Actions

Work Header

the reason that i come alive

Chapter Text

It's Mark's 118th day in the lab, give or take. He's kept careful track, except for the days when he was too drugged up to count, because somehow that makes things easier here— the knowledge that time is still passing, that it's been four months, that he's that much closer to freedom. Unless they kill him, but, well— he tries not to think about that.

He used to ask questions. What are these pills? he'd ask. What's this injection for?

The only answers he'd ever gotten were slaps across the face or reduced rations of food.

So he'd stopped asking, and started listening, started cataloguing every bit of information his captors let slip as they poked and prodded at him.

Which is how he learned that he's part of Project AO, a project aiming to give humans a secondary sex, something beyond things like male or female. He knows that he's set to become an "Omega," though he's not sure what exactly that entails beyond a lot of tests and drugs and a couple of surgeries involving his ass. They've left all his genitalia intact, at least, which he should probably be grateful for. Because there isn't much else to be grateful for here, to be honest.

Mark leans his head against the metal bars of his cage and goes through the timeline in his mind: fourteen days of preliminary tests, sixty days of pills and injections, two days for the first surgery, thirty days for recovery, one day for the second surgery, ten days for recovery. Which brings him to today, day 118.

It's 7:14 AM, according to the clock on the wall outside his cage. They'll be here for him soon.

Mark closes his eyes and waits.

***

At 7:30, two men in white coats arrive. They unlock Mark's cage and escort him, handcuffed, down a hallway, into the examination room, where more people in white coats are waiting. He's strapped down and given seven different pills. Then come the shots, two of them, both in his upper arm.

They measure his heart-rate and blood pressure, take his temperature. "Heat induction," they keep saying. All systems are go for heat induction, whatever the fuck that means.

A female white-coat approaches him with a third syringe and injects his thigh. It hurts like hell.

But then it's over, they're finished, and he's marched back to his cage.

***

Mark curls up on the floor. It's cold, but he's used to that. He's hungry, but he's used to that too.

It should be March, according to his calculations, since he arrived here in November. He thinks of March, of white clouds and blue skies and all the other shit he never paid enough attention to before. Eventually, he falls into a fitful sort of sleep.

***

When he wakes up, something is wrong. He feels feverish, sweaty, overheated. The words heat induction flit through his mind. Is this what that'd meant? Had they injected him with something to give him a fever? He sits up, his thin hospital gown clinging to his body, and— and fuck. His thighs are completely drenched, but not with sweat. He touches the substance, and his hand comes away sticky. It's some kind of warm, clear mucous.

And it's coming out of his ass.

***

***

Mark sits crouched in the corner of his cage for over an hour, his back against the white cinderblock wall, with God knows what dripping from his asshole and seeping into his hospital gown. He can smell it: a pungent smell, sweet and ripe and nauseating, and it makes him want to puke.

It's 9:30 AM when the door of the room opens and two white-coats enter.

Mark stands up immediately. "Tell me what's going on," he demands. "What did you inject me with? What is this fucking stuff coming out of my ass?"

The white-coats exchange a glance. They look excited, which is somehow even more terrifying than whatever's going on with his anus.

"No questions. Come on," says the bigger of the two white-coats, unlocking the door of Mark's cage.

Mark's supposed to step out now, he knows, but he shakes his head. "I'm not going with you until you tell me what you did to me," he declares.

"Oh, what's that, you'd prefer not to eat for the next few days?" asks the other white-coat.

Mark's stomach lurches, but he stands his ground. "Fuck you."

"The next week?" says the white-coat. When Mark doesn't respond, she smiles. "Ten days, maybe?"

Shit. "Wait," says Mark, taking a step forward. "Wait—"

"Then get out here."

Shakily, Mark exits the cage.

"Turn around."

Mark glares at them both for a moment. But then he turns around, and allows himself to be handcuffed, allows himself to be led away, barefoot and leaking, to the examination room.

***

The room is buzzing with activity when they arrive.

"He's progressing well," announces the bigger white-coat as they walk through the door. "Already self-lubricating." This causes a sort of hush to fall throughout the room.

Two white-coats bustle over and strap him down to the examination table.

Mark knows better than to talk while he's being examined, so he stays quiet as they take his temperature (103.6 degrees Fahrenheit), measure his heart-rate, and attach him to various machines.

He watches as they crowd around their monitors, making notes on clipboards.

"Well, the estrus phase has begun, that's for sure," says one of them. Estrus.

And in that terrible moment, Mark suddenly understands what's happening to him:

He's going into heat.

Like a cat, or a dog, or— or a fucking rat or something.

Mark squeezes his eyes shut, bites down on his lip. He feels like crying.

Because humans don't have heats, not even female humans. But somehow— somehow, with all the injections and pills and surgeries, they've fucked Mark up, they've messed with his genes, his organs, his hormones, and now—

Someone rolls him onto his side. Gloved hands spread him open and begin to examine his ass. Apparently the white-coats like what they see. He hears the words "vascular engorgement" and "anal lubricant" and "artificial Bartholin's glands." They collect some of the substance from his legs, which they keep referring to as "slick." Then they measure his vitals again, give him another injection in the thigh, and it's over.

"Subject will return for evaluation in twelve hours," says a balding white-coat in glasses. Mark is unhooked from the machines, untied from the table, and escorted from the room.

He's walked back to the other room. His handcuffs are removed. He's locked inside his cage. The white-coats leave.

Mark sinks to his knees, scrambles to the metal toilet at the back of the cage, and vomits. He vomits until all that comes up is bile. Then he starts to sob.

Chapter Text

At noon, a white-coat arrives with Mark's food. He's fed once a day, some kind of disgusting nutritional shake called "Nutro" which they attach to his cage in a bottle. He drinks it through a little metal nozzle, the same way he drinks his water, like he's a fucking hamster or something.

Mark watches as the white-coat wordlessly replaces yesterday's empty bottle with a full one.

"You know that this is fucked up, to make a human go into heat," Mark tells him from the corner of the cage. "And I didn't consent to this. To any of this."

The white-coat gives no response.

Mark sighs. "Look, okay, if you're gonna subject me to unethical experimentation, could you at least give me a fucking towel for this— this 'slick,' that's what you called it, right? The stuff I'm leaking all over the fucking floor?"

The white-coat doesn't even look at him, just turns on his heel and exits the room. The door clicks shut behind him.

For a while Mark sits there, numb, his legs drawn up toward his chest. Then he crawls over to the other side of the cage, kneels in front of the bottle of Nutro, and begins to suck the food into his mouth through the nozzle.

Slick drips down his thighs, and tears drip down his cheeks. He wipes his face impatiently as he continues to eat. Soon— too soon, always too soon— the food is gone. Mark drinks some water and lies down, his back against the steel bars of the cage. He stares up at the ceiling, at the fluorescent lights overhead, and tries to remember the sun. On and off, he cries. Hours pass.

***

And then comes the pain: a stabbing pain in his abdomen, which progresses to something duller, heavier, more all-encompassing. Soon his entire body hurts. He feels dizzy, and he curls up more tightly as his surroundings swim before him. He waits for the pain to pass, but it doesn't.

That's when the arousal hits.

It's unlike anything Mark's ever experienced before: the way it rushes through him, radiating outward from his groin, igniting every nerve, drowning out every thought but a hazy sense of need, desperate need. Mark lets out a whine, bucks his hips against nothing, grabs his hardening dick and jerks himself off until he comes. But the orgasm does nothing to quell the burning need within him, nothing to keep the next wave of arousal at bay.

Mark moans. His asshole is throbbing, aching to be filled. He sticks a finger up his ass, then adds another, then a third. It's not enough, but it's something. His hand is covered in slick as he fingers himself roughly, desperate to assuage the ache within him. But it's really no use; his arousal only grows stronger, and his desire to be touched grows more acute.

He closes his eyes. His head is pounding. This isn't me, he thinks, trying to keep his breathing under control as he fucks himself on his fingers. They did this to me with drugs, humans don't have heats, this isn't natural, it's all fake.

But it doesn't feel fake. It feels like his fucking body is being torn apart. And Mark can't help but cry out, in pain and humiliation and longing. He endures the torturous need for a little while longer. And then, his fingers still up his ass, he blacks out.

***

He comes to in a haze, his skin dripping with sweat. Barely aware of what he's doing, he resumes touching himself desperately, fingering himself with one hand and jerking off with the other. He comes, letting out a whimper, unsatisfied. His leaking ass clenches around his fingers, and he knows that he needs something more, something bigger, something to truly fill him up. But Mark doesn't even have a blanket, let alone something to use as a dildo. He starts to sob, tries to fuck himself harder, but then—

"Well," says a male voice behind him. "I'd say the arousal has set in nicely."

Mark yanks his fingers out of his ass and clambers to sit up. There, outside his cage, stand two white-coats, watching him. They look amused.

"It certainly seems so," says the second white-coat. Then, turning to Mark, he adds in a brusque voice, "Come on. Get up." He unlocks the cage. "Time for your next evaluation."

Mark struggles to his feet and makes his way slowly to the door of the cage.

"Make it stop," he whispers. "Please. I'll do anything."

They snap handcuffs onto his wrists.

"Please," Mark begs. "How much longer?"

"As long as we deem necessary," says one of the white-coats.

