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Arthur was doing the dishes in his new Italian apartment when he first realized that something was wrong. He wiped his hand on the kitchen towel, frowning. The texture felt off, the fibers of the cloth catching on each fingertip. With his frown deepening, he took the familiar loaded red die out of his pants pocket, weighing the smooth object in his hand before tossing it on the counter with a flourish. The correct number flashed up as it settled with a familiar wobble.

This was reality. No one had slipped him into a dream without his knowledge.

Sighing in relief, Arthur touched the towel again, looking closely at the faded yellow stripes. The texture still felt off. It was an old kitchen towel, one he had brought with him from his last apartment. He had a bag of things he always traveled with as he moved from city to city, country to country. It helped him feel grounded. It was one of the few things that did- his bag of household items, his loaded die, his team.

It was important to stay grounded in dream work. When a professional lost that… Well, just look at Dom Cobb.

Arthur shook his head, feeling a pang in his gut over Cobb’s late wife, Mal. Seeing her again and again in Cobb’s dreams was becoming almost more than he could bear. He missed her too, though not with the desperate fierceness and guilt that Cobb did. She had been kind and wild at the same time, having a nearly Alpha spirit though she was a Beta. She fit well with Cobb’s caring, worried nature, a bit Omega-like in his nurturing instincts, though he too, was a Beta.

Cobb’s nurturing had become focused on his dream-work team, especially after he had been parted from his children. He liked to keep everyone together, treating them a bit like he was a workaholic father and they were his lonely kids- he wasn't always around, but he was willing to spoil them with well-intentioned offerings to keep them from rebelling.

Currently, it was Cobb’s delight to make sure the team had decent housing. The four-person team would be gearing up for a job in Italy, and Cobb had rented out several apartments for the month-long planning phase leading up to the extraction. He had managed to get them all in the same building, the rooms small but elegant, warm with the light streaming in from the south-facing windows. The team member’s different apartments were scattered throughout the second and third floors, making it seem slightly less suspicious that three non-Italians - Cobb, Arthur, and one other teammate Arthur hadn’t met yet - had moved there within the same few weeks.

Their architect, Vivian, was Italian, which helped their cover. Cobb and Arthur had only worked with her on one other occasion, but she had been professional and she had known Mal. That was good enough for Cobb, and he already treated her like part of his dream-work family.

The forger was someone new to Arthur, though Cobb seemed to know him well. He was the third foreign-born person on the team, Cobb claiming that the guy hailed from England, though he didn’t give him any more details than that.

While Arthur had trusted Cobb’s instincts about people before Mal’s death, the sandy-blonde Beta had grown too lenient since, allowing his feelings of family - of pack - to influence too many of his decisions. This last year, Cobb had not been thinking through the dynamics of the teams he put together with as much clarity as he once had. Normally, he would be careful to only hire Betas, carefully avoiding Alphas for Arthur’s sake.

They had talked about it once, back when the team consisted at it’s core of the three of them- Cobb, Mal, and Arthur. He had tried to explain it to them.

“I can still do the job,” Arthur had said, looking intently at the married couple as they sipped wine on the Cobb family sofa. “I can still be professional. That wouldn’t change - has never changed - regardless of whether or not there’s an Alpha arround. It’s just that it would be an unnecessary distraction. I would always be wondering, somewhere in the back of my primitive Omega brain, whether or not the Alpha was… compatible. My concern is that I would make a mistake because of my secondary nature. It’s a risk I would rather avoid. But,” he had continued, “the proficiency of the team comes first. If the best fit is an Alpha, then we should bring them onto the team.”

Mal had smiled at him, giving Cobb a quick look out of the corner of her eye. “It’s not you we would need to worry about, my love,” she said to Arthur, her soft voice lilting and intimidating. “I would be much more worried for the poor Alpha. One look at you, and they would be all but useless.”

Arthur had rolled his eyes good naturedly. He would never admit it, but he liked the teasing. It made him feel like he was part of a family, something he had missed over the long years of being alone.

“There’s no need to hire an Alpha for the foreseeable future,” Cobb said, wrapping an arm around his wife. “I know a few good ones for separate, one-off jobs, but for now it’s easy enough to keep you and the Alphas apart on main operations.”

Cobb had kept his word, not calling Arthur in for jobs that required one of his Alpha specialists. During one of the last outings before he and Mal fell into limbo and everything changed forever, Cobb had met Arthur at a pub right after a job that hadn’t included Arthur on the team.

“God, Arthur, I really could have used you on that one,” Cobb said miserably, collapsing into the booth across from the point man. Arthur had started to let a sympathetic smile spread across his face before he froze, staring wide-eyed at Cobb.

“Who was with you on the job?” Arthur demanded. Cobb had glanced up sharply then, looking his friend over.

“Arthur, are you okay?”

Arthur shook his head trying to clear it. Cobb smelled like he usually did, a combination of autumn leaves and citrus, a smooth, soft Beta scent that signalled home and friendship. Overtop of that familiar scent lay the jumbled mass of countless encounters with people and objects and food, detergent and outside air, the bombardment of smells that Arthur was used to ignoring, even though his Omega senses were excessively keen.

