s apple bob as he looked at the bite. He tore off a strip of bandage, wadded it up and dipped it in the water before pressing it softly to Jason’s throat.
Jason hissed, jerking away. It was like splinters tearing through his skin. ‘Fuck!’
‘Sorry,’ Dick murmured. He dabbed at Jason’s neck, then drew back the sleeve of Jason’s doublet to clean up his shoulder. Then he unwound the dry bandages.
‘No you’re not,’ Jason growled. ‘You sat there and watched. You could've stopped him.’
Dick didn’t respond, turning the bandages around Jason’s throat and knotting the ends. ‘Comfortable?’
Jason grunted. No. The fucker bit him. No, it wasn’t comfortable.
Sighing, Dick stood and tidied everything away. He straightened the jug on the mantlepiece, and when he turned back to Jason, he seemed to be thinking. He hesitated, then walked over. Jason watched, eyes narrowed, as Dick reached for the collar of his own doublet and loosed the first hooks.
Jason tensed. ‘What’re you—?’
The collar was fastened high; Dick undid it down to his chest. He swallowed. Then peeled it open.
Jason went cold.
Bite after bite after bite. White scars, dozens of them, criss-crossing Dick’s tan skin in a painful lattice, until there was virtually more scar than skin. One, just where Dick’s neck met his shoulder, was still ringed in red and purple.
Dick closed his collar. ‘No one can stop him.’
Only after he’d buttoned back up and left the room, quietly locking the door behind him, did Jason stand up. He crossed the room, not because he meant to, but just because that was what his feet were doing. Picking up the water jug, he took a swig. Peered down into it.
And then threw it at the wall with a scream.
It crashed, and as the water soaked into the floorboards, Jason sank into the fur rug by the fire and cried like he hadn’t since he was a boy.
He woke up at the sound of the lock clicking open. Jason had always been a light sleeper.
Dick entered with an armful of fresh clothes and a jug of steaming water. He set everything down and, ignoring’s Jason’s hiss, threw the curtains open.
Filmy grey light filled the room, and Jason winced, burying his face in the pillows. After hours tossing and turning, at least the sheets were starting to smell right. Less like soap and Slade, and more like him.
Across the room, Dick righted the jug Jason threw against the wall. ‘Up you get,’ was all he said. ‘Breakfast’s coming.’
Jason sat up warily, fists clenched in the sheets. ‘Slade … ?’
‘Slade rises early and breakfasts alone.’ There was a touch of sympathy in Dick’s voice.
Some of the tension eased from Jason’s shoulders. He stood, washed and dressed, while Dick made the bed.
‘Don’t you have servants to do that?’ Jason shrugged into another damn omega doublet with a grimace.
‘I didn’t think you’d want more strangers in your room.’
Breakfast arrived with a knock at the door, and sure enough Dick took the plates of eggs and toast from the doorway rather than letting the servant in. They ate with chairs drawn to the windows, watching the stable boy exercise the horses below.
A tour of the house followed breakfast, every inch of the place stinking of Slade. Jason took a deep, relieved breath when they stepped outside. The first touch of autumn was browning the leaves, the air cool and fresh. Walking beside Dick through the garden, Jason stared into the trees. How far would he have to run? There had to be a village nearby; somewhere Slade’s servants purchased the food.
‘The woods are miles deep,’ Dick warned, as though reading his mind, ‘and Slade’s an expert tracker.’
Jason turned back to him, and couldn’t help glancing at Dick’s neck. White scars just peeked over the edge of his high collar. ‘How far did you get?’
Dick’s eyebrows shot up. Then he gave a thin smile. ‘Not far.’
Between card games and dice and lunch, and books pilfered from Slade’s library, they spent the rest of the day holed up in Jason’s room. Which suited Jason just fine—it was the only place that didn’t wholly stink of Slade. Then Dick stood, and announced it was time for dinner.
‘Just grit your teeth.’ He guided Jason downstairs with a hand on the small of his back; Jason was too much on edge to think of pushing him away. ‘Try not to piss him off.’
Slade was already at the table again, and Jason hated, hated the way his stomach tightened and his legs weakened at the sight of him. His bite—freshly bandaged that afternoon by Dick—throbbed, as if warning him.
Behave, little omega.
He tightened his fists. Fucking alphas. Fucking bite. Fucking Slade.
Dick’s hand slid off Jason’s back as he went to sit on Slade’s right. Jason took a breath, and walked stiffly to his seat. Slade watched him, unblinking.
‘I hope you’ll be better company tonight, Omega.’ Slade’s tone was mild, but his single eye was cold and dark.
Jason stiffened, and pressed his lips together, because it was that or snarl. Dick shot him a warning look. He twitched, pain shooting through his neck. And part of him, that omega part he’d spent years squashing, wanted to sink to the floor and hide.
Slowly, he inhaled through his nose. ‘Yes, Alpha.’
Slade’s smile was like the white flash of a knife. ‘Good.’
He asked questions, none of them enough to get Jason’s hackles up again. Who were his previous alphas? What was his age? How did he find the house?
‘Strange,’ Jason hedged. At Slade’s stare, he added grudgingly, ‘It smells like you.’
Slade tilted his head. ‘It’s my house.’
At the very least, the food was good again. And this time, neither starving nor shaking from Slade’s bite, Jason got to savour it. Crisp-crusted pies and honey-roasted vegetables—food he hadn’t eaten in all his life, unless he’d pilfered it from the kitchens after an alpha’s feast.
At the end of the meal, Slade pushed his chair back. Jason tensed.
And then jerked away when Slade reached for his throat.
‘Relax.’ Slade put a hand on his shoulder, drawing him back. ‘I’m not going to bite you again.’
Jason glanced at Dick, who gave him a short, calm nod. Breathing hard, Jason gripped the arms of the chair and tried not to move. Try not to piss him off. He didn’t want that sharp pain again. More than that, he didn’t want that haze creeping over his mind, sinking into him, forcing him to submit, obey; to be mindless and weak.
