Actions

Work Header

Serpent in the Pack

Chapter Text

It was not a fever that stoked the heat that drew Rhys from the depths of sleep, nor the warmth of the rented room. The Rexford Hotel was moderately warm at best. On the faded, worn bed, he threw the limp blanket off his body and twisted around, eyes springing open, sweat rolling down his forehead to disperse against his cheeks. He breathed in deeply, evenly. Shadows swirled and spun before him, coalescing into blurred forms. Rhys’ mouth was bone dry like the wastes themselves. Somehow he managed to form shaky words with a tongue that felt glued to the bottom of his mouth.

“Fl4k….”

From a corner of the room rose the sound of shifting materials. The AI had taken up residence there in an old, threadbare armchair, their fingerless gloved hand stroking idly at the head of the enormous skag sitting at their feet. Where the single eye in the center of their face had been reduced to a thin strip of dull light, it blossomed into a bright circle that illuminated the depths of their bulky hood.

Mattress springs creaked in protest. Rhys was attempting to sit upright.

Fl4k’s head canted to the side. They stopped petting the skag and rose to their feet.

“Your body temperature is reading abnormally high, indicating you may be in need of medical assistance,” they said without much inflection. “You should remain here while I find an individual with the correct experience for these circumstances.”

“I’m not sick,” Rhys croaked out, bloodshot eyes falling on his companion’s towering form. “Well, not in the way you’re thinking. Remember what we were talking about on the way to Goodneighbor, about omegas and heats?”

“Yes, I recall the conversation you speak of.”

“Yeah? How about what I told you about me being an omega? That I was probably due to go through a heat soon. Remember that?”

There was a pause from Fl4k. The skag’s jaws gaped wide, a slobbering sound breaking the silence as its long, thin tongue licked at its chops.

“You told me that you did not have any more of the medicines that would keep your mating cycle symptoms at bay at your disposal. We came to Goodneighbor with the intention of finding a chem supplier with the potential to replenish your supply.”

“Right. Good. You pay attention. That’s good.”

“Why would I not pay attention to our conversations, Rhys? They are enlightening and are a means to endure the passage of time.”

“Let’s just say I, er, didn’t have many friends back in the vault.” Swiping at his clammy skin, Rhys pulled a face as his hand came away damp, wiping it on his tank top. “Look, anyway, I’ve kind of—it seems I might have underestimated what my pre-heat would be like. And I’m going to need, well, I don’t really know what I’m going to need. I’ve never gone through this before.”

An anxious laugh escaped Rhys, dying in his throat almost immediately. Fl4k regarded him, crossing the rest of the distance between them after a moment. On the bed, Rhys adjusted himself, his expression one of obvious discomfort. He pulled at the leg of his boxer shorts, then huffed out a breath, which became a quiet groan. His head fell into the cradle of his hands, his body shivering as he sat like that for awhile.

“Is there some way I can be of assistance in this moment of distress?”

“I need something,” he answered, almost choking on the words. “I don’t think I can handle this. I need suppressors, or an alpha, or—or something.”

“It is the middle of the nocturnal cycle. We do not have the means to acquire the medicine you seek at this hour, and I do not have the same anatomy as your human alphas, should you wish to have me lie with you.”

“No. You don’t.” Drawing his long legs up at the knees, Rhys wrapped his arms around them, hugging them close to his body. “But it doesn’t mean that you’re not able to help me.”

Rhys patted the bed beside him, watching as Flak took the seat he’d indicated. The robot pulled back their hood, exposing the smooth surface of their chassis, and Rhys reached out to grasp their hand.

“Four fingers,” he observed, flipping it so that it sat palm up. “They’re human enough. They could work.”

“Yes, they are quite agile and dexterous. They are often efficient for the hunt and toil.”

“Not what I meant. I mean, you can use your fingers. On me. It shouldn’t be too different. Than—than an alpha. It’s not like I’m a virgin or anything. And they’re really not all that large like with RobCo.”

“My fingers,” Fl4k repeated, as if they were going to say more. Their eye fell on where Rhys was gripping their palm, closing their metallic digits over his.

Rhys’ voice had dropped an octave or so when he said, “It’s worth trying. It couldn’t hurt. I’m not going to be able to sleep like this anyway. Might as well try to relieve it as much as I can, right?”

“You are a member of my pack, Rhys. If you propose this as a solution for easing your discomfort, than I will oblige you.”

The young man was nodding, his body unfolding, hands reaching for his top. Fl4k reached over, then, seeing him struggling to remove it. They tugged the garment over his head, which pushed some of his hair against his sweaty skin so that it stuck there, matted. The shirt was folded and set aside, Fl4k looking on at Rhys with an expectant gaze.

Even though it was dark in the room, Fl4k’s sensors told them that Rhys’ skin was flushed, would probably be bright pink under illumination. They touched it, feeling the heat radiating off the smooth, unblemished surface. Rhys flinched, his breath quickening. Then his fingers were scrambling at the waistband of his boxers. They clung to him, to the backs of his thighs and the curve of his ass, as if they were damp. As soon as he had them down, their state was evident. The material was bunched and twisted, sticking to itself. Had Fl4k been human, they would have smelled the heady, cloying scent wafting off both the garment and Rhys, permeating the room; if they’d been a human alpha, it would have driven them near mad with lust. But they weren’t either and so they remained impassive, helping to remove the underwear from Rhys’ legs.

Rolling over on to his stomach, Rhys gave a pitiful whine. The slight part of his legs revealed to Fl4k that a thin, clear, and glistening substance painted his inner thighs. Out of curiosity, Fl4k touched it, startling their companion as they traced the tacky dampness to the cleft of Rhys’ ass. They prodded the hole there with a single digit, and Rhys gasped.

“You are producing a voluminous amount of liquid from your nether orifice,” Fl4k remarked. “Is this a normal human function?”

“If you’re a horny omega, sure,” Rhys panted. “Just put—put your finger in me already, Fl4k. You’re torturing me by being a tease.”

“My intentions were not to harass you. I apologize if that is what they appeared to be.”

There was the prominent sound of a pillow being ruffled as Rhys slammed his face down on it. The words he spoke were muffled. Somehow Fl4k understood, and they wasted no more time. The smooth articulation of one of their fingers prodded gingerly at Rhys’ entrance, pushing inside a moment later. Fl4k made haste, not even letting it sink down to their knuckle plating before pushing another finger in alongside it.

Rhys moaned, the sound deep and robust. He thrust back against Fl4k’s hand, the sensation seizing him with pleasure but not quite quenching his desire. Even with the AI beginning to find a semblance of rhythm, sliding his digits in and out in a way that was, ironically, mechanical, it wasn’t enough. The omega needed more. Deeper, more force. Just…more.

“Fl4k,” Rhys turned his head to say, desperation creeping into his words. “Don’t hold back on me.”

“I will not, Rhys. If you wish for me to attempt to increase your physical pleasure, I will oblige you, though I have some concern for your anatomy and its receptiveness of my appendages.”

“Y-yeah. Go ahead. You won’t hurt me.”

Heeding Rhys’ words, Fl4k poked at his hole with a third finger, wiggling and maneuvering it until it was working its way inside him, slick easing its path. A deep sigh escaped the omega, becoming a hiss of breath. He thought Fl4k adding another appendage would ease the rampant feelings, the textures of the AI’s joints driving in deep and spreading him quelling his libido. But he’d been wrong. It only ignited the lust in him further, the feeling gnawing deep into his groin so hard it was painful. Not even the friction of his cock sliding against the mattress with each of Fl4k’s movements eased his tension. It was only helping to produce more slick.

Suddenly something else was pushing up against his ass; Fl4k’s thumb. The muscles in his back tensed, knowing that perhaps he’d underestimated the situation and this was going too far, but unable to bring himself to stop it. His body craved this, the fullness, the pressure, the satisfaction.

Only, when Fl4k’s thumb had joined its counterparts, Rhys moaning and writhing as the entirety of the robot’s hand attempted to slip deeper, it wasn’t satisfying. Not in the way he expected it to be. Sure, it made his legs tremble and electric dance up his spine; made it feel as if every last one of the hairs on his body were standing on end and his heart would explode from how it was trip-hammering. But it was as if his body had its own awareness, relaying to his brain that this was not an alpha causing him such pleasure (at least not in the traditional sense), and it was not an actual knot filling him to capacity, locking their bodies together in an intimate embrace.

“This….” His breath hitching as he tried to regulate his breathing, Rhys licked at his lips, tried again. “This isn’t working.”

A whine echoed through the room, distinctly inhuman. There was a second that Rhys had to look over to where the noise was coming from before a slimy tongue coated in excess saliva swathed across his face and swept back his hair. With a frustrated groan, Rhys reached out and pushed the monstrous head out of his face as gently as possible.

“Dammit, Mr. Chew,” Rhys said.

“Down, boy!” came the sharp command from Fl4k, the skag back pedalling to the middle of the room where its rump fell to the carpet. It panted loudly, tongue smacking at its jowls with wild abandon. “I believe he has grown wary of waiting for me to return my attentions to him. I will need to attend to him soon.”

A deep, exasperated sigh escaped Rhys’ lungs, his eyes squeezing shut.

“It’s alright. Just do what you need to do.”

“But Rhys, you have not achieved physical relief. Your genitals are still erect and you are still producing the liquid in overly adequate amounts.”

“It’s fine. I—it’s enough. Nothing either of us can do is going to help right now. You can stop trying to assist me.”

There was some hesitancy from the AI. They seemed conflicted about Rhys’ words, not complying right away.

“Really, Fl4k. I know you’re trying to help me out as best as you can, but it’s pretty clear it’s not going to do the trick.”

It was then that Fl4k finally began to withdraw. Their thumb was first to slip out, the joint brushing against Rhys’ walls as he shuddered hard, already missing the stretch. The rest of Fl4k’s digits popped free, making Rhys feel even more bereft of something he was so desperate to possess. Appendages covered in a healthy coating of slick, the AI wiped their hand on their coat until it was relatively clean. They then stood, same hand coming down on the omega’s head, the weight almost light upon him.

“If you no longer require me, I will take my beast to relieve himself. I doubt I have anything to fear, but I will be careful of where I tread in this vicinity. You should make an attempt to acquire proper rest in the state that you are in.”

There was the sound of shifting from the bed. Rhys wriggled out from Fl4k’s hand and rolled on to his side, eyes cracked to slits. His hand fell to his crotch, then pulled away as if burned. Lips parted, he nodded.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to. But you do what you need to.” His eyes flickered to Mr. Chew, whose butt waggled against the floor as he noticed Rhys staring at him. “And Fl4k?”

“Yes, Rhys?” The AI answered, patting the side of their coat to call the skag over. There was a curious growl, and then Mr. Chew was circling their legs.

“Thanks. For everything.”

XXX

“We’ve already discussed this, Troy,” the dark-haired man seated on the other side of the desk said, adjusting his tie with a gloved hand. “If your sister continues to refuse to pull her weight around, I’ll be cutting you both loose. I run a tight ship around Goodneighbor. I can’t have two wayward, rebellious children mucking that up for me just because they’re under my employ.”

Against where he was leaning back on the hotel office wall, one knee drawn up so that the sole of his boot rested against it, the young man cocked both his head and an eyebrow. His disheveled, dark hair flopped over his forehead, defying gravity as it somehow didn’t obscure his face.

“We’re not children, Katagawa,” he snapped back, eyes rolling in their sockets. “And come on. I know, I know. Ty does sample the wares too much and gets all lazy cos of it. But are you really gonna punish me, your right hand man, too?”

“You enable her, Troy. You’re an enabler. Not once have I seen you try and discourage her behavior. If anything, I’ve only witnessed you encourage it.” Pausing, the man rested his elbow on the desk, his chin coming to lean in the cup of his palm. “You see, I know what kind of people you are. Why, we’re practically spiritual kin. Those Calypsos, I often find myself thinking to myself, are the serpents proffering the fruit of the knowledge tree in the fabled den of Eden. And most of the masses will gladly reach and accept it from them. Those two could convince the flock that the reckoning has already passed and they are the second coming, if they so desired. They are the children of gods, and gods among men.”

“I didn’t know you were fanboying so hard over us, Katagawa,” Troy said, eyes gleaming with mischief, the slash of his grin smug. “But, ya know, can’t say you’re wrong. That’s why I have every last little bitch in this town calling us Gods with capital g’s. And I think I can speak for both me and Ty when I say it’s fucking flattering.”

“Yes. But, you see. I simply can’t have you two playing both your own game and mine. That’s bad business practice. And that foul attempt at that broadcast show—what is your sister even trying to accomplish there?”

For a moment, the look in Troy’s eyes darkened.

“You try telling Ty she can’t have something she desperately wants,” he remarked before the silence could grow uncomfortable. “Go on, I dare ya.”

Katagawa gestured dismissively at him and purred without missing a beat, “I’d much rather leave that up to you. You are her twin, after all. Even normal siblings will stick together through the best and worst of times. You just need to intimidate her a little, Troy. Make her fear that she could lose not only her closest pal in the world, but also her eternal pillar of support.”

“Easier said than done. We’re not friends.” Crossing his flesh arm against his chest, his fingers cradling the upper part of his mechanical one, Troy’s tone became petulant. “I’m just a parasitic knothead to her.”

“Simply not true. Women are more delicate than the rarest of flowers in their hearts and minds. And they are so easily manipulated by their emotions. Besides, what could a beta female possibly understand about an alpha male’s life? Their hopes, and dreams, and lusts?” Katagawa paused as if giving Troy a moment to answer, but the younger man just stared at him and he shook his head. “Nothing. They know nothing of what makes us the alphas we are, other than that we possess unique anatomical enhancements.”

“Let’s not get fucking gross about this, man. It’s too early for that shit.”

“There’s nothing ‘gross’,” Katagawa threw his hands up, making air quotes, “about our biological needs, Troy. As rare as omegas are in our modern times, you’re still young, and may find yourself some day wanting to induce a bond so that you may put one in a family way. It’s in your instinctual hardwiring as an alpha.”

“Ok, we’re done with this conversation. I never want to hear anyone mention me aging and freakin’ children in the same sentence again. Change of topic. Right now.”

“Very well. But you will not be able to deny such urges much longer. By all means, hold on to your youth. Just don’t expect your mind and body to follow suit.”

Growling, Troy’s words were torn from his throat. “I said enough!”

Palms up to diffuse the situation, there was the slightest expression of amusement on Katagawa’s face, his false right eye catching the light and gleaming with satisfaction.

“Alright, alright. Calm yourself, Troy. Nothing to be worked up over. Please, pull up a chair, take a load off. I have Nuka-Cola, if you’re thirsty.”

It took a minute, maybe two. Troy refused to budge from his place, glowering at his boss for what seemed like an eternity. But then his shoulders sagged in his coat, his human arm falling back to his side as if broken and limp. Seizing a wooden chair, he dragged it over and turned it backwards, plopping down on it with legs spread to either side of him, arm draped over the headrest. His mechanical limb hung so that it dragged the floor, fingers bent at the knuckles.

“Let’s discuss the current status of warehouse inventory and calculate distribution together,” Katagawa said, his demeanor nothing but pleasant. “I am eager to hear about the level of competence you’ve shown this week.”

“Whatever you say. Just gimme one of those Nuka-Colas.”

Chapter Text

Come the morning, Rhys was still not well. If anything, he seemed to have spiraled into a worse state. His lips were dry and cracked, skin taking on a pallor that concerned Fl4k even though they could tell by the Vault-Tec device attached to the omega’s wrist that he was still running a high fever. They opened up a can of Cram, feeding it to him cold with a slice of stale bread. Bottled water was sipped in abundance, Fl4k having scanned it to ensure that it was purified. Omegas were extremely sensitive to radiation, so Rhys had told him. More so than most other humans. Their tissues and organs were susceptible to its effects in a way that could be described as overzealous. To ensure Rhys’ continued safety, they stocked up on Rad-X and RadAway whenever they could. On more than one occasion, Rhys’ Pip Boy had displayed concerning levels, and they were lucky to have the chems on hand.

It was clear to both of them that Rhys was not going to be able to set out into town or continue on if they had to do so. So Fl4k volunteered to rent the room for a second day and inquire where they could find Rhys the medicines he needed. Telling the omega to keep the door locked, they left Mr. Chew behind, the skag waddling over to Rhys’ bedside and lapping gently at his exposed hand, perhaps in an attempt to cool him down and comfort him. When Fl4k ventured out, Mr. Chew was getting weak pats from Rhys, then jumping on the bed to curl up at his feet.

At the front desk stood the older woman who they had dealt with the prior evening, Clair Hutchins by name. Leaning over the counter reading an outdated magazine, he looked up at the AI’s approach, seemingly startled that a robot of their caliber could move with such quick, silent steps.

“How was your night’s stay at the famous Rexford Hotel?” she inquired. “Not that it really matters anymore. All this place’s charm got replaced when the folk started shooting up in the lobby.”

“I did not see any individuals wielding firearms here,” Fl4k answered. “Is such a thing a natural occurrence? The nocturnal cycle was uneventful.”

Straightening up, Clair inclined her head to gaze up at Fl4k’s singular eye. She regarded it for awhile.

“You’re a funny kind of assaultron, aren’t you?” she finally said. “Didn’t you have a young man with you, and a skag? Where’d they get to, letting you wander off on your lonesome and all.”

“They are still in the room that we gave you the payment for yesterday. We will be needing that room for another twenty-four hour cycle, at the least. I wish to pay you for its continued usage.”

“Well, you weren’t going to be parking yourselves there for free, that’s for sure. Mr. Katagawa would up and do worse than fire me if I let you get away with that. That’ll be ten more caps, and not one less.”

Reaching into one of their many storage pouches, Fl4k palmed a handful of caps they’d let accumulate there, spilling them out on to the counter, the currency making a rattling clamor.

“There, I have given you the adequate amount of crap from my pocket.”

“Crap, you call it? Looks like genuine currency to me, Mr. Roboto.”

“That is not my name.” Fl4k sounded huffy when they said it, their words acquiring a distinct curtness to them. “I am called Fl4k. I wish to make inquiries into other matters that I am to assume that you, as a resident of Goodneighbor, can assist with.”

“What a picky robot you are,” Clair mused to herself, her eyes flashing with interest. “Fire away. No cost for questions, though a little incentive never hurt. My boss doesn’t have to know.”

“I have many things to trade other than caps,” Fl4k told her. “I will display them after my inquiries. I require the knowledge of where one might purchase wares of medicinal properties.”

