Actions

Work Header

Hold Me Close

Chapter Text

The guards barely gave Sam a second look as he entered the justice office, he had made a habit of bringing items to their only prisoner for a couple of weeks. They allowed it, all under the presumption that someone high up had ordered him to do so. He never brought luxuries, only simple meals, small bars of soap or the occasional fresh set of clothes. At first they had accompanied him down but they soon grew bored of watching the omega slide small items to the cell while the prisoner either ignored him or made snarky remarks. He passed by the desks, piled high with binders and forms, and pulled open the door to the steep staircase leading to the cells. He edged down them more carefully than usual, taking all eighty-two steps one at a time until he reached another door into the main prison area.

Once inside he closed the door quietly behind him and walked to the bars. Brandon shifted on his single mattress lying on the floor, peering over his shoulder at his visitor. He huffed and rolled over, staring at Sam with a look of annoyance. He had healed quickly, Sam noted, although wolves usually did, Karliah had done such a number on him many thought he would be permanently disfigured. He was still covered in green and yellow bruises and his face still had a slightly swollen appearance but he also still had the sour facial expressions Sam had come to know well. He stood by the bars, waiting for Brandon to acknowledge him. It took a few minutes but eventually the beta sat up with a grunt, pulled himself up off the floor and trudged slowly towards the front of his cell, keeping a metre’s distance between them.

Sam watched him blankly, keeping his expression neutral.

“What do you want, omega?” He growled.

“I don’t want anything,” Sam blinked, “I’m just here to tie up some loose ends.” he tilted his head just a little, playing up his omega charms. Brandon mulled over his words for a moment,

“Is that a threat?” he huffed.

“Would an omega threaten you?” Sam asked innocently. Brandon scoffed and strutted to the bars confidently, pressing his face against them.

“You wouldn’t have the balls to go through with anything anyway.” He sneered, Sam smiled sweetly and shot his hand out, the paring knife tucked in his sleeve slid out easily and jammed itself into Brandon’s neck, just above his collar bone. The beta froze, wide-eyed and disbelieving for a moment, staring down at Sam who grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him in closer, until his lips were by his ear and whispered,

“Does it really matter what I said when they will never believe what I did?” Brandon gurgled in reply, staggering back, blood spreading quickly down his top in all directions, soaking into the material easily. It dribbled from his mouth as he tried to breath, unsettling, wet, raspy breaths. He choked on the blood in his throat and coughed it up in spatters, his body lurching forward before teetering back again, his arms flailing. Sam stepped away as he began to claw at the knife, finally wrenching it out of his neck, only to cause more blood to spurt out of the gaping hole. Squelches and gurgles filled the room as Brandon frantically stumbled around his cell, gasping for air, Sam ignored him and left, the sounds quickly quieting as he climbed the stairs out to the office and then finally out into the brisk-but-fresh air. He sucked it in heavily through his nose, hoping to clear the stomach-churning smell of blood that still lingered inside.

Chapter Text

7 Days Earlier

 

"But... You're my mate." Karliah spoke as though she were in a daze, utterly bewildered at what she was hearing. "You're mine... You can't... I really..." She looked so hurt, it made Cassie feel even worse. She had taken this decision very seriously and thought it over carefully.

 

"I know and I love you so much." She reassured, taking her mate's large hands in her own.

 

"Then why-"

 

"Because I love him too." Cassie whispered sadly, "And you don't understand what he gets put through there, what he gets put through by his own mate!" she stared up into those sweet silver eyes and sighed. "I'm sorry, but you owe him and it's not like it's for long!"

 

"YEARS, Cassie!" Karliah stressed, sliding her hands up the smaller girl's arms and gripping her firmly. "Why can't he come live here?"

 

"Markus would never allow that!" Cassie cried.

 

"Why don't I speak to him?" Karliah released her arms, trailing her fingers up her shoulders and neck before finally resting them on her cheeks in an attempt to comfort her, convince her, sway her even just a little.

 

"No! Then he'll know that you know which means he'll know that I know!"

 

"So?" Karliah tried to sound soothing, rubbing circles with her thumbs on her mate's soft skin.

 

"So, he will say no to you and then make Sam's life even worse because he'll assume that he's been telling people!" She whined, using her cute voice to her full advantage. "Please?"

 

"I don't know why you're saying 'please', it's not like I get a vote in this anyway." Karliah grumbled. Cassie placed her hands over hers, nuzzling into them gently.

 

"You do get a vote, I'm just counting my vote as two." She smiled cheekily, knowing that she had won. Karliah rolled her eyes and pulled Cassie's face forward to rub their noses together.

 

"I love you so much," She whispered sadly, "and I'm going to miss you every moment you're even a centimetre away from me." Cassie didn't have to open her mouth for Karliah to know she felt the same way. Her deep green eyes reflected her emotions like a mirror.

 

~

 

"I love you so much, and I'm going to miss you every moment you're even a centimetre away from me.” Cassie sighed. She didn't want to go back and stay with her pack, as much as she loved her family and friends there, once a sub was marked they were expected to follow their dom to their pack and live together. Mates needed to be together, it made them stronger. The further apart they were the weaker they became. Since being marked, she had spent the last few weeks living in the Lunar Warriors pack house. But she couldn't leave Sam alone, he had always been her number one supporter, her most enthusiastic cheerleader and more importantly, her most trusted confidant. He had Charles but not for long, soon he would return to his own home and Sam would be left with no one. But Cassie had a plan, she would return and stay in her pack until the end of school, once they were officially adults and could move packs as they pleased without parental permission or a mark of a current member, and then she would help Sam escape, hopefully with Charles (if she could rope him in to help - which she planned to do soon) and he could live happily ever after and so could she. Charles would give him the love Markus never could. But she couldn't leave him till then, the pack was too cruel, he needed someone to vent to, someone to help him with his chores in secret, he needed a friend to get him through it. He was beyond a brother to her, and not just because she owed him her life. "Promise me you'll spend every second you can over here, I want you to get used to my pack so you feel comfortable in your home when you move here permanently." Cassie blushed at the thought of Karliah's home being her home, it felt so fast but so right. That was cheesy, she thought.

 

"I promise." She stood on her toes to close the gap between their faces and plant a chaste kiss on her mate's lips. Karliah sighed,

 

"You'd better, or I'll put you over my desk just like when we first met." She growled.

 

"Is THAT a promise?" Cassie teased.

 

"Definitely." Karliah grinned, slamming her lips down the the brunette's roughly and quickly invading her mouth with her tongue, curling around Cassie's and sucking on it lightly. Cassie moaned softly, her hands grasping Karliah's shirt, pulling their bodies together so that every inch was connected. Karliah bit at her bottom lip, tasting her and savouring her flavour. She gave a little nibble back, feeling shy at the thought of trying to be dominant, Karliah chuckled and bit her again, harder. Cassie whined, pulling at the taller girl's top. Karliah used her own hands to turn Cassie's head, still holding her by the cheeks, and reveal her mark. She could feel her mate's pulse beneath it without laying a finger down on the skin. She kissed her way down Cassie's neck to the base of her throat, enjoying the hitched breath and tensed muscles that always came with getting close to her mark, Cassie's wolf was excited, barely able to contain itself as it waited for her to touch the mark. She circled it with her nose, teasing her skin, blowing her breaths directly onto it just to feel her shiver.

 

"Please!" Cassie whined, twisting futilely.

 

"Mmhmm." Karliah replied, before latching onto the dark symbol and sucking on it hard.

 

"Ah! AAAAH!" Cassie cried out, gripping at the shoulders above her and pressing her forehead into Karliah's neck. Whenever her mark was touched by her mate it sent her body into sensory overload. Pleasure seared through her, soaking her underwear and causing her knees to buckle. Karliah used the opportunity to push her back, letting her weak legs drop her onto the edge of the desk, her feet dangling either side of Karliah’s knees. The buttons running down the centre of her dress were quickly undone and the material slipped off her shoulders and draped over the back of Karliah’s leather wheelie chair. “Hey,” Cassie whined, “why am I always the one whose clothes disappear first?” she pulled up the alpha’s black tee but she could only get it to her arm pits before she wasn’t tall enough to get it any further. Karliah helped her out, tugging the soft top off and catapulting it into a tall leafy plant in the corner of the office.

 

“Clearly, it’s because you’re too little to get my clothes off!” Karliah laughed teasingly, pinching her mate’s cheeks gently.

 

“You told me I was the perfect size yesterday when we were cuddling!” Cassie pouted.

 

“You are the perfect size!” Both their bras were discarded. “Perfectly teeny!” Karliah massaged Cassie’s breasts, pulling at the tiny beaded nipples and watching her keen both at the hands playing with her and the compliments being showered over her. “You’re so adorable it hurts to look at you for too long.” Cassie blushed, even though Karliah said such sickly sweet things all the time these days it still had the same effect on her - she didn’t think she would ever get used to it.

 

The hands teasing her plump breasts slowly felt heir way down to her waist… her hips… the line of her underwear… They were wet from Cassie’s arousal and Karliah slid her fingers over her crotch, coating her fingers in it before licking them slowly and seductively, never breaking eye contact with Cassie.

 

“Have I told you how much I love the taste of your cunt?”

 

“Only every day since you marked me.” Cassie rolled her eyes. Her lace bikini-briefs were ripped off so fast she jumped with a gasp. “H-hey! You already owe me, like, ten pairs of new knickers!”

 

“I can’t help it,” Karliah laughed, “you have no idea how hot it is to rip a girl’s panties off!” she pushed Cassie’s legs further apart and stepped in closer. Cassie shivered with anticipation as her mate’s hands tickled at the insides of her knees, slid up her inner thighs and ghosted around her vulva, close enough to make her even more aroused, but not enough to give her any relief. She watched Karliah with half-lidded eyes and the alpha paused, their eyes locked until a hand shot forward and slid a finger into her. Cassie’s eyes shut involuntarily at the feeling and a breathy moan fell from her lips. Karliah pulled he lone finger out halfway and slammed it back in.

 

“Ah!” Cassie’s legs jolted from the pleasure, but she wanted more. Karliah used her second hand to stroke at Cassie’s inner lips, sliding up and down the warm and slippery flesh. She was avoiding Cassie’s clit, she was sure - deliberately teasing her! The alpha leaned in to press her lips to Cassie’s ear.

 

“Who knew it was possible to get this,” She slammed two fingers in. “wet,” And again. “from a little bit of kissing?” She sped up her thrusting fingers, curling the tips to graze her g-spot and send waves of pleasure through her. Cassie whimpered, her g-spot felt like it was pounding inside of her.

 

“M-my mark!” She cried out, “Yo-you touched my mark…” she took a shuddering breath as the second hand slid up to rub a her clit. “Oh-oh goddess…” She curled into Karliah, grabbing her boobs and squeezing them, rubbing her fingers roughly over her nipples. “Hah! Ah!” Karliah pinched ever so lightly at her clit before slamming a third finger in. “I-I-Ah!”

 

“What is it, baby?” Karliah asked with the worst ‘fake innocence’ Cassie had ever heard. She had to take a couple of shaky breaths before she could get her thoughts together to reply as the hands continued relentlessly, thrusting and massaging at her most sensitive areas.

 

“I… I want y-yooouuu!” She moaned, her hips jerking forward towards the fingers pounding into her.

 

“So soon?” Karliah teased.

 

“N-Now!”

 

“Ooh, I like it when you’re bossy!” Karliah laughed and pulled her fingers out, giving them the slow, tantalizing lick that is customary whenever they enter her mate - she can never seem to waste a drop, something Cassie both found odd and and sexy at the same time. The long digits were quickly replaced by a long, hard member.

 

Karliah slammed into her with the usual ferocity, Cassie had made it very clear she preferred Karliah’s rough and hard style to the soft and slow approach she sometimes tried. Cassie flung her head back in satisfaction, a cry bursting from her with much more volume than she expected. With each thrust she came further undone, panting and trembling as she moaned encouragement to her mate.

 

“Oh god, yes, yes,yes!” Cassie’s legs spasmed either side of Karliah’s hips, trembling almost to the point of vibration as she screamed under her. “Please! There!” Her mouth fell open, eyes closed with her face buried in Karliah’s neck, clinging to her with her tiny hands. “There! There!” Her voice was muffled but Karliah could still understand her perfectly and continued to hit that spot over and over, driving in deep and hard. “Pleeaase!”

 

“God, I love it when you beg.” She groaned, never slowing her thrusts. Cassie continued to sob brokenly, her legs jerking in time with the bursts of pleasure. All too quickly the sensations were too much for her little body to handle,

 

“I-I can’t!” she panted, “I’m gonn-na!” Karliah squeezed harder at her skin but didn’t stop.

 

“Go on, baby.” She groaned, “Come for me.”

 

Cassie screamed brokenly. Karliah followed with a groan, still rocking her hips in and out, wordlessly informing Cassie that they were far from finished.

 

~

 

3 Days Earlier

 

They still hadn't had their bonding ceremony yet, usually if the sub was already marked there was no point, but as the soon-to-be alpha of one of the biggest packs in the country, Karliah knew her bonding ceremony was an important way to bring together the most important people in the area, while stroking their egos and potentially dividing them into 'Allies', 'Enemies' and 'Neutral' groups in her head for future reference. It kind of ruined the romance of it when everything was about politics and status but she tried to enjoy the preparations anyway.

 

They had just about finalised their guest list and soon would be sending out their invites, although that didn't really feel like a good thing when Karliah knew that next came the table plans which would bring a whole host of new problems with it. Trying to remember which packs got along and which didn't was so tedious and confusing.

 

The pair were curled up on the sofa in Karliah’s bedroom, pages and pages of plans spread across the coffee table as they had yet another meeting to discuss their choices and ideas. Karliah sighed sadly, the sound squeezed Cassie’s heart.

 

“What’s wrong?” She asked, “Are you not excited for our bonding ceremony?” she crawled further up into her lap and placed her hands on her lightly tanned cheeks. Karliah pulled a face, trying to turn away but struggling with her face clamped between Cassie’s hands.

 

“Of course, I’m excited to be officially bonded to you…” She huffed, clearly unsure of whether to continue. “It’s just… my mother…” Cassie watched her carefully, waiting her out. She had learned that Karliah would relinquish her thoughts when given enough time. “She wants me to wear a dress… for the ceremony…” Cassie tried to picture Karliah in a dress, she had never seen her wear anything but trousers and tank tops, she had worn a women’s suit to the winter ball and Cassie had assumed she would wear something similar for their bonding ceremony.

 

“And you don’t want to?” Cassie tried not to show any expression on her face, she didn’t want Karliah to feel swayed by her opinion. She thought Karliah would look stunning in a dress…

 

“I don’t know, I guess I just feel like dresses are a bit… much…” She rolled her eyes, “Is that stupid? I feel like my style being less feminine somehow cancels out my gender dysphoria, like just cause I don’t want to wear fake eyelashes then my womanhood is false…”

 

“That’s not true at all! If I decided to start wearing trousers,” She shuddered at the thought, Cassie lived purely in skirts and dresses, she had worn trousers once in the last ten years and that was only because a creepy guy had grabbed her and left marks on her thighs. She didn’t do shorts, she didn’t do pant-suits and she definitely didn’t do jeans. “that wouldn’t make me a dude! Clothes are just for show, but you don’t need them to show people you’re female, it protrudes from you!” She winked and poked Karliah’s boobs with her index fingers. “Your femininity comes from you as a person, not the way your clothes sewn together, it’s all just material - who cares?” Karliah rolled her eyes with a half-grin,

 

“Thanks, babe.” she paused, looking away nervously. “So, would you mind repeating that to my mum?”

 

“Of course not,” Cassie kissed the tip of her nose. “we both know your mum loves me best anyway.” She teased with a soft giggle. Karliah bumped their foreheads together and returned the laugh.

 

“Very true, although I like to think I have earned myself some bonus points for having marked you - I am definitely a strong second place!”

 

“See, that’s another reason you’re so lucky to have siblings - my mum loves you best but that puts me in instant last place!”

 

“Speaking of…” Karliah switched the subject slyly. “has your mum taken you shopping for your ceremony dress?”

 

“If she had I wouldn’t tell you!”

 

“Why not? I’m not asking for pictures! I just want to know how far behind I am!” Karliah laughed, squeezing her in close and kissing up her neck, obviously trying to soften her up but Cassie was having none of it.

 

“Nope, that’s between me and my mummy - as it should be for any young lady preparing for her bonding!”

 

“Fine, I’ll take that as a yes then…” They grinned at each other and shared a slow, soft kiss before continuing on with their planning.

 

~

 

Present

 

Cassie lounged in Karliah's lap like a cat, her legs curled up against her while her body slouched against the alpha's chest, watching her mate's hands fill out forms and paperwork. She loved to keep her company when she was working, she couldn't imagine the level of pressure Karliah felt at knowing one day she would have to succeed her father and take on all the responsibilities of her pack. It was a large pack, especially compared to the others in the area, Cassie knew her pack rivalled Lunar Warriors for the title of biggest pack but she didn't know for sure which had more members.

 

She heard a soft sigh above her and looked up to see Karliah rubbing at the bridge of her nose, eyes tightly shut and a frown on her face.

 

"Maybe you should take a break." Cassie suggested, bringing one hand up to rub at the back of her mate's neck comfortingly. Karliah 'mmm'd in reply and kept her eyes shut as she relaxed into the small hand at the nape of her neck, massaging away her stress. After a couple of minutes she finally opened her eyes, looking down at Cassie adoringly,

 

"I love you." she smiled sadly, "I'm sorry I'm always cooped up working."

 

"Don't be," Cassie sat up carefully, "I'm sorry you're under so much pressure." she kissed the tip of Karliah's nose. "I worry about you."

 

"You don't have to worry about me," Karliah reassured, "it'll get easier, once I'm out of school I'll have plenty of time and will have hopefully memorised everything by then…” Cassie smiled up at her blissfully, holding her gaze for a moment before snuggling back into her, enjoying the warmth.

 

~

 

A frantic knock on the office door pulled them out of their thoughts barely half an hour later. Karliah pulled a face and Cassie laughed quietly.

 

“Come in!” The alpha called. Cassie shivered at the sound of her authoritative tone, she couldn’t help the affect her mate’s dominant attitude had on her.

 

“Alpha.” It was Damien.

 

“Yes, Damien?”

 

“Your… I was told to tell you…” His eyes flickered between the two women nervously, Cassie’s wolf began to tense, something was wrong. “The prisoner, at Scarlett Moon-” Cassie drew in a sharp breath and Karliah’s arms tightened around her protectively. He’s escaped, thought Cassie. “he was murdered this morning.” For at least a minute, no one spoke. Finally, Karliah managed to find her voice and broke through the suffocating tension in the air with the question they were all thinking.

 

“By who?”

 

“That- We don’t know yet… There’s going to be an investigation…”

 

“Oh my god.” Cassie breathed, staring straight ahead.

 

“Baby?” Lips pressed against her ear and she could feel Karliah’s silver eyes burning into the side of her head. “Are you okay?”

 

“Y-yeah. Just… surprised.” She blinked. “I… I don’t feel how I thought I would if he were to… When he… I don’t know…” Karliah rubbed at her back with one hand and used the other to pull her in tighter to her chest.

 

“It’s a shock, of course.” Damien muttered before ducking out awkwardly, shutting the door with a soft ‘click’.

 

“Sweetheart…” Karliah murmured.

 

“I don’t know what to do or say.”

 

“You don’t have to do or say anything, I’ll make sure no one bothers you and I promise you…” She took Cassie’s face in her hands and forced her to meet her eyes. “we will get to the bottom of this.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Karliah and Cassie sat through a long and tedious meeting the next morning, detailing the plan going forward for the investigation into the murder of Brandon. Karliah had insisted that Cassie stay home at first but quickly realised she was fighting a losing battle, it seems no mater how stubborn alphas are known to be, their mates will always find a way to outdo them. Cassie had pouted without pause while hanging from Karliah’s blazer for the entire duration of her lecture on why she was trying to protect Cassie from further trauma and how she didn’t want to make her a target for further gossip and scrutiny. Karliah gave in with a sigh,

“Fine, you win, get your coat on.”

“Hey,” Cassie pulled on her jacket and pushed up onto her toes to kiss Karliah’s cheek. “don’t baby me.”

Karliah rolled her eyes and grumbled, “You act like a baby…”

“Love you too.” Cassie shook her wrists to escape her sleeves and grabbed Karliah’s hand. “I’m just as nervous as you are, I’m just trying not to show it.”

“I know, baby, my wolf can feel it.” She brushed a kiss onto Cassie’s forehead.

They left, hand in hand, and drove to Cassie’s pack house. She still planned to live there until they graduated but the Brandon incident had put a spanner in the works… If anything this made her pack house feel much safer, but the gossip and intrigue surrounding the crime and the investigation that was about to begin would put her back in the very-much-unwanted spotlight that had only just faded thanks to her retreat into her mate’s home after the attack just a few short months earlier. But Sam was there… And he was the most precious person in her life… Well, besides Karliah. Her love for Karliah was carnal, reflex… instinct. Her love for Sam was built from years of tender moments and secrets shared in whispers… layers of love.

~

Markus’ father, the man who was technically ‘her alpha’ while she lived under his roof, sat at the head of the table. Three members of the border patrol guard sat to the left of the head of the justice office, the man responsible for the prison and its captives, all on the far side of the dining table slash temporary meeting table. Cassie hesitated only momentarily as she entered, she was about to lower her eyes and pull herself inwards at the sight of a table occupied solely by dominants, so used as she was to submitting to every dominant she came into contact with. But her wolf suddenly squared up inside of her. No, she thought, I am an alpha female. Regardless of these men and women being dominants, she had a duty to stand beside her mate with her head held high and an expression of elegance and pride. Karliah had drilled the message into her since she was marked: she was every other wolf’s equal, even alphas couldn’t disrespect her. Of course, Karliah made it clear she had thought that about Cassie since the moment they met, but for her it was still a strange concept… She felt excited about the changes that her mate would bring about for not only their pack in the future, but hopefully other packs too. She met Karliah’s strides just about, her legs stretching a little uncomfortably due to being so much shorter, and straightened her back, keeping her mouth set in a firm line and her eyes ahead. Karliah rested her hand on the small of her back and the weight grounded her.

“Good morning,” The three men and two women stood at the sight of them, even Alpha Matthew. Cassie had never so much as looked him in the eyes before but now she let her glance slide over him as she appraised the line-up. I’m getting the hang of this a bit too easily… She thought. “thank you both for coming so quickly, I understand this must be very distressing for you.”

“Thank you, Alpha Matthew.” Karliah pulled out a chair as she spoke and motioned for Cassie to sit. “We are grateful that you are taking this as seriously as we are.” She took the chair beside her and interlocked their fingers on the table.

“I think we should begin by running through what we know so far, then we can put together an action plan and organise how we pull together this instigation…”

~

The whole pack was buzzing with the news of Brandon’s murder. When Cassie and Karliah had arrived for their meeting with the alpha, Sam had been hidden away in the kitchen with Charles, waiting for the women to join them to discuss the incident afterwards. He perched on a stool and nursed a hot chocolate with mini marshmallows sprinkled on top, Charles sat opposite him, watching him with the gentle interest he always did. Sam sipped the sweet drink slowly. He was beyond confident no one would ever pin the murder on him, an omega injuring a fellow omega was unbelievable to any wolf but the idea that an omega could kill was pure comedy. No one would even be ridiculous enough to suggest it. He couldn’t help himself, the foolhardy confidence rushing through his system made him ask the question.

“And who do you think did it?” Sam asked innocently.

“No offence,” Charles folded his arms over his chest, “but if it were me leading this investigation, you would be my number one suspect.” Sam blinked, trying to hide the sliver of pride he felt that Charles considered him capable of being even a smidge dangerous. “And as much as I like you, I don’t understand how they haven’t led you away in handcuffs yet.”

“Why am I your number one suspect?”

“It’s just too obvious,” Charles shook his head in disbelief, “you were the last person to be seen visiting him, you left the prison mere minutes before he was pronounced dead and the knife found at the scene was one from this kitchen - and I know damn well no other wolf in this house peels any potatoes!” His eyes flashed with something that Sam couldn’t translate but he didn’t interrupt, he wasn’t entirely sure where the conversation was going at this point nor did he know where Charles had gotten so much information on the case. “Plus, you have a motive, as the best friend of Cassie you have reason to want revenge on him for what he did.”

“Well, Kar-”

“Karliah got her revenge, trust me, when they dragged his body in I would have thought he was a corpse if I couldn’t hear his heart beating, he looked like someone ran over him with a combine harvester.” Sam remembered all too well, clinging to Cassie as Karliah first subdued him with a quick punch and then went back for seconds once she knew Cassie was safe with a doctor, throwing him down like the fist of fury. Sam never thought he would see Mortal Kombat in real life until that day. “She chose to let him live, the chances of her deciding, weeks later, that she wanted him dead just don’t sound very likely to me.”

“Are you going to go to the head of the justice office and report your findings, then?” Sam teased.

“Why are you not taking this more seriously? Why does no one seem to be looking at this clearly?”

“Look, Charles, you have to understand that in our culture, the mere thought of an omega committing murder is comedy gold.” Sam explained, shrugging. “I could confess, on tape, to the murder and I would not get punished, because no jury of wolves would ever believe that an omega is capable of killing anyone, not even a fellow omega.” Charles’ face was solemn and they sat in silence for a few minutes as he digested this revelation.

“Did you do it?” He finally asked, although he couldn’t look Sam in the eyes.

“Would you think badly of me if I did?”

“No.” The answer popped out quickly, like a reflex. “I could never think badly of you, Sam. God knows I’m no saint, I’ve killed before and I’m not proud of it.”

“Then why do you seem so…”

“I guess I’m just disappointed, I was hoping you would explain why it couldn’t possibly have been you, that you would have some kind of secret evidence or alibi that only the justice office know about so that I wouldn’t have to accept what I figured out from the start. To be honest, I don’t want to believe you’re capable of that either, Sam.”

Sam looked away, popping a pink marshmallow into his mouth to suck on and give him an excuse not to speak.

~

Karliah and Cassie entered the kitchen with heads held high and Sam couldn’t help but imagine them as a pair of lesbian superheroes, striding in with an aura of power and authority. Cassie had clearly learnt a lot from her other half since living with her. The moment the two subs locked eyes though, her face broke out into a relieved, childish grin and suddenly she was his goofy best friend again.

They threw themselves together, wrapping their arms around each other’s bodies and rocking from side to side.

“I missed you!” Cassie squealed.

“You saw each other at school literally two days ago.” Karliah dead-panned. They ignored her, nuzzling into each other.

“I missed you too.” Said Sam. Although they got to see each other at school, that wasn’t enough, especially when Markus wouldn’t allow Sam to go out at weekends and Karliah didn’t have time to be driving Cassie to the pack, staying with her all day and then driving back again - she had work to do.

“Well, you won’t have to miss me any more…”

“Why’s that?”

“I’m moving back into the pack house.” Cassie’s face was frozen with a nervous smile as she waited for his reaction. Sam’s head spun and he pulled away carefully to turn to Karliah.

“I-is everything okay?”

“Well, I’m not happy about it…” Karliah sighed. “But I… I get why she wants to stay by your side… Even if that means she can’t be by mine…” She shrugged, clearly pissed off.

”Cassie…” Sam began, “Karliah is your mate, you have to move in with her… You can’t put me before her…” he tried to sound as soft and diplomatic as possible but her face still fell and his heart dropped with it, straight to his stomach. He really wanted Cassie to come back. But his opinion shouldn’t have any sway on the decisions made between another wolf and their mate “This is… the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me - but I can’t let you jeopardise your relationship with your mate… Plus, you’re going to be alpha female - you need to get to know your pack and take your place as a leader.”

“I agree,” Karliah huffed. “but it has been made clear that Cassie has made up her mind and we are unable to change it.” Cassie began to protest but Charles cut her off,

“I don’t mean to eavesdrop but is there no part-time option?” Karliah scrunched up her mouth as she thought.

“Normally, no. You have one pack and one only, you are completely and utterly loyal to that one pack and you rely on them to take care of you in times of need. However, I feel like with the tender situation of the murder investigation maybe we could twist Alpha Matthew’s arm to broker some kind of deal…” Cassie bounced on her toes excitedly.

“That would be perfect! Great idea, Charles!”

“Nothing is arranged yet, Cassie.” Karliah rolled her eyes in mock exasperation. “Don’t celebrate yet!”

Cassie stuck her tongue out but said no more and allowed her mate to run through the highlights of that morning’s meeting. The most important part for Sam though, was hearing that as of yet they had no suspects.

~

Alpha Matthew agreed to allow Cassie to stay in the Scarlett Moon pack house every other day with Karliah picking her up and dropping her off on the way to and from school. Her old home already felt slightly foreign to her after spending a couple of months living in the Lunar Warriors pack house, but she soon fell back into her stride, the only real difference to hers and Sam’s home life being the addition of Charles occasionally accompanying them in the kitchen as they gossiped.

It helped knowing that it was no longer possible for Brandon to get his hands on her.

~

An older member of the pack barged in to the kitchen, his belly hanging over his belt and his beard a dishevelled grey mess. He looked forty which meant he had to be at least sixty. He also looked rather unimpressed.

"I need new pillowcases." He announced. Before Sam could open his mouth Cassie whirled round,

"First door on your left down there, mate." she pointed down the corridor to the laundry room with a tight smile. The man's expression switched from mildly perturbed to furious in barely a second.

"I was speaking to the omega, young lady." He growled. He made sure to put extra stress on the word 'young'. Sam's eyes were flitting back and forth as though he were watching a tennis match between the two.

"The answer is the same either way, old man." She snapped, stressing the word 'old'. He spun a little on the spot to point at Sam threateningly,

"I suggest you get your act together, omega!" he spat out his rank like a piece of rotten food.

"I suggest you get out!" Cassie was getting riled up now, Sam was frozen on the spot though, otherwise he would pull her back, beg her to let it go. "You are perfectly capable of getting your own pillowcases!" Again, he turned to Sam to retort, they always took out their frustration on him. It was something he had wanted to bring up with Cassie before but hadn't had the balls, her heart was in the right place but she just didn't seem to understand that when she caused a scene they still blamed him.