Slade loosened the top of Jason’s doublet, then unknotted the bandages and drew them slowly off. Closing his eyes, Jason panted through his nose. His fists were tight enough to ache. He longed to leap up, to strike.
When Slade leaned forward, Jason’s fist jerked up—but Slade caught it easily. He pressed his lips into Jason’s throat, just under the jaw, beard grazing the edge of the bite. Jason bit his tongue to hold back a whine. He didn’t care if he was an omega. He wasn’t going to let Slade drag a pathetic little whimper out of him every time he got close.
Lifting his head, Slade pressed another kiss behind Jason’s ear, just over the scent gland, and Jason went rigid. His breath stuck. And—fuck’s sake—heat pooled in his lower belly, automatic and uncontrollable.
Slade breathed deep, and then straightened. ‘I want more of your scent in the house.’ As Jason let out a shaky sigh, hands uncurling around the arm rests, Slade took his seat again. ‘You have free reign of the grounds—your right, as my omega.’
Jason swallowed, and noticed a moment too late that Slade was giving him an expectant look. Dick glanced pointedly at Slade, and gave a miniscule tilt of the head.
‘Thank you,’ Jason ground out.
A broad smile. ‘You’ve done an excellent job, Dick. He’s practically there already.’
Jason slipped his hands under the table, so Slade wouldn’t see when he showed him the finger.
That night, Dick didn’t lock Jason’s bedroom door.
Jason considered slipping out and wandering the house unsupervised, but the thought of running into Slade, alone and in the dark, kept him in his bed. He woke again to Dick throwing the curtains open, and spent the morning with him.
Something Jason hadn’t realised on the first day was that Dick seemed to be friends with everybody. He’d never known such a natural beta. Dick not only knew every servant’s name, but all their children’s names, and who was down with chicken pox, and whose reading was coming along well, and who’d been in another scuffle with the village boys. Jason’s ears perked up at the mention of a village, but neither Dick nor the servant gave any sense of direction or distance.
But he tried to smile at the servants, and remember at least some of their names. Servants were good people to befriend. Servants could be bribed.
Despite Dick’s ease with the servants, he was quiet about his own life. Jason couldn’t draw more than miniscule details out of him; he was born in a village nearby; yes, he’d had previous alphas; no, he didn’t want to talk about them.
‘You got a mate?’ Jason asked, thinking that, at least, shouldn’t be too personal a question.
But Dick flushed and mumbled, and finally settled on, ‘No.’ And after that, Jason felt him shooting sideways glances at him, as if he was suspicious, or thought Jason might know something he shouldn’t.
After lunch, eaten in Jason’s room by the windows, Dick stood and said, ‘I’ll come and get you for dinner.’
Jason blinked up at him. ‘You’re not … staying with me?’
‘I have work to do,’ Dick said. ‘And you don’t need a nanny.’
Jason stared as he left, feeling a strange drop in his stomach.
Which was ridiculous. Dick was right; he didn’t need or want a nanny. But he sort of … wanted Dick.
Shaking himself, Jason waited until Dick’s steps had receded down the hall, then leaped up and headed downstairs, and out into the woods.
There were no paths, except the winding tracks made by the horses, and those all wound up leading back to the house. Jason hiked his long doublet up and pushed through bracken and bushes, knee-high at the least and often pressing up to his shoulders. Thorns scratched his hands, and strands of cobwebs blown between the trees traced his cheeks, sticking to his skin until he brushed them off. He growled and stomped, shoving past thick trees, pine needles showering behind him.
But Dick was right. The woods weren’t an escape route. They were fortress walls.
He dragged his feet on the way back to the house, grinding his teeth and wandering if he had time to hike down the road and see if the village was nearby. As he reached the garden, he spotted a plain-dressed woman in an apron slipping through a side door into the house.
Jason straightened, mouth relaxing into a grin.
Kitchens! That was what he needed. Almost everywhere he’d been before, someone in the kitchen had access to poppy seeds. Alphas and betas ate them in bread rolls, and sprinkled on cakes.
He opened the door, smiled as wide and friendly as he could, and stepped inside.
The two women inside looked up, one elbow-deep in bread dough, the other sitting at the table darning a sock. She stood instantly, setting the sock down and smoothing her skirts.
‘Are you lost, sir?’
‘No,’ Jason said, doing his best impression of Dick, smiling and warm and friendly. ‘I’ve been enjoying your cooking. I wanted to thank you.’
The women glanced between each other.
‘That’s … very kind of you, sir,’ said the woman with the sock; the older of the two, now Jason looked more closely. ‘But I don’t think the master would like you scrubbing about with us in the kitchen. There are much nicer places around the house.’
‘No, no, it’s fine. Slade said I have access to all of the house—’
But despite Jason’s protests, he was politely and firmly driven out the door.
Every servant in the house had the same attitude. Over the next several days, Jason tried speaking to the groom and stable boys; the maids; the groundskeeper. None of them were unkind, but they were all busy, and they were all certain he had better places to be, and they all gently brushed him off. The same servants who spoke happily to Dick in the morning would ignore Jason in the afternoon.
Poppy seeds, he realised one evening at dinner, freezing halfway through a mouthful of mashed potato. Slade’s told them all to stay away from me so I can’t get poppy seeds.
‘Something wrong, Jason?’ Slade said.
Jason swallowed in one huge gulp. Resisted the urge to bare his teeth. ‘No, Alpha.’ Bastard.
It was fine. No need to panic. He didn’t even know when his heat would come back. Irreparable damage, the physician said. Jason repeated it in his head like a prayer. Irreparable damage. It could be months. Years. Maybe never. Irreparable damage.
He tried not to think about his mother’s hand, hot and slick with sweat, clasped between both of his own as her panting receded to thin little gasps, and then nothing.