Mark starts to cry. Unmoved, the white-coats lead him from the room, and he stumbles along between them, his thighs stuck together with slick.

Everything hurts. Walking hurts. Existing hurts. The pain, the need, it's all too much.

They reach the exam room, step inside. And, for the second time that day, Mark passes out.

Chapter Text

A week passes. Seven days. Mark's been in heat for seven fucking days.

The floor of his cage is coated with slick— some dry, some not— and he's stopped trying to avoid sitting in it: there's no point, he's already covered in it. He's gotten used to the sickly sweet smell, to the way his thighs stick together, to the wetness of his hospital gown.

What he hasn't gotten used to is the deep, insatiable feeling of need.

He fingers himself constantly, as hard as he can. It can't be good for his asshole, but Mark doesn't particularly care; he's beyond caring about anything except lessening the pain of arousal, the longing to have something inside of him.

The second day of his heat, he'd asked, he'd fucking begged, for a toy, a dildo, anything. The white-coats had just laughed at him. During his weekly shower, he'd tried to shove the slender shampoo bottle up his ass, but a white-coat had caught him before he could get very far. It probably wouldn't have helped much anyway, if he's being honest with himself— it would have felt better than his fingers, but he's pretty sure they've engineered it so that the only thing that will satisfy him, truly satisfy him, is a dick.

It's something he's started to come to terms with over the past few days: the fact that he's almost certainly going to end up getting fucked in the ass by someone, or maybe by multiple people. Because that's the reason why animals go into heat, isn't it? To become sexually receptive? To prepare themselves to mate?

***

And that evening, his fears are confirmed.

He's fucking himself on his fingers, moaning desperately, when the white-coats arrive to take him to his nightly examination. At first, everything goes as usual in the exam room: they restrain him, measure his vitals, attach him to machines.

But then one of the female white-coats speaks up as she looks at the monitors. "Estrus is still stable," she states. "And tonight marks one week of monitoring, so Phase 2 can begin at any time. What do we have from the Alpha Unit?"

"A-14 is ready," says the balding white-coat.

"Good," says the female. "Then the introduction will occur tomorrow morning."

"And mating?" asks a skinny man in the back.

"The following day."

Shit.

Mark feels dizzy. He's going to be mated. The day after tomorrow, someone's going to fuck him. For a moment, he can't help but imagine it, imagine getting raped in some sterile room while the white-coats look on. But then he shuts his eyes, and lets himself sink into the haze of need that's always threatening to overwhelm him.

For once, it's a welcome relief.

***

Mark doesn't sleep that night. At 6:30 AM— an hour earlier than usual— two white-coats arrive.

"You're being moved," says one of them. "Come on."

"Moved where?" asks Mark.

"New cage," says the white-coat. "Hurry, get your stuff."

"What stuff?" Mark mutters, but he rises to his feet and grabs his toothbrush and toothpaste from the side of the sink.

He lets the white-coats handcuff him, then trudges along between them as they march him down a different hallway than usual, until they reach a room, much bigger than Mark's last one, containing two cages adjoined by a chain-link wall. Both are empty.

The white-coats remove the handcuffs from Mark's wrists, open one of the cages, and herd Mark inside.

"What's happening?" Mark asks as they lock him up. "Why did you move me here?"

The white-coats don't answer, just leave the room.

And Mark sits down, still clutching his toothpaste and toothbrush, and waits for whatever is to come.

Chapter Text

Mark smells him before he sees him: A fresh, earthy scent coming from the hallway outside the room, something like moss and oceans and a forest after a rainstorm. It's faint at first, but it grows gradually stronger, and it fills Mark's nostrils, clears his mind. It feels heavy, almost solid, on the air as it floods Mark's body, grounding him. He breathes in and out, in and out, and fuck. It's like he can think for the first time in days.

Physically, he's still aroused, but mentally... well, he no longer feels borderline catatonic with need. He slides his fingers out of his ass and wipes them on his hospital gown.

Just then the door opens, and the scent explodes into the room— soil, trees, freedom.

Two white-coats enter, dragging between them a tall, brown-haired guy in a hospital gown. He's sobbing quietly, and clearly trying to yank his handcuffed arms free from the white-coats' grasp, but to no avail. Mark ducks his head, watching through his eyelashes as the white-coats uncuff the guy, open the cage adjoining Mark's, and shove him inside. He stumbles forward and lands on his hands and knees, hard.

One of the white-coats chuckles. "O-12, this is A-14," she says, motioning toward the guy, who's scrambling to sit up. "A-14, meet O-12," she adds, pointing to Mark.

The other white-coat smirks. "Have fun together, you two," he says. "You'll be brought in for examination in a few hours."

And with that, the white-coats leave.

The guy in the other cage continues to sob, his legs drawn up to his chest, his face buried in his hands. Mark leans back against the bars of his cage and lets him cry, waits until the sobs lapse into sniffles. Then he clears his throat.

"What's your name?" he asks.

The guy looks up, as if noticing Mark for the first time. "What?" he says hoarsely.

"Your name," Mark repeats. "Not A-14; your real name."

"I—" The guy frowns. "Eduardo," he says. He sniffs, wipes his face on the shoulder of his hospital gown. "Eduardo," he says again, more firmly.

Mark nods. "I'm Mark."

"It's nice— nice to meet you, Mark," says Eduardo, with a shuddering breath.

And Mark almost laughs at the ridiculousness of it all: two subjects of human experimentation, locked in cages, artificially aroused, trying to exchange pleasantries as if everything about their current situation weren't fucked up beyond belief.

Eduardo scoots a bit closer to Mark's cage. "You smell good," he says quietly, hesitantly. "Like— sweet. I thought I heard the scientists saying that your pheromones would send me into a frenzy or something. But I feel fine." He touches the chain-link wall that separates them. "I feel better."

"Yeah," says Mark. He shrugs. "Me too."

Eduardo sits down cross-legged in front of the wall, his fingers gripping at the links of wire. "It's been like hell," he breathes. "I don't know what they've been doing to you, but they— they made me go into rut. Like a male deer, you know? And I've just been—" A faint blush appears on his sunken cheeks. "Like, humping the wall, humping the ground, jerking myself off. Nothing helped."

"Yeah," Mark says again. "I know the feeling."

"Are— are you in rut too?"

Mark shakes in head. "I'm in heat."

"Oh," Eduardo says softly. "Shit, I guess that makes sense, since—" He breaks off, and gives Mark a pained, sympathetic look. "You know."

Mark just nods. Since we're going to have to mate, neither of them say. Mark stares at Eduardo, at his sallow skin and chapped lips, at his collar bones sticking out. He lowers his gaze to the bulge in Eduardo's lap, under his hospital gown.

Eduardo seems to notice Mark looking, because he folds his hands to cover his crotch. "Sorry," he says, as if it's his own fault, as if Mark isn't going through the same fucking thing.

Mark shakes his head. "It's fine," he whispers. He breathes in Eduardo's scent, fixes his eyes on Eduardo's wide brown ones.

And for the first time in months, he doesn't feel alone.

Chapter Text

They both jump a little when the door opens, and Eduardo lets go of the chain-link wall. A white-coat steps inside, a clip-board in her hand, glances between the two of them, and frowns. Eduardo scoots closer to the center of his own cage, away from Mark's.

"What were you doing when I arrived?" the white-coat asks sharply, her eyes locking onto Eduardo.

"Nothing," he says. "Nothing, just talking."

The white-coat's frown deepens. She writes something on her clipboard, obviously displeased.

"Are we not allowed to talk?" says Mark acerbically, before he can help himself.

Eduardo shoots him a frightened glance, but the white-coat barely seems to have heard. "I'll be back," she says, sounding distracted, and she leaves the room.

***

It isn't long before she returns with three other white-coats.

"Shit," says one of them, looking Mark and Eduardo over with a scowl. "You're right. I thought you were exaggerating."

"They were like this when you arrived?" says another.

"Yes, just sitting there."

There's a moment of unhappy silence. Then Mark and Eduardo are ushered from their cages, handcuffed, and led out of the room.

They're taken in opposite directions, each escorted by two white-coats, and as Eduardo's scent fades, Mark feels his mind clouding up again. He gasps as he's hit by a flood of arousal, and his knees buckle slightly, but the white-coats continue to drag him along. By the time they reach the exam room, Mark is whimpering with need, trying to rut into thin air.

He doesn't really listen to what the white-coats are saying as they strap him down to the table and begin their examination, but he picks up bits and pieces, enough to know that he and Eduardo were not behaving as expected. The white-coats are nervous, on edge, as they measure Mark's vital signs.

Mark stares up at the harsh fluorescent lights on the ceiling, feeling hazy.

"Are his numbers okay?" someone asks.

"They seem to be. Temperature, breathing, and heart-rate are all highly elevated, and consistent with yesterday's readings."

"So maybe A-14 is the problem," says someone else.

"Maybe."

They hook Mark up to wires and crowd around their monitors, continuing to speak in low voices.

"Brain activity looks unchanged."

"So do the thermal readings."

Just then a wave of need surges through Mark, and he bucks his hips, squeezes his eyes shut. A loud moan escapes him, and some of the white-coats look up from the screens. One of them whispers something, and a few others laugh appreciatively.

Fuck you, Mark tries to say, but it comes out as another moan.