This time, however, there was something lingering on Cobb that had Arthur’s nostrils flaring. He nearly reached over to grab the man’s jacket and pull him forward to scent it more clearly. Arthur held back, but just barely. He let his fingers curl in on themselves instead, trying to ground himself, trying to center. He was breathing hard, each new lungful of air bringing a fraction of that scent with it, shooting to his hindbrain, pulling and screaming with vicious intensity.

Arthur’s gaze snapped to Cobb’s and the extractor’s eyes suddenly looked hunted. Arthur could feel himself slipping, something wild and intent taking his place, filling out his body to the tips of his fingers. He watched Cobb squirm with a sort of sickening hunger.

“Who,” Arthur, repeated, “did you do the job with?”

“N-no one you know,” Cobb said, slowly slipping back out of the booth, tracking Arthur’s eyes as they snapped to every one of his movements. “I’m going to take off, go check on Mal and the kids,” Cobb babbled. “I’ll tell you the story later. It’s a good one, you’ll appreciate it…” then he fled.

Arthur just barely stopped himself from giving chase. He had focused on his drink intensely, the scent slowly dissipating. He had never felt anything like it before or since, and he had been relieved and perhaps a little disappointed when Cobb smelled like Oxy Clean and Tide next time they met.

Arthur snapped back from his musings and set the dishtowel down. He decided to take his mind off his vague sense of unease by going out to a marketplace and buying some ingredients for dinner. Perhaps he would get a nice bottle of wine. He could call and see if Cobb and Vivian would like to join him in the apartment for dinner. If the new forger had arrived by then, Arthur would invite him too. He knew how much Cobb liked to surround himself with his surrogate family, especially during the slow time spent planning for an extraction.

As he stepped out of his apartment door, slipping the keys back into his pocket after locking it, the sense of unreality returned, much sharper than before. His hand slid into his pocket, feeling the die there, anchoring him to reality. He was not asleep, so what was making him feel this way? It was not like being drugged, not exactly. It was more like the sensation of standing up too fast after drinking, the world tipping ever so slightly to the side.

Arthur scented the air, a shiver running down his spine. He raced for the stairs heading down into the street. He knew he needed fresh air, needed it fast. He bolted through the apartment lobby and out onto the bright sidewalk, quickly turning left and then right until he was several blocks away, his breath shallow. Only then did he stop to heave in fresh lungfuls of air. As his head cleared, logic took its place. He walked the rest of the way to the market, following his plan from earlier. While choosing tomatoes and basil he considered his options.

He could 1) move out of the building, 2) track down the source of the scent, or 3) ignore it. There was no way he was going to let whatever person - whatever Alpha, he told himself with a twitch of his lip - that was in the apartment building distract him from the job. He was responsible for the team’s safety. He could not allow himself to be compromised.

On his way back from the market, Arthur stepped into one of the dark shops that were advertised with only one small Greek letter on half-hidden plaques: an Omega supply store. He walked past the shelves stocked with sex toys and DVDs and went over to the much more sedate displays of scent blockers.

After reading the backs of a few packages and looking through an assortment of blockers that looked like gas masks, he found a very discreet nose plug that would be nearly invisible. He also discovered a top-rated brand of scent-dulling pills. Used in tandem, he thought he might be able to resist the influence of that infuriating Alpha smell until the job was done.

He set the items on the counter, and the woman behind the register smiled knowingly and said in Italian, “You know, it’s usually more fun to just give in.”

Arthur shook his head but didn’t reply, though he had understood what she said. He didn’t feel like explaining, in his barely passable Italian, that it wasn’t fun for him. That he never gave in. The loss of control was said to be the best part about Omega/Alpha sex, that the overwhelming desire was thrilling and took away the need to overthink. That it was freeing. Arthur had long ago decided that all those stereotypes were spread by horny Alphas in order to ensnare Omegas. His type was rare, even rarer than Alphas, and it would make sense that all the romantic movies out there about amazing Alpha/Omega sex were pure propaganda.

Even if the hype were all true, Arthur loathed losing control. He spent most of his life making sure he maintained control over himself and his environment. He obsessed over it every moment of every job, so no, he didn’t think it would be more fun to ‘just give in.’”

He stopped a block away from his apartment building and inserted the device into his nostrils. It wasn’t a very good sensation, but he noticed right away how effective it was. An entire dimension of his world fell away. It was like going blind. Nothing had any substance. He could see the people passing him, saw the food on cafe tables and plants in the window boxes, but they felt flat, unreal. Like a poorly designed dreamscape.

Arthur forced his panic down. He had not expected to feel this strongly about losing his sense of smell. He suddenly recalled a paper he had read in college that described an Omega patient committing suicide after losing her ability to detect scent after an accident. Nothing seemed real, she was reported to have said.

After several minutes spent pulling himself together, Arthur made his way back up to his second floor apartment, looking around every few minutes as though he were missing a threat just behind him. He seriously considered ripping the plug out, but he couldn’t forget the feeling that had come over him a few years ago in that pub with Cobb- the feeling of spiraling helplessly out of control. No other Alpha scent had ever done that to him, before or since. But whoever was in this building was having a similar effect on him. It was frankly terrifying.