The look on Clair’s face didn’t change, but she shifted her stance, hands going to her hips akimbo style. When she spoke, her words were laden with suspicion.

“I’m not one who goes and puts my nose in anyone’s business. But I have to wonder what a robotic like you would want to do with chems, other than redistribute them. Maybe your young master is looking into the supply business? He sure didn’t seem like a client.”

“He is not my master and, no, that is not the situation. I do not think he would be pleased with me if I discussed deeper matters with you. You are not a part of our pack.”

“Is that so?” Clair’s face screwed into a scrutinizing expression, and she eventually sighed. “Well, I can’t say I knew anything if you didn’t tell me, right? You’ll wanna talk to the God-King. He should be out of his meeting with the boss shortly. Why don’t you have a seat somewhere and I’ll send him on over to you.”

“I do not believe I have ever been in the presence of a god or a king before. How should I address them?”

“Ha! Don’t let the name fool you. That boy’s neither god nor king. The rat’s just got delusions of grandeur.”

“So he is a rodent, then? That is advantageous.”

Clair sighed once more, seeming to give up on the conversation. “Just let me see what you got to trade.”

XXX

By the time Troy emerged from Katagawa’s office space, he had the beginnings of a headache stirring in his temples and a need for a stiff drink; or a dip into his own supply stock, if it came down to that. His mood had soured considerably, and when he passed Clair, he almost snapped at her as she stopped him. She crossed her arms over her chest as she stared at him, poised as if daring him to try anything.

“Got a customer for you,” she said dryly. “Says the name’s Fl4k. I’m not sure what exactly it’s looking for, but it’s sitting right over there waiting.”

With a gesture, Clair indicated the bulky form perched precariously on a bar stool near the front entrance. The AI was currently examining a bottle of liquor that had been laying out for so long it had become completely entombed in dust, the cracked and peeling label illegible. They upended it over the bartop, nothing but more dust spilling out.

“The assaultron?” Troy questioned, sounding incredulous. “You’ve got to be shitting me. What’s it even going to pay with, spare parts?”

“It can pay just fine. Paid me for the hotel room twice.”

“You’re fucking with me. Only synths have that kind of intelligence and capability.”

“It ain’t a synth, and it ain’t an assaultron, either. It’s like someone married them both. Could be worth looking into. You should go over and at least talk to it.”

“Fine. This better not be a waste of my goddam time, though. Katagawa’s already up my ass about being behind in Daytripper production.”

Troy hadn’t even finished crossing the room when the scent hit him. It wasn’t bombarding his every sense and slowly eroding his ability to think, but it was potent enough to spear his interest. He was able to continue his approach without being derailed, pinpointing the smell as coming from the garment the robot was wearing.

There was no denying that scent, though. It belonged to an omega, had to. Nothing else in the wastelands, living or otherwise, could smell that sharp and distinct to an alpha. And the scent itself, like a hybrid of the sweetest refined materials mixed in with something industrial and mechanical. They were not uncommon scents, but also not ones he could associate with any particular omega he’d had a previous encounter with. Not that he’d met all that many in his lifetime, when he did the math and added them up.

Whatever this mysterious robot was, it couldn’t be an omega itself. Which meant it had either come into contact with one or belonged to one. This was turning out to be an interesting predicament after all.

As Troy stepped behind the bar, Fl4k looked up at him, their head tilting in the obvious direction of the man’s mechanical arm.

“You wanted to talk to me?” Troy spoke up, grabbing an unopened bottle of Bobrov’s Best from beneath the bar, no bending required, considering the length of his prosthetic. A stained shotglass was produced, the liquor poured to the brim.

“You are the one known as the God-King?” Fl4k asked, something wary in their words. “You are not of a rodent species as the woman at the front desk led me to believe. How curious. Judging by your size and your anatomical attachments, you appear to be a harmonization between super mutant and my ilk.”

Troy’s gaze flickered over to Clair. A sneer crossed his lips, revealing his metal-plated teeth.

“Neither,” he said. “Sorry to disappoint, but I’m just a human chem supplier. And since you were seeking me out, I’m gonna assume you want something of what I have.”

“Yes, your assumption would be correct. My packmate is in need of the medicinal compounds required to suppress the symptoms of his mating cycle. We were informed that individuals in Goodneighbor such as yourself are some of the few suppliers who would have such inhibitors.”

“Packmate? Wait, this is a person we’re talking about, right? I mean, you’re not planning to give this shit to like an animal or nothing. We’re talking one hundred percent human, ah, omega?”

“Yes. He is the only human in my pack, and has declared himself an omega.”

“Excellent. Great to hear. Can’t be too careful. All kinds of crazies these days wasting good chems on their pooches.” Troy pulled his most sincerest face, complete with beguiling eyes. “Anyway, Look, typically I would have what you’re looking for. However….”

Taking up the glass, Troy downed the liquor, visibly shuddering as it worked down his gullet. God, he hated this moonshine shit. Give him a dose of Jet or a Nuka-Cola Quantum instead any day. His thoughts were having trouble coalescing, ideas bouncing off each other one after the other. To think, an omega, right under the Rexford’s roof. Possibly on the verge of a heat. How could Katagawa have missed that? Then again, the proprietor and chem kingpin hardly ever ventured out of his office when he was holed up here. If the robot had handled most of the arrangements for their room and board, it would have been easy for them to slip by unnoticed.

Which was absolutely perfect, in regards to the plans Troy was so desperately trying to lay out out on such short notice. Katagawa not sinking his claws immediately into the first omega that had probably come through Goodneighbor in well over a year opened up a world of possibilities for the younger alpha. He’d have to act with alacrity, be the serpent his boss so deemed him to be.

Fl4k had been looking on with curiosity, waiting for Troy to continue without seeming like he was going to prompt him. Their hand reached out, plucking the bottle from where Troy had set it down, re-filling the shotglass. As they did, the alpha caught a whiff of scent from his sleeve. It knocked his thoughts down like soldiers on the frontlines, and he had to mentally scramble not to let them escape him again.

“I can send you to our direct source of supplies with my very own blessing,” Troy continued, eyeing the full shotglass. “The heart of Goodneighbor’s chem bounty, you could call it. Fresh batches guaranteed. You familiar with the old HalluciGen building?”

“Ah, yes. The iron-clad facility to the west. I have never ventured very close to it on my solo travels. They would not have supplies that would interest or be useful to those of my origin.”

“That’d be the place. Is your companion with you here?”

“Yes. He is resting. It is pertinent that we acquire the medicine, but I cannot move him at this moment. Perhaps I could provide you with extra currency were you to make the journey.”

“Tempting, but no can do. This is a special favor courtesy of the God-King. My boss wouldn’t appreciate me leaving town right now, either.” Against his better judgment, Troy snatched up the drink, poising it as his lips. “It’s not far, though. You’ll be back in no time. I’m sure nobody’s gonna mess with your boy.”

“Perhaps.” The AI’s body was hunched in uncertainty.

“Here ya go.” Downing his drink quickly, gasping for air afterward, Troy produced a folded flyer from his coat pocket. Unfurling it revealed an advertisement for something called COV Radio. Beneath that was the same insignia that was on the back of Troy’s coat—Twin skulls in contrasting red and white, a snake emerging from each of their mouths in cardinal opposition. “Show anyone that once you get there. Tell ‘em the Twin Gods sent you.”

“And they will supply me with the inhibitors I require?”

“If they don’t, I’ll personally go there and string ‘em up by their balls. Nobody disobeys direct orders from the Twin Gods.”

“Very well.” Lifting from the overtaxed barstool, Fl4k straightened up to their full height. Still, Troy loomed over them by a few inches; concerning, since the AI had never met a human quite so large that wasn’t some kind of super mutant. “I will venture there as soon as possible, while the light remains more than efficient. My companion will likely not attempt to emerge and engage in activities in those hours. Plus my beast is a faithful protector. I appreciate the assistance, one that calls himself a God-King.”

Troy heaved his robotic shoulder in a shrug. “It ain’t no skin off my back. Anything for a customer.”

The alpha’s gaze didn’t leave the AI as it appeared to pat down its pockets, either making sure it still had all its possessions or assessing its supplies. Who knew? Then it lumbered for the front entrance, the wood creaking as one of the doors was opened.

Troy waited until it had slipped away and, through the bare window, could see that it had ventured into the depths of town, striking out on its journey. Then he hurried to the front desk again, where Clair set a hard look upon him. She had been watching the unfolding conversation between the pair like a hawk guarding its nest.

“I need the master key,” he told her, holding out his hand. “Don’t ask questions. Just give it to me.”

The older woman reached beneath the desk, slamming an iron coffer down between them. She flipped the lock, gesturing to the rusted, plain key inside.

“It’s all yours, ratboy. But whatever it is you’re up to, I don’t know a goddam thing about it.”

“I can live with that.”

XXX

With the fever of his pre-heat still setting him aflame, and the rising tide of delirium creeping through the crevasses of his mind in its wake, stray thoughts and memories converged in Rhys’ slumbering head to form dreams. He was back in his previous life before joining the populace of the Commonwealth. Back in the vault deep underground, with one of the Overseers; his father, Saul, a soft-spoken and wise man. Rhys had just come from medical that morning, the side of his neck shiny where personnel had swathed salve on the freshly inked circular shape there. He almost rubbed at it, realizing what he was doing a moment later and letting his hand reach for the back of his neck instead. The extra sensitive nerves and flesh there were throbbing, as if irritated. The pressure of his fingers were only a slight relief, and as soon as he drew them away, the discomfort returned with double the force.

“Is your bonding site acting up?” came a quiet voice.

Behind the desk in his office, Saul Henderson sat, glasses perched at the end of his nose. He regarded Rhys over the rim of them, his expression relaying a certain brand of receptiveness that distinctly embodied his persona.

“Yeah, since the middle of the night,” Rhys replied, slumping down in the chair across from the man.

“That’s to be expected. You’re sixteen now, Rhys. It’s perfectly normal for a young omega like you to be experiencing such biological symptoms.”

“I know, dad. It’s just that—I mean, why’d I have to be born an omega? It would’ve been easier if I was just like you.”

“An alpha, you mean?” Sighing, Saul stood, coming around the front of the desk directly in front of his son, leaning his weight back against the structure. “Would you really prefer to have presented as an alpha, knowing that it means you’d be locked into certain obligations for life? That you’d have to eventually take a seat as an Overseer and tend to the needs of the omegas assigned to you?”

“Maybe not,” Rhys answered after a moment’s consideration. “But it doesn’t change the fact that heats sound awful and alphas can be such stupid knotheads. Especially when they know you’re…inexperienced.”

“Rhys, if any of the alphas here are acting like that, then I hope you’d report them to me immediately. You know we don’t tolerate the mistreatment of omegas here. This isn’t the barbaric society of before the bombs fell.” Seeming to recognize that his son was growing increasingly uncomfortable, Saul sighed. “Besides, if you regularly keep taking your injections, none of this should become a problem. Not until you’re ready for it. And though I don’t think it’s ideal for an omega to partner with a beta overall, I won’t be disappointed if that’s what you end up choosing.”

“You don’t need to worry too much about that. Nobody here is interested in pursuing the son of an Overseer, even if they are an omega.”

Pushing off the desk to clap a hand to Rhys’ shoulder, Saul patted his son in a reassuring manner.

“You say that now, but give it some time. You’ll see. The petty squabbles will be replaced with budding feelings of a different persuasion.”

“I have a hard time believing they will.”

“If your mother was still with us, she’d be better at explaining the tides of omega romance.” Sighing again, Saul let his hand slip away. “You’ll just have to trust me on this one. Anyway, how are you healing? I trust the tattooing process wasn’t too painful.”

The young man winced at the question, resisting the urge to make another attempt at touching the tender mark.

“It hurts still. But not too badly. I think I’m going to live.”

It was Rhys’ first attempt at humor since he’d entered the office, his smile subdued. His father matched his expression, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

“It’s good to see coming of age hasn’t eradicated your sense of humor.”

“It’s going to take more than a little wariness over my upcoming G.O.A.T to do that. I’m pretty certain—”

Footsteps in the office doorway forced Rhys to pause mid-sentence. His father, distracted, had looked over in that direction, and Rhys twisted around to follow his gaze.

“Henderson, I’m sorry to interrupt.” It was one of the other alpha Overseers, Hugo Vasquez, a buff man with a greasy comb over. His dark eyes fell on the omega and seemed to linger. Particularly on his newfangled tattoo. “I apologize, Rhys. Going to have to ask you to leave. Official Overseer business.”

With a nod, Saul addressed his son as well, “Go on. I’m sure this would only bore you, anyway. We’ll talk later.”

But there would be no later, or any other point in time in which Rhys and his father would cross paths again. He would remember the blood on Hugo’s hands, the blossoms of stains soaking into the alpha’s jumpsuit. Running, like his father had instructed him to do; not to hide with the other omegas in the case of mutiny, but to venture into the unknown.

Into the wastelands of the Commonwealth, which had been his home for the last three and a half years.

Mr. Chew was snapping and snarling when Rhys awoke, his eyelids feeling glued to his cheeks. They came slowly unstuck, gummy residue dispersing, blurry vision solidifying into recognizable shapes. The hotel room was awash with the sounds of a struggle, of growling, something hitting the ground hard. Then a burst of a yell, human in nature, sharp whimpers crashing down around it.

Watching the scene unfurl before him, Rhys wasn’t quite sure what his eyes were relaying to him. It looked like a towering figure had invaded the room, a mechanical limb flailing about, knocking objects over with haphazard force. At first he thought that it was Fl4k in the throes of battle. But the robotic arm was too cumbersome and clunky to belong to the AI, and Mr. Chew was currently in the midst of attacking its owner, a massive metal hand planted dead center on his face preventing him from closing his jaws around his prey.

In a swift movement, a leg collided with the skag’s body, sending him soaring across the room. He plowed into the wall, where he slid down into a crumpled heap, dazed, claws scrambling against the carpet as he tried to right himself. Just when it looked like Mr. Chew would climb back to his feet, his legs gave out and he was yanked back to the floor by gravity.

The other figure turned to Rhys, the daylight streaming through the windows painting him in a hazy pale glow that burned yellow. Still, the omega could make out the strange adornments decorating his face, the tall, lanky form and robotic arm that looked more like it belonged attached to a powersuit.

And the smell. Goddam, the smell wafting off of him had an allure that Rhys recognized immediately, wanted to respond to without rational thought as if he were a pet called to its master’s heel. Unlike the figure’s outward form, it was cozy and inviting in its implications, like being wrapped back up in the comfort of his old home in the vault.

Whether his visitor was some strange human hybrid, a rare variation of super mutant, or some even rarer synth, the omega knew one thing: the thing in the room with him was a bona fide alpha male.

Alright, so Rhys actually knew two things; the other point of information being, had the alpha demanded he get on his hands and knees and submit to him then and there, his compromised inhibitions and turbulent hormones would’ve had him obliging.

But the alpha didn’t make such a request. Instead, he seemed to rake his gaze over Rhys’ coiled form on the bed, eyes coming to rest on the polished and well kept chassis of his Pip Boy. A human hand shot out, grabbing Rhys by the forearm, yanking it up so that the apparatus was clearly visible in the light.

“You’re an omega and a vault survivor?” his captor said, eyes wide. Though his tone sounded ironic, his infatuation was clear. “Double fucking bonus.”

“Who the hell are you?” Rhys demanded.

Although the words came out as harsh croaks, they were easy enough for Troy to understand. “You don’t know?” Snatching a thin blanket up, Troy dropped the arm attached to the Pip Boy to drape the cloth over the omega’s listless form. “I’m your new best friend from the wastelands. Fl4k sent me.”

Rhys could only turn his head away and groan. It was clear he wasn’t up to much conversation, let alone protesting the claim.

He was vulnerable, easy pickings.

And the alpha, lean, and aggressive, and smelling like an omega’s wet dream made flesh, needed only to reach out and pluck him away.

Which he did.

Chapter Text

Making the trek to the Shamrock Taphouse from Goodneighbor wasn’t exactly the worst of ventures Troy had to endure out in the wastes. It was a relatively straightforward path, and Raiders tended to keep their distance ever since he and Tyreen had decided to make their home here and had put them in their place. Ty was a born brawler, merciless and quick to defend herself with just about anything in her repertoire. Usually armed with her prized triple-barrel shotgun, not to mention a silvered tongue akin to her brother’s, she was a force to be reckoned with.

She never traversed long distances without Troy at her side. He himself liked to get in close to his prey, deliver a more intimate form of pain and devastation. His weapon of choice was a poison modded ceremonial machete Raiders called a Kremvh’s Tooth. When that didn’t get the job done, he could always use the mini flamethrower he’d cobbled from scrap.

They were deadly together, both in matters of armed combat and Machiavellian schemes. Troy’s massive and intimidating mechanical parts proved effective as additional and impromptu weaponry. Humans native to this region had learned their lesson in the twin’s presence. Even feral ghouls showed a distinct wariness that either of them were experts at exploiting.

So Troy didn’t expect his short journey to be interrupted on this golden and mild mid-morning. Whistling low and off key, only the sound of the winds in the sparse grass and the scent of the nearby harbor were his companions. There was one thing else, though: the omega he carried like precious cargo, who had grown feisty over their journey. It was hard to tell if he’d been agitated about being whisked away in the arms of a stranger who claimed allegiance with his robotic entity, or if his state of being was growing ever more provoked simply from being around such a virile alpha.

Troy knew the signs of an omega in the first stages of an oncoming heat, though. There was the smell that drew an alpha in like a siren’s call, and the restlessness and involuntary physical cues that plagued them. Those telltale signs often radiated like a nuclear core, shiny and glowing, enticing one’s alpha desires to bare witness and be enraptured. Despite his current status, Rhys was displaying all those symptoms. So much that Troy’s tune faltered, his body heaving in a sigh.

“Could you settle down for maybe five goddam seconds?” he snapped, not meaning to sound so harsh. “I’m not even doing anything to you. For fuck’s sake, I’m even trying to save your ass.”

There was a pause in movement against him, a clear indication that Rhys had heard him and was rational enough to respond.

“Put me down, then,” he said, sounding disgruntled. “I can walk. I’m going into a heat, not crippled.”

“No can do. You might decide to make a break for it. And this is Raider territory.”

“I can handle Raiders.”

