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The original plan was for Stiles to take a break.

The timing was perfect. He'd finished up the last book of his current contract, and by the time it was published he'd be nursing the new baby anyway, so no book tour; he'd just do his interviews from home. Not that the press clamored, but there was always public radio, mystery fan sites, that sort of thing. And once he was untethered from the currently-cooking baby, he'd do a mini-tour of mystery bookstores. Even though they didn't account for much of his sales these days, he just liked supporting them, especially since they'd championed him back when he was starting out.

This pregnancy was already taking a little more out of Stiles than his previous ones; he'd written through all of those, worked on the book that won him the Edgar while he was carrying Lizzie. But this time, well, he was glad he'd delivered the manuscript before his heat, because it had been a struggle to get through his editor's comments a month later, and he'd had to resort to dictating to Derek and letting him make sense of the prose. Good thing his alpha had been an English major.

For now, though, he was looking forward to being a house omega, spending time with the kids they already had and oh, that's right, his alpha. He finally had that nesting urge that Derek had had to have for him the last three times they'd done this. He wanted to bake and take the kids to the park and hang out with his dad and visit with the other omegas at his kids' playgroups. Be a traditional omega, instead of saying, "Sorry, gotta run; my detectives just discovered the second decapitated body and I need to describe the crime scene while it's still fresh in my mind."

He was overwhelmed by baby feelings, was the thing, and like everything else about building this family, he was just going to go with his instincts and see where they got him.

Of course, all great plans. Because Stiles was all of three weeks into his sabbatical when two things happened.

First, there was his monthly video chat with Erica and Isaac, where they sat around talking about all things omega, which was conveniently scheduled for when Derek was at his monthly book club meeting, and the kids were in bed.

"So, it's two months after our heats," Isaac asked. "Did he knock you up?" The three of them had synced up their heat cycles in high school and never fell out; Stiles assumed they'd just imprinted like ducks or something.

Stiles couldn't help grinning, and leaned back, smug, his hands behind his head. "I think we've established that my alpha ain't shooting blanks."

"That isn't even news at this point," Erica said. "This, on the other hand ..." She held up a pregnancy test, cackling.

"Are you serious?" Stiles asked, sitting up. "That's fantastic!"

Isaac shook his head. "Leave it to you two to perfectly plan your first child."

"Whatever Lydia wants, Lydia gets," Erica said. "So I'm counting on you, Stiles, to be my pregnancy sensei. Your father was helpful. My father is completely useless."

"Um, sure," Stiles said. "I mean, aren't there books and web sites and things?"

"Have you looked at them?" she asked. "They're so normative."

"Fifty-cent word alert," Isaac said.

"Shut up! I'm an academic mate."

"Yeah, that word didn't come from the math department," Isaac said. "But you're right. Boyd and I, we've been … starting to think about it? But it's like no matter how unconventional you've been all along, people expect you to slip right into those old roles when you have the kids, as though it's better for them."

"Which is why I want your advice, Stiles," Erica said. "You haven't caved, and you've got a kid in school."

"I guess that's true," Stiles said, scratching his chin thoughtfully.

"Dude," Isaac said, "why are you even hesitating? You love telling people what to do. You should probably like, write a book about it or something."

"Ooh, yes," Erica said. "You totally should."

"I don't know about that," Stiles replied. "But of course you can hit me up whenever you want. Both of you."

The conversation moved on after that, to other life updates, gossip about their friends and bitching about their enemies, mainly whoever had given them shit lately for being willful omegas. It wasn't a daily occurrence but it happened often enough that it was good to have a place to talk about it with people who understood, didn't have to translate or empathize, not to mention not wanting to set off the protective instincts of their alphas.

But even after the call, after Derek was back home, after they were in bed, Stiles couldn't quite process that someone actually sought out his advice rather than grudgingly listening to it—and that she wanted it about pregnancy of all things. Sure, in the last six years he'd become That Omega Who's Always Pregnant or Nursing but he didn't think of himself as that; he thought of himself as a writer who had a bunch of kids.

It was weird.

The second thing happened a week after that, when Scott and Allison were in town for the weekend. Scott came by on Saturday, when Derek was working, and they went out into the woods with the kids for a picnic. Which, Scott had always been a gleeful uncle but sharing kid duty during a meal was a lot.

And then, while the kids were chasing each other to run off some of the sugar they'd just consumed, Scott explained it all in one breath.

"So Allison and I are pregnant," he said. "Both of us, I mean. Like we'd hoped. Our due date is the same day."

Stiles just stared, and then he smiled and patted Scott on the back. "Congrats, dude! This is—this is so great!"

"Yeah, we can do this together!" Scott said. "Pregnant bros!"

"Pregnant bros!"

"I'll need your help anyway. You've done this before. Mom will help and she's great and all? But you, dude. Me and you, and Allison. Oh, and Erica—you know about that, too, right? Lydia called Allison last week."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Stiles said. "Yeah, I know. Isaac thinks I should write a pregnancy guide for people who aren't really into doing the traditional status role thing."

"Oh my god you totally should!" Scott shouted, loud enough that the kids paused in their frantic activity and looked over.

"Don't worry," Stiles called to them. "Uncle Scott just got excited."

Which of course was the cue for them to come running back over onto the blanket, and tackle both Scott and Stiles from their kneeling positions. Abby led the charge because she was the oldest, an alpha, and in kindergarten, which meant she thought herself very grown up at all times. Lizzie wasn't far behind, and Stiles gave her to Scott so he could scoop up little Ellie who had stubbornly been doing her best to walk-crawl on her little round toddler legs.

"I can!" Ellie insisted, as usual.

"I know you can, but we all need help sometimes," Stiles replied, as usual.

Abby, meanwhile, was asking, "Why are you excited, Uncle Scott?"

"Why? Why?" Lizzie added, because she was three, and Stiles was convinced she'd regressed and "why" was now the only word she knew.

Scott looked at Stiles, who nodded, and then he said, "You know how your Papa has a new baby growing inside him? Well, Aunt Allison and I both have babies growing inside of us. That's why I'm excited."

Lizzie said, "Baby!" and patted Scott's stomach, then bounced up and down with her excitement. Like her Uncle Scott before her, she was a baby-obsessed little beta. Her baby doll was her favorite toy, when she wasn't treating her younger sister like one.

Said younger sister had already lost interest in the conversation and was squirming out of Stiles's grasp, so he kept an eye on her lest she crawl away from their blanket.

But Abby's little brow was furrowed, making her look even more like her Dad. "You're mates," she said, "and you can both have babies?"

"We're betas," Scott said. "So we can have babies with each other."

"Remember, betas don't have to be like alphas and omegas, where one has the baby and one doesn't," Stiles said. "They can be however they are. And alphas and omegas can be however we are, too, no matter who's having the babies."

"But Daddy can't have babies," Abby said.

"Poor Daddy," Lizzie said. "I can have babies like Papa."

"Not yet, I hope," Stiles said.

"I can't have babies," Abby said.

"No, but you can make them with your mate, if you both decide you want them," Stiles said. "Like Daddy does with me."

"Okay," Abby said, and that, thankfully, satisfied her.

"Wow," Scott said.

"What?" Stiles replied, getting up to keep Ellie from making too much of an escape.

"You really should write the book, dude," he said.

Stiles thought about that and oddly, his head didn't feel like it was stuffed with cotton. He could already see things that he might say and use, and ways he might put it together. "Yeah," he said. "Maybe I should."

Stiles gave it a few days. He'd published six books by now; he knew what it was to have a project seem promising only to fall apart later. But bits kept flying in and sticking, like that katamari game, the idea growing bigger every day.

So he said to Derek, one night after they'd put the kids to bed, "Scott and Erica and Isaac think I should write a pregnancy guide. You know, one that isn't gross and kind of statusist."

"You'd be good for it," Derek said. "You know how to be pregnant, at least."

Stiles stuck out his tongue. "It's just, I know we talked about my taking a sabbatical."

"You talked about it," Derek said. "I said I'd support whatever you want to do."

"You wouldn't be disappointed?" he asked.

Derek shrugged. "I figured you'd get bored and come up with some project sooner or later," he said.

"Oh," Stiles said.

"The kids are fine in daycare, and we mostly live on what I make," Derek continued. "You should do as you please. You seemed worn down by the mysteries, but maybe this would energize you again."

"Maybe," Stiles said, then sighed.

"What?" Derek asked.

"You know I don't like it when you know what I'm doing before I do," Stiles said.

"I know," Derek said, mildly. "Makes things easier, though." He put his hand on Stiles's thigh. "I can help you with the proposal."

"No," Stiles said. "You said we're okay right now, so let me just write what I want to write, see what happens."

"All right," Derek said. "So, can we go to bed now?"

Stiles shook his head. "You get so handsy when I'm pregnant."

"You love it," Derek replied.

"Yeah," Stiles said, leaning in for a kiss. "I do."

Making the Decision

You may think the process starts when you see the plus sign on that drug store test, or even when you stop using birth control, but actually it starts much, much sooner, with the conversation you and your mate have about if and when to procreate. It might seem early, but discussing how parenting duties would be split up now is better than having a fight at 2am while the baby is crying and you're both exhausted. (It may well happen anyway, but not every time.) Society puts pressure on all of us to live up to status and gender roles, especially as parents, and especially those of us for whom those roles are a bad fit. So even if you've been pushing back until now, you're going to need to figure out how to continue if you want to be that example for your kids when they're five, seven, ten—never mind sixteen and getting ready for mating. So be honest with your mate and yourself; it saves a lot of trouble later.

But it's never too late to go back and have that conversation.

Stiles just stared at the contract on the table. He'd written the first book on a whim senior year of college, wanting to make something out of the criminology degree he was earning but was realizing more and more that he didn't want to actually use. Scott had been talking about uneven media representation of betas and omegas and Stiles thought this was something small he could do, was even uniquely qualified to do. And that was how he created the dynamic duo of Dylan and Tyler, the omega and beta detective partners who got harassed and hassled plenty but also had the highest case solve rate in Brooklyn. He sent the manuscript to a few agents but didn't have high hopes for it, figured the content would make it a self-published direct-to-ebook sort of thing.

Instead he had two agents fighting over him, and the one he settled on got him a two-book deal, with an option for a third. The book got popular beyond beta and omega activist circles, too, even became a pick for best new mystery novel of the year in a few places. Stiles went out and worked those mystery fans when the second book came out, and by the time the third book was published he was being sold in the big chains. He had a website and fans and enough money coming in that he could keep a roof over their heads while Derek went to architecture school.

Now they were back in Beacon Hills, Derek had a good job with a local residential firm doing renovation jobs and trying to keep the local McMansions from being too terrible, and Stiles was looking at a future with an actual writing career. So of course he had to open his big mouth.

"I guess we can start in on that big family you wanted," he said.

Derek, who was making some kind of pasta thing for dinner, turned to him, eyebrows raised. "What makes you say that?" he asked.

"Oh, well, I figure, I can be home with the kids and write whenever—"

"No," Derek said.

"No?" Stiles asked.

"I thought I could drop to part time, maybe," Derek said. "Take fewer projects while they're little. So you can write."

"So what you're telling me is that we both thought we'd be home with all these kids we were planning on having."

Derek didn't answer immediately, which was typical. Instead he drained the pasta, slipped it into the pan, and began tossing it with the sauce he'd made. "I guess," he said.

Stiles didn't reply. He set the contract aside, poured each of them a glass of wine, put the small salad he'd made on the table. Derek dished them each some pasta, and they sat down to eat.

But first Stiles said, "We're going to have to talk about this. And I mean actually talk, like, with you using your words."

Derek stuck out his tongue, and Stiles replied in kind.

"After dinner?" Derek asked, and Stiles nodded.

Then, when Stiles got up to get them each seconds, Derek said, "Maybe if we put them in daycare they'll have a chance of being socially well-adjusted."

"You mean, unlike their parents?" Stiles asked.

Derek shrugged.

"After dinner," Stiles said, and set the plates down on the table.

A week later Stiles had lunch with his dad, who seemed startled by his news.

"Six kids?"

"Okay, you've said that three times, like the number is going to change," Stiles said. "Six kids, and then we'll revisit, see if we want to keep going."

"And you'll still write?"

"We're researching daycare places right now," Stiles said. "Maybe we'll get a nanny at some point."

"Maybe two," John said.

"Two nannies?" Stiles asked. "Really?"

"Are you sure you know what you're getting into?"

"I'm pretty sure we don't," Stiles replied, "but neither does anyone else. Is that why you look pale?"

"I just keep picturing six kids just like you running around in one house," he said.

"Ha ha," Stiles said, very much not amused. "They'll have Hale genes too, you know."

"That doesn't make me feel all that much better," John replied.

"But you'll help?" Stiles asked. "Because other than Laura you're the only family we've got."

"Oh, kiddo," he said, shaking his head. "You don't even have to ask."

"Do you want to have a baby?" Scott asked.

Allison didn't look up from her tablet. "Of course I do," she said. "I'm mated to you, aren't I?"

"No, I mean, do you want to have a baby?" he said. "Because you know I do, but that doesn't mean you can't, too."

"Oh," Allison said. "Well. I never thought about it."

"Those betas in Florida, the chef and her mate? They were pregnant at the same time and had their babies this week." Scott paused. "I just thought, that could be really fun, if you wanted to. Since we've been talking about now being a good time."

"Now is a good time," Allison said, because it was—another three years until the next Olympics, whether she went as athlete or coach. Scott's PAC was running just fine, too, and while there was always work to be done, he had a good team of people in place to keep it going in his absence.