"In my day omega knew their place!" He bellowed.

"In your day racism was cool!" Cassie shouted back, standing directly beneath his nose. Sam felt faint, he would definitely be getting it in the arse for this later... The man 'harrumph'd but otherwise didn't seem to have anything else to say. The pair stared each other down for a couple of seconds while Sam watched, unable to take a breath. The old man folded and unfolded his arms, huffed and stomped out of the room, muttering under his breath. "The future is now, old man!" Cassie called after him (she watched far too many 90s sit-coms).

"Oh god." Sam whispered. "Cassie!"

"Sorry." She did have the decency to look sheepish, pulling her neck inside of her top and biting her lip.

~

“Get your bony butt into my office, now.” Markus growled. Sam wanted to grumble about it not technically being his office, but his fathers, however he had enough sense not to open his mouth. He followed obediently and silently to the office, closing the door quietly behind him, no need to let too many other people know of his disgrace - luckily there were no guards outside the door this time…

“Why has Mr Krass reported insubordination from you?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not lying, sir.” He stared at Markus’ chest, not daring to lift his eyes high enough to meet his mate’s own gold ones. “I never spoke a word to Mr Krass.”

“Then no one called Mr Krass old?”

“Someone did. It wasn’t me though, sir.”

“And that someone is?”

“I can’t say, sir.”

“But you know who did?” He leant forward, forcing Sam to look at his face.

“Yes, sir.” Markus pressed his lips together tightly, annoyance radiating from him. Neither of them moved for a minute. Markus brought his face even closer, the tip of his nose grazing down the bridge of Sam’s as he lowered himself down to the omega’s level. The silence in the room was holding Sam captive, this unfamiliar situation making him nervous - he knew what to do when Markus punished him, but now he just stood there staring.

Finally, Markus took a soft breath and whispered, “You know I have to punish you if you don’t tell me, right?” his breath tickled Sam’s hairless upper lip. Sam shivered.

“Yes, sir.”

“But what if I don’t want to?” Surprise hit Sam so hard that he lifted his eyes to stare into Markus’. His expression was wary and Sam felt the same, he couldn’t be sure Markus wasn’t messing with him.

“Then you could go easier on me, it’s your choice what punishment I get. No one is making you hurt me more than you have to… sir.” His heart was beating so hard he felt like he should be panting. He hadn’t said anything outrageous or incredibly rude but giving an alpha a dirty look was classed as disrespect - he hated to think what he might get for his choice of words.

Markus pondered his words for a few seconds before reaching out to take Sam’s jaw in his fingers and pull him up on his toes, pressing their lips together gently. For a moment, neither of them moved. Then an idea popped into Sam’s mind: reward his mate for being kind to him and maybe he could condition him into being nice all the time. He released a breathy moan and kissed him back, although he kept it short and sweet. When he pulled back he pretended to be embarrassed, pressing his hands against his cheeks, they were probably pink from being nervous but hopefully Markus would think he was shy about making submissive noises in front of him. He averted his eyes and tried to pull back but Markus blocked him with a hand on his lower back.

“What’s wrong?” He murmured.

“I…” Sam had to choose his words carefully, to seem both willing and innocent while stroking his mate’s ego. “I don’t like admitting that… I like… some of the stuff you do…”

“What kind of stuff do you like?” Markus pulled him closer and rested his backside on the desk so Sam was stood between his legs, their faces still not lined up but closer than when the alpha stood at his full height. Sam couldn’t believe they were having this conversation but he knew he needed to use it to his advantage. He rubbed at his arms and looked back up into those honey eyes, widening his own to look as vulnerable as he could.

“I… I like when…” He whined and lurched forward to hide his face in Markus’ t-shirt. For a moment the alpha didn’t move and Sam worried he would push him away, instead he wrapped his arms around his waist again. “I like when you kiss me…” He mumbled into the black cotton, he knew Markus could hear him, all wolves had powerful hearing but an alpha’s was superior even to them. Even so, Markus ‘mmm’d in return. “I like when you bite me in a nice way, not when you’re angry…” The image of the larger boy sucking and biting at his hip bones flashed into his mind, it was the closest his mate came to implying he found his body attractive. Again, Markus hummed in reply. “I like it any time you touch me when you don’t hurt me a lot… Even a little bit isn’t so bad… When…” He paused, unsure whether he should admit his secret shame. “When you spank me, I like it when it’s your hand.” This time Markus took longer to respond. He sighed, squeezed Sam in close for a moment and then released, letting his arms rest around his thin hips.

“I like spanking you.” He admitted. “I thought I was cruel and evil for wanting to find reasons to punish you but I just wanted to touch you without getting attached.” Sam was glad Markus couldn’t see his face as the look of shock that must have been plastered across his features would have been almost comical. Was Markus screwing with him? “That’s why I started using… other things to spank you with… When I spank you with my hands I get…” He let out a soft growl, sliding said hands under Sam’s thick jumper and the top underneath. “Really turned on.” The fingers trailing up Sam’s bare back massaged circles into his skin, working their way higher and higher… “Maybe that should be your punishment for being rude to Mr Krass…” He let the suggestion hang in the air. Sam considered it… This may be the best ending out of all the scenarios in his head… Much better than kicking up a fuss and ruining the moment… And he didn’t see any chance of them forgetting all about Mr Krass and riding off into the sunset together… He nuzzled into Markus’ neck with a soft whine.

“Yes, please.” The hands squeezed at his skin as they worked their way back down and out from under his clothes. They slid round the band of Sam’s jeans to the front, undoing the buttons slowly. “C-can I keep my underwear on?” He whispered, gripping Markus’ top tightly in his small hands.

“If that’s what you want.” A very un-Markus thing to say, Sam thought.

“I think so…” He stepped out of the pile of jeans on the floor and pulled himself up into Markus’ lap. “Maybe… take them off later?” Markus, grabbed his bum with both hands and pulled him closer.

“Yeah… Sure.” He sounded distracted now as he stood, carrying Sam in his arms, and walked around his desk to plop down in his leather chair, slowly lowering Sam over his lap. Sam relaxed his neck and let his head hang down as he awaited the first smack. Markus traced his fingers over the seams of Sam’s boxer-briefs, creating small shivers in Sam that ran down his legs at the tickling sensation. “Aah…” He moaned softly. Markus warmed his round mounds with gentle massage for a few minutes, squeezing the flesh underneath his large hands as though he were moulding play-doh.

The first strike came out of nowhere and Sam jolted, his body would have leapt up instinctively without Markus’ firm hand on his lower back pinning him to the alpha’s knees. A gasp burst from him at the sharp feeling, a bitter-sweet pain.

“You okay?” The question blind-sided Sam almost as much as the first hit. Markus never asked him if he was okay.

“Y-yeah.” He breathed, relaxing his muscles slowly and deliberately in time with his breathing. There were a few moments of silence before Sam remembered to add “Sir.” to the end. Markus laughed softly and swung his hand down again, striking him just as hard the second time. Sam whined softly at the feel, arousal building between his legs.

The spanking continued at a steady pace, with each blow Sam rewarded his mate with high-pitched moans and simpers, playing up his submissive vocals to turn on Markus as much as possible. He wanted Markus to want him, to be as addicted to Sam as Sam was to him.

After the thirteenth strike, Markus slipped Sam’s underwear down. His cheeks were burning but the cool air in the room soothed it a little. Markus began the process again, massaging the skin and spanking back and forth, swapping from side to side to keep the sting equal on both sides. His swats were definitely softer with Sam’s underwear pulled to his mid-thighs, a fact Sam noted with glee. As much as he enjoyed a bit of pain with his pleasure, he was by no means a masochist and he was glad to know Markus was thinking of his pain levels while he got off on punishing him.

By the time Markus stopped, Sam had lost count of how many hits he had taken, but he was struggling to care in the after-punishment fog that had settled on him. He felt sore, but satisfied and sleepy but sexually-charged. Markus pulled his underwear back up carefully, stroking at the skin that the underwear lined. He pulled Sam up with both hands and laid him against his chest. Sam sighed tiredly and curled into him, dozing a little. He could feel Markus’ dick pressing against his hip, just as hard as he was, but there was a gentle and delicate atmosphere in the room and he let it take him away into a state of half-consciousness.

~

Two days later, Jasper burst into the classroom looking like he had been dragged through a hedge backwards, he was sweating, his hair was a mess and he was panting as though he had just run a marathon.

"I," He sucked in a deep breath, "found her," another pant, "my mate," and another, "she's here." and finally, he dropped across a free chair, his chest heaving.

"And you just finished having sex, or?" Aminali teased.

"I had," Pant. "to tell," Pant. "you guys straight away."

"So..." Aminali leaned across to look out the door he had just come crashing through, "where is she?" she asked. Jasper blinked, froze and sat bolt up-right.

"I left her..." He flipped his head around, "I left her behind!" his friends laughed as he leapt up and dashed back out of the room, somehow even faster than when he came in.

"I'll bet you anything she's fine as hell, he gets all the luck!" Aminali moaned, flinging a limp hand over her forehead dramatically. Karliah chuckled to herself, drawing the attention of every sub in the room to her. She was tapping out a quick reply on her phone.

“As one of her closest friends I feel obligated to confirm that Alexa is, in fact, fine as hell.”

Chapter Text

The softest of rustling sounds caught Sam’s attention, drawing his eyes up from the sudsy water and the dishes he was scrubbing. A figure stood partly concealed by the branches, holding their body taught and unnervingly still. Sam mimicked them, freezing on the spot with his hands still under the water, and watched silently. A man slid along the boundary line of the forest, as though he were shadowing someone on patrol… Except there was no one patrolling… Sam realised with a cold feeling spreading up his neck that he hadn’t seen anyone walk the perimeter of the forest since he began washing up. He was transfixed, trying to take in every detail of this strange figure as he crept through the leaves. The man was slightly above average height, lanky build, closely shaved hair and wearing all camo clothing. He disappeared momentarily and reappeared five trees down with a phone out, held it up for a few seconds as if to take a photo and then vaporised again.

Sam pulled his hands out and dried them slowly on a tea towel, he needed to peek, he had to know if the man was still on the property. The back door that led from the kitchen to the garden had frosted glass panels but he couldn’t see any shadows on the other side, he slowly turned the handle and slipped out, peering cautiously around the hedges that lined the walls of the pack house. Not a soul could be seen or heard on that side of the house. Sam followed the wall round, sticking close to the bushes, until he reached the side the kitchen window faced but even there there was no sign of anything living but bugs. He decided to suck up all the courage inside of him (it didn’t amount to much) and walk towards the boundary line where the forest that surrounded their home began.

As he reached the first tree, an awful feeling crept over his skin and he hesitated, his wolf howling at him not to go any further, he was being watched… and he could smell a vampire. A couple of leaves dropped in a clump and Sam’s head snapped up so fast his neck cracked. Perched on a branch a foot above him was the man. A vampire man. A vampire man with a gun holstered to his hip and a look of surprised anger plastered over his face. The two males stared at each other for a couple of heartbeats, Sam’s heartbeats, the only heartbeats to be heard in the chilling silence around them. Sam drew in a huge breath and the vampire’s eyes widened, he realised he thought Sam was going to scream for help, maybe he would… He began to let out a high scream and the man disappeared before his eyes in a flutter of leaves and a gust of wind. Sam didn’t wait for him to come back and bolted back to the back door, slamming it shut and locking it before backing up until he felt the small of his back hit the island in the centre of the room.

“Sam?” The omega leapt half a foot in the air. “Are you okay?” He spun, bracing his hands on the island. Charles blinked a few times, Sam assumed out of confusion rather than a need to actually clear grit from his eyes. He was holding a book in one hand and a white paper bag in the other.

“I- Yeah.” He breathed, his legs were trembling.

“You sure?”

“Can… Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.” He slid onto one of the stools and placed his book and bag onto the island.

“Are there any other vampires… Here?” He asked hesitantly.

“What do you mean?” Charles eyebrows pulled together. “The other three ambassadors?”

“No, I mean… Any more… that we don’t know about?” Sam felt sick to his stomach as he waited for Charles’ answer. The older man pulled a face,

“No, why? That’s a weird thing to ask out of the blue.”

“It’s just… I… There was a man, a vampire… Not one of you guys.” Charles’ eyes flashed and he darted forward.

“Where?” His tone was much sharper and more serious than Sam had ever heard.

“Outside, he was in the trees and I went out to look and suddenly he was there and he was so close and he was looking at me-” Charles launched forward again and grabbed Sam’s forearms,

“Is he still out there?” he stared into Sam’s eyes with an expression of seriousness that Sam had never seen before.

“He disappeared.” Sam squeaked. Charles’ eyebrows pulled together.

“That doesn’t make any sense…”

“I think he thought I was going to scream, there was a moment when we both stared at each other and then I took a big breath and he vanished… Then I ran back here.” He tilted his head towards the back door and Charles darted over, pulling the door open a sliver and taking peek, his body stone still as he took in the garden with his hawk-like eyes.

“What did he look like?”

“Tallish, skinny, buzzcut…” Sam waved his hands around, a little unsure of what else to say. “Camouflage clothes… Big belt… Gun…”

“A GUN?!” Charles spun round, slamming the door behind him.

“Ye-yes…” Sam paused, scrunching his face up in confusion. “Why do you sound so worried, I thought vampire skin was too strong to be harmed by bullets?”

“I’m bulletproof but you’re not!” Charles exclaimed, his honey eyes wide and his eyebrows high. Sam blinked and fiddled with his top nervously.

“Oh.”

“I’ll let the other reps know, you tell Markus and make sure he informs his dad.”

“Right, yeah.” He nodded, already dreading even entering Markus’ office, let alone trying to have a conversation with him. Markus did not like to be interrupted when he was working… Actually, Markus didn’t like to be interrupted ever…

“And don’t go outside, not until we know what’s going on.”

“Yes, sir.” It popped out of his mouth instinctively and he immediately regretted it, stupid omega reflexes..

“I- Hey, don’t…” If Charles could blush, there would have been a pink tinge adorning his cheeks to match his expression of mortification. Sam blushed on his behalf.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t worry, It’s fine.” He gave a small smile and vanished through the door that lead back up to the rest of the house.

~

“Sir, I saw something in the forest today.”

“Trees?” Markus asked, keeping his eyes on the laptop screen in front of him.

“Within our boundary line, sir.” Sam continued, undeterred by his mate’s lack of attention. Markus’ mood swung back and forth with no clear rhythm but Sam at least knew that he was most likely to get a sour reaction from him and could prepare himself for that.

“Trees with initials carved into them?”

“A vampire.” Sam added. Markus looked up now, but only to give Sam a biting look of annoyance.

“Could it be, just maybe, that this vampire was one of those staying in our house?”

“It wasn’t, sir. I had never seen him before, I even described him to Charles and he said he didn’t think it was someone from their coven.” Sam insisted, begging with his eyes for Markus to take him seriously. The alpha snorted.

“Their covens are huge, I doubt he knows every member.”

“Vampires have incredible memories, sir.” Said Sam.

“Did he tell you that?”

“Who?”

“Ambassador Charles, your new bff.” He made sure to double dip the word ‘ambassador’ in a thick layer of contempt.

“He-”

“He is only pretending to be your friend, you know.” Sam stiffened, that stung.

“He’s a good man.” Was all he replied. Markus looked satisfyingly uncomfortable as he stalked out of the office, closing the door behind him.

~

Cassie was at Karliah’s pack house that day, but Sam called to let her know what had happened. He couldn’t bear it if something happened to her because she wasn’t warned. Karliah, of course, was far more concerned than Cassie was and had Sam run through every moment of the encounter, firing questions at him with rapid succession while Cassie whined in the background about the alpha ‘interrogating’ her friend.

She then had Sam pass the phone to Charles who also had to answer ten thousand questions before promising he would speak to Markus afterwards since Sam’s attempt at warning him had gone so expectedly badly.

They both wished the girls a lovely evening, promised to see them in the morning and hung up.

~

“Come on, babe.” Cassie whined. “We’ve finally got a finished guest list, it’s time to pick out the invitations and get the names sent off to the printers.”

“Are we sure it’s absolutely complete this time though? No more changes or last minute additions?” Karliah huffed, shrugging on her leather jacket.

“You say that like it’s been my pack that has been the source of all the chopping and changing!” Cassie laughed, pulling gently on Karliah’s plaits. Her alpha tilted her head down to kiss her forehead.

“I know, I’m just getting so exasperated with all the little details… I’m more worried about my vows than which suck-up wannabe-diplomats sit three rows back and clap politely at the end of the ceremony - we are going to say the exact same sentence to fifty percent of our guests: ‘thank you so much for coming, we look forward to building stronger bonds between our packs in the future’ and that’s it, that’s literally all we will say to those self-important dominants.” She sighed, “And now with this rogue vampire business… I just feel like there are so many serious issues that are pulling at my attention and yet my mother is pestering me relentlessly about what table the alpha of Moon Shadow will be sitting on and whether or not we remembered to invite the alpha-mate of Blood Fang.” Cassie pulled herself up on her tip-toes to pop a kiss on Karliah’s nose before sliding on her thick wool cardigan. “I know these things are important but in the grand scheme of things they just don’t feel that important in comparison to a wild vampire roaming about.” Karliah grabbed her keys as they approached the front door with another sigh. “But, for now, let’s enjoy our date night.” Cassie beamed up at her, pulling the door open and standing back to let her mate through.

“I agree, let’s enjoy ourselves.” She took her mate’s hand as they walked to the car. “Plus, we should be celebrating finishing the list!”

“Champagne all around.” Karliah chuckled, unlocking her car and opening the passenger door for Cassie to hop in.

“And while we are there we can start short-listing paper types, fonts, envelopes and design styles.” Cassie announced, her bright smile never fading. Karliah paused, staring at her for a moment before groaning and throwing the door closed and stomping round to her side of the car.


~

Most of the work Markus’ father had assigned to him was finished and he was ready to wind down for the night when the vampire knocked on the office door.

“Come in.” He called. As soon as the door opened he wished he hadn’t. Charles. That cocky, laid-back, arrogant vampire that was always hanging around Sam like a fly buzzes around a horse’s backside.

“Afternoon.” He greeted. Markus grunted back. He was unperturbed and took a seat in front of him, clearly unfazed by Markus’ alpha aura as he relaxed into the chair as though he owned it. “I’m sure Sam has already told you but I wanted to inform you that I have given my fellow ambassadors a full report on this morning’s events with the rogue vampire and we have a contact back home looking into the matter. Until then, we will be avoiding leaving the pack house.” Markus took a moment to process his words - Sam had been serious. He had assumed the omega was looking for attention with his tale of a wild vampire in the woods. He sat up straighter and raised an eyebrow at his unwanted visitor.

“Scared of one rogue vampire?” He snarled. He wanted to hurt Charles. He had hurt Sam with his harsh words and that had felt good for a moment, to get back at him for letting this creep weasel into his life… But now he knew the person he really wanted to bring pain to was Charles, not Sam. This man was the problem.

“Worried about your pack, as I’m sure you are too.” Always such a saint, Markus thought bitterly. He even looked like one, like an angel in a renaissance painting… Golden brown hair that curled around a deceivingly innocent looking face and a slim-but-toned body that a common human might find attractive.

“Exactly, I’m worrying for them. So my pack don’t need you to worry about them, stay in your own business.”

“I care about the people in this pack.”

“You care about getting balls deep in my omega.” Markus growled.

“His name is Sam.” What a pretentious git, Markus thought. Names aren’t what’s important. Power was important, reputation, strength, pack size, wolf presence…

“Oh, you know his name? Wow, is that what makes you Mr Perfect? Is that how low his standards are that he’ll jump into the bed of someone who knows his name?”

“Sam and I have never been intimate.” Charles held his calm composure. “As his...” He paused, considering his words. “alpha… you would know if we had, wouldn’t you?” Markus squinted angrily, what the hell did that pause mean? What was he implying?

“Alphas are not interested in the love lives of omega.” He snapped defensively.

“And yet, here you sit making accusations.”

“And there you sit sticking your nose in pack business.”

“Looks like we’ll have to move on or we won’t make any progress in the far more serious problem of a rogue vampire wandering your territory.” Markus grumbled under his breath. Even though he knew damn well Charles could hear him.

“Fine, what do you want me to do about it. Since it sounds as though your people have already started looking into it.”

“Just make sure everyone in the pack knows not to go out alone and even then, the bigger the group the better.”

“Great, will do.” He said sarcastically. “Is that everything?”

“Yes, thank you for your time, Markus.” He stood and walked to the door but paused with his hand on the metal knob. “I know you like to pretend that you don’t care about Sam, but… I feel like it would be wrong of me not to say…”

“What?” Markus snapped.

“I have a feeling that the vampire was… targeting Sam, like Sam was the reason he was there.”

“Why would you think that?” His heart squeezed despite his brain repeating over and over ‘it’s not true, he’s trying to rile you up, it’s not true, he’s trying to rile you up’.

“Sam came face to face with him and the vampire froze and fled, I doubt he is gone for good.” Said Charles. “I am almost certain he will return but I also think next time he may do more than watch and take photos on his phone.”

“Okay, thanks.” Markus grunted, nodding at the door to give the firm hint that it was time for the vampire to leave. Charles sighed softly and left without another word.

~

A shadow appeared in front of Jasper as a tall figure stepped up behind him. He froze, sniffing the air. His mate. She took his hips in her hands and slid her fingers under the waistband of his chinos. He stepped back, pressing his back into her and closing his locker. She wrapped her arms fully around his waist, keeping her long fingers under the material of his trousers. Her lips grazed the tip of his ear.

“I’ve barely seen you all day, where’ve you been hiding?”

“Uh, in class?” The only thing that sucked about having an older mate was that they had no classes together. She was only a year older but Jasper loved the thought of his mate being an ‘older woman’, although did that mean he had to start acting mature? His breath caught when she began to fiddle with the elastic of his boxers. “I could just stop going to class, become a house-husband at sixteen.” She chuckled into the back of his head.

“But that would mean even less time together.” She bit his ear gently and his back arched just a little, thankfully every other student was too busy with their own lives to notice the slightly suggestive situation going on.

“You’re going to get us in trouble.”

“Mmm, why don’t we find somewhere more private?” The bell rang to announce the next classes starting. “Lunchtime. Meet me in Mrs Gomez’s room.”

“O-okay.” He gasped. She placed a soft kiss under his ear and pulled her hands out of his pants.

“See you at one, don’t be late.” She gave his arse a quick smack and strode away, leaving Jasper to fight with the half-erection straining against his boxers. He grabbed his bag and shuffled to the little boy’s room, he would just have to be a bit late to Chemistry.

~

Jasper trudged to the Mrs Gomez’s classroom, running late after spending too much time chatting after class with Aminali and sending texts to their friend group to let them know he would be spending lunch with his mate. They made sure to take the piss out of him, only one week into meeting her and he was already ditching his friends for her.

He threw the door open and kicked it shut behind him. Alexa was waiting for him, seated on a desk and sporting a sour expression.

“What?” He asked.

“You’re late.”

“My bad.” He shrugged, approaching her casually.

“You’re not going to apologise?”

“I said ‘my bad’…” He pulled a face. “You’re my mate not my master…”

“I’m your dominant, you should apologise by submitting to me.”

“Well, now I don’t want to submit to you!”

“Well, you don’t get much of a choice.” She grabbed him by the top, pulling him towards her as she slid off the table, brining herself up to her full height. “You will submit to me, now.” She loomed over him, her platinum blonde pixie-cut framing her face perfectly. Stop it Jasper, you shouldn’t be thinking about how pretty she is when she’s very obviously not pleased with you. He huffed, clutching his hands against his chest.

“Don’t wanna.” He whinged. Alexa grabbed his chin and pinched it just enough to make him wince. He could feel her wolf overpowering his, he forced himself to make eye contact but that made it worse, her dominance radiating into him in waves. “D-don’t…” He whined, pouting up at her futilely. Eventually he couldn’t hold out any longer and turned away slowly and with exaggerated effort, revealing his neck and pressing his head into her arm. Her wolf released a wave of calm that washed over him and he felt his own wolf chill, much less anxious without its dominating presence holding him captive. He jumped as he felt her graze her teeth along the tender skin of his neck until she reached the meeting point where it met his shoulder and clamped down, sinking her teeth into him. “A-aah!” He moaned. His hands jerked forward and grabbed her top, squeezing it when the bite began to sting. “P-please…” He whispered. Jasper felt his cheeks heat as he realised he was breathing hard into her shoulder. He was turned on. Her mouth pulled away with a wet ‘pop’ and she pulled back.

“Was that so hard?” Her hazel eyes were softer than before, watching him carefully. His eyes flicked to and from her face, his shame throwing him off and making him awkward. He whined, unsure of what to say. “Don’t make those cute noises when I’m trying to dominate you!” She teased with a small smile, sliding her hands up to pinch his cheeks.

“It’s not my fault, you made me!”

“I’ll make you do a lot of things.” She growled, pressing their bodies together and spinning them on the spot, swapping their positions so the desk now pressed up against Jasper’s back. He squirmed beneath her as she ran her hands over him, feeling every inch of his torso. His own fingers seemed locked in place, frozen and unable to reciprocate. He wanted to touch her, to feel her abs, squeeze her boobs and grab her butt. But his body refused to budge, he couldn’t move. Was it nerves? They hadn’t been that physical since their connection. In the week since that fateful moment in the hallway they had shared small, ghost-like touches and a couple of chaste kisses in hidden alcoves. It was hard when they weren’t in the same pack and Alexa was still getting settled in hers since she was still technically quite new to the lunar Warriors. They hadn’t even talked about a bonding ceremony or marking yet… Jasper knew the lunar Warriors were quite traditional but his pack wasn’t and if Alexa was raised in another pack she might not be either… He hadn’t even met her family… There were so many things playing on his mind, chasing each other round and round inside his head when a sudden shock of pleasure snapped him back to the present. Her hands were under his shirt, pinching and pulling at his nipples, her lips on his neck, mouthing at the skin softly and her knee rubbing at him through his beige trousers. His dick was stirring and growing in his boxers.

“Hah-haaa…” He breathed, his hips jerking against her knee and his back arching into her teasing hands.

“Are you okay?” She murmured against his neck. A shiver ran through him at the feel of her breath on the wet spots she had made with her kisses and licks.

“Y-yeah.” She slowed her movements and pulled back a little, standing up straight and lowering her leg but keeping her hands on his sides. He blinked up at her in confusion, he didn’t want her to stop. She looked over his face, scanning him like a strange creature in a petting zoo.

“Are you sure? You seem a little… stiff.”

“I mean, that’s kind of how cocks work…” He joked, trying to ignore the awkwardness and move on. She rolled her eyes with a small laugh.

“I don’t mean there, your whole body seems kinda frozen - we don’t have to do anything yet if you’re not comfortable.” Jasper huffed, he didn’t want to talk feelings, he wanted her to rub at his crotch some more.

“I don’t know what it is, I really want to touch you but my body has just jammed up… I think I’m still in shock from meeting you - I was so desperate to find my mate that now it has finally happened maybe my body doesn’t truly believe it.” He scrunched up his face awkwardly. She smiled with a look of relief on her small, round features.

“Well, that’s okay, we can just take it slow - I’ll use my hands to warm you up to it nice and slow.” She winked. “Although, since you were late we don’t have much time…” Jasper was suddenly lifted by his waist to place him on the desk, his hands falling behind him to support his back. “And since you’re halfway there already…” She trailed a long finger over the bulge in his chinos, up to the buttons where she quickly popped hem open. “Can I touch you here?”

“O-of course.” Jasper mumbled, chewing on his bottom lip.

“If you feel… frozen, just say something, okay?”

“’Kay.” He gave a short nod. Alexa’s hands pulled his zipper down, opening the flaps as far as they would go and began stroking him through the soft material of his boxers. Jasper jolted at the first touch and his legs shook a little, it felt incredible. She was watching him so intently as she coaxed him to full hardness, it made him feel feverish. He got bigger and bigger in her hand, her tender touch sending sparks along him until he was panting softly, trying to hide the sound. The front of his underwear had a growing damp spot from the precum leaking from his tip.

“Wow, you’re definitely a grower.” She commented with raised eyebrows.

“So you thought I was small before?” He asked incredulously.

“No, I thought you were average before.” She soothed, pulling at him with firmer strokes now, sending pulses of pleasure to the pit of his stomach. “Now I think you are VERY far above average… And I’m looking forward to all the fun we’re going to have using it.” She grinned salaciously and snatched the band of his underwear down to expose his member to the chilly air of the room. Jasper’s mouth fell open in a small ‘o’. Her hand grabbed him fully now, skin to skin, feeling every inch of him and massaging it firmly. The gasping breaths were back and Jasper lifted his hands from the table, his abs clenching now from both the electric shocks running up his dick and the effort of holding him upright, and used them to cover his mouth and red cheeks. She twisted her hand around ridge beneath the head and a sharp moan burst from his lips. “Like that?” She asked with a grin that looked like it was about to split her face.

Jasper could barely manage a reply, he gasped out, “Mm- ye- aaah!” before clamping his hands more tightly over his mouth. He didn’t know how much longer he would last. On the one hand, he wanted to hold out so Alexa didn’t think he was a pathetic kid with a lack of stamina, but on the other hand they didn’t have much time left until lessons started again which would mean either getting caught with his penis out or having to finish off by himself in a toilet stall… again. “It… I’m getting…” He sucked in a sharp breath and drew his legs up a little, his tummy beginning to ache from the strain of balancing on the desk and the overwhelming sensations running from his crotch up his body. It felt so good, her hand was so warm… so firm but gentle…

“Are you gonna come?” Her tone was almost teasing and he scowled a her as best he could while she sent incredible sparks of pleasure through his genitals. She laughed, “What’s the sour face for?”

“You-you’re making fun of me!”

“No, I’m not - I’m just feeling pleased with myself.” She winked and did that thing again, the twisty thing, the one that made his vision go fuzzy.

“Ah! F-fuck!”

“Come on, love, stop being stubborn and let go.” She whispered, her voice suddenly sweet and coaxing. Jasper panted through his fingers, letting out a submissive whine at the command, he had never felt like this before… had never craved domination like this… He wanted to obey her, do exactly as she asked… as she ordered.