He jerked awake at the sound of a thump.
Blinking in the dark, Jason sat up. ‘Dick?’
Silence. The room glowed orange from the embers of the fireplace, and not a shadow moved. Jason drew a breath. Must’ve been a servant. Somebody dropping their candle on the way to the privy. He was just about to lie down, when the second thump sounded just outside his door. Followed by a long, low groan.
Kicking the blankets down, Jason stood. He grabbed a candle off the stand on the mantelpiece, stuffed it in the fire until the wick glowed, then crept across the room to the door.
Someone had fallen, and hurt themselves. That had to be it. Jason would drag them back to the servant’s quarters, and tell Dick to call a physician in the morning. He opened the door slowly, careful not to bump anyone who might be lying in the hallway.
No one on the floor. He looked up.
Dick was pressed to the wall just beside Jason’s door, his eyes hooded, tongue lapping out past his lips as Slade thrust his fingers into Dick’s mouth. Their bodies were close, Slade’s head lowered, and for a moment Jason thought he was biting, until he heard the distinct wet smack of lips. Their smell hit Jason, strong as a wall of heat. Alpha and beta and beta and alpha. Dick moaned, arching his hips into Slade’s body.
Then he blinked, and turned towards the orange glow of Jason’s candle.
A sharp noise, and Dick yanked his head back, drawing Slade’s fingers from his mouth. ‘Jason!’
Slade raised his head, and Jason was rooted in the doorway, stomach tight. Why—why out here? Why were they here?
Slade’s eye travelled slowly down Jason’s body and back up, unconcerned. Then he turned, wound his hands around the back of Dick’s neck, and drew him up into a hard, deep kiss.
Something throbbed in Jason’s body, like one great pulse of blood spreading into his very furthest edges. Then he darted back in his room, and slammed the door.
He waited several long minutes for the door to open, clutching the candle in both hands, ignoring the wax dripping warm over his fingers. But the door stayed closed, and eventually he heard footsteps, and then the click of another door further up the corridor. Dick’s room. Or Slade’s.
Jason remained a little longer, breathing hard.
He blew out the candle. Dropped it on the mantlepiece.
As he climbed into bed, there was a tingling warmth low in his belly. He ignored it, closed his eyes, and tried to sleep.
He woke before Dick opened the door, and hissed at a throb low in his body.
Jason curled over on his side, but suddenly the blankets were too warm. He kicked them down. Turned over again. Heat coiled and spread in his belly, like a tide swaying in and out. His pulse felt just a little too fast.
He was just beginning to drift back to sleep when he felt another throb, and realised.
Lunging to his feet, he crossed the room, stumbling, snarling, gasping. The embers from the fire were uncomfortably hot, but he snatched up the jug on the mantle and upended it over his head. Then he rushed to the windows, threw the curtains apart and opened the latch. Cool air hit his wet skin and he took a breath.
He closed his eyes. He’d taken poppy seeds so long. He couldn’t—it couldn’t be—not already—
His eyes flashed open. Outside, drawn crept grey across the treetops. That—that scene last night. It wasn’t an accident. Slade had done it on purpose; dragged Dick out into the corridor by Jason’s room in the hopes Jason would hear them, and investigate. Hell, he’d probably thumped on the wall to wake Jason up. To show him something that might trigger his omega impulses, that might bring his heat rushing back—
And not just that. Jason tried to breathe slow, although every instinct screamed at him to gasp like he’d run a mile. He leaned closer to the window, letting the breeze run through his soaked hair. No, not just that scene last night. It was everything.
Jason’s room, set up warm and cosy. The room Slade never set foot in—no one set foot in, except Jason and Dick. Enough to fill the room comfortably with Jason’s own scent, with just a touch of homely beta to accent it. To make it feel safe. To make it Jason’s nest.
The hearty meals; the house rich with the scent of alpha; the bite on that very first night. The servants ignoring Jason, pushing him away, preventing him from reaching out for those precious poppy seeds.
All a game. All working on Jason’s latent instincts, fixing up his body for—
He shuddered. No. Slade couldn’t do this to him. Jason wouldn’t let him.
His clothes from yesterday were folded over the chair. Jason tugged them roughly on, nose wrinkling at the omega doublet.
Heat lasted a few days, at the most.
He could come back in a few days. Come back, and face whatever punishment Slade meted out for him.
He hurried out into the corridor—Jason held his breath, avoiding the stench of Slade and Dick—and down the stairs. He pushed into the kitchen. Empty. The fainted gold light from the fireplace threw shadows across the room.
He tore through every cupboard. Poppy seeds. Somewhere, there had to be poppy seeds. A jar, a tin, a box—
Nothing, nothing, nothing.
Snarling, Jason instead grabbed half a loaf of bread and dug a waterskin out from under the sink. He wouldn’t be in the mood for food, anyway.
By the time he stepped outside, the sun had risen, and his skin was damp, and sticky. It took effort to breathe evenly. Jason looked at the road leading away from Slade’s house. There must be a village …
A village which he’d stumble into, an omega in heat, desperate and hazy and alone.
How many alphas were in the village? How many would dare snatch an omega from Lord Wilson? How many would send him back?
Jason shook himself. Not the village.
He turned and plunged into the woods.
Dick hesitated at Jason’s door. He’d washed, but Slade’s scent still lingered in his hair, ingrained in his skin. To Jason’s more sensitive nose, Dick probably stank.
Not that Jason needed to smell him to know …
Sighing, Dick knocked and opened the door.
Stepping inside, he closed his eyes and tensed. Waited. For the growl. The snarl. The soft hiss as Jason threw something through at his head. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t earned as much.
Fair enough. He’d earned that, too, even if he’d expected Jason to be more aggressive in his distaste.
Dick opened his eyes.
He noticed the empty bed first, and his heart shot into his throat.