"Look at the posterior cingulate cortex right now," says one of the white-coats, pointing at the monitor in front of her. "And the paracingulate gyrus. The level of activity—"

"Yeah, it's off the charts," agrees someone behind her. "He's crazy aroused."

Mark's thoughts are getting jumbled. He hears something else about Subject A-14, and something about another room. He barely feels conscious as the white-coats detach him from the machines and unstrap him from the table.

"Get up," orders a burly white-coat.

Mark obeys unsteadily, and is marched out of the exam room, down an unfamiliar hallway. And suddenly, as they round a corner, Mark smells Eduardo— just a whiff at first, but gradually the scent gets stronger, and as it does, the fog in Mark's mind begins to clear. His legs stop trembling. His breathing slows down.

They continue to walk until they reach a room at the end of a long hall. Eduardo is inside— Mark can smell it— and he breathes in deeply, letting the scent envelop him. One of the white-coats opens the door.

And sure enough, there's Eduardo, strapped down to a gurney. He lifts his head a fraction of an inch as Mark enters and offers a small, strained smile.

"The insula is showing increased activity," Mark hears a white-coat saying. "Increased self-awareness."

"Fuck," says another, eyeing a device attached to Eduardo's wrist. "And his heart-rate is continuing to drop; it's almost down to normal."

"Alright, let's get Subject O-12 hooked up— Were his readings good?" says someone to the white-coat holding Mark's left arm.

"All normal; were A-14's screwed up?"

"No, also normal, but now—" She breaks off. "Come on, I said get him up here, let's go."

Rough hands yank Mark toward the empty gurney beside Eduardo's and strap him onto it. The white-coats swarm around him, beginning to call out his vitals.

"Heart-rate is 70; what was it before?"

"120."

"Shit. Breathing?"

"Twenty breaths per minute. Formerly thirty."

"Temperature is 100 degrees. Something is wrong."

"You think?" scoffs the female white-coat who seems to be in charge. "Look at them; they're three feet from each other and yet they seem almost relaxed. They should be trying to fuck like rabbits right now."

"Must be something about being in close proximity to each other. It's calming them down instead of riling them up."

"I know. Fuck. Fuck, we fucked up somehow."

"Should we delay the mating?"

The lead white-coat shakes her head. "No, we're on a schedule. I'll talk to the higher-ups, see if we can increase the dosage of hormones they receive tonight and tomorrow morning. Hopefully that'll be enough to counteract whatever's going on with them right now."

There's a general murmur of assent throughout the room, and Mark tries not to think about what an increased dose of hormones will do to his body.

He glances over at Eduardo, who meets his eye and smiles at him— a small, sad, pathetic excuse for a smile. But Mark finds it comforting, somehow. Finds Eduardo comforting.

And staring at Eduardo's face, focusing on Eduardo's smell, Mark almost manages to forget about hormones and his heat and the horrors that await them both tomorrow.

Almost. But not quite.

Chapter Text

"How long have you been here?" asks Mark.

The examination is over, and he and Eduardo are back in their cages. They're sitting a few feet apart from each other, separated by the chain-link wall.

"Since August," says Eduardo, his eyes distant. "Late August. But who knows what date it is now, so…"

"It's March 8th," Mark says.

"You've kept track?" Eduardo looks impressed, which Makes mark feel a prick of satisfaction.

"I've tried to. After my first surgery I was pretty out of it for like a week, but—" Mark shrugs. "126 days. That's how many I've counted."

Eduardo's brow furrows, like he's trying to do math in his head.

"It's four months," Mark tells him. "And you've been here six and a half."

"Shit," Eduardo murmurs.

Mark nods. He feels the same. "So how did you end up here?" he asks then, without really thinking it through.

"Oh." Eduardo fiddles with the hem of his hospital gown, then shrugs. "Um."

"It's fine," says Mark. "We don't have to talk about it."

Eduardo lifts his face, gives Mark a grateful little smile. "Okay," he says. "Yeah, I— yeah."

They sit there without speaking for a long time, until at last the door opens and a white-coat walks in with two bottles of Nutro. He affixes one to each cage. "Enjoy," he says, like he knows exactly how disgusting the stuff is.

Then he leaves, and Mark and Eduardo scramble over to their respective bottles and begin to eat. Mark finishes first, and glances over at Eduardo, who's still knelt under the metal nozzle and sucking down the food.

It occurs to Mark that he might enjoy Eduardo sucking his dick like that.

He watches until Eduardo is done, until he sits back on his heels and wipes his mouth on his hand. Their eyes meet.

"Sorry," says Eduardo.

"For what?"

"I don't know, it's just— it's humiliating isn't it? To eat like that? And be so hungry you don't even care?"

Mark shrugs. "I guess."

Eduardo lowers his gaze. "There was this one time— I, uh. I tried to escape," he says quietly. "While they were handcuffing me, I made a break for it. But they caught me, of course." He shakes his head. "As punishment, they didn't feed me for a week. And finally, when the week was up, one of them— the skinniest one, I don’t know if you know him— anyway, he brought the Nutro, right, but— but he just squirted some into his palm and put his arm through the bars of my cage, made me lick it up out of his hand." Eduardo runs his fingers through his hair and gives a bitter laugh. "I mean, fuck, he didn't make me. I just did it, you know? Like some kind of animal." He sighs. "He fed me half the bottle like that before he let me drink the rest like normal."

Mark is quiet.

Eduardo wraps his arms around his chest, as if suddenly self-conscious. "I'm sorry," he mutters. "I don't know why I told you that."

Mark shrugs again. "I offered to suck their dicks if they'd give me a dildo," he says. "When I was first in heat. I was really desperate."

"Did they— did you—"

"No," says Mark. "They just laughed in my face, called me a whore. Then I tried to stick a shampoo bottle up my ass, during my shower. Which they also found hilarious."

Eduardo's eyes are soft, understanding.

"Apparently they get off on seeing us degrade ourselves," Mark concludes.

"Yeah," says Eduardo. "Apparently." He moves closer to Mark's cage, places his hand on the chain-link wall. "Mark, I'm glad you're here," he whispers. "I thought— I thought maybe I'd never see another human again. Other than them."

"Me too." Mark frowns. And then, tonelessly: "We're gonna have to fuck though," he says.

"I know," says Eduardo. Mark thinks there might be tears in his eyes. "I know, but—"

Mark presses his hand against Eduardo's, and they interlace their fingers as best as they can through the wire.

"But we'll be okay," Eduardo says.

Eduardo's hand is warm. And Mark nods.

They'll be okay.

Chapter Text

That night, they're brought to an examination room and once again strapped down to adjacent gurneys. After some preliminary measurements of their vital signs, they're each injected two times in the thigh.

The effect is almost instantaneous. Mark feels a painful, pulsing heat begin to pool behind his navel. His mind starts getting hazy. He thrusts his hips upward, yanks at his restraints, desperate to touch himself.

"O-12's heart-rate and breathing rate are increasing steadily," says someone.

"So are A-14's. And his temperature is 102 and rising."

"That's good. 103 for O-12. And his heart-rate is 115."

"A-14 is at 120."

"Brain activity indicating arousal is also increasing for both of them."

"Shit, look at that PCC light up."

"It's like a goddamn Christmas tree."

Mark stops listening. He isn't thinking straight anymore; all he can focus on is the overpowering sense of need.

Beside him, Eduardo whines wantonly.

And shit, Mark feels raw arousal course through him at the sound, and he bucks his hips again, uselessly. His ass is throbbing. He cries out in pain.

He can still smell Eduardo, but it's a richer, muskier scent than before, and if anything, it only heightens Mark's desperation to be touched, to be fucked.

He's not sure how long he lies like that, tied down to a gurney and rutting into nothing.

But finally the white-coats unstrap him and help him down to the floor. He stands there, trembling, his legs dripping with slick. He can hear Eduardo whimpering somewhere nearby.

Together, they're led out of the exam room and down a series of hallways, until at last they reach the room containing their cages. Mark collapses, hitting his face on the floor, unable to break his fall with his hands cuffed behind his back. A pair of white-coats pull him to his feet and remove the handcuffs, only for him to collapse again. This time no one helps him up.

"Crawl," says one of the white-coats, giving his ass a kick. So Mark crawls into his cage and curls up tightly, watching through half-closed eyes as the white-coats lock him inside.

"You guys have a good night, now," says one of them, with a smirk.

In the other cage, Eduardo is sobbing.

And the white-coats the room, and Mark starts to sob too.

*

He and Eduardo spend the night lying on either side of the chain-link wall, their backs pressed together, both of them crying and touching themselves frantically.

Sometimes Mark catches a glimpse of Eduardo's dick: huge and deformed, with some kind of growth at the base. It still turns him on, still makes him fuck himself even harder on his fingers, longing for something more substantial to fill him up.

"Mark," Eduardo calls out sometimes, or "Hurts," or "Please."

"Eduardo," whimpers Mark. "Wardo."

It's all either of them can say; their minds are too focused on enduring the pain to form coherent sentences.

Mark fades in and out of consciousness as the night wears on. Hours pass— three hours, six hours, twelve hours. At last it's 7:30 AM, and the white-coats arrive right on time.

They find Mark and Eduardo curled up in their cages, their moans echoing off the stark white walls of the room, and they laugh.

