Chapter 1: Through the Gates
It had been Credence's idea to wait for the new tutor in the long abandoned gatehouse--the very first place from which they would see the carriage arriving. They were kneeling side by side on a low bench below the window directly above the driveway of Willow Vale Hall.
"He will be another stodgy old fellow, if we are lucky," Reverence said with a resigned sigh, plucking a piece of lint off the sleeve of his frock coat. "You know how mama is--was, I mean," he quickly corrected himself.
Credence, whose eyes were fixed on the drive, murmured, "Perhaps this one will be better, and less strange."
"How can you be a Barebone and yet always be hopeful?"
Credence faced his twin with a gentle smile. "Perhaps that is why. What has there ever been for us but hope? Besides… these days, can we not learn to be a little more hopeful?"
Reverence nudged him lightly, making an effort to cheer up to please his brother. "I suppose so. Meanwhile, we always have each other." He stroked his hand up and down the centre of Credence's chest, and his hand was grasped and held.
"I know, Reverence. I know." Credence leaned against him, head on his shoulder. He swiped at the old cracked window, which was yellowed and half-blind with age, pulling a face when his fingers came away dirty. "He should be here soon. The train was due at the station half an hour ago." A frown twisted the usually smooth space between his brows.
Reverence looked at him closely. "Are you worried? That he will be like our last tutor? Or even… even the one before?" When Credence just looked at him, he said, quite fiercely, "I won't let him be mean to you. And with mother gone, we will not have to keep him if he proves unsuitable. Besides, we are nearly ready to go to university."
Credence smiled. "What would I do without my protector?"
The fierce features relaxed at once, and a soft smile played about Reverence’s lips. "You need never find out. I shall never leave you, darling brother."
Credence looked at him tenderly and moved to hug him, and Reverence's arms closed around him tightly. They knelt like that for a few minutes and nearly missed the clatter of hooves and the rattling of the wheels as the estate's clarence rolled down the driveway, heading for the open gate.
"Oh, he is here!" Credence exclaimed, extricating himself from his twin’s arms. He looked equal parts anxious and excited--like a child faced with a gift as yet wrapped, knowing it would contain something new and interesting, but not whether it would be a thing that would please him.
Reverence took his hand and squeezed it comfortingly. Then he pulled him down the stairs and out the door opening onto the drive.
The carriage halted the moment they appeared, with Newt Scamander--the coachman and stable-hand--calming the horses and smiling down at the two boys. "Well, well… Have you come to greet your new tutor?" he asked, with a long accustomed familiarity which no longer needed to be hidden from the stern mistress of the house. In his late twenties, he was scarcely ten years their senior, and they treated him more like an older brother than a servant.
"Quite right, Newt." Reverence grinned at him and opened the carriage. He tried to peer inside but, as he stood out in the sun and the interior was dark, he could merely squint at the vague outline of a man.
"Good afternoon," the man said.
At the sound of his voice—warm and pleasant, and with a gentle Irish lilt—Credence walked up next to his twin, trying to peer past him while shielding his eyes.
"Good afternoon, sir," Reverence said cautiously. When the man shifted along the seat and his face came into view, the boy raised his brows in stunned surprise; his twin, beside him, gasped softly. "I… I am Reverence Barebone,” he managed to say. “This is my brother Credence."
The man began to emerge, one leg extended as if to step outside the carriage, his foot on the running board, but Reverence still stood too close, so he remained half in, half out. His black travelling cloak fell over the straightened knee, and a gloved hand held onto the open door. He smiled at them a little awkwardly, but out of a very handsome face with warm brown eyes and heavy brows and framed by neat black hair.
"Percival Graves. It is a pleasure to meet you both." He bowed a little, and nearly overbalanced and tipped out of the carriage.
Reverence suppressed a good-natured snort of laughter, but Credence moved forward to steady the new arrival by the arm he could reach.
"Do be careful, sir, don't fall."
Reverence watched his brother's expression, and the way he fussed as he assisted the man back inside, and smiled. "Newt, we shall ride in the carriage with Mr Graves the rest of the way to the house."
Newt acknowledged him by tipping his cap, and Reverence gave Credence a nudge up into the carriage before following him. He sat opposite his brother and the new tutor and settled in to get a closer, if not a much clearer, look at the man in the half-dark interior.
"It was very kind of you both to meet me part of the way," the man told them.
"We were curious about you, Mr Graves," said Reverence.
At the exact same moment, Credence said, "We wanted to make you feel welcome."
Mr Graves laughed softly. "I see you are the kinds of twins who speak as one."
Credence smiled, while Reverence nodded. "Sometimes. We don't always say the same thing, but we do feel the same way. About most things."
"About all things!" Credence protested.
"Well, I suppose so..." Reverence smiled across at him. "Credence feels them first. He is more sensitive than I am."
Credence ducked his head. When he noticed Mr Graves looking at him, he said, "We were both curious, but we also wanted to make you feel welcome, sir."
"You are very diplomatic,” the man said, clearly amused. "I do feel welcome, but I can only hope I will not be too much of a disappointment."
Reverence opened his mouth, but Credence was already rushing to reassure Mr Graves. "Not at all, sir! The very opposite--" He went silent and sat back, suddenly finding the view out of the carriage window absolutely fascinating.
Suppressing a smirk, Reverence said, somewhat more neutrally, "You are not at all what we were expecting, sir."
"Oh dear." Mr Graves seemed unsettled by this. "May I ask what you were expecting?"
"Someone ancient and creaky and quite mad, to be perfectly honest, and horridly unfair," Reverence told him without hesitation. He held the man’s eyes boldly, as if to challenge him to chastise his choice of words.
“Reverence!” Credence looked at him in shock. “That’s unkind.”
“Well, those are the nicest things I can say about old Dumbledore.”
“I know he was… odd, but still…” Credence fidgeted.
Mr Graves looked back and forth between them. “Your previous tutor?” he asked, and they both nodded.
“Mama sent him packing after cook found him stealing all the sweets,” Reverence stated gleefully.
A stifled laugh from Mr Graves made Credence giggle. Reverence smiled as he continued, “So then she sent for a replacement: you, sir. She did not tell us much before she went to the continent, except your name, and when we were to expect you. And then… well, then she was run down by a carriage in Rome.”
Mr Graves leaned forward, speaking gently to both of them, “I only heard about your unfortunate mother’s accident immediately before I left London. I am very sorry for your loss.”
“It was no loss at all,” Reverence stated simply and unemotionally.
Mr Graves looked shocked and turned to Credence with a frown, but even the sensitive, quiet boy beside him had nothing less damning to say. In fact, he said nothing at all and would not quite meet his eyes. Never having spoken to the woman himself, and only having glimpsed her letter at the agency, Mr Graves could make no case for her. Yet he wondered very much what kind of mother it would take for her loss to inspire no grief in her two sons--boys who seemed pleasant and kind-hearted.
“You must not think us heartless, sir,” Credence said at last, sensing the man’s discomfort precisely and sounding worried. “In time, you may hear about her ways and understand.” Reverence nodded, reaching a hand across the space to squeeze his brother’s knee; Credence covered his hand gratefully, and they shared a sad smile.
Mr Graves watched the tender exchange and said gently, “I do not think you heartless, boys, rest assured, nor would I judge that which I know nothing about.” When they both looked at him in surprise, he added, “It matters not who arranged my employment here. My responsibility is to you, Credence and Reverence, and I promise to be the best tutor and confidant I can be to you both.” When the twins smiled at him, visibly relieved, he added mischievously, “I also promise not to help meself to any sweets not freely offered.”
At this, Reverence burst out laughing. Credence did as well but, noticed only by his brother’s sharp eyes, he also blushed a little.
Drawing up to the front entrance of Willow Vale Hall, Newt Scamander listened to the laughter from inside the carriage with absolute astonishment. He could not recall the young gentlemen laughing so gaily in company except perhaps each other’s, not even with the household staff with whom they got along so well. Then again, he thought, when the matriarch of the family had been alive, there had been little to be joyful about.
Reverence and Credence Barebone were tall and slender, with a grace and delicate beauty one might expect of fairy princes. Their identical dark manes of wavy, chin length hair played around faces so perfect, they quite defied mere words, seeming to need poetry or song to do them any justice at all. Yet in attitude, their identical features differed: where Credence’s whole demeanour was sweet and shy and utterly endearing, Reverence had a kind of elfin mischief to him which might well lend itself to fierceness--given the right circumstances. For all that, it was clear they adored each other, and that their hearts were pure and kind.
Percival Graves only managed to shake off his reverie when he perceived they were examining him with equal intensity. It would not do to blush under the gaze of two youths, not when he was just over twice their age. He swallowed hard. “You do look astonishingly alike, except, of course…” He smiled at Credence, who adjusted his small oval-rimmed spectacles a little self-consciously.
“I am cursed with these, alas,” Credence said.
“Cursed?” Mr Graves sounded stunned.
Reverence sighed. “I fear it is no use, Mr Graves. Credence is fully convinced they make him appear ugly, rather than to merely mark him as the more well-read of us two.” It was clear this was an old and playful disagreement between them when Credence smiled at him fondly.
“Well, I certainly hope it is no curse,” said Mr Graves, reaching into the side pocket of his carpet bag for a pair of round spectacles. He placed them on his nose and blinked at the surprised boys.
“Oh,” Credence said softly, his lips curving into a slow, sweet smile. He parted them to speak, but stopped himself.
“I shall be the odd one out.” Reverence shrugged. “Or perhaps, I will need to spend more time in the library.”
Mr Graves nodded. “I promise to give you plentiful reading assignments.”
Credence laughed when Reverence groaned at this. “Dear Reverence, soon you will share in our curse. Are you not pleased?”
“Ecstatically so,” Reverence said, nudging his brother affectionately. He saw the way their tutor watched them and urged, “Do tell him, Mr Graves, that his spectacles do not ruin his beauty. After all, your eyeglasses only further enhance your features.”
“Reverence, you cannot say things like that,” Credence whispered, looking around scandalised, as though expecting the entire nearby village to assemble on the premises, but his twin looked unrepentant.
Mr Graves appeared a little embarrassed himself, but pleased as well. “You are too kind, Reverence.” He looked at Credence then for a long moment, as if weighing his words carefully. “Credence, you have nothing to fear. I doubt anything in the world could make you ugly.”
Credence met the brown eyes in astonishment. There were spots of bright colour high up on his cheeks. “Thank you, sir.” He returned the man’s smile, and they held each other’s gaze until Newt’s voice snapped them back to reality.
“Shall I take Mr Graves’ luggage to his room?” he asked cheerfully.
Reverence nodded. “Yes, Newt. The Teal Room in the East Wing has been prepared for him. Your wife can direct you there.”
“Very good, Mister Reverence.”
Reverence frowned at him. “Just Reverence, Newt, I have told you before. You know my brother and I do not care for formality.”
The coachman nodded and smiled. “If you are certain, Reverence.”
“I am!” He turned from Newt, who was assessing the luggage, and watched Mr Graves step towards the coachman.
“Would you like my assistance?” Mr Graves asked, unsure as to the staff complement of the house, now the mistress was dead.
Newt shook his head. “Oh no, sir, that will not be necessary. The footman will help.”
Credence stood staring at Mr Graves. “You really are quite unlike our former tutors, Mr Graves.”
“I should say so.” Reverence flung an arm over his twin’s shoulder, and started them walking towards the main doors. “And a good thing it is.”
Mr Graves looked so pleased and distracted, he almost missed the first of the stone steps leading to the main doors. It was when he caught himself that he took his first proper look up at the façade of the house. “Your home is rather beautiful,” he said, stopping to let his eyes move across the ancient stones and up to the wide turret on which a small bevy of doves was perched. “Not many of the moated medieval houses are in such a good state.”
Reverence laughed. “You have only seen the outside so far. Mama was big on appearances. I fear you shan’t like the place so well, once you find yourself freezing even in front of a roaring fireplace, sir.”
This appeared to make Mr Graves somewhat uncomfortable, in opposition to his next words. “I have a lot of natural body heat. I expect I shall be fine.”
“Oh, you are lucky, sir,” Credence said, pressing closer to his twin, whose arm tightened around his shoulder. “Reverence and I are always too cold.” They continued inside.
Mr Graves followed them into the main hall, looking troubled. “I am sorry to hear that. Tell me, who administers the estate, now that your mother is dead? You are both 18, are you not?”
Reverence groaned. “Yes. Our family lawyer is our court-appointed guardian until we can take over the managing of the estate at 21.” When Mr Graves raised his impressive brows, he explained, “Abernathy is a useless, weak-willed man. I do not know why mama ever thought him a good choice. We are simply grateful he has no interest in making himself at home here or having much to do with us.” He laughed. “He looked as though he could not choose between annoyance and relief, when he found out mama had engaged a new tutor for us before her death.”
Tucking away the information about this possible annoyance at his presence, and feeling vaguely troubled by it, Mr Graves placed his bag on the floor and said sympathetically. “Well, with luck, he will consider himself relieved of the duty of caring for you and leave that to me. I will have to meet with him soon, however, to discuss the details of my engagement, and I shall find out if the hall cannot be made more… comfortable.”
With a sigh of relief, Credence said, “Would you try, Mr Graves? I doubt there is much to be done about the draughts, but I feel better knowing we will not have to deal with Mr Abernathy more than necessary.”
Reverence nodded. “I agree.”
Mr Graves gave them a reassuring smile. “I will do my very best, I promise.” He placed a gentle hand on each boy’s shoulder and gasped. It took a moment before he found words. “You are… you do feel chilly, even fully clothed and on a warm late summer’s day.” Frowning, he quickly dropped his hands. “We have only now entered the building.”
Reverence shrugged. “I expect it’s because we have forgotten how to be warm.” As if in confirmation of his words, his twin shivered against him.
Muttering words of sympathy and making a monumental effort to suppress the urge to wrap them both in his arms--an entirely inappropriate and potentially disastrous gesture--Mr Graves quickly lifted his carpet bag once more, and the boys took it as a sign that he wished to be shown to his room.
He followed them up the main staircase, which split in two on the first landing; they followed the right branch up and walked down a narrow corridor of uneven, creaking wood. The space was like a tunnel, dim with lack of lighting. It was brightened only by the ghostly pallor of the faces watching their progress suspiciously from within ancestral portraits.
Percival Graves resolved to keep his eyes always fixed ahead when passing this way, lest they should discover his shameful and carefully suppressed secret.
The boys stopped so suddenly before a door on the right, he bumped into Credence. Stepping back with an apology on his lips, he watched the boy’s face turn to him, and his silent apology was acknowledged with an equally silent smile. It was a smile so gentle and beautiful, he had to keep his left hand busy curling it around the edge of a narrow hall table; the temptation to trace the rosy lips with his fingers was nearly unbearable.
“Are you well, Mr Graves?” Reverence asked once the door had been opened and light from the window opposite fell on the shocked face of their tutor.
“I… yes, I am.” Mr Graves struggled to smile at them both as neutrally as possible. He followed them into the comfortably furnished room. Absently, he noted that the justification for its being the Teal Room were a teal bedspread and matching canopy above the mahogany four poster and a patterned teal wallpaper.
“This is a very nice room, thank you,” he said politely, even while his mind was racing. It went, in the time it took Credence to check on the vase of hyacinths on the desk, and Reverence to open the window facing the drive, through a range of thoughts: They ran the gamut of how utterly foolish he had been to take this position to how much the Barebone twins clearly needed someone to look after them. The result of his thought process was that he could not consider his own comfort over their needs, and there was simply nothing to be done about that. He would cope as best he could, with the means available to him.
“Sir…” Credence, who had watched him as his eyes had moved around the room unseeing, stepped close to him beside the bed. “Are you sure you are not ill? You look badly shaken.”
Reverence too moved closer, both elegant hands wrapped around one of the bed posts as he gazed at him, sweeping brows drawn together in touching concern.
Putting an extra step between himself and Credence, who stood much too close for comfort, Mr Graves gave them both a tremulous smile. “I assure you, I am perfectly well.” He patted his stomach. “Though I must admit, I neglected to have lunch on the train… very silly of me, I know. The lack of food is making itself known.”
“That is all?” Credence almost whispered, dark brown eyes soft and concerned and somewhat disbelieving.
“That is all,” Mr Graves lied, with the greatest reluctance.
Chapter 2: Under the Cherry Tree
Mercifully, it was just when the atmosphere in Graves’ room felt most charged that a knock sounded on the door, followed by a dark-haired young woman entering. “Good afternoon,” she said, sounding friendly but a little stiff. “You must be Mr Graves.” When Graves confirmed this, she said, “I am the housekeeper--Mrs Scamander.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Scamander.”
Her husband, accompanied by a footman and Graves’ large trunk, bustled into the room behind her. He gave Graves a friendly smile. “Here at the foot of the bed all right, Mr Graves, sir?”
“That will be just fine, Mr Scamander, thank you.”
“Porpentina, Mr Graves is used to an earlier lunch, and he has not yet eaten. Please arrange for us to have it half an hour earlier from now on--at midday,” Reverence told the housekeeper.