“Aaaah! Ah-hah! Fuck!” Jasper cried out, probably far too loudly, and his body curled in on itself just a little more as his muscles spasmed through his orgasm. Alexa jerked her head down, covering the tip with her mouth and twisting her fingers around the head of his dick over and over, forcing the almost unbearable pleasure to continue long past his finish.
“Mmm.” Alexa replied, swallowing.

“Oh god, fuck, shit!” Jasper moaned, his body incapable of relaxing as she worked him into a state of sweaty exhaustion.

When she finally released him he dropped back on the desk, letting his limbs finally release the tension that had been holding his muscles captive throughout. His legs hung over the edge of the desk, shaking. Alexa leant over him, putting her hands either side of his torso and lowering her head down to his to kiss him deeply, sliding her tongue between his lips and flicking at his. When they broke apart she pulled him up by the arms and he slumped against her shoulder, still struggling to catch his breath.

“You’ve got quite the potty mouth, kid.” She chuckled into the crown of his head.

“Mmm… and you’ve got quite the talented mouth.” He mumbled. She leant him to one side and gave his left butt cheek a smack.

“Watch it.”

“Yes, m’am.” He laughed.

Chapter Text

The relationship between the pack and their live-in guests had become incredibly strained in the days after the announcement was made by the alpha. The orders were for everyone to be as wary as possible, no leaving the pack house alone and no submissives to leave without their dominants. This PSA unfortunately brought a lot of suspicion onto the vampires already living under the same roof as the wolves, who now needed to be concerned at the sight or smell of the walking undead.

 

The vampires’ interest in the events only made things worse, despite assurances that they were looking into the problem with the intentions of helping the pack, there were still those that felt uncomfortable with the idea of having vampires anywhere near them, let alone in their house, walking their halls, seeing every vulnerability the pack had, digging into their weak spots… Possibly tracking them for the same coven that were stalking them. That was the thing with werewolves - they’re the worst gossips.

 

 ~

 

The Scarlett Moon kitchen was quiet except for the clinking of metal cutlery as Sam arranged them into the correct slots in the drawer. He was enjoying the quiet as he had found the vampire news had caused many to panic and feel the need to be constantly moving. The alpha, beta and Markus had all been coming round checking that every member of the pack was accounted for and Sam was tired of them bothering him. They could never just peek their head in and say ‘check’, they had to interrogate him: had he seen anything, had he been outside, had he finished folding the laundry? No, no and yes, repeated over and over.

 

A different head popped round the doorway as he put the last knife away though, one he was more than happy to answer questions to. Cassie grinned from ear to eat and hopped down the two steps into the room with her hands behind her back.

 

“What’re you hiding?” Sam asked with a knowing smile, she was always up to something. Why was he friends with such a troublemaker?

 

Instead of answering, Cassie pulled an envelope out from behind her back and held it out to Sam with both hands. He took it from her slowly. It had his name on the front, in intricate gold script. He turned it over carefully and pulled up the flap, doing his best not rip the paper, before pulling out the A5 card inside. His official invitation to Cassie and Karliah’s bonding ceremony. It was decorated with delicate lace and adorned with more gold letting stating:

 

‘With the greatest of joy, you are invited to celebrate the bonding ceremony of Karliah Stone and Cassie Linette.’ Followed by the date (a few weeks away), time (basically all day), location of the ceremony and the location of the after party. The ceremony itself would be held in a traditional shrine under the supervision of a priestess with a night of revelry to follow at Karliah’s pack house. A smaller piece of card was tucked behind with menu options printed on for the five course meal to be served the evening of.

 

“It’s beautiful, Cass!”

 

“Thanks, Sammy.” She smiled nervously and he wondered if perhaps she was questioning her font choice. “There’s something I need to ask you as well…” She took the invitation, placed it on the table and clasped his hands in her own. Sam fought the urge to chew his lip, this was serious. He knew she wouldn’t be able to stay with him forever, now she was going to try and make him feel better, let him down easily as she explained all the reasons why she had to move in with Karliah permanently and full-time. “Samuel Hall, my dearest friend and closest confidante,” She began. Sam’s brows pulled together, this was not how we was expecting her to lead off. “would you do me the honour of being my witness?” Sam’s mouth popped open and his brain short-circuited. He considered Cassie his most precious friend, but he hadn’t thought for a moment she would ask this of him. He didn’t know of any omega who had ever been asked to be a witness at a bonding ceremony.

 

If you are of the werewolf species, you can skip the next couple of lines but for those of you reading who are vampire, fae or maybe even human (I know, who believes in humans these days?) to put being a witness into perspective - it’s a the equivalent of being asked to be someone’s best man or woman, their bridesmaid, their usher, their ring-bearer and the guardian who walks them up the aisle all in one. As wolves don’t have what humans call a ‘bridal party’ or ‘groom’s men’ and are not ‘walked’ up the aisle by a parent or guardian (they walk alone, to symbolise their new-found independence), the witnesses are the only people outside of the couple that have any role in the ceremony. So, essentially, both halves of the happy pair have to choose their most trusted and important friend/family member/ice-cream man for this role as they only get one person each. Each person’s witness must also take a vow and is then tied to the couple for the rest of their lives. Now that that’s cleared up for you non-mongrels, on with our heart-warming moment!

 

“I…” Sam’s eyes began to sting. “I am so honoured.” The tears welled up, blurring his vision.

 

“Is that a yes?”

 

“Of course it’s a yes!” He exclaimed, throwing his arms around her and hiding the streaming tears in her shoulder. Cassie rocked them from side to side.

 

“Thank you! I can’t do it without you!” She squealed. Her own eyes were misty when she pulled back and she sniffed, scrunching up her nose cutely.

 

“Who is Karliah’s witness?”

 

“She’s kind of torn at the moment, she feels like she should ask Damien because he’s her beta but she already feels so close to Alexa even though she hasn’t been in her pack that long… If Tank was a few years older she would obviously pick him…” She sighed. “I think she is getting quite frustrated with the planning process if I’m being honest… so many little finnicky details that neither of us are interested in but she finds it so much harder to hide her lack of enthusiasm.”  

 

“I’m sure she is just under a lot of pressure…” Sam suggested. Cassie smiled sadly and reached out for another hug, he squeezed her tight with all his might.

 

“Thanks, Sammy.”

 

~

 

Markus’ father was maybe 65% of the way through one of his signature lectures on the importance of pack bonds and relationships when footsteps thundered up the hallway and a messy scrabble of a knock sounded on the door. His father broke off mid sentence to turn and peer at the door as though he had never noticed it before.

 

“Come in.” He said. Two border patrol guards (one, Markus realised rather late, was his friend Ash) burst in and began to yell at the same time:

 

“We got one-”

 

“In the forest earlier-”

 

“Only minor injuries-”

 

“ENOUGH!” Markus’ father stood, slamming his fists on his desk. “One at a time - which of you has been on the patrol guard longer?” The woman raised her hand.

 

“That would be me, sir.”

 

“Your name?”

 

“Jen Dowd, Sir.”

 

“Go ahead, Jen.”

 

“One of the patrol leaders spotted a vampire darting around the edge of the forest, taking photos of something.” Markus’ chest suddenly clenched. Sam… Charles had warned him. “So he put out a message to everyone to avoid him until we knew if he was one of the ambassadors, he didn’t look like one but we didn’t want to go jumping the gun…” His heart hammered against his chest as he willed the guard to hurry her story along, he needed to know the rogue vampire hadn’t approached Sam again. “But all the reps were present and accounted for inside the house so we had a team of guards approach from each side, he was still creeping around with his phone out-”

 

“Where was he pointing it?” Markus blurted.

 

“Markus, be quiet.” His father scolded, waving him away.

 

“We need to know what he was taking photos of.” Markus objected.

 

“Markus, I’m serious, let the woman finish her report.”

 

“Well, sir, you can see the photos he took for yourself - we took him live!” The guard announced excitedly, bobbing on the spot in an obvious attempt to hold herself back from jumping for joy. Markus’ father’s face broke out into a grin so wide he thought the old man might split his face.

 

“Where is he now?”

 

“The bullet-proof glass cell two floors down.”

 

“Good, but you have guards watching too?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Fantastic.” The older alpha growled. “Let’s go see what this blood sucker has to say.”

 

~

 

Cassie’s scalp tingled as Karliah’s fingers ran through her curls, dragging out the dredges of frightening thoughts leftover from the nightmare she had woken from an hour earlier. It had only been a nap, how could nightmares get you in a nap? They had spent the first twenty minutes talking about it in bed but Cassie quickly grew tired of that, it was always the same nightmare anyway, what was the point in rehashing it? So they quickly slipped into cuddles, it was late and Karliah had finished most of her work on her laptop while Cassie had slept after getting back from the Scarlett Moon pack house anyway.

 

Cassie snuggled in closer, she knew this physical affection was only a short-term solution but she craved it so much when the panic struck. She only went to therapy once a week now, and although it helped a lot, she still needed that instant security that came with her mate’s embrace. Nothing bad could happen to her with Karliah holding her.

 

Before she was marked, relying so heavily on another living person, even her own family, would have scared Cassie shit-less, but there was no fighting the safety she felt at the mere scent of the towering blonde. Although… her mate’s wolf was giving off a strange scent, her emotions leaking out.

 

“What’s wrong?” Cassie asked curiously, although she didn’t bother to raise her head from Karliah’s chest.

 

“Nothing.” Karliah whispered into her hair. “Just thinking about things.”

 

“Things that are making you feel… worried?” Cassie guessed, she was getting better at identifying emotions with precision, at first she could only get a general feeling of good or bad, now she had a couple of emotions she could pin-point like excitement and pride.

 

“It’s something we’ve already spoken about, babes.” She sighed. “If I bring it up again it will start a…” She kissed the top of Cassie’s head, “disagreement.” she finally said.

 

Cassie turned her face up and pouted, “Tell me anyway.”Karliah sighed again.

 

“I don’t feel comfortable with you staying at the Scarlett Moon pack house, I didn’t before because you were away from me all the time but now that feeling has gotten even stronger with the… vampire situation.” She squeezed Cassie in closer. “I don’t want to argue, I know I can’t convince you not to spend time there,” Fingers slid through her curls tenderly. “but I can’t stop my brain from fixating on it - you wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it if you thought I was in danger.”

 

“I know, I love you.” Cassie pecked at her check. “I don’t want you to feel those feelings though, not just for you but for me too! Your bad emotions ruin my good ones.”

 

“What do you mean?” She seemed genuinely confused, Cassie stared into her eyes for a moment just to be sure though. “I can feel your emotions but they don’t, like, leak into mine?”

 

“Really? Yours always mixes with mine - it can be very confusing!” She complained.

 

“Maybe we could find a compromise, then I wouldn’t have to worry so much?” Karliah’s voice was much softer and Cassie felt her heart strings being pulled.

 

“Have you got something in mind already?”

 

“Well, I know my ideal situation would be for you to stay here and have Sam visit you, but I think second best would be for you to only visit the pack house once a week, then I could take you and stay because I wouldn’t be missing too much work.”

 

“Once a week?” Cassie spluttered. “Don’t you think you’re shooting a bit too low there? I was thinking I would go one day less a week!”

 

“That’s a great start, sweetie.” Karliah pinched her cheeks and pulled an overly fake sympathetic expression. “What if we make this a one day a week cut-down plan? In seven weeks you will be clean and sober!”

 

“That’s not funny,” Cassie pushed her hands away grumpily. “this doesn’t just affect me - Sam is stuck there twenty-four-seven.” A sigh merged into a groan. “He couldn’t leave if he wanted to, I can’t just leave him!”

 

“I know it’s hard for him and I know you care-”

 

“And you owe him.”

 

“Yes.” Karliah huffed. “But I would rather pay him back in any form of currency that isn’t your life - every minute you’re over there is a minute I lose from spending with you!” She paused for a moment. “Also,” She pulled Cassie forward with a sudden yank, bringing them nose to nose. “did you just interrupt me?” She growled the question into Cassie’s ear in that deep, sultry voice that made the sub’s thighs tremble. Cassie took a soft breath and squeezed them together.

 

“What’re you gonna do about it?” She climbed up, pressing herself chest-to-chest against her mate, staring into her steel-grey eyes. “Alpha.” She added, with extra attitude peppered over the word. She could tell Karliah was fighting (very poorly) against a grin as she ran a hand up her back and into her hair, grabbing the curls in a sudden jerking motion to pull her face in close. It hurt, but it also made her cunt squeeze. Dominant Karliah was her favourite Karliah.

 

“I’m going to do what any self-respecting alpha would do when faced with disrespect.” Her voice was firm but not raised.

 

“Run away with your tail between your legs?” It was not something she would ever say in front of an audience, Cassie would never undermine her mate in the presence of others, but she loved to play the naughty submissive behind closed doors and she was worryingly good at it. Karliah groaned, leaned in and nipped at her jaw.

 

“Ugh, I know I’m supposed to be annoyed but I fucking love it when you give me attitude.” Her canines rested against the soft spot beneath Cassie’s ear. “Even that first time in DSH,” She chuckled, “do you have any idea how turned on I was when you called me a- what was it again?”

 

“Inbred?” Cassie snorted, partly in amusement and partly from the tickle of Karliah’s lips against her neck.

 

“And troll.” Karliah mimicked her snort. “And I’m pretty sure ‘the b word’ was used?” She kissed her neck gently.

 

“ME? Swear?” Cassie pulled back, laughing even harder. Karliah flicked her forehead with an easy grin. “I am nothing short of an angel!”

 

“When you want to be.” Karliah chuckled. “Sometimes you can be a little demon.”

 

“And sometimes you can be an overlord.”

 

“That’s my girl.” Karliah stole her lips in a harsh kiss, sucking on them roughly.

 

When she finally released the sub’s lips, Cassie managed to gasp, “I’m thinking that could catch on as your new title,” she grinned cheekily. “forget ‘Alpha Karliah’, I’m gonna have everyone calling you ‘Overlord Karliah’.” she teased.

 

“Call me that outside of this room and I will have to make you cry.” Karliah warned, although her eyes were still sultry.

 

“I would love to see you try.” Cassie murmured, gazing up at her with an expression of heavy arousal. Karliah’s grin told her that’s exactly what she had been hoping she would say. Karliah stood, tossing Cassie onto the bed where she landed on her back, arms up and legs half-open. Karliah took one of her ankles in her hand and yanked her down to the edge of the mattress.

 

“Turn over.” Karliah ordered. Cassie obeyed, despite having had trouble submitting to other dominants, it was increasingly easy to do as her mate commanded. She didn’t feel her pride bubbling with indignity when she was given an instruction by her. She felt peace, a sense of security and even accomplishment when she could follow orders perfectly.

 

Karliah lifted Cassie’s skirt and let it fold back on itself, leaving her barely-covered-bottom out on show, she suddenly regretted wearing such tiny panties. She pushed her weight from foot to foot, bicycling her legs as she waited for whatever her lover had in store for her.

 

“When was the last time you were spanked?” Karliah’s hands trailed over her upper thighs, the crease of her cheeks, over the mounds…

 

“By you?” Cassie asked cheekily. A sharp pain cracked across her butt, the sound made her jump more than the feeling. She whined as she released her breath, sounding almost winded. “Maybe a week or two?” She begrudgingly answered.

 

“Mm.” The hand that had struck her slid over her skin again, her fingers spread wide. “Do you think you could handle something.. more?”

 

“More?” That pricked her interest.

 

“More than my hand or a plastic ruler…” 

 

“Like what?” 

 

Karliah leant over her, bringing her lips in close to Cassie’s ear, “Belt?” she murmured. Cassie hesitated, her panties were already becoming damp and she wanted a hot dose of pain to mix with her pleasure… But this was a leap, one that she had no experience in… But it was Karliah, she would never take it too far…

 

“Yes.” She whispered, keeping her eyes down on the bedding.

 

Karliah took her curls between her fingers again, tilting her head to force eye contact, “Are you sure?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You tell me if it gets too intense.” Cassie tried to nod but the grip in her hair held her steady. “Say it, promise me you’ll tell me if it’s too much.”

 

“I promise.”

 

“Good girl.” She peppered light kisses down her throat and sucked on the nape of her neck, Cassie keened at the soft attention. When Karliah stepped away she felt a rush of excitement and nerves hit her and shivers threatened her thighs. The sound of a leather belt unbuckling and slipping through the hoops of Karliah’s jeans silenced every other noise in the room, Cassie’s mind filled with the soft rustle.

 

When the leather brushed against her skin, her fingers clenched in the sheets and her eyes squeezed shut, she could do this, she could do it. The belt pulled away. When it snapped back to her behind, the pain bit at her skin with an intensity she had never experienced before, sharp and wicked in it’s strike but also leaving a throbbing warmth when the belt drew away again. Her mouth had fallen open and her eyes squeezed shut from the initial strike but when it’s follower arrived her eyes flew open again and she gasped, loudly.

 

“You okay, baby?” Karliah asked, her voice unwavering.

 

“Uh… yes.” She breathed. Yes, this wasn’t as bad as she could have imagined, and a spanking is what she had been hoping for when she started back-talking, she would feel disappointed and pent up with energy if she didn’t get it now.

 

“You know you can tell me if it’s not.”

 

“I know.” Before the second word had fully left her lips another swipe sliced diagonally across her cheeks, she whimpered pitifully in response. The second hit quickly followed and the real spanking began.

 

This time she didn’t get breaks between hits, they continued with a steady rhythm, biting at her skin and drawing heat to the surface of her blushing bottom. Cassie cried out at every single hit without fail. The centre of her panties were sticking to her from arousal, her mate’s dominance rolling over her in waves, so strong, so powerful, so controlled. She loved her, so much.

 

The sensations built and built, not just the delicious and shocking initial contact but the agonising and bruising pain of all the previous blows. Tears had pooled in her eyes but she managed to hold them there, blurring her vision. She was panting a little, more from her own sexual desire than physical exertion - after all, Karliah was the one doing all the work.

 

The pain layered up until Cassie lost count of how many strikes she had taken but still she managed to hold back the tears, crying out verbally only. With a particularly punishing swat, it was over.

 

Cassie heard the belt clatter to the floor, felt her mate’s hands on her, rolling her over. Face to face with Karliah, her lover, her alpha, her everything. When their eyes met, Cassie felt her face crumple, her lips trembling and her tears finally spilling over. The release of so many pent up emotions she didn’t know had been waiting to be detoxed in the form of tears. Karliah took her face in her long fingers, running the pads of her thumbs over her cheeks, collecting the dewy droplets resting there.

 

“You’re even beautiful when you cry.” Karliah’s own face was painted with a mixture of sympathy, satisfaction and admiration. “You did so well baby, I’m so proud of you.”

 

Cassie sniffed, “I know, I can feel it.” she tried to crack a smile but her lips were still trembling and she could tell that made it wonky. Karliah smiled warmly and scooped her up, her splayed legs resting either side of the alpha’s hips.

 

“Stop eavesdropping on my emotions.” She laughed into Cassie’s wild curls. Her hands adjusted themselves under Cassie’s butt, squeezing at the welted flesh until she jerked away with a whine. “So cute.” Karliah murmured.

 

“So sore.” Cassie mumbled back, although she also felt so complete… she didn’t always like to admit how much she liked Karliah putting her in her place, she had never understood how someone could take pleasure in being submissive before Karliah kicked her way into her life. Karliah laughed again and climbed onto the bed, lowered Cassie into the centre, adjusted the blankets and pulled her in for cuddles.

 

“Such a good girl.” Cassied keened at the praise, snuggling in closer and mewling when Karliah pressed a kiss to her forehead.

 

~

 

“It took a bit of a fight and one of our men took a nasty bite but we managed to search his pockets and confiscate his bag.” The man walked as he talked, leading them through to a side room opposite the cell.

 

“What did you find?” Markus asked. The door was closed behind them and they stood around a small table with a chair on each side, on the table sat a miniature backpack, some spare change and a chain necklace.

 

“Money, bag and necklace - we haven’t looked in the bag yet…” Markus’ father pulled the tiny bag towards him and unzipped it before pouring out the contents onto the table. A notebook, pen and map were all that was inside. The map was familiar, it documented the territory of Scarlett Moon in detail far greater than would be available on google maps or any online search. Markus picked up the notebook and a piece of shiny card fell out, he caught it before it hit the table but froze when his eyes focused and he realised what he was holding. A polaroid. A polaroid of Sam, taken from a distance but close enough that his side profile was easily distinguishable.

 

“This is-” His breath caught in his throat, he almost called Sam his mate in front of his father. “This… is the omega.” His father snatched the photo from his hand.

 

“Are you sure?” He held it up to the light, squinting. Markus’ wolf bristled, he could find Sam in a line-up with only a freckle on show. He knew every inch of his mate.

 

“Positive.” He grunted.

 

“Open the notebook.” His father commanded. He flipped open the first page but it was blank, he flipped through until he got three-quarters of the way in and found a list of scrawled notes:

 

Sam (Samuel?) Hall - Markus Murphy - Scarlett Moon

4feet ?? inches (Closer look needed)

 

Academy school / Kitchen - see blueprints

 

Vampire hanging around - Friend? Lover? POSSIBLE MATCH WITH GODFRY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

13669031

 

“For fucks sake.” Markus whispered, Charles was right. That stupid fucking vampire had known! ‘I have a feeling…’ my arse, he thought, he was involved somehow. He turned the pad around to show his father, who huffed as he read through it.

 

“Who would be interested in an omega?” He scoffed, giving the guard a jovial look of ‘what is the world coming to?’ which the young man chuckled in response to. His father’s eyes flicked lazily over the lines a second time, but this time he frowned. “Your name is on here next to his…” He yanked the book out of Markus’ hand and held it up to his face with a hand on his hip. “And who the fuck is Godfry?”

 

“I don’t know, dad.”

 

“Well, we’re going to find out.” He grumbled, “Markus, get to bed and rest up. I want you back here bright and early tomorrow morning - I think it’s time I taught you the art of interrogation.”

Chapter Text

Markus could tell his father was becoming fatigued, his lightly wrinkled forehead was just a little too shiny. As much as the alpha didn’t want to admit it, he couldn’t keep this up forever, and the vampire didn’t seem to actually be taking any damage. He cried out, grunted and groaned, but not a single mark appeared on his skin and the only real words they had beaten out of him were curse words and vague threats. Markus didn’t believe his pained expressions and moans for a second, he was young but he hadn’t been born yesterday - did he really think they were stupid enough to believe his crappy acting?

 

“Who do you work for?” His father growled, slamming his fist into the man’s face again. If Markus hadn’t been taught better he would have told his dad to give up, they had been at it for hours, since the literal break of dawn. His father had beaten and kicked him continuously, mercilessly, and not a drop of blood had broken out from the man’s skin.

 

“Ughhh.” The vampire shook his head and looked away. “It’s not that simple to say…” Markus blinked. Were they getting somewhere? He said a silent prayer in his head to the Goddess to thank her for giving him the strength not to question his father.

 

“I have plenty of time.” His father stepped back, folding his tree trunk arms over his chest and watching the vampire carefully.

 

“We… I… am part of a coven that is one of… a group of covens under the orders of… a council, of sorts.”

 

“I’ve never heard of covens working together,” Said Markus, it was the first time he had spoken since entering the interrogation room. “isn’t ‘stay out of my yard’ the vampire motto?” The man remained silent at first until Markus’ father kicked him between the legs.

 

“Usually,” The man gasped out. “but the council gave our leaders an offer they couldn’t refuse.” His speech was muffled by his gritted teeth.

 

“Are we talking money or power?” His father growled. The vampire snorted and rolled his eyes and the room fell into silence. “What’s wrong? Your super-hearing only work long distance? Answer me!” He yanked the man forward by his dirty shirt and cracked his fist across his temple. The man gritted his teeth against any sounds that tried to escape and his father hit him again, and again.

 

“Both!” The man shouted. “And… slaves, blood slaves.” Markus’ father’s face hardened.

 

“Blood slaves?” Markus blurted, he had never heard the term before.

 

“I will say no more!” The man roared, suddenly enraged. He threw himself forward, his canines bared. Markus lunged forward but immediately realised he had panicked too quickly when his father caught him by the throat and slammed him to the wall, putting his foot up on his chest to pin him in place. Vampires were faster but werewolves were stronger, and in this tiny cube of a room there was no where to run.

 

“Either you tell me more, or I rip your throat out.”

 

“You’re going to kill me eventually anyway!” The man’s eyes were crazy, wide and darting to and fro. The tension in the room had escalated so quickly, Markus wasn’t sure how to assist but felt stupid standing back and watching the chaos. The man was screaming and thrashing now but unable to wriggle his way out from under Markus’ father’s foot.

 

“Last chance.”

 

“I will fucking kill you!” The man yelled. His father nodded to himself, as though he had been expecting this, and ripped his hand back, taking the man’s neck and head with it. Markus managed to hold back his retch but still winced a little, he was lucky his pack hadn’t been in many conflicts and he hadn’t seen a massive amount of bloodshed, but he doubted that would help him feel less sickened by watching a head popped clean off like a bottle cap from a beer.

 

He didn’t know if it was better or worse that there was no blood.

 

~

 

It had been a while since Sam had had more than ten minutes alone aside from sleeping, with the rogue vampire sending the pack into a frenzy all week it felt like people were constantly buzzing around, no one could sit still. Markus had been the worst, hanging around constantly and making Charles feel uncomfortable. His friend would never say it but Sam could tell. For some reason, Markus had been missing all morning, Sam had heard rumours about a vampire being caught on the grounds but he didn’t believe it - vampires at top speed could sometimes surpass the perception of the human eye, a pack of werewolves couldn’t match that.

 

“I don’t mean to intrude on your five minutes of silence,” Charles called in, hanging from the doorway, “but I thought I would grab the opportunity to see you while your magnanimous leader was busy committing a war crime.” Sam blinked, putting down the potato he had been peeling.

 

“He’s doing what?” He asked softly.

 

“Beating up a vampire they found prowling the grounds,” He pushed away from the door frame, looking if not tired then definitely exasperated. “not one of ours,” He added. “not that they bothered to ask before hauling him off.” He shook his head and strode to the island, resting his weight on his elbows there.

 

“I’m not sure what to say about that…” Sam mumbled. “I didn’t think vampires could be hurt… Physically.”

 

“That’s the thing, we feel pain, our bodies just don’t break easily so it takes a lot of effort to kill us.”

 

“So, if someone stabs you,” Sam waved the peeler in his direction theatrically. “you’d feel the pain of something hitting you even if your skin doesn’t break?”

 

“Exactly, everything is blunt pain.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Don’t get me wrong, I am glad they caught him - I didn’t like the way you said he was taking photos of you,” Sam felt his cheeks heat a little at the thought. “but I also favour a more diplomatic approach…” He sighed, “Not that I saw them, it might not even be the same vampire, this could be a multiple-man operation…” he pursed his lips for a moment, pulling one of the first truly sour expressions Sam had see grace his face. It quickly vanished. “My apologies, this isn’t what I came down here for.” He leant forward with a slightly mischievous grin, Sam leant over the other side, bringing their faces close. “I wanted to give you something I picked up the other day.” From behind his back he presented a small package wrapped in white and blue paper, Sam could tell without touching that it was a book. “Just something to maybe give you some relief from the chaos surrounding Scarlett Moon at the moment.” He added with a small smile.

 

Sam took the package carefully, “Th-thank you so much,” his tripped over his words, feeling flustered and nervous about accepting the gift. “this is really too kind, I-”

 

“Will read it and love it and keep it safe forever? Perfect, just as I had hoped.” He flicked Sam’s forehead gently and sat back on a stool. Sam clutched the book to his chest.

 

“Yes, but-”

 

“But you have lots to do and would like to relish your peace while you can get it, understood - I shall leave you to it.” He winked and stood again.

 

“Ri-right, thank you again.”

 

“No problem, Sammy.” He vanished quicker than he had appeared, which Sam was almost glad for as his cheeks had blossomed with even more heat at being called ‘Sammy’ by someone who wasn’t Cassie. Was it strange to say that something about it felt… intimate? He didn’t normally get called by anything other than omega or perhaps a rude slur.

 

He decided to open his present before anyone could interrupt him, especially Markus. Sam didn’t want to think about what he was supposedly doing behind closed doors right then, he liked to think he didn’t have that much cruelty within him. Sam peeled the tape off carefully and slid the book out of the paper without ripping it.

 

It was a copy of ‘Sepulchre’ by Kate Mosse, a meaty volume with a red cover. He opened the first page and found a note scrawled inside in black pen:

 

‘A book is a gift you can open again and again - Garrison Keillor. I hope you like the gift, it’s one of my favourites. I can’t wait to relive it when you’ve finished and we can discuss it over tea. Your friend, Charles’

 

Sam smiled at the book, then at the open door where Charles had left and then back at the book again. He would definitely be putting his peace and quiet to good use.

 

~

 

The subs and Karliah lounged around an empty classroom devouring their lunches, Karliah and Cassie’s salads were identical, both prepared by the alpha herself and accompanied by fruit juices. Karliah wasn’t going to have her mate running on junk and Cassie seemed excited at the thought of having abs like hers one day. Maybe she would have to throw in the occasional candy bar in Cassie’s to stop that from happening…

 

“I got my invitation to your bonding ceremony.” Said Hanmi to Cassie. “They’re beautiful!”

 

“Thanks! It took a while to pick them out but I think they’re perfect.” Karliah trailed her hand along Cassie’s back, her baby looked so happy, she wanted that expression glued to her face.

 

“They are, I got mine too!” Jasper added. Aminali nodded in agreement, her mouth full of PB&J.

 

“So, you guys can come?”

 

“Of course!” Aminali beamed. “I can’t believe you’re having your bonding ceremony in your first year at the academy!”

 

“Well, technically it’ll be between years.” Karliah clarified, “I can’t believe how quickly summer has come…” The ceremony felt like it was hurtling towards them. Of course, there was no chance of getting cold feet, they were already marked, but the pressure was going to be on her on the day as it would be her first event containing multiple pack leaders where she was the lead, it was her ceremony, she was the one who had to make the solid and strong impression.

 

Cassie would be under a microscope too but her role was that of the charming alpha female, she just needed to swan through smiling and looking beautiful - something she was already perfect at. She did it every day in her new pack, they were all charmed by her from day one - especially Karliah’s mother, you’d think she had birthed a gremlin the way she described Karliah growing up.

