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Pogue wakes slowly.

He’s overly warm, sunlight streaming in from the window on his left, something soft and pliable pressing up against his right, radiating heat like an oven. The sheets are tangled around his legs tightly enough to trap him and his mouth tastes like something crawled in there to die in peace.

He tries to blink down at whoever is using him as a pillow and gets stabbed in the brain by the mother of all headaches.

He’s hungover.

Groaning, he twists into himself a little, hating everything. Especially last night as it comes trickling back in flashes and snapshots.

Laura. The world’s shittiest break-up, right in the middle of the restaurant, no lead-up, no nothing.

Being left standing there like a tool, covering the bill under the pitying gazes of about twenty strangers, slinking out of there and hightailing it home.

Finding the others already there.

Getting really fucking drunk.

The person sleeping on him shifts, hair trailing over his arm. Buffy then. She’s the only one, other than him, with long hair. Something in the way she moves frees up the covers a little and he tugs them higher, futilely trying to block out the light.

On his free side, someone moans pitifully and a flailing hand catches him in the ribs. There is responding movement on Buffy’s far side. At least four people in this bed, which means there’s a decent chance it’s all six of them. They tend to gravitate together like marbles in a bowl.

“Someone kill me,” Reed groans, low and pained.

“Shut the fuck up,” Chase hisses back, only to be immediately shushed by Caleb as Buffy gives a low whine.

Pogue hears rustling, feels movement up against the arm slung around her.

“Sorry, Baby,” Caleb mumbles, his arm coming to rest over them both, and she makes a grumpy cat noise before settling down. The asshole never drinks as much as the rest of them, thanks to his alcoholic mother being a stellar example. He’ll be fine in an hour or so. Asshole.

On the far side of Reed, Tyler snorts a little. “You’re all pathetic.”

His announcement is followed by a quick surge in the Power, like a heatwave rolling through the bed, and then the pain is gone.

Pogue’s mouth is still disgusting, his head still feels stuffy and yesterday’s humiliation still burns, but he’s not feeling like driving an ice-pick though his brain anymore.

That, and the Use settles the eternally hungry, restless part of him a little.

He breathes easier. By the noises around him, so does everyone else.

“I fucking love you, Babyboy,” Reed announces, still sounding hoarse. His declaration is followed by damp noises.

“Eugh,” Chase complains, for the millionth time. “Cutesy fuckers.”

Pogue carefully risks opening his eyes again.

The sun is bright and there are dustmotes dancing above the couch. Not a bed after all. Apparently, they all slept on the huge ass Transformer Sofa ™ Caleb’s mom gave them as a housewarming gift when they moved to college. Because that’s the kind of thing you give your kid when he moves out. A giant sofa that can easily sit twelve.

Or sleep six.

Whatever.

At least that means the coffee maker is close by. And someone took the time to actually provide bedding this time. It could be worse.

He risks a look to his left, where Tyler and Reed are lazily making out, both at least half naked. Someone’s leg is tangled with Pogue and Buffy’s.

On his other side, a bare-chested Caleb is snugged up to Buffy’s back. Pogue shifts experimentally. He’s still wearing his boxers and Buffy’s in her panties and socks.

It’s better than having her cold fucking feet all over the place.

Chase, as usual, is keeping himself half an inch apart from the pile of bodies. He’s not much of a cuddler, unless it’s Buffy, or occasionally Tyler sprawling all over him. Even after years with them, he still doesn’t really trust gentle touch. Only their oldest and youngest members can make themselves appear harmless enough for him to let them close for long.

Still, as he meets Pogue’s gaze over the tangle, his eyes are bright and he’s smiling wryly, amused.

Pogue shrugs in response, dredges up a quick smile of his own. He doesn’t feel it, though.

Tyler sits up long enough to get rid of someone’s underwear, throwing them off to one side, and then the boys start a slow, rhythmic shifting against each other and Pogue turns into Buffy, giving them his back.

This is why Laura broke up with him.

Because it’s not normal. Because they’re all too close. Because every time he didn’t feel like sleeping with her, she accused him of cheating.

He didn’t. Not on Kate, not on Claire, not on Laura. Not on any of them. He doesn’t have much of a sex drive to begin with and that has always been the rule, since they were old enough to be in relationships.