"Well, it's fine if you don't want to, because Stiles can always be my pregnancy bro. But, think about it?" Scott said.

"I will," she replied.

"Cool," he said, smiling, then went back to his work.

Allison had always been more than a little wary of pregnancy, to be honest. Having her body doing things that she wasn't controlling was the opposite of anything that made her happy. She'd always been more than a little relieved that Scott was not only happy to carry their children, but was eager to do it, had dreamed of being pregnant since he was a small child.

So she called Stiles, whom she could count on to not wax poetic, and he didn't. He said that he'd probably never have a flat stomach again, but also he wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world. And he talked about making the process your own, not caving into stereotypes even if there were a lot of them to push back against. But then, he was an omega; he'd known he'd be the one doing the baby carrying since he was tiny. Then he gave Allison an out, just as Scott had, insisting that Derek was just as bonded to their children as he was. Which was true; she'd seen that with her own eyes. Talking to Stiles didn't decide anything for her, but it helped her feel like it was her decision to make.

One day about a week into "thinking about it" she was finishing up with her workout when she walked past the yoga studio and saw a room full of pregnant omegas and betas going through some modified poses. Not that she found the pregnant body unattractive at all; she had always looked forward to Scott's eventual pregnancy because she knew he'd be one of those gorgeous earth-mother types. Even pale, awkward Stiles had gotten that legendary glow.

But these omegas and betas, they were strong. They might not have complete control over how their bodies were changing, but they clearly were clinging to what control they did have, and adapting to what they didn't. Allison stood and watched, but it wasn't until they started walking out of the class that she felt a little creepy and high-tailed it to the beta locker room.

The pregnant betas came in soon after that, laughing with each other and looking flushed after their workout. And in that moment, somehow, her mind flipped the idea from being frightening, that literally another being was living off her and taking over parts of her body, to a physical, mental and emotional challenge. It was as though the strength of those pregnant betas was saying, "We dare you."

And Allison Argent had never backed down from a dare.

That night when she came home, she went directly to the couch and sat down not next to Scott but in his lap, picking the tablet out of his hands and setting it aside.

"What's going on?" he asked. "Not that I mind, but—"

"I'm in," she said. "Let's do this. Together."

He grinned, and she wasn't sure she'd ever seen him so happy and excited. "Fuck yeah we're going to do this," he said, and pulled her into a kiss.

Lydia walked home from the department meeting on autopilot, distracted. Not that she hadn't done this a time or two before, particularly when she was working on a book or article; among her students she was apparently notorious for not acknowledging them as they walked past her. This time, though, the problem was of a very different sort.

Once home she went directly into Erica's office and announced, "I just don't want to be that kind of alpha parent."

Erica set down the novel she was translating. "Okay?" she asked. "Wasn't the meeting today? Are you going to tell me what they said?"

Lydia sat down in the spare chair. "Of course I got tenure; how could I not." She waved off the question. "And we agreed we'd start a family as soon as that happened."

"We did," Erica said. "My heat is in three months."

"I was thinking. Well, I've been thinking. And I don't want to be like my colleagues. I don't want to be that alpha who refers to the rare afternoon of looking after their children as 'babysitting.' I might be working quite a lot but I want to be honestly involved, and feed them and change diapers and get up in the middle of the night and hold them when they have nightmares and have to change my suit because they got it all sticky from their fingers." She paused. "That's what I want."

Erica had that look on her face, like she did when she was humoring Lydia, or just was waiting for her to stop pitching a fit long enough to fix things. "You've never said that before."

"I've never felt this before," Lydia admitted. She opened her mouth, thought better, and tried again. "Sometimes someone will bring a child into the office and I just find them mildly puzzling."

"You like Abby well enough," Erica pointed out.

Lydia nodded, because she did dote on Stiles and Derek's oldest; how could she not? "She's got a good mind. She makes sense."

"Our children will make sense, Lydia," Erica said. "It isn't as though we get them when they're eight and fully formed. Also they'll be our children."

She sighed and put her head in her hands. "It was different in the abstract," she said. "Is this a problem?"

"No," Erica said. "I figured, especially seeing you with Abby, that you'd warm to it eventually. Maybe after they were born, or started talking or walking, but at least by the time they got to school. As usual, though, you worked it out ahead of schedule."

"You have a very short attention span," Lydia said. "I have to do something to keep you interested."

"All you really have to do is wear short shorts more often," Erica said, grinning.

"I thought you loved me for my brain," Lydia said.

"It's the combination," Erica said. "You in some lacy lingerie, telling me about your new article while your ovi pushes against the front of your alpha panties, now that makes me want to spread my legs."

"Thirty years old and still so vulgar," Lydia said, shaking her head. "You'll have to stop once the kids come."

"In front of them," Erica said, grinning and unrepentant. "But don't you think you should take advantage in the meantime?"

"Maybe so," Lydia said.

"Because I think newly tenured professors of mathematics deserve a celebration fuck, don't you?" she asked. She stood, shaking her long blond hair out of its bun as she did so, and walked out of the room.

Lydia did not take long to follow.

The Shock of Going Drug Free

If you're an omega or an alpha, you've probably been on contraception from before your first heat or rut until the moment you decided you were ready to conceive. If you're a beta you may have decided to take conception boosters to make the process easier. Or maybe you've been on general heat or rut suppressants, and now you're going off them to take advantage of your biology. You've heard all those old stories about dangerously out of control alphas and whimpering omegas, or the new stories about previously-frigid betas learning to love "real" sex for the first time, and dismissed them all as statusist nonsense. And you're totally right.

But that doesn't mean that drug-free heat sex or enhanced beta sex is exactly the same as the sex you're having now. Those differences vary for everyone, but broadly speaking it's a little more urgent, more frequent, more long-lasting. Which is the entire point, if you think about it.

You might find yourself getting much closer to stereotypes than you're used to, especially if you've been fighting against them all your life. And my advice, honestly, is to put all the meta and politics out of your mind, create a safe space with your mate, and do whatever feels good to you. It's a week, and no one else is watching. You might feel a little out of control, relative to what you're used to, but in that aspect the old tales are wrong. Your mind is still there, and you can still discuss with your mate exactly where your boundaries are.

Never mind, of course, that even if you acted like the total stereotypical alpha, beta or omega 24/7 you wouldn't be letting down the cause if that's what feels good to you. I figure, if I've gotten into the middle of the mattress on all fours with my soaking wet ass in the air, ready to beg my alpha to mount me except I didn't have to because he was already humping the air as he climbed up on the bed behind me, that's nobody's business but our own. And I still have the same politics once I've left the bedroom.

Not that anything like that ever happened, of course.

"Oh my god."

Scott, who was standing in the kitchen in his underwear heating up soup, turned to Allison. "What?"

"It's out again already," she said, pointing at the bulge her ovi was making in her panties. She wasn't wearing anything else, either; they'd just had sex and a nap and were taking a break before starting again.

"Good thing you got those alpha-style panties, huh?" he said, grinning. "Were you thinking thoughts?"

Allison frowned. She hadn't thought she was, but. "I was looking at your shoulders," she replied with a shrug.

Scott raised his eyebrows. "My shoulders never had that effect before," he said.

"Shut up," Allison said, feeling suddenly embarrassed.

"No!" Scott said, putting a hand on her arm. "No, I just meant, the hormones must be working, right?"

She took a deep breath, feeling shaky and more than a little out of her depth. "Yeah, you're right."

"So I can turn off the stove," he said, doing so, "and put a lid on this, and we can go see what happens?"

Allison nodded, and followed him out of the kitchen. She was trying not to feel quite so self-conscious; she'd certainly never been shy about sex before, asking for it or being asked for it or any of it. She and Scott had plenty of sex, thank you very much, and not just "for betas" but for anyone who wasn't currently in heat. But this was different. She was wet, her ovi was out, and she felt empty and craving. When she'd been looking at Scott, his back to her as he cooked, she'd been trying not to look at his ass, not think about how much she wanted to fuck him, but only ended up thinking about grabbing a hold of those shoulders while she eased her ovi into him.

Sex was all she could think about, and it was freaking her out. Lydia had said to just give in, that it was completely normal, but she was an alpha and Allison wasn't close enough any other betas who'd taken the hormone boosters to talk about this part of it.

"Hey," Scott said. "You know it's just me, right? And I've been wet all day, and I'm still wet even though we fucked an hour ago, and I'm getting harder just standing here looking at you in those panties. I'm a little jittery when we're not touching, and I keep thinking that maybe we can try that thing we saw in that porno where we fuck each other at the same time? If you're with me?"

"Jesus," Allison said, and she could feel herself falling toward him, giving into it. "If I stop fighting—"

"If we both stop fighting it, I think we'll be okay," he said.

"Good, because I can't anymore," she said. She pulled him toward her by those fine shoulders she'd been eyeing, and they kissed, sloppy and wet. Her hands went directly to his ass, while his went straight to the front of her panties and grabbed her ovi through the fabric.

"Fuck," he muttered. "Even when we're not—we need to keep these because seeing you in them, filling them out? So fucking hot."

"Yeah?" she asked.

He nodded, and then he just dropped to his knees and put his mouth on her ovi, kissing along the bright blue cotton. He put one hand between her legs, feeling how wet she was, while he rubbed against his cock with the heel of his other hand.

She clung to his shoulders to keep her balance but it was a losing proposition. "Bed," she said. "Now."

He looked up at her, grinning wickedly, then took the waistband of her panties between his teeth and pulled them down. Her ovi emerged, seeking him out almost independently of her, and he gave a kiss to the tapered tip. Then he pushed her panties off entirely, and shed his own briefs as he stood.

"In the movie he was sitting," Scott said. "So I'll …?"

"Go, sit," Allison said, waving with her hand. "I'll get on top of you."

He did, leaning his back against the headboard, and she did, holding onto his shoulders and pulling her ovi out of his way to sit down, directly and unceremoniously, on his cock.

"Holy crap," he said, somehow scowling and groaning at the same time. "Warn a dude, wouldya?"

"No," she said, leaning forward. "Tip up your hips."

Her ovi was behind his cock and she was reaching back and down, past his balls, to where she knew there was an open, wet hole waiting for her to fill it. But they had to line up just … so. She was in, and she shuddered and bit her lip.

"Kinda … overwhelming," Scott said.

"Yeah," Allison said, nodding.

"How—how did they move without—"

"I think we'd stopped paying attention to the movie by that point," she replied, trying not to giggle and lose their position.

Scott scowled in concentration, and she could almost sense him feeling out the situation. "Maybe if we rock?" he said. He pulled up his legs so she was resting against his thighs. "Pull up and back, off me and into me?"

She did, slowly and carefully, finding the right angle for both of those things to happen, which meant pushing against the bed with her legs and back into his legs. Then he pushed back and she crunched her stomach, pulling his cock into her.

"Wow, it works," she said.

Another few slow, careful moves and then their bodies took over, rocking back and forth harder and harder, and she had to hold on tight to his arms and shoulders. It should have been too much to look at each other, faces only a few inches apart, but it felt necessary, the thing that kept them from being just bodies sliding into each other. That kept this from being just about breeding, hormones notwithstanding.

"Close?' Scott whispered.

"Uh-huh," Allison said, nodding. "Just go."

He clutched her tight and they stopped moving, just strained to push as deep as they could, and when he came he clenched down on her ovi, making her come as well. She collapsed on top of him, but it was only for a moment.

"The things," Scott said. "We need the things."

Allison really didn't want to move, but Scott's cock had already slipped out of her, and her ovi was making a fast retreat back inside her, so time was of the essence. She reached for the freshly washed cloacal plugs on the nightstand, handing the blue one to Scott before flipping off him and onto her back.

"It's like sex sex sex, and then it's all clinical," Scott said, keeping his hips tipped up, his legs bent with his feet flat on the bed, just like the doctor told them to.

Allison assumed the same position. "Alphas and omegas talk to each other when they're knotted," she said.

"Alphas and omegas are fused together," Scott said, but he put his arm around her and pulled her close.

She wrapped one ankle around his and slid her hand behind the small of his back. "This isn't so bad, really."

"Guess not," Scott said. "Anyway they can't do what we just did."

"I didn't know we could do what we just did," she said, giggling.

"We should have that soup, after," he said. "I'm ready for some soup."

"Yeah," she said, nuzzling closer. "Soup sounds good."

"Oh my god," Lydia said, slumping against the inside of her front door and letting her bags fall to the floor, because it had been a day, and it was her own fault. She knew she should have listened to Derek, but she was feeling stubborn and independent and why should he know better than she how her own body would react to being contraceptive-free? So, as she always had, she taught right up to the day before Erica's heat.

This was, she could see now, a mistake. Her ovi had come out around noontime and stayed out for the rest of the day; she felt like a teenager. She could just about concentrate enough to teach, but she cancelled her office hours knowing they'd be hopeless and came straight home. All she could think of was getting home to take care of her omega.

Not that Erica wasn't entirely capable of taking care of herself, but that's instinct for you.

"Sweetie?" Lydia called out. "I'm home early." She walked further into the apartment, and it was then she could hear the shower running. Which further frustrated her, as there was only one reason Erica would be in the shower at two in the afternoon.

Sure enough, she opened the bathroom door to see Erica kneeling in the tub under a spray of cold water, naked, hair wet. Water streamed down her face as she looked up at Lydia.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I tried to wait." She was trembling, but Lydia couldn't tell if it was from the chill of the water, or her unsatisfied heat.