“Oh, excuse me. Should’ve realized.” Troy rolled his eyes. Thankfully Rhys couldn’t see it, or it probably would’ve set him further on edge. “Forgive me for the fact that a) you’re an omega on the verge of a heat. And b) judging by the dumbass way you’re acting, you’ve never dealt with an alpha Raider before, or the way they are around rare omegas on the cusp.” When Rhys didn’t answer him, awash in silent fury, he added, “Typical Vault brat. Naive as hell. You know that asshole owner of the Rexford, Katagawa, was an alpha, right? You were right under his nose. If he’d found out about you, he would’ve turned you into his own personal dick cosy. You’d be just another breeder omega bitch.”

A snort tore from Rhys, dismissive of the words. It was followed by a raw laugh, like the sound of a man desperately clinging to his sanity.

“And what exactly are you planning to do?” he said, sounding like he was out of breath. “Invite me for blood tea and snack cakes?”

“Just be fucking grateful I came across you before he did.”

It was on Rhys’ tongue to say more, to continue this cutting banter between them despite his compromised states of rational thought and ability.

But, just a couple hundred feet away, the sudden scraping of iron against solid stone split the air, grating on both their nerves. A moment went by in which it wasn’t clear where it had come from. Then a rusted sedan missing its tires, the rims sparking as they slid across the ground, came rushing forward as if pushed by an invisible force. In a split second, Troy was releasing his hold on Rhys, removing a wicked, cruel blade from where it’d been hidden in a sheath on his belt.

“Hide,” he hissed at the omega.

And not a moment too soon.

Leaping over the frame of the car, blotting out the sun with the sharp claws it held aloft, was a deathclaw. It landed with a thud on the cracked and broken pavement, claws making awful scratching sounds against the surface. Then it seemed to notice Troy, beady opaque eyes falling directly where he stood, its short snout gaping to reveal its saliva flecked fangs as it roared. Spittle seeped from its jowls in gossamer strands. Standing only about Troy’s height, the deadly reptile was still a juvenile. On muscular, agile legs it charged for them, moving at a speed that defied its bulk.

Gritting his teeth and yelling wordlessly, Troy stepped out to meet the creature, a mechanical hand coming between them, snatching at one of the rigid, segmented horns that curved from its skull. The beast grunted and growled, its head shaking furiously from side to side as it struggled to break free.

“Aw, little guy, where’s ya momma at?” Troy taunted, a manic titter rising in his chest.

Claws cut through the air, catching the material of his jacket, shredding it with such thorough ease it left jagged scratches in the skin beneath.

“Sonuvabitch!” Troy yelped out, letting go as he was startled.

The deathclaw took the opportunity presented to it. Its hind legs bunching, tail slicing through the air with a crack akin to a whip, it leaped at the alpha, mouth wide open to clamp down on flesh, ready to rip and tear as it took a huge chunk.

Troy darted out of the way with a hair’s breadth between them, coming up behind the creature and swinging his blade in a wide arc. The poisoned edge sliced into its back, narrowly avoiding its spikes and cutting deep, the wound parting to spill forth noxious blood. The sword was yanked out, plunged point first into the slat of a rib without hesitation. Pushed in as deep as Troy could thrust, it had the deathclaw bucking, its serpentine tongue flailing about as its tail swung desperately to connect with its attacker.

The victory did not last long for the alpha. The deathclaw wrenched itself away from where it was impaled, twisting around so swiftly its tail kicked up a dirt storm where Rhys had taken cover near a pile of collapsed debris. He coughed and choked, unable to see what was unfolding anymore.

GET BACK, REPTILIAN BRETHREN!” came the sudden boom of a familiar voice, wrought with such commanding presence it was impossible to think anything could disobey it. “YOU WILL HEEL! I AM THE ALPHA HERE.

As if someone had shut everything down with some omnipotent, cosmic switch, the noises piercing the air fell away and eventually ceased. As the dirt clouds around Rhys cleared, the omega dared to venture out of the cavern of rubble, hunching slightly to keep himself obscured.

Before him was a strange sight, but not one he was unfamiliar with. On the sidelines, Troy stood, bleeding from gashes in his chest and abdomen, coat partially shredded. In both hands, he held, if the fuel canister strapped to it was anything to go by, a homemade fire pistol of sorts, where he’d been stashing it a mystery. His finger twitched on the trigger, ready to deploy it at the slightest threat.

But the deathclaw was no longer striking a threatening stance, nor paying attention to him in general. Its body hunched, it kept its head low as it regarded the bulky form standing atop a mountain of oxidized scrap. Their hood pulled up to obscure their chassis, hatchet of jawbone raised and pointed at the reptile, Fl4k exuded utmost authority.

“Come, beast,” they called. “Guard the pack.”

From nearby, footsteps beat through grass and across concrete, a guttural yapping filling the air. Mr. Chew crested a pile of rusted oil drums, causing an immense clatter as he toppled them over and bounded closer. He came to a stop a few feet from where the deathclaw still stood, its weight shifting from foot to foot as if it were nervous. Mr. Chew bared his jaws at it, then bent his front half low to the ground, growling low.

As if mimicking the skag’s stance, the deathclaw’s tail thumped flush to the dirt, its body lowering to all fours, gaze falling on the other creature then shifting to Fl4k.

“What the flying hell, man?” Troy found himself saying aloud, his attention snared by the scene before him. “I’ve heard of people pacifying animals and that kind of shit, but I ain’t never seen a deathclaw submit like that. What kind of robot even are you?”

“You will not harm my pack, brother hunter,” Fl4k continued, addressing the deathclaw and ignoring Troy. “They do not match your might nor glory.”

The deathclaw snuffled. Its tongue slithered out in near slow motion, the several grunts it made sounding as if it were attempting to communicate.

“You should remove your presence from this territory and seek out that of your brood.”

At last, the deathclaw turned away, moving as if the ground had become quicksand. Its neck swayed in Troy’s direction as it grumbled at him, but it made no further move to attack. The alpha’s body was so taut with tension that he was nearly trembling. Somehow, he kept his composure, the feeling slowly dissipating as the reptile passed him and kept moving. Soon it was making its way through tall grasses and mountainous rubble, heading onward towards the horizon.

Troy picked up his sword from where it had fallen in the dirt, dusting off its blood flecked surface before sheathing it once more. He took a heaving breath, looked around to assess the state of the situation.

His reprieve wouldn’t last for long. Snarling in his face, Mr. Chew reared up at him, inner teeth clacking inches from exposed flesh. Troy raised his metal arm, readying it to backhand the creature.

Fl4k was suddenly there, the teeth of their hatchet in Troy’s face.

“Enough!” they said, the authoritative inflection in their voice echoing with even more conviction than before. “God-King, I now understand why I was informed you were of a rodent lineage. You will return the packmate you have stolen from me and I will not inflict death upon you for your deception.”

“God-King?” Rhys questioned from where he had crawled from cover, using a stack of old tires to lean against as he attempted to keep upright.

Both Fl4k and Troy turned to him, the AI shuffling over to his side. They placed their hands upon him, patting him down with delicate touches.

“You were not harmed? Can you move your limbs of your own volition?”

“I feel awful,” came Rhys’ soft reply. “But I can walk. Might need a little help here and there, of course.”

“I could not acquire your medicines, Rhys.” At the statement, Fl4k’s eye narrowed to a slit, which they fixed on Troy. “I am concerned about your declination in health. We should return to our accommodations for your safety.”

Footsteps crunched in the dirt, approaching both Fl4k and Rhys. Mr. Chew growled, giving chase, blocking Troy’s path before he could reach the pair.

“Don’t even think about going back to the Rexford,” the alpha informed them. “I wasn’t kidding when I said my boss would basically turn you into his personal fuckboy. He’s been after a healthy omega for a long, long time.”

“I need to attend to Rhys’ needs while he endures the duration of his mating cycle,” Fl4k insisted, positioning themself inches from Troy so that they were in his face. “I cannot perform such a task in the wastelands. And the words you have spoken to me have only been of deception. You are not a human whose suggestions I believe I should take into consideration.”

“I don’t know what happened between you two,” Rhys piped up, “But he’s an alpha, Fl4k. He can help me, if it comes down to it.”

“He made sure my presence was removed and then attempted to break up the pack. I do not doubt he has plans of a nefarious nature.”

“I was trying to fucking help. Even with the suppressors, it’s too late into his cycle. I can smell that much. You’re a goddam piece of electronic equipment. What are you gonna even do for him? You need an alpha like me to take his heat. And I’m a lot more capable than that Katagawa asshole.”

I am the alpha of this pack,” Fl4k spoke up. Though their tone remained even, it was clear they were becoming agitated. “You are an untrustworthy stranger.”

“Are ya jealous or something?”

“Stop, please, both of you.” Rhys plodded over to them, looking haggard and despondent. “I know it’s a stupid decision. But my body is not going to care how awful or not he is of a person in a few hours. If he tries anything I don’t approve of, anything that could hurt me, you have my permission to kill him.”

Inclining his head, Troy’s face was devoid of expression.

“Besides, I already tried with you, Fl4k,” Rhys went on, his worn out boot scuffing the dirt. “You know it’s not going to work out.”

“You fucked the robot?” Troy asked, looking taken aback. “Shit, man. I was only kidding about the jealousy thing.”

“That’s…it’s not relevant. I just know the more time we spend debating any of this, the less energy I have to expend. Wherever it was you were taking me, er…God-King—is that even your name?—we should get there sooner than later.”

“It’s Troy, actually. And I’m gonna make an educated guess and say you’re Rhys.”

“I do not approve of this turn of events,” Fl4k said, stroking Mr. Chew’s head, who’d returned to their side. “I think your biological components have been compromised and you are becoming prone to rash decisions.”

With a sigh, Rhys swiped at his face, which had donned a sheen of sweat beneath the glare of the sun, not to mention the frustration and exertion the situation had caused.

“God, I know, Fl4k, I know! I don’t see any other solution right now. And—godammit, I just wish I was back home in the vault. Then I wouldn’t have to be going through this in the fucking wastelands of all places. This is just so—so unfair. Why did Hugo have to fuck everything up? Dad would’ve still been alive…and…and I wouldn’t be alone, barely surviving. For almost four years.”

By the time the omega had come to the end of his rant, he’d run out of steam, his eyes glistening as they threatened to spill over. It was clear his emotions were in turmoil, shoving him to the brink, hormones out of control as they scattered him to the winds. His mind was increasingly fogged now, so quick to react instead of decipher. He slumped against Fl4k’s coat, clinging as if terrified that gravity would drag him down and refuse to release him.

“You will always be of my pack, Rhys.” As if sensing such was the case, Fl4k reached down, scooping the omega up in their arms like cradling some limp, empty sack. His addressment, however, was to Troy. “He is encroaching on exhaustion and dehydration. He also requires nourishment. You are not an individual I want to lead my pack. But I am to assume you have access to these requirements.”

The alpha was shaking his head, his hand passing over the wounds in his chest, coming away painted with blood. He licked them clean and nodded in a direction.

“Shamrock’s still our destination,” he said, hocking a wad of bloody spit on the ground. “Don’t go attacking the Raiders there, either. They’re on our side.”

If Fl4k could glare the way a human could, they probably would have. Instead, their chassis remained inanimate as always, only their eye reflecting their wariness.

XXX

From the outside, the Shamrock Taphouse was not at all pleasing to the eye. Windows boarded up, generally dilapidated, only the bright green door seemed to be untouched and intact. There was a man leaning outside it, hair in a buzzcut, clothing the typical worn leathers and armors of most Raider types. Rifle at his side, he swiped it up at their approach, aiming from the hip.

“Whoa, Gaff, it’s me,” came Troy’s voice as his pace didn’t falter. “Ease up there, Mr. Trigger Happy. You might blow some innocent idiot’s brains out.”

Gaff stood down, shrugging.

“Ain’t nobody here innocent of anything,” he replied. “And any asshole stupid enough to step foot on our territory deserves a bullet between the eyes.” The man’s eyes darted to Fl4k, then to the prone Rhys in his arms, who appeared to be unaware of the world at the moment. “Why are you back so early? New recruits? Don’t tell me we’re taking in RobCo rejects now.”

“Excuse me?” Troy said, one eyebrow raised. “You wouldn’t be telling me who I can and can’t bring in to the flock now, would you?”

“Of course not. Not me.”

“Like I figured. Shame if me and my sis decided you no longer worthy of protection from Katagawa and his men.”

A glare from Gaff. There was a pointed edge to each word as he said, “Right. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth. Won’t happen again.”

“Just what I love to hear.”

“Oh. And the God-Queen. She’s doing her broadcast thing and don’t want to be disturbed, not even by you.”

“Not that shit again,” Troy rolled his eyes. “If she let me write the fucking material just once, then maybe it would get people talking. But no, she’s gotta be a stubborn bitch.”

With agitated movements, Troy left Gaff to his own devices and beckoned his companions to follow him. He almost barred Mr. Chew from proceeding, but then realized he didn’t want to deal with the consequences of that right now and shoved open the Taphouse door.

The interior was just as poorly maintained and neglected as the exterior. The door opened up into the main taproom, most of the tables flipped on their side, chairs either splintered or broken, the billiard tables the only furniture intact. There was a couple of Raiders sitting at the bar itself of both male and female persuasion, greasy and unwashed in appearance, their eyes glued to the entourage passing through the demolished room.

“Let us drink to the return of the God-King!” one of them shouted, so drunk their head was wobbling on their shoulders. It thunked down to the bar, snores rising up a moment later.

Someone smashed a bottle over their slumbering head, laughter accompanying the sound of breaking glass.

Ignoring them, Troy continued on, directing his companions up a short flight of stairs. The hallway here was better lit, doorways on either side of them. Both were locked tight to the outside world, the leftmost painted over with morbid symbols and random graffiti. Producing a key, Troy opened it.

“Put him on the mattress there,” he told Fl4k, gesturing to the mattresses piled haphazardly against a wall. “Hey, no skags in my room! Out in the hall. Get!”

Whining, Mr. Chew plopped his butt down on the hardwood floor, as if to imply that Troy’s commands meant absolutely nothing to him.

“It would be unwise to separate Rhys from my beast at this time,” Fl4k said. He let the omega down gingerly from his grasp, his seemingly boneless form slipping on to one of the mattresses, limbs a deadweight as Rhys didn’t stir. He was still only dressed in his boxers and tank top from the previous night, his visible skin a pale pink with the warmth that was engulfing him. An intense shiver roiled through him, and Fl4k removed his shoes and draped what appeared to be a relatively clean sheet over him. “They are packmates. Rhys will be comforted by the presence of Mr. Chew.”

“Rhys ain’t a goddam skag,” Troy snorted, clipping something off from his belt. It was cylindrical, wrapped in army camo canvas. “But fuck it, whatever, fine.”

The alpha snapped open the pouch, slipping out a gleaming metal hypodermic needle, the windowed portion indicating it was filled with a clear liquid. He tapped the apparatus with a surprisingly delicate touch for his robotic finger, squeezing a spurt of the liquid out. Crouching at Rhys’ side, he reached for the omega, but Fl4k grabbed him in an iron grip by the bicep and Mr. Chew snarled.

“Get off,” Troy snapped at him. “It ain’t chems. Saline nutrient solution. Good for omegas in heat.”

“How would one who is an alpha come in possession of such knowledge and the components to treat omegas?”

“I—I just know, ok? Leave it at that.”

But Fl4k did not release him, only tugging harder at his arm.

“I have had to administer treatments to Rhys in the past, and thus have a more intimate knowledge of his anatomical form.”

“Oh, I’m aware of that. You’re pretty much fucking him, it sounds like.”

“I do not have the proper attachments for such sexual acts with a human. And Rhys and I have proven to be incompatible.”

“Not even gonna fucking ask.”

“That would be polite of you to refrain. I think you should also allow me to administer Rhys’ injection, for the reasons we have just conversed about.”

Glancing up, Troy raked his eyes over the AI’s form, as if sizing him up for an altercation. There was the slightest twitch of his mouth. Rhys’ arm dropped from his grip as he stood and held aloft the syringe.

“Fine. You do it, even if the guy who’s doing the injecting is, ya know, also the guy who has an extensive knowledge of liquid compounds.”

Without further word, Fl4k took the needle, studying the way in which the liquid seemed to slosh around inside. Then they bent to flip Rhys’ arm over, palm facing upward, slipping the sharp end into the crook of his elbow and deploying the plunger.

While the AI performed the task, Troy set to rummaging through old milk crates he had stacked into makeshift shelving, full to the brim on each tier with homemade weaponry like smoke bombs and corked molotovs. He selected a flat, circular disc that fit to the size of his palm, the middle indented with a red lens. As Fl4k rose once more, Troy sauntered over, slapping them on the back as if to congratulate them.

“Nice work,” he praised, hand falling away, leaving the device attached in its wake.

“I did not do much work,” Fl4k replied. “Now that we have administered the nutrients, we should allow Rhys to re—”

The AI never made it to the end of the sentence. Snatching something from his belt that looked like a trigger device, Troy depressed it. A soft pop went off, like a shot from an air gun. There was the crackle and fizz of static, then the disc on Fl4k lit up, emitting a visible wave of electric pulse. It should have been low impact. Troy had tinkered with the device until he had concentrated its proximity effect to an individual target, for use if he wanted to deal with an electronic adversary without getting his own mechanical parts caught in the crossfire. And in a way, it worked. Most of the effects seized only the robot and nothing else of an electronic nature Troy had stashed in the room. Too late, however, he realized something must have caused slight amplification. A component in Fl4k’s wiring or structural form, maybe. The AI not being a product of RoBco or a synth was definitely an outlier that he hadn’t considered in the design of the weaponry.

Whatever the case, he realized he’d misjudged the zone of safe deployment, feeling the shocking tingle of energy zag through his prosthetic like a vicious bite from a yao guai. It was so intense it made the muscles in his shoulder and neck strain. He felt like he was paralyzed, the agony reaching a white hot crescendo.

Even as Fl4k was crashing to the floor with an enormous cacophony, falling against another tower of milk crates and sending it toppling, the distinct sound of delicate objects smashing, Troy was screaming. He couldn’t help the noises that erupted from his chest involuntarily, first wordless, then forming a clash of consonants and vowels that ran into each other like the ball bearings that had tumbled off a shelf and were rolling all over the floorboards.

“Ty!” he yelled out, his mechanical arm like an anchor that dragged the ground when he tried to move. “Tyreen! I need you in here. Now.

Mr. Chew was in a frenzy, whining and prancing around the body of his fallen packmate, whose eye had faded to a lightless hunk of fiberglass and metal. His snout pushed up against the AI’s chassis, nudging and snuffling. Claws scratched at a leg that was awkwardly bent.