Not when they’re with someone else.

They’ve all had sex with each other, in any and all possible constellations, driven by the Power, the hunger, the greed, but never when one of them was in a relationship.

Pogue has never cheated on any of his girlfriends.

And yet, every single one of them broke up with him because they thought he did.

Buffy’s complaint of, “Too much moving,” shakes him out of his thought spiral. She rolls over Cal without opening her eyes, sliding into Chase’s arms seamlessly, earning herself a good morning kiss from him.

Caleb shrugs prosaically and throws an arm around Pogue’s neck, drawing him closer.

“You okay, man?” he asks, quiet enough for the others to ignore it.

Not that Tyler and Reed need to try very hard. The entire sofa is moving in their rhythm now. No-one is paying it much mind. Ty and Reed are Ty and Reed and have been for so long, they’re practically a single entity. They’re just something that happens. Sometimes, someone will join in. Usually, they don’t.

Pogue ducks down, not really wanting to talk, hiding his face in his best friend’s neck. They all need showers. Urgently.

“I’m making coffee,” Buffy declares, climbing to her feet and padding kitchen-ward.

Chase makes an angry noise at his morning quickie walking away. “Sure you don’t wanna suck my dick instead?” he hollers after her.

“Fuck you, Collins,” she returns, cheerfully.

Caleb snickers and Pogue can tell, from the way he shifts against him, that he’s about to take Chase up on that offer, even if it wasn’t meant for him.

And when that happens, there’ll be no peace anymore because Chase and Caleb have never really figured out how to fuck without turning it into a fight, all teeth and nails and angry swearing.

Pogue pats at whatever piece of person is under his hand and sits up, drawling, “You should get on that,” and slips off the end of the sofa. As he stands, Cal is already rolling toward the second oldest Son and yeah, Ty and Reed are fully at it.

Pogue still isn’t feeling it.

He follows their girl instead, picking up a t-shirt as he goes, finding one of Reed’s ‘ironic’ flannels thrown over a chair and taking that, too. He keeps the t-shirt, throws the button-up toward Buffy, who is fiddling with the filter and the grounds. She catches it and slips it on, not buttoning it up before giving up and just pouring coffee grounds into the machine like she intends to make rocket fuel.

He quickly takes the can from her before she kills them all. The slayer likes her coffee strong enough for the spoon to stand upright in it. The rest of them enjoy living a bit too much to drink that.

“Whoa, chill,” he tells her as he puts the lid back on and places it out of reach. “No-one wants to die.”

“Coffee,” she mutters, plaintively, dancing from one socked foot to the other, obviously cold. He grabs her around the waist and hitches her up onto the counter before turning on the machine. It gurgles to life as she hooks a heel behind his thigh, drawing him back in.

She doesn’t try to join in on the generally amorous mood everyone else seems to be in, but simply wraps him up in a snug hug. He leans into her, feeling wretched and trying not to listen to the sounds of four healthy males having vigorous morning sex behind him.

Even when he’s not into it, he usually doesn’t mind it when they go for it, but sometimes, when he’s really down, he just… doesn’t want to be around sex. It makes his skin crawl.

Laura never believed it when he told her that occasionally, sex really grosses him out.

“With the way you look? No way.” Because being physically attractive automatically gives you a high sex drive. After a while, that argument turned into her thinking he’d fucked himself out with someone else. His inexplicable – to her – closeness to the other Sons and single Daughter was a clear indicator of guilt.

In hindsight, it’s a miracle they lasted ten months.

In hindsight, he should have broken up with her the first time she told him not wanting sex was dumb.

In direct contrast to his newly minted ex-girlfriend, Buffy snuffles into his hair and then tells him, “You know what, screw this den of iniquity. I want waffles. You up for it?”

For the first time since last night, his smile feels real. He presses a brief kiss to her cheek, nodding. “Shower first?”

“Yeah, definitely.”

He helps her off the counter and they climb the stairs hand in hand, Buffy calling back, “Coffee’s on, jerks!”

Her answer is a breathy moan followed by a curse.

“We have lovely friends,” Pogue decides and when she tries to dislodge her hand to take a turn into her room and the attached bathroom, he holds on tighter, feeling like a little child unwilling to let go of a stuffed toy.