She looked vaguely uncomfortable, either on account of the informality or the change of routine, but nodded. “I will tell cook.”
“We shall take lunch on the terrace,” Reverence instructed. “Mr Graves might as well get used to the chill indoors slowly, rather than all at once.”
She acknowledged this and went on her way, along with the two men.
Mr Graves had, thankfully, regained his equilibrium by this point. “You are very considerate, Reverence, but there is no need to rearrange anything about the household for my sake.”
“Oh yes, there is, sir. You are part of this household now.” Reverence gave him a slow, almost teasing, smile which was as charming as it was unsettling.
“I… well, I suppose I am at that.”
Credence asked solicitously, “Will you find your way back to the main hall, Mr Graves? We’ll wait there for you, once you have settled in.”
“Certainly, Credence. Thank you so much.”
The boys left Graves to his own devices.
The moment the door closed behind them, he took a deep breath and sat down on the bed, allowing himself a few precious, if dangerous, moments of enjoyment of the way the two boys’ lingering scents infused the air of his room. And, in fact, his very being.
By comparison to them, the other members of the household had entered and left the room with no impact on his own senses. And, had he been wise enough to avoid all touch, perhaps he could have remained oblivious of their nature for a little longer.
As it was, his suppressants and the next dose of laudanum would have to dull his perception once more, no matter how unpalatable he found the thought of intentionally closing himself off from their allure.
He chided himself silently, cursing his luck. That of all possible positions, he should have accepted this one; and that of all possible charges to be placed in his care, it should be these two… the most tempting, innocent, untouched omegas he had ever been near. He doubted they had even the faintest idea what they were. What they could, and would become, any time soon--as surely as the sun rose at dawn and the moon at nightfall.
A guttural sound of pure need rose in his throat, and he became aware he was holding the bedspread clenched between white-knuckled fingers.
There was a soft knock on the door then, and he would have pretended to be napping or to have left the room, considering he knew well who was outside. Neither was an option, as the door was unlocked, and he had only been alone for a few minutes.
“Mr Graves, may I please come in?”
He sighed, unclenching his fingers with an effort. “Yes, Credence.”
There was a brief hesitation, following an almost inaudible gasp. Then the door opened, and Credence walked in, bearing a pitcher of water. “Sorry to disturb you again, sir. I thought you might wish to freshen up after your journey, and I could not recall whether there was water here.”
Mr Graves had risen and watched him in silence as he placed the full pitcher beside the other one already provided.
“Oh, I see there is.” Credence faced him, blushing.
Mr Graves could not suppress the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “There is indeed, but I thank you for your thoughtfulness.”
Credence looked very pleased. “You are most welcome, sir.” He seemed to consider leaving, but hesitated. “How did you know it was me at the door? It might have been Reverence; our voices are alike.”
Shaking his head, Mr Graves made sure not to mention anything… extraordinary about his perceptions. “Your voices are alike, but you do sound different, and I expect you knock on doors differently as well.”
Credence laughed softly at this. “You may be right, sir.” He still appeared indecisive about leaving. His gaze strayed to the vase of hyacinths he had taken an interest in earlier, and he went to it to seek out a fresh young sprig not yet fully in bloom. He clipped it off with his nails and walked up to Graves. He glanced at his lapels, then raised his eyes. “May I?”
Graves swallowed. He could not refuse, or put more distance between them, without appearing rude, or at least odd, so he nodded.
Credence carefully pulled the thin stem of the pale blue flower through Graves’ buttonhole, and then, quite unnecessarily, brushed his fingers over the fabric as though to smooth it out.
Graves, to distract himself from the boy’s scent, watched the slim fingers--especially pale against the dark wool--and then met the deep brown eyes gazing at him. The boy was his height, yet there was something so delicate and fragile about him, it made Graves painfully aware of every nuance of his suppressed protective instincts. “Thank you,” he said, attempting to sound detached but failing utterly.
“I…” Credence hesitated. “I am very glad you have come to Willlow Vale Hall, sir.” He quickly went on, “I cannot explain it, but I feel as though we need you here, very badly.”
“Credence…” Graves whispered, using all his willpower to resist the urge to cover the hand lingering against his chest.
Credence looked away briefly, then back again at once--his eyes fixed on Graves’ eyes as though he was deriving the strength for his next words directly from them. “Please, sir, do not think me... forward, but I feel… safer with you here. Reverence does as well, I can sense it. We feel each other’s emotions, my brother and I, and… I know it sounds very strange, but it is as though I know yours too. I… I am sorry, but I felt you should know.” With this, he suddenly stepped back and hurried to the door. “I will see you at lunch, sir.”
“Credence!” Mr Graves called after him but, perhaps mercifully, the boy had escaped from the room already, leaving his astonishing statements lingering in the air along with his sweet orange and honey scent--a scent Graves wanted to bathe in for the rest of his days.
He hurried to his trunk and snapped open the latches, extracting his small medicine bag with shaking hands. He set it down beside the pitcher and washbowl and took the bottle of suppressant capsules from it. He swallowed the maximum dosage allowed, washing it down with a diluted gulp of laudanum--the suppressant he took for the boys’ sake, the laudanum for his own. Then he refreshed himself and replaced the lavender-scented handkerchief he kept tucked into his breast pocket; it was an additional, likely futile, attempt to eclipse his alpha pheromones.
Then he stepped up to the window Reverence had opened for him earlier and, with closed eyes, took several deep gulps of the late summer air. It took a few minutes before the multitude of smells from the lush gardens outside could even begin to overpower the arousing scents left behind in his room--Credence’s was still strong, but even Reverence’s berry and cinnamon scent continued to linger.
When he opened his eyes again, they were at once drawn down towards the lawn, where Reverence stood gazing up at him with a strangely intense expression, as though willing him to notice he was there. The dark eyes seemed to look right into his soul. The boy’s gaze felt almost like a physical mass drifting up to him and entering his body by way of his breath.
Dear god, what had he done to himself by coming here? More importantly, what was he doing to them?
Having cited hunger as the reason for his distraction earlier in his room, Graves made an effort to eat heartily. Once he had begun, it became more pleasure than effort--the dishes had all been prepared to perfection, and the bread was the lightest, most flavourful he had ever tasted.
“You have an excellent cook,” he told the boys when they asked him how he liked the food.
The butler--a stout, cheerful looking man Credence and Reverence addressed as Jacob--beamed as if he himself had prepared lunch as well as to be the one serving it.
“May I pass on your compliment, sir?” he asked eagerly.
Credence hid his smile behind a large bread bun, and Reverence laughed. “Queenie is an absolute treasure. Every household within half a dozen counties has tried to poach her at one time or another, but for some reason…” he smirked at the butler, “she would never dream of leaving us.”
Jacob grew flustered and busied himself with topping up their glasses.
Once they were alone, and all but the carafe of cordial and platter of fruit had been cleared away, Reverence suggested they move to the wicker lounge chairs set up on the lawn adjoining the terrace. He carried a small side table there himself, while Credence carried the drinks tray. Graves took the fruit platter and joined them, taking the only chair left--the one between them.
He settled back with a relieved sigh. Sitting right in the garden provided any number of perfectly innocent sense impressions, with a multitude of flowers waving in the breeze and the shady cherry tree above them providing shade. He sipped from his cool glass and enjoyed his brief lassitude, knowing his duties would be catching up with him the following day.
“Mr Graves?” Credence had risen from his chair and stood beside his, holding out a selection of sliced pears and grapes. “Would you care for some fruit?”
“Thank you, Credence.” He sat up straight and reached up, but the boy unexpectedly knelt in the grass beside him and held the plate close to him.
Graves stared at him. “There is no… uh… no need to risk grass stains, Credence.”
“Quite right.” Reverence, who had risen without Graves’ notice, sat down on the other side of him, on the edge of Graves’ lounge chair. He plucked a grape off the plate and pushed it between his luscious lips. “Delicious,” he declared.
Credence beamed at his twin as though he himself had grown the grape. Then he nibbled on a pear slice and looked expectantly at Graves.
Graves reached for a grape, returning the hesitant smile from the boy. “I could get used to this,” he said, before he could stop himself, then quickly clarified, “to lazing about in the garden in the middle of the day, I mean. Tomorrow, some real work will need to be done.”
Credence pouted charmingly. “We could have lessons out here, could we not, sir?”
“The idea is tempting,” Graves mused, watching the way a grape was pierced by a sharp canine tooth, its sweet juice escaping and being lapped up by a pink tongue before it could drip on the boy’s cravat. Graves took a hasty sip of his drink.
“We could surely have nature lessons out here at the very least,” Reverence said, gazing thoughtfully up at the canopy of branches above. “The biology of plants. And humans also.”
“Hu-humans?” Graves croaked, deciding there had to be something amiss with a drink which made him thirstier the more he imbibed of it.
“We are both rather bad at biology,” Credence said in a confidential voice, “we will need a lot of help there.”
Graves set down his glass on the side table and primly tugged down his vest. “I feel certain we can fix any shortcomings easily enough. You are both intelligent boys.”
It was hard to tell which one of them lit up more brightly at the compliment, and Graves wondered whether no one had ever bothered to praise them before. “Tell me, what are your strongest subjects?” he asked encouragingly.
Reverence spoke, but it was not to point out his own strengths but Credence’s proficiency at music, poetry and languages. “He plays the harp so beautifully,” he said quite dreamily.
Credence blushed. “Not as well as you play the piano. And you understand mathematics and history so much better than I do.” To Graves, he added, “Reverence is much better at games than I am, as well. He is a fierce archer and swimmer, and I would not even dare to sit on his favourite horse inside the safety of the stables.”
Chuckling, Reverence held out another pear slice to his brother, whose pink lips parted. “Obscurus would never harm you, Credence.”
Graves watched them and gulped at the way Credence leaned across his outstretched legs to take the proffered treat from his twin’s fingers with his teeth, their eyes fixed on each other. There was no denying the way their respective scents intensified with proximity to each other as, unfortunately, did their effect on Graves himself. He stared at them in helpless wonder, not knowing whether they were at all aware of what any of it meant. There was something so innocent about their tender interactions, as though they were as comfortable with each other as with their own selves, if not more so.
When he realised they were looking at him with concern, Graves grappled for something suitable to say. “I look forward to hearing you both play music. As for the other subjects… we shall find out exactly where we stand tomorrow.”
“Mr Graves,” Credence began hesitantly. “Do you… do you use a rod or a belt?” He rubbed absently at his shoulder.
When Graves simply stared at him in confusion, Reverence clarified, “For punishment, sir.”
Graves’ eyes widened. “Good Lord!” he exclaimed. “Neither. Why on Earth would you think I might?”
“Oh.” Credence’s eyes were wide, but he seemed helpless to explain.
“Sir, do you mean to say you do not give out beatings for incorrect answers?” Reverence asked in confusion.
“Certainly not,” Graves said indignantly. He watched the astonished look they both exchanged and a cold chill ran down his back. “Oh, my dear boys…” His throat was tight with emotion. “Have you… were you… mistreated that way in the past? Why did your mother not put a stop to it?”
Their confusion appeared to increase at this, and Graves looked pleadingly between them for an answer.
“Sir,” Reverence finally said. “Our mother had our tutors report to her in detail and, if she felt their punishments were insufficient, she would… add to them.” His voice shook with a mix of long-standing and deeply rooted fear and hatred.
Graves shifted forward on his lounge chair until he could place both feet on the ground. He reached for Reverence’s forearm and wrapped his hand around the slender limb, which was cool through his shirt. Then he held out his other hand to Credence, who took it and rose to sit beside him as well. He did not take the time to question the wisdom of touching them both like this, feeling the way they trembled with remembered pain and loathing.
“I will never hurt you, and that is my promise. Never. And if anyone else should try, they will rue the day they were born.” He barely recognised his own voice nor, it seemed, did his charges, who looked at him in awe and astonishment.
“Dear Mr Graves,” Reverence said with unexpected softness, touching the hand covering his forearm.
Credence did not speak at all. He surged forward and clung to him, his head against Graves’ neck and both arms around his middle.
Graves was helpless against this sudden, unexpected show of affection. His arm tightened around the narrow shoulders, and he held the boy close, looking at Reverence in shock.
“Credence suffered most,” Reverence said sadly. “I tried…” He looked down as though in shame.
“He took so many of my punishments,” Credence murmured against Graves’ shoulder. “He even pretended to be me sometimes.”
Reverence’s voice was filled with self-loathing. “It was not enough. They should have all been mine.”
“Reverence…” Graves drew the other boy closer by his arm. “You are both astounding, remarkable and brave. I swear to you that you are safe now.” It was a promise he knew he could keep. Even with his continued use of suppressants around the boys, his true nature was something he could call upon as needed to protect them from the outside world, and he would not hesitate to do so if he should sense danger to either of them.
Reverence searched his eyes. He withdrew his hand to stroke over his brother’s upper back, but his eyes remained fixed on their tutor’s face. “You are a good man, Mr Graves.”
Graves hesitated only a moment before he cupped Reverence’s cheek, and the boy leaned into the touch at once, almost with force--he was like a cat, Graves thought, cautious but suddenly and selectively affectionate to the point of possessiveness.
Meanwhile, Credence had not moved from within his embrace and, once he realised the boy was inhaling his pheromones as though they were oxygen, it was already too late. The soft moan against his neck told him his suppressants were not enough to stand up to this strain. Nevertheless, he disentangled himself, giving them both embarrassed and regretful smiles.
“I am sorry, boys, but I fear I need to lie down for a short while.”
“Are you ill after all, Mr Graves?” Reverence asked, frowning. “If you wish for us to send for the local physician, please--”
“No, that will not be necessary.” He endeavoured to sound as reassuring as he could. “I suffer from a... blood disorder, but I have the necessary medications. Please, do not worry about me. I will be fine by this evening.”
Neither of them looked convinced. And Credence… Credence looked almost dazed; his eyes had darkened and his cheeks were flushed. “I want to help you to your room, sir,” he murmured.
Graves shook his head determinedly. “No, I can get there on my own. Please, stay here and enjoy the summer afternoon.” He rose shakily and left before they could say anything else.
He made it to his room with difficulty, his limbs trembling all the way and making the walk a challenge.
Once he was settled against the headrest of the bed, he shifted his bloodletting bowl into place beneath his forearm, using his scalpel with his right hand. Both his cut arm and the delicate instrument dripped his precious, but fevered, blood into the fine china.
This would work, the physicians had assured him. Bleeding would drain the excess heat of an oncoming rut from his system, and no one would ever need to know what he was: an alpha whose self-control was failing in the presence of two beautiful, unmated, and untouched, omegas who wanted him, even without knowing what he was. He could smell it on them, could hear it in their voices, see it in their eyes… if only he could stop his own fever before it truly took hold... they would, surely, once more be unaffected by him, once his presence became a habit and he was nothing more than their kind, meek tutor.
He let the blood drain into the bowl until he felt weak, and only then did he use the bandages. Yes, this would work. It had to! He set the bowl aside to deal with later, once he felt stronger, and lay down to sleep.
Chapter 3: The School Room
Graves woke on the verge of twilight. He disposed of the blood in the bowl and took a drink of water from a carafe which had kindly been provided for him. He planned to lie on the bed again for a few more moments, just to gather his strength before seeking out the dining room, for it was surely that time of the day soon. But as soon as his exhausted, weakened body sank down into the comfortable mattress again, he fell asleep once more.
At one point, he dreamed of a far away, hollow sound like a gigantic bell being struck, but there was no context, so he did not wake.
A knock on his door, however, roused him soon after, less due to any sound made but due to the way the presences entering the room affected him. He moaned softly, and a light gasp followed by a whisper edged him finally into awareness.
It was nearly entirely dark, the last of the summer sun sinking quickly below the horizon with a faint red-purple glow. A gentle breeze drifted in the open window, but it only stirred the new scents in the room and enveloped him within.
“I apologise,” he said weakly. “Am I late for dinner?”
A cool hand brushed the hair from his brow, making him shiver, and his tired eyes focussed on Credence’s concerned face. “Oh sir, when you did not come down after the gong, and no sound came from your room as we waited out in the hall, we worried.” He looked across the bed, to where Reverence stood, bearing a tray in his hands.
“Can you sit up, Mr Graves?” Reverence asked. “You need to eat, so we brought dinner to you.”
Credence leaned over him, moving his pillow higher against the headrest and holding him forward with a hand on his shoulder.
Graves was breathing hard. His face was so close to the long neck, and the sweetness of the boy’s scent was reviving him more than any food possibly could. Alas, it had an altogether different effect too and, once Credence leaned him back against the pillow, he gathered his duvet over his lap.
“Thank you, both,” he said. “I am certain the food will make me feel better. I did not mean to sleep so long.” He shifted a little when Reverence placed the tray across his lap and gave the boy a grateful look. “Please, do return to your dinner. I feel certain I will be well by tomorrow.”
Credence sat down beside him on the bed, and Reverence looked at Graves and shook his head. “No, sir, you are clearly not well, and we shan’t move from your side until you feel stronger.”