He left the scent blocker in but put the pills away in a cupboard. He would not use those unless he absolutely had to. At least with the plug he could get it out quickly and return to the stability of the scent-filled world. The pills would have to wear off, and he risked either panicking or missing a threat while under their influence.

The first thing he did once he was locked safely back in his apartment was to open a window and set up a box fan to blow in fresh air. He sent a text to Cobb inviting the team for dinner and got a nearly instantaneous reply complete with several emoticons. Shaking his head at his friend’s enthusiasm, he started cooking, making fresh sauce from scratch and boiling water for the handmade pasta he had just purchased at a stall in the market.

About ten minutes before Cobb, Vivian, and the new forger were supposed to arrive, Arthur stood by the window and carefully removed the device from his nose. He had gone back and forth on whether he should, finally deciding that it was worth the risk. He would be smart about it, like he was with everything in his well-ordered life. He would stand by the window, the fan blowing fresh air over him as the door to the hallway opened to admit his guests. He might get hit a little bit harder for a while after that, but he felt he could probably manage it, especially now that he knew he had to brace against the smell of a compatible Alpha lurking somewhere in the building.

With the plug out of his nose, Arthur took several hesitant breaths in, and was relieved to discover that the fresh air was doing its work and there were only trace amounts of Alpha scent in the air. It made him feel slightly unsteady, like he’d had a glass of wine, but no worse. He was in control. He let a sigh escape him then, long and grateful. He could do this.

Cobb knocked a few minutes later and Arthur called for him to come in, positioning himself back at the window after he set the bowl of salad down on the small table laid for four people. As the doorknob turned, Arthur flicked his eyes over his apartment one last time, checking that everything was in its proper place and giving a tug at the hem of his shirt to make sure it lay smoothly over his slim body. He was strangely nervous about presenting himself and his home well. It may have had something to do with the Alpha in the building. Arthur knew he was likely trying to prove himself good mate material. He rolled his eyes at that, and then his guests were coming through the door.

Eames’ skin had been prickling since he’d arrived at the charming apartment building Dom had so thoughtfully provided the team for the new gig in Italy. All he had wanted was to kick back and have a beer and some food, preferably something delicious, local, and full of calories. He needed a drink, sleep, and sustenance, and he wasn’t very particular about the order. All that paled in comparison to the need that hit him as soon as he walked in the building’s main door off the street, battered suitcase in hand.

Omega. Just the hint of one, the smallest fraction of scent wafting in the air. Delicious, tantalizing, compatible Omega.

Eames came back to himself when his suitcase landed on his foot, jolting him out of his swoon and back to the present.

Shit. This was not peaches and cream sprinkled with roses and sugar. This was bad. Extremely, alarmingly bad. There was no way he could concentrate on the job surrounded by the perfume of an Omega so perfect, especially if the scent were concentrated anywhere near his floor. His hindbrain was already screaming at him to go find his mate, so no, this was not Christmas in the Hamptons, this was awful.

Eames had been around Omegas before. They were rare, but not really all that mysterious, and most people knew at least a few of them. While the public image of Omegas was of sweet, caring nurturers, Eames knew better. His line of work had brought him in contact with the other set of skills Omegas possessed- extreme intelligence, quick reactions, fast reasoning ability, and deadly accuracy. Those qualities, combined with their naturally enthralling and soothing scents, made them perfect candidates for spies, thieves, and assassins.

Not many of Eames encounters with Omegas had gone well for him. Still, that knowledge would hardly prevent him from seeking out the source of that maddening scent. He would have to move. Tonight. In fact, he should probably just call Dom right now and let him know that he was headed to a hotel. Yes, that was the smart, responsible thing to do. By the time he had come to that decision, he was already climbing the stairs to his new apartment. Well, alright then. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the place.

By his second shower and his third time jerking off since he’d arrived, just five hours ago, Eames was seriously reconsidering waiting for tomorrow to find a new place. Dom had sent a text telling him that the team was all meeting up for dinner at the point man’s apartment, and Eames was more than a little worried that his dick may try and lift the table off the ground in the middle of the main course.

He turned the shower as cold as it would go after he had finally rubbed out his third, and most stubborn, orgasm of the day. He needed to meet the other two team members, and he wanted to make a good impression. Cancelling on a dinner prepared by the guy who was supposed to be watching his back in the dream world was not good manners. Eames sighed and pressed his dripping face into a towel, wishing he’d listened to his mum and become a banker.

Eames struggled into his clothes, not having gotten himself quite as dry as he should have after the shower, and attempted a hairstyle with his short hair, which mainly consisted of getting gel evenly distributed and hoping for the best. He buttoned up his favorite shirt, leaving the top button undone, and considered his cologne before deciding, no, he absolutely did not need more scents in the air around him.

Dom was at his door a moment later, the Beta architect in tow. Eames shook Vivian’s slim hand, and then he locked his door behind him as he followed them out into the hall. They walked down a flight of stairs and along a hallway to a door and had the world started tipping to the side?

Eames blinked. He felt like he’d been drinking. Heavily. And he was sweating. And his poor abused dick was waking up and demanding round four. And oh fuck, the Omega must be on this floor.