The curtains were already open, and so was the window. Dick hurried over and pulled it shut, hooking the latch into place. Slade’s voice rang in his head, insisting Dick keep Jason’s room warm. Keep the fire going. Keep the windows shut.
Suspicion trickling down Dick’s spine, he moved to the bed. Lifting the blankets, he pressed them to his face and drew a deep breath.
It was like fresh-baked bread; an irresistible scent that made his mouth water. Nothing had ever smelled so good. With a guilty twinge, Dick raised the blankets and second time and took another breath. His pulse quickened.
Jason was in heat.
In heat … and not in his bed.
Dick swallowed, dropping the blankets, and strode out the door. Maybe Jason just gone to the privy. Or out—out for a walk. ‘Heat’ could be literal. Flushed and sweating, of course Jason would head for the cool gardens.
Breaking into a run, Dick tried desperately not to think of the alternative.
When Jason heard footsteps, he hunkered down low and tried to breathe softly.
It was hard, with his heart going a million miles an hour and his skin radiating heat like he’d curled up in the fireplace instead of under a bush. But he’d done it before. Previous slip-ups had taught him what to do. Find somewhere cool, and quiet, and lonely—and hide.
Of course, before he’d always come back saying he’d just been sick. Slade wasn’t going to fall for that.
The footsteps grew closer, and for a moment Jason thought it might be the stable boy looking for a lost horse. Then a breeze wafted over Dick’s unmistakeable scent, and—
Jason stiffened, then covered his mouth and nose with a hand before he could groan. Or worse, take another breath.
Shit, was Slade with him? Jason didn’t know how powerful an alpha’s sense of smell could be. Slade’s seemed to be pretty damn good. He’d recognised Jason as an omega from across a crowded market; there was no way he wouldn’t sniff Jason out now, in heat.
But no, only one set of footsteps. Jason squeezed his eyes closed, tightening his throat as he realised the smell of Slade was from last night. The smell of Slade’s touch on Dick’s skin, Slade’s fingers in Dick’s mouth …
His breath was coming fast again, warmth pooling low in his body. Fuck. Fucking heat. Fucking heightened senses. Fucking urge to leap up and drag Dick and that shadow of alpha scent into the bushes.
‘Jason?’ There was an edge of panic in Dick’s voice. ‘Jason, where are you?’
Go away. Jason let his hands crawl up in his hair. Dick’s footsteps crept closer, and when another breeze stirred the trees Jason held his breath.
Dick was close enough now for Jason to hear his breathing. To hear when he took in a sudden, deep breath as the air stilled, and let it out in a relieved sigh.
Lungs aching, Jason pressed his lips together.
‘Jason.’ Dick sounded more certain now. ‘Come on, you can’t stay out here. I’ll make up your breakfast; you can eat in bed. Just come out, Jason, please.’
He couldn’t hold it another second. Gradually, Jason released his breath, and drew another.
Just as the wind rose again, blowing that combined alpha-beta scent straight at him.
Heat—literal heat—flooded though him. And suddenly his trousers were too tight, and he couldn’t stop the whine however hard he tried.
The bushes crashed as Dick tore through them, branches hissing as he swatted them aside. Then his boots were by Jason’s face, and he bent and Jason whined again at the closeness of that smell; the warmth of Dick’s touch as he grabbed Jason under the shoulders and hauled him up.
‘What are you doing out here?’ Dick gasped, looping Jason’s arm over his own shoulders. ‘Are you hurt?’
‘Let me go.’ Jason tried to growl, but managed only a whisper.
‘Hell no.’ With an arm around Jason’s waist, Dick hauled him through the brush and back to the track trodden down by the horses. ‘You are not riding through this heat on your own in the woods. What if something happened to you?’
In spite of the heat, in spite of the smell of Dick so close it was almost suffocating, Jason laughed. ‘Is another alpha going to fuck me out in the woods?’
Dick’s jaw tightened, but he said nothing more as he dragged Jason down the track out of the woods. At the first sight of the house, Jason stopped, but Dick pulled him on with the slightest effort. Jason wanted to chalk it up to Dick being stronger than he appeared, but he knew the real reason. The same reason as his brain was starting to fog. The same reason he almost collapsed when they got in the door, and Slade’s scent was everywhere.
Dick got him upstairs and set him down on the edge of the bed, then hovered as Jason curled over, elbows on his knees, hands in his hair, and tried to breathe.
It wasn’t fair. Why so soon? Why him? Why’d he have to be born a goddamn omega? Between breaths, he saw flashes of his mother, writhing in bed, sweat sticking her hair to her face. Another baby that didn’t cry. Her breath stuttering. Stopping.
A warm hand settled between Jason’s shoulder blades. ‘It’s all right. It’s just heat. It’ll be over soon.’
‘Go fuck yourself,’ Jason whispered.
A long pause.
‘I thought … I thought heat was meant to be … I thought you were meant to enjoy it.’ Dick swallowed. ‘Other omegas enjoy it.’
His leg was bouncing, Jason realised. A nervous movement, as if he needed to expel energy some way, and couldn’t do it the way he wanted. Jason’s heat-scent must’ve been stronger than he’d thought, if a beta was getting agitated over it.
‘Fucking good for them,’ Jason snapped. ‘Some of us don’t want to spend our lives shitting out brats for entitled alphas who aren’t even there when we die screaming and covered in blood.’
He bowed his head, fingers tightening in his hair. His arms shook.
Quietly, Dick said, ‘Who?’
Jason ground his teeth. ‘My mother.’
A nod. Dick’s hand slipped off Jason’s back as he stood up. ‘Wait here. Try to stay quiet. I’ll be right back.’
Jason didn’t look up. Just listened to Dick’s retreating footsteps, and then the door closing. He wasn’t surprised when he heard the lock click.
Deep breaths. In. Out.
Why had he told Dick?
The room was so hazy.
His clothes were too hot. Too tight.