 

“Always so muddy! Always so rough!” Her mother exclaimed, tickling laughs from Cassie with her anecdotes. “Do you know how excited I was to find out I had a daughter instead of a son only for that daughter to run wild like a wilder-beast?” Karliah had rolled her eyes at that, her mother had plenty of daughters now - not just biological but in-law as well! She hoped it would be enough, finally having someone to play dress-up with that didn’t wear huggies, a ‘girly-girl’ to chat to and exchange make-up tips with. Karliah never liked her mother messing with her hair, always afraid she would cut it short, make her look like a boy, but she had found Cassie sitting on the floor of her mother’s en suite on numerous occasions since she moved in, her hair gleaming with smelly oils and pastes, being braided into extravagant styles and adorned with silver charms and hoops. If it kept her mother out her own hair, metaphorically and literally, then that was fine with her.

 

 Karliah didn’t find it as easy as her teeny mate did to assimilate herself into new groups, new environments. If things had been the other way round, if she would have had to move into Scarlett Moon at such short notice, she didn’t think she would have melted in as easily as Cassie had in her own pack. That was part of the reason she kept letting Cassie win their arguments about her staying away from her old pack house, because she knew that if it were her she would find it heartbreakingly hard to leave her family and friends like that.

 

“I hope we get to attend lots more bonding ceremonies in our second year.” Aminali’s booming voice cut through her thoughts like soft cheese. “it’s sad that so many packs don’t practice the tradition any more!” Karliah blinked for a moment as she caught up and then went back to eating her salad.

 

“You just love an excuse to dress up and act a fool.” Jasper laughed.

 

“Speaking of mates,” Aminali rounded on him like a fox that had cornered its hen. “how’s Miss USA?” She raised her brows teasingly at him but his happy-go-lucky attitude seemed to shrivel away at the mention of Alexa.

 

Jasper shrugged, “She’s fine.” he said.

 

“Oof, that’s not good.” Cassie muttered.

 

“I mean, I suspected things would go awry,” Aminali announced to no one in particular, “they have the exact same hair, that’s not normal.” her wisdom was swiftly ignored, although Karliah realised she had never noticed before that both Alexa and Jasper had short blonde hair… Alexa’s was lighter though… So there was a slight difference.

 

“What? Things are normal… boring…”

 

“Would Alexa say the same?” Cassie looked to Karliah as she asked the question but the alpha slurped on her juice, making it clear she didn’t plan to comment on her friend’s love life. Jasper sighed.

 

“No, she would say I’m a brat.”

 

“But you are a brat?” Aminali said, waving a candy bar around dramatically.

 

“Yeah, but I think it bothers her.”

 

“Cassie’s kinda bratty too, right Karliah?” This time the alpha had been openly addressed and couldn’t feign indifference. They were all waiting for her answer, watching her curiously, even Cassie. She swallowed her pineapple juice and frowned.

 

“Yes,” She hesitated, “but there’s a slight… difference between them.”

 

“That being?” Aminali prompted.

 

“She knows when to quit it, I like to think she has respect for me as her dominant.” She turned to Jasper and pointed her bottle at him. “You show zero respect to anyone, including Alexa.” Jasper blinked and his cheeks tinted with just a little pink. “You’re a submissive, that means you are actually supposed to submit - even if only to your mate.” This rubbed some of the subs in the room up the wrong way, visibly. Aminali and Jasper both pulled looks of disgust, while Sam and Hanmi both nodded, Sam much more enthusiastically.

 

“She’s supposed to be my soul mate,” Jasper grumbled. “not my superior officer!”

 

“Right,” Karliah said carefully. “but that doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to undermine her.”

 

“Why do you dominants care so much about respect and authority?” He rolled his eyes and Aminali did the same, Cassie, Sam and Hanmi looked away awkwardly. “There are more important things in this world than whether or not people obey you.”

 

“It’s hard-wired into us, I suppose, an innate need.” Karliah answered, trying to keep her cool. Submissives could never understand the urges dominants felt.

 

“Can we just stop talking about it now,” He huffed. “I think this should be something I duke out with Alexa.”

 

“Agreed. Although if I were you I wouldn’t ‘duke’ anything out with Alexa, she’s kind of a bad ass.”

 

“Noted.” Jasper smiled softly.

 

~

 

“I understand your frustrations, ma’am, but your son’s death is not our top priority at this moment in time - you are aware we have rogue vampires roaming our lands at the moment, aren’t you?”

 

“My son died in your custody, Alpha Murphy.” The woman was shaking with rage. “And it has been weeks I have been left with no word of how or why or who.”

 

“His death could be connected to the vampire situation, did you ever think of that?”

 

“There are many others I would consider suspects first, sir.” She spat. “Like the Lunar Warriors alpha, it was her mate he attacked.”

 

“In which case I wouldn’t blame her if she did do it, I would do the same.” Markus’ father answered sternly. “But not only does she have an alibi, I doubt she would use a knife to take your son’s life. You wouldn’t understand, not being a dominant yourself, but if my mate were attacked as savagely as Miss Linette was, I would kill their attacker with my bare hands. Slowly. As painfully as possible.”

 

“Are you saying I should be grateful that my son died quickly?”

 

“I’m saying that the way he died makes it harder to gain insight on who we can consider a suspect - we believe the killer to be either a weak dominant or, possibly, a submissive. However, we can’t pursue this case fully while we are fearing for our pack member’s lives.”

 

“You have a son,” She whispered. “only one, just like I did. Can you not find an ounce of sympathy in your heart for his lost life?”

 

“If my son committed the type of crime yours did, I would kill him myself.” His father replied coldly, glaring at the visibly shocked woman. “Good day to you, ma’am.” He nodded and returned to his work without another look in her direction.

 

“Allow me to walk you out.” Markus offered, stepping forward with an outstretched arm. She huffed and shrugged him off, marching out and slamming the door behind her.

 

“Nice to know there are circumstances where you would happily consider executing me.” Markus grumbled, quickly tacking on ‘sir’ after a pause.

 

“Are there circumstances where you would happily consider rape and assault?” He asked, never looking up from his paperwork.

 

“Of course not, sir.”

 

“Then I don’t need to worry about your demise.”

 

“Yes, sir.” Markus bobbed his head and left, closing the door shut carefully behind him. He never did think he would figure his father out.

Chapter Text

When Sam was informed by the pack beta passing through the kitchen (‘hunting’ down a snack) that Markus had asked for him in the study, he hurried to finish his polishing and ran up the stairs to answer as quickly as possible, if he took too long he might get punished. When he finally reached the door he knocked gently although his breaths were still a little ragged from the stairs.

“Come in.” Came his mate’s voice.

“You called, sir?” Sam asked as he stepped in. Markus watched him carefully but said nothing, he was stood at the back of the room looking lost in his thoughts. “Sir, did you need me to do something for you?” The alpha walked around the desk, never taking his eyes off Sam’s face, as though he were worried he would forget him. When he reached the door he looked away to open it and hover in the doorway.

“Stay in here.” He said sternly.

“Stay, sir?” Sam repeated, looking around in confusion, the office looked spotless… As far as he could tell there was no cleaning to be done.

“Yeah, don’t leave.”

“But-” And with that Markus shut the door. Sam strode forward to open it again but heard the ‘clunk’ of the lock turning into place and froze. “H-hey! What’re you doing? Don’t leave me in here!” What on Earth was Markus doing? His behaviours and motivations were never consistent normally but this was odd even for him.

“It’s okay, I’ll be back.” Was all he replied through the door.

“Of course you have to come back eventually!” Sam called through the door angrily. “When?” No answer. “Sir?” Not a sound. He tried the handle, yanking it up and down frantically but it wouldn’t budge.

~

Markus knew it wasn’t a bright idea but it was the first idea that popped into his head. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the vampire interrogation all week and every time he glanced at Sam it made his muscles lock up, his jaw clench and his heart race. The polaroid in particular had cemented itself behind his eyelids, his delicate side profile burned into his retinas. And Charles, he knew that no-good son of a bitch was finding ways to get close to him when Markus wasn’t around, and he was hanging around a lot more now. Sometimes just outside the kitchen, positioned at a side table pretending to check his phone and waiting… He never saw him go in but he was almost certain he was still managing to find brief slots of time to get Sam alone. The weekdays it was easier, it wasn’t like the creep could show up at the academy - he was way past school-age!

But now that it was back to the weekend again, a full week since the interrogation, Markus was more on edge than ever. His father had barely mentioned what had happened in the basement with him and he knew better than to ask before the old man was ready to divulge his thoughts. He worried that his father wasn’t taking it seriously enough though, not that he had any power to say so - and knew it would be in the best interest of his heath if he didn’t. Maybe that wasn’t quite true… his father was taking the threat against the pack as a whole seriously and the whole concept of a ‘council’ looking to turn them into ‘blood slaves’… it was the targeting of his mate he didn’t feel was being given enough attention. Sam was the only one they had taken a photo of, he was the one they had notes on - with Markus’ name attached which the more he thought about, the less it could be a coincidence. Who Godfry was and what the numbers were he still hadn’t worked out. It said the vampire hanging around Sam was a ‘possible match’ for ‘Godfry’ though and Markus wouldn’t put it past the pale perv to be using a fake name to get close to Sam, every word that came out of his mouth was probably a lie. He already seemed to know too much about the vampire threat, but Markus’ father had shrugged him off before when he mentioned Charles’ comments, his ‘I have a feeling’ bullshit.

All these thoughts and theories swirling on his mind for a week, riling him up… the moment he laid eyes on Sam when he walked into the office his wolf was instantly awoke, he needed to protect him, he had to keep him safe, away from the vampires, there was too much they didn’t know and all they did know was Sam was a part of it. Blood slaves… Markus shuddered, there was no way in hell he or his mate would become blood slaves, he liked his fluids kept in his body where they belonged.

The look on Sam’s face when he locked him in though, that expression pressed against his brain painfully, his annoyance at himself only grew - what kind of person was so weak they could be shaken by a look? Ridiculous.

But he was safe, and he knew where he was, he couldn’t leave, couldn’t disappear with Charles.

What was happening to him? He shook his head and slumped away to his room, he could do some of the work his father had set him in there. He just hoped the old man didn’t decide to try and use his office for the rest of the day…

~

Markus plumped his pillows, pulled his personal laptop out from under his desk and began opening all the files his father had emailed to him, he was to proof-read some statements to be made to the pack at the next meeting, log the expenses for the week in the monthly spend report, check the list of signatures on a petition put forward and make sure every name was not only a member of their pack but that no one had been entered two or more times, a whole host of emails that needed to be sent for services they required from outside the pack…

~

Sam had paced the office for hours, waiting for Markus’ return. There was no food, and he had looked everywhere, but there was a large, unopened bottle of water behind the desk that he had been sipping on every once in a while, trying to ration it as long as he could.

His stomach growled and his feet hurt but his most pressing concern was still how much trouble he would be in for not getting his chores done, even if Markus let him out then he wouldn’t have enough time to get it all done. So much for his plan to blast through his housework and then spend the rest of his Saturday reading ‘Sepulchre’.

~

With the new-found peace that had washed over Markus knowing his mate was safe in the office, locked away from creepy crypt-dwellers, he had found it easy to let himself become utterly absorbed in his spreadsheets and forms, his focus unwavering for hours until only the almost-painful growling of his stomach was able to wake him from his daze. He sighed, stretching his arms above his head and grunting at the clicks of his shoulders.

He saved all the documents he was working on and padded out of his wrong in search of a late lunch.

When he reached the kitchen he froze. Sam. He was still in the office. Markus felt a bubbling of guilt in his stomach… or maybe that was just the acid built up from not eating all day. Eat first, feel guilty later, he decided.

~

Sam’s body ached, he didn’t want to sit on the hard floor and he didn’t want to sit in Alpha Murphy’s chair, so he had continued to walk back and forth. The bottoms of his feet and the sides of his toes burned. Back and forth. Back and forth.

One side to the other.

And back again.

~

After he had polished off his heavy-weight wrestlers lunch, Markus dropped his plates in the sink and returned to his room to decide what to do. He plopped his butt down on the edge of his bed and groaned. He still had work to do… but now that he had remembered Sam he couldn’t stop thinking about him. He is safe, was all the advice his wolf offered. It had been a long time though, he fidgeted with his feet as he weighed up his options. Either way, Sam was going to be mad whether he let him out then or later. If he let him out earlier, that would give Charles a chance to swoop in and brainwash him some more… If he let him out later… there were no downsides to later, Markus concluded. He was safe, that was what mattered.

Until they would rule Charles out from being part of the ‘council’ conspiracy, until the ‘council’ was definitely no longer a threat, then it was normal for Markus to be more protective than normal, surely? He comforted himself with that thought, but it wasn’t enough for him to be able to continue his work, his focus had been broken and now his thoughts wandered back to his mate every few minutes.

~

The ache had travelled from Sam’s feet, up his calves and soaked into his knees. He had tried sitting down on the floor a few times but it was hard and uncomfortable and dug into his thin limbs.

Eventually the fatigue and aching grew too much, he had been in there so long, with no energy and no food. He gave in, slumped in a corner behind the desk. The floor dug into his back and he allowed his body to slide down until he was completely horizontal and then curled up on his side, doing his best to ignore the cold, hard floor pressing into his ribs.

It wasn’t long before he passed out from a combination of hunger and fatigue. Darkness swept over him as he shivered on the floor.

~

Markus checked his phone for what felt like the thousandth time since he had finished his lunch, it was dinner time, not that he was hungry after eating enough that afternoon to feed a herd of horses. Most of the pack ate breakfast and dinner together in the main hall around the same time but it wasn’t a rule. He decided he couldn’t keep the omega locked up any longer, not only because of all the dishes that would need washing in an hour’s time.

He sighed and stood, stretching his arms, shoulders and back a couple of times before striding to the door, he had been sat in the same hunched, anxious position for hours but somehow he still felt tired and achy.

When he reached the office he unlocked as quietly as he could and slipped inside. After he shut the door he looked around but Sam was nowhere to be seen. His heart was slamming against his chest in an instant, adrenaline filling his system. There was no way, the windows were in tact, the door had still been locked when he arrived and there was no other way into the room, no ceiling tiles, not silly trap doors or tunnels. No one could have stolen him without leaving some kind of evidence.

“Omega?” He called stomping round the desk angrily, if he wasn’t taken.. no, he didn’t like to even entertain the thought that Sam could have escaped, there was no way he would have jumped out the window, it was far too dangerous. As he rounded the desk he noticed a small lump on the floor in the corner of the room. “Sam?” He called. “Sam! Wake up!”

He pulled the smaller boy up in his arms and into his lap, tucking his arms in against his chest and pulling at his cheeks, “Hey,” he said softly, “come on, it’s not bedtime yet.” he felt an instant rush of embarrassment at his own words, he sounded like an idiot. He mumbled something and shifted a little but didn’t open his eyes. Markus poked at him again and tried to pull him upright but the smaller boy flopped around in his arms lifelessly.

Markus began to panic just a little.

~

“Sam, come on, you can’t nap here.”

Sam’s head hurt… and his joints ached… and he was cold… and hungry. He could feel himself being dragged around as though he were made of goo, unable to hold himself up in whatever position he was manipulated into. He groaned again, he had no energy to move and even being moved by someone or something else was tiring him out even more.

“Just open your eyes for me, just for a second.” The voice said. Sam whined in the back of his throat but managed to pry one eye open with a mean-looking squint. To his surprise, Markus was staring down at him, and he was in his lap. Markus. Sam couldn’t quite string his thoughts together, couldn’t make the connections between ideas. There was something he needed to tell Markus, it had been very important… if only he could remember what it was.

Markus was moving him again, pulling him up so that the side of his face rested against Markus’ chest.

“What the hell are you doing on the floor?” He asked.

“Tired.” Sam managed to sigh out in one slow breath.

“Well then you need to get up and go to bed then.” Markus chastised. Sam ‘mm’d but didn’t move, his body was both sore and boneless and the thing he needed to tell his alpha was still slowly piecing itself together in his brain. “Up you get.” Markus ordered, although neither male moved. Suddenly, the words sprung to Sam’s mouth, he took a deep breath, gathering all of his remaining energy.

“I have to tell you something.” He whispered.

“I know, I’m a jerk for locking you away like that, but-”

“No, it’s important.” There was an eeny meeny part of him that had a red warning light flashing but at the time he didn’t know why, he would later realise it was that he had just interrupted an alpha. Markus pulled a face he couldn’t decipher with his eyes only half-open so he added, “It’s a secret.” with a pout.

“What?” Markus snapped, losing patience quickly.

“It was me.” Sam closed his eyes slowly, losing his fight against consciousness with every millimetre. “I killed Brandon.” He slurred the name, but he knew he said it, and he knew Markus heard it. And with that, sleep took him again.

Chapter Text

Sam’s breaths were slow and soft, his thin shoulders curled inwards and his chin tucked down. Markus pulled the blankets up a little for the thousandth time, covering him to the point of his pale chin. He still couldn’t believe the words he had heard him mumble… He couldn’t believe Sam had even said it let alone that he had actually done it. ‘I Killed Brandon.’, Markus kept going over homophones in his mind, trying to find a three-letter sentence that sounded anything like what he thought he heard. And if Sam did say it, if he really did admit to killing the crazed beta, why would he say it to him? Did he think it was a joke? Cassie was his closest friend, Markus figured he would take the incident a little more seriously.

 

He let his fingers follow the curve of Sam’s round jaw, to his ear and back down his soft pillowy cheek, tracing over his freckles with the lightest touch Markus had ever attempted to use in his life. He decided to push the thought from his mind, it was most likely just a delirious rambling, people said all kinds of strange things when they were unwell. Markus was a notorious sleep-talker as a child and the things he would come out with always had his friends in stitches during sleepovers. There was no point dwelling on the confession, it wasn’t physically possible for an omega to kill a beta.

 

Sam had slept consistently soundly since Markus had plopped him into his plush mattress and wrapped him up like a baby burrito but if he didn’t wake up soon, Markus was considering giving him a little shake… As angelic as he looked all bundled up and warm, his stomach had growled a few times as he snoozed.

 

At the same time… Markus never got to feel the kind of peace and tranquillity that exuded from his mate when he was relaxed, the last time he remembered feeling this pure soothing sensation was literally the night he discovered his mate was his, another night of staring at Sam’s sleeping face…

 

Just as he was leaning in to give him a wiggle, Sam mumbled something and began to push himself up, Markus shushed him gently and pulled him in close, dragging his finger tips through the smaller boy’s chocolate mop.

 

“Hey.” He whispered.

 

“Hi.” Sam whispered back groggily.

 

“How’re you feeling?”

 

“M’hungry.” He buried his face into Markus’ chest and the alpha had to remind himself to breath, why was this tiny wolf so damn adorable? It was almost physically painful.

 

“I’ll get you something,” He mumbled into the crown of Sam’s head. “what do you want?”

 

“I can…” Sam began to push up from Markus’ chest, “I can find something, I have leftovers in the fridge…” when his hands slid in Markus’ shirt the alpha grabbed his torso and stabilised him before sitting up, holding him close to his chest like he would a puppy.

 

“I can find my way around the kitchen,” He continued to keep his voice low and hushed, “you stay here, you don’t have the energy to spare.” Sam was so cute in this sleepy, dazed, mumble-y phase, the last thing Markus wanted was for him to wake up fully. With the slowest and gentlest touch he managed to turn the pair of them over and then release Sam, dragging his hands over his skinny warm arms and climbing out of the bed.

 

He pulled the thick duvet up to Sam’s nose and leant in to stare down into his half-lidded eyes, usually a bright powder blue but now in the dim room they had darkened to a deep navy. Markus hovered for a few moments and Sam blinked up at him as though he were looking straight through his forehead. Such a sweet and tranquil expression that it drew Markus forward like a magnet until his deep breaths were rustling the dark hair on the omega’s forehead, that magnetic force was definitely what drew him to press his lips against Sam’s warm forehead, definitely. When he pulled back, Sam’s eyes were closed.

 

~

 

In the kitchen, Markus pulled out a selection of cardboard boxes from the cupboards, a handful of fruit from the bowl and a bag of gummy candies he spotted tucked behind the bread bin. With his impressive stash tucked in his arms he crept back out, turning the light off behind him to plunge the ground floor back into darkness again. His ears were pricked the entire journey back up the stairs, listening out for any night-owls who might spot him smuggling his midnight meal-for-ten.

 

When he reached the top floor he dimmed the lights that had been left on and slipped back through his bedroom door, keeping the edge as close to his body as possible so as not to let in any unnecessary light.

 

Sam hadn’t moved even an eyelash since Markus left, he still looked like a swaddled angel. Markus released his stolen snacks onto the bed with a much louder clatter than he had been expecting, he winced and peeked over at Sam nervously, the smaller boy’s eyes cracked open and he struggled weakly against the heavy blanket on his chest.

 

“Easy,” Markus whispered, pulling the duvet back from Sam’s toasty skin and prying him out from the confines of the soft mattress by his armpits. “I got all kinds of fun things from the kitchen, these sweets yours? I found them hiding out behind the bread.” Once he was sat upright opposite him, Markus handed over the sweets.

 

“Mm, yeah,” Sam turned the brightly coloured bag over in his hands, “I didn’t even… know they did bags of just the worms,” he blinked sleepily and took a deep breath. “Charles got them for me.” Markus bristled but managed to hold his tongue, of course Charles bought him snacks, probably trying to fatten him up to eat him.

 

“Well, I also brought these.” He tried to draw Sam’s attention to the snacks that the vampire didn’t buy. He spread the array of cardboard boxes he had found in the cupboard in front of him for the omega’s perusal. Sam blinked up at him, then back down at the selection.

 

“Sir, that’s kraft mac and cheese.” He held up the nearest box in the dim light, presumably to confirm his diagnosis and then placed it to one side.

 

“Yeah?” Mac and cheese was edible, Markus thought, what’s the problem? Sam began to laugh quietly, then louder and louder until he almost knocked himself over in his hilarity. Markus steadied him, perhaps he was delirious, he thought. “What’s so funny?” Markus asked. Sam shook his head and took the next item in the line-up.

 

“This is a three-year-old gingerbread house kit,” He piled the second box onto the mac and cheese, “and this is… I think a selection of seasoning packets?” he added another box to the tower, he laughed to himself again as he inspected the fourth box, it was bordering on a cackle now. “And baking soda.” He put this box aside as well. Markus was beginning to feel rather offended, his mate was laughing at him, at his attempts to do something helpful.

 

“So, none of those are any good?”

 

“Not as a midnight snack, sir.”

 

“I brought fruit too.” He offered grumpily. Sam gave a soft smile in return and he felt his defences crumbling. He slid a banana, apple and tangerine across the blanket, muttering, “Healthier than candies.” as he did so.

 

“Thank you, sir.”

 

“No worries.” Markus suddenly felt incredibly awkward, he looked away as Sam bit into the apple. “It’s my fault anyway.” He fidgeted with the blanket under them, refusing to look at Sam as he made his admission, alphas found it painfully hard to apologise but especially to those in lower ranks… He could tell Sam had slowed his movements without looking directly at him, probably bewildered by his words… “Which is why…” He had to fight a groan, for a moment he genuinely didn’t know if he would get the words out. “I feel I… owe you an apology?” It came out like a question but Sam didn’t answer it, he seemed to be frozen solid. “I mean, I do.” Markus managed to drag his eyes to meet Sam’s, who looked like he had just spotted an alien somewhere over Markus’ shoulder. “Sam?” He whispered.

 

“Yes, sir?”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Yes, sir.” Sam mumbled, although he didn’t look as though he had understood the two hardest words Markus had ever had to say.

 

“Don’t call me sir.” Markus took the side of his face in one hand, “Just for tonight, please don’t call me that.”

 

“Okay, sir.” He spluttered.

 

Markus forced a smile,“Eat, you need your strength.” he pushed the hand holding his forgotten fruit back to his mouth and the smaller boy took a much more reserved bite than he had previously, chewing slowly. A heavy silence fell between them.

 

Once Sam had finished all of the fruit (at Markus’ insistence) he was plopped back under the covers again.

 

“It’s the middle of the night, you need more sleep.” Markus murmured, pulling the blankets up.

 

“You too, sir.” Sam reached out for him, his small hand grasping for Markus’, and the alpha’s heart squeezed. He pulled the blankets up and joined his mate underneath, taking him by the waist and pulling him close, resting one hand on Sam’s ass and another around his lower back. There was something about that space, under the covers together, and that moment, in the dead of night where no one could hear or see them, they would be undisturbed for hours, it brought over a warm feeling that spread through Markus’ entire body. Sam was his to be one with, at least for tonight.

 

He tilted his head and pressed his lips against Sam’s temple as the starting line for a trail of kisses, he kissed him gently and quietly all along his forehead, cheek, chin, pretending he was chasing all the faint freckles that speckled his mate’s face. He turned them over, rolling on top and pushing himself up so as not to squash the smaller boy, and finally kissed his lips, soft and plump. Sam laid still, watching him cautiously.

 

His hands slid over the sheet beneath them and along to the hem of Sam’s top, his fingers darted under the material without hesitation, finding the warm skin of his flat stomach and brushing along his hips with his fingertips.

 

He paused suddenly,“Can I touch you?” he asked.

 

“You already are.” Sam whispered, he didn’t sound perturbed but Markus knew omegas weren’t exactly allowed to express annoyance like most would.

 

“More?” He pressed, holding his hands still until Sam gave a small nod, barely susceptible in the darkness. He pulled the shirt up and over Sam’s head, ruffling his already messy hair. He lowered his head to Sam’s navel and kissed at the skin, working his way up the centre of his stomach and following with his hands along his sides, Sam shivered a little under his touch.

 

He licked at the tip of his right nipple and Sam jerked a little. The reaction fed his need to touch, to taste,Markus latched on to the bud and sucked softly at it, Sam keened beneath him, lifting himself just a little. His tongue seemed to guide him with its own path in mind, round and round the small pink nub, gliding across his pale chest to the other nipple, already hard and waiting. Sam whimpered, quickly covering his mouth with his hands but Markus had already heard and it hit something inside of him, a sweet spot, an itch deep in his core that could only be scratched by his mate’s adorable submissive voice.

 

He continued to switch back and forth, giving both nipples equal attention from his mouth and tongue, sucking harshly when Sam moaned and shook beneath him, rewarding the sensuous sounds and movements.

 

The small shivers and trembles that ran over Sam’s skin were addictive, every twitch Markus could illicit from his teeny body sent a wave of arousal through him, there was something about being the one to cause those reactions that set him aflame. The only one to make him feel this way, to make his body quiver under his touch. With Sam’s nipples and his heart rate raised, Markus slid his body down lower to concentrate on a very different part of his mate’s body, one he had much less experience with. The blanket was shuffled down with him, baring Sam’s skin to the air.

 

He slipped Sam’s jeans off, tugging them hard around the knees as they bunched up, it seemed these were not meant to be worn by someone of his size, Markus wondered where he got his clothes from, he had never seen Sam out on their large group shopping trips. When his skinny legs were finally free, Markus parted them gently. Sam had an expression of mild alarm but Markus continued, determined to convince him he meant no harm. He ran his fingers around the bulge in his tight boxers, it seemed his mate was already half-hard just from having his nipples played with. Sam gasped softly beneath his hands and Markus took a moment to look into his eyes, make sure he was still okay to continue. Sam stared back. He grasped Sam in one hand, squeezing gently, and began to stroke him through his underwear. As he rubbed at the sensitive organ, Sam’s legs spread further and further, blossoming like a flower in the spring.

 

“Mmmm…” Sam mumbled behind his hands, Markus couldn’t be sure if it was a moan or if he was actually trying to say something but he seemed to be enjoying the stimulation well enough, so he continued, stroking and squeezing until his dick was straining at the boxers furiously.

 

Markus froze. He had never touched his mate’s naked penis before, he had ground against him that time in the office and Goddess knows Sam had given him a fair few hand and blow jobs, but Markus had never reciprocated… He knew he was afraid of showing affection, afraid of what people would think, afraid of hurting his mate more if he pulled away later, afraid of being like this for the rest of his life. Alone despite living in a pack house full of his brethren. He steeled himself, this wasn’t about him, it was about Sam, and pulled the boxers down. He dragged the, all the way to Sam’s ankles and discarded them off the side of the bed.

 

Normally, Markus didn’t know what he would do if it was anyone else’s junk in his face, he had known he was attracted to males since he was a kid but he had never had to actually interact with another dude’s genitals. Now he was face-to-face with Sam’s cock it seemed utterly natural, he wanted nothing more in that moment than to pleasure his mate.

 

He ducked his head and took the tip into his mouth. Sam’s body jerked inwards and their eyes locked again, this time his expression wasn’t just mild alarm, it was utter shock. Markus stretched a hand forward to push his chest back down as he sucked more in, his tongue stroking hesitantly at the sides as he gained his bearings. Sam allowed himself to be pressed back into the mattress although his face still conveyed his surprise very clearly.

 

As Markus began to get the hang of swirling his tongue around the hot flesh he leant forward, pulling another inch into his mouth.

 

“Aaah! S-sir!” Sam moaned through his fingers.

 

Markus pulled his lips away to murmur, “Don’t call me sir, say my name.” before clasping his mouth around Sam’s cock again, dragging his tongue in circles over it. Sam cried out again but this time it was wordless, a pleasured moan. Markus sucked harder, pushing himself to take almost all of it and using his tongue like the muscle it was, working it over every inch of his mate, drawing pants and whimpers from the smaller boy.

 

“Ah! Aaah!” Sam’s legs flattened themselves either side of him and his hips lifted slightly, encouraging Markus to keep giving his all, sucking like his life depended on it. “Oh… Oh God!” Sam clamped his little palms over his mouth again, squeezing at his own cheeks hard enough to leave nail dents but Markus wouldn’t ease up, he continued to suck, lick and tongue fuck until his jaw ached dully.