On the mattress, Rhys tried to lift his head, flopped back down after a handful of failed attempts, his eyes rolling back for a moment. Fresh drool seeped from his lips, spilling down his chin.

“How are you even resisting that shit?” Troy managed to groan, wincing as a spasm slipped along his vertebrae with constricting coils, bringing him to his knees. He managed to fall to only one, the other leg bracing him in an inconvenient position. Through gritted teeth, he spat out a directionless, “Motherfucker.

Footsteps approached the open doorway, sending the floorboards shaking as if someone were stomping with all their weight. The snort that rang out was like gunshot.

“What the fuck am I even looking at here?” the voice of his sister asked, Tyreen’s petite form stepping into the room a moment later. “Is this seriously the shit you interrupt me with?” Her eyes darted around the room. “A broken down assaultron, some dumbass skag, and a strung out junkie….” She stopped, trailing off, her eyes widening as they fell on Rhys, scarred nose wrinkling, nostrils flaring. Nails painted over in chipped black reached up to push the pair of faded headphones from her head to down around her neck. “Hooooly fuck, Troy. This place reeks. Is he what I think he is?”

Without waiting for an answer from her brother, who was gasping for breath as he fought to right himself, she clomped over to Rhys’ prone body. In a handwoven leather and cloth corset top, cutoff shorts and stockings that were so ripped and torn they offered barely any cover of skin, the female Calypso was an intimidating sight. Her shear badassery was only accented further by the smoky, dark make-up blacking out her eyes under a shock of bleached hair and the spiraling blue network of a tattoo that ran along her arm. It disappeared beneath her clothing only to appear in splashes of color in the patches of missing stocking. She scratched along the side of her calf with the opposite armored combat boot as she regarded the stranger.

“The hell is this?” Tyreen lowered into a crouch, fingers pinching the skin of Rhys’ inked neck and yanking. “Some kind of weird branding? And did you see the mint condition of his Pip Boy? You must be going crazy right now. How’d fresh vault meat like this even let you come near him?”

“Dammit, Ty,” Troy growled at her. “Will you stop worrying about the omega and come help me?”

“What you need help with?” Her smirk was subtle, eyes dancing with mischief. “You look perfectly fine to me.”

From his place on the bed, Rhys reached up, grabbing a hold of Tyreen’s bare arm. Eyes managing to focus, albeit only partially open, he pulled himself up just enough to press his nose to her smooth skin. She tried to pull away, but he held fast, confusion twisting his expression.

“Y…you’re….” Barely able to speak, Rhys inhaled deep, the sound audible. “Omega?”

Fury lent Tyreen strength. She ripped her arm out of Rhys’ grasp, rounding on Troy.

How the hell can he smell that?” she demanded of her brother. “Have you been fucking with my chem formula? I swear, Troy, if you did anything to sabotage my shit and people find out I’m not a damn beta, I’ll cut off your alpha pride and make you choke on it.”

“Don’t be so goddam paranoid,” Troy spit out, growling as he found his footing. He grabbed at his mechanical arm, using all his strength to lift it up as he unfurled, but not to his full height. Hunched over with his limp prosthetic weighing him down, he leaned against the wall and glared at her. “It’s probably just cos he’s an omega too. Or maybe his wires got crossed cos of the shit I gave him.”

“And what did you give him?” Tyreen’s hand wrapped around the blocky structure of Troy’s metal forearm, her fingers only meeting halfway around as she lifted it for a second before letting it flop back down. “Jesus. Did you accidentally set off one of your EMPs again?”

“I miscalculated some things dealing with that.” He gestured to Fl4k, who was still slumped in a pile on the floor. “And it’s mostly just one part Med-X to a bunch of Smooch. Some Dad-O extract thrown in to get him placid as a lake.”

Tyreen narrowed her eyes at her brother, brows drawn down sharply.

“He’s on the verge of a heat, Ty.” Troy glanced over at Rhys, who seemed to finally be succumbing to the effects of the liquid in his veins, if his even breathing and closed eyes was anything to go by. “You know by the smell I ain’t lying to you, and that it’s too late for suppressors. This will at least keep him subdued.”

“Ugh, you’re such a gross knothead sometimes. What if some strange alpha did this to me?”

“Then I’d kill ‘em. This is different. It was either I got to Rhys first, or Katagawa found out about him. You know what he’d do to an omega in heat.”

“And what exactly are you gonna do differently? Go on, I’ll wait for you to tell me.”

Troy closed his eyes, sighing. He took a step or two forward, edging closer to where Fl4k lay on the floor, his arm making him shudder as it made scraping noises where it dragged.

“Just help me with this thing. I only have a few hours before that EMP wears off, and I need it out of my hair before then.”

Sighing and rolling her eyes, blowing her fringe out of them, Tyreen said, “Fine. I guess I’ll have to take pity, you being my dumb, crippled, gimpy-ass bro who needs me for, like, everything in his life.”

“I’m none of those things and you know it.”

“Sure, Troy, sure. So, what’s the plan? We scrapping it for spare parts or are you gonna make another attempt at robo-brain washing?”

“Neither.” Troy used his one functioning hand to heft the network of rusted chains from around his neck and toss them to her feet, the heavy alloy making a deafening rattle as they fell. Rhys flinched but didn’t open his eyes. “I just want it chained up and secured for now. I don’t know if the omega would be receptive if we went tearing apart his machine.”

As Tyreen regarded both the robot and chains at her feet, Mr. Chew swiveled in her direction. He’d trotted over to Rhys’ side earlier, licking and covering him in slobber as he made an attempt to comfort him. Now he lifted his head to full height, a soft growl curling from the depths of his throat as his gaze settled on the female Calypso.

“Ah, shit,” Troy grumbled. “I forgot about the stupid skag. We should tie him up outside, leave ‘im with Gaff. Just make sure you don’t get bit. I don’t wanna have to shoot you up with rabies vax or nothing.”

“Pretty sure he doesn’t have rabies, numbnuts.”

Tyreen’s hands fiddled with her array of belts, some loaded with strands of ammo, others fitted with storage pouches. From one of the latter she removed a small ration wrapped in cellophane, breaking it open with a distinct pop. The bite sized cake tumbled to her palm and she held it out towards Mr. Chew. The skag was rigid, hesitant as it regarded the food. It trotted over to sniff furiously at Tyreen’s hand. Then, vertical jaws gaping, it snatched the treat away with its tongue, drooling as it swallowed it in one bite. Claws scratched against the floorboards as Mr. Chew bounced in place several times. A small hand came down on his head, patting him.

“See, he was just hungry,” Tyreen told her brother. “Good boy. I bet you want another one, huh?”

“I’m not cleaning up skag vomit if he gets sick,” Troy said as she removed another cake from her accessories and fed it to the creature.

“Don’t be jealous just because he likes me better.”

“I don’t give a shit what dumb animal you made friends with. Can we please just get on with this?”

That seemed to get things moving. Dusting her hands off of cake crumbs, Tyreen was able to lead Mr. Chew away with the promise of more treats, leaving him outside in the hands of Gaff, who assured her he’d take fine care of the ugly mutt. Considering Mr. Chew pissed on the Raider’s leg not but a moment later, Tyreen couldn’t help but feel there was a certain sentience the skag possessed.

That, and it gave her a mighty good laugh. She left a cursing Gaff and prancing Mr. Chew behind with a spring in her step.

Back in Troy’s room, Rhys was now curled up under his sheet and snoring deeply, his body so lanky that his feet poked out from beneath it. With minute shudders running through his body, his smell had become weighted, almost tangible; probably heavenly and mentally debilitating all at once to her brother. But to her, just a nuisance. The scents of other omegas were the equivalent of competition in Tyreen’s mind, as it was to the majority of her ilk. She definitely had no desire to compete with Rhys, considering his role here, which took the edge off what would have otherwise been blatant aggression towards him. She couldn’t help but wonder, though, what he was going to act like towards her, once he regained consciousness. Some omegas were rather exasperating when they thought they had to jockey for position. She’d had to put one in their place before. Which meant leaving them broken and bleeding, on the brink of death.

Of course, that had been one of the only three other omegas she’d ever met. Now here was a fourth, and though it wasn’t the first one her brother had shacked up with for a heat, she had her concerns. Mostly because of the circumstances.

At some point, Troy had managed to pull himself over to the faded, threadbare loveseat in the room, as he was sprawled out on its deep maroon cushions. His eyes were narrowed to slits, focused on Rhys, not even glancing at her as she wound Troy’s chains around Fl4k in a secure knot and tied the tail ends to an old radiator. Grabbing up a few tools from where they had scattered on the floor, she flopped down next to her brother.

“So, what’s the plan?” she asked, tugging at his coat so that it partially slipped off of him, poking the newly acquired scratch marks in it before shrugging to herself. His spinal rig exposed, her fingers found the one upper plate that didn’t completely interlock with the rest, working a tool under the panel there and prying it up to expose a miniature web of wiring. “You gonna fuck this omega into blissful oblivion for a week and than coerce him into leading us to the vault he came from? Because damn. Anymore Vault-Tec stuff like that lying around there, and we can ditch Katagawa. People get like dumbasses over that pre-war garbage.”

A notched Allen key was taken between Tyreen’s fingers, the end filed to an uncharacteristic thinness. She fitted it into a small pinpoint hole in Troy’s spinal structure.

“Huh, what?” Troy asked her, blinking in slow motion.

Suddenly, his teeth almost came down upon his tongue as something akin to a massive cramp seized his spine.

“Wow, Troy. Do I have to worry about you going into rut or what?”

“No. Don’t be an ass. It’s just Rhys’ heat scent.”

Pulling the key out, Tyreen lined it up with the indentation beneath the first hole, shoving it back in with force and twisting it. Her brother grunted, almost bucking her off in the process, the muscles in his back and left shoulder twitching and pulsing as if she’d just taken a live wire to them.

“That’s what I’m worried about. I’m not picking up your goddam slack all week cos you’re too hyper-focused on being balls deep in omega ass and beating the shit out of anyone who looks at you funny.”

“When has that ever even happened?” Troy said through gritted teeth. “And could you be gentler? That’s my circuitry you’re abusing.”

The Allen key set aside, his sister pressed her thumbs into a pair of hidden divots in the spinal plating. Hard. Troy yowled as the LEDs in his mechanical infrastructure illuminated all at once, the sounds of metal parts whirring and coming to life distinct. His robotic fingers twitched a few times, then his entire shoulder socket pivoted, allowing him to lift his arm to examine it.

“And you said I was a shitty tinkerer,” Tyreen said to him. “Got you working good as new, though, don’t I?”

“You aren’t shitty.” Troy dug his fingers into the back of his neck and shoulder, working out the tension there. “I’d never say that.”

“Funny. Cos I remember you being all like,” her voice dropped several octaves to mock him, “What did I tell you about trying to fix your radio equipment yourself, Ty? You just don’t have my delicate touch not to end up breaking it more.”

Troy scowled and looked away, “That’s not the same.”

“It’s not?” Grabbing him under the jaw, squeezing his cheeks as she made him turn his head towards her, the tone she took up was saccharine. “Oh, bro. You’re just like every other alpha I’ve ever met: a complete parasite underestimating the very omega counterparts they leech off of.”

“That’s not the way it is at all. We’re, like, supposed to go together. For balance, and survival, and shit.”

“And yet you drugged up an omega so that he wouldn’t freak about a strange alpha he doesn’t know taking his heat.”

She withdrew, then, rising from the couch cushion, her nails leaving behind half-moon crescents in his skin.

“Why are you being such a bitch?” He growled low, furiously, his fingers snarling in his hair and shoving it off his brow. Beneath it, his eyes were pinpoints, wild. “Should I just sit here and let him suffer a heat without any relief? Cos it sure sounds like that’s what you’re telling me to do.”

“Fuck if I know.” Tyreen heaved one shoulder in a shrug, then gave a chuckle. “Maybe I just like griefing you. Keeps you in your place. Besides, I helped you, didn’t I? I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t care about you, baby bro.”

“Technically, I was born the same time as you were.”

“Ha, suuuure.” Flipping her hair out of her face, she began to make her way towards the door. “You totally weren’t some weird mutant growth or nothing. That was just a freaky story dad made up about you. Nothing to do with nuclear mutations.”

Troy stuck his middle finger up in her direction, “Still doesn’t change the fact that we’re equals.”

“Keep dreaming. Anyway, have fun with your little omega project there. Don’t come bothering me unless you plan to use him to our advantage. Oh, and I guess I can help out if you got an emergency. Just F-Y-I: getting your knot stuck in him too long? Not an emergency.”

“Ew, Ty, really?”

His sister’s laugh was hardy enough to fill the room. Flipping him a wave, she turned her back on him and disappeared down the hall.

Chapter Text

By nightfall, Troy hadn’t run into his sister again. She’d locked herself in her room. He could hear the sound of the radio drifting faintly through the door, the raspy zingers from what sounded like some elderly man interspersed with static and jazz notes that were barely audible. As she was probably busy penning her next radio broadcast, he saw no reason to disturb her, the note they had left each other on still sour. Instead he threw himself into tasks that needed tending to around the Shamrock. Water drums were stacked together, waiting to be run through the purifier, which he set some folk to handle. Some of the Raiders had also stolen a brahmin from a settlement and had slaughtered it for the meat. Most of it would be seasoned, cut, and cooked to be stored as jerky, but the rest he could let the Shamrock’s residents roast for a hearty evening supper. It had been awhile since dinner or any meal didn’t consist of something from a box or can.

After he ate and washed the tough and stringy but filling meal down with a couple of Colas, some of the Raiders got a poker game going and passed around an inhaler full of Jet. Troy declined both, retiring to his room. Nobody there dared questioned him as to why.

Still chained to the radiator, Fl4k hadn’t yet powered back up. Their singular lens remained closed, the lights on their chassis still dark. Troy had to step over them to pry open a window, the sound of the wooden frame creaking as it slid upward causing Rhys to stir. His omega scent was cloying now, seeming to adhere itself to the very molecules in the room. With the door closed, Troy felt almost like it was trying to crawl down his throat and suffocate him. His breaths were shallow for fear that if he breathed in too deeply, he’d be swept up in its tide.

“Where are…,” he heard Rhys murmur, his eyes barely open a crack, hair plastered to his forehead with sweat. “Are Fl4k…Mr. Chew.”

The only reason Troy knew Rhys could probably even think straight to ask such a question was the drugs he’d pumped into the omega’s system. They kept him free of the initial delirium of a heat, though their effects wouldn’t last forever, and that didn’t stop them from making Rhys disoriented. When it came time to deal with those factors, he would. For now, he crouched, turning Rhys’ wrist so he could read the body temperature displayed on his Pip Boy. It hadn’t shifted all that much, was still high. Troy unlatched his canteen from his belt, which was full to the brim with some of the water he’d had purified earlier. It was uncapped, the liquid poured into Rhys’ open mouth. Thankfully, the omega had enough wits about him to start swallowing before he choked.

“Skag’s alright. I checked on him a bit ago. Your robot pal’s doing just fine, too,” Troy said in a curt manner. “Wires got crossed or whatever. He’ll be back in commission in no time.”

Shifting to throw the sheet placed upon him off, Rhys wet his lips, voice still weak but coherent. “Not a robot, and not a ‘he’.”

Troy didn’t seem very moved by the information, his bare shoulder heaving in a shrug. Without the sheet covering him, Rhys’ scent seemed to permeate the room even further, even though, in reality, it couldn’t be that much worse. The alpha’s brain was just exaggerating what his olfactory senses were experiencing because of how long it’d been since he’d been near an omega. Had to be that. The window was open, and Troy wasn’t a greenhorn. Being merely around an omega in heat shouldn’t have him warring with rationality to curb his instincts. Learning to cull his alpha nature had been one of the first disciplines he’d learned when he’d presented. Especially with the disaster of Tyreen presenting as an omega, and the blow to her pride it had dealt.

Despite everything, Troy found himself dropping to his knees and leaning in, burying his nose in Rhys’ neck and getting a lungful. Skin coated in a faint sheen of sweat, he still smelled enticing, the sweet scent pinpointed to sugar in Troy’s mind. Honey, as well, and a more mechanical edge underlying it all, like a heady kind of oil. Rhys’ scent was more refined than other omegas Troy had met. It was likely derived from his origins as a child of the vaults, that omega lineage pure, unblemished by stray genetics and nuclear exposure.

There was a moment where Rhys shifted beneath him and he thought the omega, fed up with his forward behavior, might try to push him away. But the smaller man just sighed. He hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath, Troy. When he did, he let it out in a rush, returning to nuzzling Rhys like a leech to its prey.

“Didn’t think I’d be this aware when a heat finally hit,” Rhys mused, giving a curt laugh. “Or calm. Why am I so calm? This isn’t…this isn’t what they said it’d be like. Back in the vault.”

That gave Troy room to pause. He drew back, fringe of hair flopping over his face as his eyebrows hiked into his hair.

“Wait, what are you saying?” he asked, a queasy sensation rising in his gorge. “How old are you?”

“Twenty,” Rhys said after a long pause, his eyes closing. “Almost.”

“And you’ve never had a heat before?” Troy sounded bewildered and incredulous all that once. “How long you been on suppressors?”

“Little after fifteen. Had enough to last me in the Commonwealth awhile. Till now. Can we…stop talking.” Rhys cracked one eye open, his breathing uneven. “I Just…I could really use your help with this.”

“With what?”

Groaning in what Troy could only assume was frustration, Rhys gestured to the obvious tenting in his boxers.

“Do I have to coerce you?” he asked, pushing himself upward.

“N-no.” Growling at how the situation was effecting him, Troy stopped the omega from closing the distance between them with a hand to his chest. Heat radiated through Rhys’ tank top, the sensation setting things in the alpha’s groin stirring. Too gruffly, he asked, “Have you ever even been with an alpha?”

“Once. Does it matter?”

With the omega in the state he was in, receptive to any advances Troy made, it didn’t. But it was possible for omegas to perish during heats, if either alpha or omega was inexperienced or negligent. As rancid as his reputation could be around the areas surrounding Goodneighbor, Troy didn’t want omega blood on his hands. That was a black mark the twins would have a hard time scrubbing off.

And if word ever got out about it, Katagawa would have Troy hunted down and castrated without losing an ounce of sleep. The older alpha was already on the sociopathic scale in his business dealings. When it came to omega affairs, however, he went the extra mile to be cruel and ruthless. As far as his boss was concerned, you were muddying the gene pool when you harmed an omega, culling the lineage by damaging the breeding stock. It would’ve been a noble standing, if the ideal wasn’t sullied by being steeped in subjugation.