Dom was opening a door, and then they were all stepping inside, and Eames was shutting the door behind him quickly, trying to block out the scent of whatever perfect Omega was out there, because if he didn’t get a clean breath soon he was going to pass out from pheromone-induced ecstasy and death by hard on. And oh good, the point man had a fan blowing in the window, that should help, actually. Maybe he was an Alpha too, trying to deal with the scent in the hallway and nope, now that he’d actually taken a breath he knew the horrible truth. The point man was the Omega.

Eames had about twenty seconds to wonder how this could be his life when the Omega stepped forward out of the rush of clean air from outside in order to greet his guests, before he obviously caught scent of Eames. The change in his face was alarming, to say the least. It cycled quickly from the polite smile he had met them with through shock, anger, desire, and finally the really scary one, feral hunter.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit, he was one of those Omegas. The terrifyingly intelligent ones. The insanely beautiful, tightly self controlled, hard-and-brilliant-as-diamond ones.

Dom sensed the change in his point man, turning to look at what he was staring at so intently, which was Eames’ deer-in-headlights expression. Then he looked back at the other man (Arthur? Had Dom called him Arthur just now?), then back at Eames.

“Oh,” Dom said. “That actually makes sense now.” Then Dom was pushing a stumbling, disoriented Eames back out the door into the hallway as Vivian tried to keep Arthur from pursuing. “Sorry buddy,” Dom said, a bit sheepishly, Eames thought. “I should have realized. Okay, let’s get you a hotel room, huh?” he said as he pulled him down the stairs and out the front door, and shoved him in the back of a taxi. Cobb climbed in after him, giving instructions to the driver in Italian, and then they were driving through the streets, fresh air from the rolled-down window clearing Eames’ senses.

“Who was that?” he managed after a few minutes. “God, Cobb, warn a guy.”

Dom had the decency to look bashful. “I made the executive decision to, um, just sort of toss you two together and hope for the best,” he said with a nervous chuckle. “Chances were Arthur wouldn’t even have noticed you. He’s normally excessively good at ignoring Alphas. And I’ve seen you work with an Omega before without an issue, so…” He shrugged. “Sorry.”

Eames scrubbed at his face with one hand, feeling the sweat evaporating in the outside breeze. “I smelled him when I first walked into the bloody lobby this morning,” Eames said, shooting Cobb a withering look. “The lobby. I was going to tell you I had to move to a different building just because of that. Dammit, Cobb, you’re such a bastard.”

Dom looked even more contrite. “He reacted to your smell before. I remembered it, seeing his face just now.” Cobb shrugged into his seat, squirming. “It was before everything with, well. You know. So I haven’t thought about it since. But he went from normal to pants-shittingly scary in about three seconds. He must have smelled you on my clothes from when we did that surveillance gig. You were way too close on that job, by the way.”

“Not my fault,” Eames said, indignant. “I’m not the blimy codger that insisted on setting up the devices in the broom cupboard.” He looked away from Dom’s contrite face and watched as the buildings flashed by. “Fuck, Cobb, what are we going to do? I can’t work anywhere near him.”

“Are you sure? Maybe if we made sure you only worked together when you had to-”

“Listen to me, friend. If you put me in the same room- no - in the same city block as that man, my dick will jump out of my bloody trousers and go looking for him like an Omega-seeking missile.” Dom made a face at the imagery. “We’re compatible. Doesn’t that mean anything to your muddled Beta brain?” Eames asked, still trying to rein in his annoyance at the man. Just because he wasn't an Alpha or an Omega was no excuse for not knowing how serious this situation was. A situation which was all Cobb’s fault. “Basically, everything in my body is screaming at me to go at it with him, so no, I don’t think we can just suck it up and power through. Unless you want me rutting into your point man on top of your damn blueprints.”

“Please stop with the word pictures,” Dom said, looking green. “There has to be some way of making this work. This is a very important job for me.”

“Than you should have warned me that there was a mind-rupturingly gorgeous Omega on the same job!” Eames practically shouted, sick of Cobb’s inability to comprehend the situation.

“But you worked with an Omega before-”

“Yes, a non-compatible, plump, sweet, fifty-year-old woman, you asshole. Don’t get me wrong, she smelled very nice, but comforting- more like a mum, alright? However, not only is Arthur my exact fucking type, he also smells like sex, candy, a day at the beach and mate. Specifically my mate. So you can suck my dick.” Okay, so maybe he was getting a bit riled up over this and needed to calm down.

There were several seconds of silence, during which the taxi driver not so subtly turned up the radio. “Drink?” Cobb asked eventually.

“Fuck yes. And you’re paying the tab, you wanker.”

Vivian was only able to hold Arthur back a few minutes before he followed Eames scent out the door, down the stairs, and to the curb. It abruptly ended there. They must have caught a taxi. He spun back around and walked into the apartment building, past Vivian who was trying to talk to him. No doubt she was attempting to reason with him, but he was beyond hearing anything she had to say.

He brushed past her like she wasn’t even there and tracked Eames scent back to the Alpha’s apartment. It only took him a few moments to pick the lock and then he was inside, inhaling deep breaths of compatible Alpha pheromones.