Vaguely, Graves thought that, very possibly, this would mean they might never move from his side. He pressed himself back against the pillow with effort.
Reverence went to open the window further, while Credence settled himself next to him, far too close.
“Queenie insists her chicken soup cures everything,” he told him so softly, it might have been a secret. Then he lifted the cover off the china bowl.
“I am not certain I can--” Graves started, having meant to say ‘eat anything’, but Credence had already drawn his own conclusions and reached for his spoon.
“Let me help, sir.”
It was too shameful and embarrassing--having a boy half his age feed him as though he was an invalid--but Graves was fully aware that, if he himself lifted the spoon filled with the deliciously hearty soup, his trembling would tip it and have him cover himself with food like an infant. Moreover, Credence’s too exciting proximity was, at the same time, also strangely calming, and he could do nothing when the slim hand lifted the first spoon of soup to his mouth. He simply did not have the will to avert his face or upset Credence with a refusal to be fed.
So he closed his mouth over the spoon, sipped the soup, and swallowed. “It’s wonderful,” he said honestly.
Credence smiled brightly, while Reverence was settling down at the foot on his bed, watching them.
The next spoonful was raised to his lips, and he took it gratefully. Perhaps the famous Queenie was onto something. He began to feel better already. The hearty dish warmed him and smelled strongly enough of the comforting scent of good food, spiced to perfection and rich in herbs, to almost overpower Credence’s scent. Almost.
When he noticed the way Credence watched his mouth as he fed him, licking his own lips with each sip of soup he ate, his brief food-induced calm was instantly in danger. He lunged at the next spoonful as though he was starving, moaning low in his throat when it touched his taste buds. He would have assumed an aphrodisiac had been added, but he was under no illusion that Credence’s nearness was what stirred his hunger.
The boy’s hand began to shake. With fear, Graves imagined, at his sudden near savage need for the next mouthful. He flushed with shame and lowered his eyes, murmuring an apology.
The weight of a hand on his calf through the duvet, and the light touch of fingertips along his shoulder, had him looking up, to see nothing but concern directed at him from both pairs of dark, cat-like eyes.
“Please, sir, you need to eat more.”
Credence’s soft coaxing grounded him again, and he parted his lips for the next spoonful, eating it in as civilised a fashion as he could muster.
“That is better.” The boy’s soft gaze was as much praise as his words.
Graves allowed himself to be fed until the bowl was empty, sitting back with a sigh as if just the process of swallowing liquid had exhausted him. He despised this effect of the bleeding, hoping only that the benefits would outweigh its inconvenience.
“Mr Graves…” Reverence, whose hand still lay on his leg, drew his attention. “Credence and I are concerned that, somehow, we are the cause of your illness.” Seeing the alarm on Graves’ face, he explained, “You appeared well when you arrived earlier, but each time we are near you, you seem to… suffer, somehow.”
Credence nodded and looked at Graves sadly. “Tell us if there is anything we can do to help, sir. Please.”
Graves’ heart contracted in his chest. He could not meet their earnest, worried eyes when he lied, “A mere coincidence, my boys, how could you possibly be at fault? It is simply a matter of timing. I have felt… weak before. It is a condition which comes and goes. Perhaps it is a little worse right now. I may have forgotten a dose of my medicines while travelling.” His fingers played absently over the duvet as he spoke, and he gasped when one hand was covered by Credence’s--still warm from holding the bowl of soup; warmer than his own, at that moment.
“So it does not distress you further when I touch you, sir?” the boy asked softly.
Graves found no words for a few, precious moments during which he closed his eyes and allowed the warmth to seep into his weakened flesh. He imagined himself being allowed to burrow into it. All his senses conspired to draw a picture in his mind of Credence--warm and willing in the throes of his first heat, lying beneath him and pleading for his touch, his kisses, his knot, his… bite. He fought to cover the groan rising in his chest with a carefully timed cough, but he could not have spoken at that moment for all the treasures in the world, so he merely shook his head and attempted to smile reassuringly.
Reverence moved up the bed then, his hip and thigh against Graves’ side. “Sir, will you tell us if… when there is something we can do for you?” With that, he covered Graves’ other hand, squeezing his fingers around it.
Graves went through all the pains of purgatory at that moment, with both of them in his dark room with him, on his bed, innocently sharing their warmth with him for comfort, even while his mind, now that he had begun to give it free rein, supplied him with images of all they could do for him, and he for them.
He called upon a strength of will he did not know he possessed, choosing his words with great care. “You are too kind, both of you, but I beg of you, do not worry about me.” He smiled laboriously. “You shall see, I will be back to normal when we start our lessons tomorrow.” He said, with an enthusiastic cheer he did not feel, “Eight o’clock sharp.”
They exchanged a glance, and it was clear they were not fooled nor reassured.
“Do you wish us to leave, sir, so you can sleep?” Reverence asked, while Credence looked at him as though he wanted nothing more than to stay.
“I believe that would be best.” As soon as the tray had been taken off his lap, Graves gave an exaggerated yawn. “We should all get a good sleep before the start of lessons, do you not agree?”
Nodding, even while looking unconvinced, they hovered by his bedside.
“Good night, Mr Graves.” Credence held onto a corner of his duvet with two fingers, as if reluctant to let go.
Graves smiled. “Good night, Credence. Good night, Reverence. Thank you for the soup; it was delicious. And thank you for your thoughtfulness.”
It took a long, deep sleep, followed by a breakfast brought to him on a tray by a maid--on the twins’ orders--but, by morning, Percival Graves felt in control of his body, and his mind, once more. He also felt extremely embarrassed about the previous evening and how weak he had been in front of his charges. He determined then that any future bleeding would have to be done after the household had gone to bed, so he would have time to rest and recover by morning without worrying anyone in the intervening hours.
He left his room at ten minutes to eight, expecting to wander until he found someone to ask for the location of the school room, but Reverence and Credence were already waiting for him at the end of the hall.
“Good morning,” he greeted them cheerfully.
“Good morning, sir,” they said almost as one. This was followed by a worried look from Credence and a query from Reverence. “How are you this morning, Mr Graves?”
“I feel perfectly well, thank you.” He sighed. “I must apologise to you both. What must you think of me, coming over unwell on my first day here.”
They both hurried to reassure him they thought no less of him for it, absolutely not, and he was not to even consider worrying himself over it.
“We are very glad you feel better, sir,” said Credence, whose spectacles did not quite hide the dark lines under his eyes.
Graves frowned at him. “But what of you, Credence? Did you sleep well? You look tired.”
“You do,” Reverence confirmed, wrapping one arm around his twin’s shoulder. He looked at Graves. “I have told him so as well.”
“I slept perfectly well,” Credence said, sounding as tired as he looked. “Please, do not fuss.” He bit his lip. “Sorry, sir, I did not mean… please, do not worry.” He looked eager for a change of subject
“Well.” Graves pulled down his waistcoat and adjusted his frock coat. “Then, if we are all well-rested and alert, perhaps you will lead the way to the school room?”
The room was on the top floor, on a corner of the Hall, with windows facing east and south. The boys went in before him, with all three of them having to duck through the low doorway. Morning light provided enough illumination to see the somewhat dilapidated state of the low desks and wooden chairs, the blackboard and larger desk at the front of the room, and the maps and charts pinned up on the walls.
The furniture was made for children, with little thought given to taller, long-legged pupils not yet ready for university. Graves sighed. This would be one of the things he would need to discuss with their legal guardian--the lawyer.
This first day, they began with an overview of their most recent lessons, to bring Graves up to date on the current state of their learning. He had been correct: both boys were bright and intelligent, displaying none of the usual reluctance to learn and focus. He could not help wondering whether this was due to an ingrained fear of punishment for insufficient academic achievements, or to the lack of this fear with him now. He chose to believe it was the latter, for to even think about the former threatened to send him into a rage for which there was no outlet; their dreadful mother and former tutors had escaped their just deserts.
“Sir?” Credence got his attention by standing up a little shakily.
“Yes, Credence, what is it?” Graves frowned.
“May I go to the window and get some air? I feel a little strange.”
“Of course!” Graves leapt up from the corner of the desk where he had been perched to come to the boy’s aid, but his twin was already leading him to the window, exchanging a worried look with their tutor.
“I shall be fine in a moment, I merely feel a little dizzy.” Credence smiled, but his face was pale and looked clammy.
Graves watched as Reverence threw the window open wide, one arm around his brother’s waist, and tilted his head against his. There was an icy weight in Graves’ stomach and, were he not certain he would worsen the boy’s condition, he would go to them and offer comfort. What comfort could he offer, though, beyond an explanation and a sincere apology for being what he was? So he did the only thing he could do that would help Credence--he kept his distance.
After a few minutes, Credence was fine, and they continued revising their most recent history lessons. Reverence was indeed excellent at the subject and could give a detailed account of the French Revolution and its impact on art and culture in France right up to the present day. Credence asked many questions, all of them intelligent and insightful, and Graves was happy to supplement any facts left out by previous lessons.
They moved from French history onto a French lesson, with Graves’ connecting statement, “Et maintenant, mes garçons... de la pays à la langue.”
Reverence’s pronunciations were… creative, to put it mildly, enough so to make Credence giggle once in a while, but he was certainly not bad at the subject and took his twin’s amusement in his stride. To Graves, Credence’s charming titters were a torment, making the boy’s eyes light up and his plush mouth even more of a temptation.
When he suggested a verb conjugation exercise, Credence volunteered to write out the lines on the blackboard, and Graves did not think to refuse. He gave him the verb protéger, and Credence began to write:
There he stopped and swooned, and Graves was there at once, catching him in his arms as the chalk dropped from his fingers and crumbled on the wooden floor.
“Credence!” Reverence had jumped up and was by their side already.
“I am well,” Credence managed, clinging to Graves limply.
“Here, sit, my boy.” Graves steered him to his chair and sat him down, kneeling at his feet. “Reverence, could you please get a glass of water?”
“Right away, sir.” Reverence hurried from the room.
“Mr Graves, I apologise.”
“Quiet now. Take a few deep, slow breaths. You clearly did not take enough air earlier.” Graves chose to ignore the fact that the largest window in the room was still open nearby with a cool morning breeze drifting in.
Credence nodded, but changed his mind quickly, moaning softly from the ensuing dizziness.
“Sit quietly.” Graves fought with himself for a moment before moving closer and wrapping his arms around the boy, who leaned forward and rested against him without hesitation, sighing into his collar.
“Oh, sir,” Credence whispered. “Why do I at once feel better when you hold me?”
Graves closed his eyes, the scent of the boy threatening to drive him mad. “Do not speak, Credence.”
“But it is true!”
To keep Credence from growing agitated, Graves held him more tightly, cupping the back of his head and stroking his soft hair. He tightened his jaw when Credence whimpered softly against him, his exhales raising goosebumps on his neck above his collar.
“Mr Graves… I… I wish you would hold me all the time. I know it is wicked to speak like that, and you will likely change your mind and beat me for it after all, but--”
“No!” Graves leaned back, cupping the boy’s pale face in both hands. “No, Credence, heavens, no. I would never hurt you, not for any reason at all, me darling boy.”
A sob escaped the quivering lips as Credence stared at him, his head held in place by his tutor’s warm hands. He raised his own trembling hands to cover them and draw them away, but only to press frantic little kisses into both palms, as though it was elementary to kiss as much of Graves’ skin as he could before the privilege was taken from him.
“Credence, please…” Graves grew desperate, but did not have the heart to withdraw his hands from the wild storm of adoring kisses.
“Sweet Mr Graves,” Credence’s words tumbled out breathlessly between kisses. “Something is wrong with me. I cannot stop thinking about you, and I feel whole only when you touch me.”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph…” Graves looked pleadingly up at the ceiling, as though it could somehow restore calm and balance to the charged atmosphere between them. “Credence… dear Credence, you must not tempt me.” He tugged his hands back, away from the boy’s lips, but not from his hold on them.
“Oh sir, please!”
The door opened and Reverence entered. If he was surprised or shocked by their closeness, he did not show it, only hurrying over with the glass of water.
“Here, Credence,” he said, giving him the glass and kneeling beside Graves. He rubbed his brother’s back and looked up into his perspiring, white face as Credence gulped down the cool liquid. “What can I do? Is there anything else I can do?” he asked helplessly, his free hand resting on Credence’s right knee.
Graves searched Reverence’s face, full of worry and fear and devoid of the confident detachment the boy had displayed on his arrival the day before. He withdrew one hand from Credence’s grasp and placed it on top of Reverence’s where it lay on his twin’s knee. “Has Credence… has either of you… felt this way before?” he asked, fearing he knew the answer.
Reverence met his eyes and shook his head, while Credence murmured a soft and confused, “no.”
Graves knew they had to be told, about their own situation, at least, as he still hoped to keep control of his own. “I believe…”
“What, sir, please tell us. Is Credence ill?”
He shook his head and said firmly, “No, Reverence. It is not an illness, merely a development.” He looked back and forth between them. “I believe you--both of you--are omegas, and Credence, at least, may soon enter his first heat.”
They stared at him in shock.
“No, sir, that cannot be true. There has never been more than a rumour of some of our ancestors being omegas, and they…” Reverence gulped. “They were cast out and all records of them expunged from the family history. Their very existence is only hearsay.”
It was Graves’ turn to be shocked. “Cast out?”
Reverence nodded. “Our forebears have never approved of… differences.”
Taking a moment to find the right words in the face of such bigotry, not to mention hypocrisy, Graves looked at them both. It was nothing short of miraculous that these wonderful beings should have sprung from such a family. He asked softly, “Do you know why some of us develop into alphas or omegas, while others never feel the same mating urges?”
Both of them shook their heads, and he sighed; it was as he had thought--they knew nothing of what was to come.
“When conditions during childhood are not ideal… when one is not properly loved and nurtured, or rejected when showing love, nature can step in to ensure those needs will be satisfied in adulthood.”
The twins looked at each other, then at Graves again. “Sir,” Reverence began. “Are you saying it is no fault of ours that we are to become aberrations?”
“Oh, my dear boys, no. No. Not aberrations! Never that.”
“No?” Credence asked softly.
“Not at all.” Graves withdrew the hand still in the boy’s grasp to firmly take his and squeeze it. “It is a gift, especially to be an omega.”
“But why?” asked Reverence.
Both of them were spellbound now and eager to learn. Graves was very conscious then of how important it was that he was there to teach. “Omegas are rare and coveted by alphas--for their warmth and caring, their ability to carry new life and, in most cases, their exceptional beauty and allure.”
“Carry... “ Credence croaked. “Carry new life? Regardless of the omega’s… sex?”
Graves nodded, his mouth dry. He watched them regard each other with fearful expressions.
“If mama was still alive…” Credence began, his voice uneven.
He did not need to finish. Reverence pulled him close, pressing their foreheads together. “She is not, thankfully.”
Graves could not have agreed more. “We are all born with the potential to become an alpha or omega, but those genes are latent unless and until our bodies and souls demand to be nourished with a bond fulfilling that need for love and care.”
Graves sighed. To tell them all, as truthful as it was, felt biased and, even to himself, unbelievable, so he kept his explanation as neutral as possible. “Omegas go into heat, and alphas into a rut, when the most suitable partner is near.” He quickly added, “Though there are ways to suppress the process until another suitable partner can be found.”
Credence bit his lip. He was looking at him from under his lashes with undeniable fire in his eyes, and Graves could all but read the question in his expression.
Reverence simply asked, “But sir, why would one suppress it, if it means happiness is within one’s reach?”
‘Why indeed,’ Graves thought. ‘Because one is a stranger--a man significantly older, in a position of authority and responsibility, and yet apparently deemed the perfect partner for not only one but two omegas. Two omegas related by blood, no less.’ He could not quite decide how to proclaim a thing wrong that was, in fact, in every way a perfect situation, aside from that last point which would surely shock the boys to their core.
It was then that the lunch gong was struck.
Feeling as though he had been granted a stay of execution, Graves rose, cutting off their inevitable questions with, “Enough learning for one morning, boys. I know you have many questions in need of answers, and I will answer them all, but now you need food, and I need to go to the village and request an interview with your guardian; I shall take lunch at the local inn.”
They looked horrified enough to briefly put aside their curiosity. “Must you see him?” Credence asked.
Graves nodded. “I fear so. There are things to discuss. I assume Mr Abernathy’s office can be found in Willow Vale?”
“In the middle of the main street, beside the post office,” Reverence said.
“Very well.” Graves nudged them gently towards the school room door, where Credence turned around.
“Please, Mr Graves, do not let his manner put you off so much that you feel you wish to leave us.”
Graves’ dark brows drew together with worry. “I promise, that will not happen.”
Credence looked on the verge of clinging to him again, so Graves steadied him preemptively with a firm hand on his shoulder. The other he laid on Reverence’s, who covered it with his own. “I swear to you both that, as long as you need me, I will not leave you.”
Credence blinked away a tear. “Then you shall never leave, dear Mr Graves.”
Reverence smiled at him before giving Graves a look of pure challenge.