“Nah, guess not,” Troy finally said, realizing he’d left Rhys hanging. His mechanical hand shifted as he settled it out of the way, his flesh fingers stroking down Rhys’ front, reaching the hem of his shirt. “I’m gonna make things easier, put you on your stomach. Alright?”

If the omega was ready to protest, it never happened. Rhys rolled with the momentum, limbs falling haphazardly and settling where they lie.

“I feel like a sack of wet cement,” he commented, then snorted. “If cement could be sexually frustrated.”

A hand came down on the small of Rhys’ back, patting him. His hips were lifted just high enough for Troy to work down his underwear, the material dampened to the touch. When the alpha tugged them past the curve of his ass, the material stuck fast, as if it were adhesive that he had to peel off.

“Shit,” Troy drawled, all but assaulted with omega musk and the telltale, heady odor of slick.

Unable to resist, he gripped one of Rhys’ ass cheeks, his metal touch rough as he pried it away from the other. It was so quiet in the room he could hear Rhys swallow, the sound accompanied by a quick, sharp hum from between his closed lips as Troy’s thumb found his entrance. The alpha applied pressure, feeling the muscles part around the tip and draw him in with ease. Tacky and viscous heat closed around his skin, and he started driving in deeper before he realized what he was doing and drew away as if burned. Thumb promptly stuck between his lips, he sucked the omega’s essence from his own skin until he was balancing precariously on a razor’s edge.

“Fucking hell. Sorry, man,” he rasped, feeling sheepish, patience straining beneath its tethers. Against the material of his pants, he could feel how aroused he’d become in so short a time, his hardening length pulling them tight. It caused a sweet type of friction, the sensation stopping him from removing them entirely. “Lemme just…can—can I eat your ass?”

Beneath him, the omega was quivering, as if he were bare naked in the midst of a nuclear winter. Troy knew he wasn’t cold, that even with the window open the room still felt stifling. Maybe that was just the heat radiating off the omega alone, blasting like a furnace and causing him to sweat without a modicum of effort. Eventually Rhys nodded; just the barest movement of his head, but it was consent.

He might not have been an actual member of the serpent species, but Troy moved like one, darting in for the kill. Hiking Rhys’ tank top up, he pushed the omega’s boxers down even further till they were around his knees and barring him from much movement. His tongue struck out, battering Rhys’ hole with a dexterous flick, slick scooped up in its coiling embrace. The taste seemed to melt Troy from the inside, his dick pulsing, spine bowing with pleasure. Rhys made a high pitched sound like a wounded animal calling out in the middle of the night, though it was far from a noise of distress, and Troy sealed his lips against skin, sucking in gentle waves.

From the pit of Rhys’ lust, a moan was dredged. His hips rolled, his arm reaching behind him to grab blindly at Troy, grasping a few strands of hair briefly before his hand fell away, weak and useless. The alpha pierced Rhys’ entrance, the wide expanse of his tongue spreading him open, rewarded with more of the omega’s unique flavor. Drool mixed with slick, Troy unable to stop the surge of desire that clawed and bit to match Rhys’ own, the alpha getting sloppy as the omega squirmed with the most delicious of whimpers.

“I can’t—oh fuck,” Rhys panted, stumbling over his words, sounding on the verge of hysteria. “I’m close.”

That only spurred Troy to double his efforts. Wriggling his tongue, he drove it as deep as it would go, Rhys’ quiet noises becoming boisterous. The omega’s muscles seized as if he’d been struck by lightning, and in that moment he knew Rhys was cumming, his breathing rapid and erratic. Still, Troy kept himself latched on, the rush of new slick against his tongue irresistible. Rhys mewled and shifted back against him, obviously not wanting him to pull away, either. But eventually Troy’s jaw started to ache and his tongue grew lazy and sore. He was forced to withdraw, Rhys already whining for his return. His lips and chin shiny, Troy wiped his face with his arm, flopping down beside the omega.

“You good for more?” he asked, faint hint of a smirk emerging as his hair stubbornly curtained across his face again. “Wanna take a breather?”

The omega craned his neck to stare at him, the brown of his irises swallowed up in the depths of pupil. Though he looked almost afraid to say anything, Troy knew that wasn’t the case.

“I’ll kill you if you don’t keep going,” he said with some effort.

“Hmmm? That so?” This time the grin on Troy’s face was more obvious. “You’re a feisty one, aren’t ya?”

“Please don’t be an asshole.”

“I’m not,” Troy said, truth binding his words like steel.

His hand reached for his belt, working it open and his zipper down, releasing the pressure of his pants. The material loosened around his erection, both a relief and something he would sorely miss. There were, however, more enticing places to yearn for; ones that were eager for him. Before slipping his pants down and kicking them off, Troy removed a Jimmy Hat brand condom from his utility pouch, the red foil packaging glinting in the moonlight streaming through the window. He went to unwrap it, a hand bumping into his forearm, fingers scrabbling at his skin.

“Don’t need it,” Rhys told him.

“Sorry, ain’t happening. No omega—even a cute and fierce one—in the whole Commonwealth is worth risking a goddam nother mouth to feed.”

“Don’t. Need it. Trust me.”

A pained expression came to pass across Rhys’ face, the distress evident in his gaze. For a few solid moments, melancholy seemed to creep into the space between them. Troy was smart enough to know when not to pry, though his curiosity was piqued now. Setting the condom aside, he nodded. If the omega wanted him bareback, craved that skin to skin contact so badly, he’d oblige him. That was his duty, as the alpha claiming his heat, wasn’t it?

Rhys kicked his underwear the rest of the way down and rolled on to his side, pushing back against Troy as if he were an affectionate cat. His warmth seemed to radiate through the alpha’s chest, like the sun at its zenith beating down on bare flesh. Neck arched just right, the taller man was treated to an eyeful of tattoo, the strange circular shape traced with his tongue. Taste and smell combined to draw Troy’s mouth on a path to the top of Rhys’ spine. He wrapped his arm around the other man’s chest, drawing him closer.

The cleft of Rhys’ backside brushed his cock. It was the slightest touch, but it seemed to turn them both desperate. Rhys undulated against him, the velvet skin of Troy’s hefty, rigid shaft slipping against the silken curvature of his ass and less seductive areas like his tail bone. The omega growled at him, forgetting, in his lusts, that he still had functional hands and arms. As if in a trance, Troy remained nuzzling at the back of his neck, scenting him as was guided by the quickened pulse beating just beneath the bonding site. Like the lure of a snake charm, it called for him to sink his plated canines in, drive them deep until he tasted copper and made Rhys his omega and only his.

Thankfully, he had enough wits left not to succumb. He didn’t want to deal with that kind of commitment. Not now, and probably never.

Desperate fingers found his shaft. Rhys had remembered how to use his appendages. Though his dick was on the larger side even for an alpha, it didn’t dwarf the omega’s hand. For one of his kind, Rhys was unnaturally built. He wasn’t petite, instead gangly where he should’ve been more compact, as if nature had designed him one way—perhaps as a beta or even an alpha—and then decided against it at the last possible moment.

There was a sharp tug at Troy’s groin. Hissing, he knew the omega was growing increasingly more impatient. As were his own desires. Not wanting to continue this torture of either of them, he hooked his leg around Rhys’ entwining them to keep the omega grounded and give himself leverage. As tall as he was, they seemed to lock together harmoniously, and he clamped his hand over where Rhys was gripping his cock and guided it properly to the omega’s hole. Even with the earlier rimjob, Rhys was drenched, the clear liquid glistening against the backs of his thighs. It was more than enough for him to not to have to struggle to take the alpha’s cock, no preparation required. The head slipped inside, almost with obscene ease, Rhys shuddering around him as Troy didn’t hesitate to drive himself deeper. Soon enough he was hilting, the feeling of being fully sheathed within the omega too much and not enough all at once.

It had been a long time since he’d found himself in bed with an omega. Way too long. And Rhys was getting even more worked up, wordlessly begging for Troy to fuck him without abandon. At last the smaller man seemed to grow frustrated enough to do something about it, growling as he shoved backward, trying to hopelessly impale himself further.

Not able to help himself, Troy chuckled.

“Wow, you’re like a hungry deathclaw hatchling, aren’t ya? Calm down, eh. Do I seem like the type of alpha that’s gonna sit here and expect you to do all the work?”

“I don’t know,” Rhys replied, his words biting. “It isn’t exactly like you’re doing anything right now.”

“Oh?” His hand trailing downward along the flat expanse of Rhys’ abdomen, he reached his groin, grasping his dick, which had remained erect. It was spattered with cum, the fluid making for smooth friction as he slid his fingers along the shaft. “Is this what you call not doing anything?”

Gasping, Rhys shot back with, “Yup.”

The grip of his fingers shifting to the full use of his palm, he stroked the omega idly, using his hold to draw himself back, nearly pulling out of Rhys entirely. He could feel the omega growing even more restless, deciding to let him fret a moment longer before slipping back inside. The sudden return of the warmth and constriction was like a shock to his system. Not that he was worried about shorting his mechanical parts out again. There’d be no more freak accidents, if he could help it. He let out a guttural moan, finding himself caught under the swing of the proverbial sledgehammer, pleasure driving him to slam himself back in the rest of the way. The jarring movement caused Rhys to clench around him, the choking confines of the omega’s body causing Troy to already pant.

“How about now?” he managed to say between breaths.

Now you’re just being manipulative. Can you move already or something? You—you can’t knot me at the pace you’re going.”

“I know omegas are pretty needy during a heat and all, but you’re being kind of extra.”

There was a sigh from Rhys, which ended in a high pitched noise.

“I’m sorry. I—I’m not usually this pushy. Or…controlling.” A desperate, humorless laugh escaped him. “First heat and all. It’s kind of overwhelming, you know? I’ll try—”

Before Rhys could keep up the rambling apology, Troy angled his hips back, feeling the omega’s inner walls grasp at him as if he were a fleeing lover. In another breath, he was pushing back inside, grunting even as Rhys’ ability to think straight was pilfered. The words fell away, fading to nothingness, and he was left with only moans passing from his lips even as the alpha worked himself into a more steady rhythm.

“What if I said I like it?” Troy eventually got out, pulling himself back from the brink of mindless bliss.

Of course, Rhys didn’t answer him, didn’t have the breath for it. The alpha thrust against him with as much force as he could in their position, the slap of skin echoing as their bodies collided. Teeth sunk into the soft, thin flesh of the omega’s shoulder, the thrill of dominance tangling with instinct for Troy. Within seconds his pulse was racing, his desire taking flight as if it had been previously plateauing. He was glad they had not taken up a position more enticing to his nature, otherwise he may have let slip his already unstable control and let his aggression unfurl, caring not for the omega’s relief, but for his own.

It had happened once before. But, to his credit, only once, during the first heat he’d ever claimed.

“D—don’t you dare—,” he heard Rhys stammer, throat working to force the words out. “Don’t stop. Please. I need this—.”

The omega ended in a frustrated noise, which only served to stoke the flames crawling under Troy’s flesh. His hips rolled, Rhys hitting all the right notes with the noises he made as Troy’s cock battered his prostate. The hand stroking the omega’s dick shifted, kneading at his balls. The alpha could feel the rising tide of orgasm creeping up on him, refusing to slow his movements even as the base of his cock swelled with the first stirrings of his knot.

“Shit,” Troy heard himself drawling, as if his mind were detached from the tasks his body performed. “You ready, Rhys? My knot’s gonna feel so fucking good in you, I bet. You’ll never want any other alpha again.”

“Please,” the omega repeated, voice catching as he begged. “Just—Oh, god. Just keep going.”

As the bulbous knot expanded, it began to catch on the muscled ring of Rhys’ ass, causing a significant amount of drag that forced Troy’s muscles taut as he had to work harder. Sweat rolled off his skin, so thick on him that he could taste it on his lips. Breathless sounds were choked off—it was almost impossible to tell who they were coming from at this point—as he finally reached his pinnacle, one last plunge of his hips lodging his cock inside the omega, his knot now huge and cumbersome. The throbbing in Troy’s shaft had them both moaning, sending the alpha’s body shivering as he unleashed the first torrent of cum deep inside Rhys.

“Troy,” Rhys called out, voice ending on a rising note as if he were about to say more. A gasp escaped him instead, coming a fraction of a second before he let out a lazy moan, his body stretching like a bowstring. “That’s…jeez. It’s too much. Why are you so damn big?”

“Heh, you’re just loving that fact, though, aren’t you? I can tell. How’s your second alpha compared to your first? Pretty fucking hotter, I bet. I mean, you’re just taking it like a champ and everything.” There was a deep sigh from Troy, his knot shifting and tugging as his hips squirmed in place. Rhys unleashed guttural sounds, his body spasming erratically around the alpha, control melting away in those moments. “Keep that up, and you’ll be stuck on my knot all week. Not that you won’t be, anyway.”

“Don’t tease me, godammit.”

His hand scrambling blindly, Rhys searched out the solid weight behind him. He managed to get a tuft of Troy’s hair, clinging to it, yanking until the alpha let our a small yowl.

Warm jism coated Troy’s hand as a second orgasm overtook the omega, his cock remaining stiff and flushed even after it gave its last twitch. The feel of muscles pulsing around Troy milked him for everything he had, another propulsion of his seed flooding the smaller man.

He could no longer tell if the sounds Rhys were making were blissful, pained, or from shear exhaustion. Maybe all of the above. Wasn’t like he could do anything to ease the situation if it was the latter two at this point, anyway, his knot not about to budge, and Rhys involuntarily latched to him.

Eventually, Rhys began to fidget as if he’d eaten an entire box of Sugar Bombs on his lonesome. Troy shifted his arm to keep him still.

“Hey, come on, relax,” he hissed, having come down a bit from lust-fueled euphoria. Gnashing his teeth, he caught the shell of the omega’s ear. “The more ya keep doing that, the longer we’ll be stuck like this.”

Rhys huffed, flexing around Troy, the alpha gripped by the intensity to the point it squeezed a sharp gasp from him. He hadn’t even stopped cumming yet. Not entirely. And still the omega wanted more.

“S’fine,” he heard Rhys murmur, the words slurred. “S’what I want. You’ll just have to endure it.”

It was Troy’s turn to sigh. Nuzzling the other man’s hair, imbibing his scent as it mixed with the added elements of sweat and sex, he traced a path to the bonding site, licking at it. On instinct, Rhys bowed his head, bearing the skin to the alpha.

Troy hummed, “Maybe we should stay away from messing with that, actually,” to which Rhys just huffed again in response.

They lay like that for awhile, Troy peppering Rhys with nips and licks, like an affectionate but exhausted puppy. The omega seemed to eat it up, murmuring nonsense on occasion that sounded like the start of words but never followed through. His dick had flagged after a bit, probably in accordance with the chems in his system. If he hadn’t been under the influence, he may have gone on for much longer, demanded Troy’s knot more than the one time. Like this, things were manageable.

They wouldn’t be for long. This was only the beginning.

His breath evening out, Rhys’ eyes closed and didn’t flutter open again. When the snores eventually came, Troy was still tied to him. In the face of lacking stimulation, he could sense his knot withering, the wiggle room inside the omega suddenly looser.

Soon, the alpha had enough give to pry himself away. With it came a flood of his semen, seeping out with seemingly no end. The pearly white fluid slipped down the crevice of Rhys’ ass, covering his balls and thighs, the skin beneath barely visible as it dripped even more on to the mattress. Troy’s own groin was coated, his nostrils flaring at the heaviness of his own smell. He needed to clean up before this shit dried all over them. Using his mechanical arm, which felt stiff with disuse, he pushed himself upward, getting to his knees. Rhys barely even stirred, only adjusting himself slightly.

When Troy looked to where he’d left Fl4k, the machine’s head was tilted, their one glowing eye staring blatantly at him. The eye shifted to Troy’s groin and lingered there, the lens narrowing to a thin strip.

“Rhys made a specific request of me,” Fl4k finally spoke up. “And since I believe you are in violation of it, I have to oblige him. I will make your death last until he is pleased with my methods.”

“Are you actually threatening me?” Troy asked, snatching a piece of linen from a pile. It was clean enough to swath at himself and get some of the excess jism off. “Think it over. I’m gonna wash up.”

The alpha snatched a pair of underwear form an open chest drawer and left the room. Soon enough pipes began to groan, accompanied by the sounds of water running not far off. Troy took a moment to examine himself in the bathroom mirror. Honestly, he was a bit of a mess, the fringe of his hair in disarray, cum still clinging to his groin, wounds having stopped bleeding quickly but still red and jagged. They would probably leave scars, though thankfully would not mar the ink work of his tattoos. He touched them gingerly, wincing. There was a dosage of Rebound he kept stashed in the vanity, the flask that stored it full of the chem. He jabbed the needle into a vein, then sat down on the toilet, hearing it creak under his weight.

Now it was only a matter of waiting. Soon enough, he felt rejuvenated, invigorating. The concoction was amazing for healing. But in the process, it could make you feel omnipotent; like a god; a god with a budding addictive habit. He started a bath, climbing in to the lukewarm water before it could get hot and even fill the clawfooted tub. His mechanical arm hung over the rim, out of the way, as the water massaged his muscles. In only a few short minutes, chems in his system working in accordance, he was feeling ready to go another several rounds with Rhys, if the omega desired it. Though it concerned him what he’d end up feeling like when he crashed.

After he’d dried himself off and put on the fresh underwear, Troy ran a cloth under the sink. He returned to his room with a plate piled high with the leftover roast brahmin and a few canisters of water. As he put them aside, Fl4k watched him, appearing to not have fought against their chains. Odd, but that suited Troy just fine. Even though the omega was bound to get messy again, the alpha set to the task of cleaning him off, using the cloth to run along his intimate parts. Troy didn’t really enjoy this part of a heat. Something that controlled his primordial instincts preferred the omega marked with his seed. It made him feel like Rhys belonged to him, at least for a few days. Not that he’d changed his mind about claiming an omega for his own. No strings attached, no commitment dangling above him, threatening to sever his head from his neck. It had never been what he wanted from taking an omega’s heat, and it still wasn’t now.

Plus the smell of their mingled scents permeating the room was just…god, it was tangible. Troy could drown in it.

Rhys leaned into the touch of the cloth, murmuring something unintelligible in his sleep. A soft noise of pleasure crept from him, but he didn’t awaken.