Fuck them, Mark thinks. Fucking psychopaths.

He and Eduardo are removed from their adjoining cages and led down a hallway to a room containing a single, larger cage. Surrounding the cage is a panoply of white-coats, some looking at monitors, some whispering among themselves.

"Subjects have arrived," announces someone. "Administer the injections."

Mark's leg is stabbed twice with a needle. He barely feels it, but he feels the effects: He starts getting dizzy. It's hard to breathe. And he wouldn't have thought it possible, but his arousal grows even stronger.

Beside him, Eduardo lets out a strangled noise of desperation.

"Now undress them and attach the monitors," Mark hears next.

So Mark's handcuffs are removed, and so is his hospital gown. He glances at Eduardo momentarily, at his naked body; his protruding ribs; his face, contorted in agony. Then Mark looks away, embarrassed, and stares at his own bare feet against the tile floor. He feels adhesive patches affixed to his body in various spots: his wrists, his chest, his temples.

"All set? Good. Then put them in the cage," says the female white-coat, the leader.

Fuck. Mark's legs feel like jelly as he allows himself to be marched toward the open door of the cage and shoved inside. He watches as Eduardo is pushed in after him.

A tall white-coat closes and locks the door.

"And now—" says the lead white-coat. She smiles. "Now we wait. And if all goes according to plan, we shouldn't even have to tell them what to do."

Chapter Text

They're supposed to fuck now.

They're seated two feet from each other on the floor of a cage, pumped full of hormones and horrifically aroused. Of course they're supposed to fuck.

And Mark is in heat and Eduardo is in rut; fucking is supposed to feel natural, isn't it? Necessary, even. Shit, if they were animals, maybe it would.

But they're not animals, and everything just feels wrong. Everything is wrong.

The white-coats are waiting with bated breath around the cage; Mark can feel it.

He and Eduardo exchange a brief, frightened glance. Then Eduardo angles himself away a little, hunches his naked body, and begins to move his hand rhythmically, jerking himself off.

Mark touches himself too, curled up as tightly as he can. It hurts so much. So fucking much. "Eduardo," he breathes. "Maybe we… we should just..."

But Eduardo shakes his head. "I can't," he says weakly, like every word hurts. "I'm not gonna— Not like this. I'm not… gonna rape you."

"I consent," Mark whimpers.

"You're… in heat."

A few of the white-coats have started to murmur.

Eduardo turns to look at them. "Fuck you, all of you," he tells them in a trembling voice, crossing his arms. "You fucking perverts." He lets out a stifled sob.

"Shit," says the lead female white-coat. "Shit."

"How is he resisting; is the rut still not strong enough?" asks a white-coat in the back.

"I don't see how it could possibly not be, with the quantity of hormones we gave him, but—" The woman sighs. "Fuck. Remove A-14 and cuff him; leave O-12 locked up."

Mark hears the words but barely processes them. He continues to finger himself as the cage door is opened and Eduardo is dragged out.

"What are you doing?" asks someone.

"I'm injecting him again."

"Is that safe?"

"I guess we'll find out, won't we?"

That's bad, thinks some distant part of Mark's brain, fighting to break through the haze of arousal. That's very bad; Eduardo is in danger right now. "Stop," he mumbles. "Don't— hurt him—"

No one listens.

Eduardo cries out as a syringe goes into his thigh. Mark shuts his eyes, tries to say something else in protest, but no words come out. Before long the cage clangs open again and Eduardo is hurled back inside. He lands with a thud next to Mark, and the cage is re-locked.

Mark rolls over, his fingers still shoved up his ass, and squints at Eduardo, naked and huddled on the floor.

He isn't moving. And then, suddenly, he starts to convulse.

"Wardo?" breathes Mark. He sits up and touches Eduardo's shoulder, but Eduardo doesn't seem to be aware of him. Mark whips his head around to face the white-coats. "What's wrong with him?" he demands. He can feel adrenaline shooting through him, momentarily helping him to think straight. "Why are you just standing there; do something! You— you obviously made him overdose or something; you have to help him. He's— Shit." Eduardo continues convulsing on the floor. "You have to help him," Mark repeats shakily.

A few of the white-coats look uneasy, and some have begun whispering to each other, but none of them move, none of them come to Mark's aid.

None of them care, Mark realizes. He and Eduardo are just lab rats to them, completely disposable.

He feels his mind fogging up again as he returns his attention to Eduardo. He rolls him onto his back. His brown eyes are glassy. There's drool coming from the corner of his mouth.

But then Mark cups his cheek, and recognition flickers in Eduardo's face.

"Mark—" he croaks. "Please— need— touch—" He bucks his hips weakly, and Mark glances at his cock, hard and leaking with pre-come, the growth at the base throbbing. It looks painful. Mark touches the shaft hesitantly, feels Eduardo exhale in relief.

"More," Eduardo says, his eyes rolling back.

And in that moment, intuitively, Mark understands what's wrong, what he needs to do to help Eduardo.

He positions himself on top of Eduardo's lap, and, aided by the slick, slides his ass onto Eduardo's erect cock. Instantly, Eduardo stops convulsing. For a few moments he just lies there, whimpering in pleasure. Then he begins to thrust. And Mark follows along, rides Eduardo's dick, feels it swell inside him, filling him up.

Filling him up. Finally, finally. This is what he's wanted, what he's needed, since his heat started a week ago.

Mark comes almost immediately, hard, and he feels his heat abating, at least for the time being.

But Eduardo is still tense, still whining for more. So Mark continues to grind on him, blinking away tears as they fill his eyes.

"I'm sorry," he whispers. "I'm sorry, Wardo."

Wardo doesn't seem to hear him. Mark keeps going.

Dimly, he's aware of the white-coats murmuring excitedly as they watch, but he ignores them, just focuses on Eduardo's face— his agonized expression, his closed eyes, his slightly-parted lips.

Eduardo's dick continues to swell around the base until it feels like it's locked in position. And maybe it is, maybe the white-coats engineered it to do that. Soon, Eduardo's thrusting becomes shallower, his breathing becomes faster.

And then he lets out a moan— a loud, orgasmic moan— and goes limp.

"Wardo," says Mark, leaning forward, touching Eduardo's face.

Eduardo opens his eyes at the contact. "Mark," he breathes.

"Eduardo, I'm so sorry, I had to; they injected you with something—"

Eduardo shakes his head. "It's fine," he slurs.

Mark tries to pull off him but he can't. Wardo's dick won't move.

"Wardo—" Mark says.

"Don't cry," Wardo tells him, his head lolling to the side. "It's okay."

"I'm not crying," says Mark, but he is. He wipes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and rests his cheek on Wardo's warm chest.

Eduardo holds him close.

"Look at that," says a white-coat. "The Alpha's protective instincts are kicking in."

"And the bulbus glandis is functioning, apparently."

"I'd say this was a success, all things considered."

Mark tunes them out, concentrates instead on the feeling of his skin against Eduardo's, on the mingled smells of sweat and sex and a forest after the rain. He stops crying. Eduardo kisses his hair.

The lie there like that for a few minutes, knotted together by Eduardo's cock, holding each other. Gradually, the tightness in Mark's asshole lessens.

"I'm gonna—" he says.

Eduardo nods. They separate. Mark hugs his knees to his chest, grabs Eduardo's hand, grips it tightly. He doesn't intend to let go of it any time soon.

But then the cage is opened. Someone pulls them apart, and they're dragged out in front of the white-coats. The adhesive monitors are peeled off their bodies. Their hospital gowns are put back on.

And that’s it. The mating is done. They did it.

They're handcuffed and marched out of the room.

Already, Mark can feel his heat beginning to grow stronger again, sending out little tendrils of need through his body. He stumbles, and Eduardo turns around, which earns him a slap on the face.

"Keep walking," hisses one of the white-coats.

Eduardo keeps walking, and so does Mark.

***

At last they reach the room containing their cages, and the white-coats lock them up, then leave without a word.

Mark sinks to his knees, wraps his hand around his hardening cock.

Eduardo collapses too, sagging against the wall between the two cages. "Mark," he says brokenly.

"Wardo," says Mark.

"It's over," breathes Eduardo.

Mark nods at first. It's over.

And then he starts to cry.

Chapter Text

"Mark, come here," says Eduardo weakly, as Mark begins to cry.

So Mark stops jerking off and crawls over toward Eduardo.

He pulls his legs up to his chest and rests his head on the chain-link wall. "I want to shower," he says. He's not sure why he says it; personal hygiene really isn't the biggest of his problems right now.

Eduardo touches Mark's hair through the openings in the wire. "When's your next shower?" he asks.

"Three days," says Mark. He's still crying.

"Mark," Eduardo says quietly. "Shh. It's okay."

And Mark knows he's not talking about showers. "They made us fuck while they all watched," he says, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. "They wouldn't have cared if they killed you. In what world is that okay?"

"I know. I know, but—"

"I thought you were gonna die."

"But I didn't; I'm right here." Eduardo continues to stroke Mark's hair.

Mark lets out a shuddering breath and presses his forehead harder against his knees. "You shouldn't have to, like— comfort me," he says. "I'm the one who raped you while you were too drugged up to talk."

"Mark," says Eduardo, very firmly. "Look at me."