Graves did, at that moment, wonder whether their youthful wisdom was not far superior to his caution.
Chapter 4: The Ballroom
There is a music box in this chapter, and it's playing Luigi Boccherini's beautiful Minuetto. Here's a 1 hour version a kind soul has put together.
There's also dancing to this minuet. If you need help visualising that, I suggest this clip.
Graves had been driven to the village by Scamander in the estate’s carriage and, once there, had told him there was no need to wait, as he did not know how long he would be.
As it happened, it was well into the afternoon that Graves found himself approaching Willow Vale Hall once more, on foot this time. There was a grim set to his jaw, and his strides were long and determined enough that he would likely have beaten the carriage there in a race.
The infamous Abernathy was an odious, smug creature, whom Graves had at once known not to trust with so much as the whereabouts of a door stop. The thought of that man being the guardian of his beautiful boys was nothing short of sickening.
It had been less of an interview and more of a drawing of battle lines, with Graves toeing a fine line between risking instant dismissal--unacceptable, and murdering the man outright--a far more appealing idea. If anything had come out of the meeting, it was a mutual loathing and an equally mutual agreement to settle matters that needed settling in writing, rather than face to face, whenever possible.
Hearing very familiar voices as he crossed the bridge over the moat, Graves veered away from the front doors and towards the garden by the terrace, and all his ire and annoyance receded like the tide at the sight which greeted him.
It might have been a scene directly out of a Gainsborough painting. Or perhaps… ‘Yes,’ he thought, smiling to himself, ‘more of a Fragonard.’
The twins, slightly dishevelled and in shirt sleeves, stood below the cherry tree; rather, Reverence stood there, holding Credence aloft on his shoulders. Credence was reaching up to pluck a handful of ripe cherries. He pulled so hard, he overbalanced a little, and Reverence’s hands tightened on his thighs as he carefully regained his own balance, laughing when they were once more properly upright.
Graves stood leaning against the trunk of an elm--the tree nearest to them--ready to intervene at the slightest sign of real danger, and watched them with a smile. He could scarcely credit how deeply he had come to care for them in so short a time, and yet, he could not deny how the very sight of them warmed his heart and the sound of their voices and laughter healed him. For the first time since his arrival at the Hall, he felt disinclined to suppress his joy at their nearness.
“Mr Graves!” Reverence called out, waving and smiling at him as though he had been away for a week.
Credence was once more in danger of toppling off, leaning too far forward over his brother’s head in Graves’ direction. Reverence took it in his stride, clasping Credence's flailing hands in midair and concentrating on keeping his own balance to steady them both.
Graves hurried towards them. “High jinks at altitude after swooning only this morning? I am shocked,” he chided softly, letting them know with a smile that he did not mean it.
Reverence looked a little guilty, while Credence blushed at the reminder. “I promise, I would never let him fall. I am very careful with Credence.”
Gazing at him fondly, Graves said, “I know you are, Reverence.”
The boy looked pleased at this. “I must admit, however, that I am unsure how to best relieve myself of my dearly loved burden.”
Credence giggled. “I could jump off?”
“Absolutely not!” Graves reached both arms out and up towards Credence before he could stop himself. “If you will lean forward just a little, Reverence, I believe I can help.”
“Yes, sir.” Reverence obeyed.
Credence did not hesitate to place his hands on Graves’ shoulders and was taken firmly by his waist and, with apparently minimal effort, plucked off his brother’s shoulders.
Reverence ducked out from under his long legs, watching with a smile as Credence slid, wide-eyed, into Graves’ arms.
Credence blinked behind his glasses, fingers tightening on the shoulders of Graves’ smooth light grey frock coat before moving around the back of his neck. Even once his feet touched the grass, he still held on.
Graves had neither the heart nor the willpower to let go of the sun-warmed boy in his arms right away. “No more dizzy spells?” he asked gently. He barely resisted the temptation to let his fingers venture between waistcoast and shirt.
Credence, eyes round and lips parted, shook his head.
“Good. I'm very glad to hear that.” Graves squeezed him lightly before letting go of him. Credence, however, did not move, and he had to take Credence’s arms from around his neck himself, closing his hands between them as if he was instructing him to pray.
With a sheepish smile, Credence began to lower his hands, then gasped, "Oh, Mr Graves, I forgot I was holding the cherries!" He opened his hands, frowning when he saw they had been flattened a little. "I picked these for you," he said, looking crestfallen at their less than perfect state.
“You did?” Graves smiled. "That's very sweet of you, Credence. Thank you." When the boy raised one to inspect it, he took his hand and nipped the cherry off its stem with his teeth. He chewed, removed the stone from his mouth, and said, "Perfectly delicious. I shall have the others later, if I may?"
Credence nodded and bit his lip. "You're very welcome, sir."
Reverence suppressed a smile. He asked hesitantly, “How bad was Abernathy this day, sir?”
Groaning, Graves said, “You were quite correct. The man is insufferable. For now, I hope I have at least managed to impress upon him the need for proper sized desks and chairs in the school room.”
Laughing, Reverence said, “If you have managed to convince him to spend any of the estate’s money, you have done well, Mr Graves.”
Frowning, Graves asked, “Has he failed to provide you with anything you have asked for?”
“To be honest, we prefer to talk to him as little as possible, so we have not asked,” Reverence admitted.
“Hmm. Well, if there is anything at all you require, please tell me, and I will deal with him on your behalf,” Graves told them both. Credence looked ready to kiss him, which was a thought Graves had to push aside rapidly.
Reverence gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you, sir!” He looked calculating for a moment, then he turned to Credence and whispered something in his ear.
Credence blushed and nodded, looking intently at Graves, who raised his brows at them.
“What are the two of you concocting?”
At this, Credence giggled and reached to take his right hand. Reverence took the left, and they began to pull him towards the open terrace door leading into the drawing room.
“Do not worry, sir,” Reverence said soothingly. “We have merely decided that, after a visit to Abernathy, you deserve some amusement.”
“Good Lord!” Graves exclaimed, but allowed himself to be led through the drawing room, into the main hall, and then through a large dining room off which a wide doorway led into a ballroom, the sight of which was entirely unexpected.
Crystal chandeliers hung evenly spaced from the ceiling--they were the old kind with candles instead of gas lights, but few candles were present. The lower walls of the room were panelled, while the upper sections were painted with shimmering flowers and birds; the colours looked as though they had once been bright but were now faded, and light through the tall windows reflected off peeling gold leaf. Everything about the room spoke of neglect and lack of use, yet it had stubbornly retained the echoes of its ancient splendour.
“Will you be dancing for me?” Graves asked when Credence skipped light-footed to a large, ornate music box atop one of the two fireplaces book-ending the long room.
“We will do our best, sir.” Reverence smiled as he took up a stiff, formal pose nearby and, once the first few bars of Boccherini’s Minuetto sounded, Credence quickly joined him. They moved into a rather unique hold and then attempted to dance.
Graves stood and watched them, equal parts amused at their evident lack of dancing skills and charmed at the way they spun in uneven circles together, with Reverence holding Credence too close and their long legs in constant danger of getting hopelessly jumbled.
“It is as well you are not wearing hoop skirts,” he observed.
They laughed, and Credence called out, “You would have to disentangle us as you pluck us up from the floor, Mr Graves.”
‘I rather like you entangled,’ Graves thought, unbidden. For a moment, he worried he might have spoken aloud when Credence’s eyes met his with disturbing intensity. He cleared his throat, desperate to say something neutral, when Reverence inadvertently rescued him.
“We are quite, quite terrible at this, are we not, sir?”
“Not at all,” Graves lied politely, which amused them both, and he admitted, “Well, you could use instruction. Have you had dancing lessons? Most young men your age have had them.”
“Oh no, mama did not approve of dancing.”
“I will not pretend to be surprised,” Graves said, sighing. He walked up to them. “Well, my function is to teach you.”
They let him direct them into better positions, both of them wonderfully pliant and obliging as he moved their arms and hands into place until Reverence’s hands rested on Credence’s waist and held his right hand aloft. When Graves adjusted Credence’s left hand on his twin’s shoulder, their eyes met, and Graves took a little too long to remove his own hand.
Clearing his throat, he circled them, instructing them on the proper step sequence. Then he looked suspiciously over to the music box. “The Minuetto is not usually this long.”
“It plays for an hour,” Credence said, to Graves’ surprise. “Queenie gave it to us, but she will not say how she came to have it or how it continues on like that.”
“Astounding,” said Graves.
“Very convenient,” said Reverence.
“Yes indeed.” Graves laughed. “Off you go then.” He stepped back and watched them dance a reasonable imitation of a waltz, calling out instructions now and then.
Credence was laughing, looking wonderfully carefree, while Reverence--though clearly enjoying himself--made sure to keep careful count and maintain a perfect hold of his brother.
At one point, several turns into their dance, Graves spotted the housekeeper, Mrs Scamander, drifting by the open door to the dining room, stopping and watching with amazement until she noticed that he had seen her. When he smiled at her, she returned his smile, looking at once more relaxed. After watching them dance for another minute or so, smiling the whole time, she departed.
Shortly thereafter, Credence claimed to be exhausted, and Reverence quickly led him to one of the chairs along the walls.
“Dizzy again?” Graves asked worriedly as he approached.
“Oh no, Mr Graves, merely breathless.” Credence did, indeed, look well--flushed and pleased and just a little overheated.
Graves found it very hard to look away from him. “You learn quickly, both of you,” he told them very sincerely.
The boys looked pleased, and Credence asked, “Will you dance with Reverence, Mr Graves? I would love to see how well you dance.”
Graves blinked. “Well, I am not sure my dancing is as wonderful as all that, but if Reverence wishes?” He looked at the boy, whose lips were turned up in a smile.
“I would love to, Mr Graves.”
“Very well.” Graves removed his frock coat and leaned over to place it on the next chair beside Credence, but Credence took it from his hands and held it close to his chest.
“I will look after it for you, sir,” he said softly, looking up at him from under his lashes.
“Thank you, Credence.” Graves' hand was halfway to petting the boy’s hair before he quite knew what he was doing.
He swallowed and turned to Reverence, holding out his hand for him to place his own atop it. The long, cool fingers rested on his palm, and he led the boy a short distance away for space, then bowed.
Reverence took a moment to decide between a bow and a curtsy, then performed a curious mix of both, which made Credence laugh. “You await your turn, dear heart, and we shall see how well you do!” Reverence called out, which only amused Credence more.
Graves smiled at him. “Would you care to switch positions and let me lead you, or would you like to dance the way you danced with your brother?” To his own ears, the question seemed filled with double meanings, though he was sure Reverence had no idea.
“Please, teach me to follow your lead, sir,” Reverence said, his voice low. He looked intently into Graves’ eyes.
Graves considered revising his assumptions. He nodded silently and took the boy’s waist and hand and, after a few missteps while Reverence became used to doing everything in reverse, they found their rhythm.
Reverence was marvellously elegant and poised, and his instructions were never forgotten for one moment. At least, until Graves spun him a little too quickly and had to draw him close to keep hold of him.
Reverence gasped, his fingers tightening on Graves’ shoulder as he found himself pressed into his chest.
“My apologies,” Graves said shakily.
Reverence did not reply. His eyes were fixed on Graves' face and his nostrils flared lightly.
The faint berry and cinnamon scent Graves had become used to when Reverence was near increased in strength, and something strange happened--the scent seemed to warm, and the aroma changed subtly, but very definitely, with the spicy note increasing in intensity.
Then, Reverence’s entire posture changed, softening and relaxing. His fingers flattened on his instructor’s shoulder. He seemed to melt into his hold, and his palm moved, with gentle pressure, along Graves’ shoulder to the edge of his shirt collar.
Graves felt the faintest touch of fingertips on his skin, and his eyes widened. He thought, distantly, that he should increase the space between them, but it was Reverence who kept him close with nothing more than the feel of his fingers--on Graves' neck and in his raised hand--and the unexpected heat of his gaze.
Vaguely, Graves noted that they were dancing more harmoniously, despite neither of them paying any mind to the steps. He caught Credence’s eyes on them during a turn, and found him watching them, utterly spellbound. His nose was buried in Graves’ coat--something which threatened to undo Graves entirely. And Credence, too, several yards away, could tell something had irrevocably changed.
Graves looked away from him with effort, but to look at Reverence was no relief to his system. “Reverence…” he whispered.
The long lashes closed and reopened slowly, but none of the intense yet dreamy quality of the boy’s gaze left his eyes. If anything, he looked even more mellow, a little dazed… mesmerised, even. His head tilted to the side, exposing the vulnerable curve of his long neck--a sudden, unexpected gesture of submission from the strong-willed boy which was utterly endearing.
By their next turn, Credence had relinquished the coat and set it down on the chair, and he was moving closer. Graves, for a brief moment, wondered whether he might be upset, but it was clear the very opposite was true. There was nothing but eager curiosity and affection in his warm eyes.
“Will you dance with me too, Mr Graves?” he pleaded in a trembling voice.
Graves nodded at once.
Reverence, without hesitation, stepped back and a little out of the way, pressing an affectionate kiss to his brother’s cheek as he drifted past him.
Credence smiled and blushed, and it was Graves’ turn to be spellbound by them both. When Credence moved into his hold, it already felt familiar. Another embrace like their other hurriedly aborted ones before, but now, it seemed so much less important to let go. Why should he, really, when Credence fitted so well into his arms, leaned into him so trustingly, gazed at him so adoringly?
Graves did not think any waltz had ever been danced as closely as this one. Credence felt warm even through the fabric of both his waistcoat and his shirt, and Graves was sure he could almost feel the flow of his blood under his palm. He held him tight as he spun him, keeping them both in constant motion. It was sweet torment to hold the boy, only hold him, rather than to gently trip him and lay him out before him, divesting him of every layer but his skin, worshipping every inch of him revealed as he went. Graves wanted to… he wanted… oh god.
Pulling back, flustered and overheated, he laboured to regain control of himself. If he was wiser, or stronger, he would hurry at once to his medicine bag, but he was determined to learn strength in their presence. He would have to… now.
“You both waltz very well,” he all but gasped out, “but this is a minuet.” He knew, at any rate, that a minuet would afford little opportunity to dance too closely. “Reverence, will you rejoin us?” he asked.
The boy, standing nearby and meeting his brother’s darkened eyes, nodded and came closer.
“This is not usually danced with three, but--”
“It will be perfect.” That was the first thing Reverence had said since the beginning of their dance.
“It will,” Credence confirmed. Like Reverence, he made his statement looking directly at Graves, as though making a promise.
Graves nodded, feeling near hypnotised by them. He gently moved both boys to stand before him: Credence a little to the left, Reverence a little to the right. Then he took a first, elegant sideways step and bowed, and they copied him. He stepped backward, and so did they, then close again. He meant to tell them to keep to small, dainty steps and pointed toes, mindful of ballet; and he meant to tell them that eye contact was vital whenever possible. But there was no need for verbal instruction at all. They followed his every example like perfect mirror images.
He held out his hands, and they each placed the one closest to him on his palms. When he moved towards them, they stepped close to him as he raised their hands, lowering them as they moved back.
Graves turned to face only Reverence and stepped a slow circle around him, facing away and meeting Credence’s sparkling eyes. Then Reverence did the same to him, before they pressed the palms of their right hands together between them and turned in a circle. The boy’s hand warmed against Graves’ with every second, and their eyes were fixed on each other’s.
Stepping back with a bow, Graves turned to Credence, and repeated the entire sequence with him.
When Graves moved back, both boys bowed to him and began to circle him with bouncing, dainty steps, which made him smile. They continued, but their right arms reached out towards him, heads tilted and necks arched back, gazing at him almost as though to challenge him.
He swallowed, their teasing display affecting him even more strongly than he might have expected. He caught Credence’s hand in midair, grasping it firmly, and the boy gasped; Graves gave him a smirk which made him blush, and he dearly would have loved to kiss the heated cheeks.
Reverence remained still while he did a few slow turns with his twin. Then Credence waited for him to turn with Reverence. He found the boy waiting with his hand up already, breathing hard, and surprised him by pressing their palms together and letting his fingers slide into the spaces between his. He could all but feel Reverence’s shiver move over his own skin.
Oh, but he knew he was playing with fire. They all were. But he was older, more mature, and an alpha… he should put a stop to it, to be sensible and retreat.
Retreat where though… out of their lives? To let them be taken advantage of by lawyers and other vultures? And what of other alphas? The thought all but made him snarl out loud, and he knew without doubt that he had fully lost himself in them. They were his and his alone.
He watched them as they all danced in a circle, none of them even touching, yet they might as well be firmly tied together with silken bands. He held out his right hand, palm open, and Credence immediately placed his atop it, then Reverence did the same with him, and they danced clockwise in a circle with all three hands joined in the centre. Soon they turned and repeated it all counterclockwise.
Graves stepped back, as did the boys, their hands disconnecting. But he did not let go of them for long, holding out a hand to each of them.