“I am not threatening you,” Fl4k said at last, startling Troy. He looked over, perturbed. “I am merely expressing Rhys’ initial request. Though I have reason to believe it may have undergone changes.”

“Look, robot.” Remembering what Rhys had mentioned, he shook his head. “Whatever you are. This is, ya know, fucking alpha and omega stuff. We’re just following basic instincts here.”

“Instincts you have manipulated to your advantage. Just as you manipulated me to separate from my pack on a journey that did not come to fruition. You have exploited my packmate’s condition and desperation. I am to assume what you have injected in him was not nutrients, considering he does not seem rejuvenated and you have been deceptive about everything so far.”

Moving into a sitting position, long legs spread out, Troy shrugged.

“Yeah, well, you’re not wrong. Speaking of separating, how the hell did you find us anyway?”

“My beast is a successful hunter and tracker. It was not difficult for him to pursue Rhys’ scent.” A pause, Fl4k’s tone dipping into something aggressive. “What have you done with my beast? I do not see evidence of his presence.”

“Don’t worry, he’s with one of our Raiders. Safe, for now. Neither the skag or you was gonna let me get near Rhys. Had to get you both out of the picture. Nothing personal.”

“That would be the truth you speak. However, my reasons are noble. I am to protect my pack, and Rhys would not haven chosen to lie with you.”

“You don’t know that.” Troy cocked an eyebrow. “He seemed pretty receptive.”

Falling silent, Fl4k bowed their head, the lens of their eye closing.

“This conversation is revolving in a circular pattern. I fear there will be no resolution.”

“Let’s just agree to disagree, dude.”

“I am not a ‘dude’.”

“Ah, right. Rhys said you ain’t a robot either. Fuck knows what that means. Though I have to say,” Troy rubbed at his chin, “you’re not something even I’ve seen before. And I know my way around machines.”

Fl4k didn’t supply an answer, their eye re-opening, though not entirely.

“I should probably drag you somewhere else,” Troy said, the change of subject abrupt. “Heat’s only starting. Don’t want you around for it.”

“You do not get to decide that. It is Rhys who must.”

“Nah, I don’t think so. Besides, I bet he’d agree: you watching me fuck him till he passes out from exhaustion for the next few days? That’s some pervy voyeuristic shit right there. This ain’t a peep show.”

“That does not sound very pleasant for Rhys.”

A snort from Troy.

“You kidding? There ain’t nothing he’s probably needing more right now.”

“I feel I should be wary to believe you. However, since Rhys has propositioned me, and has expressed the concerns you speak of most recently, I am more inclined to take your word for it this time.” Legs scuffing against the floorboards, Fl4k attempted to gather them beneath themself. But the chain attached to the radiator pulled taut, and they seemed to be having trouble getting the limbs to support their weight. “I have never seen humans copulate with each other in the flesh before. You were making quite a deal of noise when I woke. I am aware the act is not supposed to be one of a painful nature, so I find it curious. Also, I did not expect it to be similar to my beast when it claims a mate.”

“Uh, change of topic, alright?” Troy, who was busy preparing another hypodermic, looked over at Fl4k, noticing they were struggling to get up. “What’s wrong with your legs?”

“They do not seem to be responding to input from my motor cortex. My systems appear to be overloaded with corrupted signals.”

“Ah. Right. My fault. I ain’t familiar with whatever system you might got inside that tin can of yours. Otherwise I’d crack ya open and straighten it out.”

“You may not crack me open, as you have put it. I would surely perish in your hands.”

“Fine. Whatever.” Troy tore off a piece of brahmin meat with his metal fingers from the plate he’d brought, which were strangely capable of precise movement. He popped it in his mouth, chewed as he shifted position. “Guess I gotta deal with you being around a bit longer. Bummer.”

Grasping Rhys’ forearm, Troy twisted it around with careful consideration, eyeing the expanse of pale skin there, looking for the perfect vein. He wasn’t sure how Fl4k had managed earlier, but Troy had enough experience not to need use of a tourniquet. Curling Rhys’ hand into a fist and keeping it clamped like that, he found a juicy specimen, poking the sharp end into soft flesh.

“I do not appreciate your puncturing of my packmate with your needles. He does not require your chemical compounds, nor to develop any addictions to them.”

“It really is nutrients this time,” Troy replied, glancing over his shoulder. “I’m all out of the good shit for him. Got to do a supply run soon.”

Shifting against their chains, Fl4k made another attempt to stand, crashing back down. They struggled in the confines, the metal creaking as it buckled under the strength. There was a loud snap, chain links falling away one by one like broken teeth. Fl4k flexed their arms, seeming bewildered.

Troy had risen to his full height, Rhys not even having stirred, not even when the alpha had wrapped him back in the sheet from earlier. He turned, the corners of his mouth drawing downward when he saw that Fl4k was free.

“Shit,” he said in a deadpan.

Chapter Text

Lost in his fevered sleep, Rhys was dreaming again.

It was a day of harvest, the crops swelled to as big as they would grow in the settlement’s soil. Rhys had been busy picking tomatoes and corn and potatoes all morning, the sun becoming unbearable as noon crept closer. He’d retreated to the shade of the gutted house he shared with a few others around his age in Sanctuary Hills. As he took a seat on the threadbare mattress that served as his bed, there was a distinct ping that came from his Pip Boy. That was never a good sign. Twisting his arm around to look at the screen, Rhys saw that the anatomical depiction of the Vault Boy—his avatar—was flashing. He pressed a button, information scrolling across the screen under STATUS as it switched to a display of the Vault Boy doubled over, looking nauseated.

Warning: DNA alteration has been detected. Please contact your Overseer immediately

Rhys’ gaze stayed glued to the Pip Boy, unable to glance away. He’d never seen a display such as this before. The closest he’d ever come was when he’d been sick or injured, and those definitely hadn’t mentioned any compromising of his DNA. Fiddling with the controls, he tried to wrangle a better explanation out of the machine, but it was like extracting wisdom teeth with some frayed string and a doorknob. Ill feeling having settled in his gut, he hadn’t realized he’d been trying to get it to reveal more information for so long until a voice broke him from his trance. He looked up, staring at the muscled, older man with deep black hair combed in a faux pompadour before him. Dressed in overalls, welding goggles pushed up into his hairline, the man was loaded down with various mechanical tools and supplies clipped to the utility belt he wielded.

Sturges was the local repairman and a friendly enough sort. A little gruff around the edges at times. Especially if you weren’t pulling your weight in the settlement enough. He’d never had reason to get on Rhys’ case before, so the omega was a little concerned with his presence.

“You done with your harvest work yet?” the mechanic asked, glancing at Rhys’ Pip Boy. “Soon as you are, there’s gonna be a meeting. Everyone needs to be there, alright?”

“I think I got enough for today done,” Rhys replied, trying to mask his wariness.

He wasn’t in the best of spirits at the moment, with the mystery of the Vault-Boy display and all, and he wasn’t in the mood to deal with the others. He’d been here for a year or so, yet he still hadn’t really found a place among them. They didn’t always trust him, him not being from a vault in the Commonwealth like their leader supposedly was. It was a ridiculous notion for anyone to feel prejudice towards, but he caught them staring at the ink on his neck, thinking it some clandestine symbol. Of what, he couldn’t even fathom. Only that as soon as he’d mentioned alphas and omegas, and explained how normal folk were betas when he’d been met with confusion, he had cultivated ire.

“Good to hear, Rhys,” Sturges said, pulling him back from his thoughts. “I’ll be seeing you in a few.”

As quickly as he’d appeared, Sturges had left, likely off to round up other folk. Rhys wrung his hands, biting his lip as the anxiety began to bubble in the depths of his viscera. There was nothing he could do about the message on the Pip Boy now, though. Maybe later, in private, he’d ask the other vault survivor about it. Or Sturges. The mechanic had a strangely extensive knowledge of Vault-Tec sometimes.

Right now, though, he had a meeting to attend. Slipping off his bed, he splashed some water on his face from one of the outdoor pumps and headed for what served as the settlement square.

Most of Sanctuary Hills’ residents were already gathered, the other vault survivor, Nora, in the center of the cluster. She looked wary, eyes drooping low with the bags beneath them, vault jumpsuit soiled and smeared with grease, zipper lowered in front to reveal and equally dirty v-neck. She nodded in acknowledgment as Rhys approached, clearing her throat to get everyone’s attention.

Behind her, settled under the shadows of a sickly tree whose bark had been stripped for supplies, was a figure Rhys had seen around the settlement a few times. Excessively tall, shrouded in a raggedy hooded coat that made their bulk hard to discern, the omega was pretty sure it was a machine created by Robco. Why it was wearing human clothes was anyone’s guess. But by the design of the exposed metallics of its hands and legs, it was hard to consider it otherwise. At its side, a skag lay on its belly, its jaws dripping saliva on to the grass.

“I think that’s everyone, right?” Nora said. “Is Perry and Kaitlin here?”

Two people raised there hands, the woman nodding at them before her gaze swept over the sea before her. Rhys kept to the back, where he didn’t have to endure anyone’s stare, his height an advantage.

“Then I suppose we’ll get on with this.” Nora took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “The animal handler Fl4k has told me that Raiders have made camp in the wilderness and are planning an attack at nightfall. They have slaughtered one of the young deathclaws that they was training for us. We need to make haste and ensure all our ramparts are reinforced and secure. Also that we have enough weapons and ammo to go around.”

“We’re pretty well stocked,” Sturges piped up, arms crossed over his barrel chest. “There hasn’t been any Raiders around these parts lately. Thought they were done bothering with us.”

“Apparently not,” Nora replied. “But that’s good. I need everyone who can pull a trigger without shooting themselves to be armed.”

“There are about thirty to forty Raiders who have taken up residence in the nearby wastes,” Fl4k proclaimed in their deep voice. “I do not know the purpose of their attack. It is difficult to infiltrate their plans if you are a machine.”

“That’s quite alright, Fl4k. You’ve done good just by warning us.” Nora rubbed at her temples, the worry lines there evident. “That’s a good amount of Raiders. Compared to our numbers here, it’s too good of a many. We’ll have to face this with our smarts rather entirely with our brawn.”

“Aye,” an older fellow with a grizzled beard agreed.

From his place in back, Rhys fretted. He was not an expert on wasteland life, and he’d been smart enough to avoid Raiders on most of his outings. But he knew their characters well, the leather-clad ruffians who took whatever they wanted and slaughtered those who opposed them. More than half of them were chem addicts. More importantly, they were usually lead on many occasions by alphas; bloodthirsty, aggressive, undisciplined alphas rumored to enslave any omega they could get their hands on and breed them to death. It was a fate no omega wanted. If one were captured, it was likely better to off oneself, so he’d heard.

Given their supposed proximity, Rhys wondered if that could be their goal. He was the only omega here, and his sole existence probably didn’t extend much higher in the Commonwealth. Omegas were just too scarce in the wastelands. If Raiders had gotten wind that one was residing in Sanctuary Hills, they would no doubt attack the settlement looking for them.

For him, an omega in his prime.

Even though he knew that might not be the case, Rhys was suddenly chilled from the inside with the possibility. His bottom lip trembled and he crossed his arms over his chest, trying not to shiver.

“Not throwing yourself into the fray, Rhys?” Nora’s voice drifted over to his ears.

Looking up, he saw that everyone had either broken off into clusters or left the square, Nora approaching him, Sturges dogging her, carrying a wooden crate with FRAGILE stamped on its side. The other vault survivor’s brow furrowed when she saw the state the omega was in.

“You look ill,” she said to Rhys. “Have your checked your Pip Boy recently?”

“I’m alright,” he replied, lowering his arm out of instinct so the display was obscured. “It’s just hot out today is all, and I was helping with the harvest earlier.”

Nora hummed, her eyes narrowing. She had no ill will towards Rhys, as far as he knew, though she wasn’t always an ally. Her stance was typically neutral towards anyone. Something must have caught her eye, because she held out her hand, gesturing at his Pip Boy.

“May I?” she asked, and Rhys, knowing not to argue with the woman who had been basically elected in charge, placed his forearm in her grasp.

The woman saw that the screen was flashing and scrolled through the various menus, looking up sharply when she settled on a single one and skimmed through it.

“Have you been taking chems regularly, Rhys?”

“Yeah, of course. Well, at least my suppressors, so I don’t have to go through a heat. That’d be bad for everyone here.”

The woman turned to Sturges, who looked away from Rhys.

“Rad stuff too?” he asked. “We didn’t really have enough to go around the last few days. But I’m pretty sure you get priority as a youngin’.”

“Yeah, I took some. I’ve been taking them regularly since I got here. Before, maybe not so much.”

There was a curt nod from Nora, a grimness to it. She let go of Rhys’ arm.

“I see. Sturges?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Why don’t you go see if Fl4k needs your assistance. I need to talk to Rhys in private.”

The omega’s heart sank into the pit of his stomach as Sturges turned and left. It was washed under the tide of stomach acid, dissolving into something nausea inducing. Rhys wanted to be anywhere but Sanctuary square at the moment. However, Nora had him trapped here with her, and running would be futile.

“Rhys, you’re not going to like what I’m about to tell you.”

“Alright.” A nervous, warbling laugh escaped him. “Go on and rip the band-aid off.”

“That message on your Pip Boy….” Nora sighed. “You’re fine, in terms of how illnesses go. But I’ve seen this before. At least a few times, now. It’s an unfortunate side effect of living outside the vault. And you being an omega—it’s harder for you to withstand some of the higher radiation levels in the Commonwealth.”

The ground was opening up beneath Rhys’ feet, becoming a great black hole that threatened to drop him into a never ending abyss.

“What exactly are you saying?”

“I’m sorry. You’ve probably endured enough radiation poison over time that you’ve reached a turning point. A biological mutation, most likely.”

“Meaning?” Rhys prompted after a bout of silence had fallen, his throat constricting even as he spoke.

“This read-out, on your vitals chart.” Nora’s face was grave. “I’m afraid you’ll no longer be able to bear children, Rhys. I know that’s difficult to digest, especially for a young omega such as yourself. But….”

Whatever Nora said next was lost to the pounding of blood in Rhys’ ears. Everything had faded to background noise, rushing in a static tide. His heart felt like it had stopped, or at least slowed to a crawl, its beat impossible to detect. What Nora had said was like a suckerpunch designed of rock and ice, battering him to the core. To lose one of his most defining features as an omega, what he’d been raised to believe was the pinnacle of omega purpose, was a devastation he hadn’t been prepared to deal with.

“I need to be alone,” he said in a rush, too numb to even shed tears. “I can’t stay here right now.”

“Easy,” Nora said, tone gentle. “You can’t leave. It’s too risky, and we need you here helping us.”

“I can’t be here,” Rhys repeated. He scanned the perimeter, looking for the nearest empty space to flee to. “I’ll be no help anyway and you know it. Just let me go. I’ll come back when I’m ready.”

Nora inclined her head, crossing her arms, face stern. “I won’t keep you, if you really want to leave. Try your best to be back by nightfall. Take along your backpck, too. I don’t want to think about you being out there without support or supplies with Raiders about to attack us.”

Without a nod or any other gesture of acknowledgment, Rhys turned away. His footsteps were slow and plodding at first, kicking at the withered grass before striking concrete. He made a pitstop to grab his belongings from his dwelling, then kept going, picking up speed, until he was slipping past the ramparts of Sanctuary Hills. Some other settlers gave him strange looks or tried to stop him, but he didn’t seem to be heeding their words.

Returning to the tree where Sturges and Fl4k were currently hunched over the open wooden crate and examining scrap and weapon parts, Nora addressed the AI.

“I want you to follow that young man I was just talking to, Fl4k,” she told them. “Don’t worry about helping. I have Sturges for that.”

Sturges gave a simple nod, but didn’t respond otherwise.

“I just want him safe. He’s one of us. Keep your distance and just observe him for now.”

“Of course,” Fl4k answered her, straightening to their full height. “My beast and I are excellent trackers. We will have no difficulty performing this task.”

“Good. That’s good.”

XXX

Smell of ozone on the air, carcasses of dead animals baking in the sun set with the subtlest hint of smoke and rot. Traversing the wastelands was never pleasant on the senses. Especially an omega’s, hardwired to be better detectors and differentiators of scent as they were. From across long distances, Rhys could smell other omegas or alphas wherein alphas on the other hand were a bit dulled of ability in comparison, only acute when it came to omegas. Their instincts towards their own ilk were based more in body language and physical features. They tended to be larger of stature than the average person, more dense of muscle, and their teeth were vicious, equipped with predatory fangs used for contestments of will and piercing the flesh of an omega’s bonding site. Of all the endotypes, they had the most affinity with natural and base instincts. More often than not, they were difficult to trust, and with good reason.

As Rhys walked in aimless pursuit of solitude, the smells were what guided him. They told him the areas to avoid, what was safe to venture closer to. There wasn’t much cover here, mostly boulders and some brush and scrap piles made up of old, rusted cars and broken machinery. If he was ambushed, he’d be helpless, not even a pipe gun on him to defend himself. It may have been hasty, coming out here on his own to ponder his cumbersome thoughts. He could have easily found somewhere to hole up in Sanctuary where nobody would have bothered him.

Stupid, he thought in despair, but refused to tuck his tail between his legs and go back. He’d made his decision and he’d stick with it.

As the day wore on, Rhys found his footsteps becoming more plodding, his energy sinking to levels where they were nearly depleted. He reached in the pocket of his cargo pants, pulling out one of the snack cakes he often kept on his person. It tasted like sandpaper and made him cough, but just having something in his belly made him feel better immediately. He could concentrate again. Which was more nuisance than blessing. Thoughts of what Nora had told him circled his mind like tracking darts, searching for an obscured target.

…you’ll no longer be able to bear children, Rhys. I know that’s difficult to digest, especially for a young omega...

Rhys clapped his hands over his ears, than immediately let them drop back down to his sides. It wasn’t like he’d be able to eradicate the possibility that way.

As a young omega in a vault where his father had been one of the alpha Overseers, the thought of losing one of the defining traits of being an omega was like waking up to find one of his limbs missing. Never one to buy into the omega ideals they spoon fed among his fellow vault dwellers, he didn’t know why it bothered him so much. His own father had been willing to overlook if he didn’t end up with an alpha, or if he didn’t bear any children. There had never been any pressure on him to do so, at least from his own blood. Though that was kind of hard to say, his mother having died giving birth to him.