She gets it though, because she bumps their shoulders together, following him wordlessly into the bathroom he shares with Chase. He turns on the water, they strip and climb in together, making quick work of rinsing off, holding each other’s hair out of the way in a manner that never fails to make Reed cackle and call them girly bitches.

Buffy usually smacks him at that point. Once they’re done, they split briefly to dress and brush their teeth.

Pogue, dressed in jeans and a hoodie, drops onto Buffy’s bed as he waits for her to finish up. She reappears in her own pants and Reed’s shirt, knotted at her waistband, dragging her hair into a topknot and throwing him a hair-tie while she’s at it.

They’ll match.

Moments later, they clatter out the front door to the porn soundtrack from the living room and onto his bike in the driveway.

The diner they head to is on the other side of town, but it has the best damn breakfast menu within a hundred miles and it’s where they’ve gone for the past three years of their college careers.

Pogue knows every single waitress there by name and has had his cheeks pinched by all of them. And not always the ones on his face. Buffy saves him from Mable today, interfering to brush a kiss along the aging woman’s cheek as she waves them toward their usual booth in the back, asking where they rest of the boys is.

“Sleeping off last night,” Buffy winks at her

Mable laughs. “Off you go, I’ll bring you coffee once the fresh pot’s done.”

They go, settling back into each other’s space immediately. Unless some bitchy girlfriend is pointing it out to him, Pogue never notices it. Apart from the three years Buffy was gone, they have all been like this all their lives.

They shared diapers and pacifiers, toys and school books. Later they shared their Power, their Use, their bodies. It’s all one in the same. It’s Covenant.

It’s their normal, until someone points and tells them how abnormal it really is.

Buffy leans her head on his shoulder, playing with his fingers in her lap. “Wanna talk about it?”

He didn’t, last night. He accepted the shot Chase handed him and didn’t stop until it didn’t ache anymore.

“What’s to talk about? I’m cheating on her. Obviously.”

“That sucks. I’m sorry.”

He shrugs, careful not to dislodge her. “Don’t. It’s… whatever. I was going through the motions anyway.”

The way she doesn’t argue tells him he wasn’t too good at hiding it either.

“Your dad’s been making noise again, hasn’t he?”

Parry Sr. wants a Covenant heir before he finally bites it, burnt-out and dying at forty-four. He wants to know the legacy is being carried on.

Pogue, who has watched all their fathers burn and all their mothers hate them, who is the last scion of a dynasty of great and broken families, feels bile curdle in his stomach at the thought of it.

Just then, the door jingles merrily and in steps – Laura.

He made a mistake in introducing her to his favorite diner. Clearly. Buffy immediately goes smack-a-ho tense. Pogue pats her thigh and meets his ex’s laser glare across the room.

She hikes up one perfectly sculpted black eyebrow, giving a pointed look toward the girl snuggled into his side. See?

He rolls his eyes at her because, god, he is so done with this shit. So. Fucking. Done. He’s not even mad. Just... whatever. Let her think what she wants, she obviously already does. And it’s not like he cares.

Mable comes ambling over just then, filling their cups with her usual chit-chat, either not noticing Laura, who she met a couple of times, or ignoring her. One of the other waitresses seats her and her friend, someone Pogue has never met, at the far side of the room. Out of sight.

“I could punch her,” Buffy offers when Mable has gone.

“Nah.”

“I could make spiders nest in every bed she ever sleeps in for the rest of her life.”

She would, too.

“Nah. Don’t bother. Just lemme eat my weight in waffles.”

“We’ll be here a while, then,” she jokes, and lets him be.

His order makes a valiant attempt at proving her right. Even Mable looks impressed as she takes it down. Tyler might have Used away the pain of the hangover, but the booze is still in their systems. It needs something to soak it up. Besides, Pogue has always been a stress eater.

It’s why he needs to work out so damn much.

They’re almost through the first batch of waffles he ordered when the door goes again and a familiar surge of brimstoneashespower blows in, followed by Reed and then the other three.

The blond Son plops down on Buffy’s free side, tugging on the tail of her knotted shirt. “I wondered where that went.”

She shrugs. He steals half her waffle straight from her plate.