"I know, sweetie. It's okay." Lydia turned off the shower and grabbed a towel from the nearby hook.

"No, but," Erica began, and then Lydia realized that in her hand was a dildo with a large knot at the end.

Lydia could feel the hormones surging in her body in reaction to that sight, but rut or no rut she was not going to be jealous of a dildo. She just breathed deeply and bunched the terrycloth in her fists. "Just leave it in the tub. Come on, let's dry off."

Erica did as she was told, stepping onto the bath mat. "You're upset."

"Only with myself," Lydia said, throwing the towel around Erica's shoulders and then getting another for her hair. "I should have been here for you."

"You're here now," Erica said, smiling a little. "I'm okay, just drippy."

"Let's get you warm and dry," Lydia said.

"Well, not too dry," Erica said, grinning, and wrapped the smaller towel around her hair.

Which meant Erica was back to herself, and Lydia felt that way too, now that she was close enough to smell her, take care of her, be grounded by her. "Someone's feeling better," she said.

"And someone's got too many clothes on," Erica said, raising an eyebrow. "How can you fill me up when you're wearing all these clothes?"

"Is that what you want?" Lydia asked, as she kicked off her heels and slipped out of her jacket. "You want that hole filled up?"

"I want you to breed me," Erica said. "Literally, this time." She unbuttoned Lydia's blouse, pushing it off her shoulders. Then Erica knelt down and unzipped her skirt.Lydia made quick work of her bra, and then Erica helped her out of her panties. Her ovi curved up next to her body, exposed.

Lydia pulled Erica to her feet. "Bedroom," she said.

Erica trotted smartly ahead of her, casting aside the towel before flinging herself down on the bed. She posed, saucily, one hand cradling her head and the other on her hip. "How do you want me?"

Lydia cocked her head. "However you like, as long as those legs are spread wide open," she said.

Erica rolled onto her back and put one hand behind each knee. "My favorite," she said.

Lydia knelt on the bed between Erica's legs. "Because you don't have to do any of the work," she said, running her fingers over Erica's wetness.

"Promise I'll ride you in the chair next if you don't tease me," she said.

Lydia pouted. "You don't want to beg for it?" she asked, but she was lining up her ovi. "You were such a desperate thing in the shower before."

Erica looked up at her, expression soft. "You weren't here," she said.

She felt the surge of her rut again, and had to kiss Erica, hard and demanding, before pushing her ovi into her pliant, needy girl. Erica moaned, and Lydia looked up at her, grinning. "Like that?"

"You know I do," Erica replied, her eyes half closed.

Lydia reached up to kiss her again, quick, then said, "Tell me."

Erica swallowed, hard. "Tell you how big and fat you are in me?"

Nodding, Lydia put her hands on Erica's splayed thighs. "More."

Freed from having to hold her legs open, Erica's hands found their way to Lydia's shoulders, as they so often did. "How you fuck me so good? So hard and … oh … so deep? So deep, honey."

"So wet," Lydia said.

"So wet for you, yeah," Erica agreed. "So wet for my pretty alpha and her ovi. Want it so much."

Lydia thrust strong and deep, like Erica liked it. "Couldn't wait, could you?"

"No, couldn't wait for this," Erica said, pushing back at Lydia and squeezing hard around Lydia's ovi. "Couldn't stop thinking about it. Made me so crazy."

"I couldn't stop thinking about you either," Lydia said.

"Couldn't wait for you to fill me with your come and your knot."

"Are you ready for it, sweetie?" Lydia asked.

Erica nodded vigorously. "Knot me, honey. Breed your omega."

"Fuck," Lydia said, and stopped thrusting. She caught her breath and focused, because she could do it just by feel and stay inside Erica. She pulled up the end of her ovi, curving it around itself until it formed a loop, then pushed the end through. The perfect knot was tight enough to hold her come inside Erica, but not so tight that she couldn't come at all, and took some practice, but Erica had always been a willing subject.

"Oh," Erica said, tensing. "So big in me."

"You love it," Lydia said, and slid the bulge of the knot carefully against Erica's secret little spot.

Erica twitched beneath her. "Like that, fuck," she said. "Come in me."

"Want you to come first," Lydia said. "You were trying so hard, waiting so patiently, poor little sweetie. You needed it so bad."

"Need to be full all—all the time," Erica said, clenching around Lydia's knot. "Fuck, I'm gonna—" and then she was coming, moaning with it, head thrown back and eyes shut, and she was so beautiful.

"That's it, sweetie," Lydia said, moving about just a little, just to get that last bit of friction and then she was coming, too, the end of her ovi stiff and pulsing inside of Erica.

"Breed me," Erica whispered, and this time, Lydia truly was, and she felt a little overwhelmed with it. She put her head down on Erica's shoulder, felt Erica patting her back.

After a minute Lydia blinked and shook her head. The come had slowed, only a few last little pulses now. Erica had put her legs back on the bed but Lydia knew that while Erica loved Lydia on top for the fucking, the knotting was uncomfortable. So they rolled slowly onto their sides, Erica with one leg flung over Lydia's hip.

Erica was smiling, running a hand through Lydia's hair, and they kissed. "We're making a baby," she whispered.

"How about that," Lydia replied.

"Oh my god," Stiles said.

"You say that every time," Derek said, but he was panting, too. He couldn't fool Stiles.

"Oh my god I love your knot," Stiles elaborated.

Derek chuckled but whatever. He'd earned the right to be a little smug, and besides, the things he'd said while they were fucking led Stiles to feel pretty magnanimous.

They were slumped together in the mating chair Derek had built for them, which sat in the corner of their bedroom, right near the window to the back yard. When they weren't in heat it was covered with whatever they hadn't put away—laundry mostly, but also the occasional book. But now that it was uncovered and in all its glory, Stiles hated to leave it. Derek's knot had just gone down enough for them to separate, and Stiles felt full and warm and cozy. Maybe it was time for a nap.

Derek poked him in the thigh. "All right, up," he said. "Gotta change the cover and make sure our legs still work."

"No, why," Stiles said, but let Derek push him back onto the chaise portion of the chair and slip out from under him.

"Don't want you cramping up," Derek replied, and started to remove the washable cover from the back cushion. There was a waterproof lining under it, which at first had reminded Stiles of sheets for kids with wetting problems, but it was practical and meant the cover that was against their skin could be as soft as anything.

Stiles pouted. "At least a cuddle?"

"I'll cuddle you right into the washing machine if you don't get up," Derek said.

"You know what would be hot," Stiles said, sitting up. "It would be so hot to wake up to you already fucking me."

Derek raised his eyebrows. "That sounds kind of, what's that word you use? Unconsenty."

"What if I gave you my consent now? I mean, I'm giving you my consent now. It sort of—I just think it would be hot, you know, if you woke up before me and you were feeling frisky. Just for heat, of course, but—yeah."

Derek pursed his lips. "If I think about it, will you get up?"

Stiles grinned. "If I get up, will you think about it?"

Derek rolled his eyes, and then, in the alpha voice he rarely used, "Stiles. Now."

Stiles obeyed, mostly because he was in heat; otherwise that voice made him even more stubborn. But he had a lot of hormones racing through him at the moment, so that voice resonated in his chest, made him feel safe rather than ordered around. And anyway, he had told Derek after their first drug-free heat together that if he was going to end up so pathetically omega it was okay for Derek to be as ridiculously alpha as he wanted, because Stiles needed Derek to take care of him. And after some false starts on both of their parts Derek figured out how to do that and not feel like he was putting on an act, and Stiles figured out how to ask for what he needed when he actually needed it.

"Shouldn't I be laying on my back and getting your seed all up in my plumbing instead of letting it slide down my thighs like this?" Stiles asked.

Derek used the now-free cover to quickly clean himself and then ran it between Stiles's legs. "That's what the knotting is for," he said. "Now stop stalling. We're going downstairs to get some more water and put this in the laundry." He held out his hand.

Stiles took it, because he knew that being up and walking was better for his circulation and overall stamina, but he still really wanted to be cuddled up and sleeping. "If you could still lift me we could fuck against the wall and then we wouldn't have to worry about getting our legs moving."

"I can lift you just fine," Derek said.

"Really?" Stiles asked, because he was feeling bratty and insecure, and he just needed. "Because I remember when I had a flat stomach and you had bigger breasts than I did."

Derek didn't answer, which was infuriating, just led Stiles into the laundry room. Stiles hopped up on top of the dryer, but kept his legs swinging so he wouldn't get any comments from Derek about his circulation. He grabbed two water bottles from the multipacks they stored there, and watched as Derek put in the soap, the towels from their shower earlier, and the cushion covers they'd just brought downstairs.

Then Derek turned to him. "I like your tummy just fine," he said, rubbing it. Then he caressed the side of Stiles's left breast. "And you know how I feel about these. I'll miss them, when they're gone for good."

Which probably wasn't going to happen for some years to come; Stiles's pregnancies were too close together, and he usually nursed for six to nine months, so there was no time for them to go back down before they were filling up with milk again. Wearing a bra was pretty much part of his life now.

"I know," he said, because he did, but it was nice to hear.

"And I can definitely hold you up plenty long enough to fuck against the wall." Derek took his bottle, uncapped it, and took a good long drink.

Stiles scooted over to sit on top of the washer, because vibrations, and also he was getting turned on just watching Derek moving around. "You wanna prove it?" he asked.

"You're ready to go again?"

"I've been thinking about that whole sleeping thing," Stiles said. "Waking up and feeling your giant alpha cock in my ass, and squeezing down around it and hearing you moaning, on top of me or behind me or wherever. It's hot."

Derek drank more water. "I'm getting old, Stiles," he said. "I can't go so soon."

"Your cock is saying otherwise." Stiles smiled at him, and ran the back of his fingers along Derek's chest. "You're an alpha in rut. Every time you've been in rut it's because you smelled me. You can't resist me, not like this."

Derek was staring, his eyelids starting to fall, and he was leaning closer to Stiles, almost unconsciously. Stiles kept talking, watching as Derek's lips moved ever closer to his own.

"I'm sitting here thinking about you and watching you and I'm getting wetter and wetter, and pretty soon you're going to smell it and then you won't be able to help yourself." He kissed Derek then, soft and wet.

"Finish your water," Derek whispered against his lips, his voice soft. "You need hydration."

Stiles pulled back just enough to get the bottle to his lips, saw Derek watching his throat swallowing the water down. "Okay," he said.

Derek stepped between Stiles's legs, put his arms around his back, and Stiles wrapped his legs and arms around Derek. "You're my omega," Derek said. "Your heat is for me."

"Fuck yeah it is," Stiles said, grinning as Derek lifted him up easily.

Derek turned, putting Stiles's back against the laundry room wall. "Your ass was made for my cock," he said, and he wasn't playing fair now—he was saying the things that got to Stiles the most when he was in heat. But then, Stiles hadn't been playing fair earlier, himself.

"Fuck me, then, alpha," Stiles said. "Put that cock in my ass where it belongs."

"Tell me how you want it," Derek said.

"I want it so much, all the time," he begged. "Don't tease me, lovely. Please."

Derek took one hand to briefly line himself up and Stiles let go, sinking down onto Derek's cock and yeah, this was good, this was fantastic. They should do this every time they changed the cushion covers, like a reward for getting up.

"Good?" Derek asked, because under the alpha-in-rut he was still Derek.

"Do it," Stiles said, resting his head on Derek's shoulder. "Take me, right here."

And so he did, and all Stiles could think was that claiming Derek as his alpha was the smartest decision he had ever made.

Okay, Maybe a Little Sick

I've known people who breezed through their pregnancies without even a trace of heartburn, let alone morning sickness or sudden onset food sensitivities.

Of course these people are now dead to me.

As of this writing, I'm carrying our fourth child, and each of these four pregnancies has been different in terms of what foods were going to set me off, or which ones I've craved, so my advice is to keep a food diary, chart this stuff out, note where you might have some deficiencies, and account for them or just take a good multivitamin. If it starts being a lot, a nutritionist can help (I'm lucky that my stepmom's a nurse) but if you listen to your body and don't over think too much, it will probably tell you what it wants.

(Being really honest? I practically lived on mochi ice cream and gummy chewable vitamins during the first trimester of my second pregnancy. Lizzie's three and seems fine so far, so you really do have a lot of play here.)

Lydia hated big box stores. She hated the flat lighting and the giant carts and the overwhelming stench of late capitalism.

But Costco had Hostess snack cakes in giant packages, and really, once you're buying giant quantities of Hostess snack cakes it probably doesn't matter where you're buying them. Somehow Erica's stomach had decided that she was a seven-year-old in 1955, and wanted only peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches on white bread, carrot sticks, and Ho-hos. Well, sometimes Funny Bones or Ding Dongs, but mostly Ho-hos. They managed to get a high nutrition shake into her by finding the most chocolate-milk-tasting one on the market, and a case of those was sitting on the shelf on the underside of the cart.

Since the smell of the free samples had made Erica nauseous last time they were there, shopping was now Lydia's task. She approached it with as much efficiency as possible by going the moment they opened on Tuesday mornings, when she didn't have a class. She usually got in and out without speaking to anyone, but today apparently this wasn't going to be the case, as an elderly female omega saw her loading the megapack of Ho-hos onto the cart and stopped in her tracks.

"Isn't that refreshing," she said.

"I'm sorry?" Lydia asked, even though she knew full well what the woman meant.

"I could never get my alpha to do the shopping," she said, in that slightly condescending tone that implied that she wouldn't have trusted her alpha to do the shopping anyway.