Mark lifts his face.

"You didn't rape me. Okay? We were both forced to have sex under... non-ideal circumstances. Both of us."

"Non-ideal circumstances," Mark echoes hollowly.

"But I think— I mean, we didn't have much choice; we both... needed it, in the moment. Even if we would have preferred not to do it like... like that."

Eduardo sounds hesitant, almost scared, so Mark nods in reply, because it's true, they didn't have a choice. But he doesn't want to keep talking about this, to be honest. Doesn't want to keep thinking about it either. He looks away.

Eduardo seems to get the hint. He scoots back a few inches. "Look, I'm gonna..." he says then, motioning vaguely toward his crotch. "Sorry, it's just—"

"Go for it," Mark says with a sigh.

So Eduardo lifts his hospital gown. And Mark knows he should look away, but he can't help but stare at Eduardo's cock, huge and erect and leaking with pre-come. He watches as Eduardo begins to pump his hand up and down, watches how his eyelashes flutter, watches him come with a groan. And Mark comes soon after, realizing only belatedly that he'd started touching himself too at some point.

Mark leans forward a little, lifting his ass off the ground. His heat isn't anywhere near as strong as it was before, but it hasn't stopped; the aching need is still there. And that, combined with the sight of Eduardo's dick...

"Was it always so big?" he asks as he begins to finger himself, nodding in the direction of Eduardo's groin.

Eduardo blushes a little, then shakes his head.

"What'd they do to it?"

"Daily injections for a month," says Eduardo. "And two surgeries." He starts to jerk off again, seemingly almost absently.

"What's— the thing at the bottom?"

"Uh. They call it the knot." Eduardo shrugs, glancing down miserably at his lap.

"They did something to my ass," Mark offers after a moment. "Made it self-lubricate." He thinks of the slick, how it pools beneath him wherever he sits; how it dries on his legs, crusts on his ass cheeks; how it never fucking stops. "It's gross," he admits.

"Yeah," says Eduardo. "Not— not that I think you're gross," he adds quickly. "Just. What they've done to us, what they're doing to us. It's fucked up."

Which is an understatement, but Mark nods.

There's no way to put into words the what it's like to exist inside a body that's been modified in terrifying, unknown ways; no way to truly express the mingled feelings of self-disgust and violation and physical vulnerability that come along with being a subject of human experimentation.

But they both feel it, they both understand, and maybe that's enough.

Chapter Text

At 9:32 AM, the door opens. Two white-coats enter briskly.

"O-12," says one of them. "Get up. Time for an exam."

"What kind of exam?"

"No questions. Get over here," says the other, unlocking Mark's cage.

Mark gives Eduardo a glance, then stands up, walks to the white-coats. They handcuff him and lead him out of the room, each holding onto one of his arms.

"Is it just me or does he fucking stink?" asks the shorter of the white-coats as they walk down a long hallway.

"No, he definitely does," agrees the other.

"You think it's the slick?"

"That, definitely, plus good old B.O."

"Fucking nasty," says the shorter one.

Mark keeps his eyes fixed on his bare feet, focuses on not tripping on the polished white floor.

At last they reach the exam room and he's strapped into a chair. The white-coats measure his vital signs first, as always, and then draw what seems like an obscene amount of blood. After that they move him to a table, where his anus gets probed with something cold and metal.

"That's hurts," Mark informs them stiffly.

"Shut up," he's told.

So he does. Eventually they finish the anal exam, then roll him onto his back.

At that point a male white-coat opens the door, and those in the room look up expectantly.

"Well?" says someone.

"Negative for pregnancy," replies the man at the door, stepping inside. "Fertility looks good though."

Pregnancy? Mark frowns, unsure what to make of the realization that the white-coats are apparently as delusional as they are sadistic. His mind may be addled by his heat, but he still knows the basics of human pregnancy. Like the fact that it takes at least a week for pregnancy to show up in bloodwork. And the fact that—

"You do know there's no physical way I can possibly be pregnant, right?" he hears himself saying.

A few white-coats glance over in surprise, like they'd forgotten he could speak.

"Roth, can you open O-12's file and note that he's not to be fed today or tomorrow?" says the lead white-coat nonchalantly.

"I don't have a uterus," Mark goes on. "I don't have ovaries; I don't produce eggs—"

The lead white-coat turns to Mark and grabs his cheeks between her fingers. "Science," she says, her lips twisting upward, "is an incredible thing, if you know how to use it. And if you talk again, you don't eat for a week; do you understand?"

Mark nods until the white-coat lets go of his face and joins the others, who are looking at their monitors.

Mark feels dizzy. He listens as they discuss the results of his blood test, mentioning terms he's unfamiliar with: "FSH" and "estradiol" and "inhibin B." Fertility indicators, apparently. His are high. The white-coats are confident, therefore, that they'll see results soon.

Mark closes his eyes and lets himself wonder, for a moment, if maybe they aren't delusional. If maybe he can get pregnant. He has no idea what they did to him during those two operations; maybe they fucked with his reproductive system somehow. Maybe— maybe—

And suddenly Mark can't breathe, and his chest hurts, and the room is swimming—

Fuck.

***

He lies there for what feels like hours: panicking, hyperventilating, strapped down to an examination table and surrounded by scientists discussing their plans to breed him.

Then he's handcuffed and led back down the hallway, back to his cage, back to Eduardo.

He's thrown inside and locked up. The white-coats leave.

"Wardo," Mark sobs, as he crawls to the wall between their cages and grips desperately at the wire.

"What's wrong, did they hurt you?" Eduardo's eyes are large.

Mark shakes his head, trying to keep his breathing under control, afraid of slipping into another panic attack. "No," he gasps. "No, they're— Fuck. Eduardo."

"What?"

"They're trying to get me pregnant."

Chapter Text

"Wait. Pregnant?" Eduardo repeats. "How?"

"I don't know, but I think they fucked with me somehow, inside, and— I don't know." Mark's crying now. "I don't know."

"You think they— what, gave you a uterus or something?"

"I told you, I don't know," says Mark, more angrily than he'd intended. He's not angry, not at Eduardo, just— scared. He sniffs.

"I'm sorry," says Eduardo. "I didn't—"

"It's fine."

There's a moment of strained silence. Then Eduardo speaks again. "You're sure they said you can get pregnant? And they weren't, like... joking?"

"I'm sure, Wardo." Mark leans against the wall between them, so his and Eduardo's shoulders are touching through the wire.

"Maybe it won't happen," says Eduardo. "Maybe whatever they tried to do didn't work. And I mean— look, they don't feed us well; I'm sure that decreases fertility. And so does stress."

"They said my fertility is high though."

Eduardo exhales shakily. "Okay," he says. "Well maybe—"

"Do I smell bad?" Mark asks, cutting him off.

"What? No. You smell sweet. Like— hot chocolate or something. And marshmallows. And like mint ice cream."

"They said I stink."

"Don't listen to them."

Mark bites his lip. "I don't want to get pregnant." He glances up at Eduardo. "I can't. It'd be—" He breaks off.

Eduardo nods, his expression soft and sympathetic. "I know," he whispers. "I know, I don't want you to either."

"Just imagine having a baby in this place," Mark says, staring down at his knees, unsure whether he's talking more to Eduardo or himself. "And you know they'd take it away and experiment on it too."

"We wouldn't let that happen," says Eduardo.

Mark scoffs. "We wouldn't have a choice."

Which is true, and they both know it. Eduardo doesn't respond.

"I'm gonna nap," says Mark.

Eduardo nods. "Okay." He says it gently, like he thinks Mark might break at any moment.

Mark frowns, and lies down against the chain-link wall. He fingers himself idly, trying not to cry. A few minutes go by.

And then Eduardo lies down too, his back against Mark's.

Mark revels in the warmth, the closeness. The smell of trees and rain.

And soon, he drifts off into a deep, unhappy sleep.

*

He wakes up a few hours later when a white-coat arrives with Eduardo's daily ration of Nutro. He pours it into the bottle attached to Eduardo's cage and turns to go.

"Wait," says Eduardo, frowning, as the white-coat approaches the door.

"Wardo," Mark warns quietly.

But Eduardo is undeterred. "Where's his?" he demands. "You can't just feed me and not him."

The white-coat pauses with his hand on the doorknob. "Yes, we can," he says in a clipped tone. And he exists the room.

Eduardo stares after him for a moment, his expression indignant. Then he turns to Mark. "What—"

"I talked back," says Mark. "During my exam." He shrugs. "No food for two days."

"Well I'm not eating if you're not eating," Eduardo says immediately.

"Don't be stupid," Mark tells him.

"I'm not—"

"Starving yourself counts as stupid," snaps Mark. "Go eat, Eduardo." He crosses his arms.

Eduardo presses his lips together, his eyes fixed uncertainly on Mark's face. Then he sighs, giving in. He crawls over to the food, and, with one final backward glance at Mark, begins to eat.

Chapter Text

Mark curls up on the floor, a fist pressed against his empty stomach, and listens to the sound of Wardo sucking down his Nutro. At last Eduardo crawls back over to the wall and sags against it with a sigh.

Mark drifts off to sleep.

He dreams of the white-coats doing surgery on a baby while Mark watches from the side, gagged and bound. There's blood everywhere. The baby flatlines. Mark tries to scream.