They placed theirs atop them and he drew them closer, spinning each under his upheld arms--one clockwise, the other counter-clockwise; all three of them like figurines on top of a music box like the one playing for them. And it was still playing tirelessly, up on that cold fireplace, its gilded metal case warmed by the last rays of the afternoon sun and every note as perfect as the day it was written.
None of the minuet had required instruction. No steps had been practised and no words exchanged. Graves stood there, stunned, holding their hands. He dared not even imagine what it would do to any one of them to sever this forming bond.
At last, emboldened by his insight, or perhaps simply driven mad by their intoxicating scents and the undisguised want in their eyes, he kissed their hands, then bowed to them.
They would have known they had an astonished audience of four, peering into the ballroom from behind both sides of the doorway, had the butler Jacob’s hands not been stilled before he could begin to clap. He received a smile and a shake of the head from Queenie, the cook, who ushered him and the Scamanders away.
Chapter 5: The Connecting Door
“I am terribly thirsty,” Credence said, as they left the ballroom.
Graves and Reverence looked at him with concern.
“Are you well, my dear?” Reverence asked, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. “You look very flushed.”
Graves frowned. They both looked flushed, but Credence more so, though he did smile and nudge into his brother’s side.
“You worry too much for me,” he chided lovingly, then looked at Graves. “And you too, sir. I can tell that you do.”
“Well, I will not deny it then.” Graves reached out, his knuckles inches from Credence’s cheek. “May I?”
Credence nodded at once, tilting his face closer in fact, and held his breath when the knuckles gently slid along his cheekbone. Then Graves’ fingers touched his brow and, after a moment’s hesitation and a deepening of his frown, the pulse at the base of his neck; it was racing.
Graves looked into the dark eyes. The boy verged on a fever. It would not be long now before his heat was upon him. “You need something cool to drink, and then we shall see how you go, Credence. You do feel much too warm. I fear your first heat may only be a day or so away.”
Credence’s eyes widened at that, as did Reverence’s.
He, too, touched Credence’s cheek then. “Poor, sweet thing. Queenie will have something cold.” He looked to Graves, who nodded his agreement, and they went to the large kitchen, each of them keeping a hand on Credence’s arm or shoulder at all times.
The kitchen was a wonder, with more herbs--both fresh and drying--and homemade jars and bottles of all manner of colourful liquids and preserves than Graves had ever seen outside of an apothecary.
The space was warm and comforting, with a vast stove and a centre table for chopping and preparation which would have served well as a dining table for a party of guests. One end of it was covered in bowls and baskets of fruits and vegetables, and a pretty golden-haired young woman was peeling potatoes and softly singing to herself.
She looked up and smiled when they walked in. “Hello, dears, and this must be your Mr Graves.”
Graves couldn’t have denied that to be considered their Mr Graves pleased him immensely.
“Yes, Queenie,” both boys agreed at once, enthusiastically.
Graves smiled. “Good afternoon. I have heard a lot about you, Miss... Begging your pardon, I fear, I do not know your family name.”
She laughed. "Goldstein, but I am simply Queenie. I bet you have not heard half as much as I have heard about you.”
Credence and Reverence both fidgeted a little at that, and Graves was delighted. “I am not so sure about that. You are said to weave magic in your kitchen and, from what I have sampled thus far, I am inclined to agree.”
Her cheeks dimpled with her wide grin. “Why thank you, Mr Graves.”
He looked around, attempting to determine whether there was an icebox. “We were wondering if you could provide something cool to drink? For Credence especially.”
Her sweet face instantly crumpled. “Are you unwell, dear?”
“Merely too warm.” Credence let himself be manoeuvred into a chair, and Reverence stood beside him, stroking his shoulder.
Queenie had meanwhile rushed to the icebox in the corner of the room and extracted a tall carafe of rich golden liquid cool enough to mist up the glass. “I made some ginger ale only this morning. Just perfect when you feel not quite yourself.” She poured a tall glass and set it down in front of Credence, who began to drink at once, gulping the liquid down too quickly.
“Slowly,” Graves warned gently. “You will make your head hurt with the cold.”
Credence looked up at him and stopped at once. Reverence took the next glass offered to him, smiling at Queenie, and Graves received a glass as well.
“Thank you,” he said.
“All that dancing would make you hot, I imagine,” Queenie said lightly. When Graves stared at her, she grinned. “Tina… Mrs Scamander, who is my older sister, by the way, told me she saw you all dancing. Which is a lovely thing, I think.”
“The boys are very elegant,” Graves said, stunned, “and talented.”
Both of them blushed, and she laughed. “They were also very much in need of music and dancing, Mr Graves, and someone who is very, very good to them. And for them. Someone who cares deeply for them.”
Not used to anyone quite so forthright, Graves only gaped at her. The boys, too, looked astonished, though they were presumably used to her ways.
She waved a hand at Graves. “You must forgive me, sir. I always say exactly what is on my mind. Well… most of it.” She giggled to herself. “Sometimes, it can be a bit much for people.”
He was not at all certain it would be a good idea to ask just what it was she was holding back. “I believe that is an admirable quality,” he said, meaning it. He added, with an affectionate look at the twins. “You are also quite correct. I do care deeply for them.”
“Yes, that is very clear.” Queenie looked oddly pleased that he had admitted to it, and seemed even more delighted when the boys both looked at him with the sweetest, most adoring expressions.
“Have you shown Mr Graves your rooms yet?” Queenie asked, somewhat at random Graves thought.
“No, we have not! But we should.” Credence stood, clutching his cool glass and what was left in it. Reverence agreed with him.
“Would you like to see, Mr Graves?”
“Plenty of time before dinner,” Queenie informed them cheerfully.
Graves was not at all certain he should venture into the space where they slept. Their scents, and their entire allure, would be at their strongest there, especially with them present as well. Queenie had no way of knowing how potentially taxing the expedition would be to Graves.
“Certainly,” he found himself saying. “I would love to see your rooms.”
“Off you go then, before you get underfoot in my kitchen.” Queenie’s chime-like laughter took any possible sting out of her words.
All the wood inside was ebony, and all the fabric and bedding in shades of grey and a deep purple which reminded Graves rather of a particularly spectacular storm cloud. An old but lovingly hand-restored telescope stood by the large window, and there was an equally antique orrery on a shelf nearby. A large painting of a forest clearing with a family of deer, observed by crows and an owl, and sitting beneath a night sky full of stars, dominated the wall near the bed; it looked charming and a little naive, and Graves noted to his surprise that there was a covered easel tucked into the corner of the room. There was no carpet except for a few dark, overlapping rugs. The room might have been stark, were it not for the few personal touches telling of what were clearly Reverence’s wholly unexpected hobbies.
In addition, the room was, of course, filled with his scent, lingering as though a comforting cake had just been brought in from Queenie’s kitchen and hidden somewhere out of sight.
“A very nice room telling of a very intriguing and talented inhabitant,” Graves said, making Reverence smile almost bashfully.
“Credence’s room is through there, sir,” Reverence told him, nodding to a narrow door to the left of the bed, “but we need to go in through the hallway. The connecting door is bolted shut.”
Graves frowned, but followed them into the hallway.
Credence opened his door and smiled at him. “Please, sir, do go in.”
Walking in, Graves was met with Credence’s light, sweet honey scent, and more of the same swept past him when the boy entered beside him. This room was quite different--everything was a little lighter, the bedding was in warm tones like gold and peach, and the single large carpet matched well. Where Reverence’s room was very tidy, his was full of comfortable clutter, made up largely of books and the leftovers of childhood in the form of a few toy soldiers standing guard around the perimeter of a shelf of cuddly animals.
Graves smiled at the sight, and at the discovery that there was painting on the wall nearly identical to the one Reverence had painted for himself; except that in Credence’s version, the forest clearing was shown in the daytime, with rays of sunlight streaming in and spots of dappled light everywhere. The owl and crows had been replaced by a squirrel and a flock of sparrows.
He was utterly charmed, and turned to look at them. “Your rooms are beautiful, and very different. Yet somehow, I imagined you living in the same space."
At this, Credence looked sad, and Reverence told Graves, “We have wanted to sleep in the same room for years, but mama would not allow it. We finally managed to get connecting rooms, but the door was bolted soon after.”
Indeed, the narrow door had no less than half a dozen bolts on it. Graves frowned. “Whyever did she not allow it? And why, pray tell, was this door bolted so excessively?”
Reverence’s hands balled into fists at his sides. “She always hated how close and affectionate we are with each other and called it unseemly. And one of our tutors, the worst of them, told her a connecting door would entice us into indecency.”
Graves stared at him, frankly speechless. Eventually, he managed, “Who was this man?”
Credence stood beside his bed, shaking, Graves suddenly realised.
“Credence!” He was by his side in an instant, folding an arm around him, and the boy turned to press his face into the crook of his neck.
Reverence came up to them, rubbing Credence’s back. “Mr Grindelwald. He was a horror,” he spat angrily. “When he did not beat or chide us, he was always too close, with his powder white hair and sour breath, his horrible cold eyes and hands as bloated as his face.”
Graves felt a well of anger springing up deep inside him. “Where is he now?” he asked, fully intent on seeking the creature out and drowning it in the moat.
“Dead,” Reverence declared with immense satisfaction. “He fell ill one night after dinner--which he gorged on like a pig, because it was his favourite--then spent the night vomiting and was dead by morning. The doctor said it was acute gastritis.”
“He was horrible.” Credence was sobbing quietly into Graves’ neck.
“Darling boy, hush.” Graves held him close. When Credence’s arms moved around his waist, he wrapped both of his around him, squeezing him tight. “You will never again be at the mercy of such men.” When Reverence looked at him pleadingly, moving closer, Graves held out his right arm, and the boy pressed against him and his brother both.
“You have both been treated shamefully,” Graves said sternly. “There will be no more of that. Never again will you have cause to be afraid inside your own home, nor anywhere else. I will see to that.”
“I knew at once…” Credence sniffed. “When you arrived, sir, I felt such relief.”
“As did I,” Reverence admitted. “Even with mama dead, we felt… vulnerable.”
“I know,” Graves said at once.
“Is it because... we are omegas?” Reverence asked. Credence looked up then, his face far too close to Graves’, especially while he stood in his embrace.
“Yes,” Graves admitted. “You are naturally gentle, caring, and sweet… you are not equipped to deal with horrid, ruthless people, of whom there are far too many in this world. There are those who would always seek a way to take advantage of you.” He sighed. “As omegas, all your instincts, your very personalities, are made to nurture and care. When given the chance to do so, you thrive, and you must be protected at all costs.”
“Is that what an alpha does?” Reverence looked at him as though he hoped he knew the answer but required confirmation.
“Yes. To care for, protect and defend his omega are the most important urges of an alpha.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Credence whispered in a longing way that made Graves shiver, and the boy had to be able to feel it. “You are an alpha, are you not, Mr Graves?” he guessed softly. “I think you must be. You are so good to us.”
Graves looked into his eyes. “Yes, Credence, I am an alpha.”
Credence swayed a little, clinging to him, and Graves held him firmly. “Will you… claim us?” he asked breathlessly. “Is that the word?”
Graves groaned softly. To hear Credence ask like that, without fear or uncertainty, only excitement, in his voice, made him want to do so right then. “Yes, Credence,” he admitted huskily, “but only if it is what you want, too, with all your hearts.”
“Yes,” Credence said at once, his voice more breath than sound.
Graves gazed at him in silent awe, then met Reverence’s eyes when he spoke.
“Truly? Both of us?” he asked, amazed.
Graves considered his words carefully. “It is extremely unusual for an alpha to bond with two omegas, but it has happened before. The two of you are very special in every way, and extremely close. How would you feel about… sharing?”
They looked at each other as if communicating in silence, eyes dark and cheeks pink, until Graves could barely take the sight anymore. It was evident they were wondering about all that was implied, conjuring up heaven knew what pictures in their minds.
When they looked at him again, Reverence said, “It feels right.”
“It feels like heaven,” Credence murmured so softly, it was nearly inaudible. He made a sweet, happy sound which was utterly endearing.
“It does,” Graves agreed, holding them both tight. “There is so much more to it, however, and you deserve to know all, before you decide I am the alpha you need, and before you fully enter your first heat.” He sighed. “I fear there is much you are not aware of in your innocence, and which you have probably only been told of in the most negative of terms.”
“There could be no one else, sweet Mr Graves” Credence told him at once, his voice almost panicked that he might withdraw his intent to claim him again.
Reverence nodded. “I think… I think we know, a little, of what you are referring to.” To Graves’ charmed surprise, he saw the boy blush for the first time then. “There are some… books in the library. I do not think mama even knew of them.”
“Oh? Are there now?” Graves could not help but tease, even while worrying about just how innocent they were to know only a little, at their age.
Reverence blushed more deeply and smiled. He looked fearlessly into Graves’ eyes when he said, “Sir, we trust you to teach us all we need to know.”
Credence hummed his agreement into the skin of Graves’ neck.
Graves closed his eyes as he stood holding them and inhaling their scents. It took him several long moments before he could fully master his self-control. His senses were reeling with them both in his arms, and their absolute trust and desire for him was more than he ever would have dared to hope for even two days prior.
“It will be my honour and pleasure to teach you all, my darling boys,” he managed to say at last. “For right now, however, there is something we must do, for when Credence goes into his first heat, quite soon…” He brushed his hand over the warm brow once more, looking into the trusting eyes with concern, “... he will need you closeby, Reverence.”
“What must we do?” Credence asked eagerly, nuzzling against the side of Graves’ face with his nose and cheek.
Graves laughed softly. “Not that.” It was only reluctantly that he moved away far enough from them both to clear his mind. “Where in the house would I find an axe?”
Credence blinked, his confusion clearing when Graves looked meaningfully at the bolted door.
Eagerly, Reverence offered, “Newt will have one. Shall I get it?”
Reverence smiled and, after a smirk at Credence, left the room.
Graves looked at the door closing behind him, all too aware of Credence sidling up to him, his overly warm skin amplifying his pheromones. He smiled. “You must wait for your lessons, Credence.”
“But why?” Credence asked, his hands coming to rest on Graves’ left arm, moving up to his shoulder as he pressed to his left side and met his eyes. His looked darker and wider than ever.
Graves sighed. “Because, my sweet, tempting boy, there are many things I need to tell you before you fully enter your heat, and every touch, every caress, will bring you closer to it that much more quickly.”
“What if I do not want to wait?” Credence whispered, leaning into him, his hot cheek against the side of his neck, his mouth pressed to his shoulder.
“Credence…” Graves hissed when the fingers of the boy’s left hand tickled along the side of his neck.
“You smell so good, Mr Graves. Like the pine and fir trees on the estate, by the lake, just before it snows.” The plush lips were on his neck then, kissing it with utmost tenderness.
“God…” Graves held onto the dark head to still it, lest it should tilt up for a proper kiss. He did not think he could resist the sight. “You may drive me mad before I can explain anything to you of what to expect.”
“Can you not simply… show me?” Credence breathed into his skin.
“If I show you anything, time will run out at once, and your heat will be upon you.” Graves combed his fingers through the lush hair, moving Credence back no more than an inch.
“Why would that be so bad?” Credence nearly whined, his hands clutching at Graves’ shoulders. His slender body was hot, all too hot and eager in parts.
Graves sent silent prayers for strength to whatever deities might exist. “Because, my darling, you would find yourself in a fever too high to take in anything you are told fully, and I would always worry about having taken advantage of you.”
“But I want you, Mr Graves. I believe I have done since I first saw you. I want you to claim me, like you said you would.”
Graves groaned, holding the boy close as much to still his frantic movements as to keep from seeing the beautiful, pleading lips. “Do you know what there is to this claiming? Do you know what I will do to you?”
“Kiss me?” Credence breathed. “I think… you will kiss me, and… and caress me, and… touch me in ways I am not allowed to touch myself, because we have been told that it is sinful.”
“Oh, good Lord.” Graves did not know whether to laugh or cry in the face of such innocence. “All of that, my Credence, yes, but so much more.”
“More?” Credence’s voice sounded awed. “Oh, you mean… the pictures in those books...”
“Yes?” Graves tipped up his chin, against his own better judgement, swallowing hard at how flustered Credence looked. “What did you see in those pictures?”
“Men doing things to other men. I cannot describe it quite.” He lowered his eyes. “There is one picture, with a man kneeling on a bed, and another stands immediately behind him, his hands on… I am not certain what he does, exactly.”
Cupping the sharp jaw, Graves smiled. “From the description, I assume he is penetrating the other.”
Credence’s eyes widened more than ever. “But… how…” His face cleared a little. “Oh!” He swallowed. “Does it… hurt?”
“Only when one does not take the time to prepare one’s lover. But, Credence, when that lover is an omega… well, an omega’s body is a wondrous, beautiful thing. It knows how to prepare itself to be breached.”
Credence was staring at him. His eyes were positively glassy. “It does?” Graves nodded but, before he could speak, Credence added in a breathless rush, “Are you going to penetrate me? Like that? Soon?” His flushed cheeks made it clearly how much he liked that idea.