"Well, we try to divide the tasks fairly, since she's working, too," Lydia said, smiling.

"And how old is your child?" she asked, looking at the Ho-hos in the cart.

"Negative twenty-nine weeks as of today," Lydia replied.

"Oh, I see," she said, though Lydia wasn't sure that she did.

Lydia shook the phone in her hand. "Oh, it's vibrating, so sorry," she lied. "I'll need to take this."

"Well, good luck," the omega said, and wandered off.

She speed dialed one of the few people she knew would be up this early, with whom she had traded texts the night before. "Why didn't you tell me this could happen?" she asked.

"It doesn't usually happen this early," Derek replied. "And honestly it isn't a big deal."

"Not a big deal?" Lydia said. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I am a very small woman, and four pounds is a big deal. And what do you mean, early?"

Derek sighed, which Lydia did not appreciate. "Sympathetic weight gain usually happens once your omega has started gaining weight, not while they're still throwing up half the contents of their stomach."

"I see."

"So the question is, Lydia, how many of those Ho-hos have you been eating?"

She thought of lying, but at this stage what would be the point? "They're just—they're all over the house."

"Mmm," Derek said, and actually sounded sympathetic rather than disapproving. "Usually I just stop drinking when Stiles does, and that evens things out for me if I eat some of his mochi."

"Sugar for sugar, you're saying," Lydia said.

"Pretty much," Derek replied.

"I'll ... take it under advisement," she said, because solidarity was one thing, but sacrificing her customary post-class cocktail was another, and not one that would probably benefit Erica in the long run. Her omega had always been surprisingly willing to listen to her complain about her students and colleagues and how much better off the math department would be if she were running it; Erica often used the topic as an opportunity to be snarky herself. But it was probably best not to push this, particularly when hormones were making Erica even more volatile than usual.

"Okay?" Derek said, and Lydia realized she'd been quiet for a moment.

"Sorry," she said. "I mean, thanks."

"Sure. I had my sister to ask, so."

"True," Lydia replied. She was more alone in this. They had mostly beta friends here, and her colleagues were alphas that she certainly didn't want to talk to about her omega. And as for her father, well, best not to go there.

"Anyway it doesn't matter what I say, really," Derek went on. "Most of it you figure out on your own. Which you're smart enough to do."

"Well, obviously," she replied.

Stiles glanced up as Derek walked into the kitchen. "Who was that?" he asked.

"Lydia," Derek replied.

"At eight in the morning?"

"She was at Costco freaking out about gaining four pounds in Ho-hos," he replied, shrugging. He leaned over Lizzie, who was sitting next to Stiles at the kitchen table. Their breakfast dishes were in front of them, mostly empty, and Ellie's high chair was at the head of the table, tray covered in Cheerios. "What are you guys doing?"

Abby, sitting on the other side, replied, "We're helping Papa decide what vegetables to put on our nachos."

"Yay!" Derek said, with the kind of enthusiasm only a five-year-old would believe. "More nachos!"

Stiles gave him a look, because not helping, and it wasn't his fault that he had a craving that wouldn't quit. "I know it's a lot of cheese lately but with vegetables on them at least we can all eat the same thing for dinner."

"No, you're right," Derek said, sighing. "Let's not do the tuna again, though."

"That was a failed experiment," Stiles agreed, nodding. "But chicken and broccoli."

"Carrots," Lizzie said.

"I wrote it down the first time you said it, Lizzie," Stiles said.

"Carrots, Daddy!" Lizzie insisted. "CARROTS!"

"Okay," Derek said, putting one large hand lightly over her face, which, luckily for all of them, still made her giggle while also getting her to stop shouting whatever word she was currently obsessed with.

"Can I go with you, Papa?" Abby asked.

"You can go grocery shopping," Stiles said, reviewing the list, "when you're fifteen and have your driver's license and Daddy and I send you instead of us. Until then, no."

Abby slumped in her chair and crossed her arms. "I want to go."

"Is your schoolbag packed?" Derek asked her.

"Yes," she said. "But I'm going to go to the store."

"School is better," Derek said. "Lizzie's going to school, aren't you?"

Lizzie nodded, but Abby still wasn't having any of it.

"I want to go I want to go I want to GO," she shouted, kicking her feet against the counter.

"Abigail!" Stiles said, sharply, and she stopped. "Move it."

She scowled at him, and he scowled right back—the same scowl, he knew, and he was sure they were making a pretty picture for Derek right now. But she got down off her stool and marched off to her room, clearly under protest.

"Oh my god," Stiles said. "My dad was totally right. Why are we having another one, again?"

"Because they're fun?" Derek said, smirking. He lifted Lizzie up into his arms and took her bag off the back of her chair. "You're taking Ellie, right?"

"Yep," Stiles said. "Then I'm seeing that nutritionist friend of Melissa's for book research purposes—"

"Maybe she can get you to crave something other than nachos," Derek said. "Since that's a new one."

"Yeah, I've been thinking, maybe it's a boy?" Stiles replied. "With the book and the food and everything—it all feels different than with the girls. Maybe he's even a beta."

"Well, he'll be outnumbered around here," Derek replied. He glanced up at the clock. "Abby, now!" he called out, and got Lizzie's jacket onto her.

Abby stomped back into the room, still displeased, but with her schoolbag in her hand.

"Okay everyone into their shoes," Stiles said, picking up Ellie and following them into the entryway that led to the garage.

"Bye Papa!" Lizzie said, and he squatted down to get a kiss and a hug, and so she could very carefully give her sister a kiss, too.

"Abby?" he asked.

Abby gave him a brief hug and a peck, then said, "Bye Ellie!"

"Jeez, don't hurt yourself," Stiles said, standing back up.

"Holding a grudge," Derek said as he buckled Lizzie into her seat. "Wonder where she learned that?"

"Three fingers point back at you, pal," Stiles said, but kissed him anyway. "Love you."

"Love you," Derek said. "Abs, you buckled in?"

"Yes!" she shouted, and Stiles and Derek struggled not to laugh. They wanted Abby to know that her feelings were taken seriously and all that healthy stuff, but it was still funny to see her little self full of indignation.

Derek shook his head. "The second she gets to school—"

"I know," Stiles said, leaning in through the open window of the truck to kiss him again. "Call me."

"You bet," Derek said, and then they were pulling away.

Stiles lifted up Ellie's hand to wave goodbye. She was a slow-morning type, a girl after his own heart really, and was docile on his hip because she still wasn't fully awake. That was fine for now, when he could keep her with him in the mornings and not bring her to daycare until after lunch, but would be rough once she started preschool. For now, though, he was enjoying having her all to himself, because in a few months he was going to be more than a little distracted. At least she had siblings to help her through that part; Abby took her role as oldest very seriously and had already, at four, coached Lizzie through Ellie's arrival. Derek and Stiles had perfected a speech about how more siblings means more love and not less and that Daddy and Papa were still there when you needed them that Abby could give verbatim. She loved to show off this skill, say, in coffee shops when other patrons noticed that Stiles was pregnant; she'd also tell them that there were going to be six "and maybe even more!"

Stiles put Ellie in her playpen and turned on some tunes while he cleaned up from breakfast; music helped ease her into her day and soon he could hear her singing along to Beyonce, disturbingly in key for an eighteen-month-old. He was just finishing up when Scott called.

"So, you're seeing the nutritionist today, right?" he asked.

"Yeah, this afternoon, why? Are you guys still having that problem?"

"Pretty much. I'm eating cereal in the spare bedroom while she's making eggs, and I have like, a scented candle from Ikea to block the smell. And then I'll have to brush my teeth right after. Sucks."

"Isn't there anything you guys can agree on?" Stiles asked.

Scott sighed. "We both agree no fish?" he said. "Seeing as we can't have sushi anyway that isn't so bad. Oh, and we can eat salads together mostly. No, actually, I only like creamy dressings and they gross her out. Um, fruit? I don't know, man; definitely not the fun part of sharing this experience."

Saying nothing about the delivery took some effort, and Stiles felt he was showing great restraint and made a note in his head to mention it to Derek and get some praise out of it. He wouldn't put it past the two of them to go into labor at the same time, and a person needed some damn support. They couldn't be each other's Lamaze coach; best case one of them would be hugely pregnant, over it, and somewhat jealous, and then the other would have recently delivered, with all the exhaustion and lack of sympathy for anyone else's pain that comes with it.

Well, actually, that was unfair; that was how Stiles had felt about the experience, but Scott was actually just the person who could cheerfully coach another person through their delivery no matter which position he was in. And because she knew that about him, Allison would do it for Scott. So maybe it would work out.

Aloud, Stiles said, "So you want me to talk to the nutritionist about your problem? Because actually, you guys make a great worst case scenario."

"Thanks a lot," Scott said.

"Hey, I didn't make it happen," Stiles said. "And you love being able to use your experiences to help others."

Scott grunted, but Stiles knew he had him.

"Wanna give me the details?" he asked. "Well, can you?"

"It's not that bad," Scott huffed. "I can actually talk about the food I can't eat." He paused. "Mostly."

Stiles laughed then, he hoped sympathetically. "Dude, it's not like I want to have long conversations about salad right now," he said. "Or breakfast meat but that's only because it's so depressing. I can't believe bacon has forsaken me like this."

"It's rough, dude," Scott said. "But yeah, I can do it."

"All right," Stiles said, reaching for pen and paper. "Lay it on me."

Allison knocked on the spare bedroom door, then retreated to the bathroom to brush her teeth. She'd already made some scrambled eggs with scallions and a few wilted greens, eaten them with some salsa on top, then washed her dishes and the pan and wiped the counter down so there was no sign of eggs anyplace. Scott couldn't take eggs in any way, except sort of in baked goods that weren't too "eggy," and could get queasy just seeing a stray piece of eggshell on the counter. He was off chicken, too, and while Allison suspected that was somewhat psychosomatic, the outcome was real enough.

But she couldn't blame him, because she couldn't stand even the smell of dairy on his breath, where just a few weeks ago the making a yogurt smoothie was the ritual that began her day. No cheese, no milk, no custard or pudding either, but at least it made her miss coffee a little less. Her sensitivity to beef she took a little more seriously; much as she needed the protein and iron the stuff sat in her stomach like a rock if it didn't just come flying back up out of it. Pork wasn't much better, and lamb was so pricey.

Scott came in a bit later, and they stood there brushing their teeth and staring at each other in the mirror. Allison couldn't help but think how ridiculous and stupid this all was, and it must have showed on her face because Scott reached over and took her hand, smiled at her with his eyes. And, well, that's what imprinting meant, she supposed, because just that gesture made her feel a little calmer, and a little less like this entire enterprise was a disaster waiting to happen.

Because even though she really wanted these children, thought that Scott's idea of having these fraternal kind-of-twins was a good one, she still worried.

Mouths rinsed, they shared their first real kiss of the day, standing there in the bathroom.

Scott said, "Stiles is going to talk to the nutritionist for us."

"You talked to him already?" she asked.

"He's up because of the kids," Scott said, "and breakfast is, I dunno, kinda lonely? I got used to having it with you."

"Yeah," she said, smiling, because no matter how busy they were, if they were both in town, they had breakfast. Then Allison would go to the range or the gym, and Scott would go to his home office; that is, the kitchen table.

Beta-PAC didn't have a proper office so much as it had a server and a lot of video chats; Scott took being grass roots very seriously. He split his time between lobbying in Sacramento for imprinted beta and general mating rights, meeting with executives in Hollywood about representation on TV and in movies, and keeping an eye on the national organization from home. In fact, there was to be a gala in Los Angeles a few months to raise money and awareness; Scott was hoping to make an annual event of giving out awards to media organizations that did a good job portraying betas in a realistic, non-statusist light.

"Oh my god, the fundraiser," Allison said, suddenly putting the timing together. "How are we going to choose food when we can't eat anything?"

"I'm hoping it will be better in a few weeks," Scott said.

"What am I going to wear?"

"Um," Scott said, looking at her. "Hey let's go sit down?"

She nodded, and he steered her into the living room and onto the couch. "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

"Hormones?" Scott asked, smiling a little. "That's what I always blame it on."

"I just—I never had to think about it before, and now I'm going to this big fancy party with all these celebrities and I'm going to be 27 weeks pregnant and wearing a maternity dress. And then I just feel vain when it's all for a good cause. Our cause."

"You're a celebrity," Scott said. "You're a gold medalist! You had your picture on a Wheaties box!"

Allison chuckled. "Now I can't even eat Wheaties," she said.

"Seriously, they're going to be lucky to meet you."

"You, too," she said. "You're the one bringing them all there."

"Well, obviously," Scott replied, smiling. "Anyway maybe we can ask Lydia to get us something to wear. You know she wouldn't even go with us if she thought we looked terrible."

"That's true," she said.

They were quiet for a while, just holding each other, and then Allison said, "I just don't want you to think that I'm having second thoughts or anything. I'm not."

"I know you're not," Scott said. "You never do, once you commit to things."

"Which is good and bad."

"Good in this instance," Scott said, and put a hand on her belly. "Ultrasound in two weeks."

"Pictures of the ducklings for the parents," she said, putting her hand on his belly. That's what they called them, the "ducklings," which was why duck wasn't going to work as a compromise protein, either.

"And for us," Scott said.

"True," she said, and that was an amazing thing right there, that she was about to start down that road of having pictures of her children with her at all times. "So what are you up to today?"