Despite only being in the apartment for the afternoon, the room was absolutely saturated in Eames’ smell. The Alpha had obviously been aroused. Arthur went straight for the couch, where the scent was the thickest in the living room, kneeling down and thrusting his nose close to the cushions. He picked up other scents, of course, faint under the overpowering smell of horny Alpha. He was able to gain a lot of information about him through the concentrated smell of sweat and pheromones left on the fabric. He pictured the Alpha’s face again, beautiful and shocked as he had stared helplessly at Arthur. The Omega growled deep in his chest.

He went into the bathroom next, smelling ejaculate in the air, fading from when the Alpha must have washed it down the drain, but still discernible in the room. Grabbing Eames’ briefs off the floor, Arthur buried his nose in them, huffing greedily. The cocktail of scent honed Arthur’s thoughts down to a razor’s edge.

Tucking Eames’ underwear into his pocket, Arthur headed back to his apartment. Vivian was standing in his living room looking worried. The Omega could still smell Eames. The sweet, heady scent was still drifting in the air, Vivian having switched off the fan in the window, obviously not realizing the impact it would have on Arthur.

“Are you alright?” she asked, clearly concerned and more than a little bit unnerved. “Your face when you saw him, it was so-” she stopped, clearly at a loss for words.

Arthur smiled a calm, easy smile. “I know,” he answered. ‘I’m so sorry for alarming you, Viv. I just had to get some fresh air. I’m fine now, though really tired after all that.” She nodded her understanding as he walked her to the door.

“You’re sure you’re alright?” she asked as she stepped into the hallway.

“Yes,” Arthur responded with an easy wave of his hand. “I’ll just clean up and then have an early night. Sorry about dinner.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just feel better and have a rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow,” Arthur responded, giving her a gentle, tired smile and closing the door. The smile dropped once the door clicked shut. Spinning on his heel, he and headed straight for his laptop. He primed a search for Dom’s credit card information, and then sat back with a glass of wine, waiting.

Cobb ordered them each a whisky when they finally made it inside the hotel bar. It was still fairly early in the evening, and the bar wasn’t very busy yet. There were a few businessmen in suits, all Betas, and a few couples scattered around the place. No Omegas or Alphas. Eames started to relax, stripping away some of Arthur’s potent scent with a gulp of whisky. The taste of his pheromones still lingered on his tongue. It seemed to coat his skin. He would need several scalding-hot showers to even come close to getting the smell off him. Eames found himself wanting to put that moment off, against his better judgment. His hindbrain loved the combined scent- him and his perfect Omega. The mix of them was sinfully good to his senses.

He glanced at Cobb over the rim of his glass. “You really can’t smell anything when you’re around him?” Eames asked, the good whisky helping to calm him and make him chatty. “He seriously doesn’t smell like a wet dream to you?”

Dom took a huge gulp that made his eyes water. “You have got to stop saying stuff like that,” he grimaced at last. “No, he doesn’t. I mean he smells good, but like, cologne-type good. Kinda spicy and herby. Clovey? Is clove bread a thing? Not really like cookies, but you know, just basically good. Not in a sexual way. At all.”

Eames smiled at him. “Clove bread. Um, okay. Well, at least he smells like something to you.”

“I’m a Beta, it’s not the same,” Dom said, motioning for another round of drinks and sliding his credit card over to the bartender. “I better make this my last one. I gotta head back and do damage control and figure this out.”

“Having briefly met your point man, he’s probably already got a plan on how to deal with this situation,” Eames said, half curious and half terrified at the thought.

“Yeah, well, I won’t let him snipe you in the head, so don’t worry,” Cobb said with what was probably supposed to be a reassuring smile.

All the color drained out of Eames face. “Oh good lord.” He stopped to slam back his new drink. “That’s the simplest solution, isn’t it? No more Alpha, no more distraction.”

“I mean, I doubt he’d go that far. He values good dream-work team members and probably wouldn’t want to cause me the inconvenience of finding a new forger.”

“Thank you, Cobb. That’s very reassuring.”

Dom shrugged. “Well, anyway, I better go check in and see what he’s thinking. And doing. Can you manage tonight without your stuff? I’ll bring it around tomorrow.”

“Sure, yeah.” Eames slumped against the bar. He just needed sleep. And to jerk off. Oh god, did he ever need to get his hand on his dick. In private. In naked, comfy private. And not think about the possibility that his perfect mate might try and shoot him from a rooftop.

As soon as the search turned up the address for the hotel, Arthur was out the door. He hailed a cab and was walking into the lobby twenty minutes later. Then all he had to do was follow the trail of pheromones.

It led him first to the bar, but a quick glance around told him that Cobb and the Alpha had already left. The trail picked up near the bank of elevators in the lobby. He easily discerned which one the Alpha had taken, and punched the button on the wall.

Arthur felt surprised that no one he encountered seemed to even smell the infuriating mix of Alpha chemicals in the air. The two Beta women in the elevator didn’t mention anything about the rich scent that lingered in the air from Eames being in the small space so recently. They did give him a weird look when he bent over to stiff the control panel, though, hitting the button for floor seven when he caught Eames’ scent on the plastic.