As did Graves. “You cannot simply say things like that, dear boy.” He clenched his teeth and breathed slowly for a few moments. “I am only flesh and blood. And you… you are so innocent, I can scarcely believe… everything will be new to you.” When Credence bit his bottom lip, as if feeling bad for being somehow too innocent, too virginal, Graves pulled him close with a bitten off groan, burying his face in the crook of the boy’s neck and drinking in his honey scent like nectar.
Credence clung to him with a whimper, gasping when Graves brushed his nose, then his mouth, over the curve of his neck and shoulder, inhaling deeply. “Oh please, Mr Graves.”
Graves could feel him hard against his thigh, his whole body trembling in his arms, and not with fear. He brushed his lips over the scent gland and upwards quickly, out of the danger zone, to kiss the soft skin of his neck with utmost tenderness.
Credence sighed, then shivered when Graves’ lips move up a little higher, closed on his ear lobe, and pulled at it playfully. When he kissed a hot cheek, Credence was panting out loud.
There were footsteps in the hallway and, unsure whether Reverence would return with only the tool or Scamander too, Graves reluctantly released Credence, then steadied him at once as he swayed, staring at him as if he was a previously undiscovered natural wonder.
The door opened and Reverence stood in the doorway. He walked in, laughing softly. “What have you done to my brother, Mr Graves? He is as red as a beet!”
“Barely anything,” Credence said, sounding almost sulky and stepping behind a tall chair to hide the state he was in..
Graves could not help himself. He laughed. “Soon, Credence.” He turned to Reverence, who smiled at them both, and took the axe held out to him. Scamander was nowhere in sight. “For now... let’s get rid of this nonsense prison door between you, shall we?”
He walked to the connecting door and, with a few swift, sideways chops of the axe, and loud clanks, the half dozen bolt locks dropped to the floorboards.
Reverence walked up beside him. “What of the door?”
“You want it gone completely?” Graves asked, then turned to Credence for confirmation. They both nodded. “Very well.” And he used the blade to loosen, then break, the ancient hinges, until the door was loose and could be pulled right out, leaving a clear path between their rooms. “There we go. And more firewood for the winter!” he declared, leaning the door against a wall, to be taken away later.
Credence started giggling, and Reverence soon joined in.
Graves looked between them and smiled. At this rate, he thought, come winter, they would all be keeping one another so warm, their need for firewood would be near non-existent.
Chapter 6: The Library
There will be big hints in this chapter of a tag you can presume to be added later in the story, though if you've come this far, it won't be a surprise to you anyway. If it's going to bother you, there'll be plenty of opportunities yet to skip out. :)
That evening, it was even hotter than the afternoon had been, stifling almost… the release of a thunderstorm at any moment was both anticipated and longed for.
The main course of dinner centred around a hearty game pie but, for dessert, there was a refreshing raspberry rhubarb compote, and cold lemonade for afterwards. When the meal was finished, Graves thanked Jacob, asked him to pass on their compliments on Queenie’s cooking, then dismissed him for the rest of the night. He took the tray of lemonade and ushered his charges from the dining room, towards the library.
Once there, Graves set the tray down on the side table nearest the seating area, and lit the gas in the pedestal lamp beside the settee. There was still enough light outside for them to see the outlines of trees through the window panes, but the dark clouds gathering were hastening on the twilight to turn into night.
“Are we going to study this evening, Mr Graves?” Reverence asked cheekily.
Graves drew the bridge of his glasses down and gave him a look over the top of them. “We are indeed, Reverence.”
Credence giggled. “Oh good. I feel like studying.”
Graves met his eyes. “I am glad to hear it, Credence, as this will be the most important lesson of your life, and you will need to be paying particular attention.”
At that, the boy blushed rather sweetly, and hid his face by going and closing the library door.
Graves watched him with a smile. “Well then, where are these notorious books the two of you have been looking at? We might as well keep to study materials with which you are familiar.”
Reverence hurried to move the library ladder to a shelf near the corner of the room. He climbed up a few steps and reached behind a row of perfectly respectable looking encyclopedias.
Graves snorted. “Good to see there are some books you do not have to be asked to take an interest in, Reverence.”
“Yes, sir,” Reverence agreed.
Credence laughed and made himself comfortable on the far right of the settee, patting the middle seat beside him when Graves turned to look at him. “The light for reading is especially good right here, sir.”
“Is it really?” Graves asked, smirking. He sat down next to Credence, who instantly shifted a little closer, while Reverence brought over three slim, leather bound books with fine gold print on the spines.
Once Reverence had settled in to his left, tucking one leg underneath the other, Graves held out his hands for the books. He placed two on his lap and opened the remaining one, then flipped through a few pages.
This book, and the other two, turned out to be not ‘instructive’ but purely artistic and, by the time he held open the third volume, the twins were leaning against his sides more heavily, avidly examining the pages currently open… pages which held illustrations growing ever more explicit in nature. Soon, the boys began to fidget, looking charmingly awkward and guilty for even having found such volumes--hidden in a library no doubt carefully curated to be morally unassailable by Victorian society.
Graves chuckled. “Well, well... I take it you have both studied these volumes at length?”
“We have, sir,” Reverence admitted, while Credence gave a quick nod.
“And how do you feel about these images?”
Credence whimpered softly which, in the context especially, was a rather delightful sound to Graves’ ears. “Nothing here frightens you at all?” he asked very softly, meeting the boy’s bespectacled eyes.
“Oh no, sir,” Credence breathed.
“It all looks rather exciting,” Reverence murmured, gaze fixed on the image against which Graves’ thumb was currently resting: It depicted a gentleman seated in a wingback chair, his head tipped back and his eyes closed, a rapturous expression on his face, while another man was kneeling between his spread legs and fellating him enthusiastically.
Graves fought not to notice the greatly increased presence of pheromones in the enclosed room but, even pretending to be immune to that, the hungry look in Reverence’s eyes was quite undeniable when his gaze diverted from the page to Graves’ lap, then quickly back, thinking he had not been caught. Swallowing hard, Graves glanced to Credence, who was looking at his face, chewing his plush lower lip.
“Are omegas…” Credence began, then stopped.
“Go on, Credence, you can ask anything.”
Credence gave him a quick, grateful smile. “Are we, Reverence and I, allowed to do that?” He nodded towards the page.
“Allowed?” Graves asked, surprised. “Oh, Credence, of course. There is nothing that is forbidden to omegas.” When he had both boys’ full attention, he explained, “They are not in any way ‘less’ or subservient, quite the opposite. An omega’s pleasure is paramount to the alpha, whose main--”
“Mr Graves…” Reverence interjected.
Reverence’s cheeks were a touch pink. “Please, will you tell us about us, the three of us I mean, rather than an ‘example’ alpha and omega?” Credence made a soft sound of agreement, pressing more firmly into Graves side.
Graves chuckled. “Of course. Pardon my being too much of a tutor.”
They smiled at him gratefully, and Reverence explained, “It is merely that… well, it is more personal, because…” He looked at his twin, and one of their silent communications took place between them, before he continued, “Oh sir, these are no longer mere pictures in a book. When we look at these now, we both think of you in these scenarios. And of… of us.”
For a late summer evening in a large, draughty house, Graves thought it really was unnecessarily hot. “I am... very pleased to hear that,” he said in a husky voice. “Tell me, you are not at all concerned with the fact that I am much older than you? The age of you both combined, in fact.”
They both looked taken aback and, for a moment, Graves marvelled at this coming as a surprise to them, but their next statements put his worries on the matter fully to rest.
“Why should that matter at all?” asked Reverence, sounding honestly perplexed.
Credence murmured in a soft, admiring voice, “I like that you are older than we are, sir. You make me… us feel safe and cared for, but never as though we were children.”
Reverence nodded his agreement, and Graves smiled. “You two are anything but children,” he said. “You are beautiful, utterly tempting young men from whom many things have been kept including, I suspect, most of the basic facts about sexuality.” Credence gasped softly at the mere word.
“I would not have wanted anyone else to teach me about such things,” Reverence murmured, his index finger tracing the image in the book, very nearly grazing Graves’ thumb.
“Nor I,” said Credence, shuddering. When he met Graves’ eyes, he asked. “Sir, you are saying then that omegas… I mean, we, as well as receiving pleasure, are allowed to pleasure you as well?”
Graves swallowed around the dryness in his throat. “Of course you are. Anything you wish to do, you are more than welcome to.” When Credence leaned into him at once, hands on his waistcoat, he gripped his upper arms, laughing softly. “Once your first heat has truly begun, Credence, and ever after that. For now, you must be patient.” He endeavoured to ignore the lovely pout. “I want to be sure you know exactly what to expect first.”
“Yes, Mr Graves,” Credence obediently let himself be settled again.
“Are we… different in any way?” Reverence asked. “To… other men, the men in these books for example. What happens to us when we have our first heat?” He looked at his brother with a smile. “I gather we grow flustered and overheated, and quite impatient for touch.”
Credence looked ready to poke his tongue out at him. “You shall soon find out for yourself, I imagine. It is not so amusing to feel like this.”
“I have no doubt,” Reverence said gently, reaching across Graves to pat his brother’s knee. “I am sorry, my dear, I am not making fun of you.”
Graves sighed as he looked at Credence. “Poor darling,” he whispered, cupping a flushed cheek.
Credence whined softly, closing his eyes at the touch.
Attempting to concentrate on the necessary instructions, Graves said, “To answer your question, Reverence, yes, you are different. Once your heat is fully upon you, you will be in a fever, restless and starving to be touched, quite unable to think of anything but your need to mate.” He took a deep breath. “Your pulse will be rapid, your skin overly sensitive to all sensation, and your manhood will firm and remain so through a number of ejaculations.”
Credence was staring at him now, wide-eyed and with his cheeks positively burning. Reverence was listening with rapt attention and breathing hard. Neither dared to interrupt.
This was, Graves decided, rather more taxing than he had expected, and the appeal of hands-on demonstrations grew ever greater. “Whether you are in heat or not, whenever you are aroused, your body will prepare you for penetration.” He flipped back a few pages, with shaking fingers, until he found a suitable illustration. “Have you touched yourselves, at any time? Like this?” When they hesitated to answer, he said, “Please, have no fear of being honest with me, about this or anything else, at any time. I am certain you have been told all manner of nonsense about it being wrong to bring yourself relief. That is not true.” He could practically feel the tension drain from them.
“I… I have,” Reverence admitted.
Credence lowered his eyes. “As have I.”
“Good,” Graves said, doing his best not to visualise and risk losing his thread. “Then you know the ejaculate you produce at such times is slick, slippery. It is meant to ease the way into a lover’s body. When that lover is male, his body does not produce a matching slickness within his channel. Omegas… you are luckier.”
They both stared at him, taken aback. “Sir?” Reverence croaked.
“You mean…” Credence wriggled a little, as if testing to see whether he felt any different… there. Yet.
Graves breathed slowly and deliberately, attempting to continue sounding like a textbook rather than an alpha sorely tempted to hurry the onset of two first heats. He was not at all certain he could handle satisfying them both in that state at once. All that made him feel better was that he doubted anyone could.
“Yes, Credence. You will produce copious amounts of slickness, different to your ejaculate and intensely… appealing to me.”
Credence looked especially eager now. “How?”
Graves loosened his cravat. “Everybody produces pheromones--a highly individual scent to attract a mate. In your case… rather, in our case, for alphas and omegas... these pheromones are stronger. In fact, they are a way to find the perfect mate, and they increase in intensity during a heat or, in my case, a rut. The slickness your body produces to allow penetration with absolute ease is especially abundant in those pheromones.”
Credence reached for a glass of cool lemonade with shaking hands, and Graves took the opportunity to do the same. He avoided direct eye contact with the boy, who was breathing heavily into his misted up glass, making tiny sounds now and then.
“Mr Graves… will you only desire us when we are in heat?” Reverence asked cautiously, looking a little lost.
Graves hastened to reassure him. “Oh no. In fact, I suspect there will never be a time when I will not desire you very much.” Graves smiled to see the obvious relief at his response. “However, during a heat, your pheromones will be nearly overwhelming to me, as mine will be to you.”
Setting down his nearly empty glass with a soft thump, Credence panted, somewhat desperately, “Mr Graves, I already want to burrow right under your skin. You smell so good!”
Graves reached to run trembling fingers through Credence’s hair. "Shh..." he whispered, and Credence's eyes closed in bliss; Graves felt the heat of his scalp all the more keenly against his own skin where it was suffused by the chill of the glass. The boy's fingers held onto Graves' raised wrist like the paws of an affectionate kitten. “That is because your heat is nearly upon you, precious.”
Credence whimpered. He laid his head on Graves’ shoulder and nuzzled against his neck.
Reverence, still blessed with more clarity of thought, asked, “How long does a heat last?”
“Sometimes hours, but usually days, with times of rest in between bouts of sheer need. It depends on many things, including how many times you can reach a climax.” Smiling, Graves said, “And there will be many.”
Reverence licked his lips. “Only during a heat?”
“Not at all. I promise you, you will not need to be in heat in order for me to ensure you regularly experience intense pleasure.”
This time, even Reverence gasped at the prospect. “Oh, sir!”
Credence simply moaned softly, his fingers gripping the deep blue cravat around Graves’ neck.
Chuckling huskily, and stilling the clenching fingers with his hand, Graves said, “Before we all get too excited to pay proper attention, there is something else very important you need to know about. Two somethings, really.”
Reverence looked at him as though expecting him to impart all the wisdom of the ages upon them. Credence simply kept snuggling into his side, while Graves’ fingers continued carding through his soft hair, but the was murmuring softly to himself.
“What was that, darling?” Graves encouraged.
“Creating life...” Credence whispered. “You said omegas can bear new life.” He sounded even more awed at the idea than that very morning, when Graves had first mentioned the possibility; another sign of how close he was to his heat.
“Yes,” Graves breathed, smiling softly. “Do you like that idea?”
“Oh yes, though it seems impossible to even imagine.”
Reverence looked very much at sea as well, and Graves covered his hand where it lay on the open book. “You must have no fear. There are healers who specialise in delivering the babies of omegas and, from all I have been told and have researched, such deliveries are much easier than the regular kind. Another miracle of your bodies.” He kissed Reverence’s hand, then pressed his lips to Credence’s forehead.
Reverence surprised them both then, when a few tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Reverence!” Credence reached out to swipe them away tenderly. “What is it? Does the thought of having a child not make you happy?”
“It does! It… it seems almost too good to be true, being able to make up for all the bad times we have had by... by taking care of a vulnerable little thing, keeping it safe and spoiling it with--” He sobbed.
Graves wrapped his left arm around him and held him close, and Reverence clung to him. He was amazed at this beautifully soft side to Reverence, previously unsuspected. It was clear the boy had come to terms with not being designed by nature to take a wife and father a child himself. This new, unexpected path being open to him must be very overwhelming indeed.
“I do believe,” Graves said, meeting Credence’s shining eyes over his twin’s head, “that we can look forward to very spoiled little darlings under this roof.”
Credence smiled brightly. He was petting his brother’s head until he calmed, straightening himself out again but not moving entirely from Graves’ hold.
“I do apologise. I am not usually weepy,” Reverence murmured, eyes and cheeks red and becoming more so as he kept on swiping at them.
“That is nothing to apologise for, sweetheart,” Graves said. “I am delighted you feel so strongly about it. Both of you.” He looked at Credence, whose soft, dreamy gaze said it all. Suddenly, however, he looked very serious, worried even. “What is it, Credence?”
“What will happen when people find out? Abernathy, the courts, and the village, and… Oh, Mr Graves, can they separate us by force?” Reverence tensed up as well, looking at Graves as worriedly as Credence did.
He shook his head and held them more tightly. “Be calm, my loves. No one will force us apart. No one would be able to. A mating bond between alpha and omega is the strongest bond there is. It is acknowledged even by the courts. Any and all laws and familial bonds are secondary to it.”
“You are certain?” Reverence asked.
“Absolutely certain. I promise it to you. An alpha is universally seen as the ultimate protector and guardian, even to the death, and none would be so foolish as to challenge him.”
Credence, looking more than a little flustered, breathed, “I can easily believe it.”
Graves smiled and watched their features relax. “I did not tell you all this first, because I did not wish for it to affect your choices in this matter. Mating bonds are for life, whereas Abernathy’s guardianship over you and your estate would end in only three years.”
“Would end?” Reverence asked.
Graves nodded. He gently disentangled himself from them both and rose, needing just that little bit of space to think clearly. He paced back and forth a little, then looked down at them again where they sat. “As soon as we are mated and I have claimed you, your lawyer’s guardianship will automatically be severed, and he will lose all control over you and Willow Vale Hall.” They both gasped at that, but Graves had more to tell them. “I want you to know that I have inherited a significant sum from my own family, which will naturally be added to your own inheritance. I have not wished to touch it without a very good reason, as relations with my family were far from blissful as well, but I can think of no better use for it than the welfare of my beloved omegas. The welfare of my family.” The boys looked stunned by all this, and he lowered his eyes, rubbing the back of his neck a little nervously.