"I have a video conference with the regional directors at eleven," Scott said, "and I'm still working with Chuck on the guest list." Chuck was doing most of the work on planning the party, since he was in LA and was their Hollywood connection. "You?"

"Yoga," she said, "and then I want to write new stuff for my speaking engagements next week. Can't motivate the audience if I'm bored."

"Yoga will make you feel better, definitely," Scott said.

Allison had motivated herself to get up and get changed for yoga when her phone rang.

"Hey Erica," she said. "What's up?"

"Has Lydia talked to you about this Ho-ho situtation?" she asked.

"She mentioned it," Allison replied. "But I got the feeling she didn't want to discuss it."

"She won't talk about it with me, either," Erica said. "And I said it was okay—it doesn't really matter to me. She'll lose it as soon as this craving stops. And honestly I think it already is."

"Stopping, you mean?" Allison asked.

"Yeah," Erica said, sighing. "She's out getting them now, and I still really want them but they're not all I want, you know? Or at least, not the peanut butter sandwiches."

"Moving on to big girl food?"

"Not funny," Erica said. "You two still eating in separate rooms?"

"For now," Allison admitted. "But Scott's getting Stiles to ask a nutritionist about it."

Erica groaned. "He is so unsympathetic!"


"No, of course not. Stiles! Why did I ask him to be my pregnancy sensei? All he does is shrug and say it'll be fine."

"You do know that they've eaten nachos for dinner almost every night for the last two weeks, right?" Allison asked, and couldn't help but shudder at the just the idea of all that cheese.

"I suppose," Erica said.

"And that he lived on red bean mochi ice cream when he was carrying Lizzie?"

"Yes, but this is Stiles, " Erica said. "He lived on curly fries in high school. He might just be that guy. I am not that guy."

"Maybe you should ask him to talk to the nutritionist for you, too," Allison said.


"And maybe—we're all talking to Stiles, and each other. Maybe she found an alpha to talk to."

"But Boyd and Danny haven't had kids yet," Erica pointed out.

"Derek has," Allison replied.

Erica paused. "Do you really think she'd talk to Derek?"

"She might," Allison said. "Who else is there, really?"

"Do you think Derek would have anything actually helpful to say?"

"That is an entirely different question," Allison said, laughing. "Maybe? If he remembers his words?"

"Hmm," Erica said, sounding dubious. "Oh, I hear her in the driveway, so I should go. Talk to you later?"

"Definitely," Allison said.

Driving to yoga, she already felt better. Scott's idea had been a good one; she didn't have to go looking for another pregnant beta to share this experience with. She had one, in her own bed.

Lydia was very glad they'd gotten a small hand truck, because bringing in giant cases of things bought at Costco was not her favorite activity, particularly now that she did it alone. Not that Erica couldn't lift a case of protein drink, and not that she hadn't proclaimed just that several times, but some underevolved bit of Lydia's brain really did not want her to. And she could usually manage to get her entire shopping trip into the house in one load.

Erica was holding the door open for her. "Get anything for yourself?" she asked.

"Some might say the cakes are for me as much as you," Lydia said, trying to put a good face on it.

"Not for long," Erica replied, following her into the kitchen. "I mean, I think—maybe I might be interested in a salad? Maybe tomorrow? Or by Friday? I've just been thinking."

"Not on my account, I hope," Lydia said. "I didn't mean—it isn't your fault, Erica. You didn't put the Ho-hos in my hand."

"I put them in the house," Erica said. "And I'm not going to tell you I don't care again, even if I don't, because you do and I understand that, but … I don't know, maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world while my body is changing so much for your body to change a little?"

Lydia blinked, and set down the box of cakes she was holding. "Your body is changing because you're carrying our child," she said. "My body changed because I was stress eating Hostess snack cakes. It's not the same thing at all."

"Stress eating?" Erica asked.

"Aren't you feeling it?" Lydia said. "It's stressful! I'm looking forward but … it's a lot, you have to admit. So I talked to Derek."

Erica cocked her head. "Derek? And that was helpful?"

"His inability to use words and my disinclination to listen to them, as you've so often put it, go together surprisingly well," Lydia said.

"So you talk and he just, what, sort of hums?"

"Sometimes he'll say something about his own experiences, but, yes, mostly," she said.

"That's good, then," Erica said. "Allison does yoga, you know. For the stress."

"That's certainly something to consider," Lydia said. Then, because between this and Derek she was really done with the conversation, she said, "Are you working today?"

"Trying to," Erica replied. "Want to get this book finished in the next few weeks."

"Another novel? What's this one about?"

"Actually it's not bad. It's about a beta woman who moved from the countryside to Paris, and everyone around her assumes she's in the city to find a mate but actually she just wants to be a fashion designer. And then she ends up making her name with maternity clothes, and has to put up with all these condescending alphas and pregnant omegas who feel sorry for her, and betas who think she wants to steal their mates, the whole bit. It's caused quite a buzz in France, apparently. They're talking about making it into a movie."

"Scott should—"

"I already sent the original to Allison," Erica said. "I'll give him the translation when it's done."

"A plan," Lydia said.

"So, what time is your class?" Erica asked.

Lydia raised an eyebrow. "I have to be back on campus at two. Why?"

"Oh, no reason," Erica said, casually taking her hair out of its messy bun. "I was just thinking, you know, while we have the house to ourselves …"

"Are you trying to seduce me, omega?" she asked.

Erica grinned, slow and sexy. "Maybe," she said. "Am I succeeding?"

"Come to the bedroom and find out," Lydia said, getting up and walking down the hall without sparing Erica a single backward glance. She knew she didn't need to.

The Fun Part

Oh, that magical second trimester. Most of the morning sickness is gone—sorry, the lingering heartburn you're gonna have to live with, and the pee breaks will get even more frequent, but at least you can eat something. You start to show, people tell you you're glowing, but your ankles haven't swollen too much yet. You're feeling the baby moving around and everything's kind of like you had pictured it would be when you thought about being pregnant.

You even might have found some maternity clothes that don't have bows on them. My brother-in-law, curse him, has maternity jeans that fit him almost exactly as his regular ones do. I mostly wear overalls or tunics and leggings and the occasional sundress when it gets really dire, but then, I work from home and mail order is my bosom buddy.

Professional clothes are easier to find, and we've got some shopping resources at the end of the chapter.

But party dresses? I'm off to a formal event at the 28 week mark, and I am phoning a friend.

Lydia didn't bother pretending to be put out or reluctant about being asked to find appropriate formal attire for the Beacon Hills High classmates attending Scott's gala. Of course they would all ask her, and it made no sense to waste everyone's time for the sake of appearances. Actually, she'd been doing research for weeks.

The boys were easier—she merely contacted personal shoppers at Nordstrom in Seattle (for Boyd and Isaac) and Honolulu (for Danny and Jackson) with a detailed list of the designers they were to try on and a note on tailoring. Derek would be easy, too, but she could do that in person.

But maternity formal wear was tricky, and for obvious reasons they'd had to wait until much closer to the date to have their shopping day in the city. Stiles and Derek were making a trip of it, staying at Scott and Allison's for the night. Lydia and Erica had taken BART in from Berkeley but given how nights out with this crowd tended to go, she was very sure they'd be taking a car home, even if none of them would be drinking.

Erica was first because she was easiest, the most impatient, and the one most likely to run amok. And indeed as soon as they arrived in the private suite of dressing rooms Janessa had reserved for them, Erica made a beeline to a strappy red dress hanging inside one of the dressing rooms.

"Hey!" Stiles protested. "How do you know that's yours?"

She cocked her head. "Who else in this room could wear this?" she asked, and closed the door behind her.

"Allison could rock that dress!" Stiles said. "Or even me!"

"But you wouldn't," Erica said through the door.

Lydia shook her head. "I'm going to start with Allison. Scott, you're here, and Stiles, here. Just try on what you find and let me know. Obviously those suits are for Derek." Scott opened his mouth and Lydia held up a hand. "No, you can't wear a tux. You'll look like a penguin."

Scott scowled but Stiles just shrugged and patted him on the back. "Told ya, bro," he said.

Lydia left the boys to it and stepped into the fitting room with Allison. "You've always liked a halter," she said.

"But … could I wear one now?" she asked, her hands on her breasts. "With these?"

"They're a little higher in the back than you're used to," Lydia admitted. "A little less plunging in the front, too. But your arms and shoulders haven't changed."

"Well, I'm still an athlete," Allison said, jutting out her chin slightly.

"Exactly," Lydia said, nodding. "And they're all cocktail length, too."

"So basically just like the dresses I wore before I was pregnant."

"Why wouldn't they be?"

Allison laughed and then, rather than replying, she pulled Lydia into a hug.

"Thank me when you've found something you like," Lydia said, and left her to it. She ducked into her own fitting room and slipped on her top choice, a strapless purple dress that hit just above the knee, with a bit of flare to the skirt and a hint of shimmer in the fabric. It would need to be hemmed, like everything she owned, but luckily it fit her slightly thicker waist as she hadn't quite lost those ho-hos pounds yet. Which was fine; she and Erica could get back into fighting shape together after the baby came.

Scott, predictably, had seized upon the outfit cut most like a t-shirt and jeans: a midnight blue jumpsuit that just managed to not look like it had come out of mothballs from the disco era. He was pulling at the cuffs and adjusting the collar, but he looked pleased. Erica was gently pulling the excess fabric at the back, talking to him about fit and tailoring.

Erica's own red dress was a little loose, of course, to give her room to breathe and expand, but it was no less sexy for that. The jersey clung to her, strips of fabric coming over her shoulders to criss-cross her breasts. Once tailored the dress would hold her belly snug, highlighting the swelling rather than skimming over it. While it was a little longer than Erica often wore, it was still above the knee.

In other words, it suited Lydia's omega perfectly.

Stiles poked his head out of the curtains of his dressing room and glanced over at Derek, who was standing before the big mirror in his tux pants and shirt, trying on jackets. He turned to Lydia and silently but urgently waved her into the room with him.

She closed the curtain behind her and fixed him with a glare.

He glared back. "I can't wear any of these," he whispered.

"Why not?" she whispered back. "They'll give you great cleavage."

"That's the problem!" he replied, his sweeping arms making up for the low volume of his speech.

"But you've always seemed so comfortable with your breasts. Why wouldn't you want to show them off?"

"You can't tell anyone," he said. "I mean it, Lydia."

"I won't if you tell me why." She crossed her arms.

He sighed. "It's just—they're for the kids. Derek likes them, and I'm really fine with them but they're not for public consumption." He clenched his jaw.

"And we're whispering about this because?"

He made a face. "'Oh Stiles, how traditional of you, saving your tits for your alpha.' I didn't want to hear it, I guess." He was blushing now, looking off to the side.

"All right," she said. "Go out there and help him while we find you something else."

"Yeah?" he asked.

She cocked her head. "How do you feel about your legs?" she asked.

"They're all right I guess," he replied, looking down at them. "My thighs are a little rounder but that probably makes them look better, actually."

"Good," she said.

She found Janessa and they immediately began pulling from the racks, something Lydia hadn't physically done in quite some time. The entire project was like stretching an atrophied muscle, reminding herself of what unerringly good taste she had in a way that monthly perusals of Vogue did not. Academia had been good to her, and she was about to become a parent, but maybe she also needed a hobby, just to keep a hand in. Keep herself sharp.

They returned with four outfits for Stiles. Lydia already knew the one he'd gravitate towards, but she left him to it, let him figure it out. Meanwhile Derek, with Stiles's help, had settled on a tux and Allison on a diaphanous cerulean dress.

"We'll both be wearing blue!" Scott said. "That is so awesome!"

Allison twirled, letting the skirt float around her, one hand on the top of her belly. She was grinning widely, all her dimples showing.

"You look so pretty," Erica said.

"I feel pretty," she replied. Turning to Lydia, she added, "Thanks."

Lydia shrugged. "It's what I do."

Stiles emerged from the dressing room in the outfit Lydia had predicted. The evening shorts were dark gray wool with a subtle pinstripe. With it was the kind of fitted, long-sleeved top he often wore, this time in maroon jersey, and it draped perfectly past his waist. It had a slight v-neck, to give it a more formal appearance, but nothing too revealing.

"It's like wearing pajamas," he said.

"I know, right?" Scott replied.

Erica whistled. "Good job, honey," she said, kissing Lydia's temple. "Where you been hiding them legs, Stilinski?"

"You really should show them off more often," Allison said, nodding.

"Maybe I should!" he said, smiling broadly. "I have some wine-colored Fluevog loafers, thought they'd be good?"

"Perfect," Lydia said.

"Cool." Stiles smoothed the top over his belly and leaned against the wall, crossing his legs at the ankle. "Derek?"

Lydia realized Derek hadn't said anything, had just been standing there staring since Stiles came out of the dressing room. He blinked.

"Okay, alpha, use your words," Stiles said.

"I don't—have any?" Derek said. He cleared his throat. "You, um, yeah. I like it. You should wear it."

"Good," Stiles said, nodding, and his smile was little and pleased now.

While they were all changing Stiles said, "What is everyone up to now?"

"I've got a meeting with the party planners," Scott said. "Lydia's coming with me to see how the room will be decorated."

Derek snickered. "Also known as, let her see it early so she won't complain at the party?"

"Derek!" Erica said. "You're not supposed to let her know she's being managed while you're doing it! It's as if you don't even know her."

"Oh sweetie, I'm pretty sure I know when I'm being managed," Lydia replied.

"Oh honey, not always," Erica said. "Anyway I'm going to yoga with Allison."