 

When Sam threw his head back and his legs became rigid, Markus knew he was there. The alpha was torn between wanting to watch him orgasm and wanting to give all his attention to the task he was still performing. He strained his eyes trying to stare up at him but continued to pull on him with his tight lips and the sight was glorious. Sam’s ragged breaths built and built, his brows pulled together and his light stomach muscles flexed. His hands finally dropped from his face to grip the pillows as he came, shooting into Markus’ mouth in hot spurts.

 

“M-” Sam moaned. Yes, Markus thought, please, say my name. “Markus!” Sam gasped, his eyes flying open and his hips jerking to push his cock further into Markus’ mouth. That sweet voice, calling his name… He knew the sound would be haunting his wet dreams for a long time to come…

 

When the initial shock wore off his limbs unclenched, turning into limp noodles. He pushed himself up on trembling arms. Markus released him gently, pulling his lips closed over the tip which caused a shiver to run through his mate - something he greatly enjoyed watching.

 

“You okay?” He whispered, lifting his hand to brush a few stray hairs from Sam’s sweaty forehead.

 

“Y-yeah.” Sam mumbled. Markus swiped his boxers from the floor and handed them back.

 

“I think it’s definitely bedtime now.” He waited for Sam to pull on his underwear, then stripped off his own clothes down to his boxers and pulled the covers over them, wrapping Sam up in his arms and pressing their naked chests together.

 

Sam’s heartbeat lulled him into a peaceful sleep.

 

~

 

“So, you guys shared his bed?” Cassie stage whispered.

 

“Yeah,” Sam shrugged, keeping one eye on the kitchen door for eavesdroppers. “but in the morning when I woke up, he was gone…”

 

Cassie pulled a face and grumbled,“That’s kind-of a douche move.” as she swung on her stool.

 

“I guess,” He sighed, “but please don’t say anything, not even to Karliah… I’m not sure what’s going on with him but I’m hoping it’s a change for the better.” Markus’ moods were always swinging wildly but he hoped this was a good sign, even if he had to pass out to get there,

 

“I hope it is but I wouldn’t put money on it…” Cassie snorted and rolled her eyes.

 

“Thanks, Cass…” He pouted full force, he needed her to agree with him on this, he needed her support.

 

“Would you prefer me to lie to you?” She asked with her round eyes drawn wide.

 

“No, I guess not.”

 

“Exactly,” She jumped up and headed to the cupboards, “now, I have a feeling you’ve skimped on the details so I’m going to make us some tea and you’re going to tell me everything from the top again but this time I want nothing spared!” she began pulling out tea bags and sugar.

 

Sam was glad she had turned away so she couldn’t see him blush, there were some details that needed to be spared, whether his best friend liked it or not.

 

~

 

Alexa pressed Jasper harder into the wall, using her bulk to hold him firmly in place. She had to admit, she hadn’t been expecting her mate to be… quite such a little shit. At first, she had thought maybe he was acting out because maybe he was nervous about being around a dominant, especially one that was his mate, but then his refusal to obey her continued and she put it down to a cheeky personality… Now, she was beginning to lose her patience with him. Karliah had confirmed he had been a sarcastic little bitch as long as she had known him but had had no advice on how to deal with him.

 

“H-hey.” Jasper gasped, his cheeks tinted pink. “What’s wrong?”

 

“You’re driving me absolutely insane.” She growled down at him. Shock flitted across his face, his bottom lip shook a little and his eyebrows pulled together. For a moment she wondered how it had gotten to this point, being driven to cornering her own mate in an empty science classroom.

 

“Wh-why?”

 

“You just can’t seem to behave!” She sighed, resting her forehead against his. “Have you never spent time with a dominant before?” They weren’t in any classes so she hadn’t had a chance to witness how he behaved around other dominants, but Karliah had been pretty confident when she said he behaved just as brazenly with both subs and doms.

 

“Not… like, directly…” Jasper rolled his eyes. “Except, like, my dad… or Karliah… I haven’t really had any reason to otherwise - do you spend a lot of time around subs?”

 

“I mean… No, I guess that’s a good point.” She thought for a moment. “Are you all… like this?”

 

“Like what?” He laughed.

 

“Cheeky… Bratty… Only able to submit when their life is in danger…”

 

“I do submit sometimes!” She raised her brows, that was an outright lie.

 

“I’m your mate and the dominant in this relationship, you should submit to me all the time!” He pulled a face, as though he couldn’t believe what she was saying, as though he thought it was a joke. Maybe this was truly all new to him but Alexa couldn’t understand how he didn’t have the natural urge to obey like she had the natural urge to command, it was genetics.

 

“What if I don’t want to?” His confidence seemed to be rising again, she couldn’t let him think he was winning. “Maybe I don’t think you’re… dominating me… correctly…” He rambled.

 

“Karliah did say you were good at talking out of your ass.”

 

“Thank you, it’s one of my many talents.”

 

“Can one of your other talents be submitting without a fight?” She was growing irritated, no one had ever argued with her like this over their position, subs were called subs because they were supposed to submit.

 

“What’s in it for me?” He asked cheekily. Oh yeah, she thought, he is definitely getting too comfortable with this dynamic, he thinks this is a game.

 

“I won’t beat your ass?” She snapped, pressing into him harder to further make her point known. SHe wasn’t joking, he needed to get his butt in gear and behave.

 

“Hmm… you make a compelling argument.” He subconsciously covered his butt with his hands, clasping them over his cheeks casually. “But… would submitting under duress really give you the same satisfaction as if I submitted organically?”

 

“Will you submit organically?”

 

“God, no.” He let out a weak laugh and she squinted down at him.

 

“Then you’d better bend over and get comfortable because I’m gonna make those cheeks cherry-flavoured.” She stepped back and nodded her head in the direction of the nearest desk.

 

“Or…” He darted to the side. “And I’m just throwing out thoughts here…” He tried to put some distance between them. “We could leave my adorable arse alone?”

 

She grabbed him by his short tufty hair, “Or maybe you could learn to obey.” he grunted, his head tilted back to glare into her eyes.

 

“Or maybe-”

 

“Backtalk me again, I dare you.” She growled, slamming him back into the wall and using her other hand to rip his collar open, exposing creamy shoulder and neck. Jasper opened his mouth to object to the destruction of his clothing but quickly decided against it when he saw the fire in Alexa’s eyes. She lunged forward like a viper and sunk her teeth into the curve of his shoulder. Jasper yelped, his eyes watering. He continued to struggle for a moment but her powerful jaw held on tight until his grunts turned to whimpers.

 

Finally, he stilled,“P-please…” he whispered. 

 

Alexa dragged her teeth up his neck roughly, only pulling away when she reached his jugular to growl in his ear, “Last lessons of the day start in five minutes, sort yourself out and meet me in the textiles classroom after the bell rings.” She stepped back, her eyes hard. “Don’t be late.” Jasper nodded but decided to keep his mouth shut. Smart boy, she thought, hopefully he would be that smart this afternoon when she really tested him.

Chapter Text

Jasper hovered outside the textiles classroom, he had barely made it on time having got caught in the flurry of one of Aminali’s gossip sermons as he tried to leave after English, and he had really wanted to hear the end of the story but he had already been fearing for his behind all afternoon, he didn’t need to make his situation any worse.

 

The door opened with a soft ‘clunk’ but it still made him jump, when he turned his mate was staring down at him from the doorway.

 

“Hi.” He whispered.

 

“Come in.” She stepped back and he entered. He had only been in the room a few times before but it was pretty similar to most classrooms except with lots of art supplies, sewing machines and pieces of scrap material poking out of every available crevice. The blinds were all pulled down so the light in the room was muted as the overhead bulbs were all off. Alexa shut the door and pulled the blind down over its window too before twisting the lock into place.

 

“I d-”

 

“Take your clothes off.” She ordered.

 

“My… my clothes?” He laughed awkwardly, “Haven’t you heard that song - we don’t have to take our clothes off?” Alexa didn’t find his comment funny.

 

“All of them. Off.”

 

Jasper hesitated for only a few more seconds, watching her expression for any change, before he slipped his top off, then his shoes, socks and finally his tight jeans, all piled up onto the table beside him. She stared him down as he fidgeted in his boxers, shifting from foot to foot.

 

“Underwear off.” She added.

 

“’Kay.” He mumbled and pulled them down to add to the collection of clothing. He covered his front with his hands but still felt far too exposed for his liking, his skin was cool all over except for his cheeks which burned.

 

“I want you to learn to obey.” Alexa began quietly, “I want you to show me that you can submit to me as your dominant and even if you can’t stand to behave for anyone else you will do so for me because I. Am. Your. Mate.” she enunciated each word with a tight jaw.

 

“I-”

 

“You will not speak unless I ask you to,” She growled down at him, “do you understand?” he shivered, her wolf was radiating a dominant energy that drove his wolf back inside of him with its tail between its legs.

 

“Yes.” He whispered.

 

“Good,” She stood back and nodded to the nearest desk, cleared of cloth and thread, “you’re going to get on the table and kneel there, hands on thighs and facing forward.” he looked between her and the table a couple of times but neither gave him any other option. He stepped forward and climbed up onto the cold table, goosebumps sprouting up his thighs as he positioned himself onto his knees.

 

“You’re going to stay there until I give you permission to move, you will not move or speak until your time is up.” He huffed out a short breath but said nothing, for once he couldn’t think of anything to say… What do you say when you’re sitting butt naked on a table in a classroom at four in the afternoon? Alexa was comfortably resting against the table opposite, watching him with raised eyebrows.

 

His hands began to twitch on his pale legs, he didn’t like sitting still and being watched wasn’t helping, he couldn’t stop looking at her, checking she was still staring at him, then looking away awkwardly… then looking back again…

 

Eventually he gave in, “What is the point of this?” he groaned, letting his back slump.

 

Alexa strode silently to him and took his wrists in her large hands, pulling his arms up above his head and squeezing them once to let him know to keep them up. She walked away and grabbed a heavy book from the teacher’s desk, returned, and placed it in his hands. Jasper grunted at the weight, his arms weren’t exactly the thickest part of his body and holding the tome over his head was especially difficult.

 

Alexa stepped away to rest herself against the table opposite again, “Time starts again, same rules apply.” she said.

 

He managed to last longer than the last time, but when his arms began to ache he grew irritated and dropped the book to the table with a thud and a sigh.

 

Alexa approached again and he pouted tiredly, “My arms hurt.” he grumbled. She brought a hand up to cup his cheek but her expression remained neutral, she watched him for a moment and he did his best to look pitiful but she wasn’t moved apparently as she pulled a pair of clothes pegs from her pocket. They were from the laundry room connected to the textiles classroom. Jasper leaned back with a look of concern but she placed one hand against the middle of his back to keep him still and used the other to attach the first peg to his left nipple.

 

“Ah!” Jasper gasped, his eyelids fluttering in shock at the sharp pain.

 

Alexa leant her head down, pressing her lips against his ear to whisper, “Breathe through it, I know you can do this, you can reach that place I need you in.” Jasper bit his lip but obeyed, taking a slow breath and releasing it through pursed lips. “Good boy.” She kissed his ear lobe and he squirmed against her, the affection felt good but her words hit something in his lower stomach, warming him. His immediate thought was to feel embarrassed, being called a good boy was condescending and he shouldn’t like it… He shouldn’t… But yet he wanted her to say it again, he wanted her to cuddle and kiss him and call him all kinds of pet names and baby him and… and he didn’t know, but she did, she knew how to make him feel this strange feeling… more of it…

 

She slipped the second peg onto his other nipple smoothly and although he sucked in another breath sharply, he managed not to complain. She returned book to him and he lifted it obediently, then she sat back on the edge of her table.

 

A fog was beginning to settle over his mind, he had heard about this… a feeling of calm when behaving submissively… it wasn’t quite holding him fully yet though and the pain in his nipples was still hovering at the forefront of his mind. He didn’t want to disobey, he didn’t want to disappoint her but the pain was bothering him… how much longer?

 

He turned to look at her round his shaking arms, she was still watching him with her cool expression.

 

“They hurt.” He whined. She watched him for a moment more and he could feel his lip trembling as he waited. Finally, she stood and approached him, taking the book from his hands, then the pegs from his nipples.

 

“You’re doing well, honey.” She cooed into the crown of his head. “But this next time you are going to last till the end, you can do it, I promise.” He nuzzled into her chest, his hand rising to clutch at her shirt. Another item appeared from her pocket and he eyed it warily but said nothing, pressing his nose harder into her torso. It seemed to be an elastic hair-band with two long pieces of string attached… She stepped away and he whined again, although this time at the loss of contact. She moved behind him and dragged her fingers through his hair, causing a shiver to run down his neck at the satisfying sensation, and pulled his hair back into a short low ponytail, tying it off with the hair-band. He had never had his hair tied up before, it had never gotten as long as it was now… he supposed his mother had been right about him looking a little shaggy lately…

 

His thoughts were disrupted when his head jerked back via the mini ponytail by a hand tying a thick piece of string around one of his ankles, the other followed in quick succession, forcing his body into an open and revealing pose, knees spread and head back. He rested as much of his weight onto his palms pressed against the table-top as he could and tilted his chin up to relieve some of the pressure.

 

“You can do it, honey, trust me.” Those last two words were said which such weight he knew he could believe them. She was his mate, she could feel his capabilities, she wouldn’t push him too far, he could submit. She replaced the pegs, handed him the book and sat back. “Breathe, Jasper.”

 

He did, he pulled in a full breath and allowed it to centre him, both in his mind and in his balance.

 

“I’m not trying to hurt you.” Alexa murmured, “I’m not trying to embarrass you.” she ran her hand from his raised chin to his knee lightly, drawing more goosebumps to lift along his skin. “It’s about being obedient, submissive and vulnerable,” She stepped back, slowly retreating to her spot on the other table where he could no longer see her. “but only for me, only for your mate.” She continued, her voice penetrating his thoughts and keeping his mind occupied. “You don’t have to fight everyone away with snark and sarcasm,” He drew every ounce of focus he had, pinning it to her words and her voice, her wolf and her confidence, she knew he could do it so he could. “you can be soft and gentle and allow yourself to be looked after. I’m not asking you to trust anyone else if you don’t want to, but I need you to trust me.”

 

His arms, knees and nipples ached… but for the first time in his life he wanted to succeed at being submissive, he wanted to prove he could do it, but only for her.

 

“And I want to know I can trust you to submit to me. Being submissive is incredibly hard,” Breathe in. “it takes an enormous amount of willpower and control and I know you have it in you,” Breathe out. “I know you have that power.” Focus on your breathing, keep it in time with her voice, he thought. Her voice would anchor him and his breaths would rock him with the waves. “I would never think less of you for it and I would not let anyone else treat you less for it. Having a submissive submit to you is an honour and I don’t take it lightly.”

 

Jasper let out a long a slow breath, closing his eyes as he did so. He felt peaceful, calm, almost drowsy.

 

He didn’t know how much time had passed when Alexa stood but he let his eyes peel open as she approached him. When her face moved into his field of vision he was relieved to see she had a soft smile painted onto it. The weight in his palms lifted as she removed the book, then the sharp pain in his nipples released as she removed the pegs, leaving behind a dull ache in the puffy buds.

 

“You’ve managed to surpass all your previous attempts and I’m so proud of you.” She cooed, pulling him into her arms.

 

“Thank you.” He whispered, nuzzling into her. She pulled herself up onto the table with him and lifted him into her lap.

 

“Your hair was adorable tied up.” She added, stroking her hands over his sides gently.

 

“Mmm.” He moaned against her shirt, sinking in deeper.

 

“Can I play with it some more?”

 

“Mmm.” Jasper allowed his entire body to relax as her fingers ran over his scalp, brushing the strands back and forth.

 

“Can I put it back up?” She whispered.

 

“Mmm.” He was barely listening any more, soaking up her affection and the feel of her hands on him. Maybe he could get used to this…

 

~

 

Markus pressed into Sam’s back, cornering him against the counter he was wiping. His aura was one of restrained frustration and Sam fought a sigh, he just couldn’t get a week off from his mate’s bullshit, could he? He said nothing, waiting for Markus to make his complaint, he would probably growl about his sheets taking too long to dry or his desk having a little dust left behind from Sam’s polishing…

 

“What’s with that book?” Markus’ tone was even, his volume lowered, it seemed he really was trying to hold himself back, but Sam could read his wolf’s energy very well with so little space between them, something had pissed him off. He stopped wiping but didn’t turn around.

 

“Which book, sir?” He asked.

 

“The one with the cheesy note in from Charles.” Ah, there it was. He decided to turn the interrogation around before it could reach the point they seemed to be dancing around endlessly lately of ‘Charles is good, no he’s not, yes he is’ and so on and so forth.

 

“You opened it?”Maybe he was pushing his luck by asking something so brazenly, and without using a title for Markus… But he was feeling lucky that day.

 

“I just wanted to see what was so special about it that you feel the need to carry it just about everywhere you go.” Markus snapped. Sam rolled his eyes at the cupboard above his head and turned to face his mate, pressing their chests together tightly.

 

“It was a gift, sir.” He was trying to hold his exasperation back, truly he was, but it was very hard when Markus made him spell things out like they were on Sesame Street.

 

“For what? Is it your birthday?”

 

“No, sir.” It stung that his own mate didn’t know when his birthday was, he knew Markus’, even if he hadn’t ever gotten him a present, he always left a card for him. Sam only got cards and presents from Cassie, her family, and a couple of pack members who had helped raise him. He was grateful for what he had, but it was easy to feel jealous. “My birthday isn’t until the seventeenth, sir.” It was stupid to hope that by telling him he might remember when the day came, but it slipped out before Sam could stop it. Stupid, desperate omega, he thought.

 

“Seventeenth of what?”

 

“May, sir, this month.” He mumbled, his luck felt like it had been sucked out with a vacuum cleaner.

 

“Right, so he just got you this gift for nothing?” Markus huffed, “What is he, your sugar daddy now?” he looked almost amused but Sam knew it was an act, he was angry… and deep down a little hurt - his wolf was growling, trying to keep him from seeing the emotions it was trying to protect and using anger as a shield to keep people away.

 

“He thought I would like it since we like a lot of the same books, sir.”

 

“How thoughtful of him.” The alpha sneered.

 

“Yes, he’s very kind to me.” Sam whispered, almost more to himself than Markus who faltered, looking lost and anxious, Sam didn’t think he had ever seen Markus so devoid of confidence.

 

“I-” He began but his mouth got stuck around whatever the next word was going to be. He stepped back a little, giving Sam some breathing room.

 

“Yes?” Markus refused to meet his eyes but Sam continued to stare up at his, he would never get tired of them, like a flower so unique and bright you can’t look away. His ochre eyes were one of Sam’s favourite features his mate had, when they weren’t glaring at him. Markus didn’t seem to notice Sam’s ogling as he struggled to spit out the words he was choking on.

 

Finally, he blurted, “I’m sorry.” and Sam’s eyes almost popped out of his head, was he hallucinating? Had someone spiked the brownies he baked earlier? Markus… apologising… twice in one week? There was no way this was real. Markus apologises for the first time ever on Saturday and by Wednesday he’s dropped the ‘s-bomb’ again?

 

“Sir, with all due respect, are you feeling well?”

 

“Very funny.” He huffed. “I just… yeah, I’m…”

 

“Sorry.” Sam whispered.

 

“Yeah, that.”

 

“Thank you, sir.” He stared up at Markus with wide eyes. Reward the good behaviour, he thought, maybe it was working… just call him Pavlov because he was conditioning this dog… Well, maybe he shouldn’t get too ahead of himself yet. He pushed down on the counter behind him with his palms and lifted himself onto his toes, leaning forward with fluttering eyes. Markus hesitated, and it hurt, Sam knew he was worried about someone seeing them, that he couldn’t forget his status in the pack for just one romantic moment. Sam looked away, feeling thoroughly mortified, and began to pull back but Markus grabbed him, one hand at the back of his head and one round his waist and pulled him in for a far too brief kiss, their lips barely bumping together before Markus let him go, nodded awkwardly and slipped out of the kitchen as quickly as he had arrived.

 

Sam bit his lip, progress was progress, he supposed.

 

~

 

“Oh, Karliah, I love it.” Her mother cooed.

 

“It’s itchy and tight.” Karliah grumbled as she continued to try to pull at the fabric bunching in her arm pits.

 

“Beauty is pain.” Her mother said with a knowing smile. Karliah pulled a face into the changing room mirror in front of her and her mother raised her eyebrows warningly.

 

“I don’t want to be in pain at my bonding ceremony.” She huffed.

 

Her mother let out a sigh which developed into a groan, “I doubt Cassie’s mother had this problem picking her dress.” she grumbled.

 

“Cassie’s mother would have this problem trying to get her into anything that isn’t a dress,”Karliah said, attempting to lighten the conversation and redirect the conversation. “they’re the only things she wears, I’m starting to wonder if she knows how to put jeans on by herself.”

 

“But she always looks lovely, so what’s the problem?”

 

Karliah hesitated, “Don’t I look lovely?” she asked quietly. There was a tense pause as Karliah watched her mother in the reflection of the changing room mirror, her expression changing from surprise, to guilt to annoyance.

 

“Of course you do, but we can always look lovelier, darling.” She hissed through gritted teeth. Karliah pinched her lips together and turned, slowly, to face her.

 

“Why are you so obsessed with me being more feminine?” She whispered, fearing the eavesdropping ears of her fellow women on the other side of the curtain. “Am I not woman enough for you, mother?” She couldn’t tell if she was more upset or angry that she was on the brink of adulthood, mere years from taking over as leader of one of the largest packs in the county and barely over a month away from her bonding ceremony and yet she was still having to prove herself, to her own mother, no less.

 

“Don’t you dare try and imply that I don’t support you and who you are.”

 

“Then why do my clothes matter to you so much?” Karliah snapped. “Why must I wear a dress if I feel more comfortable in a suit, they do beautiful women’s wedding suits!” She had found a few that she really liked online but hadn’t had the courage to present them to her mother for fear of her reaction. If Cassie didn’t care how she dressed, why did it matter? There were plenty of women with bad style or ‘masculine’ style, not that Karliah fully understood what made pieces of fabric sewn together in certain ways gendered.

 

“I don’t understand why you don’t like skirts when they would be the perfect cover-up!”

 

Karliah froze, looking down at her mother with what she was sure was probably the most horrified expression she had ever seen on her daughter’s face.

 

“Cover-up?” She asked, her voice barely above a hard breath.

 

“Forget it.” Her mother sighed, waving her off with one hand.

 

But Karliah refused to let the subject drop, “You’re worried about the other alphas finding out about me, aren’t you?” she leant down closer to avoid being heard.

 

“When you take over it needs to be without scandal,” Her mother hissed, “I want to protect you, you don’t need any more work on your plate.” she kept her voice low too but with enough venom to get her point across.

 

“Scandal.” Karliah repeated. “Okay, picture this:” She lifted her arms up as high as she could in the straight-jacket-like dress and formed a rectangle with her fingers. “I’m thinking a lace bodice, puffy sleeves, sharp stilettos and a white leather mini-skirt just short enough for the tip of my cock to hang out.” She gave her mother a tight smile which the older woman scowled at, her cheeks turning a dark shade of pink.

 

“I am only trying to help.” She huffed, although Karliah could see the hurt she was trying to hide glistening in her eyes. “I love you, and I will always support you. People can be cruel and nasty and I don’t want that for you.”

 

“I know, mother, and I love you too, but right now what I need is a ‘yes woman’.” She crouched down beside her mother carefully. “Because if I wear something you pick I’ll be unhappy and uncomfortable, and if I wear something I pick but you’ve spent the next six weeks tearing it apart then I’m going to feel unhappy and self-conscious.”

 

Her mother sniffed, “I understand, I’m sorry for trying to make this about me.” she reached out to pinch her eldest daughter’s cheeks between her fingers. “I don’t want you to be unhappy.”

 

“It is about you, your baby is growing up,” Karliah smiled up at her gently and took her hands. “but this is the part where you watch and enjoy. The happiest gardeners take time to actually enjoy the flowers they’ve grown once in a while.”

 

Her mother grinned and said, “And you are a beautiful flower, a gladiolus, I like to think.” she winked cheekily.

 

“Why a glad-a-la-uh-” Karliah tripped over her own tongue trying to pronounce the word but her mother flicked her forehead to silence her.

 

“Gladiolus.” She repeated. “They’re bright, beautiful, tall,” She tapped gently at Karliah’s cheeks with each word, “and they symbolise a strong and honourable personality.” and finished with another squeeze of her cheeks.

 

“What would Cassie be?” Karliah whispered curiously.

 

“A tulip, a black one.” Her mother beamed down at her with a wild grin. Karliah waved her along for an explanation.“Tulips can be given to someone to imply they have beautiful eyes, which she does, but black tulips symbolise a mixture of beauty and grace and courage, someone who is both effortlessly elegant and… what it is you kids say? A bad bitch!” Karliah almost knocked herself over laughing, hearing her mother swear was a shock in and of itself but hearing her quote ‘the youth’ was equal parts horrifying and hilarious. Her mother joined in and gave her a gentle shove.

 

“Go on then, take the damned thing off.”

 

Karliah sighed with relief and stood, turning to face her reflection again.

 

“Do you want some help with the zip?” Her mother raised her brows at her in the mirror but Karliah rolled her eyes confidently.

 

“I’ll be fine.” She laughed.

 

A loud ripping sound cut through the silence like a knife through cream cheese.

 

~

 

Markus knew he wasn’t supposed to be in his father’s private filing cabinet but it wasn’t as though he was snooping for information that he didn’t feel he had every right to know. He wasn’t looking for scandalous pack secrets or dirty deeds, he just wanted to skim through the alliance files.

 

There was something off about Charles, he knew it, but if he couldn’t prove it Sam would think he was just being cruel and vindictive. The file had to have something, any information he could find on the man would help even if it wasn’t a direct lead. Anything, a date of birth, an address, a photo of him… He found the pack of profiles near the start and it began with a list of contents that stated each of the alliance representatives names.

 

Markus froze as about a third of the way down, ‘Charles Godfry’ glared at him from the page, he knew it.

Chapter Text

“Dad, you need to see this.” Markus waved the piece of paper under his father’s nose and the older man grunted disparagingly as he adjusted himself in bed, pulling himself up and putting aside his newspaper. He snatched the fluttering item from Markus’ hand and held it away from his face to read, his face contorted very quickly into an expression of fury as he realised what he was looking at.

 

“I’ve seen this file, Markus, I bloody wrote most of it!” He snapped, “And I’m pretty sure this was in the confidential filing cabinet I keep for my eyes only.” he sat up straighter and glared Markus down.

 

“I know, but there’s something in here that we didn’t know was important before, sir!” He did his best to plead with his eyes. His father sighed and waved his hand to signal him to both continue and hurry up. “That vampire with the light hair, Charles, his last name is Godfry!” Markus should have been embarrassed at how excited he was but he was too focused on taking down that skeevy vampire to care. His father took a frustratingly long time to process this information.

 

Finally, he said, “Like the name in the notebook.” with raised brows.

 

“Yes!”

 

“How do we know without a doubt it is referring to him?” His father asked. “It could be another vampire’s first name, you would need to be able to prove it is him without a shred of uncertainty before I could look into him,” He sighed before continuing, “we don’t want to cause any ripples in this alliance if we don’t absolutely have to.” he handed the paper back but Markus wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

 

“In the notebook it said it was a vampire getting close to the omega, that’s Charles!” He insisted, “He has been buzzing round the omega like a fly on shit since he arrived, sir.” he tacked on the sir to try and negate the curse word, and apparently it worked as his father’s interest finally seemed piqued.

 

“How do you know that?” That piqued interest had very suddenly become suspicion and Markus felt his face grow hot.

 

“It’s hard to miss it,” Markus scoffed, he hoped his father couldn’t tell it was fake. “he’s even been buying him gifts, sir.”He added with the hopes of brushing the heat off. His father considered his words for some time, his hands pressed together in front of his mouth.

 

Eventually he sat back with a sigh, “Very well, I’ll have someone look into this, try and get some more information on this man.” Markus couldn’t help the shit-eating grin that split across his face, finally, he was being taken seriously. His father gave him a stern look, “For now, you say nothing and for fuck’s sake, do nothing.” he raised his brows for confirmation and Markus nodded enthusiastically.

 

“Of course, sir!”

 

~

 

A low growl startled Cassie as she dozed in the window-seat of Karliah’s office, she lifted her head sleepily and blinked to clear her eyes.

 

“Karliah?” She mumbled, pushing back her fluffy hair. A sigh came from the leather chair in front of her and Karliah’s ponytail swung as she spun round to face her.

 

“Yes, baby?”

 

“Is something wrong?” Cassie asked quietly, “Are you mad at me?” she tried to put together a list in her mind of all the things she could have done to make her mate growl like that but couldn’t come up with anything serious… she had ‘borrowed’ another pair of Karliah’s fluffy socks that morning when she couldn’t find any of her own but Karliah had never complained in the past - she always said liked it when Cassie wore her clothes and they looked ‘all oversized and adorable’… last night she had used Karliah’s back to warm her cold feet but Karliah had just tickled her until she moved them… at lunchtime she had stolen a bite from Karliah’s pear but Karliah had snuck a couple of grapes out of Cassie’s lunch box first…

 

“No, sweetness.” Karliah scooted herself forward and put her hands out, Cassie climbed into her lap and snuggled into her chest. “I could never be mad at you.” She kissed the top of her head gently, “you can be incredibly annoying sometimes but I would always tell you if you were getting on my nerves.” she chuckled.

 

“So why do you seem frustrated?” Cassie asked, lifting her head to gaze up at her mate worriedly.

 

Karliah paused, pulling a disgruntled face before answering. “I was catching up on my emails and I came across one from Alpha Murphy.”

 

“Markus’ father?”

 

“Mmm…” She brushed her fingers through Cassie’s curls, “He says Brandon’s mother turned up at his door just over a week ago, she’s angry they haven’t found his killer yet.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“And now he had received a letter from their alpha, also demanding results. He advised me not to speak to anyone from the Timber Fang pack, supposedly I’m his mother’s main suspect.”

 

“But you were here with me when it happened!” Cassie said indignantly and sat up higher.

 

“I know, sweetness, I’m not worried about their accusations.”

 

“So why are you worried?”