Saul Henderson had been the best parent he could’ve asked for, though. Endless patience, wisdom few alphas had, keen insight into the nature of his son’s personality.

Then fucking Vasquez, that piece of shit. That knothead scum. Rarely did Rhys know the taste of rage, thick and metallic as it could be. But for the man who killed his father and orphaned him; who sent him into the wilds of the wastelands and rendered him most likely infertile, probably all for the pursuit of building some sick, forbidden omega harem like the olden days, he felt nothing but the smiting heat of the flames of hell for. And he wished he could rain them down on Hugo, extract revenge with the blazing heart of his hatred.

Doing so meant going back to the vault, though. On his own. He was ill equipped to deal with the older alphas there who had certainly aligned with Vasquez by now, if his cynical thoughts were reliable. Any who opposed were probably banished or slaughtered. Likely the latter.

Very suddenly, Rhys lost all will to continue. Despite the snack he’d imbibed, he was devoid of energy, staggering over to the rusted, hollow frame of a car sitting askew on the roadside. Almost collapsing, he leaned back against it, hoping it wasn’t so oxidized it would crumble beneath him. A great puff of air burst from his lungs, his mind desperate to purge all thought and grant him a moment of peace.

But peace was not on the table that afternoon. Not in his mind, and not in the wastelands. Not far from where he was braced against the car, there was a gurgling snarl, followed by collective hissing. He almost didn’t investigate, played it smart and kept his distance far from whatever hellish thing awaited him today. Ever curious, and ever stubborn, though, he fought every instinct to flee and followed the noises. It took him up a small, grassy knoll and through some dry and dead underbrush that ran the perimeter of a parking lot, its pavement cracked with chasm-like fissures, the leftover husks of cars scattered about.

That’s not what caught his attention, though. Some feet away, a cluster of feral ghouls stood hunched, swaying and strafing as if a pack of wolves meticulously pulling off a strategic kill. Opposing them were just two Raiders, leather clad and low in rank by the looks of it. One was a scrawny thing, hair shaved off on one side of their head, an eye patch slapped over their right eye. In their hand, a length of chain. The other man, though beefier, was also nothing exceptionally intimidating. He didn’t look much different from his companion, eyes blackened with grease or coal, hair buzzed into a mohawk. In his hands, some kind of javelin, its end tied with barbed wire and adorned with metal scrap.

Neither were alphas. They wouldn’t be able to tell if Rhys was an omega. He could probably leave quietly if he turned around now. He was no sympathizer of feral ghouls, who he’d been attacked by on more than one occasion. And Raiders were always better off avoided.

No sooner had Rhys backed away from the scene and turned around that he let out a yowling call of startlement. Peddling backwards, he tripped over himself and toppled to the parking lot, sprawling on the concrete, inches from bashing his head open.

Shimmering like a strange liquid veil, Fl4k had coalesced out of nowhere, as if they’d stepped through a fissure in time and space. Seeing Rhys’ distress, they crouched beside him, offering a hand.

“Hey, assholes!” someone shouted.

The AI turned their head, their eye fixating on the pack of ghouls, some having shifted their attention to where Rhys had fallen. They approached a few steps at a time, stopping to observe in intervals. It wasn’t clear if the Raiders were addressing them or Rhys and Fl4k, but the robot hauled Rhys up by his arm without anymore hesitation and turned to face the opposition.

“We will not harm you or take away your kills,” they said, focused on the two Raiders. “We do not wish to interfere in your affairs, and we request that you provide us with the same favor.”

The heftier Raider side-eyed his ally.

“Are you hearing this, Lefty?” he said with a snort. “This piece of Robco scrap think we’re actually going to listen to it?”

The man dubbed Lefty tittered, bearing stained and broken teeth, some missing entirely. The look in his one eye was dull and cold, enough to chill average folk to the bone. Rhys could only imagine the vivid horrors it had witnessed.

“We should drag it back to camp and trash it for parts,” he replied. “That looks like good metals, probably strong and sturdy. And the kid, well, sure somebody will be able to get their rocks off with ‘im.”

“That’s nasty.”

“I didn’t say me, shit for brains.”

Ignoring the ghouls for now, Fl4k eluded them, keeping their gaze on them to make sure they didn’t attack. They dragged Rhys along, back towards the brush.

“You will attempt no such thing,” Fl4k told the Raiders. “Neither of you will place a hand upon the organic. And you would likely not wish to pick a fight with me.”

“You sure about that, tin can?”

“Of that, I am most certain. Should you try either, I would have your heads as my trophies.”

“Are you hearing this?” the larger man said, taking a few lumbering steps forward.

Following him, Lefty hefted his chains, swinging them with lazy movements. The whipping sound as they cut through the air attracted the attention of the ghouls, their wet gurgles rising into a blend of noises that could chill the blood. Two of them darted into the space between the opposing sides, hissing as their necks careened to survey their prey. Their brethren refrained from joining them in the bold attack, the warier members of the quintet, it seemed. It was impossible to tell if the ones that held themselves back were working in accordance with each other, readying to attack at more opportune moments istead.

Their eye narrowing to a thin strip, Fl4k shifted on their feet, preparing themself, should things escalate. Fingers twitching, their gloved hand moved in a subtle path towards their belt.

“Fuck the ghouls. Let’s get ‘em!” Rhys heard Lefty shout. “Don’t kill ‘em, neither. Tie ‘em up if you can.”

“The fuck I’m supposed to do that?”

“Use yer ropes, dumbass.”

Rhys felt Fl4k shove him away. He stumbled, losing his footing, his tailbone slamming against the concrete. Again. Seconds later he heard the rising howl of battle, the screech of a ghoul as it was kicked aside to make way for the mountain of a man surging past. He was a like a linebacker, the Raider, plowing forward with nothing but pure brute force towards Fl4k.

The AI was swift, removing the jawbone hatchet from their belongings and waiting for the right moment to send it arching over their head. It swung wide, seeming to pierce the sky as it came to the pinnacle of Fl4k’s reach, swooping down like a carrion crow upon a fresh carcass. The Raider stepped directly into its path, his momentum slowing too late for him to avoid the blow. The hatchet bashed against the top of his skull, its jagged teeth posing so much force they penetrated the bone, latching on like living jaws and lodging there. There was a warbling scream, the human mountain crashing to his knees. His body became a quivering mass of flesh, blood drooling from the punctures and spilling down his skin, beginning to pool on the concrete as it dripped off his face. The scream became a sharp, high keening. Lips blubbered and trembled, unable to form words.

Fl4k yanked their arm away, taking the hatchet with them. The gaping wounds in the Raider’s head were exposed, blood welling up quicker now. A loud thud shook the ground as the man fell forward, writhing there. Fl4k paid him no heed, moving like a hunter on the prowl, silent and quick, a blur even in the sunlight of mid-day. This time they didn’t use their weapon, their hand snatching at Lefty, hoisting him up as if he were a broken child’s toy. The way Fl4k tossed him away, he may as well have been one, and he collided with two of the bravest ghouls, bowling them over as his weight trapped them against the ground.

In horror, Rhys watched as the two ghouls were sent into a frenzy by the impact, kicking and clawing, fingers digging into human flesh, piercing with shear force. They tore pieces of Lefty off of him as if they were starving animals, the wet, meaty sounds making Rhys’ gorge rise. Gore and viscera slapped against the ground, human parts barely recognizable. The omega thought he saw an eyeball, globular and trailed by a cluster of nerves, get crushed to a pulp beneath a ghoul’s heel.

The other three ghouls must have heard the battle cry of their companions, spurred from inertia as they threw themselves at Fl4k. Feral ghouls were, of course, utterly dangerous in packs, but never really too bright. The Raiders the robot had fell were barely blips on their radar, their attention unphased. They were focused, they were vicious; Fl4k was their target, and they wanted to leave them eviscerated.

A raw punch was thrown by Fl4k at one of the ghoul’s faces, bone and cartilage crunching as it crumpled under the force. The creature reeled back, tumbling over, screeching its agony and rage. Upon seeing their fallen kin, the other two ghouls lunged, Fl4k kicking one away, their clawed foot connecting with its crotch, its pelvis reduced to broken bits by the impact. It landed on its back and could no longer raise itself, Fl4k leaving it squirming and clawing at the air as they rounded on the other enemy.

This ghoul was more intelligent. It seemed to consider its surroundings, than the robot before it, walking backward in an almost comical line. Not allowing it even an ounce of leverage, Fl4k refused to let it gain distance, keeping pace with it until it finally turned tail and fled. They watched its clumsy sprint for a few moments, then seemed to come to their senses, turning back around to survey where they’d left Rhys.

With the last of the ghouls distracted by the meal Lefty provided them with his remains, they completely ignored both Fl4k and Rhys’ presences. Having no reason to attack or defend, Fl4k paid them the same service, moving to tend to Rhys instead.

The human was already moving away, but not in the direction he’d been heading back in. Arms crossed over his chest, shoulders hunched, he was shivering despite the heat of the day, his rapid footsteps carrying him towards the far end of the parking lot.

“Rhys,” Fl4k called to him without raising their voice. They hesitated a moment, clipping their bloodied hatchet back to their belt then hurrying behind the human. A low whistle escaped their vocal synthesizer. A few seconds later, something thundered through the brush, a skag with a handkerchief tied around their neck appearing to trot along behind them. “I missed you, Mr. Chew,” the AI told it before saying to Rhys again, “I have not been assigned to engage you in conversation or escort you, but I feel that you should return to Sanctuary Hills. The vault survivor was concerned for your wellbeing.”

Rhys was shaking his head as he walked, not bothering to look backward.

“No. I can’t. Not now. Probably never. Stop goddam following me and get the hell out of here.”

“I cannot do what you request. I made a vow to observe you and ensure that you remained safe on your own out in the wastelands.”

“Then why aren’t you doing that? What kind of dumb robot are you even? I’ve never even heard of anything like you, let alone seen it.”

“I am not a robot.”

“Well, you look like one to me.”

They walked for a few moments, following a straight path, Rhys not seeming to be paying much attention to his surroundings. This concerned and annoyed the AI, who had caught up to his side, Mr. Chew falling into formation with them as he bounced somewhat on his clawed feet.

“It is not important what I am or where I came from,” Fl4k spoke up, piercing the silent veil. “Unlike organics, I hold my vows to the highest pinnacle. And Nora has been an ally in the times since my emergence. She is one of the few organics who would stand at my side in the midst of warfare or otherwise. I do not wish to go back on the word I gave her, or to oppose her request.”

“Fine, then,” Rhys said, voice drooping with exasperation. His footsteps slowed until he had stopped, his body twisting to face the machine. “Then escort me, I guess, or whatever you need to do.” His eyes darted to the skag, whose butt waggled as he made eye contact. “Just know that I’m not going back to Sanctuary. I need time alone. To think and…see what I want to do from here. I don’t even know anymore. They never welcomed me there, anyway.”

“Nora cared about the status of your person. She expressed her desire for you not to perish. And I am inclined to agree with her concern for you. You should at least send word to her that your wishes are to leave.”

“No, I don’t think so. If you’re so concerned, you go back and tell her. Me, I’m just going to press onward, see where it takes me. There’s a great, big fucking world out there I’ve never seen before, or even knew about when I lived in the vault. You want to join me, then fine. That’s your choice.”

“I believe what you speak is a fair standing, Rhys,” Fl4k said after a moment or two of pondering. “Those with the power to act on free will should be allowed to exercise that power as they wish. Such as I have.” They paused, giving Mr. Chew a pat on the head. “That, and there is much peril in the wastelands, which makes for good hunting. You are not a hunter by nature. Your body seems too weak and your senses too dull for it. I, however, live for the life of such. It is my directive. What organics call drive, or even more peculiar, destiny. I believe, if we were to become companions in the hunt, than I could provide you with great leadership.”

“Yeah, whatever you said is fine. I guess. Just, you think you could be a little quieter right now? There’s—there’s a lot I’m trying to think about.”

“Very well. I find myself…pleased with this outcome, though I do not entirely understand it or what compels me down this road. Me and my beast will remain your silent companions until you request otherwise. I hope the Raiders are unsuccessful in their move on Sanctuary, should they make it, though. I was not informed that such should be my highest concern.” Fl4k brushed what served as their chin in thought; a jarringly human gesture. “You are an enigma, Rhys, that such an organic as Nora prioritizes your safety over her pack.”

“Er…yeah. That’s interesting. Not that I have any clue why she gives such a damn, either. Maybe it’s the suddenly barren omega shit. Or because we both survived living in vaults.” Swiping at his face, pushing hair off his forehead, Rhys turned back around, his journey begun yet again, albeit at a much slower pace. “We’ll find a way to check on her or even pass along a message, next city or town we come to. It really shouldn’t be far from here.”

And it wasn’t, the two of them and Mr. Chew taking roughly twenty-four hours to reach the small farm with its welcoming residents, breaks for rests aside. Rhys was so ecstatic to see full meals and an endless supply of purified water when he reached it that all wariness melted away. Some of the settlers there seemed scared of Fl4k, though they were not impolite to them. Word turned out to be the Raiders had not attacked Sanctuary Hills after all, had fled the area and surrounding wastes quite suddenly without much explanation. Though the pair were glad of the news, Rhys felt uncertainty settle in his stomach. They had dodged a bullet this time, and funny how the Raiders had just up and left around the same time the omega had fled the settlement.

But perhaps it had been the two maimed and eviscerated bodies of their companions that had been left behind in that parking lot that had scared them off.

For the next year and a half that Rhys traversed the wastelands with Fl4k and Mr. Chew as his companions, Rhys would never find out. He would, however, come to realize how smart it had been to grab his pack before leaving Sanctuary, and how life as a wasteland vagabond was just that much harder if you happened to be a young omega.

Chapter Text

It was hard to gauge what time of day it was when Rhys awoke. The blinds were drawn, but he could tell by the lack of light shifting through their slats that it was still dusk out, or at least that the sky remained dark. That, and someone had turned on a lamp, its bare bulb glowing softly from a corner of the room, casting it in deep shadows. As Rhys became more aware of his surroundings, he noticed he wasn’t alone. A tall, lanky figure sat on the bare floor, long legs pretzled into the lotus position. Before him, a hulking mass of fabric, splayed on the floor like a pile of junk. Rhys came to recognize the pile as his packmate, Fl4k. And the other, less familiar man was Troy, he recalled. An alpha.

The alpha currently assisting him with his heat, more specifically. Though he really hadn’t had much say in that decision. Still, despite the circumstances, a part of him was grateful that an alpha had found him. If Troy hadn’t come along, and Fl4k hadn’t found the correct omega medications, Rhys wasn’t sure what his fate would’ve been.

Somehow Rhys managed to raise himself up from the mattress. He felt winded doing so, disoriented, having to wrestle for concentration. But he managed to wrench his torso into a sitting position, taking several breaths before getting his feet under himself. They wobbled, as if made of gelatinous material, his steps clumsy as he moved towards his targets.

First to notice his approach, Fl4k looked over in his direction, their eye seeming to widen and brighten a considerable amount.

“Rhys,” they said, their voice hitting a rising note, a hint of relief swimming under the surface of their usual robotic tone. Before they could say more, Troy turned his head in Rhys’ direction, appearing unmoved by the omega’s presence.

“Finally awake?” he asked in a conversational tone. “Hope you like brahmin, cos that’s what I brought you. And you’ve got to be hungry by now.”

Troy moved to get up, but Rhys rushed forward, latching on to his arm, fingers turning white as they pressed into the skin there.

“I believe my packmate might require your assistance,” Fl4k said. “He appears to be in distress, and my limbs remain unresponsive.”

“Thanks, Captain Obvious.” Troy winced, then turned to Rhys and made an attempt to lessen his hold on him. The omega’s fingers were like a pressurized vice. “Hey there, heathorn. Something I can help you with?”

Barely aware that Troy was speaking, Rhys had been concentrating on Fl4k, the familiarity of their voice drawing him in. Thoughts were easier when he had something to ground him. He couldn’t ignore the alpha, though. His voice and presence, not to mention his scent, were like a bright, shiny lure to his instincts. Rhys may as have been bereft of free will, because he couldn’t bring himself to ignore or deny it. His fingers slipped on the flesh in their grip, retreating.

“Wh—what?” he asked, unsure if he’d heard the alpha right.

“Heat…horn? Ya know, cos you’re new to heats. And—and that’d make you a greenhorn. It’s totally the perfect nick.”

Fl4k tilted their head, the movement exuding skepticism. They didn’t say anything, but Troy wasn’t dense. He snarled at them.

“Don’t you even start,” he said. “What do you know, anyway? You’re a machine.”

“My grasp of knowledge concerning the use of alternative names for objects and creatures that we are fond of is vast.” A pause, then Fl4k added, “Try me.”

Troy snorted, ignoring the comment. He opened his mouth to address Rhys, only to find the omega folding to his knees. It evened their heights, giving Rhys the perfect angle to bury his face against the skin above Troy’s leather collars. The alpha could feel hands scrambling over him, not even mindful of his robotics, tangling and disengaging from them like someone trying to sort out the shape of an object through touch alone. Heat radiated from soft palms, warming his skin where they shifted over him. He heard Rhys hum in what he could only imagine was content, the sound lapping pleasantly through his muscles.

“Who says I’m fond?” Troy said after some time, the delayed response ringing awkwardly. “Maybe I just like having an omega around to bang, eh?”

“Then you would have enslaved him such as the Raiders do to any omega they encounter. I do not see any chains or collars to ensure such measures, besides the ones on your person. You have also claimed that your intentions were to ensure another alpha did not implement such measures.”

“And you’re all of a sudden going to believe me?”

Knobby bone came into contact with Troy’s body, inches from his groin, narrowly avoiding squashing his manhood. He did all in his power not to shove Rhys off of him, who was determined to climb into his lap. The fact that Troy was only wearing boxers didn’t help, barely anything to protect him from the omega’s restless edges.

“No,” Fl4k said, their gaze falling on Rhys. “I am merely using your rhetoric against you so that you may see the flaws in your logic.”

“You are such an asshole.”

“And I believe you are a false prophet and, as they say, full of shit.”

There wasn’t much room for Troy to be taken aback by the statement. Pressed up against his chest, Rhys nuzzled him, a soft murmur of unintelligible words following. The act didn’t remain innocent for long. Between them, Rhys’ hand snaked downwards, his eyes hooded when he looked up at Troy. The other man was suddenly very aware of Rhys groping him, the act bordering on shy as the omega’s fingers hesitated against the cloth of his boxers and then the stretch of skin between navel and waistband. It was enough for Troy, though, who suddenly found himself focused on the hard flesh poking against him. There was no need to verify what that was. Of course Rhys had woken up randy and rearing to go again.

