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To Thine Own Self Be True

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Damiano woke from the doze he had fallen into when he felt Joel moving behind him. Hence he was still half asleep when Joel carefully pulled out of him, knot apparently deflated, and he totally failed to stop the small whine of discontent that bubbled up from his chest.

"Are you okay?" Joel asked, voice very low and controlled and gentle, and hand lightly touching Damiano's hip.

"Hmmm," he hummed in agreement, because it was taking a little while for his brain to struggle free of his hormones. "How about you?" he asked.

He turned slowly on the bed, braced for any discomfort and was somewhat surprised when he didn't discover any. He guessed all the stories were true, he was literally made for what he and Joel had done. He could feel it, but nothing hurt.

"I still feel somewhat volatile, I don't think I can let you leave just yet," Joel told him, "but the pain is gone and I can think properly again."

"Thank fuck," Damiano said. "If I'm honest, for a little while, I was worried I was too late."

"You and me both," Joel admitted, hand twitching in Damiano's general direction even as he spoke. "I don't know what that bastard slipped me, but it was strong."

"You can touch me," Damiano said, inching a little closer, "I get the instincts. I'm still feeling them myself."

"I didn't want to take ad…" Joel started to say.

Damiano reached out his hand and put it over Joel's.

"You're not," he said, trying to allay whatever fears the other man had. "I'm a touchy-feely person anyway, just ask my bandmates, and right now I'm a very, very touchy-feely person."

Some of the stiffness left Joel's stance and he shifted closer until they were lying skin to skin. Damiano shivered from head to foot and gave up fighting his own instincts, relaxing against Joel and letting the alpha's heat seep into him. Sighing contentedly he closed his eyes for a moment.

"Fuck," Joel whispered, "you are the sexiest thing I have ever seen."

"Honestly, I feel sexy," Damiano replied with a grin, "mostly. I could do without the stickiness, but otherwise I'm kind of amazed. It feels like I've never really known myself."

"You haven't," Joel said, "at least not this part. I'm sorry you had to discover it under such extreme circumstances."

"Hey," Damiano said, reaching out and taking Joel's hand again, "none of this is your fault, and it might have been 'extreme' as you said, but none of it was unpleasant. Mind blowing, but definitely not unpleasant. In fact, would-do-again good, given half a chance."

He definitely did not want Joel under the impression that he had found any part of the experience bad, apart from the fact they were basically forced into it. Apparently Joel was an overthinker just like he knew he could be himself.

"I'm really sorry you had to go through this, but you don't have to worry about me," he promised.

"We barely even know each other and I forced you into sex," Joel said.

"You didn't force me into anything," Damiano said very firmly. "I came here to help a friend who was in trouble. The fact the sex was epic was a happy by-product."

"You really mean that," Joel said, seemingly surprised.

"Honestly, I've had sex with girls I've known a lot less time than you," Damiano said bluntly. "Let's just say my teenage years were a little wild and leave it at that. I may or may not have been overcompensating for what I perceived to be the lack of manliness of my biology."

"You're not…" Joel started to say.

"I am aware," Damiano replied with a small smile, putting his finger on Joel's lips to interrupt him, "but I was a little mixed up for a while."

"Yeah, me too," Joel agreed. "Wow does society fuck us up just because we're not betas."

"Amen," Damiano said.

He let himself enjoy the warmth of Joel's embrace for a while. There was something about the alpha's slightly possessive touch that made him feel safe. It wasn't quite like anything he had felt before. He often cuddled up with other people, he was exactly as he had told Joel, a touchy-feely person, but this had another dimension. He liked it, even if he didn't quite understand it.

"So," he said eventually when he realised he was likely to fall asleep again, "shower?"

"Probably a good plan," Joel said, although he sounded reluctant.

"Given that the Dutch seem to take their showers very seriously, I'm sure there's room for two," Damiano said, pulling away a little so he could see the other man's face.

For a second Joel's eyes opened a little in surprise, as if he had expected Damiano to want to wash everything off and be done with it.

"You're sure?" he asked and Damiano couldn't help thinking he was the sweetest man.

"Most definitely," Damiano replied. "Come on, you can use those big alpha hands to wash my back."

If he ended up clinging to a soapdish and one of the shower rails while Joel fucked him slow and deep after their first attempt at washing, Damiano wasn't complaining.

~*~

After answering the doctor's questions and popping a couple of pills that he was promised would get his hormones back in check within a couple of hours, Damiano was smuggled back to his own room. He and Joel had parted with a hug, and Niko had insisted on hugging him very hard as well, so he was feeling happy and a little bit pleased with himself when he made it back.

"Thank fuck," Victoria said, dragging him into his room as Ethan gave him a quick once over. "Next time, take your phone."

She waved the offending object at him.

"Shit, sorry," he said as he realised his friends had been waiting for him with probably little word for hours, "I forgot."

"It was a stressful situation," Ethan said, apparently satisfied that he was in one piece.

"What happened?" Victoria asked.

"Yeah, how did it go?" Thomas agreed.

"Joel is fine, I am fine, and holy fuck, have I been missing out up til now," he replied, making a bee line for the bed because he was still tired.

As he sat down, everyone else piled on around him.

"You're definitely okay, though?" Victoria asked, still in serious mode it seemed.

"Bit wiped out, Joel said it was something to do with alpha in rut hormones," he admitted, "but other than that, I'm great."

The others were looking at him as if they didn't quite believe his buoyant mood.