Slade’s fingers in Dick’s mouth …
Jason grabbed a pillow to stifle his moan.
By the time Dick came back, he was surprised he hadn’t suffocated. Dick prised the pillow out of his hands, and Jason’s breath was coming hard and fast again, impossible to control.
‘Hey.’ Dick knelt on the floor on front of him. ‘Hey, slow down. It’s all right.’
But it wasn’t all right, because Dick was on the floor between his knees and Jason wanted to bury his fingers in that raven-black hair and draw Dick forward and down—
‘I brought you this.’ Dick held up a tall, slender glass full of … milk?
Jason took it, and with one sniff knew instantly it wasn’t milk. Or at least, not just milk. ‘What … ?’
Dick hesitated. ‘It’s not as potent as poppy seeds, and not as damaging. But have a drink now, and another when your heat’s over, and you won’t be, uh—’ he flushed, ‘—shitting out brats. For now.’
Mouth hanging open, Jason stared. ‘But … Slade …’
‘You’ve taken poppy seeds a long time,’ Dick said. ‘Even if you got your heat, Slade knew you might never carry children.’ A shrug, and a tiny, sly smile. ‘Besides, he doesn’t need to know.’
Jason stared a moment later, then gave him a faint smile in return. Straightening, he tipped the glass back and drained it in a few huge gulps. It was sweeter than milk, but just as thick, and deliciously cool. He sighed.
Dick took the glass. ‘I’ll wash this up, and then … you know I have to tell Slade.’
Jason closed his eyes. Nodded. No use hiding it. Slade would know the instant Jason stepped in the room. Probably the instant he walked past Jason’s door.
‘How long until you’re at full heat?’
Shaking his head, Jason shrugged. ‘This afternoon? Tonight?’
Giving a nod, Dick made to step out.
‘Wait.’ Jason twisted the blanket behind him in one fist. ‘Why help me? Why lie to Slade for me?’
Dick’s eyes flicked away. ‘My father was an omega.’
He looked for a moment like he was about to add something more, but then he turned and stepped out, and left Jason to wait in the building warmth.
Jason had moved to the window by the time Slade came in. It was thrown open, and the cool air did absolutely nothing to change the fact he was hot, and hard, and wet, and aching.
He smelled Slade at the door before it even opened. That deep, rich alpha scent, so close it burned. Heavy footsteps thudded across the room, and then Jason tore his gaze away from the window as Slade crouched at his feet.
Jason met that single grey eye, and the room whirled. His hands shook on the arm rests. He was closer to full heat than he’d thought. Maybe all those years putting it off had made him weaker. Less able to resist.
‘How long?’ There was a timbre in Slade’s voice; a slight tremor. Like excitement. He breathed deep and full, savouring every moment of Jason’s scent.
‘Since he started, or until he’s at full heat?’ Dick said, from the doorway.
Jason twisted in his chair to look at him, and he should’ve been pissed at Dick for speaking over him, but at that moment his chest seemed to lighten, and he was just glad not to be alone with Slade. Yet.
Slade, set a hand on Jason’s knee, sending tingles ricocheting across Jason’s skin. ‘Both.’
‘Started this morning,’ Jason croaked, before Dick could answer on his behalf. ‘Full heat … I don’t know. Soon.’
So soon. His vision kept fogging like he was tired, or drunk. His guess earlier that he’d last until the evening felt more optimistic by the second.
Slade rose from his crouch, bent in close and pressed his nose under Jason’s jaw. Jason couldn’t help the whine, blood pounding through the now mostly-healed bite on his throat. As Slade breathed in, Jason damn near melted, the scent of alpha agonising.
But suddenly there was a hand on his shoulder. A snarl at his back.
Slade straightened, single eye flicking up to looking behind Jason. He smirked. His pupil was blown wide. ‘Feeling protective, Grayson?’
Dick’s hand tightened on Jason’s shoulder, tugging him back. Jason stood, and Dick drew him away from Slade, planting himself between alpha and omega. He reached back with one arm, touching Jason’s elbow.
And where his hand fell, Jason felt a snap, like the crack of a log in the fireplace. Something burned in his chest—not heat, but—
Dick snarled again, and the sound was impressively deep. Almost alpha.
You got a mate?
What a fucking stupid question. How long had Dick known? How long had he known and said nothing, and endured Slade biting Jason’s throat and Slade fucking him at night? Jason would have been furious if he wasn’t so dizzy.
Slade laughed, a low rumble in his chest. ‘He’s your mate?’ He stepped closer, and Dick moved back, pushing Jason with him. ‘How perfect.’
‘Slade.’ Not that anxious warning anymore; an order. ‘Back off. Jason’s mine.’
Slade’s hand shot out, catching Dick by the throat. Dick made a strangled sound that might have been a snarl or a yelp, and Slade dragged him close enough to press their faces together.
Jason leaped in with a roar. His. Dick was his. His mate—his mate—
But Jason’s limbs were half-numb, and his mind was full of fog, and Slade shoved him away almost lazily. Jason landed sprawled on the ground, as Slade spoke right up against Dick’s mouth.
‘You are both mine. Both of you.’ He pulled Dick into a hard kiss, then tossed him aside as Jason staggered to his feet. ‘You being mates changes nothing.’
Turning, he lunged at Jason. Jason side-stepped, but Slade was viper-fast and his hand shot out, fingers tightening in Jason’s hair. Jason yelped, knees buckling as the pain sent something carnal shooting lower in his body. Slade dragged him easily back to his chair, and shoved him down into it. Then he leaned in, and bit down on Jason’s throat.
It was short, and sharp. No slowly growing pressure, no waiting for Jason to submit. Just a snap; a reminder to stay in place. It worked. Jason moaned, any remaining strength eking out of his body as he slumped into the chair.