In the hallway, the siren call of Eames’ pheromones was intoxicating. Arthur didn’t stumble or hesitate in the slightest, even though it seemed that the carpet lurched under his feet as he stepped forward. He paused outside of Eames’ door, listening intently, though he could hear very little of the room within. However, he could smell exactly what Eames was doing, and it made Arthur bite his bottom lip to help him concentrate. He knelt silently outside the door, pulling out his specialized keycard door kit, glancing over his shoulder now and then to make sure he wasn’t interrupted. In a matter of seconds, he was slipping into the dark entryway of Eames’ room.

The Alpha hadn’t heard him. He was lying prone on the bedspread, earbuds screwed into his ears as he held his phone up to his face with one hand, watching something playing on the small screen. His other hand was working frantically between his lax thighs, his Alpha cock - thick and perfect - grasped tight in his fist. Eames worked the shaft before toying with the foreskin over the head. He closed his eyes and gasped when he thumbed the slit, going back to stripping his length a moment later.

It only took a moment for Arthur’s scent to hit him. He looked up from the screen, yanking the earphones out of his ears. He stared at the Omega for a moment before diving for the gun that was tangled up in his jacket on the floor at the side of the bed.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you,” Arthur said smoothly, barely above a whisper as he trained the sight of his gun on Eames’ forehead. The Alpha pulled back slowly, raising his hands in a show of submission. Arthur snarled. Eames’ erection gave a jerk at the sound, but otherwise the Alpha remained motionless, looking at Arthur and waiting for his next move.

“Hello, Arthur,” Eames said softly. His voice caused static to race up the Omega’s spine. The Alpha had a raspy purr of a voice, his English accent obvious, feathering each word. “I’m afraid you’ve caught me in a rather compromising position.”

Eames was disoriented, both by the Omega’s scent and by the gun aimed at his head.  Goddammit, Cobb, he swore in his thoughts.

“I think our fearless leader underestimated you, darling,” Eames said, his words eliciting the smallest curl at the side of Arthur’s mouth. “He thought he’d be able to make it back to the apartments before you tried to kill me.”

“To talk me out of it, or to lend a hand?” Arthur asked, his eyes remaining focused on Eames, watching for any movement the Alpha made.

Eames risked a small chuckle at that. “I’m not sure, of course, but I have gotten the impression over the years that Cobb’s rather fond of me.” He gave a small shrug, Arthur’s eyes snapping to the movement. The Omega had piercing eyes, dark and intent. Missing nothing. He was slim as a whip, with corded muscles showing on his forearms as he gripped the gun. His hand was rock steady. This Omega wouldn’t miss from a hundred feet away, let alone five. Eames only hope was to try and talk his way out of this. It didn’t help that he was stark naked and hard as hell, plus being bombarded with Arthur’s unearthly scent. It was so potent, the room seemed to be spinning.

“You might be fond of me too, you know, if you let me live long enough to get to know me,” Eames tried, wishing he could at least pull the sheet over his dick. Arthur’s forearm twitched when he moved his hand for it, though, so he abandoned the effort. Ongoing humiliation it was then.

Arthur’s lip gave a faint movement, as though aborting a smile. “Oh, I’ve gained quite a bit of information on you already,” he replied smoothly. He reached into his pocket and, without taking his eyes off Eames, pulled something out and tossed it on his chest. Eames froze. It was the underwear he’d left in the apartment bathroom. This was so not good. Arthur was imprinting.

“If I’d known you were interested, darling, I would have just lent you my diary key.” Eames saw that flicker of amusement again before it vanished, Arthur’s terrifying mask slipping back into place. “Find out anything of interest?”

“You’re not mated,” Arthur said. “And neither am I,” he added after a beat.

Eames blood went hot and then cold. If he had less control over himself, he probably would have made a grab for the Omega despite the gun. Thankfully, he had developed a healthy respect for the damage a well-placed bullet could do, not to mention a clear understanding of how fast an Omega could move. Especially this one. This one was magnificent.

Focus, for fuck’s sake, he screamed at himself.

“I’m sure you’ve come up with some options to remedy the situation,” Eames said, going for friendly, but coming across more scared than he would like to admit. “Let’s hear them out, Arthur. Make a group decision.”

Arthur smirked. “The easiest option is to kill you.”

“Uh, not necessarily,” Eames hastened to point out. “What with the mess and all. Blood everywhere. Plus I’m heavier than I look. Trying to hide my body would be more trouble than it’s worth.”

“I could drive you to a secluded spot. Kill you there.”

“Yes, but as soon as you put your gun down, I’ll try and escape,” Eames reasoned. “And though I’d put good money on you being a faster shot than me, I have a bit of weight on you, love. You might get in some good hits, but I’m guessing I’d take a hand-to-hand fight in the end.”

“You might be right about that,” Arthur agreed, head tilted to one side as he considered him. “But I bet I could get you as far as the back alley.”

“There would be surveillance footage.”

“I could delete it.”

“I bet someone saw you in the hotel, though,” Eames tried a bit desperately. “It was pretty busy when I was downstairs.” He knew he’d got on the right track when Arthur’s eyebrow twitched the tiniest bit. “And you don’t strike me as the sort of man to hunt down and kill innocent civilians.”

“You don’t know me that well, then,” Arthur said, though the way his shoulders dropped a centimeter said otherwise. “I guess the best thing to do is to wait here another hour, kill you, bribe a few alibis, and then disappear with a new identity.”