 

“I just… I feel frustrated at how long it’s taking to find the culprit, I can’t imagine what this strange interim of silence must be doing to you, I just want closure for everyone.” She wrapped her arms around Cassie’s hips to keep her balanced on her lap,“I can’t say I felt any sympathy for him or his family when I heard the news but I would like this situation resolved,” she kissed Cassie’s forehead gently. “we don’t need any unnecessary drama, especially when the alpha and alpha female of Timber Fang are on the guest list for our bonding ceremony.”

 

Cassie took Karliah’s hand and pressed it between both of her own, “You can feel my wolf’s emotions, right?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Am I worried about it?”

 

Karliah took a long moment to think before answering, “No, not that I can tell.” she said.

 

“Exactly, because as far as I’m concerned, the biggest threat is gone. His family can hound and holler at us all they want but they can’t make a real accusation without proof and they won’t find any on you,” She smiled confidently, “and they can’t cause a scene at our bonding ceremony or risk being looked down on by every other pack that attends.” she waggled her brows and Karliah’s mouth split into a grin too for just a moment before she turned back into serious-alpha-Karliah.

 

“But you’re assuming the killer did this because they knew he was crazy and dangerous,” Karliah countered, “this could have been a random murder, there could be a killer on the loose right now in Scarlett Moon, just waiting for their next victim.” she said solemnly.

 

“You can’t get into the underground prison by chance, it was planned.” Cassie said without hesitation, “This killer knew exactly what they were doing. Plus, it’s been over a month since his death and no one else has been harmed since.” she lifted herself up to balance on her knees and rested her hands on Karliah’s shoulders.

 

“You think you have a guardian angel watching over you? Ready to smite your enemies at a moment’s notice?” Karliah pressed their foreheads together, raising her brows in disbelief.

 

“Are you jealous?” Cassie laughed.

 

“Nope.” She smushed her lips against Cassie’s plump cheek, smothering her in wet kisses. “I don’t need to be an angel to protect you.”

 

“But you would look so good in white!”

 

“Yes, yes, weren’t you busy napping?” Karliah pulled back, looking embarrassed, Cassie had discovered her mate could only take compliments maybe fifty-percent of the time, but she enjoyed the cute, flustered reaction she got when one of her compliments hit her too hard or on a subject she wasn’t used to being flattered in. Her clothing and her femininity were the two main areas that Cassie had found compliments caught her off guard in. “Maybe you should get back to that.”

 

“Maybe I’ll finish my nap here.” Cassie replied, snuggling in closer. Karliah sighed and swivelled the chair round to work over Cassie’s head, tapping her keys softly.

 

~

 

Markus crept towards the kitchen, keeping his steps as light as possible and his breaths low. Charles was always by Sam’s side, he knew it, even if the the old codger avoided him like the plague and pretended otherwise. He was going to catch him.

 

As he approached the closed door of the kitchen he picked up a pair of voices, and he knew exactly who they belonged to.

 

“Will you be wearing your winter ball suit for the wed- sorry, bonding ceremony?” Charles-cradle-snatcher-Godfry asked.

 

“Oh, I hadn’t really thought about it.” Sam’s voice was soft as usual as he replied.

 

“I have to admit I’m only asking because I have been in a slight panic since I got my invitation, I haven’t the foggiest what one wears to this kind of event.” Markus had to hold back a scoff, Charles was so full of himself…

 

“Oh, you can wear a suit,” Sam reassured. “you can just treat it like a human wedding.”

 

“So this ceremony in the temple, it’s the same as the vows at a wedding?” Charles asked. Markus rolled his eyes, he comes to their pack as a representative, lives in their home for months and for what? If he can’t answer such basic questions about werewolf culture, clearly he was spending more time studying their omega’s ass than their ways and traditions.

 

“Well… we say vows, but they’re not the same ones you would say in a church and we also make our own, we also do a hand binding bit - I think some humans do that too?” Markus couldn’t understand why Sam was being so patient, answering Charles’ stupid questions with serious replies. “But the biggest difference is just our goddess, I guess.”

 

“Yes, I wasn’t even aware werewolves had their own religion until Karliah and Cassie announced their bonding ceremony!” Charles exclaimed. “How does that work?”

 

“Well, it’s not… I guess the simplest version is… the Goddess is essentially mother nature.” Sam explained slowly. “That’s really the only rule that all wolves follow, from there the packs can diversify a little - we call it being more or less traditional. Our pack is more traditional than most, so we still have bonding ceremonies and the Goddess is directly mentioned and included in all of our celebrations or life events like births, funerals and alpha coronations.” Markus felt his head lolling as he let himself be rocked by Sam’s gentle voice, he got to hear it so rarely… why was that? He felt almost sleepy as he thought about it… why didn’t Sam talk more? It was so soothing… “But if a pack is labelled as simply ‘traditional’ you know they take the Goddess very seriously, they pray regularly and attend temple services, they decorate their pack house with statues and paintings of her and her symbol.”

 

“So less or ‘non-traditional’ packs have little to no acknowledgement of the Goddess?” Charles’ voice cut through Markus’ mind painfully with another of his idiotic questions.

 

“Everyone believes, even non-traditional packs, they just don’t involve her in their daily lives.” Sam answered.

 

“Ah, I think I understand.”

 

“To them she is her own force,” Sam continued, “she will do as she likes and she doesn’t need the prayers of wolves to give her power, they believe it’s enough to simply do their best to look after her Earth.” hearing him talk about the goddess made Markus want to go to temple for the first time in months… not for any particular reason… he just wanted to bask in the atmosphere… with Sam’s voice to keep him company.

 

“And what do you believe?” Charles asked. Before Sam could answer, Markus decided he had heard enough, he stomped into the room.

 

“Why on Earth would you be discussing our deity with our omega?” He asked, looking between the shocked pair with thinly veiled glee, he knew it.

 

“Simply trying to educate myself before Cassie and Karliah’s big day,” The vampire answered with a half-smile. “I wouldn’t want to appear ignorant during such an important ceremony.”

 

“I wasn’t aware you were invited.” Was the only thing Markus could think to say.

 

“Well I was, and am honoured to have been.” Charles was still giving him that weird blank smile and Markus bristled, this man was a spy, a traitor, he didn’t deserve to stay in their home another minute let alone attend a bonding ceremony, he was probably only going to show up to spy on even more packs.

 

He gritted his teeth before replying, “Well, I don’t think it would be appropriate for you to be there.” he said.

 

“And why would that be?” Alarm bells rang in his head, they sounded suspiciously like his father’s voice saying ‘for fuck’s sake, do nothing’ on repeat. He couldn’t say he knew he was in with the council…

 

“I don’t want you spending time around our omega any more.” It wasn’t even a lie, Markus thought, because they both knew he had a problem with Charles hanging around like a starving animal drooling over Sam.

 

Charles’ face tightened, “May I ask why?” he asked cordially although his expression said otherwise.

 

“No, but I will say that this includes the bonding ceremony,” Markus knew he didn’t have leverage over the vampire, but that wasn’t going to stop him from creating some, let’s see how much he really ‘cares’ about Sam, he thought. “if you plan to attend then Sam is not permitted to.”

 

“Now wait a minute-” Charles began, just as Sam started to splutter in the corner.

 

“My decision is final.” Markus stated firmly before stalking out, the image of Sam’s crumpled face rattling his mind and rendering his thoughts incoherent.

 

 

~

 

“What do you mean you can’t come?” Cassie whispered, her eyes stinging with hurt. Karliah’s fists clenched unintentionally, she hoped Sam didn’t notice, it was hard for omega’s to remain composed when an alpha was displaying aggression near them, their fight or flight was much more in tune with the actions of their much larger counterparts.

 

“Markus won’t give me permission if Charles is going.” Sam muttered, looking ashamed. “Charles offered to stay home but I can’t do that to him, it would be rude - plus he’s the only member of the vampire alliance attending so I know they were counting on him to immerse himself in our culture with the ceremony…” Cassie turned on her heel to look up at Karliah, her eyes watering and her bottom lip trembling.

 

“I’m going to kill him.” She managed to snarl through her tears.

 

“I think it would be safer if I do it, less chance of you getting hurt.” Karliah replied solemnly. “Let me go see what I can do.” 

 

She really didn’t have time for Markus’ nonsense today. She couldn’t just drop off her mate without the fellow alpha causing a drama, Goddess, she couldn’t wait until Cassie stopped visiting this mess of a pack…

 

Karliah didn’t need to explain she wasn’t in the mood for chat as she brushed past many pack members on her way to the office, her wolf was radiating her fury in dominating waves that kept every person at bay easily.

 

Karliah rapped on the office door sharply and was greeted by Markus pulling the door open hurriedly, it seemed he was expecting someone else.

 

“Oh, hi.”

 

“Hi. I need a word.” She let herself in, pushing past him.

 

“Actually, I’m a bit bus-”

 

“Markus,” She snapped, “why are you trying to get yourself killed so young?” her clenched fists crossed over her chest.

 

“I… What?” He shut the door and followed her in.

 

“It just seems that time and time again you go out of your way to upset my mate, or upset your own mate, which in turn upsets my mate.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He huffed. She moved closer to him, allowing her wolf to radiate it’s aggressive energy into the room at full volume.

 

“Why can’t Sam come to our bonding ceremony?” She growled.

 

“Omega can’t leave the pack h-”

 

“Without alpha permission,” She interrupted, her tone scathing. “what are you, a lemon?” He rolled his eyes like a sulking child.

 

“I haven’t explicitly said he can’t go.” He mumbled.

 

“Good, I’ll let him know he has permission now.” She smiled coldly. “I’m glad this is sorted, I like Sam and would hate to have to kick his mate’s ass.” His eyes flashed with surprise and anger and she instantly regretted revealing that she knew that Sam was his mate. But now she was too deep and for some reason, alphas found it ridiculously hard to back down once they had begun something - especially if that something was a conflict.

 

“Are you threatening me?”

 

She stepped forward again, bringing her face close to his and baring her canines, “Warning you.” she snarled, narrowing her eyes at him.

 

“What makes you think you could take me?” He appeared confident enough on the outside but she felt his wolf hesitate to meet hers in their battle of dominance. He genuinely wanted to know the answer, luckily it was simple.

 

“Alphas with marked mates are always stronger.” She shrugged, backing away and pulling the door open, “We’re not cowards, afraid of what insignificant people think of who we love.” she left swiftly, hoping her words had penetrated even a single layer of the stone around his heart.

Chapter Text

“Who else knows?” Markus snarled, slamming the dining room door shut. Sam froze, his cloth pausing mid-circle on the long mahogany table.

 

As his mate stomped towards him, Sam suddenly found his tongue, “W-wait, who knows what, sir?” he stammered.

 

“Alpha Karliah knows so of course your little friend with the wildling hair knows.” Markus blocked him in against the table with his hands either side of his waist as he turned to face him. Sam kept his eyes down, holding them in the centre of Markus’ chest.

 

“About what?” He mumbled.

 

“About what, SIR.” Markus corrected,, his jaw tightening to make it even more defined and sharp, damn him and his handsome rugged looks, Sam thought, he should be angry at him for getting in his face… but instead he couldn’t stop focusing on how good-looking he was, and how much more good-looking he became when he clenched his pearly-white teeth, fangs bared, brows furrowed… Get it together, Sam, he thought. “And you know, we both know, we don’t talk about it but we know and I know that you know and now they know.” Sam blinked, his brain struggling to dissect the torrent of words flying at him. With an awful, sinking feeling, he realised what it was that Markus knew, what his friends knew.

 

“Oh.” He said. “Yeah.”

 

“Who. Else. Knows?” Markus growled, grabbing Sam’s chin and pulling him closer.

 

“No one, sir.”

 

“Not even your necrophiliac friend?” He growled.

 

“My what, sir?” Sam blurted in horror.

 

“Charles. The dead one.” Markus managed through gritted teeth.

 

“Don’t call him that!” 

 

“Or what?” He squeezed Sam’s cheeks between his fingers to the point of pain. “You gonna sic your mommy on me?” Sam jerked back, what did he know about his mother? Markus kept his grip on his face.

 

“Wh-why would you say that?” Sam’s eyes filled with tears so fast he barely had time to suck in a shuddering breath before they ran over his water line and down his cheeks and onto Markus’ fingers.

 

“Why are you crying?” Markus asked incredulously. Sam stared into his eyes, his own still pumping out water like a faucet, and felt his rage build inside of him. He couldn’t hold it back, no matter how much he wanted to, there was no need for Markus to bring either of his parents into a silly he-said-she-said. Sam’s jaw tightened and he glared through his tears.

 

“There are lines you don’t cross, Markus!” His voice shook but it was still the most aggressive he had probably ever sounded in his life, it surprised even him. Markus’ mouth popped open and Sam used his shock to shove away the alpha’s hand, releasing his chin. He marched away, trying to keep his sniffles quiet.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Markus called after him, but Sam wasn’t going to give him any more of his time, not today.

 

His anger was tinged with embarrassment at being so stupid as to think his cruel mate could ever change.

 

~

 

Cassie was waiting for Sam in his room when he stumbled in to sniffle under his duvet and generally feel sorry for himself. She jumped up when he entered, her face full of worry.

 

“Sammy!” She exclaimed, taking his wet cheeks in her small hands gently and staring into his eyes. Sam sniffed once, then the floodgates opened and he began to sob, his head tilting down and his eyes squeezing shut. Cassie pulled him in and wrapped her arms around him like an octopus, squeezing him in tight and holding him as he released his hurt into her shoulder.

 

Once he was able to breath without hiccuping, he pulled back and wiped at his face with his sleeve. Cassie looked him over frantically and ran her hands from his wrists to his shoulders to his face.

 

“Did Markus hurt you?” She asked.

 

“N-no.”

 

“Did Markus upset you?”

 

Sam hesitated, blinked a few times and mumbled, “Yes.”

 

“What happened?” She brushed her fingers through the hairs resting on his forehead, pushing them back softly. “Sammy, tell me what he said.”

 

“H-he talked a-about my m-mum.” A sob broke on the word ‘mum’ and a fresh wave of tears slid out.

 

“What the fuck?” She snarled, her face quickly contorting into an expression of pure rage. “Why would he do that?”

 

“I don’t- I don’t know.” He wasn’t scared of her, but her furious face had rattled him a little. Cassie could be a small ball of angry when it came to injustice but her eyes had a glint to them that he didn’t see often…

 

“I’m going to speak with him.” She said.

 

Sam grabbed her arms gently and whispered, “Cassie, don’t.”

 

“I will stay with you as long as you need me but I’m not going to stand by and let him speak to you like that.” Her voice had softened but he could still the the anger burning in her eyes, their usual forest green had become dark, almost blackened around the edges.

 

“But-”

 

“No one talks about your mum.” She said sternly, he sniffed and nodded. “Wait here, I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

 

And with that she strode out, leaving Sam frozen in place as he contemplated just how much worse his best friend could make this awkward and painful situation for him. If only she didn’t have such a  talent for it…

 

~

 

Cassie thumped her fist on Markus’ bedroom door as hard as she could, it left an ache in her knuckles but she ignored it, she had to be strong. Her target pulled the door open with a huff and looked down on her with annoyance.

 

“What?” He grunted.

 

“What did you say to Sam?” Cassie snarled, pushing her face up as close to his as he could.

 

He took a step back with a single raised brow, “Are you squaring up to me?” he growled.

 

“The fuck are you gonna do if I am?” She said. He glared at her and opened his mouth but she wasn’t going to let him take over, she pushed her way in and shut the door behind her. “How could you hurt Sam like that?!” She exclaimed angrily. “He is pure and kind and-”

 

“I didn’t do anything, he just freaked!” Markus shouted.

 

“You talked about his mum!” She practically spat the words at him like venom, her own version of alpha voice. Markus froze for a moment, much to Cassie’s enjoyment, he should feel shocked at what he’d done! He stared off to the side with a look of confusion and then trained his eyes back on her.

 

“I called Karliah his ‘mommy’ because she’s always fighting his battles for him,” He said slowly before adding much more hastily, “I would never talk about Sam’s parents like that!” with an offended expression.

 

A long pause sat between them.

 

“For real?” Cassie asked suspiciously.

 

“For real, I would never.”

 

“You swear?” She squinted at him as hard as she could with her mouth scrunched.

 

“Jesus, Cassie, we lived together for sixteen years and you think I’d do something like that?”

 

“You’ve proven you would do a lot of shitty things in the last year, Markus.” She said, “Also, even if you didn’t talk about his mum, you were still rude to him, and about my mate!” she waved a finger at him angrily. Who was he to talk about her mate like that? Or her best friend? He should just keep his mouth shut about everyone and everything!

 

“Well… yeah, but…”

 

“Karliah would never speak to me the way you do to Sam,” Cassie said softly, trying a different approach, an open and honest one. She and Markus had never considered each other friends, but she hoped he could feel her sincerity when she spoke from her heart and treated him as an equal. Maybe he would realise this was how he needed to communicate with Sam. “and if she made me cry like Sam is right now she would do anything to make up for it. You need to get your shit together or you won’t have a mate to speak down to for much longer.” She stared into his gold eyes and tried her best to only look half as angry as she felt.

 

“Thanks for the advice,” He growled, “but I don’t think my love life is any of your business.”

 

“I’m making it my business.” Cassie stated sternly and stalked back to the door, hesitating in the frame to add, “Karliah will be hearing about this, just so you know.”

 

“I’m not scared of biceps Barbie.” He grumbled sulkily. Cassie looked him up and down slowly, and with obvious disbelief, this man was delirious if he thought he could take her mate on hand-to-hand… maybe if he was armed… with a missile launcher…

 

“She would snap you in half, alpha arse-munch.” She replied.

 

“You’re in my house, munchkin, don’t forget that.” He said darkly.

 

Cassie squinted at him the same way her mother did to her when she was about to say ‘who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?’ but left it at that and slammed the door behind her.

 

~

 

Sam was passive-aggressively chopping sweet potatoes and carrots when a knock on the kitchen door drew him from his thoughts, he paused with his knife hovering over the veg, whoever had knocked didn’t need to be told to come in, the kitchen door was always open. After a few seconds of silence, he dropped the sharp tool and turned curiously. Markus leant against the doorway looking uncomfortable. They stared at each other, Sam expectantly and Markus sheepishly.

 

Finally, Sam folded his arms over his chests and broke the silence, “Sir?” he raised his brows with far more confidence than he felt, in fact his eye-lids still stung from the tears he had spent all afternoon shedding.

 

“Did… did Cassie tell you about what I actually meant?” Markus asked quietly.

 

“When you asked if I was going to ‘sic my mommy on you’?” Sam couldn’t believe how well he was holding himself together… Maybe he would make a good alpha mate yet! He pushed the unexpected thought away, those ideas buried themselves in and rotted you from the inside with poisonous hope. He was tired of fake hope. In face, he was tired of this conversation. “Yeah, she told me what you actually meant.”

 

“Yeah, I just,” Shifting from foot to foot, Markus actually looked slightly embarrassed, it seems Cassie had really given him a bollocking if she could reduce him to a timid teenager… or maybe Karliah had called him, she was definitely the scariest person Sam knew - he regularly thanked the Goddess that they were friends… “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for making you upset, even if I didn’t actually say what you thought I d-”

 

“Thanks.” Sam cut him off and gave him a tight-lipped smile to let him know he could leave now, he couldn’t make it any more obvious with his body language how much he wanted to do so.

 

Markus nodded awkwardly and left.

 

Maybe he should have given Markus more of a chance to explain himself... he thought as he returned to his duties, but then, maybe he was tired of giving Markus chances.

 

~

 

Aminali, Sam, Cassie and Karliah sat on a collection of squashed together tables to eat their packed lunches, Karliah devouring hers like a vacuum cleaner hoovering up her salad. Aminali picked at her stir-fry, pushing noodles around her tupperware box.

 

All four of their heads snapped up when the classroom door opened and a familiar pair of blonds entered, Alexa with her hand on Jasper’s lower back and both their bags slung over her shoulder.

 

“So this is where Karliah has been hiding my mate from me all this time.” She commented with a grin.

 

Karliah laughed, “It’s not my fault he has a thing for blonde women!” she said as the pair settled in on the table beside Sam. Jasper snorted but said nothing, Cassie assumed it was because he knew it was true.

 

“Is that because he is one himself?” Aminali asked, waving around a piece of red pepper sassily. Cassie could tell she was really focusing on Alexa though, eyeing her up and analysing her, Jasper was one of Aminali’s best friends after all, she needed to keep an eye on his mate.

 

“Stop trying to force toxic masculinity on me,” Said Jasper, “it’s not going to happen!” he looked her up and down slowly and flicked his hair dismissively. “I am perfectly comfortable in my body and my sexuality so you can kiss my adorable arse.” Alexa grinned proudly beside him as she pulled out their lunches.

 

“You’re right, I’m sorry.” Aminali pouted with her lip hanging out like a window ledge and he waved her off with another snort. “I’m Aminali, by the way, Jasper’s BEST friend.” She winked at Alexa and Alexa winked back. Cassie was glad they were sat at polar opposites of the semi-circle and could evaluate each other as much as they wanted from their positions, Aminali was terrible for blatantly staring at people, at least this would be less obvious.

 

“You’ve met Cassie and Sam before.” Karliah added.

 

“You mean your trouble-making mate and her dear friend?”

 

“You know them well.” Karliah grinned and Cassie rolled her eyes, wasn’t her mate supposed to defend her?

 

Jasper had sat beside Sam with Alexa on his other side so that the line-up was now: Aminali - Cassie - Karliah - Sam - Jasper - Alexa. They continued to eat, throwing out the occasional comment on the tastiness of their food until the door opened a second time and they all lifted their heads curiously again to see who else was joining them.

 

Hanmi stepped in slowly, her face tinged slightly pink and her hands gripping her bag tightly, Cassie wondered if she was intimidated by a second dominant joining them - Alexa could be quite scary when she towered over you, she was almost as tall as Karliah and easily as muscled although she dressed more modestly, so maybe the added layers made her look thicker…

 

“Hanmi!” Aminali cried happily, “Girl, I was wondering where y-” she froze, her mouth held in a delicate circle. In fact, everyone was holding themselves in position as another figure slipped into the room behind their friend.

 

“Damien,” Karliah was the first to shake off the shock, “what a nice surprise.” she said.

 

Damien shifted awkwardly from foot to foot in front of them, he looked like a small child giving a presentation to his peers as they all stared at him from their half-circle.

 

He cleared his throat quietly, “Hey, alpha.” he managed. Hanmi smiled weakly at his side, Cassie thought she looked on the verge of pleading. Thankfully, her mate took charge of the tension.

 

“I’m not sure who needs introducing but everyone, this is Damien, my beta.” Karliah nodded to him encouragingly and he gave a tight but grateful smile.

 

“And Hanmi’s mate!” Aminali added enthusiastically.

 

“Hello.” Was all Damien managed to mumble but Hanmi still looked as though she were positively glowing at the progress.

 

They took a seat together with Hanmi beside Aminali and Damien on the end. Aminali couldn’t seem to work out who she wanted to dissect with her eyes first: Alexa or Damien, her head swivelled back and forth with such vigour that her box braids flicked Cassie and Hanmi in the ears and cheeks, one after the other, back and forth. Cassie grabbed Aminali’s ear and turned her head to look into her eyes and give her a warning look. They were all excited but there was plenty of time yet to interrogate their friend’s mates and if Aminali went in too strong too quickly, as she was prone to do, it could scare Damien off, he already looked pretty damn skittish. Aminali smiled innocently in reply but at least now she managed to keep her head still without assistance.

 

“You’ve met Cassie and Alexa at home,” Karliah continued, “Aminali and Hanmi are in the same pack so I’m sure you have either heard of her or just plain heard her,” Aminali grinned a little scarily but managed to hold her tongue. “so I think it’s really only Sam we would need to introduce-”

 

“We’ve met, actually, thanks.” Damien said, a little too sharply.

 

Cassie tilted her head with a confused look at Sam who wouldn’t meet her eyes, Karliah blinked with an expression of bewilderment but said nothing and Aminali, whose superpower was the ability to smell gossip from a five-mile radius, was practically vibrating in her seat. Cassie gave her another sharp look and she managed to hold her tongue.

 

“Moving on,” Alexa said in a sing-song voice, “what’ve you young’uns been up to today?” she winked at Cassie cheekily and the sub stuck her tongue out in reply.

 

“You’re only a year older than us!” Jasper complained.

 

Alexa smiled down at him, “And yet, so much wiser.” she said, and flicked his forehead.

 

“That’s not saying much for some of these goof balls.” Karliah laughed.

 

Aminali pulled a face, “Why is it that I can almost guarantee she’s referring to me right now?” she asked.

 

“You’re becoming self-aware.” Said Karliah, pointing a stick of celery at her like a laser pointer.

 

Aminali posed prettily and batted her eyelashes, “The only thing I’m aware of is how awesome I am.” she replied.

 

Cassie looked between them with a baffled expression a few times before interjecting, “I feel like there should be more things you’re aware of.”

 

“Like global warming?” Suggested Jasper.

 

“Sure.”

 

Alexa turned to Karliah, “It’s a good thing they’re so cute.” she laughed, Karliah joined in and Damien finally cracked his first smile.

 

~

 

“I have a random question,” Cassie began, twirling her hair between her fingers. “and feel free to tell me to bugger off if it’s too personal-”

 

“Bugger off.” Charles said with a grin.

 

“Hey!” Cassie laughed, “You don’t know what the question is yet!” she stepped towards the island to lean towards him, bracing her elbows on the counter.

 

Sam kept his eye on the oven timer, it hadn’t been long since his apple pie had gone in, Cassie and Charles had both helped him make it so he wanted it to come out perfect. The kitchen was becoming his favourite place to relax the more time Cassie and Charles spent there with him, not just because he got help with his chores but it was the only time he could spend time with other people and the alpha/beta/omega dynamics didn’t apply, he was a normal person, just like them.

 

“From previous experience with your ‘random’ questions,” Charles cut into his thoughts like he had through the apples, “I can almost guarantee this is going to be something in relation to me being ‘like, really hella old’.” his impression of Cassie was spot-on and brought a small smile to Sam’s lips.

 

“I don’t talk like that!” Cassie laughed.

 

“You do sometimes.”

 

“I started saying ‘hella’ ironically and now I can’t stop,” She admitted, “it’s not my fault!” she laughed with her head in her hands.

 

“Was I right, though?” Charles chuckled, “Does your question have anything to do with me being past the average expiration date?” he asked.

 

“Well…”

 

“Cassie!” Sam gasped, she was almost as nosey as Aminali.

 

“I was just wondering if you had ever been married?” Cassie asked and Sam’s mouth fell open half-way, she was really pushing her own limits of shamelessness today. “Having been on this planet so long I thought it would be weird for you to have been single the whole time-”

 

“Cassie!” Sam snapped angrily, he had never spoken to her like that before, he was almost shaking with frustration, and yet she barely seemed to notice. She had yet to look away from Charles whose face was frozen in his mild-smile he used on Markus and the other dominants, polite but emotionless.

 

“-only because you’re kind-of handsome and charming, or so I’ve heard.” She gave Sam a pointed look and his eyes widened embarrassedly, he had told her that in confidence! Not that it was weird, Charles is handsome, it would be weird if he didn’t notice it, then he’d need to see an optician…

 

“I’m so sorry, Charles.” Sam whispered. “You don’t have to answer that.”

 

“It’s fine, Sam, I don’t mind answering.” He reassured, giving him a kind smile. “I have to admit, that did catch me off guard.” When he turned back to Cassie he sighed quietly and she had the grace to look at least moderately sheepish.

 

“I wasn’t trying to be rude, I was just curious.” Cassie mumbled, she suddenly looked even smaller than usual.

 

“It’s honestly fine, it’s a normal question to ask people regardless of their age.” He kept trying to smile at her but it looked a little pained, he kept his eyes on Cassie as he answered, “I’m actually a widow.” he said. Sam winced and looked down at the island awkwardly, he cursed Cassie and her big mouth in his head.

 

“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Cassie said sincerely.

 

“Thank you, with every year that passes it gets that little bit easier to acknowledge,” Charles said slowly, “I suppose that’s the hardest part about falling in love with a vampire,” Sam raised his head, “you assume they’ll be with you forever so when something happens you have to deal with the shock before you even begin to grieve.” he watched Charles carefully but saw no anger, he just kept smiling his sad smile.

 

“Were you together a long time?” Cassie asked.

 

“We dated for a couple of years, were married for twenty-eight… so approximately three decades together.”

 

“Damn.”

 

“Damn indeed,” Charles nodded. “but would I change anything? Absolutely not, I married my best friend and I loved every moment we shared.” Sam tried to smile reassuringly at him.

 

“So did you have, like, a civil partnership?” Cassie continued, always the curious little cat.

 

“No,” Charles said slowly, confusion clouding his voice. “we were married.”

 

“I thought gay marriage only just got legalised for humans?”

 

“I was married to a woman, Cassie.”

 

“Oh,” Her mouth held the shape of the ‘o’ for a painfully long ten seconds before she managed to find something to say, “I just- I got this feeling from you- I thought you were…” she was struggling to piece together a coherent sentence and as much as Sam wanted to help save her from the train wreck that was this conversation, he had no idea what the verbal equivalent of the jaws of life was. Luckily, Charles seemed to be enjoying her stammering, Sam didn’t think he had ever seen the man grin quite so widely. “My gaydar must need tuning, it’s normally fool-proof!” Cassie continued to ramble until Charles finally lifted his hands palm up to stop her.

 

“I’m bisexual.” Both subs blinked, their brains restarting as they digested the information.

 

“Ah.” Said Cassie.

 

“But I actually wasn’t aware of that when I married my wife and when I came out, we had been married for…” He squinted at thin air for a moment, “it must have been at least twenty years… I was in my mid-forties.”

 

“Did you realise a long time before you came out or did you genuinely not realise until you were that old?”

 

“I had never given it much thought before then,” He shrugged, “it wasn’t something that was even considered when I was your age, no one ever mentioned liking men so I never thought about how I felt about them.” his face had softened out of its sadness somewhat as Cassie lead him into their new-ish topic, Sam had to admit that while Cassie’s strongest skill was her ability to run her mouth into a hole, she was also almost as skilled in weaving a conversational rope to pull herself free, she might still make a powerful alpha female yet.