He heard Dick lunge, but then Slade straightened and struck, fist slamming into Dick’s chest. Dick dropped, breath stuttering, and Slade seemed to wait a moment before crouching and grabbing Dick’s wrist, twisting his arm up behind him. His other hand crawled into the hair at the nape of Dick’s neck, and he hauled him up.
Dick’s teeth were gritted, eyes scrunched in pain, and Jason was halfway out the chair before Slade thrust Dick right at him—slammed Dick’s face into Jason’s throat.
‘Take a breath, Dick,’ Slade said. ‘Smell that heat.’
Dick struggled; Jason felt his face move against his neck, and knew Dick was trying to turn away. But Slade twisted his arm further, and Dick yelped, then automatically drew a breath—
The tension melted out of his shoulders. His kicking legs went still. His hand slackened in Slade’s grip.
He drew another breath, and another.
‘Dick.’ Jason’s voice was strained.
Dick moaned, and then Jason felt lips moving against his throat; the soft flicker of a tongue. And he realised Dick must have known—must have known after that first time Slade bit him, and he’d been driven to press his face into the wound, to clean it as though by instinct. And it didn’t matter, because Dick’s touch sent blood throbbing low in Jason’s body.
‘Mm here,’ Dick mumbled, peppering kisses over Jason’s throat. He sounded drunk. Jason felt drunk. The room was swaying.
Slade let go of Dick’s arm and reached forward. Traced his thumb over Jason’s lip. And Jason half-knew he ought to shove him off, but what he wanted was to slip out his tongue. To feel Slade’s fingers pressing in his mouth, the way they’d been pressing into Dick’s last night, so he could taste that alpha scent on the back of his tongue. He whined, breath coming in fast, sharp pants.
‘I think we can call that full heat,’ Slade murmured. Fingers tightening in Dick’s hair, he drew Dick’s head back; Dick growled in frustration. ‘Do you want him, Dick? Do you want to fuck your mate?’
Dick moaned. Jason barely managed to bite his tongue.
‘Then you’ll have to share,’ Slade growled. ‘You can fuck him with me, or I can lock you out and take him all for myself. Your choice.’
A blink. Pulled back a little from Jason’s scent, Dick’s head seemed to be clearing. He stared down at Jason, and finally murmured, ‘Jason?’
‘Stay.’ Jason didn’t have to think. He couldn’t fight Slade off like this. Fuck, he couldn’t fight off an irritable kitten like this. And Dick’s smell, like home, and Dick’s voice, and Dick’s warm and soft touch …
‘I’ll stay,’ Dick whispered.
Slade pressed his mouth close to Dick’s ear. ‘Good boy.’ He pressed a hard kiss to the corner of Dick’s jaw. ‘Show your student how to behave for his alpha.’
Dick twisted, lips parted, and let Slade take him in a deep, moving kiss. Jason saw the muscles in Dick’s throat move as he swallowed, and the red flash of Slade’s tongue, and nothing fucking mattered anymore except the ache in his cock and the wetness between his legs. He reached up, grabbed Dick’s doublet in both hands, and dragged him away from Slade and into a kiss of his own.
Dick’s lips were soft as his touch, his kiss slow and deliberate. And he tasted of both beta and alpha, sharp and savoury and delicious.
Hands ran up Jason’s legs and he moaned, and it was a moment before he even realised it wasn’t Dick but Slade, leaning close against Dick’s back, loosing the ties of Jason’s trousers. Dick’s tongue flicked, hot and wet against Jason’s lips, and he moaned, lifting his hips to let Slade drag his trousers down, tilting his head back so Dick could loosen the clasps of his omega doublet.
Dick slid the doublet down Jason’s arms, and Jason wriggled free before reaching over his head to tug off his undershirt. Too hot—it was too damn hot in here for clothes. He was burning.
He saw, in a hazy way, Slade set his hand on Dick’s head and push him down. Dick didn’t resist—trailing kisses and licks down Jason’s chest and stomach to the base of his cock. Then Slade leaned over Dick, reached out to curl his hand behind Jason’s head and drew him into a kiss.
Slade’s touch was harder than Dick’s, the alpha scent so much stronger than that lingering trace on Dick’s tongue. And it sent flashes of desire down through Jason’s body, an instinctual reaction. He’d just started to moan when Dick licked the end of his cock, sucked the tip, then opened wide and swallowed him down.
It was less a moan than a shout, Jason jerking in his chair even as Slade pinned his wrists to the arm rests and leaned in closer, biting down on Jason’s lower lip. The pain sent more head-spinning instincts firing, and even though it wasn’t his throat, wasn’t a real dominating bite, Jason went lax, gasped and whined. Dick’s tongue traced the underside of his cock as he drew back, lips tight, mouth warm and wet and soft. When Jason felt gentle fingers tracing up his leg, sliding below his cock, he almost sobbed.
When Slade lowered his head, Jason lifted his jaw on automatic and accepted the trace of lips and tongue; the scrape of teeth. No bite—not yet—but he knew it had to be coming. He almost wanted it, like a drunk man wants another sip.
Dick’s fingers traced the slit beneath Jason’s cock. Fuck, he hadn’t known he was so wet. Every touch was damp and gliding, sending fiery tingles up into his body. Then, as Dick lowered his head, Jason’s cock sliding to the back of his tongue, he slipped a finger up into Jason’s cunt.
Jason groaned, and Dick added another finger, curling and stroking as rhythmically as he sucked Jason’s cock.
Above him, Jason was vaguely aware of Slade’s hands sliding away, working on the fastenings of his own trousers. Then Slade took Jason’s hands, and guided them up and around his cock. Jason’s eyes shuttered, but he curled his fingers around the smooth skin without complaint, because fuck—fuck he wanted that—wanted that inside him, where Dick’s fingers were now working him into a frenzy. He bucked and writhed, whining on every exhale.