"Look," he said, grabbing Victoria's hand, bumping his shoulder against Thomas' and turning a little so he could give Ethan a smile, "I really am fine. I just had the most amazing sex of my life and I finally have an idea of how I'm actually supposed to work. It's going to take a while to figure out in my head, but I don't regret it in the slightest. Joel is back with his band and everything is back on track. Everything is good."

"You know we worry because we love you right?" Victoria said.

"Of course," he replied, "and if it was any of you, I'd be worrying too, but you don't have to. Might need a nap soon though."

"Marta managed to push everything back a few hours, used one of our staff feeling under the weather and everyone having to have Covid tests as an excuse," Victoria told him, "but we have an appointment at three. We told her you'd reacted badly to something you drank and needed to sleep it off."

It was just after midday, which gave Damiano a little time.

"Did you eat yet?" Ethan asked.

"The doctor fed me an energy drink and a protein bar," he replied.

"Room service it is then," Victoria decided.

Damiano accepted that with good grace. If his bandmates felt the need to look after him, he wasn't going to argue.

Later after they were all fed and Damiano was curled up on the bed with Thomas for a nap, his younger friend's curiosity finally got the better of him.

"So the sex was epic then?" Thomas asked, which made Damiano laugh.

"Oh yeah," he replied, and put his nap off for a few minutes to explain just how.

~*~

Damiano was still flying high from their win the morning after the final, but there was one other thing he was focused on among all the interviews they were doing before they flew home.

As they had promised to keep all the speculation to a minimum before the grand final, now the competition was over, Blind Channel were giving a press conference about everything that had almost brought their Eurovision dreams crashing down. Damiano had slipped in the back about five minutes in and was hiding out of the way. He watched as Joel handled all the questions with grace, even the inappropriate ones, handing off some of the explanation to his bandmates deftly. It was a master class in press handling.

Everything was going fine until a certain reporter that Damiano recognised only too well from the winner's press conference decided to step up.

"So what do you say to the rumours that the whole incident was a setup to help your band's ranking in the competition?" the man asked.

Niko looked like he was ready to climb over the table and punch the reporter at that, but Joel placed a calming hand on his friend's arm.

"I give those rumours all the attention they deserve," Joel said. "Next question please."

"But surely you can see how some people find the way everything played out to be too convenient?" the man insisted.

"None of what happened was convenient," Niko all but snarled into his microphone.

If the reporter hadn't been perfectly serious, the way the pair were reacting might have been amusingly ironic, what with Joel the alpha being completely calm and controlled, yet Niko, his perfectly "normal" beta bandmate showing all the signs of wanting to rip the reporter's head off, as were the rest of the band.

"I was incredibly lucky," Joel said, looking the man right in the eye. "Someone came forward to help me who didn't have to, had no obligation to, but who was a good person and chose to offer me their assistance. I can never thank them enough. As I mentioned earlier in this conference, there was a very good chance I could have died. Stimulants can and have killed alphas in the past and I have long campaigned for them to be on the controlled substances list. Just because they are only dangerous to a small percentage of the population, does not mean they should be available over the counter."

"So you expect the world to believe there just happened to be a willing and convenient omega waiting to help you?"

The reporter really was going to find his face rearranged if he wasn't careful, even Joel looked annoyed at that.

"Yes," Joel said.

"Any name for this mysterious omega?" the man pushed yet again.

"No," Joel said and there was a growl in his voice.

"Some might see that as too good to be true," the reporter doubled down.

"Do you declare you are a beta every time you do something?" Joel asked.

"Of course not..?"

"Then why should they?" Joel interrupted him. "Until 1950, in most of Europe, omegas were owned by their father and then their spouse. They had less rights than beta women, and that's saying something. In some countries they still have no rights. Society has taught alphas and omegas to hide what we are just because we're different, and suddenly, because it might be newsworthy, you expect me to reveal the name of someone who took a huge risk and sacrificed their own body so that I could survive a chemically enhanced rut? Are you fucking kidding me?"

Damiano was impressed with how level Joel's tone was right until the end.

"You have to admit…"

Joel stood up as the reporter refused to give up. Several EBA personnel looked as if they were ready to intervene as well.

Damiano pushed off the wall he was leaning against, he had seen enough. They'd all heard the ridiculous rumours, just like they had heard the ones about him and Måneskin and cocaine. He'd been seriously considering a few things ever since he had helped Joel, and he'd talked it over with the band. It had taken second place as they dealt with everything involved in the competition, but they'd had another chat about it that morning. As always Victoria, Thomas and Ethan were there to support him all the way. They were big proponents of equality and acceptance in all forms and yet he had this huge secret. Their management was probably about to kill him, because even they didn't know the truth, but it was his body and he got to choose who knew about it.

He walked down the aisle until he was about six feet from the reporter and cleared his throat. Joel looked surprised, but didn't say anything, and the reporter turned. Damiano was wearing his mask because of the restrictions, but it wasn't as if the tats, clothes and makeup didn't make it easy to spot who he was.

"Damiano David," he said, exaggerating each syllable.

The reporter looked confused, as if he couldn't work out why the insane Italian was talking to him.

"The name of the convenient omega," Damiano said in a tone that exemplified exactly what he thought of the man. "Hi guys," he said, changing his tone completely and waving at the band, "sorry to interrupt. I'll let you get on now." He gave the reporter one more glare. "I think you already know how to spell it."

There was complete silence as he turned and walked towards the door.

"Damiano," he turned when Joel called his name. "Thank you again."

"Prego," he replied and inclined his head, before turning and leaving with as much dramatic flair as he could muster.

Well their management had been wanting something to obliterate the ridiculous cocaine rumours and this was most definitely going to do that.