“And leave behind your friends?” Eames asked, alarmed at the ease with which Arthur intended to end him. “Leave Cobb?”

“I’ve been meaning to get out for awhile now,” Arthur said. No tell showed on his face. Not a lie. Shit. “This would be as clean a break as any.”

“Because of Mal?” Eames asked quietly. Pain flickered over Arthur’s face. Not heartless then.

“Yeah,” he breathed, his aim just as steady as before. There was a moment of silence, the two men just staring at one another, breathing softly.

“What are your non-lethal options?” Eames asked instead, trying to look on the bright side.

“That depends,” Arthur responded. “You’re not mated, but are you serious with anyone right now?”

“And if I was?” Eames asked.

Arthur snorted. “I’d want to know who they are. You would either have to call it off with them so we could be mated-” Eames got lightheaded “-or we would have to form a three-way relationship, which would depend on my ability to trust them. Or I would have to kill them. So, it all depends on your answer, whether or not this is a non-lethal option.”

“Oh,” Eames said when he finally got his breath back. “And what about the whole, ‘we go our separate ways and never meet again’ options?”

“There aren’t any.” Arthur’s face was dead serious. Eames swallowed.

“Why?” he asked, his voice barely audible.

“You were in my home, Eames. I don’t have another, more permanent location. I move with the job. I bring all my belongings with me each time. The few things that make me feel grounded. And your scent is all over them.”

Well, fuck. That really was a problem. It explained Arthur’s behavior perfectly. Eames had unwittingly announced his claim on Arthur by coming to his den, and Arthur had accidentally accepted by letting him in. In terms of their hind-brains, they were now required to either mate or kill one another.

“I’m really not that bad,” Eames insisted. “We’re in the same line of work, right? Have a lot of the same friends already. We could probably make it work-”

“I can’t give up my control to you,” Arthur snapped. His eyes had gone dark, raking over Eames’ body, as though considering the idea despite his words. “I will never let an Alpha control me.”

“Yeah, I think it would be the other way around, love,” Eames stated honestly. “I’m not the bottom of the barrel where brains are concerned, but I’m pretty sure you’re the smart one in this relationship.”

Arthur’s lip did that aborted-smile motion. “We’re not in a relationship yet,” he sneered. Well, that was sounding more hopeful than earlier with the whole murder plan.

“Okay, yeah, you’re right. We could try it though. What do you say?”

“There’s no trying this out, Eames,” Arthur said, voice tight. “We’d be mated for life.”

“Yeah, but you could always murder me later, right? If things don’t work out?”

Arthur shook his head, almost sadly. “No,” the Omega said thoughtfully. “I don’t think I could. Once you were mine, really mine, I would protect you, not harm you. Even if you turn out to be scum. So, you can see why I hesitate.”

Eames’ cock gave a renewed surge of interest at the ‘really mine’ part of Arthur’s speech, before subsiding against the crease of his hip. Oh, that turns you on, does it? Eames thought spitefully at his traitor organ.

“I’m really not that bad though,” Eames said, ignoring his mutinous anatomy. “Ask Dom. Or well, maybe not. Um. But feel free to ask me anything. I’ll tell you the truth.” Arthur nodded and Eames relaxed slightly. “Say, how about we do this when everyone is wearing pants and not holding a gun?”

“How do I know that you won’t attack me?”

“I won’t.”

“You say you won’t, but how do I know.”

“Um,” Eames’ scrambled for an option. Arthur needed to feel safe. Then they could both relax and actually talk this through. Hopefully. “What if you secured my hands?” He watched Arthur as he considered it. After a moment, the Omega nodded. “We can use our belts,” Eames started, before he was cut off by an object landing next to him on the mattress. “Seriously,” Eames said, looking at the handcuffs. “You did come prepared for all eventualities, didn’t you, darling?”

“The headboard is too flimsy,” Arthur said. “Put on your pants and then cuff yourself to the radiator.” Eames looked over at the old-fashioned, metal radiator under the window and nodded. Arthur kept the gun trained on him while he pulled his underwear and pants on and then locked one cuff around his thick wrist and the other around a solid metal bracket in the wall. Once satisfied that Eames was secure, Arthur holstered his gun and sat on the edge of the bed, facing him.

The power reversal was not lost on Eames. Here he was, the Alpha, half naked and sitting on the floor, looking up at the Omega who had effectively caught him. It was a reversal of what traditionalists would call ‘the natural order.’ Eames found himself getting even harder in his pants.

“I wouldn’t give up my work, even if I don’t stay with Cobb,” Arthur started.

“I wouldn’t ask you to,” Eames replied, meaning it.

“Oh really? And if I was in danger? If I was threatened, or pursued by another Alpha because of a job, what then?”

Eames was glad that Arthur had chosen to sit on the bed. As he watched, Eames could see him unconsciously stroking his fingers over the bedspread where the Alpha had been lying, blending their scents. The longer he sat there, warm and safe and comfortable, drenched in Eames scent, the more likely he would be to agree to trying to live as mates. Eames really hoped that he smelled as good to Arthur as the Omega did to him. He settled in more comfortably next to the radiator, his back against the wall, his posture open and relaxed. Non-threatening.

“I have a feeling you can handle pretty much anything, darling.”

“Oh really.”