Ty, dropping down next to him, makes an apologetic face without even looking down to see what Reed’s actually doing. They are such an old married couple, it’s ridiculous. The rest of the crew sits down on the chairs at the far end of the table, closing the circle. Chase steals Pogue’s cooling coffee then grimaces at the lack of sugar and starts doctoring it to his preference without so much as a by-your-leave. Because he’s an asshole.

Caleb leans back in his seat, arms crossed over his chest. “We saw Laura coming in,” he offers, almost conversationally.

“Free country,” Pogue returns, shrugging.

Caleb relaxes, helped along by Mable’s magical ability to know when coffee is needed. She’s even nice enough to top up Chase’s stolen cup. As if they didn’t drain the pot Buffy left them before coming here.

Another round of orders happens and as they all wait for their food, Pogue leans back and watches his friends. Tyler and Reed are leaning into each other, Buffy is still playing with his hand under the table and Chase and Caleb are arguing about something, jostling each other.

Do they look like three couples? Or a group of six friends?

Both are wrong.

Because Tyler and Reed are the couple to end all couples, but they have taken everyone else to bed more than once. Buffy and Caleb look like a couple to most outsiders because they are each other’s default date and do a lot of cute, vanilla things together. Chase and Caleb have a lot of athletic, competitive sex and also work out together a lot. They’re on the swim team, still.

Chase is the only one Reed has slept with alone. They have the same taste in movies. Tyler and Caleb have the same taste in books. Caleb and Pogue tend to fall into bed with each other when they want it easy. Buffy fucks Chase when she’s fresh off a hunt and angry and Pogue has only ever slept with Chase twice but will, sometimes, make out with him.

Chase, Reed and Pogue like to tool around on their rides together and Caleb, Tyler and Chase like to take up the living room with their PS4 and their games for entire weekends at a time. Reed and Caleb are Buffy’s clubbing partners. Ty and Pogue are snuggle partners. Buffy and Pogue like to just hang out, running errands together or vegging out together. Chase and Buffy go shopping a lot and drag any of them along for amusement.

Anyone not Covenant would need a color-coded chart at the very least to figure out even half of this.

There’s six people here but dozens of different relationships between them. He has a partner in crime for basically anything he likes or might want to do and the fact that he rarely wants to have sex doesn’t bother anyone because a) they’re considerate like that and b) if he kicks them out of bed, they just find another one to crawl into.

The only thing he can’t get from these people, the other five parts of himself is –

“I’m not having kids.”

Because for all that they’re happy, they’re also fucked up. The oldest of them isn’t quite twenty-two yet, but they all look well over their mid-twenties, burnt up by the Power. Chase and Buffy wake themselves screaming with nightmares at least once a week and Tyler’s little sister hates him because he once lost control when he was angry and almost killed her. All their mothers look at them with cold eyes and all their fathers with hungry ones.

They’re going to die before their time, Used up and broken and full of hate and hunger and they will never be normal, or balanced or even human. They will always Use, will always have infinite Power at the tips of their fingers and infinite corruption with it, will always want it and burn everything else for it.

Because they’re broken, all of them, and Pogue loves them, he does, but he’s fully aware that love doesn’t justify passing all the bad things on to a new, innocent generation. Doesn’t justify dragging some poor girl into it and ruining her life the way all their fathers have ruined their mothers’.

“I’m not having kids,” he repeats, resolute and doesn’t realize he interrupted something Reed was saying until the other man lowers his hand mid-gesture and leans back.

He shrugs. “Thank you for that information. Neither are Ty and me, for obvious reasons.”

Obvious reasons being them being very, very gay. Pogue is ninety-nine percent certain Buffy is the only girl either of them have ever fucked, Reed’s incessant flirting notwithstanding.

“Surrogate?” Cal suggests, mostly, Pogue thinks, for the sake of completion.

Both of them shake their heads. Reed holds out his hand, palm down, demonstrating the slight tremor running through it. It’s been less than two hours since Tyler Used for them all and already he’s shaking again.

Hungry. Pogue blinks, once, to hide the black of his eyes and all the cracks in the aging ceiling above their heads are gone.

Reed relaxes.

Point made.