That wasn’t a problem for Troy, who adjusted the omega’s position for better friction. Now that he had Rhys in a strategic spot, the contact against his burgeoning hard-on minimal and the resulting sensation restrained, he could control the situation better. Robotic limb braced against the flooring to anchor himself, he wound his flesh arm around Rhys’ back, pressing them flush together.

“Hey,” he said to the omega, his voice husky.

There was no response from Rhys. At least not verbally. The omega bore his weight down, hips shifting against Troy with obvious purpose. There was a hiss from the alpha, who had to corral his impulses before he ended up throwing Rhys down on the mattress and taking him like some feral beast.

“You should probably drink a bit and at least have a snack first,” he said, trying to appeal to the rational part of Rhys’ mind.

Rhys just whined at him and leaned in. Something warm and wet dragged against Troy’s chin, swathing over his body mods. He couldn’t contain himself and leaned in to it, adjusting his head to capture Rhys’ mouth. His tongue slipped between the crevice of the other man’s lips, colliding with his teeth and tongue. Rhys was eager and passionate, but perhaps overzealous. There was no grace to the way he kissed back, his valiant but uncoordinated efforts causing the alpha to chuckle against him.

If there was one thing Troy hadn’t expected out of Rhys while the omega was in the midst of his heat, it was to be sitting on the floor locked in some ardent make-out session with him as if they were a pair of horny teenagers afraid to initiate actual sex. Which, he supposed, wasn’t exactly an incorrect description. But here they were, and the alpha couldn’t find reason to complain about the procrastination, throwing himself into the act.

When they parted, Rhys was panting, eyes bright and distant, as if he were looking without seeing. He was burning hot, skin tinted pink from it. Like a piece of some ripe, pristine fruit, Troy wanted to bite into and devour him. He settled on clamping his teeth down on Rhys’ bottom lip, garnering a yelp of surprise before a desperate whimper broke the air. It was when Troy tasted the first stirrings of copper that he pulled away. The dab of blood on Rhys’ lip was dark scarlet and glistening, welling up till it drooled over. The alpha could feel his own heart hammering in his chest as the taste bled along his palette and snaked into his veins. He swiped at the fresh wound with his tongue, savoring the second, taboo taste.

“I would appreciate if you did not make any more attempts to dine on my packmate,” came Fl4k’s deep tone. “He is not to be considered your sustenance.”

Fl4k having been forgotten in the sexual fray, Troy almost leaped out of his skin at the sound of their voice. He tilted his head in their direction, a noise of disapproval ripped from him.

“I’m not the big bad skag or nothing. I ain’t gonna eat him. Mind ya own business.”

“Rhys is my business, or do you need to be reminded of that fact?”

“Man, you’re, like, made up of rusted cogs or something. Always endlessly squeaking. Can’t you just leave us the fuck a—?”

The sensation took Troy entirely off guard as it wrapped around his hardening length. It was just Rhys’ hand, swept beneath the waistband of his underwear. But those long, graceful omega fingers were dexterous, manipulating his shaft with considerable skill. His breath hitched in his chest as Rhys drew him out, flesh pulsating as the omega tugged and squeezed at him. Soon Rhys was clambering up his torso, panting in his ear. As best as he could, Troy helped him along, all thoughts that they unfortunately had to endure an audience falling to the wayside. He held the omega in position as Rhys aligned himself, the other man requiring steady guidance, as his balance was off, his aim following suit. Forever seemed to pass before he felt Rhys’ slick muscles parting around the head of his cock, both of them groaning in unison at the sudden pleasure and relief.

Where he expected Rhys to take his time adjusting, his appetite proved formidable. Without hesitation, he drove himself downward, nearly engulfing the entirety of Troy’s shaft in the process. It didn’t even deter Rhys, having such a daunting cock inside him without much preparation, the expression on his face one of utter euphoria. His long legs locked around Troy’s body, hands searching out and finding the right places to latch on and cling. The omega was adamant about not wanting to wait for Troy to take the reins, raising his his hips almost all of the way back up, sparing no patience as he slammed himself back down, an unbroken moan substituted for words. He worked himself into a rhythm, unrelenting, without grace or measure. Almost taken off guard by how bestial Rhys’ actions were, Troy had trouble grasping any conversational words, their presence like entities slipping through his mind without purchase.

“You’re really something, eh, Rhys?” he said, the words finally coming out in breathless amusement. “Fuck. Last omega’s heat I took wasn’t half as eager.”

It wasn’t a total lie. The omega had been begging enough for his touch, but, not wanting to grow attached to Troy, had shied away from any contribution. It had worked, in the end. At least for the omega. Troy, on the other hand, had pined for hot, tight omega pussy, as Tyreen had so crudely put it, for months after. Until he realized how foolish he was being about the whole alpha and omega dynamic and vowed never to let that happen to him again. That Rhys was a male omega helped some with that situation. The alpha had no qualms about sexual encounters with other men or anyone in-between. Sex was fun and pleasurable for him regardless of what heat the other person was packing. But he didn’t think he could fall for those not of the female persuasion, nor truly prefer those of the male. In his masculinity, Rhys was an entirely safe option to fuck without having to worry about any complicated relationships developing.

A sharp, concentrated pain brought Troy back to the present. Nibbling on his shoulder, Rhys’ blunt omega teeth weren’t meant for piercing or rendering flesh. The damage they inflicted on Troy was negligible, a chuckle he couldn’t quite hold back bubbling up. Even if he didn’t quite know the cause of Troy’s amusement, Rhys shot him a glare anyway, following it up with the strange juxtaposition of him leaning in and nuzzling Troy’s ear. The message was mixed, as if the omega was warring with himself. Taking it in stride, Troy braced his mechanical arm behind his back for balance, his other arm going tight around Rhys’ waist. Muscles quivered in his abdomen, the delectable thrum of impact felt in his thighs as he thrust upward; hard, impaling Rhys with one fluid movement. It threw the omega’s own momentum off, made him yelp in pleasure and surprise, his body clenching around the alpha’s.

“You’re cuter too,” Troy continued. “Like, the kind of cute that’s way freakin’ hot at the same time. And tight. I might as well be fucking virgin ass.”

It was impossible to tell if Troy’s brand of pillow talk was having any effect on Rhys. The omega continued to nuzzle him, moving without pattern along his neck and jaw, peppering him with the occasional press of soft lips as he kissed him. Rolling his hips, Troy kept an even pace, the hitching of Rhys’ breath vibrating through him where they were pressed together as it became increasingly difficult for the omega to control his breathing. Even Troy was breathless by the time his knot began catching on Rhys’ hole, the bulge spreading the omega wide until his control was abandoned and he was writhing on top of Troy. Twisting and churning as he was, Rhys milked the alpha with uncanny expertise. His knot forced Troy’s movements to a minimum, the momentum of his hips confined to the tug and vice of muscles. Warm jism flooded Rhys in waves, the omega’s body drawn tight, body wrapped around Troy’s as if it were the only thing keeping him tethered to the material plane. His straining, pale throat trembled with his own cries.

Something warm splashed against Troy’s navel and abs, thick and weighty as it dribbled downward. Even with the lack of manual stimulation, Rhys had no trouble achieving orgasm, dousing Troy in a healthy coating of his semen. Long fingers carded through the liquid. No qualms held the alpha back as he brought the digits to his mouth, sucking them clean with obscene noises.

“Wow, shit’s addicting,” he remarked, fingers shiny with spittle. “No wonder every last goddam alpha wants to get their hands on male omegas. Not that going down on omega girls ain’t great and all, don’t get me wrong. But this? Just about beats even chems.”

Baring his teeth, Rhys headbutted Troy’s shoulder, growling low at him.

“What?” Troy asked, grabbing him by the chin and tilting his head so that their gazes were even. “Is someone jealous because I mentioned other omegas? Aw, you don’t have to worry about that, Rhys. It ain’t them I’ve got my knot buried in, now, is it?”

At Rhys’ huff of breath in reply, Troy shifted his mechanical arm, collapsing to the mattress on his back. Rhys’s legs were forced to unfurl from their quarry. He flopped over Troy with the momentum, the alpha managing to catch him before he could go sprawling and injure them both where they were attached. A moment later, their mouths were meeting, tongues dancing in unison again. Fingers played along the knobby notches and ridges of Rhys’ spine, Troy tracing them with a touch that seemed bent on memorization. Where the omega’s cock pressed in against him, he could feel that it was still stiff and pulsating with the telltale signs of heat lust. His hand graced the slats of Rhys’ ribs before roaming down and grasping it, tugging at the shaft with fairly rough and shallow strokes. A muffled sound where their lips were locked didn’t take long to burst through, Rhys’ body shuddering, his muscled insides cradling Troy’s knot in velveteen pressure as he came again in record time.

“How is it that you are continuously able to manipulate my packmate like this?” rang a voice as if emerging from some dimensional crevice.

Drawing Troy out of his revelry in a heartbeat, it was as if an invisible force had separated him and Rhys. He wrenched his mouth away from where they were locked to the omega’s, lips twisting in a sneer. Even the omega looked over at the interruption, blinking owlishly.

“Rhys is quite responsive to you,” Fl4k continued with a tilt of their head. “He has never been like this towards other organics. You must have orchestrated this outcome.”

There was a sound of amusement from Troy, as if what he was hearing was preposterous.

“How well did Rhys explain alphas and omegas to you?” he asked out of curiosity, his voice so low it was almost an animal growl, his robotic hand winding around the omega’s body with a possessive air.

There was a shifting of weight from Fl4k’s upper chassis, their lower half still remaining unmoving.

“Rhys has explained that in times of what omegas call, like other mammals, a heat, an alpha is required to satiate their sexual desires. Otherwise they remain dissatisfied and may fall into states of torpor.” A pause, Fl4k seeming to pool their thoughts as they regarded their own feet. “It is then that they will not consume or imbibe any life sustaining substances, which puts them in a precarious situation. The alpha is also required to sustain their existence for those exact reasons.” At last Fl4k looked up again, peering at Rhys as if awaiting the omega to speak for himself. To the AI’s chagrin, the Rhys just huffed out a cloud of air and buried his face against Troy’s neck, sniffing at his skin. “In some cases, an alpha and omega will form a permanent coalition known as a bond. The bonded pair typically remain together for survival, and to procreate, passing their lineage down through their brood. Rhys has explained to me that is why I can never be a true alpha to him.”

“You know your shit, for a sack of crappy bolts and wires,” Troy remarked, impressed, but in a condescending way. “He’s right, though. No way you could be an alpha. Even if you did have the equipment for it. Which I honestly don’t know.” His gaze flickered down to the slight part of the AI’s legs where they were sprawled out. “Gonna say probably not. That, and you just don’t have the humanity for it. Rhys would be putty in your hands otherwise.”

Raising both hands in front of their face, Fl4k looked between each four fingered appendage, lowered them.

“It would be unpleasant to manipulate Rhys’ form in such a way, I would think. Besides, I would not know how to put him back in exact order.”

“Yeah, I kinda figured that, dingus,” Troy said, his words flat. “Can you maybe not keep watching us? Last guy that did that? I gutted ‘im. Strung his intestines up and everything. Then used them for cannibal sausage. Was real tasty.” Sensing Rhys was glaring at him, Troy cleared his throat, shifted gears. “Anyway, can you just give us some goddam peace, man? Shut your systems down for awhile or some shit.”

“I cannot comply with that. Now that I am once again operational, I must ensure that Rhys remains unharmed.”

“If I wanted to hurt him, he’d be broken and bleeding by now.”

“That does not mean you will not harm him in your future endeavors. As his pack alpha, I shall remain vigilant.”

There was a curling of lip to display Troy’s metal-plated fangs. To any other alpha, it would be a territorial display, one of warning, even a bit of a pissing contest. To Fl4k, however, it was nothing more than someone belligerent trying their best to be intimidating. As such, they did not respond, unable to flex any real show of power in their position. Eventually losing interest in the face of what he deemed a lack of challenge, Troy’s gaze dropped to where Rhys had propped his chin on his tattooed shoulder. That sphere of dark ink that was embedded in Rhys’ skin was on full display at the angle, enticing the alpha’s instincts. That, and the bow of thin, pale flesh stretched over ridges of bone and muscle, unblemished and spotted pink in some areas. It drew out the ache in his teeth, to sink through the flesh, draw omega blood forth. Troy had to tear his eyes away lest he give in to the bestial instincts, forgetting, for a moment where he was and what he was doing.

When he came to, Fl4k had managed to fade into the background of his perception, and it was just him and Rhys, breathing in near synchronization. It spooked Troy, he had to admit, that tidbit of lost time. He could feel the wash of drool clinging to his lower lip, licked at it, tasted Rhys’ cum that still lingered. This situation was proving more daunting than he imagined, and the loss of control was not something he could afford.

His knot still swollen, Troy grasped their interlocked bodies, worked at arranging them in unison so that Rhys was resting on the mattress and Troy was atop him. The omega murmured nonsense at him, reached up and locked his arms around Troy’s collared neck, ultimately drawing them closer. It was dripping in intimacy, the faint and drunken smirk on Rhys’ face melting something deep in Troy’s viscera. Feeling drawn to swollen and ruby omega lips, he kissed Rhys yet again, this time with more of an earnest twist. One of them sighed into it, neither wanting to pull apart from the other, their dance done in perfect harmony.

Within Rhys, over a period of time that felt stretched and drawn to eternity yet lightning quick, Troy could feel his knot starting to give way. Instead of pulling out and allowing the both of them some rest, he used the regained ability to move his hips to his advantage, thrusting himself in again before he could slip out, drawing back roughly. Beneath him, Rhys let loose a ragged moan as Troy found a hard, pounding rhythm, crashing against Rhys’ hips like an ocean turned tumultuous by a storm. The mattress shrieked at what would have seemed brutal to an outsider, but was just a simple drive towards raging pleasure for both alpha and omega. Their cries mingled and clashed, Troy relentless, Rhys eager to receive. If either of them said anything, it was swallowed or choked off by the rabidness of their actions.

Then Rhys was shouting as he came, splattering them both for a third time with his semen. The pulsing of his muscles sought to drive Troy over the edge, like grasping fingers pulling him ever further down. Almost as soon as it had subsided, his knot was swelling again, making his movements akin to walking through setting cement. With all his might, Troy rammed himself inside Rhys as far as he could drive, bellowing when his knot refused to budge another inch, his orgasm robbing him of sight, sound, and awareness a moment later. His body trembled as he came hard, Rhys squirming beneath him, whimpering in pleasure.

“I bet you’re feeling real nice right now,” Troy said, huffing out a breathless laugh. “First heat, full of my thick alpha knot. Life couldn’t be better.”

His robotic hand planted firmly on the mattress, it was effortless for Troy to keep himself upright. From his position, he could watch the spectrum of emotions crossing Rhys’ face without expending much energy. Bewilderment, ecstasy, trailing towards dazed. Eyelids drooping, he looked ready to succumb to sleep again, but also seductive, hand trailing down the concave of his own stomach, legs widening to either side of Troy as if trying to entice the alpha all over again with a lewd display. Looking down, Troy had an unhindered view of where they were joined. It was mostly a mess, cum painting both their crotches and thighs, cooling in the stillness of their bodies. The alpha couldn’t believe it when his eyes fell upon Rhys’ length only to find it still standing at attention between them. It was grasped in Troy non-mechanical hand, given a few courtesy strokes that had Rhys gasping, head thunking back against the mattress.

“Course, you’re just hellbent on exhausting me, aren’t you?” Desperate as Rhys seemed to be to hump at Troy’s hand, chase the friction, he was in no position to move. “If you don’t calm down some time soon, you’re gonna end up asphyxiating my knot. Then how the hell am I gonna fuck your heat-crazed brains out?”

There was a cluck of tongue, a shake of head, sweaty hair flopping over Troy’s face in a disheveled pile. But Rhys didn’t seem to appreciate the teasing, whining as if the alpha had scolded him with conviction. Hands shot outward, roaming up Troy’s abs and chest at random.

“It is not possible for a physical feature to experience asphyxiation,” Fl4k said from their spot, interrupting. “It lacks the ability to perform respiration, thus cannot be deprived of oxygen to begin with, except for that which is absorbed through the pores. Your knot, as you call it, therefore cannot do as you claim.”

“Oh my god, will you just shut the fuck up already?” Troy snapped, eyebrows dipping in a menacing ‘V’. “Before I bust off your head and use it as a beer stein.”

“Pouring liquids into my cranial cavity would likely corrupt their flavoring, as well as damage my circuitry beyond repair.”

Just a growl from Troy, who may have squeezed and jerked the cock in his hand just a bit too hard out of frustration. Back arching, Rhys’ jaw gaped open, a strangled cry unfurling from his lungs. In what seemed impossibly too quick a time span, he was cumming again, his semen just thin rivulets now, almost entirely clear as it swept downward over Troy’s hand. At last, it seemed the omega’s balls had been spent, the alpha pulling his fist away as the flesh pressed to his palm began to flag. His tongue traced the cum trails clinging to his fingers and knuckles, sucking every last trace of Rhys’ essence from his own skin.

“Yup. Omega spunk should just be plain illegal,” he remarked, licking the last traces of it from his lips. “Or maybe just yours, heathorn.”

Troy patted the side of Rhys’ thigh and buttock like some prized specimen. Then he was leaning forward, stretching out his long and lanky form for maximum comfort. He found a good position to drape himself in while remaining tied to Rhys, their legs tangling, Rhys drawing him into the circle of his arms. Soft hair brushed like insect legs against Troy’s skin. Rhys was settling his head into a comfortable crook of the alpha’s body, nuzzling him again with eyes closed. It wouldn’t be long until his breathing evened out, till his muscles melted into the bed below and he expelled the rest of his energy and gave in to rest.

And Troy, ever the proper alpha, would wait until the omega was deep in the throes of slumber, until his own knot gave way naturally and slipped from its coveted cradle of flesh. Then he would coil around his temporary lover and keep him warm and safe until they were both rejuvenated and ready to go once more.

Until then, he kept his head empty, his mind free from any of its usual bloatfly buzz. The room gradually faded, as did the noises around him, below him. There was nothing but himself and the moment, latched on like the parasite his sister oh so loved to call him.

Awake but barely aware, Troy lay awaiting time’s slow but inevitable crawl, even Fl4k remaining silent where they sat.