“Let’s consider the evidence, shall we?” Eames purred, watching Arthur continue to meld their scents with his fingertips. “How about the fact that you found me, almost instantly, without Cobb’s help? That you’ve resisted my pheromones long enough to have this conversation without mating me or killing me, or that you have an Alpha weighing a good deal more than you handcuffed to a radiator while you get to sit in his bed.”

Arthur bolted up, swinging to look at the bed like it had bit him. “God fucking dammit, ” he exclaimed, his eyes huge.

“Yeah,” Eames agreed. “That’s the only thing I’ve seen you do without one hundred percent control so far.”

Arthur turned toward him, his hands clenching and unclenching as if he could feel Eames’ pheromones clinging to his fingertips. In a flash, his gun was out and he was aiming for the Alpha’s head. “You’re a weakness,” he said, stone cold. Eames’ heart dropped into his stomach.

“I don’t have to be, Arthur,” Eames told him gently. “I could be a strength, a resource. It only feels like a weakness now because you want me but you haven’t claimed me yet.”

Arthur snorted, his hands at last beginning to tremble. “Don’t you have that backwards?” he asked, spite in his voice. “Aren’t you supposed to be the one claiming me? You’re little Omega?”

Eames gave him a soft smile. “I’m not going to lie, Arthur. I want you. I want to put my mark on you. But I want your mark too. Fair's fair, aye?” He could envision it, his own uneven ring of teeth marks on Arthur’s smooth throat, the perfectly symmetrical arch on his own skin.

Arthur seemed to be considering it too. He had drifted closer, the gun no longer trained for a kill shot. He was breathing faster, his chest rising and falling under his shirt, unintentionally getting more of Eames into his system.

Frustrated, Arthur holstered his gun and hung it well out of Eames’ reach over the back of a chair. “God dammit,” he hissed. He looked reproachfully at the Alpha. “God damn you Eames. You kept me talking for too long and now I’m compromised.”

Eames gave a small shrug of apology, smiling hopefully up at the perfect Omega. If he could pick anyone out of a lineup, it would have been Arthur. Eames knew it. Even if he ended up killing him after all, Eames believed it would be worth it for the chance. He was so stupidly gone on this man.

The next thing he knew, he had a lapful of slim, deadly Omega. His free arm went around Arthur, holding him steady, as the smaller man’s knees hugged tight to his hips. Arthur’s face was even more lovely up close, his skin pale and flawless, his eyes mesmerizingly dark. Forgetting he was chained, Eames tried to reach up and stroke through Arthur’s gelled hair. His arm snapped to a halt and Eames groaned in frustration. Arthur just smiled and leaned in to kiss him. Right before their lips met, Arthur stopped and cocked a brow.

“You’re mine from now on,” Arthur whispered.

Eames was slightly ashamed for himself for how quickly he murmured, “Yes.”

“You belong to me,” Arthur insisted, his hands trailing up Eames’ chest.

“Yes, Omega,” Eames said. It felt natural saying it to Arthur, especially with the way he smiled back at him.

“Such a good little Alpha,” Arthur crooned, finally bringing their mouths together.

Their clothes ended up in piles on the carpet and thrown over the radiator. Mostly they were Arthur’s, as Eames had been shirtless going in, and only had briefs and pants to worry about. Arthur wasted no time getting Eames on his back, the arm captured in the metal cuff stretched out along the floor, the other on Arthur’s waist until the Omega grabbed it and pinned it by his head.

Arthur hadn’t stopped licking at Eames’ mating gland since he’d pinned him, and by the time Arthur reached back and grabbed Eames’ throbbing prick and sank down on it, the Alpha was sobbing and begging for release. Arthur didn’t hold back, riding him hard and humming his pleasure as Eames lost his mind, trying to thrust up but finding himself held down as Arthur hooked his feet over the tops of the Alpha’s thighs and used his weight as leverage to keep his hips immobile while Arthur rose and fell to his own rhythm.

Eames started crying out, a long desperate moan, seeming to reach his peak, and then reach it again, the tension mounting rather than lessening until he was screaming as much from agony as from pleasure. He felt his knot swell, for the first time to be locked inside another body as a claim, though he knew full well that it was Arthur claiming him and not the other way around. The knot caught and Arthur bit down on the swollen gland in Eames’ neck and he finally started truly coming, emptying into his mate.

He gasped for breath, tears combining with sweat to run down his overheated face and drop onto the carpet. He spasmed and shivered as he kept coming, Arthur clenching down on his knot ruthlessly while he lapped at the claiming bite, licking up blood and the sweet nectar of his swollen Alpha gland, a substance said to be like a drug to one’s mate. Arthur certainly seemed to like it, nibbling the swell of skin to encourage more to leak out, only to lick it away with slow, hot swipes.

He pulled up after a bit to look down at the man beneath him. Eames gazed up at him from the carpet, still shaking, burning and freezing from everything that was happening inside his body- all the chemical changes in addition to the physical strain of the first mating with his Omega.

“Beautiful,” Arthur breathed, running a hand down Eames’ flank before bending down to kiss him. “Now let me get you out of those handcuffs, and during the next round, you can give me my bite. What do you say, darling?”

Eames, trembling and flushed, could only nod up at his Omega.