Buffy shrugs into Pogue’s side, then points to her midriff. “These hips are made for kicking ass and shaking booty. Not bearing children. So, yeah. I’m on the no kids train.”

She says it in a very duh tone of voice.

Chase shrugs, too. “Is this turning into a pact? Are we making a covenant?” He waggles his eyebrows suggestively. Caleb helpfully smacks him. “Ouch! What, it’s true! You know I’m in!”

Because Chase has never had a relationship outside the Covenant at all and when he goes out to find a one-night-stand he buys condoms in bulk. He also has no qualms driving the girls to the pharmacy the next morning to get them a Plan B if necessary. He’s not going to father a child and then disappear the way his own father apparently did.

Five sets of eyes turn to Caleb. If anyone wants normal, wants a picket fence and a wife and kids, it’s Cal. He’s always been the one clinging to a regular, boring life the most. The one who closed his eyes and dreamed all the hellfire bullshit away.

But he just nods, after a long pause. “Let it die with us,” he decides, and it feels like its own kind of magic. A decree. A spell.

Let it die with them.

Let all the Power that has no real use anymore, all the hunger and addiction that goes with it, all the loss and heartache, die.

Better yet, let it burn.

Twenty, maybe thirty more years and they’ll all be dead and this goddamn curse with them. The end of the Covenant.

It feels right. The Power served a purpose once, but it’s been centuries since then. They’re something vestigial, something evolution forgot as it moved humanity along. Unnecessary. Outdated.

Superfluous.

Slowly, Pogue feels something inside of him unwind, something he wasn’t even aware was coiled tightly all this time. Something that whispers, insidiously, now they have no reason to leave you anymore.

Because he’s not fool enough to think that their fathers weren’t just like this, once upon a time, before they found wives and had kids and stopped touching each other and living in each other’s pockets and being Covenant with all the dirtybadwrong that implies.

And maybe he’s being selfish, but Laura was the third in a series of identical breakups and it drove home a point. Finally.

He raises his coffee cup, declares, “To not having kids,” and the others all join in with exaggerated pomp before drinking and immediately bitching about it still being too hot.

Tyler slips a little closer on the bench seat, slithering over his boyfriend and slinging an arm over Buffy and around him. “Hey, man, you okay? We might have been a little rude this morning.”

Reed helpfully demonstrates how little by squishing his thumb and forefinger together and squinting at it.

“It’s fine. I found something else to do, didn’t I?”

Because they have never been careful of anyone’s sensibilities and he doesn’t want them to start on his account. They have a rule, all of them. If everyone’s okay with it, you join in. If they’re not, you don’t. And if you don’t want to see or hear it, you leave.

Pogue leaves a lot more than the rest of them, except maybe Buffy, who rolls her eyes at boys being boys quite a lot, but that’s the way it’s always been. It’s fine.

Everything’s fine.

He has his family right here, the only five people in the world who ever can and will matter to him and he doesn’t want or need anyone else. Not Laura, or any of the girls who came before her.

“Why do I get the feeling I’m the something in that sentence?” Buffy complains, waving a finger, mock-threatening.

“Might be the waffles,” Caleb helpfully offers, pointedly forking some of Pogue’s onto his own eggs and bacon plate. As he stretches to get a second helping, Chase smoothly steals the first one right off his plate, hiding it among his own waffles.

By the time Caleb notices his plate is, once more, waffle free, the other Son is grinning angelically and chewing loudly.

Tyler snorts OJ out his nose and starts making dying whale noises. Reed helpfully whacks him and Buffy laughs and Pogue sits in the middle of all of it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

At the far end of the room, he can see Laura getting up to leave with her friend, sending him a venomous glare. He doesn’t even care anymore. It’s Covenant cruelty bleeding through, their inability to care for anything but the Power and those that house it, but now… now they’ve decided to let it die with them.

He doesn’t have to try anymore. Doesn’t have to pretend anymore.

He gives a distant, polite smile and a nod. It feels like closure, at least on his part.

Then Buffy leans across his field of vision and by the time she shifts back, Laura is gone.

It’s just as well. He goes back to his waffles, letting one of Reed’s rants wash over him, nudging his feet against at least three other under the table and getting nudged back in return.

“So, hey,” Caleb asks, “who wants to head out to the lake later?”

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