"If you like," Allison said, "we could do a little sparring, after. We haven't done that in a while."

"Freak out the squares? I am so in," Erica said.

"Get someone to take pictures?" Stiles asked.

"Dude, are you objectifying my beta?" Scott asked.

"Dude, you know you totally want to watch," Stiles replied.

"Whatever," Scott said. "What are you guys doing?"

"It was a long drive," Derek said. "Got up early. I could use a nap, settle in."

Lydia couldn't help but laugh at that. "A nap, really?"

"All right, if you need to know," Stiles said. "I'm not ashamed. We have three small children in the house, my alpha has been wandering around for the last hour looking like James Bond, and when he saw me in those shorts his eyes popped out of his head. We're going back to Scott and Allison's and we're having crazy monkey sex in their spare bedroom."

"Laundry's in the basement," Allison said.

"Clean sheets are in the closet next to the bathroom," Scott added.

"And this is why we love staying with you," Stiles said.

As they walked out Lydia handed Erica the digital camera she'd been using to document their outfits.

"For the sparring?" Erica asked, smirking.

"Just in case you find someone trustworthy," Lydia replied. "It does have video capabilities."

"You'll share, right?" Stiles asked.

"Not over the internet, though," Derek said.

"Yeah, that's the last thing we need," Scott said. "2016 Olympics golden girl fights pregnant."

"I don't know," Allison said. "Might give me a whole new image."

Don't be Surprised at Surprising Reactions

Hey it's another chapter about SEX. The kids will have these pages dog-eared.

(Actually, they won't, because I keep talking about ew pregnancy in the middle of yay sex, but that's what this book is about.)

So! Sex! Hormones! There's that scenario where your mate looks at pregnant you and feels all fertile and stuff, feels powerful, and that makes them crazy horny. The bigger you get, the more horny they get. You feel like a giant bloated puffball exuding strange fluids, but they see their ultimate fecundity writ large. Literally.

Or they might be a little alarmed at all the changes your body is going through. The you they remember has to be in there someplace, but they're not sure where, or if your special places are still your special places.

Maybe you are all about that. Maybe these hormones have your sex drive suddenly kicked up to twelve. Or maybe you look at yourself and you are so turned off that you can't imagine why anyone would want to get all up in that business. Or, maybe you actually haven't seen any change whatsoever.

I know, it's like I'm stuck on repeat, but you just need to actually openly talk to your mate. Not in bed; maybe sitting on the couch, or in the car, or someplace you both feel grounded but you aren't having actual sex in all the time.

Also? Don't discount non-sexual physical contact for bringing you closer. Foot massages are a cliche, but they also feel really good when you've been carrying another person around inside you all day.

It wasn't that Lydia wasn't attracted to Erica when she was pregnant. She thought her omega perfectly lovely, and made sure to tell her often, because Erica had been a bit insecure over it in the beginning.

And it wasn't that they had normally had a banal mated sex life, as in those jokes about female alphas and omegas, bed death or what have you. They had plenty of sex both during Erica's heats and outside of them, thank you very much.

Still, when she came home on a Wednesday afternoon that had only been distinguished by a steady downpour and the particular idiocy of some of her undergraduates, she was glad she had spoken to Derek about the effect of hormonal surges on the sex drive of a pregnant omega, because Erica had her pinned to the door as soon as she'd walked into the house. And Erica wasted no time sliding down to her knees and putting her head under Lydia's skirt, pulling her panties aside and zeroing in on her ovi slit.

"Oh my god," Lydia said, letting her bags fall to the floor and placing one hand on the back of Erica's head. "Not here."

Erica pulled back but kept one finger where her lips had been. She was wearing her short red printed silk robe and made a pretty picture, looking up at Lydia, her growing cleavage on display. "Been thinking about this all day," she said. "Want to get you off."

"And I want to sit down, because I've been standing and teaching all day," she said. "Bedroom please, sweetie."

Erica scowled, but allowed Lydia to help her to her feet. "Just because that's what you want," she said.

Lydia rewarded Erica by shedding her jacket and blouse as they walked, draping them over the back of the chair in their bedroom. Her bra followed, and she kicked off her shoes before laying down on her back on the bed in just her skirt.

Well, she left her jewelry on, too.

Erica flashed that feral grin that never failed to make Lydia's breath catch in her throat. She could feel her ovi stirring in its pocket inside her, and she probably could have pushed it out. But Erica liked the act of coaxing it out, and Lydia liked giving her omega what she wanted. Within reason.

"Thanks for leaving this on for me," she said, sliding her hands up Lydia's legs and under her skirt. "But I'll take the panties off now. They'll just get in my way."

Lydia leaned back on her elbows and lifted up her hips. "I know you like my skirts," she said.

Erica hummed. "I miss those tiny ones you used to wear in high school," she said.

"Not very professional," Lydia replied, humming herself as Erica settled between her legs. "Wouldn't want you to get jealous of all the students with crushes."

"They only love you for your mind, Lydia," she said. "I have my priorities in the right place. I claimed you for your rocking body."

Lydia smiled at their old, private joke. "Then worship it," she commanded, and leaned her head back. Erica liked going up her skirt, and as Lydia wouldn't be able to see anything, she might as well sink into the mattress and enjoy this. Erica was awfully good with her mouth, and as much as they liked mating sex they liked this, too.

Erica was licking and kissing Lydia's slit, lapping up the trickle of wetness that leaked out as it opened up to her. Lydia held back as long as she could, but once Erica got going Lydia's ovi had a mind of its own. When it wanted to come out and play, it did, pushing out of the pocket and through the slit into the colder air.

Erica's mouth was immediately on it, soothing that transition, and Lydia happily pushed it into her. Her mouth was warm and wet, slick on her ovi, a soft thing to thrust into. Erica's head was bobbing up and down, pulling back to tongue the opening at the tip before taking it into her mouth again, one hand wrapped around the shaft.

Erica pulled off. "Talk to me," she said, before taking it into her mouth again.

"Suck it," Lydia said, because Erica liked it when Lydia told her what to do, was a little demeaning about it. "Suck it good, sweetie, or I'll fuck your mouth. Take what I want."

Erica moaned, high and a little urgent.

"Don't let me catch you touching yourself," Lydia warned. "That pussy is mine to touch."

"I won't," Erica said.

Lydia sat up. "Did I say you could stop?"

Erica's mouth was on her again, taking her in deep, and Lydia struggled not to move her ovi too much. "So good at this," she said, and then not much more after that, because it was hard to speak when your omega was sucking your ovi down her throat. Lydia lay down against the mattress again, staring up at the ceiling and just feeling it, how good Erica was, how hot it all made her. "Gonna come," she warned. "Gonna come down your throat."

Erica reacted by speeding up her actions, because she loved swallowing. Lydia managed to reach down and pull her skirt up and out of the way, so she could see it, see and feel her ovi get rigid, put her hand on Erica's shoulder as she came. And Erica sucked it all down, greedily, pulling back when her mouth was full and then cleaning up whatever escaped. She made such a pretty picture Lydia almost came again.

"Good," Erica said, breathless. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then licked her fingertips.

Lydia nodded. "Take that robe off."

Erica obeyed, red silk slipping from her shoulders, exposing breasts getting fuller by the day and, beneath them, her growing abdomen. Lydia fought the sentiment she always felt at seeing it, the urge to put her hand on it, talk to the baby. That was for later, not now; that wasn't what her omega was asking for.

"I want your hair down," Lydia said, and Erica complied, blonde waves spilling down over her shoulders. Erica's hair had thinned but had also gotten almost curly of late, and Lydia loved how haphazard it was now. The wilder hair made Erica look even more like a lion than usual.

Lydia reached up and unceremoniously pulled Erica down into a kiss, crushing their bodies together. She could taste her come on Erica's lips, her tongue, her teeth, and it was delightful; she felt a wave of possession surge through her. It wasn't unfamiliar—she was that alpha, at least in that respect—but it was stronger these days, that impulse to keep anyone else from even looking at Erica, let alone touching her.

She roughly pushed her hand between Erica's thighs—not that they'd been closed, not to her, not now—and was gratified to find Erica's pussy soaking wet and so, so open for her. If she had more energy, if Erica was less desperate for it, she might have stopped, pushed Erica back on the bed and used her fist to fuck that open, needy hole.

But knowing Erica in these moods, there would be plenty of time for that later. Instead she slipped in a few fingers and pushed down on Erica's clit with her thumb, making Erica moan into her mouth.

"Like that?" Lydia asked.

"Yeah," Erica said, writhing, pushing her pussy into Lydia's hand and her face into Lydia's neck.

"One of these heats," Lydia said, following Erica's squirming as best she could, "I'm going to fuck your mouth."

"Fuck it," Erica said. "Knot it."

Which could actually be dangerous, but Erica had a fantasy and Lydia liked to indulge it if only in words. "Get those red lips open wide and pump all that come down your sweet throat."

"Choke on it," Erica muttered.

"Not you, sweetie," Lydia said. "You're so greedy for it. You'd swallow it all down and beg for more, wouldn't you?"

Erica nodded, past speech now, grunting and shameless and so gorgeous, and when Lydia told her so she came all over Lydia's hand.

Lydia carefully rolled Erica onto her back, so she could catch her breath, and wiped her own hand off on the sheet. They sat there for a few minutes, just basking in the afterglow and the sun coming in through the bedroom curtains.

Then, because she hadn't yet, because Erica had distracted her from the moment she came in the door, Lydia lay a hand and then her head on Erica's belly.

"She was moving around a lot before you got home," Erica said after a bit. "But she always sleeps when she knows you're here. I think you make her feel safe." Erica slid her hand through Lydia's hair. "Just like her mom."

Lydia smiled at that. "I'll take care of you both," she said. "Don't worry."

"I don't," Erica replied.

"Hey," Stiles called out, shutting the front door behind him.

Derek was coming down the stairs in his brown terrycloth robe, freshly showered by the look of his damp hair. "Hey," he said. "All set?"

"Dad's bringing them to school Monday morning," Stiles said.

"A whole weekend with no kids?" Derek asked, smiling as he walked closer. "What will we do with ourselves?"

The real answer was sex, with breaks for eating frozen dinners, some video games or movies, and sleeping until they woke up.

But what Stiles said was, "You look like you have a suggestion," and tugged at the sash of Derek's robe to pull him closer.

"I might have made some preparations," he said, and they kissed. "Make it more like …"

"You mean you got yourself wet for me?" Stiles asked. "My perfect alpha bottom?"

Derek shuddered at those words, as he often did. He'd adopted the phrase for himself, signed birthday and mating day and omega parent day cards and the occasional "sorry I'm a dick sometimes" flowers "Y.A.B." And if being called that was what Derek needed to feel down to his core that Stiles really was okay with his discomfort with stereotypical alpha behavior—his "alpha thing" as they called it—then Stiles was happy to accommodate. After all, Derek had promised Stiles on their mating day that he'd be spoiled, and all things considered, he pretty much was.

They weren't alone in this, or even all that weird; there were plenty of strap-ons for omegas on the market. Some were flexible, like the ovis of female alphas, while others were rigid like the penises of male alphas. They had little protrusions to rub against the clits of female omegas or sleeves for the larger more rigid clits of male omegas. Stiles had offered them up to Derek, but he'd declined them all.

"Your clit is enough for me," he'd said. "I like—I like that it's you."

Up in the bedroom, Stiles quickly pulled the robe off Derek and sat him down on the bed, but took his time taking his own clothes off. One of Derek's few stereotypically alpha traits was his reaction to Stiles's pregnant body, a mixture of lust and pride in his own fertility, in that "my omega's body is changing because of me" kind of way. Stiles found it endearing, as long as Derek kept a lid on the overprotectiveness that sometimes accompanied it. Derek was certainly getting his fill of Stiles's form, rounded where once there had been sharp angles—thighs, ass, breasts, face, and the stomach that had just popped back out. In a couple of weeks, he wouldn't be able to do this.

But now Stiles could easily reach past his bump and stroke his clit. "Ready for me?" he asked.

Derek nodded eagerly, spreading his thighs in invitation. His cock was hard, too, enormous and dark red and standing at attention, but they were ignoring that for now, along with Stiles's own wetness.

Stiles pushed against Derek's thighs, tipping Derek's hips up a little more to accommodate his belly. His clit slid easily into Derek's tight ass, like it was made for it, like it was good that his clit wasn't as big as a cock so Derek could prepare himself for it.

"Fuck," Derek said, a little breathless. "Good? Am I good for you, Stiles?"

"Oh, lovely, you're always so good," Stiles replied. "You love it so much. Look at you."

Derek's expression was as open as Stiles had ever seen it, and he was already well on his way to being completely wrecked. "Love it," he said, his voice pitching higher. "Love you fucking me when you're pregnant. So hot."

It was obscene to watch Derek's cock brushing along Stiles's belly as he fucked him. Stiles sped up a bit, fucking him as hard as he could. "Look at you, taking it like a good bottom should. My alpha bottom."

"Yours," Derek said, nodding, spreading himself wider so there was more room for Stiles to thrust hard into Derek. Derek was mostly whining now, though he though he never shut his eyes, never looked away from Stiles's own, or the way Stiles's belly almost stroked Derek's fat cock. "Gonna come."

"Yeah," Stiles said. "My alpha bottom, come all over my big pregnant omega belly." The dirtiest talk now, because Stiles wasn't going to last much longer.

"Fuck," Derek said, and did just that, ropes of come spurting out of him and all over Stiles's stomach and his own, his ass clenching down on Stiles's clit.