“Mr Graves…” Credence began softly, smiling and reaching for his left hand to pull him closer. Then he stood and rested his forehead against Graves’, making him gasp. “Were you truly concerned, even for a moment, that we might choose you purely to be rid of Abernathy sooner?”
Graves closed his eyes and swallowed, enjoying the way Credence’s sweet, warm breath caressed his face. “It was… a possibility.”
“No, it was not,” Reverence declared, taking Graves’ right hand and squeezing it reassuringly. “We would choose you under any circumstances, sir.” He lifted Graves’ hand to his lips and kissed it. “We would choose you if there were thousands of other alphas crossing the moat right now to woo us.”
Graves laughed at that, as did Credence. He met Reverence’s sincere, beautiful eyes and stroked over his hair, and the boy's features softened with contentment.
Credence whispered, “Sweet Mr Graves, you are our perfect mate.” His slim hands, so warm and dry with his impending fever, caressed Graves’ face.
“Credence…” Graves’ eyes dropped to the boy’s mouth, close enough to his now to all but taste him. It was too much then. His senses were awash with him. Before he could think about it, he tightened his left arm around Credence and pulled him close, kissing him hard.
Credence made a soft, wounded sound, and Graves chased its origin in the sweet heat of his mouth. Credence opened to him willingly… eagerly… as needful of his kiss as he would be of his knot and his bite any hour now.
Drowning in the welcoming sweetness, Graves fought to regain some semblance of control. Even while his fingers twisted in the back of Credence’s shirt, he tore his mouth from the soft, wet lips gasping out his name. He was vaguely aware that Reverence was watching them with nearly the same fire in his eyes as burned in Credence's.
“First thing in the morning,” Graves began huskily, “we will find a bedroom closer to you than the one I currently occupy, and I will move there to be near enough to you both so I can come to you within moments.”
Credence was still panting hard, staring at him, “Oh please, do...”
Graves swallowed hard, then told them both, “And we will make more permanent sleeping arrangements as soon as possible."
Chapter 7: The Rainy Night
It was all Graves could do to make it to his room after parting ways with the twins at the top of the landing.
The dancing, the lesson, and then the kiss, considering he had not taken suppressants since that morning, had been far too much. Credence was not yet ready for him. How could he have been such an absolute fool?
He already regretted having suggested a cool bath for Credence before bed, to ease his no doubt restless sleep in the stifling summer night, for it was likely to delay his heat further. Yet he had done so, which meant he would need to take his own advice also. The bathroom nearest to him was found easily enough, and he was grateful that running water for bathing had been installed at the Hall.
He soon sat shivering in the clawfoot tub, scrubbing at his skin but, instead of anything as trivial as the discomfort of the cold water, he felt a deep inner ache to be with his soon-to-be mate and sink into the heat of his body. He groaned, closing his hand around his straining manhood, then releasing it again at once, unwilling to spill his essence needlessly when Credence might need him at any time.
His bath lasted as long as he could bear it, and he returned to his room refreshed and clean, but no less aroused. No less desperate. He made the decision to lock himself in to ensure his suffering body would not seek out Credence even in his sleep, before the boy was able to accommodate his knot.
“No, no fever yet, though I wish it would come!” Credence lamented.
“Do you need me to stay here with you? In your bed?” Reverence offered.
Credence blushed. “The door is gone. I will be fine, knowing you are near.”
Reverence nodded. “Call me,” he said. “I dare say I will be only half asleep.” He opened the window a little further, for it was so stifling that Credence would be glad of it again soon enough, then went to his own bed.
He did, in fact, fall asleep, but woke with a start from a loud clap of thunder which seemed to shake the very panes in the windows. It was only when the rumbling died down that he heard Credence’s wail, sounding as though he was in pain.
Leaping out of his bed, and nearly tripping over his nightshirt, Reverence rushed next door to his brother’s bedside, where a candle was thankfully still lit.
“So hot!” Credence moaned, his sheets already pushed down past his knees, his face shining with dampness. “Please… help me.” He reached out.
Reverence took his flailing hand and checked his forehead to confirm what he could see well enough. “I will get Mr Graves.” He tried to leave, but his brother’s hand was firm around his.
“Help me, Reverence, I need…” Credence arched his back, his hips thrusting up.
Reverence swallowed. His twin was hard, his nightshirt bulging and bearing a large damp spot. He stared, his throat feeling like parchment, and watched Credence writhe.
“Touch me,” Credence whined. “Please, it hurts!” He drew Reverence close, pressing his brother’s hand firmly to the damp bulge.
“Oh god…” Reverence overbalanced, ending up with one knee between Credence’s legs, on the damp sheet. Too damp for a mere fever. “Credence…” He shifted back, to try and examine the wetness shimmering in a bright flash of lightning through the window, and the movement pressed his hand harder against Credence’s manhood.
Credence groaned, pushing up into his twin’s palm, pulling and tugging at his own nightshirt until his thighs were fully exposed, feet scrambling to find a hold around Reverence.
Reverence stared at more exposed skin than he had seen of his brother in years, helpless to move when Credence tugged the shirt out from under his hand and whimpered when his slick, dripping cock strained up into Reverence’s grip.
“Reverence, please!” Credence looked up at him from glazed eyes, pushing into his hold, in case Reverence did not know what he meant.
But he did know, and he stroked the hard shaft as firmly as he could, as it seemed to be what Credence needed. It quickly became apparent that it was not enough. His hand was soon so slick with his brother’s juices, he could barely hold on with Credence’s frantic movements. He appeared to find his release, but nothing changed. There was merely more liquid warmth dripping through Reverence’s fingers.
So Reverence bent down and, without hesitation, opened his mouth for Credence to maybe find at least a little more relief there, just to soothe him for long enough so he could get Mr Graves.
“Oh!” Credence reached into his brother’s hair, moaning when he was sucked eagerly into the warm mouth.
Reverence did his best, trying to keep up with the steady trickle, swallowing what he could and drawing back for breath often. He enjoyed Credence’s taste very much, and he enjoyed what he was doing to him but, at the same time, it worried him that, even when he climaxed again soon, filling his mouth and dripping the excess between them on Reverence’s nightshirt, it did little to calm Credence.
Credence hiccuped, digging his heels into the bed, his right hand moving between his own legs to lift up his cock, thighs parting. “There… there... “ he urged, pushing at Reverence to show him.
Reverence, still breathing hard and swiping at his mouth, stared. It was obvious enough where the wetness on the sheet originated. He touched trembling fingers to Credence’s rim, then licked his fingertips curiously… ‘sweet, like orange’… he thought, amazed. He watched the little hole clench, when another trickle escaped, and groaned.
Credence’s pleas made him bold, and he pressed a fingertip gently to the opening, which was so wet, his whole finger slid right in.
“Mmm…” Credence moaned.
Reverence watched in fascination as his finger moved in and out easily. When Credence pushed back onto the intrusion, he thrust his finger faster, and faster, wondering what it would be like to… He gasped, pressing his free hand against his own hardness through the linen of his shirt, the tip already wet and dripping too. He had to keep from getting too carried away. He needed to get Mr Graves… he would, just as soon as…
“Ahhh!” Credence shuddered and arched his back, and not only did Reverence’s probing finger slide right out with the new gush of wetness, but Credence’s cock throbbed and shot out yet more fluid. And remained hard.
“Credence, dear heart…” Reverence swallowed. “I will go for Mr Graves. Be still, be still, I will bring your alpha.”
Credence grumbled at the ceasing of stimulation but, at the same time, nodded in a moment of vague clarity. “Oh please, do!”
Reverence shakily lit a second candle, pressed it into his own candlestick holder, and hurried from the room and to the east wing.
Graves had fallen into a fitful sleep, and being woken by the onset of the expected thunderstorm was almost a relief. At least, until he became aware of how painfully hard he was, and how desperately his need for Credence demanded fulfillment. He rocked on the bed, hand pressed to his groin, teeth clenched.
Lightning lit up the night sky, and was almost immediately followed by thunder so loud, it seemed to reverberate through the large house. Even so, he thought he had heard something else… a softer, more human sound. He shook his head. If he had not imagined it entirely, it was likely one of the household waking with a start from the noise outside. He did not trust himself to leave his locked room, convinced it was only his body trying to fool him into believing he had heard Credence.
But it happened again and, this time, he was sure he did not merely hear him but could scent him too. He got up, went to the door and turned the doorknob, then cursed under his breath. What if he was wrong? What if he was too early for Credence, and ended up hurting his omega through his impatience? He could not take the chance. So he paced and paced until, through the recurring rumbling outside, he distinctly made out the patter of bare feet running along the hallway towards his room.
He went for the key where he had hidden it, above the door frame and out of easy reach if he should sleepwalk, and unlocked the door to his room with trembling fingers. He tore the door open to see Reverence, wide-eyed and holding a flickering candle aloft, fist raised to knock.
“Credence…” Graves breathed the name in worried enquiry.
“Please, please come, Mr Graves. He is in a fever now… I have tried everything to soothe him, just long enough to get you.” Reverence blushed so badly, even in the candlelight, that Graves needed no further explanation.
He touched the boy’s cheek and gave him a quick, reassuring smile. “I know, Reverence, thank you,” he merely said, and they hurried back towards Credence’s room.
The rain began once they’d passed the landing--a heavy, steady stream of pouring rain promising much needed relief.
The sight which greeted them on arrival in Credence’s room made Graves groan out loud, and Reverence stifled his own reaction with his hand on his mouth.
Credence had turned onto his stomach and was rutting ineffectually against his mattress. His fingers were clawing at his pillow, and his damp, creased nightshirt was rucked up, long legs and the right cheek of his arse exposed as he moved frantically back and forth, clearly finding no release this way at all.
Graves rushed to him, and Credence became immediately aware, letting out a pleading, thin howl of need.
“Hush, darling. I am here.” Graves knelt on the bed and stroked over his hair until Credence sighed, then turned him by his shoulders and onto his back. His throat went dry at the sight before him. Credence had pulled open his nightshirt almost as far down as his stomach, and the hollow of his throat shone with perspiration. Turning him had slipped the shift off his right shoulder.
“Oh please, please, Mr Graves, I need you!” Credence pleaded, wide-eyed.
Graves pulled him up, one arm tight around him, one hand supporting the back of his head, and held him, rocking him gently. “I know, my love, and I need you.” He used his fingertips to move damp tendrils of hair from the side of Credence’s face and neck and inhaled his scent deeply. He groaned against the soft skin, knowing he had finally come home.
A soft whimper answered him. He shifted his hold enough to meet Credence’s feverish eyes in the candlelight for a moment before he kissed him.
Credence clung to him, fingers clenching on the muscles of his back as his mouth was plundered. He scrambled to wrap his entire body around Graves, somehow, but was far too tangled up in sheets..
Graves pressed him back down on the bed, after reluctantly releasing his mouth. “I have you, Credence, all is well,” he told him soothingly, stroking the hair back from his forehead, and spreading the overheated limbs out as he knealt between Credence’s thighs. He reached for the hem of his own nightshirt and drew it up over his head, then flung it aside.
Credence stared at him, whimpering softly. His trembling fingers fluttered over Graves’ skin like hot little pinpricks. He raised his upper body and leaned forward, pressing his lips to the rapidly expanding and contracting ribcage. He kept clawing at Graves’ sides while his kisses turned to licks and nipping bites.
“Ahh, Credence…” Graves held his head, soothed and stroked through his hair even as he tipped the sweet, feverish face up towards himself. He met the dark eyes, not behind spectacles for once. “Lie back, my darling.”
Credence obeyed at once, falling heavily back into the mattress, legs spread wide around Graves’ nude, kneeling form.
Reverence was halfway through the open doorway into his own room, then turned back, asking softly, “Please... may I stay?”
Credence looked towards his twin, unfocused but smiling, and Graves said, “Of course, Reverence.”
There was a risk that Reverence’s heat might come too soon if he stayed but, at the same time, his brother’s pheromones might distract and confuse his body enough to give him more time before he found himself in Credence’s state and needing Graves this desperately. Graves knew they had to take that chance, for they would all be part of each other, and none of them should ever feel excluded.
Reverence walked around the bed, then slid into a large armchair near the open window, drawing up his legs so only his feet poked out under his nightshirt. He looked longingly at Graves where he knelt on his brother’s bed, whimpering softly and curling in on himself to watch quietly.
Graves was very aware of his presence, and his state, even as he looked down at the hard, flushed cock bobbing temptingly before him, steadily dripping onto Credence’s stomach. “My beautiful boy,” he whispered, and took him deep into his mouth.
Credence bucked up, then sagged under him. His fingers clenched in Graves’ hair, on his shoulders… anywhere he could reach.
Graves sucked him down hard, rapidly and repeatedly, one hand curled around the base and yet, all too soon, bringing him temporary relief. He swallowed every drop, letting the still half hard cock slip from his mouth and giving it another long, loving lick all the way up the beautifully veined underside.
Credence moaned and writhed, his legs twitching around Graves as he looked up at him pleadingly. His hands were equally restless as they moved over the sheets, no doubt trying, and failing, to find a cool spot somewhere. His pale, lovely feet nudged at Graves’ thighs, pressing on them. The soles were hot on Graves’ skin, and Credence used the leverage to open his legs wide, looking up at him from under long lashes like temptation personified, while he utterly exposed himself to Graves’ gaze.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Graves gasped out. He touched the flats of his palms to the sticky skin, fingertips grazing the sweet hole he wanted, needed, to sink himself into. First though… “Hold on to the headboard, precious,” he instructed.
Credence obeyed at once, arms stretching up and back, as Graves slid both hands underneath him and lifted his hips. He sobbed out loud when Graves pressed his mouth to his hole with a hungry moan.
Yes… god, yes, this was what he needed… Credence’s sweet honey taste pouring out over his tongue, luring him to where he needed to be, would always want to be. How could he have thought, even for a moment, that he could resist this?
“Mr… Graves…” Credence whimpered, little shudders running through his body, arms straining and thigh muscles clenching.
Graves squeezed the peach-soft flesh in his palms, licked deep into him again and again, feeling the spasms around his tongue even as he slowly drew back, tongue tip chased to the rim by a sweet stream flowing out with Credence’s next climax.
The boy released with the most delightful, whimpering moan, then let go of the headboard.
Graves smiled down into his flushed face. “You are wonderful,” he told him, slowly and gently lowering the overheated body back to the sheets. He kept the pale thighs open around himself, his own thighs by now covered with Credence’s fluids. While the boy rested for a moment, he lazily circled the exposed rim with two fingers, then dipped them inside and withdrew them again at once.
The soft sounds of his probing fingers were nearly drowned out by the pouring rain, but punctuated by Reverence’s panting breaths, and Graves glanced at him where he sat, one hand between his legs and his mouth open, as his eyes moved between Credence and him, clearly undecided where to let his gaze linger. When Reverence saw he was being watched, his lips quirked up. “I cannot help myself, Mr Graves,” he gasped
“Carry on, sweetheart,” Graves instructed, voice husky, and Reverence stroked himself through the linen more rapidly, legs widened, eyes fixed on Graves even when his climax came over him, making him shudder and bite down hard on his lower lip with a groan. “Well done,” Graves praised.
Reverence lay back in the armchair, breathing hard. The breeze from the open window behind him gently moved his soft hair and he sighed. Then his hand fell away from his groin, revealing the wet stain left behind.
Graves licked his lips and met Credence’s eyes, which had also been fixed on Reverence, and they smiled at each other. Graves leaned over him and slid his sticky fingers over his lips, then let him suck on them until he moaned, before sitting back and returning to sliding them inside him, along with his middle finger. There was no resistance at all, and he scissored his fingers.
“Uhhh… ngh, please!”
“One more, my love, then I promise I will take you,” Graves told him breathlessly, gasping when Credence practically rocked onto his fingers that time, his back arching and his legs clamping around Graves.
“Please, please... “ Credence pulled at his own nightshirt, drawing it up to his underarms, exposing his flat stomach and a rosy bud as hard as a pebble. “Want this off,” he whined.
“May I…” Reverence spoke up softly, and Graves gave him a quick smile, while Credence nodded frantically. The boy uncurled and moved forward, easing the tangled, damp nightshirt off over Credence’s head. Then he clutched it to himself and knelt beside the bed, his left hand stroking the hair back from Credence’s fevered forehead.
Credence looked back and forth between his twin and Graves, gasping and sighing with the gentle hand stroking him and the thrusting fingers bringing him closer and closer to another climax.
Graves’ eyes took in all of Credence fully for the first time, and he longed to taste and explore every beautiful inch of him. But, right then, what Credence needed was to be taken, deep and hard.
As if hearing his intentions, Credence reached up, fingers clawing at Graves’ arms, pulling hard enough on the right one to thrust the fingers fully into himself. He panted, rocking wildly and frowning. It was clear three fingers were no longer enough.
“It is time, my love,” Graves told him, voice husky. He pushed his hips up to kneel, tilting Credence’s at the same time and, lining himself up, he simply pushed forward, as slowly as he could bear, and the wetness eased his way into the hot channel in the most wonderful way. Credence’s groan of joy nearly undid him, and Graves tightened his jaw, holding back for a moment, before he began to thrust, hands tight on Credence’s thighs as he pushed into him and pulled him back onto his cock all at once.