Slade’s hand crept into the hair at the back of Jason’s head, and he drew him forward. ‘Learn from your teacher, Jason.’ And fuck, how did Slade sound amused? How did he sound anything but fucking desperate at this point? Jason was ready to scream the walls down.
Slade drew Jason’s head forward, and Jason hesitated only a second, but that hand in his hair was firm and the ache in his lower body only grew at the concept of something filling his mouth. He parted his lips, and tried, tried to take Slade as well as Dick was taking him.
It wasn’t easy, or comfortable. He was bent almost in two, trying in equal parts to accommodate for Dick’s ministrations at the same time as closing his lips around Slade’s cock. But the ache in his back was almost … almost part of it. Like the burn of good exercise. He licked and sucked, and couldn’t seem to keep a rhythm the way Dick could, but Dick’s fingers twisting in him made him moan, and Slade seemed to appreciate that, a soft, low hum driving from his throat. Tightening his grip in Jason’s hair, Slade drove his hips forward, fucking into Jason’s open mouth.
Jason’s breath hitched, and Dick’s fingers moved faster, still steady but relentless, his tongue soft as velvet, and the heat in Jason’s body grew, and burned, and he hit the tipping point and Dick still wasn’t slowing. A faint taste of bitterness hit Jason’s tongue, Slade still fucking into him, and with a sudden shout Jason came apart.
Dick moaned, but didn’t draw away, still sucking and licking until Jason twitched and shuddered, his fingers gradually slowing.
But Slade didn’t slow. His fist was tight in Jason’s hair, his hips thrusting deeper and deeper, drawing Jason’s head back and up to get a deeper angle. Even as Jason felt his muscles slacken, new heat built the longer Slade moved in his mouth. He let out a whine. Not instinctive, for once. Deliberate. More. He wanted it again. Wanted that delicious explosion a second time.
‘Slade.’ It was barely a word, Dick growled it so low.
Slade’s grip softened in Jason’s hair. He brushed his thumb over Jason’s cheek as he drew his hips back, letting Jason take a full, deep breath. Slade stepped back, right over Dick’s bent head. ‘You want him first, Dick?’
Dick rose from his knees into a crouch, twisting to face Slade. There was a rumble in his throat, and for a moment Jason thought he was about to outright snarl at him. He reached up; touched Dick’s hip. Don’t leave.
Dick let out a sharp breath. Then, through gritted teeth, ‘Please, Alpha.’
A moment’s hesitation, Slade’s expression dark, his shoulders rounding. His gaze flicked from Dick to Jason and back. He straightened. ‘Take him, then. Show him how to fuck like an omega.’
Instantly, Dick whirled on Jason, pressing a kiss to his lips before drawing him up. ‘Bed. Now.’
The shortness of the command was alpha, but the softness of his voice was all sweet, beta Dick, and Jason staggered to the bed, floor tilting beneath him. He slumped on the sheets as Dick unbuttoned the top of his doublet before tearing it straight over his head along with his undershirt, baring the many bites and bruises across his throat.
Jason didn’t miss the way Slade’s eye flicked to those marks, and then to Jason’s face, gauging a reaction. But Jason was too hazy and warm to summon anything like surprise for what he’d already seen, and only dropped his head into the pillows as Dick worked quickly on his trousers, shucking them down and kicking them off before crawling onto the bed.
His knees slid up either side of Jason’s hips, and he bent down and nuzzled into Jason’s throat. A string of licks and kisses, and then a gentle—oh, so gentle—nip. He paused, as if checking Jason was all right, but Jason only let out a breath and tilted his chin up. Dick hummed appreciatively, hands sliding up either side of Jason’s neck and into his hair as he bent to kiss and nibble, again and again.
‘Going to make you feel so good, Jason,’ he murmured. ‘My mate. My mate. Going to make you love every moment.’
Jason moaned, heat building fast, and then Dick slipped a hand down between their bodies and palmed Jason’s cock—half-hard already, or maybe just not yet fully soft from the last orgasm. Jason didn’t know. Everything felt blurry and comfortable. Without heat he knew he’d never get hard again so soon, but almost as soon as Dick’s hand started moving, squeezing and pulling in slow, gentle strokes, blood flooded south to answer his touch. Dick pressed his nose behind Jason’s ear, took a deep breath against the sensitive scent glands, and groaned. Jason shuddered, squirming, wetness dripping from his slit.
‘Ready for me, Jay?’ Dick murmured. ‘You want me?’
Jason nodded, breathless, and Dick drew back slowly. He stroked his own cock, once, twice, the same speed as he touched Jason’s. Jason parted his knees and lifted his hips. He felt the blunt pressure of Dick’s cock for just a moment, before he slipped in smooth and easy, every inch perfectly hot, stretching just enough to appease the ache without an ounce of discomfort. Jason let out a long, soft noise. He twisted his head against the pillows, blinking slowly.
From the chair Jason had sat in a moment before, Slade watched. His own eye was half open, pupil wide, lips just barely parted. His hand worked slowly on his cock, thumb flicking over the tip to catch the growing bead of wetness there. Jason moaned, almost longed for the taste of that in his mouth once more.
But then Dick’s hand was on Jason’s jaw, drawing him back. He kissed softly. Then moved his hips.
It was achingly slow, Dick moving with measured, easy strokes despite the way his own gaze seemed clouded and hungry. He pressed kiss after kiss to Jason’s throat, his jaw, his shoulders, anywhere his lips could reach. Jason curled his hands in the sheets, raising his hips to meet Dick’s movement, then thrusting up faster, cock pressed between their bodies.
‘Shh,’ Dick murmured at Jason’s moan. ‘I’ve got you.’
Jason slid his hands up Dick’s legs, grasped the backs of his thighs and pulled him in harder, closer. Wanting—demanding—more. Faster. Harder.
And Dick gave. Hooking one arm under Jason’s knee, he lifted Jason’s hips and drove down into him, hips snapping fast and lewd. Jason gasped and whimpered and moaned, trying desperately to buck up with only one foot planted on the bed. The tide of heat rushed over him, drawing him closer.