"Mark," says someone. "Mark!"

It's Wardo. Mark opens his eyes, breathing hard, and glances around. There's no baby, no blood. He's drenched in sweat.

"Jesus, Mark. Are you okay?" asks Eduardo.

Mark nods.

"You were yelling."

"Bad dream," Mark mutters. His heat feels stronger now than it was before. There's an uncomfortable warmth radiating from his abdomen, and his body is raw with need.

"Do you want to— to talk about it?"

"No." Mark scoots closer to the chain-link wall, leans against it, and starts to finger his asshole. He feels flushed, dizzy. "My heat's getting bad again," he mumbles.

"Same with my rut. Hurts like fuck."

"Yeah."

They sit there in silence for a while, just touching themselves.

"How often do you think they'll make us fuck?" Mark asks then.

Eduardo lets out a moan. "Hold on, I— fuck. I'm gonna come." He moans again, his eyes closed tightly, and slumps a little against the wall. A few moments pass before he starts to jerk off again, just as intently as before.

"Because I'm guessing it'll be every day," Mark goes on tonelessly. "And next time— Listen, Wardo, you can't put a fight, okay?"

Eduardo frowns.

"I don't want them to inject you again like they did today," Mark says.

"But—"

"Wardo," says Mark, beginning to lose his patience. "Please. If you die—" His voice breaks.

Eduardo's eyes are wide. "Mark," he says softly. "Mark, don't cry, okay? I'm not gonna die."

"You will if they keep overdosing you on hormones," says Mark, pressing the heels of his palms against his eyes. "Wardo, please, I know it's fucked up, but— They're gonna make us do it eventually; we might as well just—"

Eduardo presses his lips together, then nods slowly. "Okay," he whispers. "Okay, Mark."

"I'm sorry," offers Mark.

Eduardo smiles sadly and tells him, "Me too."

And they lean against each other through the wall, and lace their fingers together, and cry.

***

Hours pass.

Mark jerks himself off, fucks himself open on his fingers, rubs his prostate. And he comes, again and again, but it's not satisfying, not like it was when he came from Wardo's dick.

That evening some white-coats arrive and escort Mark and Eduardo away to separate examinations. Mark's is very routine— blood pressure, vitals, brain imaging. Then he's injected in the thigh— more hormones, shit— and led back to his cage.

Eduardo's already back, curled up by the chain-link wall. Mark lies down beside him, so their backs are pressed together through the wire. Eduardo whimpers, then goes back to touching himself. Mark touches himself too, desperately, wracked with the pain of arousal.

The night drags on.

Sometimes Eduardo cries out Mark's name, and sometimes Mark cries out Wardo's, but they don't talk. It's too painful, too much effort. Mark falls asleep a few times, and sleep fitfully, never more than a couple hours at a time.

At last morning arrives. With it arrive four white-coats.

Mark's stomach drops.

Chapter Text

The white-coats bring Mark and Eduardo to the same room they fucked in yesterday. They're both stripped naked, affixed with various monitors, and injected in the thigh. Then they're thrown into the cage.

Mark curls up and stares at the white-coats who surround the cage on all sides, some looking at monitors, some holding clipboards, some just watching eagerly. His vision blurs as his eyes fill with tears.

Then Eduardo lies down behind him, drapes an arm over Mark's chest, pulls him close.

They're spooning. Mark shuts his eyes and tries to imagine that they're in bed together somewhere, safe and warm, instead of the floor of a laboratory cage.

Then he feels Eduardo's erection pressing against his ass cheeks, slipping inside him, and—

***

And they fuck.

***

By the time they've both come, they're knotted together by Eduardo's swollen cock. They lie there, unable to separate, Mark breathing hard and Eduardo crying softly.

After a while, Eduardo clears his throat. "You okay?" he whispers.

Mark nods. Eduardo brushes his lips against Mark's shoulder, presses a kiss to nape of his neck. His cheeks are wet against Mark's skin.

Mark keeps his eyes closed, trying to ignore the white-coats murmuring around the cage. It's fucking humiliating, to have just been fucked in front of an audience, to know they heard you whine and moan and beg, watched you tremble pathetically against the ground as you were rutted into.

Eduardo shifts a little, and Mark feels their thighs slide against each other.

"Sorry," Mark mutters. "I— I got slick all over your legs, didn't I?"

"It's okay," Eduardo says. "I don't mind." He strokes Mark's hair, and Mark breathes in deeply.

***

They stay there like that, huddled together on the floor, for what feels like a long time. But at last the swelling in Eduardo's dick starts to go down and he's able to pull out.

Immediately, the cage is opened and Mark and Eduardo are removed, re-dressed, and escorted out of the room.

Before long they're back in their cages, and the white-coats are gone. They don't really talk, just lie there on either side of the chain-link wall, exhausted and ashamed.

At some point white-coats show up again and take Mark away for a pregnancy test. It's negative, and he's returned to his cage.

***

Hours go by. Mark is hungry. His heat is getting stronger. He touches himself, his thoughts growing hazy.

Then Eduardo speaks. "Sometimes I imagine the weather," he says.

"What?" Mark rolls over to face him.

Eduardo's eyes are closed, and his hand is pumping up and down his dick. "The weather," he repeats. "I think, oh, maybe it's raining today. And then I think what that would mean for the clouds, the air pressure, the wind currents." He lets out a whimper, then goes on: "I— I used to be really into meteorology, you know?"

Mark nods slowly.

Eduardo gives an embarrassed laugh. "I'm sure it— it must sound insane, for me to think about that stuff, here."

"It doesn't sound insane."

"But I mean, we don't even have windows, and I'm like— inventing weather forecasts in my mind?" He sighs. "It just— helps, a little, I guess."

"I used to study computer science," Mark shrugs. "I still imagine I'm coding sometimes."

Eduardo turns his head to the side, so he's looking at Mark. He smiles, a small, grateful smile.

And— shakily— Mark smiles back.

Chapter Text

It's night, and Mark and Eduardo have just been returned to their cages after their evening examinations.

Mark feels lightheaded— whether from food deprivation or from his heat, he's not sure. He also feels disgusting, covered in come and slick and sweat. 128 days, he thinks. He's been here 128 fucking days: fourteen days of preliminary tests, sixty days of pills and injections, two days for the first surgery, thirty days for recovery, one day for the second surgery, ten days for recovery, nine days of induced heat, two days of forced mating. He thinks back to 128 days ago, to how stupid he was. And then he starts to cry.

"Mark," says Eduardo gently, from the adjacent cage. "What's wrong?"

Mark laughs wetly. "Everything."

A small crease appears between Eduardo's eyebrows.

Mark sighs, looks away. "It's my own fault I'm here," he says.

"Do you... want to talk about it?"

"No," says Mark. He shrugs. "Maybe."

Eduardo is quiet.

"I went to Harvard," Mark says at last.

"Me too," whispers Eduardo.

Mark looks up. "Were you there last October?"

"No. I— I was here."

"Shit, right. Anyway, I was expelled. I made a stupid website that offended a lot of people and got me in trouble and the ad board expelled me. And I didn't have anywhere to go, or any money, or any job, so once I got expelled and they made me vacate my dorm, I was screwed." He closes his eyes. "I went to a homeless shelter."

"What about your... family?"

"Not in the picture. Anyway, the homeless shelter was a shit-hole. Some guy broke my laptop, the food was crap, I wanted to get out, you know? And after like a week I saw an advertisement on a bulletin board there. It said something like, 'get paid three thousand dollars for participating in a month-long clinical trial.' And I thought... well, for three thousand dollars I could get an apartment. So I called the number, talked to some lady. She said that during the trial I'd be housed and fed in a testing facility. I figured, great, it couldn't be worse than the shelter." He shoots Eduardo a quick glance, then drops his gaze back down to the floor. "She gave me an address to go to, so I went. I signed all the forms without reading them. God, I was such a fucking idiot. Next thing I knew I was being given an injection." Mark shrugs. "When I woke up I was in a cage."

"I'm sorry," says Eduardo quietly.

Mark shakes his head. "I should have known better."

"They lied to you. They— they purposely targeted a vulnerable group; I mean, putting an ad in a homeless shelter? That's fucked up."

"I didn't have to call," says Mark, beginning to tear up again. "I didn't have to sign those papers."

"Well, I signed the same shit," Eduardo tells him. "It doesn't mean we deserve to be treated like this. Jesus, no one deserves to be treated like this, like fucking guinea pigs in some fucked-up experiment."

Mark wipes at his damp cheeks and sniffs.

"You— you want to know how I ended up here?" Eduardo asks quietly.

Mark lifts his face, and Eduardo takes a deep breath.

"My father told me about it," he says after a moment. "He said he knew some people who were working to create some sort of meta-humans. He told me he would feel so honored for his own son to participate. So I just... said yes." Eduardo scoffs softly. "I wanted to make him proud of me, you know? So I took a leave of absence from school and enrolled in the program, signed everything they gave me. I figured they were just routine forms, right? And they took me to some lab, started doing tests. That night it came time for me to leave and... they wouldn't let me. That's when they brought me to my cage." Eduardo pauses briefly, seeming to collect himself for a second before going on. "At first they were trying to give me psychic powers or something. They injected me, electrocuted me. They'd test me constantly, trying to get me to read their minds. When I couldn't do it, they'd—" He shudders a little. "Um. They'd punish me. They said I was their only subject who wasn't showing results. Anyway, eventually they gave up and entered me in this experiment instead. Started making me into an 'Alpha' or whatever." He glances up and gives Mark a rueful smile. "Obviously, this time I did show results."