“Yes… yes! Oh!” Credence all but squealed. His legs, bent at the knees, were pushed back towards his body, as Graves began to pound him.
“Too… hard?” Graves panted between thrusts.
“No, please… more.” Credence’s fingers dug into the sheets at his hips to keep him from being pushed up towards the headboard with the force of the thrusts.
Reverence’s hand was on the crown of his head, sweetly offering extra protection.
“Oh, darling, there will be more,” Graves hissed, closing his eyes, overwhelmed by how transported Credence looked. He slowly changed the angle, lowering Credence’s legs, which wrapped around his hips at once, warm heels sliding over the back of his thighs, hands around his nape. He felt him spill himself between them, heard his gasp, felt his shudder. “Good,” he praised, pulling back a little, but thrusting right back in when Credence moaned discontentedly at the loss. That was when he felt it begin. “Hold on tight, you will feel very full soon, my beloved.”
Credence blinked at him, eyes dark and glittering but so, so trusting. When Graves thrust all the way inside, deep, deep into him, where his knot formed and locked them, he stared up into Graves’ eyes, mouth shaped into an ‘O’. “What is that?”
Graves settled between his legs and told him, and Reverence both, in a soft murmur, and Credence relaxed around him with a contented sigh. “That was not part of the lesson,” he chided with a sweet smile.
Graves kissed his pink cheek, then chuckled softly as he rested his head in the crook of the boy’s neck. “I had to hold back one surprise for you.”
“How does it feel?” Reverence asked in wide-eyed awe.
“Wonderful,” Credence sighed. “It is almost too much, but I feel… complete.” He smiled at Graves. “Am I all yours now, my love?”
Graves caressed his cheekbone, then kissed his lips. “Except for the mating bite.”
“Bite?” Credence asked, wide-eyed.
Graves laughed softly against his lips. “It will not hurt you, darling, but it will make you mine forever. No other alpha will be allowed to touch you, and no one will dare to hurt you. It will be an unbreakable bond between us.”
Credence looked at him tenderly, and raised a hand to caress Graves’ cheek. “Please… please, claim me, sweet Mr Graves.”
Graves smiled, and sighed contentedly. He shifted his hold on him easily, anchored in Credence’s body as he was, and cradled him gently. He breathed Credence’s scent where it was strongest right then, nosing along the pale throat and licking the skin over the gland. Then he bit down tenderly, and Credence’s tremulous little cry, and the way he clenched around his knot, made Graves groan and release, just a little, deep inside him.
“Oooh…” Credence breathed, clinging to him and shivering all over.
Graves pressed soothing kisses to his cheeks and temples, and settled comfortably between Credence’s thighs once more, rocking minutely into his body. “Rest, my love. We will be like this for a little while.”
Credence smiled happily. He raised his left hand to stroke over Graves’ hair, and reached for Reverence with his right.
Reverence took it and pressed his lips into the palm, then held it to his cheek with both hands. He looked at Graves and murmured softly, “I envy Credence as much as I love him, and you as well.”
Graves smiled at him. “Your time will come very soon, sweetheart.”
Reverence looked almost shyly at him then. He met Credence’s soft, shining eyes. “May I kiss you?”
Credence tilted his head fully towards Reverence. “Please,” he whispered.
Reverence, still on his knees beside the bed, leaned forward and pressed his lips very gently to Credence’s. They opened to him on a sigh, and he kissed his twin with a sweet, soft moan.
Graves watched them, his heart full and warmed by the sight of them.
Afterwards, Reverence climbed up on the bed and curled close to Credence, and Graves drew up the sheet over him, for which he received a grateful smile before Reverence dozed off.
Then Graves nuzzled into Credence’s neck and thrust gently inside him, and Credence’s limbs tightened around him while he moaned softly. “Any moment now,” Graves whispered into his ear, then kissed it.
Credence made a contented little sound. “I do love you so, Mr Graves,” he murmured.
“And I love you, my precious darling.” Graves nudged his hips, making Credence gasp. “Will you call me by my Christian name soon?” he asked with a smile.
“Soon…” Credence turned his face and they kissed and moaned into each other’s mouths, while Graves’ knot released at last and he filled Credence with his seed.
Chapter 8: The Rainy Night - Part 2
Sorry about the delay in getting this chapter out. I'm having a very stressful, and sad, family matter going on right now, and inspiration is hard to come by. All my writing has slowed down, but I hope the pace will return to normal soon.
After waking from a short nap, to the continuous sound of pouring rain and the much longed for cool breeze from the open window, they all became very aware of how unpleasantly sticky the bed was, not to mention themselves. The latter problem was easily dealt with with bowls of warm water and stacks of washcloths and towels.
Credence seemed especially ashamed, but much reassurance, punctuated with kisses and hugs, soothed him and, at Reverence’s suggestion, they relocated to his bed to attend to the sheets in the morning. Credence’s temperature was already beginning to rise once more by the time he was bundled into a clean sheet and carried through the connecting doorway to Reverence’s room, where Graves set him carefully down on the bed.
The main window in Reverence’s room was opposite the bed, and it was wide with open drapes, the rain reflecting silver off the panes in the moonlight. Because the wind battered it so violently, only the smaller window across the room was open by a small crack.
A single candle on each bedside table was plenty of light to see by, and to notice the renewed darkening of Credence’s eyes and the perspiration forming on his brow.
Graves settled against the headboard, holding him in his arms and cradling his head against the side of his neck, while Reverence perched on the edge of the bed.
“You are certain my being here is--”
“Reverence, we do want you here,” Graves reassured him at once. “I merely regret that I cannot touch you freely yet, but I will need a little rest between your heats.” Graves winked and smiled when Reverence blushed.
Credence reached out to Reverence. “My sweet brother, I always want you near.”
Reverence took his hand and let himself be tugged close. When Credence leaned towards him and kissed him sweetly, he sighed into his mouth, his long fingers combing the damp hair back behind Credence’s ear.
Graves watched them, altogether closer to the tender display than wisdom would dictate. He moaned softly at the way their scents mingled, like ripe fruit spiced for an autumn table. “You are so beautiful together, my darlings,” he told them in a whisper.
Credence turned his head the moment his lips separated from Reverence’s and pressed his mouth to Graves’.
Graves cupped the back of his head and kissed him deeply, chasing that elusive mingled taste for all the torment it may cause him. He groaned, his left hand in the small of Credence’s back, aiding him as he climbed to spread his legs over his lap.
Reverence moved to kneel beside them, watching them avidly, as Graves brushed aside the sheet enfolding Credence, his hands sliding beneath between cloth and hot skin.
Credence whimpered when he felt his alpha hard against his perineum and rocked back and forth both in teasing and desperation.
“Do you need me again, my beloved?” Graves whispered in his ear. “Do you need me to soothe your ache?”
“Yes… oh yes, please!” Credence reached between them, fingers curling around the hot shaft, making Graves gasp.
“Then take what is yours.” Graves kissed the tender spot beside his ear. “Take me deep inside you and ride me until you no longer hurt.”
Credence cried out, arching and lifting himself up. He was still stretched and once again wet and slick, sliding down on the hard cock with ease.
Graves held him close as Credence rode him, kissing every inch of sweet, pale skin his mouth could touch. His right hand folded around the flushed cock bobbing between them and trailing wetly up and down his stomach. He let the motions of Credence’s body guide the shaft in his grip with each lift--some so high, only Graves’ tip remained inside him.
Reverence watched his twin with undisguised awe and longing, his hand straying close to, but never quite touching, a straining thigh, the plush curve of his arse, the gentle line of his spine.
“Reverence, touch him,” Graves encouraged. “Your added touch can only please him even more.”
Reverence nodded and smiled gratefully. He raised himself on his knees and kissed Credence’s shoulder, then trailed his fingers over its curve and down his arm. With his right hand, he traced all the way down his spine from his nape to the small of his back, barely touching to not interfere with his continuous up and down motion. When his fingers slipped between the rounded cheeks, Credence mewled softly.
Ducking his head, Reverence leaned down to kiss the top of Credence’s thigh, then his side and back with the slowing of Credence’s up and down motions.
Graves hissed when Credence clenched around him, spilling himself between them and all over his hand with a low moan. He clutched the cheeks of his arse firmly and pushed up into him, rocking him a few times--more back and forth than up and down, his angle continually changing, until he wrung another orgasm out of him.
Credence’s head dropped on his shoulder. He was whimpering, clinging to him, still rocking even with his thigh muscles spasming hard enough for Graves to feel it.
“Lie back and rest a little, precious,” he urged gently, rolling Credence over onto his back between himself and Reverence.
“Mmm…” Credence sighed tiredly, pale arms falling back on the pillow either side of his head. His skin shone with perspiration as he lay panting, naked and beautiful like a fallen angel.
Reverence and Graves both gazed at him with equal measures of love, tenderness and desire.
Graves trailed his hand over the velvet skin of his stomach, following it with his mouth, upwards to his chest. He traced around a peaked pink bud, then lavished it with teasing licks. It was pressed between his lips by the way Credence bucked up, mewling for more. He sucked hard, then soothed it with flicks of his tongue.
When he turned his head, he saw Reverence, half on his side, half kneeling, his right hand caressing Credence’s thigh. Catching Graves’ gaze, the boy smiled at him, then glanced at the flushed, dripping cock arching half hard over Credence’s belly.
Reverence licked his lips and leaned in to lap at the tip. When it escaped his tongue, he curled his fingers around it and tried again, licking against the underside, and over the slit, catching escaping drops as he went.
Graves could tell whenever he caught one by the rapturous closing of his eyes. When the plush lips closed entirely around the head and sucked hard enough to hollow Reverence’s cheeks, Graves moaned just like Credence did, practically feeling the suction for himself.
Reverence’s eyes flew open and, this time, he held Graves’ gaze steadily as he sucked Credence down deep.
“Reverence… oh... ” Credence bucked up, but Graves held him pressed to the sheets by his hip.
Reverence worked even harder then, encouraged, no doubt, by Credence’s jolts and breathy moans, as well as Graves’ watchful tutor’s gaze. When Credence climaxed, his eyes widened. He swallowed convulsively, not quite keeping up with the flow, but he made the most valiant effort.
Graves beckoned him closer, and he crawled up alongside Credence, who lay panting and limp. With a smile, Graves reached out and swiped at the corner of Reverence’s mouth with a fingertip. He meant merely to have a taste for himself, but the boy turned his head and sucked his finger into his mouth, and Graves gasped. “Reverence…”
Reverence stared at him, releasing the digit at once and lowering his eyes. “I am sorry.”
Graves cupped his cheek, thumb stroking his chin. “I, too, am finding it hard to resist you.”
Credence, in a moment of relaxed lucidity, laughed softly. “It seems I am the only lucky one, able to touch you both to my heart’s content.”
Graves leaned on his elbow beside Credence, tracing his smiling lips with his fingers. “Wait until you have both been through your first heat and the fever has worn off. Then there will be time and patience, and I shall delight in finding ways to enjoy you both at once.”
“Oh!” Credence panted eagerly.
Reverence whimpered at Graves’ words. He was pressed close to Credence’s side, his right leg sliding over his twin’s left, his toes tickling along his shin. Unknowingly, he widened the space between his legs.
Graves took full advantage. As he kissed Credence’s neck and shoulder, his left hand slid down his inner thigh, finding it, as expected, once again slick and sticky. “Are you ready for my knot again, love?”
Nodding eagerly, Credence gave him a pleading look. He drew his left foot close to his body, raising his knee and further widening the space between his legs.
“Do you want me to take you like this?” Graves asked, his hand tracing the underside of the raised thigh and sliding to the wet hole, nudging at it. “From behind?”
“Please...” Credence turned on his right side, facing Reverence, who watched eagerly as Graves pressed against Credence from behind, then lifted a long leg up high with his arm hooked around his knee, before slowly sliding inside. Credence moaned, arching his back to push back onto the hard cock; there was no need.
Graves penetrated him with perfect ease. He was curled right around him. “You feel so wonderful,” he murmured as he leaned in to kiss Credence’s shoulder, thrusting slowly at first.
“I feel you so deep inside me, Mr Graves,” Credence gasped.
“Still Mr Graves?” Graves chuckled, thrusting again; Reverence, too, smiled.
Credence laughed softly. “Percival…” His breath caught in his throat. “Oh! So deep!” He clutched the sheets beside himself, and Reverence covered his grasping hands, leaning in to kiss Credence’s neck.
Graves groaned on the next thrust, the wet slickness, the intense scent of his omega, and Reverence’s as well so close… He thrust twice more, deeply, and Credence all but wailed.
“How does it feel, my darling?”
“Better than anything in the world... Percival... it is such a beautiful name!“ Credence was panting, hips jolted by another deep thrust.
It was the last before Graves’ knot began to form, and he held Credence close, warm and secure, nuzzling the side of his neck. "You are beautiful."
Credence sighed happily. “I do love the way it feels inside me.”
“I cannot wait to feel it for myself,” Reverence murmured. His head lay beside Credence’s on the pillow.
Graves smiled. “Tell me, my love, how precisely does it make you feel?” His hand was warm and tender on Credence’s belly, where it was covered as the slim fingers slid between his.
“As if a great emptiness I have always felt has been filled, with warmth and love and hope.”
Graves closed his eyes against the dampness forming behind his lids. “Imagine how it will feel when we find out it is life as well that fills you.”
Credence sobbed softly. “Oh, I do hope it will be soon!”
“As do I, my darling.”
Reverence blinked, looking rather moved as well, but he was smiling at Credence.
Credence swiped at his twin’s cheekbone. “Come closer, Reverence.”
Pressing their foreheads together, Reverence trailed tender fingertips down Credence’s arm and over his knuckles, brushing Graves’ fingers not so accidentally as well.
Graves met his eyes and shifted his hand to cover Reverence’s as well as Credence’s.
They lay like that for some time, until Credence grew a little restless. When Graves soothed him with tender words and his hand caressing his sternum, giving him a few calm, shallow thrusts, he sighed deeply and settled again, but his eyes moved over Reverence’s body and the bunched nightshirt between them.
Reverence, too, seemed restless, a little flustered when he was caught letting his eyes move over Credence at length.
Credence smiled, his hand straying to the hem of Reverence’s linen shirt.
Graves watched over his shoulder as he slid it higher, gasping in sympathy when Reverence took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes.
“Credence…” Reverence swallowed hard.
The movement of Credence’s arm left no doubt as to what he was doing, nor did the way Reverence’s hips thrust forward as he pushed into his grip again and again, his hand clutching at Credence’s waist, knuckles brushing Graves’ stomach lightly.
“Uh… Credence!” Reverence leaned in and kissed his twin hard, his groan of completion audible even with their mouths connected.
Credence hummed pleasurably into the kiss, smiling somewhat triumphantly when their lips parted. Reverence still looked dazed and overwhelmed when he withdrew his sticky hand, raised it to his lips, and tasted his brother’s essence delicately.
It was too much for Graves, who shifted, pulling Credence back against himself firmly. “I do hope you are ready for me, my love?”
“Yes!” Credence said eagerly, reaching back to wrap his hand around the nape of Graves’ neck and, in the process, sharing the faint scent and feel of Reverence’s release with him.
Growling, Graves angled his hips just as his knot released and filled Credence to capacity and beyond. He thrust a few times, as soon as he was able to, stimulating Credence into yet another shuddering, ecstatic climax--the last of his first heat.
After a good rest, Reverence and Graves bathed Credence gently, then dressed him in a fresh nightshirt and laid him down on a clean set of sheets. Each stayed with him while the other washed up himself, so they took turns watching Credence’s contented, smiling face as he slumbered.
Once Graves loosely drew a sheet over all three of them, Credence sleeping peacefully between them, Reverence murmured, “I have never seen him like this. So happy, so perfectly calm.”
Graves reached over Credence for Reverence’s hand where it lay on the sheet, squeezing it. “I am so glad that, for all you have been through, you have always had each other to love and care for.” He met Reverence’s eyes. “It is clear how very strong your love is.”
Reverence smiled a little, returning the pressure of Graves’ hand. “I would die for Credence, and he for me--though I would not allow it.”
Graves leaned forward and kissed his hand. “I will allow neither of you to come to any harm.”
Reverence held his gaze and, when he spoke, his voice was thick with emotion. “Thank you, dear Mr Graves, for finding us. And for healing us.” He swallowed, and a light flush rather like one of Credence’s caressed his high cheekbones. His lovely mouth quirked into a smile quite unlike Credence’s. “And for teaching us so much, including that we had not yet loved each other in every way possible.”
Still holding the boy’s hand, Graves smirked. “Oh, Reverence… you will enjoy the lessons I have yet to teach you, as well as what you have yet to teach each other.”
Reverence tugged back his hand, along with Graves', against which he rubbed his cheek. "Of that I have no doubt, sir," he murmured with a teasing smile.