Dick curled his hand around Jason’s cock, moving jerkier now, breathing hard, face flushed and eyes half-wild.
Jason came a second time with a hoarse cry, wetness streaking over his stomach, flooding between his legs around Dick’s cock. Dick made a sound like he was being choked, then grabbed Jason’s hips in both hands and fucked, fast and hard, and finally came with a stuttered gasp, eyes closed and mouth open.
He held Jason for a while, then licked his lips and lowered him slowly to the bed. Jason slumped, and a moment later Dick dropped on the bed beside him, panting hard. Jason closed his eyes. Turned over. Buried his face in the crook of Dick’s neck. To his credit, Dick didn’t complain at Jason’s wet, sticky stomach pressing against his side. He only hummed, reached over and stroked Jason’s arm, content.
If it hadn’t been for the creak of Slade rising out of the chair, Jason might’ve have fallen asleep.
Instead, he jerked up, wincing at the wetness between his legs. As Slade came to stand at the end of the bed, Dick rose as well, more slowly. His expression was wary, but also … defeated.
Reaching across the bed, Slade gripped Jason’s ankle, and dragged him down.
‘Hey!’ It was the closest thing to a word Jason had managed since the heat hit him, and the closest thing to sense he’d felt.
‘Shh-shh-shh.’ Slade ran his hand up Jason’s leg. ‘You’re not done yet, Omega. Be good for your alpha.’
Propped up on his elbows, Jason watched, panting, as Slade slipped his fingers into the wetness between his legs. Jason closed his eyes and groaned. Enough, he’d had enough.
Except … he could feel warmth building again at Slade’s touch. Haze creeping back over the edges of his mind.
Slade thrust his fingers deeper into Jason’s slit and Jason whined, flopping back. ‘Dick was too gentle with you, wasn’t he, Jason? You need an alpha to fuck you properly.’
Jason moaned; beside him Dick made a soft noise of complaint or arousal. Jason couldn’t tell. Slade’s fingers moved fast, pumping and twisting, and Jason writhed around them as that longing built again, and fuck, how much more of this could he take?
Slipping his fingers out, Slade grabbed Jason’s hips in both hands, lifted him and easily flipped him over, on top of Dick. Dick grunted at the extra weight, but then seemed to get a fresh taste of Jason’s post-orgasm heat-scent and let out a long, pleased groan. As Jason shifted his weight into his forearms, Slade pressed a hand between his shoulders, pushing his chest down against Dick’s and his hips up.
Jason tensed at the blunt pressure of Slade’s cock against his slit, and then cried out as Slade pushed inside. Reaching around Jason’s hips, Slade squeezed Jason’s cock—and it sure as hell hadn’t time to go soft this time, Jason knew it—and Jason whined, bucking into his grip. Which meant bucking against Slade’s cock.
With a short, sharp noise, half-gasp half-growl, Slade grabbed Jason’s hips tight enough to hurt, and thrust deeper into him and fucked.
Jason yelped and whimpered; this was so much more intense, this almost-pain. He could barely breathe. Beneath him, Dick soothed his hands up Jason’s ribs and murmured, ‘I’ve got you,’ and, ‘Just breathe, Jay,’ which Jason barely heard over his own cries. Because it was good. Painfully, agonisingly good. He pressed his face deeper into the pillows over Dick’s shoulder, tilted his hips higher, and screamed as he came for a third time.
Slade didn’t slow for a moment, and by the time Jason realised he was growing hard again, tears were streaming down his face. He couldn’t think. No words. Nothing beyond, fuck, fuck me, Alpha fuck me—
It was Dick’s teeth softly scraping his neck at the edge of a kiss that brought him to a fourth climax. Jason’s legs shook, and he was too wrung out to even shout, but simply slumped. Slade’s grip tightened on his hips, holding him just long enough for a few more fast strokes, then one stuttering thrust, and Slade snarled as he came.
Jason waited for him to let go, but instead Slade slid a hand down Jason’s chest and hauled him up. Jason whined, drawn away from Dick’s warmth, and Dick instantly sat up to follow him. Slade sat back on his heels, Jason pinned his lap, Slade’s cock still buried in him. Then, Jason felt firmly against his chest, Slade lowered his head and bit hard into Jason’s throat.
A yelp of pain, then—it was like coming again. Stars burst in Jason’s vision. He moaned, submission washing sweetly over him. He let his head drop back against Slade’s shoulder. Felt Dick’s lips on the other side of his throat; a kiss; a soft, questing, nip. Then, when Jason didn’t resist, a second bite.
He moaned again, louder, lashing out randomly and catching Dick’s arm, squeezing tight. Biting wasn’t supposed to feel like this. It was supposed to be pain; pain and shame and wishing he’d never been born an omega. This was like nothing else.
Dick let go first, by the space of a breath. Then Slade’s jaw loosened, and he let Jason slide down onto the bed without complaint.
Standing, Slade tidied himself. Jason barely heard him say, ‘Keep him company, Dick. I’ll be back tonight,’ before he fell into sweet, blissful sleep.
Dick brought him the second drink of mother’s milk the day after Jason’s heat-haze finally slipped away. The last few days were a blur of warmth and want. Dick’s soft touches and murmurs; Slade’s brutal fucking. Jason’s throat was littered with bruises and bites. Some would undoubtedly scar. Most … he didn’t regret.
‘Thanks,’ he croaked, curled by the window.
‘Welcome.’ Dick sat at Jason’s feet, head resting on his knee like a lapdog. ‘You did so well.’
Jason snorted. ‘Sure.’ He hadn’t done anything. Just let heat take its course.
But he sipped his drink, curling the fingers of his free hand in Dick’s hair and enjoying the way Dick hummed appreciatively, and for one morning, didn’t think too hard about trying to run away.