"Your father hasn't managed to track you down? Even though he knew people involved?"

Eduardo's smile gets colder. "I think my father knew everything," he says. "And didn't give a shit."

"That's pretty fucked up," Mark mutters.

"Yeah, well. He's never been fond of me." And Eduardo's tone is so casual, like a lack of fondness is perfect justification for a father to hand his son over to be subjected to illegal human experimentation. Which— fuck. Mark's family may be shit but they're not... that shit. He frowns.

Eduardo's eyes are wet. He clears his throat. "Anyway," he says. "We can't blame ourselves. That doesn't help anything. We just have to stay strong and—"

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why stay strong?" Mark asks flatly.

"Mark..."

"I mean, it's all illegal, what they're doing. They can't risk us telling anyone. So it's not like they'll ever set us free." It's something that Mark's known, deep down, for a long time, but never admitted to himself until now. "Once they have no more use for us..." He shrugs.

"They're not gonna kill us," says Eduardo.

Mark gives him a look.

"I mean— I mean we're gonna escape first." Eduardo says it with a mix of hesitance and certainty, like it's something he's just decided but is suddenly completely confident of. "We're gonna get out of here."

Mark scoffs.

"No, I'm serious," Eduardo says firmly. "We are."

Mark stares at him for a moment, at his glare, his furrowed brow, his set jaw. Then Mark closes his eyes. He can feel his heat pulsing in his abdomen, a sensation of throbbing emptiness, and he can sense clouds of need lurking in the corners of his mind, fighting to overpower him.

At last, he manages to nod. "Okay," he says. "Sure. We'll escape." The words feel strange in his mouth, and he doesn't quite believe them. But it's a significantly more pleasant idea than we're going to be casually exterminated when they're finished with us, so he forces himself to focus on it: We'll escape, he tells himself hazily. We'll escape, we'll escape...

And with that thought in mind, he curls up against the chain-link wall, sinks into a sort of heat-induced oblivion, and dreams of freedom.

Chapter Text

A week goes by, then another.

Every day, Mark and Eduardo are forced to fuck, and every day, to Mark's unspeakable relief, his pregnancy test comes back negative.

The white-coats are getting frustrated, and it seems that the higher-ups are displeased too, because they've started sending a man named Manningham (older, balding, glasses) to preside over both the mating sessions and Mark's subsequent examinations.

***

There's no such thing as a good day in the lab; every day is bad. But some days are slightly less-bad, and Mark has learned to be grateful for them.

For example, some days they're only injected with a small dose of hormones, so they're both relatively clear-minded as they fuck. (Which means being aware of the the crowd of white-coats watching and the Manningham guy smirking and the fact that Eduardo is usually crying the whole fucking time. But it's better than the days when they're so drugged-up that they just fuck like animals, too aroused to think or object or speak at all beyond incoherent moans.)

And some days the examinations are less invasive than usual. Some days they manage to get a few hours of sleep during the afternoon. Some days they're lucid enough to have conversations with each other, to hold each other's hands through the chain-link wall and believe that someday they'll escape.

***

Today was one of the less-bad days, all things considered. Low hormone dose, bearable exams, negative pregnancy test.

Now it's night, and Mark is lying on the floor in a puddle of slick, not quite awake and not quite asleep. He's touching himself, and thinking of Eduardo, of the way Eduardo had kissed him on the lips this morning as they fucked. He closes his eyes.

And then he hears something: footsteps, in the hall outside the room.

Except it's the middle of the night; the white-coats never stop by in the middle of the night.

The door opens, and Mark sits up and watches, frowning, as none other than Manningham enters, his lab coat swishing behind him.

"Hello," he says, with a twisted sort of smile. "O-12, A-14."

Mark scowls. "What do you want?"

"Mark?" says Eduardo, groggily, from the adjacent cage. "You okay?" Then he seems to notice Manningham, and he goes quiet.

But Manningham turns to him.

"You," he says, "have been a very bad alpha, haven't you? Failing to impregnate our little omega here?" He pauses for a moment, takes a step nearer to Mark's cage. "I think maybe it's time for someone else to try, don't you?"

Fuck, thinks Mark. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck—

"No. Don't you dare touch him," says Eduardo in a quiet, threatening voice. "Don't you fucking dare." He stands up.

Manningham just smiles. "Oh? And who's going to stop me?" he asks. "You?"

Eduardo lets out a noise like a low growl, which makes Manningham laugh.

"I'll scream," says Mark abruptly. "Someone will hear."

"Do you know what time it is?" asks Manningham.

"3:19 AM, according to the clock on the wall," says Mark, fighting to keep his voice level.

"That's right," says Manningham. "Which means that all the other researchers have gone home for the day. No one's gonna come to your rescue." He smirks. "In fact, I'm the only person in the building who isn't locked in a cage."

Fuck.

Manningham takes another step forward. "Now get on your hands and knees," he instructs.

Mark doesn't move.

Manningham is still smiling. "Hmm. You know all the researchers you see every day? Well, I'm their boss," he says quietly. "I'm the one with the power to pull the plug on any experiment in this facility. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Mark glares at him. But he understands. So he gets on his hands and knees.

"Good boy," says Manningham. He enters the passcode to unlock Mark's cage, opens the door, and steps inside.

Mark lowers his eyes. He can feel himself trembling. Manningham ruffles his hair like he's a dog.

"What a needy little bitch," he whispers. "All wet for me. All ready to be bred." He yanks Mark's hair. "Look at me."

Mark lifts his face, stares up at Manningham. But out of the corner of his eye, he sees—

Eduardo, slipping out of his cage.

Mark blinks, but keeps his gaze focused on Manningham as Eduardo creeps over to Mark's cage and slowly pulls open the door.

There's a creak, and Manningham turns around.

But he's too late; Eduardo is already inside, already tackling him, slamming his head against the floor, punching him square in the face.

"Fuck— you," he snarls, punctuating his words with blows. "You fucking— asshole— don't— touch him— I won't— let you— ever—"

It's kind of... frightening, actually, to see Eduardo like this, radiating with feral anger, his scent stronger than Mark's ever smelled it before. Mark pulls his knees up to his chest and watches the scene in silence, still shaking a little, unsure what to think.

At last Eduardo stands up and takes a step back. He's breathing hard.

Manningham lies motionless on the floor.

"Wardo," Mark says brokenly.

And Eduardo wheels around and rushes to his side, kneels down in front of him.

"Mark, Jesus, are you okay?" he asks.

Mark nods, his eyes still trained on Manningham. "Is he dead?"

"Who gives a fuck?" says Eduardo, glancing back at the body on the floor.

"How did you— the code?"

"I read his mind," Eduardo says breathlessly. "When he entered the password to your cage I just— I saw the numbers in my head. And I thought, maybe they used the same password for both our cages. So I tried it on mine, and—"

Mark frowns. "You read his mind?"

"Yeah, like... remember how I told you they were initially trying to make me psychic? But it didn't work?" Eduardo shrugs, and offers Mark a tiny smile. "I guess... it finally worked."

Mark gapes, but Eduardo doesn't seem too concerned by the revelation that he's suddenly developed psychic powers. "Come on," he tells Mark. "Stand up." He takes Mark's hand and squeezes it. "It's time to get the fuck out of here."

Chapter Text

They leave Mark's cage and slip out of the door to the room, which Manningham had left ajar.

Out in the hallway, surrounded dozens of identical white doors, they exchange a glance.

"Do you think it was true, what he said?" asks Eduardo in a whisper. "That all the researchers are gone?"

Mark shrugs. "He could have been bluffing. But I don't see anyone."

They begin to walk down the hall. Everything is silent, except for the sound of their bare feet on the tile and the rustling of their hospital gowns. Fluorescent lights flicker overhead. Mark slides his hand into Eduardo's, feeling unnerved.

"How many other people do you think are being kept here, locked up?" Eduardo murmurs after a while, with a glance at the doors that line the hallway.

Mark shudders a little at the thought. "I don't know."

"Should we try the doors?"

Mark shakes his head. "Might set off an alarm."

Eduardo looks conflicted, but eventually he nods. They reach the end of the hallway and turn right, then left, then right again, until they reach a stairwell. They make their way down the stairs, and at the bottom of the stairwell is yet another door, this one marked with an exit sign overhead.

"Should I—?" asks Eduardo.

Mark nods, his heart pounding.

Eduardo pushes on the door, and—

That's it. It opens. No alarms, no guards, nothing.

It's raining outside, but together, Mark and Eduardo step out into the night.

***

And with that, they're free.

***

Hand in hand, they run— through the pouring rain, over gravel and weeds and God knows what else, barefoot and freezing, their hospital gowns flapping in the wind. It's almost pitch black outside, but there's a tiny light in the distance, and that's what they run toward.

They run until they can't anymore, and then they walk until they make it to the light, which turns out to be a street-lamp next to a two-lane road.