Now that he didn't have to last, Stiles didn't hold back, but pounded into Derek's willing body just a few times more before he, too, was coming hard. Stiles wasn't generally much of a squirter but fucking Derek had always been an exception.

He collapsed onto his side, then rolled onto his back. Derek almost immediately crawled into Stiles's arms, cuddling into him, giving a few sleepy kisses to Stiles's breasts before using his chest as a pillow. Bottoming took a lot out of him, especially now that with the kids they couldn't do it as often. Mutual hand jobs with a lot of making out was their go-to: intimate, hot, quick, interruptible. They never had mating sex outside of heat; it made Derek feel self-conscious and Stiles feel ordered around and just, no. It wasn't them.

But Stiles topping had been a staple, and he was looking forward to the day the kids were all old enough that they could say, "don't knock unless the house is burning down"and fuck the hell out of his alpha, the way they both wanted, both needed.

For now, though, Stiles could take care of Derek. Stiles kissed the top of his head. "You were so good," he said, patting Derek until his breath evened out and he fell asleep. Stiles, being as sleep-deprived as any other parent of three, soon followed.

He woke up sometime later to Derek's gentle shaking. "Hmm?" Stiles said, blinking.

"Drew a bath for you," Derek said, smiling, and yeah, Stiles could use one, especially since they didn't even bother to wipe off before they passed out.

"Getting in with me, I hope," Stiles said, because the master bath tub was plenty big enough, one of the perks of having a residential architect as a mate.

It was warm and nice and and smelled of the frankincense Derek always bought for Stiles at Christmas. They washed each other, taking their time now that they had it, and then Derek turned on the low jets and pulled Stiles into his arms, back to front. He ran his hands over Stiles's now-clean belly, and Stiles relaxed back into his chest.

"Thank you," he said, kissing Stiles on the shoulder.

"You say that like it's such a sacrifice for me to fuck you," Stiles said. "Instead of being awesome. Don't get martyry; it's annoying."

"Okay," Derek said, which didn't mean he wouldn't, but meant he'd shut up about it, which was almost as good. Then: "How's the boy?"

"Impatient. He's been kicking a lot. I think he's going to be a runner. Which is good; help me get some baby weight off before you knock me up again."

Derek chuckled, and Stiles bit his tongue, did not say, "Fuck you, alpha," even though it was appropriate.

Instead he said, "You're pretty proud of yourself, aren't you?"

"I am," Derek replied.

It was shaping up to be a fairly standard Tuesday afternoon when Scott came bounding into the apartment, a box in his hand. "I have a solution!" he said.

"To what?" Allison asked, putting her yoga mat back into the closet.

"To the fucking problem," he said. "I mean, the sex problem, not like—"

She held up a hand. "I get it."

"Because yoga is the solution to a lot of things," Scott said. "But not this."

Allison nodded. Yoga was certainly helping her stave off the body change panic that had been stalking her just beyond her field of vision, made her feel more in control even though she really wasn't. And Scott had taken to it like a natural, declared his intention to continue with it after the birth of their children.

But being more flexible couldn't change the fact that their bellies had grown too large for them to be able to fuck. It was hard to make out or even cuddle, let alone put tab A into slot B. Ironic, since being able to fuck each other at the same time was what had gotten them into this situation in the first place.

"So what did you get?" Allison asked, walking over to the table where Scott was unpacking the box.

He held up a vibrator and its remote. "I got two," he said. "I thought we could do it for each other?"

Allison took one of the vibrators, and it was heavy in her hand. She thought about how Scott reacted when she fingered him, fucked him, went down on him, and how fun it was to tease him. And she missed getting fucked, herself. "Shouldn't we wash them before we use them?" she asked.

Scott's eyes widened. "You—you want to do that now?"

"Don't you?" she asked, cocking her head.

"Um, sure!" he said. "Yeah, let's go!" He smiled, and laughed a little, and she giggled, too. "You're the best, you know," he added.

"So are you," she replied, and kissed him.

Washing the vibrators turned into quick showers to freshen up, but it wasn't too much later that they were in the bedroom, with vibrators and without clothes.

Scott said, "I'd like to, I mean, at the same time?"

"Oh?" Allison said. "Because I was thinking about going first and then wearing you out." She smiled widely, with every dimple she had.

"You mean that thing where you don't let me come for a long time?" Scott asked, his voice cracking. He cleared his throat. "Um, maybe next time?"

"Hmm," Allison said. "All right." She crawled into the middle of the bed, and when nothing happened looked back at Scott over her shoulder. "Well, are you going to put it in?"

He grinned at her, and it was perfect how Scott could be dirty and squeaky clean at the same time. "No lube or anything?"

"See for yourself," she said, spreading her legs further.

She watched as he stepped closer, peered at her pussy, and it made her feel hot all over to be examined like that. "Yeah, you look pretty wet, but let's make sure," he said, and slid in a couple of fingers. She gasped, and he grinned again. "Oh, you like that?"

"I thought we weren't teasing," she said.

He laughed then, and pulled his fingers out, giving her opening a quick smooch before replacing his fingers with the vibrator. "How's that?"

"Good," she said, but it was more than that; she'd missed being fucked, having something stuffed in her. She squeezed around it.

"I'll leave it off for now, I think," he said, licking his fingers. Then he grabbed the other vibrator and remote, handing them to her and climbing up on the bed, himself.

She knelt up carefully, using her muscles to keep the vibrator in place. He was wet, too, and his cock was half hard between his legs. Easy to put the vibrator where her ovi had been so many times, stuff that wet hole, and he grunted.

"So I thought we could, um, like this?" He rolled onto his side, legs still bent, vibrator sticking out of him obscenely. "And you could, right here?"

She lay down where he'd indicated, which put her at about a forty-five degree angle to him, close enough to kiss and get a little breast fondling in. She couldn't get enough of his, their being new and all, full and pretty and bigger than hers already.

"Ready?" he asked.

"Definitely," she replied.

He turned the remote and the vibrator began to hum pleasantly inside her. She looked down at the remote in her hand, and decided not to bother with the first setting, but start with the second.

He raised his eyebrows. "Oh, so it's gonna be like that?"

"Yep," she said, and laughed.

"Well!" he said, and turned the control up a few notches.

She gasped, and had to pull her lips in around her teeth, breathe out heavily through her nose, thrust her hips slightly. When she opened her eyes again he was looking a little smug, so she turned his up as well.

"Ah, fuck!" he said, hips bucking forward. "Damn, this was a good idea." He got his breath, then turned hers up.

She couldn't keep from moaning this time, and riding out the sudden increase in sensation. She found herself moving her hips to get more of it, feel it all the way inside her.

"You look like that video online of those omegas trying to read books with a vibrator in them," he said.

"Is that where you—ooh—where you got the idea?" she asked, and turned his up, too.

"Maybe," he said through gritted teeth, and he was so hot like this, looked as desperate for it as she felt.

It took him longer to ride out that setting, and then he said, "Fuck it, let's just turn them all the way up."

"Okay," she said, linking eyes with him, and they did it together.

She had to throw the remote down and grab for him, for anything. He was moaning, too, gripping her arm hard.

"Don't bother," Scott said, panting. "Just, let's just let go."

She opened her eyes now and looked at him, and his face was flushed red. He was panting, biting his lip, staring at her, and she was probably doing the same but she couldn't tell anymore. All she could really feel was the vibrator inside her and he was in front of her, thrusting, and it was like the vibrator was him, was like he was fucking her. Her ovi was out and stiff, and she was pretty sure she was going to shoot soon, was suddenly annoyed that she teased him so often because he was probably going to hold out longer than she could.

Well, it wasn't a competition. Not really.

So she did as he said. She let go, let all these sensations wash over her, gave in to that desperate feeling of not having been penetrated in a couple of weeks, and that's when she came, writhing on the bed, wanton, so fucking good.

She found her remote and turned it off so she could focus on Scott, give him a little more help. She reached over and caressed his breasts, tweaked his newly-sensitive nipples, and wasn't surprised that he came soon after that. She turned off his remote.

"Holy fuck," he said, panting. "We should keep doing that even when we're not pregnant."

"Definitely," Allison said, and laughed.

Scott smiled back. "Thanks for the help," he said. "The baby started moving and I kinda lost focus. It seemed weird, you know? But it's not like we're not going to have sex once the babies are here."

"No," Allison said, putting one hand on her own stomach and the other on his. "Maybe it's practice, so we can without it being weird."

"So now we can practice even more." Scott mimicked the placement of her hands.

They lay there for a while, and Allison felt so connected to Scott that she didn't want to move.

After a bit he poked his head up. "Hey, you're crying," he said.

"Yeah," she said, and sniffled. Or really, she wasn't; the tears were just leaking out, like she had so much emotion inside of her that some of it had to escape.


She nodded. "Yeah. Happy."

The Home Stretch

You really just want it to end at this point. Everyone looks at you sympathetically. You can't lift yourself out of the chair. If you didn't have cankles before, you do now. Even your face looks bloated beyond recognition, at least to you. The baby punches you regularly, you have to pee every five seconds, and you're wondering why the hell you ever thought this was a good idea. You'll vow to never do this again, and maybe you'll keep that vow. Maybe you won't. Either way, you'll just have to dig in your heels and get through it.

Asking for help from your mate is a good plan. Reminding them that they're the ones who got you into this mess is a cliche but also works remarkably well. It gets you a lot of foot rubs.

(Except if, like my pal Scott, you decided to get pregnant the same time as your beta. Then at least you have someone to commiserate with so long as the whole thing doesn't dive into discomfort olympics. But then, if you the sort of person who thought that being pregnant at the same time was a good plan, then you probably aren't the sort of person to engage in competitive misery.)

Worst case just start crossing off the days on the calendar. And try to stay at work for as long as possible. Not only does it give you more days off when the baby is actually here (curse the US and our completely backwards maternity leave) but it also keeps your mind off your condition as much as possible and gives you a sense of accomplishment that isn't wrapped up in being a human incubator. Trust me, you'll appreciate it.

"Why did I do this, again?" Allison asked.

Stiles snickered. "Just a few more weeks!"

They were doing another video chat, all four of them, because why not. And Isaac was along for the ride, which Allison wasn't sure was encouraging or discouraging to him. It had been fun, though, to be able to peek in on their omega chats, however temporarily.

"Oh my god, you two are rubbing each other's feet," Isaac said.

Which, they were; they were laying sideways on the couch with their feet in each other's laps. It was easier to get up that way; they could just roll off the cushions sideways instead of trying to actually sit up.

Erica shook her head. "You two are as bad as you were in high school."

"It's disgusting," Stiles agreed.

Derek came into the frame then, with a tray. "Here's your grilled cheese, and your tea, and the mochi ice cream."

"It'll melt."

"It's in a freezer bag with blue ice under it. I think it'll be okay. You'll probably eat it first anyway."

"Fine. Love you," Stiles said, tipping his head to get a kiss. "Now go away."

"You're not joining us?" Scott asked.

Derek shook his head.

"The alphas are doing their own thing," Isaac said as Derek walked away.

"Statusist!" Scott said, grinning.

"More like, a safe space to bitch about the daily stresses of being an omega that doesn't act right without sending our alphas into protective fits that are so tiresome," Erica said.

The way she, Isaac and Stiles all rolled their eyes at once surprised Allison, though on second thought it shouldn't have. She'd certainly listened to Lydia when she was in just that mood and didn't want to bother Erica with it, so she knew it happened, but she hadn't thought about how it affected her omega.

Scott, of course, was unsurprised, but then, his best friend was an omega. "We really appreciate the invite," he said, suddenly sounding more like Scott the Activist than Scott the Friend.

"Please, you're more than welcome," Stiles said. "Especially since after that article yesterday you're pretty much in the same boat."

Scott huffed, but Allison just wish she could make herself smaller. Not that she hadn't talked about it already, but.

"What article?" Isaac asked. "I missed something?"

Erica rolled her eyes. "Some idiot wrote an article about how disappointed they were that Allison was carrying a child instead of having Scott do it, because she's an athlete and a role model for beta women and she had an opportunity to be an example of how they didn't have to fill an omega role."

"Whoa," Isaac said. "That's …"

"Disgusting on so many levels?" Stiles said. "As statusist as whatever it's trying to argue against? Reinforces that old idea that betas are really either omegas or alphas instead of being betas?"

"At least people have already put up essays arguing against it," Scott said. "I didn't even have to do it."

"We're trying to stay out of it," Allison said. "But it's strange, watching people debate something you thought was a personal decision. So Stiles, how is the book coming?"

"Sent it off last week," Stiles said. "Just a little behind my deadline but that's not so bad. Now I just have to wait and see how they're going to react to it. We'll get it out somehow—that stupid article shows how old-fashioned people's attitudes can be." He scowled.

"I know you're angry but I'm glad we managed to keep you from responding to that article," Erica said.

"I am mad!" Stiles sighed. "But I'm also just as uncomfortable and irritable as you guys are." He took a vicious bite out of his sandwich.

"I'm glad I didn't know about it," Isaac said. "You wouldn't have been able to stop me."

Allison said, "Well, what I think is that omegas are every bit as prone to protective fits as alphas are." Then, firmly: "Now can we please talk about something else?"

Scott squeezed her ankle gently. "Like, how do you sleep like this?" he asked. "I hate sleeping on my back but it's like the only option."

About that Stiles and Erica had plenty to say. Allison glanced up at Scott, who smiled at her. He had always been the best at wrangling Stiles, at getting him off a topic he was obsessed with. Maybe betas had their own protective streak, too.