 

“That must have been so crazy for you!” The gold glitter in her emerald eyes sparkled with intrigue.

 

“I don’t know if that’s the word I would use,” Charles tilted his head, “but it was certainly strange, for both of us.” he smiled to himself, his eyes staring straight through Cassie’s shoulder. “Erin was so supportive of me, I never had to explain myself with her.”

 

“She sounds amazing,” Cassie said softly, “do you have any photos of her?” she leant forward with a grin.

 

“I do, although being the dinosaur that I am the majority of my photos are in albums, the real kind, not the ones on facebook, but I keep some of the more special ones in my phone too.”

 

“Do you have one of you actually at your wedding?”

 

“I do.” His smile almost seemed a little nervous as he pulled his phone out of his back pocket. “And before you ask, no it isn’t in black and white.”

 

“I wasn’t going to ask that!” Cassie complained, then turned to mouth ‘how did he know?’ behind her hand to Sam while Charles was distracted with finding the photo. Sam shook his head with a smile and a roll of his eyes, some things would never change.

 

“I only have this one of us with our families outside the church.” Charles turned the screen to face them and both subs leaned in to get a good look.

 

A small crowd of people squeezed together in front of the wooden doors and brick walls of a church in the photo, in the centre the newly-weds beamed at the camera toothily, the bride in a tea-length dress with lace sleeves and detailing around the bodice and along the hem of the skirt, the groom in a suit with a light pink carnation in his lapel. Her hair was curled up tight and adorned with an elbow-length veil, although the colours in the photo were faded Sam could still tell her hair was a chestnut-brown. The group around them seemed confused and no one was looking directly at the camera but it didn’t matter, the bride and groom grinned ahead with an energizing excitement and Sam couldn’t look away from them.

 

“I feel so dumb for being shocked that you look almost exactly the same.” Cassie laughed, ripping Sam out of his mesmerisation.

 

“Were you human there?” Sam asked.

 

“Yeah,” Charles grinned wistfully. “Erin turned me eventually because she was always worrying about me,” His smile tightened and his eyes grew melancholic, “who would have thought it should have been me worrying about her?” he sighed and took the phone back, pushing it deep into his back pocket as though he couldn’t bear to look at it.

 

“You both looked so happy.” Sam whispered.

 

“We were.”

 

“She was beautiful.” Cassie added.

 

“She was, and so was her soul.” He slid off his stool and stepped away from the island. “I think I’ve depressed the two of you enough for one day, I think I’ll take some time to myself now.”

 

“You don’t have to go,” Sam said quietly, “I like hearing about your life.” he fidgeted with his sleeves awkwardly, was what he said weird?

 

“Yeah, I didn’t mean to make you feel like you had to leave.” Cassie added sheepishly.

 

“It’s not that, I’d just like to be alone for a bit, maybe call my family back home and see how they are.” Charles explained carefully.

 

“Let us know if you need anything,” Cassie said with an understanding nod that Sam imitated. “especially company, we’d love to see more photos if you’ve got any.” Sam nodded even more enthusiastically at that, he really wanted to see more photos of Charles, especially his younger years - seeing Charles when he was their age would be the jackpot, hopefully even he had had a weird mid-puberty phase at some point in his teen years.

 

“Thank you both, you’re too kind.” Charles said politely before slipping out the door.

Chapter Text

Sunlight shone through the large windows behind Markus and warmed his neck as he hunched over his laptop. As per bloody usual, he was doing his father’s boring compliance work for him. He had a theory that was the real reason so many alphas popped kids out so young, the sooner they grew up, the sooner they could take over the boring and tedious work that they didn’t want to do.

 

And yet, as bitter as he felt about it, he was already fantasising about the day he could pass this boring crap onto his own alpha child… if he ever got to have children, that was… Adoption was much smoother in werewolf culture than in human, often because pups tended to be ‘found’ rather than handed over so there was no visiting of the biological parents, no confusion on which pack they would belong to, no sudden changes of mind by the birth mother. The only reason a wolf would give up their child was if it had been fertilised by someone other than their mate so they had no reason to want further contact. It happened more often than people thought but that worked in the favour of the gay soul mates who wanted children so no one really complained, but it didn’t happen enough for all gay couples to have their ideal amount of pups. No one can make a fuss about not enough babies being abandoned though, it’s generally considered poor taste in most cultures.

 

This was all assuming that one day he would have a marked and bonded mate… who also shared his desire for offspring… Funnily enough, he hadn’t thought to bring the subject up with Sam previously, he still didn’t feel like someone Markus could share his private thoughts with… they didn’t have a great emotional connection.

 

A knock on the office door broke him from his thoughts, it was firm and he knew instantly it had to have come from the hand of a dominant, so he stood to open the door and greet whoever it was. Before he had even fully turned the handle he could smell an alpha on the other side, he gritted his teeth to hold back a sigh and rolled his eyes before pulling the door open.

 

“Alpha Karliah.” He said cordially, using every drop of restraint within him. His wolf was already clenching its muscles warily.

 

“Drop the formalities, Markus.” She said, although her words were sharper than her tone. She brushed past him but nothing about her stance was aggressive and his wolf settled almost immediately. “Haven’t we known each other long enough to not need to be so uptight?”

 

“You’ve threatened to kill me a couple of times now,” He shut the door and followed her in. “is it my fault I wasn’t under the impression that we are best buds?”

 

“A fair point, although you have given me plenty of reasons to threaten you since our mates are so close.” Markus grumbled under his breath and took the seat behind his father’s desk. “Which is why I think we should get closer, I get the feeling our lives are going to be entwined for a long time.”

 

“So what, you came here to give me a friendship bracelet?”

 

“I came here to congratulate you.”

 

“Oh, yeah?” He asked suspiciously.

 

“Yeah, and to give you some advice.”

 

“What would that be?”

 

“As happy for you as I am that you’ve managed to start saying ‘the s word’,” Karliah snorted to herself before adding, “I know how hard that is for us alphas,” she said it sincerely but kept her laid-back grin etched onto her face. “have you thought that maybe soon you should start trying to behave better in the first place, it’ll save you from being in trouble with your mate in the first place and will reduce the amount of times you need to apologise.”

 

Markus rolled his eyes, “Who told you I said ‘the s word’?”

 

“Would you believe me if I said it was Damien?”

 

“No, and I would be pretty insulted that you think I’m that gullible.” He tried to keep his tone playful, fighting the urge to turn defensive about Sam divulging details of their relationship to not only another wolf, a fellow alpha wolf. “So what else has he told you?”

 

He doesn’t tell me anything,” She chuckled lightly. “I get all my info second-hand from Cassie, she likes to think she’s not a gossip but Aminali might have some competition soon if she continues at the rate she’s going.”

 

“Oh, who?”

 

“Who Cassie or who Aminali? I like to think you know enough about your mate’s life that you know the name of his best friend but shouldn’t you also be familiar with the rest of his friends?”

 

“I guess I didn’t really think he had…” Markus trailed off awkwardly.

 

Karliah’s head jerked back a little, her expression incredibly suspicious, “You didn’t think Sam had friends?” she asked, her tone changed suddenly, she sounded almost angry...

 

“I knew about Cassie, they’ve been glued together since Sam was dropped on our door step…”

 

“Didn’t you worry?”

 

“About what?” He huffed, now he definitely did feel defensive.

 

“About your mate heading into a building filled with hundreds of other wolves every day with only a fellow submissive as protection?” She shook her head in disbelief. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, if it was a fight between Cassie and literally any other submissive on the planet, my money is going on my mate every time, but Cassie versus a dominant?” She sighed. “I know she likes to think she’s the baddest bitch, but she forgets she’s the baddest submissive bitch, dominants are practically a different species.”

 

“Dominants are from Mars, submissives are from Venus?”

 

“Exactly, so explain to me how you go about your day without driving yourself to a straight jacket with worry over him?” She crossed one long leg over another and shrugged at him to encourage an answer. He sighed but didn’t reply. “I’ve been real with you, why can’t you be open with me?” She asked, leaning towards him and letting her arms rest on her knee. “What reason would I have to trick you? I’m already closer to your mate than you are, if I was trying to get to you through Sam I could have done it months ago.” Her silver eyes searched his gold ones. “This isn’t business, this isn’t one pack to another, this is purely between us. Nothing you tell me is going to leave this room, I just want to understand what’s going on in that thick skull of yours.”

 

Markus allowed a few moments of silence to pass between them.

 

“I have your word,” He growled, “that you’ll tell no one of this conversation?”

 

“On the Goddess, you have my word.”

 

“Not even Cassie.”

 

“You have my word, Markus.” She confirmed, her voice soft and cautious. He took a deep breath, huffed, stood from his chair, walked to the window, back again, sat down and huffed again. Karliah said nothing, her steel eyes simply followed him, he could feel them burning into his face with the intensity of her gaze.

 

“I think I am driving myself to a straight jacket.” He admitted, the words spewed out and he instantly felt the urge to spew something else. Karliah said nothing. “It makes me… angry.” He crossed his arms over his chest and looked away. “I’m not weak.” He growled.

 

“Caring about your mate doesn’t make you weak.”

 

“It will if I can’t get over it.”

 

“Get over what?” Karliah spluttered, “Your soul mate isn’t a stomach bug or cold!” her brows pulled together as she gave him a look of utter disbelief.

 

“You don’t understand,” He huffed. “I knew you wouldn’t.”

 

“Explain it to me, make me understand.” She said, surprisingly gently. But he still couldn’t tell if she was being one-hundred percent genuine or if she was just a very convincing actress.

 

“Your mate isn’t… she’s normal.” He winced even as he said it, he would never want Sam to hear him say those words.

 

Karliah looked as disgusted as he felt, “You mean she’s not an omega.” she said bluntly.

 

“Yeah, it’s different for you.”

 

“I disagree. If Cassie were an omega it would change nothing… well, maybe I would be even more protective…” She laughed quietly to herself. “But I wouldn’t give a fuck what anyone else had to say about my mate, the same as now.”

 

“You don’t know what you would do in my position because you’re not in it,” Markus growled, how could she judge him when she had never stood in his shoes? She didn’t know the pressures he was under to be normal, to have a secret that could damage his reputation not just in his own pack but in all those he were to attempt to work with in the future. “it’s hypothetical for you. Your mate won’t be stared at, gossiped about, looked down on by literally every other wolf.”

 

“You’re going to let gossip and staring stop you from claiming your soul mate?”

 

“I won’t put us through the politics and bitchiness if it’s not necessary.” Oh Goddess, he thought, he had said ‘us’, that’s where these things began…

 

“You have to mark him eventually,” Her voice had turned gentle again, “what will you do if he leaves?”

 

“He can’t leave!” Markus barked, her words had hit a nerve he hadn’t realised was quite so sensitive. “Omega can’t leave their pack without permission from the alpha.”

 

“So, you comfort yourself with the thought that he is your prisoner?”

 

“He can’t leave.” His fists were clenched and his breathing harsher than he remembered it being a minute before. “But I think you should.”

 

“Message received, alpha.” She said, standing from her seat slowly. “Damien’s got my number, feel free to call me if you want to talk some more, I have no reason to repeat anything you say.”

 

“Yeah, whatever.” He grunted, watching her leave with a twisting sensation in his gut.

 

~

 

Cassie was waiting in the car when Karliah stepped out of the Scarlett Moon pack house. When she swung into her seat her mate stared at her expectantly.

 

“Markus and I had words.”

 

“And?” Cassie leaned across in her seat.

 

“And I swore I wouldn’t repeat those words, so let’s go home and have dinner.” Karliah said, and started the car with a jerk of her hand that ended the conversation before it had started.

 

Cassie huffed and slumped in the passenger seat but didn’t say a word.

 

~

 

Markus ducked into his father’s office, practically trembling with excitement. His father had sent him a text not two minutes earlier letting him know there had been a development in the vampire situation. He had barely been home from the academy for half an hour but he had hurtled up to the office almost dangerously fast and knocked on the door frantically, thankfully his father had summoned him in with haste.

 

Now he stood before him expectantly.

 

“We’ve got new information.” His father said slowly.

 

“About Charles?” Markus blurted.

 

“No,” Markus instantly deflated but his father didn’t notice. “that didn’t lead anywhere fortunately, what we did get is intel on a coven that we believe is one of those connected to this ‘council’.” His interest picked up again, not quite as intense as it had been though…”One of our scouts managed to intercept a single letter from this so-called ‘council’ and another was able to get a scope of the grounds but we need more information.”

 

“What now?” He asked solemnly.

 

“A reconnaissance mission,” His father replied, an uncommon twinkle in his eyes, it seemed he still had a bit of that alpha fire in him yet. “I’m putting together a team of the best to infiltrate and possibly neutralize the territory.”

 

Markus blinked in surprise. He had to be on that team, there was no way he was getting left behind while a group of his friends heroically infiltrated enemy territory and maybe even saved the pack… it was like something out of a movie.

 

“Sir-”

 

“Before you ask, yes, I was planning to put you on the mission, no, I have not told your mother yet and soon, I want this situation sorted yesterday.”

 

“Yes!” Markus fist pumped in celebration but quickly composed himself as his father stared him down sternly. “Who else is going to be on the team?”

 

“I’ve picked two senior warriors and plan to have two more people going with you-”

 

“Ash and Malachai?” Markus blurted hopefully.

 

“Sure, they’ll keep you in line well enough.” His father sighed, “Go and prepare then, you’re leaving in the morning, I’ll let your school know.” he returned to his laptop, tapping away loudly.

 

“Thank you, father!” Markus darted out before his dad could change his mind, throwing the door closed behind him and heading straight down three flights of stairs and out the back door for their training yard, where he knew his two closest friends would be sparring.

 

They were laughing with a small group of border guards when he reached the training area, Malachai clapped his hand on the back of one of them and almost sent the poor guy flying into the dirt, he was a few years older than Markus but still didn’t always know his own strength.

 

Ash noticed him approaching first and grinned lazily at him before saying something to the group that made them all laugh again before dispersing, he and Malachai leant against the fence that guarded the combat ring and waited for Markus to get nearer.

 

The three of them had been friends since Markus was born, his father had always asked them to watch over him. They had been out of the academy for just over a year and now got to spend all of their time protecting the pack, training to protect the pack, planning to protect the pack and reporting on how they protect the pack. Lots of protecting. It sounded repetitive and boring but honestly, Markus couldn’t wait to be an adult and spend every day doing just that (well, alongside all the damn paperwork and business nonsense he would have to look after when his father stepped down, but he hoped he would get a few years in his twenties to simply be like the other dominants).

 

Ash was the oldest, but only by a few months and was also the shortest, although only by a couple of inches and he still towered over most. He had a high fade with a slightly curly quiff on top that was almost the same light brown colour as his eyes and thick brows that somehow managed to do all his emotion expressing for him.

 

Malachai was rarely seen without a smile on his face and had the ability to infect others with that smile by simply being within a mile of them, although Markus and Ash both theorised it wasn’t actually his own smile that caused the reaction but the fact that he could never seem to keep his clothes on and submissives were simply grinning goofily at his muscles being out. He was technically shorter than Markus but his frohawk made up the difference, much to Markus’ annoyance.

 

The pair stood comfortably close, something Markus was very glad to see given that he had noticed a pinch of awkwardness between them lately, it seemed to come and go in waves so he hadn’t felt the need to bring it up with them, they were adults, whatever it was he was sure they could handle it.

 

“How’s our favourite little alpha?” Malachai called as he got within reach and pulled him in for a one-armed hug.

 

“Not that little.” Markus laughed and pushed him away to give Ash a fist bump. “I overtook you when I was what? Twelve?”

 

“The race is still on, kid, “I reckon I still have some ways to go!”

 

“In which direction though?” Markus looked him up and down critically. “My money’s on width!”

 

Malachai laughed heartily, “So, what’s up with you?” he asked, moving them swiftly on from his lack of height. “I feel like I’ve barely seen you all week!”

 

“Well, we’ll be spending a lot of time together starting tomorrow.” Markus hinted slyly.

 

“Why’s that? Your old man finally giving you a break from desk duty?”

 

“Kind-of.” He paused to give them a moment to get pumped, they both gave him exasperated looks. “He wants to send a small group on an intel mission into one of the vampire covens that is working with the council.” Markus blurted excitedly.

 

“Oh?” Ash’s brows shot up with instant interest.

 

“And he said I could go!”

 

“Nice one, man!” Malachai ruffled his hair cheerfully.

 

“And he said he needed two more people to be on the team…” Markus grinned as he let the sentence trail off.

 

“So you picked me and the omega?” Malachai said with his hand on his chest. “Aaaw, I’m touched.”

 

“Shut up, Malachai.” Ash snorted, “You’d better have picked us, I need to get out of this damn compound!” he laughed.

 

“Of course I asked for you guys!”

 

“So, when do we leave?” Ash asked, his eyes lit up with the thrill of a mission on the horizon.

 

“I need to meet with the senior officers that are leading but I’m guessing it’ll be early.” Markus said warily, he knew how much Ash hated getting up early, but thankfully the older wolf simply shrugged, it seems he really had been desperate to get out for a bit if he wasn’t even going to complain about leaving his bed!

 

“Cool, let us know who the leads are so we can get details on what to pack.” Said Ash with a half-smile.

 

“Will do, I’m heading over now so I’ll text you when I know.”

 

“Nice,” Said Malachai, “guess we’d better get back to our training exercises for now then.” he nodded back at the ring where the other guards of varying ranks were running through tackles and dodging behind them, filling the air with grunts of pain and muddy thudding noises. Markus smiled understandingly and began to head away in the direction of the justice building.

 

“Have fun, guys.” He gave them a wave as he trotted away, Malachai saluted him and Ash gave him the finger with a smirk.

 

~

 

When he heard the footsteps approaching him slowly, Sam paid them no mind, when a breath hit the back of his neck, he shivered, when his mate’s scent filled his nostrils, he let out a slow breath that had threatened to become a moan.

 

“Sir?” He whispered.

 

“Turn around.” Markus mumbled. Sam obeyed, turning tightly and looking up at his alpha. The older boy looked troubled.

 

“Is everything okay?” He asked gently. Markus brushed a finger tenderly over his cheek before stepping back with a sigh.

 

“I wanted to let you know, we found a lead on the vampire covens that are plotting against us.” He said.

 

“That’s great,” Sam said carefully, unsure of why Markus wasn’t jumping up and down with glee. “what happens next?”

 

“Well, some of us are going on a… a trip…” Markus seemed almost sheepish as he explained, “to a coven that we believe is involved with ‘the council, we’re gonna find out more about what’s going on.” Ah, Sam thought, he’s going a highly dangerous mission that he thinks I’m going to make a fuss over. Sam knew Markus well, he had known him almost his entire life thus far, and if there was one thing he was damned sure of, it was Markus lived for the thrill of protecting his pack. If there were bold heroics involved, Markus would do anything to put himself in the middle. Sam held his composure, he didn’t approve but it wasn’t as though he actually had a say in the matter.

 

“When?” He asked politely, looking away from his eyes to stare at his broad chest.

 

“First thing in the morning.”

 

“Oh.” Said Sam, still maintaining eye contact with Markus’ pecs.

 

“I thought I should probably tell you, y’know because you’re my…” He let the sentence die in the air and there were a few seconds of silence between them. Being away from their mate weakened wolves, especially if it was a long distance or a long time.

 

“Yeah,” Said Sam, “thanks.” he found it embarrassingly hard to not look upset, he wasn’t sure he succeeded. “How long will you be gone?”

 

“I don’t know, it depends what we find.” Markus shrugged. “Hopefully not more than a week.”

 

“Oh.” They hadn’t been apart for that long since they found out they were mates.

 

“Yeah,” Markus said awkwardly. “so I should probably go pack.”

 

“Yeah, thanks for telling me.” Sam whispered, he didn’t know what else to say… He couldn’t convince him to do anything he didn’t want to, and he knew Markus would love to go on a peril-filled adventure.

 

“No problem.”

 

“I have some of your laundry waiting to be taken up to your room in that basket if there’s anything you can’t find in your drawers.” Sam added, nodding to the basket to his left, he had just finished folding the alphas underpants.

 

“Cheers,” Markus nodded slowly, looking between Sam and the basket a couple of times. “I’ll just… take it all up now.” He turned to take the white plastic basket and shifted it to his hip. Wow, Sam thought, he must be flustered if he’s accidentally offering to help with chores.

 

He began to shuffle away with his cargo but Sam couldn’t help the question that slipped from his lips, “Will I see you before you go?” he asked quietly.

 

“It depends how early you’re up, I guess.” Markus said bluntly.

 

“Oh, okay.” Sam nodded and returned to his towel folding, letting Markus hover awkwardly for a few moments before striding out. He wasn’t going to beg Markus to come and see him before he left, the stubborn oaf would have to make that decision on his own. Of course, not so deep down, Sam desperately hoped Markus came to say goodbye properly in the morning… He wanted Markus to miss him…

 

~

 

“It is so fucking early.” Ash groaned, the hair that normally sat up in a quiff now laying flat against his forehead. His backpack was sagging at his feet as he waited on the edge of the driveway for their ride to arrive.

 

Markus smiled tiredly to show they were all in the same boat. Malachai stretched his thick arms over his head and yawned but didn’t complain, it wasn’t in his nature. They had been waiting on the dewy grass for a quarter of an hour, wrapped up in thick layers.

 

A land rover with tinted windows crept towards them from the back garage, senior officers Khan and Bello were sat up front. When the car reached them, they climbed in silently and got comfortable, they had a long ride ahead of them. The officers said nothing.

 

As they pulled out of the driveway, Markus couldn’t help but wish he had kissed Sam when he had seen him last night…

Chapter Text

“Babe.”

 

Karliah’s eyes peeled open slowly and only by a millimetre or two, she still couldn’t see anything though. She could feel Cassie’s weight on her hips, her breath on her face and her curls tickling her skin. She groaned in reply and let her eyes slide shut again, her internal clock telling her there was no way it was time to get up yet.

 

“Babe.” Cassie said again, this time with a tad more insistence.

 

“Mmm?” Karliah managed, although her eyes remained shut.

 

“You’ll never guess what Sam just texted me.”

 

“Mmm?” Karliah could guess, it would be a fifty-fifty toss up between something lovely Charles had done for him or something horrible Markus had done to him. She was interested, honest, she was also just insanely tired.

 

“They got a lead on the vampires.” Cassie whispered excitedly.

 

Karliah’s eyes shot open and she sat up, accidentally knocking Cassie onto her back with legs spread and her nightie hitched up, normally the sight would have had Karliah ready to devour her but she needed to know more about the vampire situation first.

 

“What… What did he say?” She asked with a heavy slur.

 

Cassie blinked up at her for a few moments before answering, “There’s a coven that they think is connected to this whole plot thing… Markus and some of the pack guards are going on a mission to scope them out a collect information.”

 

“When do they leave?”

 

“Already gone, apparently they left before dawn.”

 

“And when was Alpha Murphy planning on informing me of this?” The words shot out of Karliah’s mouth far more sharply than she had intended.

 

Her mate was caught off by it and fumbled with her words as she tried to respond, “I… I don’t know…” she said.

 

“You’re a regular visitor of that pack,” Karliah said slowly, trying to contain her annoyance and spare Cassie’s feelings. “I should be informed about developments in dangerous situations like this.”

 

“Sorry…” Cassie whispered uncertainly.

 

Karliah brushed a hand through her curls and pulled an apologetic face, “It’s not your fault, sweetness.” she said. “Markus or his dad should have said something to me, even just a fucking text yesterday to give me a heads up that there won’t be as many guards in the pack when you visit today…”

 

Cassie pushed herself up on her elbows and then onto her knees, pressing their foreheads together and planting gentle kisses over her cheeks.

 

“You… he might be putting you in danger…” Karliah mumbled. Cassie continued kissing at her face. “They never… tell me anything…” Her thoughts were jumbled enough from lack of sleep but throw in her adorable little mate running her lips from her brow to her chin and she could barely string a sentence together. “You are… very distracting.” She chuckled and caught Cassie’s cheeks between her hands.

 

“But do you feel less angry now?” Cassie asked with an adorable head tilt.

 

“I suppose,” She whispered sleepily, “but this won’t work all the time, you know.” she squished Cassie’s face between each word.

 

“That’s okay, I’ll save this super-power for when I truly need it!” Cassie teased. Karliah rolled her eyes and slumped back into the pillows, pulling her mate down with her.

 

“Like when I try to stop you having a fourth cookie?”

 

“You read my mind!” Cassie laughed, “Maybe that’s your super-power.” she snuggled in closer and Karliah pulled the blankets tighter over them.

 

“Mmm. I’d trade it in for some extra sleep.” Karliah mumbled.

 

“Sorry for waking you up.”

 

“It’s okay.” Her eyes closed easily.

 

“Go back to sleep and I’ll wake you up when it’s time to get ready for school.”

 

“Mmm.” She was already gone.

 

~

 

The sun was starting to rise when officer Bello broke the silence that had been holding them for the last three hours. Ash had dropped into dreamland after the first half an hour, his head balanced on Malachai’s shoulder and his lips slightly parted, but he jerked awake when she addressed them from the passenger seat.

 

“You three read your briefs?” She asked sternly.

 

“Yes, ma’am.” They answered in unison, Ash with a slight rasp to his voice.

 

“Good, I don’t want any fuck-ups on this trip, this coven don’t know that we know they’re connected yet.” Her voice was low and calm but Markus still felt the hairs on his arms raise as the seriousness of their mission washed over him like a cold wave. “We go in silently, we get our information and we get out even more silently.”

 

The three boys nodded at the headrests ahead of them.

 

“Malachai, run me through your designation for the first infiltration.” She looked at the oldest of the three in the rear view mirror.

 

He managed to only hesitate slightly before answering, “I’m taking the south side of the land, coming in from the main road and working through to the boundary line until the triple window is visible and then I’m to hover and wait to provide back-up if there is confrontation, otherwise I leave after one hour or a text from officer Khan.” He rattled off his orders without a breath but didn’t sound nervous, which Markus could seriously respect given that he was definitely beginning to feel a tension in his body that was building with every mile. Even alphas felt fear.

 

“Good, and if you are found?”

 

“I am visiting family in the local village, I was trying to find my way to the hiking trail that leads to The Red Lion pub that is up on the hillside and got lost, when it grew dark I became even more confused.”

 

“If they can tell you’re a wolf?”

 

“I make up a pack name.”

 

“I would make one up before we get there, kid.” She said with raised eyebrows. Markus knew what she was trying to gently remind them, if you don’t have a solid alibi you will have a swift death.

 

“Yes, ma’am.” Malachai nodded with a seriousness not often seen on his face.

 

“Good,” Her eyes slid to the next boy in the row. “Ash?” She said expectantly.

 

“I’m taking the north side,” Ash began, his voice still a little thick from his snooze. “coming in from the hiking trail, I get as close to the boundary line as I can but need to be wary of the main living room being situated facing me with three sets of double windows that I could be spotted from.” He cleared his throat softly and sat up straighter before continuing. “I’m waiting as back-up too but also to keep notes on the movements within the main living area and count the vampires I see. I am to stay for forty-five minutes unless something goes wrong or officer Khan texts me.”

 

“And if you’re caught?” Officer Bello asked sternly.

 

“I’m coming back from The Red Lion, got confused on the public footpaths in the fields, especially since I can’t handle my alcohol,” He flashed a speedy wink at Malachai, “and got lost.” he finished confidently.

 

“And what is your fake pack name?”

 

“The Blue Furs.” He said.

 

“How did you come up with that so quickly?” Markus blurted. Like Malachai, he had yet to come up with a pretend pack to say he was part of if interrogated.

 

“It’s really not that hard,” Ash said with an eye roll. “you just take an adjective and stick it in front of something wolf-ish or moon-ish.”

 

Markus considered his options, he wasn’t the most creative but even he should be able to manage to put two words together.

 

“So… can I be from the Golden Claws?” He asked slowly. Ash considered the suggestion for a few moments, pulling faces and tilting his head back and forth with exaggerated movements.

 

“I like it.” He said finally.

 

“What about me?” Malachai asked, “Help me come up with a pack!” he prodded at Ash with one finger into his shoulder repeatedly until the fellow dominant squirmed.

 

“You can be from the Shaggy Mongrels!” Ash laughed and flicked at the tight coils that hung over onto Malachai’s forehead.

 

“Hey!”

 

“Say it with enough conviction and they’ll believe you.” Said officer Khan with a half-smile.

 

“Enough.” Said officer Bello gently, but it easily silenced the men instantly. “Markus?”

 

Markus almost forgot everything he had read in his brief in that moment, his head becoming utterly blank when her hard eyes were directed at him.

 

He took a short and shallow breath before answering, “I’m going in through the kitchen’s glass doors with you, officer Bello.” he began, “We will take the left door leading up a set of stairs to a corridor which will then give us five more doors and we are taking the second on the right into the office of the head of the coven.” he paused to gauge her reaction and confirm everything he had said so far was correct, she nodded him along. “Once in there we divide and search, I’ll be looking for physical evidence and you will be looking for digital. We have a time limit of fifteen minutes or until Ash, Malachai or officer Khan give us a warning that they believe we are in danger. We take what we find and climb out of the window onto the small balcony, being wary of many flowerpots and slide down the roofing to put us back in the eastern gardens where we began. We do a large loop around the north side, giving the land a wider berth and then return to officer Khan and the others waiting in the car.”

 

“And if you’re caught?”

 

“I’m a spy sent by the Golden Claws, I mean no harm and was simply sent to gather information. I give them anything on me and do anything I can to get out alive.”

 

“Good,” She said quietly, although her face showed no sign of being pleased. She added, “that includes killing them, just so you know.” and raised her eyebrows as she glanced back over each boy before dragging her eyes back to road ahead.

 

“Yes, ma’am.” Markus murmured.

 

~

 

For the entire car journey from Jasper’s pack house to the Lunar Warriors’, Jasper had bounced in his seat and shot questions at his mate like a small, blonde, machine gun. Alexa answered as many as she could, although she did have to remind him a few times that she had only transferred to the Lunar Warriors a few months ago and was no expert on their ways. Jasper didn’t mind, he just kept coming out with more questions.