And as they trudge along beside the road, Mark begins to comprehend the dire nature of their situation: It's the middle of the night. They don't know where they are. They have no means of transportation. They have no money, no ID, no families worth mentioning, and nowhere to stay. They don't even have proper clothes. Or shoes, he thinks bitterly, as a particularly sharp rock stabs into his bare foot.

"Wardo," he says weakly.

"What?"

"Where are we going?"

Eduardo doesn't answer.

They keep walking, because what other choice do they have?

And then Mark sees the lights. Headlights, coming down the road, illuminating the rain in their path. Mark elbows Eduardo, and they watch the car get nearer, and nearer—

Mark steps out into the street.

"Mark," cries Eduardo, lunging to grab his arm, but the car skids to a stop on the wet road a few meters away.

"Come on," says Mark, jerking his head toward the car.

"Mark," Eduardo says again, sounding panicked, but Mark is already jogging toward the passenger-side window of the vehicle. The overhead light turns on and the window rolls down, revealing the driver to be a young woman with blondish hair who looks equal parts concerned and terrified.

"Are you guys okay?" is the first thing she says, as Eduardo comes up behind Mark and puts a hand on his shoulder.

"No," Mark tells her bluntly. "We're not. We just escaped from people who've been holding us captive and we need a ride."

"Are you serious?" asks the woman. "Someone's been holding you captive?"

"Yes. Scientists."

"Wait. Okay, is this, like, a prank or something? Because if so, it's really not funny."

"It's not a prank," says Mark.

The woman stares. "And you aren't like, serial killers or anything, are you?" she asks.

"No," says Mark. "We aren't."

The woman glances between them, then sighs. "You really need help, don't you?" she says softly.

"Yes," says Mark. "Will you give us a ride or not?"

"Okay," says the woman, nodding. "Yeah, I guess just..." She makes a helpless kind of gesture with her hand. "Get in. Sure. It's unlocked."

So Mark and Eduardo squeeze into the backseat and sit there, soaking wet and huddled together, as the woman turns off the light and pulls back onto the road.

"You guys okay back there?" she asks.

"Yes," says Eduardo politely. He seems to hesitate, then adds, "I'm sorry; we're getting your car's upholstery all wet."

The woman makes a noise between a laugh and a scoff. "It's fine, this thing is ancient," she says. "My name's Amy, by the way."

"Eduardo," says Eduardo. "And this is Mark."

Mark shoots him a glare that he probably doesn't see in the dark, but whatever.

"And you said you were being held captive by… scientists?" asks Amy. "Are we talking, like, mad scientists? Fucked-up experiments? That kind of stuff?"

"Pretty much, yeah," says Eduardo.

"Shit," says Amy. "Are they gonna track me down and murder my whole family or something because I helped you escape?"

"No," says Mark, shifting a little. "Don't be stupid."

Eduardo elbows him, but Amy seems unfazed. "Just making sure," she says lightly. "So where are we headed, anyway?"

There's a moment of heavy silence.

"We— we don't really... have anywhere to go," Eduardo says at last, very quietly.

"Okay, you gotta give a girl more to go on than that."

"I'm sorry," says Eduardo. "I just—" He sounds like he might cry.

"A hotel," Mark cuts in, giving Eduardo's knee a gentle squeeze. "Is there a hotel nearby?"

"Uh, no idea, to be honest," says Amy. "I'm just here for spring break to visit my grandma. But tell you what, okay?" She glances in her rearview mirror and meets Mark's eye. "We'll drive until we find one."

Chapter Text

So they drive, mostly in silence, though sometimes Amy makes an offhanded comment.

Gradually, Mark feels himself calming down, feels his heart-rate returning to normal as the rush of adrenaline from their escape begins to fade.

And soon enough they reach civilization: shopping centers and restaurants and bright neon lights. Mark presses his face against the rain-streaked window and stares, drinking in the sight of the outside world.

And then: "Are you gonna call the police?" Amy asks, jarring Mark from his thoughts.

It's a question that he and Eduardo haven't discussed, but Mark knows that the answer is no. He imagines being examined in a hospital, subjected to more tests, hailed as some kind of medical miracle— a biological male who can get pregnant.

"No," says Eduardo, doubtless imagining something along the same lines. "I think— I think we're just gonna try to lie low for awhile."

Amy nods, but says nothing, and Mark looks back out the window, back at the lights of suburbia.

***

Amy's the one who spots it eventually: a Holiday Inn Express near a freeway off-ramp.

She pulls into the parking lot.

"I wish I could do something to help you guys more," she says as she parks.

"You've done more than enough," says Eduardo.

"I'd give you money, but I don't have my wallet on me."

"Don't worry about it," Eduardo tells her. "Please."

"Okay," Amy whispers, nodding. "Just— be safe, alright?"

"We will," says Eduardo.

He and Mark get out of her car. Eduardo waves goodbye, and Amy waves back.

And Mark and Eduardo walk into the hotel lobby.

***

It's a small hotel, and a small lobby, with only one guy working at the front desk.

At the sight of Mark and Eduardo, he takes a step back, his eyes wide. "I— I have a panic button," he says hesitantly. "The police will come if I press it."

"No, wait," says Eduardo quickly. "Please, don't do that."

The guy bites his lip. Dustin, reads his name-tag. "Wh-what do you want?" he asks, sounding scared.

And Mark doesn't really blame him. He knows that he and Eduardo probably do look pretty terrifying: sopping wet, thin and pale, barefoot and clad only in hospital gowns. The guy probably thinks they're escapees from a mental hospital or something.

"Listen," Mark tells him quickly. "We're not dangerous. We've spent the last several months caged up in a lab being subjected to illegal experiments by deranged scientists. Tonight we managed to escape and now we need a place to stay."

The guy, Dustin, wrings his hands nervously, obviously unsure what to do. "If— if you'd like to book a room I'll need to see a credit card and identification," he says at last, weakly.

"We don't have either of those things," says Mark.

"Yeah, I didn't really expect..." Dustin seems to think for a moment. "What kind of experiments?" he asks then, very quietly.

Mark sighs. "The incredibly fucked-up kind," he says. "You don't want to know the details."

Dustin swallows. There's a moment of silence.

Then Eduardo speaks, his voice fragile and desperate. "Please," he whispers. "Please help us?"

Dustin glances between Eduardo and Mark, his expression unreadable. Then, slowly, he nods. "Okay," he says. "Okay, how about I— I'll book you a room with my own credit card. I'll start with three nights and then after that we can... re-assess."

Mark can feel Eduardo exhale in relief beside him. "Thank you," he says. "Fuck, thank you so much; we'll pay you back, somehow, eventually—"

"You don't have to pay me back," says Dustin. "Just— please don't get me fired; I'm not supposed to book rooms without seeing ID, and I don't want my manager to—"

"We won't get you fired," Mark tells him firmly.

Dustin nods. "Okay," he says, with a deep breath. "Okay, uh. What kind of room do you want then?"

"Any kind," says Eduardo.

"Well, how many beds?"

"One," says Mark, glancing at Eduardo.

"All righty," Dustin murmurs. "Let me just—" He turns to his computer, and Mark and Eduardo wait, hand in hand, as he makes the reservation. "All set," he proclaims at last, looking up from the screen. "If anyone asks, one of you is named Chris Hughes, okay? That's the name I booked the room under."

"Chris Hughes," Eduardo repeats.

"Yep. And your room's on the on the third floor, room 314. The elevator is just around the corner."

He hands Eduardo a key-card. "Call the lobby if you need anything; my shift doesn't end till noon."

"Thank you," says Eduardo, earnestly. "Seriously, thank you so much; I don't know what we would have done if..."

"It's no problem," says Dustin. He gives them a small, tentative smile. "Enjoy your stay, okay?"

Chapter Text

The first thing they do when they get to their room is take a shower together— a long, warm shower, nothing like the five-minute, freezing-cold showers they used to get once a week at the lab.

They wash the gravel out of the cuts on their feet and rinse off the scratches on their shins. They scrub each other's hair with the little bottles of hotel shampoo, and jerk each other off, and kiss under the stream of hot water.

And when they're done, Mark doesn't feel clean, exactly— he's pretty sure he'll never feel clean again— but at least he's no longer covered in rain and mud, and his thighs aren't dripping with slick.

They dry themselves on the fluffy hotel towels and exit the bathroom, still naked, their wet hospital gowns left crumpled on the floor. Mark pulls down the sheets of the queen-sized bed and lays out a dry towel to catch his slick, and then the two of them nestle under the covers.

The bed is so soft, so warm, so different from the cold linoleum floor of the lab.

Mark curls up against Eduardo's naked body and buries his face in his armpit, breathing in his scent. They've never been able to lie down together before, not without either a chain-link wall between them or an audience of white-coats looking on.

"Do you think they'll find us?" Mark asks quietly.

"No," says Eduardo. He cards his fingers though Mark's damp hair.

"That girl, Amy. She could tell someone where we are."

"She won't."

Mark frowns at him. "What, could you read her mind?"

"No," says Eduardo. "I don't think I can do it at will."

"Then how do you know?"

"I just do." Eduardo kisses Mark's forehead, and Mark cuddles even closer to him.

"I'm tired," he murmurs, which is an understatement.

Eduardo nods. "Me too."

And soon— snuggled together, warm and safe and free— the two of them fall asleep.