"So why haven't we done this before?" Lydia said.

She, Boyd and Derek were having their own video chat while their mates had theirs, and Derek and Lydia had just finished a necessary bit of complaining about their needy, grouchy omegas while Boyd hummed sympathetically.

"Because I usually have my book group when Stiles schedules the chats," Derek said.

"You're still in that one run by Jennifer Blake?" Lydia asked. "God, she was so weird when we were in school."

"How so?" Derek asked.

"Overinvested in mating season, especially for a beta," Boyd said. "And she was weird about your fans. The Dereksters."

"Oh that's right," Lydia said. "She always kept the stuff that she confiscated. The other teachers either gave the stuff back or chucked it but she kept it in her drawer like a creeper."

Derek frowned. "What stuff? Like, pictures? Stiles said some of them had my picture in their lockers."

"Quizzes about your life," Boyd said. "They made little books about you and competed about who knew the most."

"Is that why they kept asking Stiles all those weird questions?" Derek asked. "I'm not, like, some pop star. I'm just an architect."

Lydia groaned. "Oh my god, when they found out you wanted to be one, they would not stop playing that Decemberists song."

"I still can't listen to it," Boyd said, making a face.

"Weird, I think Stiles put it on a mix he sent me," Derek said.

"Because he's defiant like that," Boyd said. "I'd think you'd know that better than anyone."

"True," Derek replied, nodding. "I didn't really care too much about them unless they were mean to Stiles. Which they weren't so much after we claimed. No one says anything about it now, at least. And Jennifer's all right, really. She's back with her old girlfriend Kali—I think they were broken up when she was teaching you guys. Maybe that's why she was weird to you, because they're kinda codependent."

"She did get rid of Harris," Lydia said. "Caught him doing something or other, I never could get the straight story, but he was a hack and I was damned if I was going to have my Chemistry AP exam score suffer because of him."

Boyd laughed. "I'm sure you would have done something about it yourself if it came to that."

"Probably." Lydia paused, looking at the screen, and saw Derek smiling, vaguely, the way he smiled at Stiles sometimes, or his children. "Derek? What is it?"

He started slightly, but he didn't stop smiling. "You're right. We should do this more often."

Lydia bit her lip against her usual reply of "Of course I'm right." This didn't feel like that sort of conversation. Boyd waited him out, too.

"I've never really had a lot of alpha friends," Derek continued. "Especially here in Beacon Hills. In Brooklyn it was mostly betas, and here, too, I guess."

"You two could move to the city," Lydia said. "Lots of alpha-omega families do. Your jobs are portable."

Derek shrugged. "This is our home. Besides, the kids growing up out here need some role models. You know, like John Stilinski."

"That's so pay it forward of you," Lydia said.

"It was rough for me," Derek said. "Even before the fire. And then the wrong idea about me got around. If my being here means another kid doesn't have to go through that, then that's okay. Besides, we have a nice house."

Boyd laughed. "That's the real reason!" he teased. "Don't even with all this activist crap."

Lydia laughed too. Then: "Though, I envy you. The math department is like mating season all over again all the time. It's tiresome. I try to stay above it but I admit I don't always succeed."

"Kitchens are like that, too," Boyd said. "Like the head chef has to be the biggest alpha when actually it's all about the food. I got swagger, but in the end it's nonsense."

"So it's a date then?" Lydia asked. "Once a month for us, too?"

"I'm in," Boyd said.

"Yeah, I'd like that," Derek said, nodding.

"I can't see my feet," Erica said. "I can't even remember what they look like."

"Could you see your feet before, though?" Scott asked.

Isaac laughed. "Allison, can we keep him?"

"You don't have him now," Allison said.

Stiles smiled, but said nothing. He was uncomfortable again, couldn't seem to find a way to sit that didn't make him ache more. The mochi didn't make him feel any better; even watching his friends tease each other wasn't taking much edge off his irritability. What he wasn't saying was that the baby had shifted down into position a little early, and he was at the doctor's office twice a week to check how things were going. He was now at 35 weeks so it wasn't terrible, just, not ideal. And with the book and the advice-giving and his previous experiences, he kind of wanted this one to be ideal.

"Stiles?" Scott said. "Kinda quiet there, bro."

"Sorry," he replied.

"Where are the kids?" Erica asked.

"Melissa wanted to have a day with them before she heads to Scott and Allison's place."

"I'm still amazed that you're mother-in-law is staying with you and you're okay with that," Erica said.

"Hey!" Scott said.

Allison ignored him. "Well, she is a nurse. And it'll be nice to have some help from someone who's had a baby herself. Never mind that I get along better with Melissa than my dad does with Scott, even now."

"Yeah, just a little," Stiles said.

"So, empty house," Isaac said, waggling his eyebrows. "Going to take advantage?"

"Actually, I …" Stiles trailed off, but these were his friends. Who else could he tell? "I've been kind of a bear lately."

"Yeah, we didn't notice that at all," Erica said.

Stiles stuck out his tongue. "I'm just—there's been some false labor, and the baby, he seems to want to get out as soon as possible. We're trying to keep him in but he's not having it." Stiles shifted on the couch again. "It's really uncomfortable. Do not recommend."

"Aww, man," Scott said, "is there anything we can do?"

"I don't think so. But, thanks."

"Well I'm sending you some cookies anyway," Isaac said.

"There's that tea our yoga teacher recommended," Allison added. "We sent it last week."

"Yeah, I got it," Stiles said, and didn't mention that it tasted like grass clippings.

"I just finished translating another of those ridiculous romance novels," Erica said. "I'll send it to you when I send it to my editor."

Stiles loved those books; they were great distractions, and made him feel like a better writer in comparison. "Awesome. Thanks, guys." Because friends, yeah. Pretty great.

He lost track of the conversation a little after that; he was having trouble focusing on anything other than his own discomfort and whatever the baby was doing. But the sound of his friend's voices was soothing, even if he wasn't entirely following their meaning. He felt some pain so he decided to roll off the couch onto his feet.

"Stiles?" Scott asked.

"Don't mind me," he said. "Just walking it off, you know. Not working as well as it usually does, but, hey!" He smiled, not really feeling it, and took a few deep breaths as he paced in front of the couch.

And then, like that, the gig was up. "God damn it," he said. "Derek?"

"Stiles, man, are you okay?" Scott asked.

"Yeah, things are just a little wetter than they were a few seconds ago," Stiles said, shaking his head. "Derek!"

Derek popped into the room, eyebrows questioning, and Stiles just pointed to his crotch, sure that the wetness he could feel between his legs was showing. Derek's eyes widened, and he nodded.

"Just a sec, let me—I'll be right back, babe." He dashed out of the room.

Stiles had the video chat up on the big screen, and watched as first Lydia, then Boyd joined their mates.

"So, yeah, we're probably going to the hospital now?" Stiles said. "Scott, if you could call Melissa and let her know?"

"On it," Scott said.

"Hopefully they'll just cross my legs and keep him in for another week? And then that book will come in handy, Erica. But this guy's got a mind of his own." He grabbed the towel that Derek had wrapped the blue ice in and threw it on the floor to get the fluid that hadn't been absorbed by his jeans, rubbing it with his feet, and then felt another pain. "Derek!"

Derek appeared then, on his cell phone, likely talking to their doctor. "Yeah, we're leaving now." He handed the pair of sweatpants in his hands to Stiles and kept going into the kitchen.

"Aww, lovely, you brought me dry pants!" Stiles felt a surge of emotion that he was pretty sure was mostly just hormones, but whatever; Derek would likely get yelled at enough later. He unbuckled his overalls.

"Um, Stiles?" Erica said.

Stiles looked up—he'd actually forgotten they were there. "Right, okay, not getting naked." Scott was on the phone, but everyone else was just staring. "So, we're going to say goodbye, and um, talk to you soon?"

Scott held up his hand. "Mom says she'll meet you there."

"Awesome!" Stiles said, and clicked off. He left his coveralls and the towel where they were; laundry could wait, and Derek would get it later anyway, probably.

Derek came back from the kitchen with Stiles's laptop bag. "Got your wallet. You have your phone?" he asked.

Stiles put it in the bag. "I just—I really wish we had another week or two."

"I know," Derek said, kissing his temple. "We'll be fine. You need to be calm."

"Yeah," Stiles said, and took a deep breath. "Okay, let's go."

In which your author punts on birth

Look, there are as many different ways to set up your birth experience as there are pregnant people on the planet, so I can't even begin to give you advice here. In fact, I'm also not going to tell you which way works for me, because I don't want to influence you. Research, talk to friends, talk to your physician and your mate. We've tried to cover every widely available option in this chapter but you'll probably know what feels right to you, what seems like the way to bring your new little person into the world.

Most important: don't let anyone force you into anything they consider traditional that just feels awkward to you. It's your birth, your baby, your choice.

There were visits, and a few lunches here and there, but the first time they were really all together was for a picnic on Independence Day. Abby in particular was transfixed by all the two-month-old babies surrounding her, staring at them, and then sat down next to Allison.

"Tell me how again," she demanded, and Allison could just see Stiles smirking out of the corner of her eye. But it was her own fault; she'd told the story the first time, and now, apparently, she was the only expert story-teller.

"Well," she said, "your papa had Jamie first, because Jamie was impatient and came out early."

"It was scary," Abby said.

"A little," Allison agreed, because she knew that Abby remembered the week when her Papa came home from the hospital but Jamie had to stay. "Jamie wasn't quite ready, so they had to keep him for a little while and make sure he'd be able to breathe and eat and do for himself, outside of your Papa's belly."

Abby nodded. "But he's okay now," she said. "And he has Uncle Scott's name for his middle name, because Jamie's a beta like Uncle Scott."

"Then your Aunt Erica had Ada," Allison continued.

"She was born under water," Abby said.

"In a sense," Allison said. "Your Aunt Erica did give birth in a tub, but she wasn't entirely under water." Allison didn't tell Abby that Lydia had planned out the soft lighting and the soothing music, only to have Erica decide that she wanted the room to be as bright as possible and rock music "so this kid knows what she's in for." So Ada was born into the sunlight, with Heart blasting from the stereo.

"Ada is eating right now," Abby said, looking over at where Erica was nursing the baby. "And she's a beta too. All beta babies."

"Yes, we had all beta babies," Allison said.

"Do you think betas are the best because you're a beta?" Abby asked. "Because I think alphas are the best."

"I think we're all the best," Allison said. "Don't you think your sisters are the best? They're not alphas."

"I guess," Abby said.

"Nor your Papa," Allison said.

"But your family is all betas," Abby said.

"Not all of it," Allison replied, and shifted Marianne slightly in her arms. "You're my family, and your sisters and brother, and your Papa and Daddy. And so are Aunt Erica and Aunt Lydia and Ada, and your Grandpa and Grandma."

"Well," Abby said, "I'll think about it."

"You do that," Allison replied, willing herself not to look at Stiles so she wouldn't laugh. "Do you want to hear the rest of the story?"


Stiles cleared his throat. "What do you say, Abby?"

"Please," she added, perfunctorily.

"All right," Allison said. "Your Uncle Scott and I shared a big bed at the hospital, and we went because Cecilia decided she wanted to get out first."

"Cecilia came out of your belly," Abby said.

"Yes, but not at first. She waited, and waited, and in the meantime Marianne decided she wanted to get out of Uncle Scott's belly, so she just came right out."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Typical," he said.

Allison could laugh about it now, but at the time she was peeved that Scott's labor was shorter than her own, happened entirely during her own, though Marianne came out so quickly and without warning that they didn't have time to give Scott his epidural. So she supposed, in the end, it all evened out.

"Marianne and Cecilia are my cousins because we have the same Grandma and Grandpa," Abby declared. "And Ada should be a cousin, too."

"I think she'd like that, Abby," Erica said.

"Are you going to have more babies, Aunt Allison?" Abby asked. "Papa's going to have lots more."

"Two isn't lots, Abigail," Derek said. He was holding Ellie, who was still a little clingy now that she had to give up her Papa to Jamie more often. Lizzie, meanwhile, was very busy running in a circle around all the adults and babies on the blanket.

"No, Uncle Scott and I think two babies are enough for us," Allison said.

"What about you, Aunt Erica?" she asked. "Are you going to have lots of babies like Papa?"

"Only your Papa is having lots of babies," Lydia said.

Erica laughed. "I think one more will be enough for us, too, but we'll see."

Abby curled up next to Allison. "So many new babies," she said, patting Marianne on the head.

"Oh my god," Stiles said, and handed Jamie to Lydia. "I can't believe I almost forgot this." He turned and rummaged through a nearby tote bag.

"What is it?" Allison asked.

He pulled out some stiff paper in a folder. "The cover proof!" he said, and lay it down on the blanket. "Now, Abby and Lizzie, don't touch, okay?"

Allison leaned forward to look. On the front was the picture she remembered from their photo shoot of all six of them, four very pregnant, sitting close together in casual clothes. She would never have thought, when the process started, that she'd be on the cover of a pregnancy guide, but now it seemed oddly fitting—like so many other things that had happened in the last year.

"That really was the best photo of the lot," Lydia said, nodding her approval.

"It's like we're symbols," Erica said. "Strange, given how unusual our mating season was."

"Or appropriate because of that," Derek said, quietly, and Stiles reached out to him and held his hand.

"Symbols, huh," Scott said, grinning at Allison.

She smiled back. "I'm okay with that," she said.