 

Ever since she had asked if she could give him a tour of her pack house he had been buzzing with excitement, he couldn’t wait to see where she lived, how she lived and what kind of place she lived in. He was a nosey brat, it wasn’t his fault, he had always been that way.

 

When they finally turned onto the long drive Jasper leant forward in his seat to get a better look at the house as it came into their view, it was a fair bit bigger than the pack house he lived in although according to Alexa the land around it was a pretty close match in size.

 

Once she had pulled up at the the side of the house and switched off the ignition he was quick to leap from the car and skip up the front steps excitedly. He bopped up and down on his heels as he waited impatiently for Alexa to climb out and open the front door to the pack house. When the door finally cracked open he had to fight the urge to squeeze himself through before it was fully open.

 

She gave him a thorough tour of the first two floors, although only because he quizzed her so incessantly on every room. By the time they reached the top floor he was starting to worry he was wearing her out with his questions and general thirst for detail. Everything about her fascinated him. That thought both embarrassed and delighted him, who knew your mate could make you so sappy and cheesy?

 

Luckily for her, the top floor was mostly comprised of bedrooms so she could only show him her own which Jasper’s eyes raked over voraciously. He was surprised to find that she had a rather pink and girly theme furnishing the medium-sized room. He didn’t mention it though, he figured he had pestered her enough for one day… he would wait till tomorrow and then rip the piss out of her.

 

After snooping around under Alexa’s amused gaze for a good half-hour, Alexa finally suggested they return down to the ground floor and get snacks from the kitchen. He grinned and followed her out with an easy spring in his step.

 

Karliah appeared at the end of the corridor as they were approaching the last set of stairs to return to the lowest floor, “Jasper!” she called, and waved at the pair with a relaxed grin.

 

It took Jasper a moment to work out what Karliah was doing in Alexa’s home… she lived there too. She was their alpha heir. One day she would be his alpha. In this pack. Where she would be… And he would… Jasper suddenly felt as though time was flying past him, everyone was moving too quickly and his heart was beating too fast.

 

“What’s up, alpha?” Alexa’s voice ripped him roughly from the internal battle that was raging inside his mind. Karliah was looking at him expectantly. Alpha Karliah. His future alpha. She was waiting for him to say something, anything.

 

“Hey.” He said with a much smaller smile than he had had minutes ago, it was taking much more energy now to hold it too. Karliah’s smile slipped into a slightly more crooked and awkward version.

 

She turned her attention to Alexa, “I’m so sorry, I completely forgot you were bringing Jasper round today!” she said. Jasper dropped his eyes , pulled in closer to his mate and stared at a spot on the floor.

 

“No worries.” Alexa laughed quietly. Karliah’s eyes suddenly burned into his forehead but he refused to look at her. He couldn’t do it. She wasn’t Karliah his friend any more. She was Karliah his alpha.

 

“So, what do you think of your future pack house?” Karliah asked. He hesitated before he slowly dragged his eyes up her form and finally managed to reach her face. Her expression was patient but it didn’t help his anxiety one bit.

 

“I…” Jasper whispered. His mouth opened and closed a few times but not a peep came out. For the first time in Jasper’s life he was struggling to form a sentence. “um…” Now that he had planted his eyes on her face he couldn’t pull them off, her sharp cheekbones, her angular jaw, her silver eyes… her dominance radiating from every pore. Alpha Karliah. His alpha. His… future… home.

 

“Jasper,” Alexa called down to him. “honey, are you okay?” A hand curled around his shoulder and pulled him against a warm body. He could smell his mate, the scent centering him enough to mumble a nonsense response.

 

Karliah looked between them with an air of awkwardness, “I hate to love and leave you but I have filing to do,” she said, “I’ll catch up with you later, Alexa.” she backed away to the stairs at the end of the corridor.

 

“Yes, alpha.” Alexa nodded politely at Karliah as the alpha disappeared down the stairs and then turned back to Jasper. “Let’s go to my room.” She said quietly.

 

He curled a hand around the bottom of her t-shirt and nodded.

 

~

 

Alexa pressed her hand between Jasper’s shoulder blades to push him over the threshold of her bedroom and shut the door gently behind her. He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest defensively.

 

“What’s wrong?” Alexa asked. “You went from excited puppy to stone statue just now.”

 

“I… it just got really… real.” He said… nervously? This was a first for Alexa, she didn’t think she had ever seen her mate like this before... “All of a sudden I realised that this is serious, I’m going to be living here, with this pack, with Karliah as my alpha, away from my family and friends… forever.”

 

“It’s not a prison sentence,” She reminded him, “you can go back whenever you like and see your old pack.” she would never be the type of dominant that claimed ownership over their mate. She liked to think that even if she was, Jasper was enough of a little shit to fight her on it.

 

“Yeah, but they won’t be my pack any more…” He said sadly.

 

“I know, honey.”

 

“I think all day this had just been a day trip for me, you know?” He sighed and hopped onto the bed, she followed, taking a seat carefully beside him. “It was like I saw this place as some kind of hotel, not my future home.”

 

“You seemed to like it though… until Karliah appeared.” He refused to make eye contact with her as soon as she said her best friend’s name.

 

“Yeah…” He mumbled. “I can’t imagine her as my alpha…”

 

“She’s a great leader.”

 

“I know.”

 

“She knows her shit when it comes to taking care of her pack.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“She’s a badass.”

 

“Definitely.” He agreed with little enthusiasm.

 

Alexa took a moment to consider her arguments, she was thinking of this from her own point of view, not his, “And her mate is pretty awesome.” she offered.

 

An enormous smile ripped across his face before he could stop it and she knew she had finally hit her target.

 

“Fuck yeah!” He exclaimed, pulling himself up onto his knees on the bed to face her. “I’ll be living with Cassie!”

 

“I won’t tell Karliah you said that.” She chuckled.

 

“Don’t think that I don’t like Karliah, I really do,” He said quickly, “it’s just that there’s a different type of friendship between subs, you know? Don’t you find that with your friendship with Karliah?” he raised his brows expectantly, “It’s different from your friendship with Cassie, right?” he added.

 

“That’s true,” She conceded. “but I have known Karliah a little longer.”

 

“And I’ve known Cassie a little longer.” He jumped on the spot as an idea suddenly popped into his head, she felt like she could physically see the cogs turning behind his eyes sometimes, he was such an open book it almost worried her. “We can have double date night every week!”

 

“I love it,” She said gently and ruffled his hair. “let me speak to Karliah about it, we can start before you move in, if you want.”

 

“Yes! First date night will be to see a scary movie and then ice cream!” He announced.

 

“Was this whole idea just a ploy to eat ice cream every week?”

 

“No, that’s just a bonus.” He said as sweetly as possible.

 

Alexa hummed suspiciously and kissed his forehead.

 

~

 

Officer Bello pulled two tents from the boot of the car and tossed them at the men’s feet.

 

“One for the kids, one for the adults.” She said.

 

“We graduated over a year ago, ma’am.” Said Malachai, waving his thumb between himself and Ash with a grin. “So does that mean Markus gets a tent to himself?”

 

“If you’re younger than thirty, you’re a kid.” Officer Khan said with a wink. “And if you’re a kid, you have to put up the tents.”

 

Ash groaned but with a high tone that didn’t fit his usual voice and Malachai ruffled his hair affectionately, “This’ll be fun, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you have an Ash attack.”

 

“Stop calling them that!” The slightly shorter man growled warningly.

 

Markus had a sudden flashback of the last ‘Ash attack’, a tantrum of enormous proportions, he didn’t think he could handle that again. Thankfully only he and Malachai had witnessed them as far as he was aware, they still didn’t know where they came from exactly since the trigger could be something completely random but once Ash’s voice raised an octave, it was as though he completely lost control. When it was over, the poor guy was always mortified.

 

“Maybe Ash could help with something else while we tag-team the tents?” He asked hopefully.

 

“He can help us unload the rest of the car and start cooking.” Said officer Bello begrudgingly.

 

Both Markus and Malachai thanked their senior officer with looks of utter relief and Ash followed her round to the back of the car without hesitation.

 

~

 

When they were finally able to sit in front of their erect tents, bowls of stew in their laps and hands and feet warmed by the fire between them, they all took on serene expressions, a sense of bliss descending over them at being able to relax, even for a short space of time.

 

They ate in silence and as each person finished they disappeared into their tent to turn in for the night until only Ash and Markus were left. Markus had been hoping for a chance to speak to one of his friends alone and decided to take his chance while it was out and open for him.

 

He scooted closer to Ash, who looked him up and down suspiciously, and whispered, “Is everything okay with you and Malachai?”

 

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

 

“I dunno, there just seems to be a weird vibe sometimes between you, it’s not like normal dom fights… if it was a regular argument you’d just have a scrap and be done but it feels like something has been going on for a while now.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ash said, his voice completely monotone.

 

“Dude.” Markus raised his brows disbelievingly.

 

“We’re… we’re talking it out.”

 

Now Markus knew there was something wrong.

 

“Oh.” He said. He felt stupid but he had no idea what else you were supposed to say when your two best friends, who you’ve known your entire life, and who were dominant werewolves, were ‘talking it out’. This was completely new territory, doms didn’t talk about things, they had rough housing for that.

 

“Well, we’re trying to. It’s not going that well…” Ash admitted.

 

“You’re not gonna tell me what the issue is?”

 

“It… I don’t think it would be right for me to tell you without speaking to Malachai first.”

 

“You’ll tell me if I can help though, right?”

 

“Of course,” Ash almost sounded sincere, “I don’t think there’s anything you can do for this though…” he took another mouthful and chewed it slowly before continuing. “Let’s just focus on the mission for now, yeah?”

 

“No worries,” Said Markus. “I’m always here.”

 

“Cheers.”

 

Ash scraped the last of his veg onto his spoon and gulped it down before tossing his cutlery into the plastic washing-up bowl. He nodded to Markus before ducking into their tent.

 

Markus gave himself a few minutes in the silence and the darkness, thinking of the mission, thinking of home, he may have even thought of Sam for a moment or two before he too dumped his bowl and slid through the gap Ash had left in the tent door.

 

His eyes were instantly drawn to the right side of the tent as Malachai shifted suddenly when he entered and Markus wondered if he had just almost caught him stroking his fingers through Ash’s hair. There was no way, he thought, that would be crazy… they were both dominants. Malachai nodded to him and rolled over to face the other side of the tent. Ash was already deeply asleep in the centre.

 

Markus climbed into his sleeping bag on the left-hand side and did his best to force his brain into sleep. It was twice as hard though as he now had to push out thoughts of both Sam and whatever his best friends were up to.

Chapter Text

Markus and his comrades had been away for four days when Sam’s birthday arrived. It was stupid for him to have hoped they would be back in time, this wasn’t some silly school trip. Still, it was his first birthday since finding his mate and he had hoped maybe they would spend some time together. He pushed the pathetic thought from his mind and continued to shrug on his clothes tiredly.

 

His jeans were tight and his long-sleeved top was baggy. So much for a nice birthday outfit, he thought.

 

He slumped to the kitchen. His expectations for the day were low - as they were every year. He knew the only people who would acknowledge his birthday were Cassie and her parents. He was still grateful for the effort that they put in to make his day special, they had never treated him any differently than they did Cassie, but they were still the only ones who took any notice.

 

Speaking of his curvy best friend, a flurry of curls burst into the room. “Happy Birthday!” Cassie bellowed in his face with a wide grin and open arms.

 

“Thanks.” Sam said with as much pluck as he could, hugging her gently.

 

“Would a bit more enthusiasm hurt you?” She laughed. “It’s your birthday!”

 

“Yeah, sorry, I am grateful.” He really was, his feelings were just a tad sore.

 

“You don’t have to be grateful,” She rolled her eyes an flicked his forehead softly. “you need to be happy!”

 

“Yeah.” He said with a slow nod.

 

She sighed, “I wasn’t supposed to tell you this but if you’re going to mope around all morning there’s no point in having a surprise!”

 

“What surprise?” He asked suspiciously.

 

“Karliah is coming to pick us up at twelve, we’re going out for a birthday lunch!” Cassie blurted excitedly. She never could keep secrets well. Sam’s heart lifted tremendously, was it sad that he was so excited to simply leave the house?

 

“That’s so kind of her,” He said sincerely, “she didn’t have to do that!” he had always respected Karliah but it felt with every passing day he viewed her more and more as a friend.

 

“Of course she does! We have to do something to celebrate your birthday!” Cassie said exasperatedly. “Make sure you’re ready for when she gets here, we’re gonna eat till we can’t move and you can open your presents!”

 

“Sounds great!” He hugged her again, much more enthusiastically this time. “Where are we going?”

 

“It’s a surprise, dopey! Don’t you tell Karliah I told you!” She pressed a finger to her lips in mock secrecy and he smiled innocently.

 

~

 

When Karliah arrived to pick them up, Sam did his best to act surprised. He felt he gave a pretty solid performance.

 

“Cassie told you I was coming, didn’t she?” Karliah said dryly.

 

“Yeah.” He admitted with an embarrassed laugh.

 

“I can’t keep secrets from my best friend!” Cassie said with a wave of her hand.

 

“Mmm.” Karliah hummed with amusement and nodded to the front door. “Let’s go, kiddos.”

 

They bundled out to her car, the subs sitting side-by-side in the back seat as she drove them into town.

 

~

 

Karliah pulled the car over directly in front of Sam’s favourite restaurant, the one he had been to with Cassie and Markus last year and they had shared pizza.

 

“I love this place.” He whispered happily.

 

Cassie grinned at him as they climbed out of the back of the car and darted ahead to pull the front doors open with a dramatic flourish. Sam smiled gratefully at her and stepped in with a duck of his head, when he lifted it, a shocking sight stopped him in the doorway.

 

“SURPRISE!” A chorus of voices yelled.

 

Sam stumbled back a little, his hands half-raised in shock at first. As he lowered them he took in the collection of faces watching him with excitement: Jasper, Aminali, Alexa, Hanmi, Damien and Charles. He looked between Cassie and Karliah, their matching grins were infectious and he found his lips easily curling up to join them. The room was decorated with blue and silver balloons, banners, streamers, table cloths and confetti.

 

Sam blinked at the bright and glittery room for a few moments before finding his words, “What are you guys all doing here?” he asked.

 

“Lunch!” Jasper laughed.

 

“Karliah hired out the restaurant!” Aminali added. “We’ve got the whole place to ourselves!”

 

Sam clammed up and began to stammer, “Y-you really shouldn’t h-”

 

“Sam.” Said Cassie quietly in his ear.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Shut up and enjoy it.” She winked at him as she said it and he smiled back.

 

“’Kay.”

 

“Presents?” Suggested Karliah, pressing her hands together and rubbing them with an excited glint in her eye. The group nodded and grabbed seats around the long table in the centre of the room, pulling out gift bags and parcels. Sam suddenly felt flustered again but he waddled to the centre seat and plopped down beside Cassie.

 

Cassie handed over her presents first - two parcels and a long and thin envelope. She was bobbing with excitement as Sam tore the paper off delicately. Inside the first package was ‘The Prince of Mist’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, one of his favourite authors, and in the second was a pair of cute socks with cupcakes embroidered and bobbles for the cherries on top. The envelope held two tickets to a patisserie master class in London.

 

“Cassie, this is amazing, you really shouldn’t have!”

 

“Of course I should have, you’re my best friend!” She rolled her eyes and grabbed a gift bag from under the table. “Now, here are my parent’s presents.”

 

He was handed a stack of neatly wrapped presents, all rather squishy. Inside were two pairs of jeans, three tops, a jumper, a button-up shirt and a pair of black cargo shorts. As Sam folded each item carefully and placed them beside him, Cassie also passed him a small rectangular envelope, inside was a voucher for his local book shop.

 

“This is too kind, I can’t wait to see them when we get home!”

 

“My mother is expecting a hug when we get back.” Cassie said matter-of-factly and winked at him.

 

“Open mine now.” Karliah said cheerfully and handed him a cube-shaped box wrapped in bright blue paper.

 

“Thank you.” Sam whispered, it felt heavy in his palm and he pulled the paper off carefully. Inside was a white box with a picture of a phone on the front, an expensive phone. He stared at it for a moment. Surely this was some kind of joke, he thought, why would she spend that kind of money on him?

 

“Aren’t you going to take it out?” Cassie asked excitedly. Sam pulled the lid of the box up slowly, revealing there really was a brand new and very expensive phone sitting inside.

 

“Oh my god, ma’am- alpha- K-Karliah!” He spluttered hopelessly.

 

“Do you like it?” Karliah asked quietly.

 

“Yes! Of course, yes, I’m just so… I’m so surprised…” He said slowly, although his voice was full of awe. “You really shouldn’t have spent so much on me though…”

 

“Nonsense,” She said breezily, “you’re one of my best friends, why wouldn’t I spend money on you?”

 

“Thank you.” Sam mumbled, utterly overwhelmed by her statement.

 

Thankfully, Karliah saved him from his embarrassment by adding, “I would keep your old one though, you can use it as a decoy if anyone confiscates it like Markus did before, no one has to know you have a new one.” He remembered all too well Karliah handing him her phone after Markus confiscated his and hiding in the laundry room when she called him from the medical bay at her pack to give him updates on how Cassie was.

 

“I will, thank you.”

 

“Well, thanks for that, Karliah!” Aminali said exasperatedly, “how are we supposed to follow that?”

 

“Sorry, I can’t help being awesome!”

 

“We can go next if you don’t want to.” Said Damien. Hanmi nodded and held out three parcels and two cards.

 

“Thank you… both.” Sam said carefully and opened the cards, Hanmi’s was expectedly adorable with cute characters on the front and a poem inside, Damien’s was a generic birthday card with ‘To Sam from Damien’ but it had twenty pounds stuffed inside so Sam couldn’t really fault him for lack of effort. He thanked him again and the taller boy nodded curtly.

 

The presents themselves were clearly Hanmi’s doing: glittery pink wrapping paper, each one had a bow tied around it and a selection of puffy stickers adorning them. He tried very carefully to preserve her hard work as he opened them. Inside the precious packaging was: a doughnut-shaped stress-relief squishy, a large brown and white stuffed puppy toy that could be used as a pillow and a recipe book on cooking with strawberries.

 

“Thank you so much, Hanmi! I love all of them!”

 

“We’ll be expecting a strawberry tart from you soon.” She said with a smile.

 

“Of course!” He flicked through the book quickly and stopped on a particularly eye-catching page, “Oooh, watermelon and strawberry slushies!” He turned the book to let them peek at the colourful pictures and the group ‘ooh’d appreciatively.

 

“Okay, our turn!” Jasper announced, he held out a medium-sized box and Alexa held out a pair of cards, Sam took both and opened the cards first. One was a birthday card signed by both Alexa and Jasper, the other was a gift card for their local bookshop. He thanked them and opened the present, it was a pair of black trainers.

 

“Oh wow,” Aminali leaned over his shoulder to admire them, “I wanted those but my mum told me my old ones were still fine!” she rolled her eyes at her mother’s apparent foolishness.

 

“Thank you so much,” Sam said excitedly, “I love them!” he couldn’t remember the last time he had new shoes and not hand-me-downs. And these were seriously nice ones.

 

Jasper grinned proudly and Alexa ruffled his hair.

 

“I know Charles is going to give you something amazing so I’ll definitely be going next.” Aminali announced and held out her own pile of gifts, wrapped in shiny golden paper. Inside were two framed photographs, one was a picture Karliah had taken of the subs all squashed together outside the academy with bright grins and the other was a much older photo… a familiar one. Sam’s breath caught and he struggled to blink for a few moments, everyone was staring at him and it was making his face heat but he couldn’t move.

 

His parents smiled up at him from behind the glass, it was one of three photos that had been included in the single bag of toys, clothes and nappies that had accompanied him when he was handed over to Scarlett Moon as a nine-month-old orphan. In the photo a very tiny Sam was sat on his father’s lap, propped up by his hand, and gazing up at his mother with his mouth open and his eyes half-lidded.

 

“Sammy, you okay?” Cassie’s voice was soft as she spoke beside him, when had she gotten that close?

 

“Y-yeah.” He managed to say, although he still couldn’t look away. “I thought it was lost.” He mumbled, his eyes stung and he desperately hoped he wouldn’t cry in front of his friends.

 

“My mum found it a couple of weeks ago, I knew Mina was going to frame the other photo so I thought it would be nice for you to have a matching set. That’s a copy, the original is back home safe and sound in your folder.” Sam knew why she tacked on that information, she wanted him to know she would never give such a precious item to someone else, not the original. He trusted Aminali but he would never want any of his family photos to leave his home, he didn’t even like taking them out of his family folder, a purple plastic file that held his three photos, the official file on the incident from his ex-pack, his birth certificate and a handwritten letter from his mother to his father dated five years before he was born.

 

“Thank you both.” He finally managed to tear his eyes away and turn to wrap his arms around both girls, squeezing them tightly. They hugged him back with just as much ferocity.

 

“You’re welcome, Sammy.” Aminali said and pinched his cheeks kindly before adding, “But you’ve also still got a couple of presents to open!” Sam sniffed, he had managed not to shed any tears but damn had he come close there. He placed the photo frames down carefully and opened the remaining in two presents. He pulled out a packet of brightly-coloured hair clips with fruit charms and ‘The Prophecy Con’ by Patrick Weekes, the next book in The Rogues of the Republic series that Sam had become obsessed with as of late.

 

He beamed at her and held the book up to Charles’ eye-level, “This is the series I was telling you about, the characters are awesome!”

 

“As soon as I’ve finished my current book, I will definitely borrow the first one from you!” Charles said enthusiastically.

 

Sam thanked Aminali and she gave him a thumbs up. From his left his final present was placed into his hands, it was from Charles. Sam took them with a grateful smile, mumbling that she shouldn’t have gone to any trouble for him. Charles chuckled and nodded for him to get on with opening it. Being an avid reader, Sam could tell it was a stack of books, and as he peeled back the paper the first cover came into view: ‘The Shadow of The Wind’. He picked it up and looked at the next book, and the next, he quickly realised that the books were the full series of ‘The Cemetery of Forgotten Books’.

 

“Thank you so much, Charles!” He said, “My favourite series of all time!”

 

“Yes, so you already have a full set, right?”

 

“Yes…” Sam said awkwardly, he wasn’t going to say anything but he did already own all of these books, and he thought Charles had known that, especially given it had been the topic of their first conversation and the series was one they regularly discussed.

 

“Open them up to the title pages.” Charles suggested. Sam did as he was told and opened the first book up; he let out a gasp.

 

“Is this real?”

 

“No way!” Cassie exclaimed over his shoulder, her eyes alight. “They’re all signed!” She was practically drooling and he could tell she wanted nothing more than to snatch them off him.

 

“H-how did you get these?” Sam asked with wide eyes, he knew it must have cost a good bit of money.

 

“Well…” Charles laughed quietly and nervously, “the first two in the series were my own copies and the second two I managed to find through some networking and research and-”

 

“-and a lot of money?” Cassie offered.

 

“I think the amount I paid was fair to the value of them.” He said modestly.

 

“First editions?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Oh god,” Cassie fanned herself, “babe, we might need to find a room so I can be alone with them.” she said quietly to Karliah who joined in fanning her.

 

“Get your own!” Sam laughed.

 

“Get my own books or get my own Charles?”

 

“Either, just stay away from mine!” Sam blushed as soon as the words came out of his mouth, he couldn’t believe he had just said that in front of all of his friends, in front of Charles!

 

Alexa graciously moved them all on, “Is anyone else starving? I feel like we should get on with ordering.” She began to hand out menus as they all took their seats and Sam mouthed ‘thank you’ to her. She winked back at him with a grin.

 

Cassie slid into the seat beside him and whispered into his ear “ By the way, I totally won’t be offended if you ask Charles to go with you on the patisserie experience day.”

 

Sam thanked her, but said he wanted to hold off on his decision until it got a bit closer, she nodded and turned to her menu. What he didn’t tell her was that he still had hope in Markus. He knew she would think he was an idiot. Hell, Sam thought of himself as an idiot for holding onto his hope as long as had… it was just too hard to let go completely.

 

~

 

The next day, Karliah managed (Sam still wasn’t entirely sure how) to get permission from Alpha Murphy to allow Sam to spend the day at her pack house. She had arrived to pick him up early in the morning with Cassie asleep in the back seat. Sam slid into the front beside her and she grinned easily.

 

“Morning.” He greeted and pulled the door closed.

 

“Morning, how have you been enjoying your presents?”

 

“I think I spent more time just staring at the books I got than I did sleeping last night.” He laughed quietly.

 

She joined in with a chuckle, “As long as you’re happy.” she said. His smile dropped a little, that question hit much deeper than she probably intended it to. They pulled out of the drive and she peered over at him curiously. “You okay?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Something on your mind?”

 

“Lots of things.”

 

“Hmm.” She changed gear smoothly and nodded to herself. “Wanna talk about them?”

 

“I… I’m not sure.”

 

“Well, if you think you can tell me about even one I would be happy to listen, sometimes you don’t need advice, you just need someone to hear you.”

 

He peeked back at Cassie for a moment, confirming she was still sound asleep. Her chubby cheek was being squished by the safety belt secured across her and her head lolled slightly with every bump of the car. He turned back to Karliah, she was watching him curiously.

 

“I did something really bad.” He whispered. There was a pause between them as she waited for him to continue, but he wanted her to say something first, something to encourage him.

 

After a few seconds she murmured,“Whatever it is, it can be fixed.” she kept her eyes on the road. “Everything has a fix.”

 

“This doesn’t.” He said, suddenly feeling sick to his stomach.

 

“Sam, I’m sur-”

 

“I murdered someone.” He cut her off although his tone was still low enough to not be heard by Cassie. Karliah, impressively, didn’t flinch. She stared ahead with a grim expression.

 

“Someone... who hurt Cassie?” She finally asked.

 

“Yes.” He breathed. She nodded to herself again and he bit his lip nervously.

 

“I won’t ask why you did it, but I’ll tell you right now,” Sam felt every muscle in his body clench. Bad idea, he thought, this had been a very bad idea. She still wasn’t looking at him. “I will defend you to the death if you are accused.” She slowly turned her sharp silver eyes onto him and he felt instantly transfixed. “The. Death.” She repeated gravely and dragged her eyes back to the road ahead.

 

Sam let out a long and slow breath, feeling a large chunk of the solid anxiety that had been resting on his chest float out of his mouth. He took a moment to gather himself and then glanced over his shoulder again at his best friend. Thankfully, she was still snoozing peacefully, just as she deserved to.

Chapter Text

Markus approached the house slow and low, keeping his movements as smooth as possible. Officer Bello was leading them, she was far more agile than she looked and he found himself struggling to keep up after a while.

 

They continued until they were barely two metres from the glass doors leading into the kitchen and slid across to the garden area just outside, filled with plants, long grasses and bushes.For a woman with biceps the size of honeydew melons, she could slink through the grass very well. A few minutes passed as she watched the kitchen with squinted eyes. When it remained empty, she crept forward, Markus hot on her heels, and gave the door a gentle test tug. It slid open easily, unlocked just as they had been told it would be in their briefs from the scouts.

 

Officer Bello turned her head slightly to give him a stern look, if he hadn’t already been taking the situation seriously, that look would have sobered him right up. He nodded gravely and she crawled into the room. He followed and pulled the door shut behind him carefully, werewolves weren’t the only ones with super-hearing after all. Bello crept silently to the tight curved staircase leading up to the second floor. There was a main staircase at the front of the house that lead up to the same place but from a different angle, so the hope was that this one would see less visitation from wandering vampires.

 

They climbed the stairs swiftly, very aware of the lack of available time, Markus couldn’t help but feel like every second that passed was a second closer to him being torn to tiny pieces and sent back to his father in a gift box.

 

Their luck continued, no one stood in the upstairs hallway and the office was similarly empty when they entered. They shut the door and silently got to work, Markus making his way through every shelf and Bello clicking through every file she could find. Unfortunately, it became very quickly apparent that Markus had the bigger task ahead of him; it seemed this coven, or at least their leader, was of the generation that preferred hard copies of his information. A digital dinosaur. He supposed it made sense, for all he knew the owner of this office could be hundreds of years old, although his dad used to be the same and he was only in his forties. Markus set to work skimming over every file in every drawer.

 

A third of the way through the copious filing cabinets stuffed to the brim with sheets of paper, a name froze his hands halfway through their digging. Sam Hall. He gasped softly under his breath and snatched the file out with trembling hands. Officer Bello turned in the wheelie chair and raised her brows at him to ask what was wrong. He managed to open the file despite his nerves, quickly flicking to the page he had seen as he was passing over the pages. Bello stood and hovered over his shoulder, reading the page along with him.

 

“Omega…” She breathed. The page was a full profile on Sam, with a couple of photos attached via paperclip of him in various areas of the house. One photo had another figure in too, Markus, with his head bent and his lips pressed to Sam’s by the counter in the kitchen. Officer Bello kindly didn’t comment when he plucked that photo from the pack and shoved it into one of his trouser pockets. She did, however, turn the page to examine what else was in the file. Behind Sam’s profile was another on the alpha female of Silver Crescent, behind that was a profile on Cassie.

 

“Alpha mates.” He whispered. Bellow pulled a concerned expression and raised her brows for him to continue. He flicked through three more profiles, they were all alpha mates from packs in their county… packs that fed into the academy. After the profiles were maps of pack territories, registry lists containing the names of all members in the local packs and various receipts for an eclectic array of items which horrifyingly included large dog cages and yards and yards of grade 70 metal chain. Officer Bello lifted her head to look Markus dead in the eyes and for the first time since they had left their pack house she looked afraid. She jerked her head towards the door and he nodded. It was definitely time to go.

 

She shut down the laptop she had been searching though and he arranged the shelves to look exactly as he’d found them, minus the thick file now stuffed in his small backpack.

 

Markus followed Bello as she crept back down the stairs to the kitchen doorway. Two steps from the ground, however, she halted and he almost stumbled into her back. Voices. Two voices having a quiet conversation in the very room they were about to sneak through. Officer Bello turned her head slowly and made a throat slitting motion with her finger. Markus nodded. They would have to kill them, vampires were fast motherfuckers. A vampire could reach the max speed of a werewolf in a fifth of the time, if they didn’t strike first they would be at an enormous disadvantage, possibly even a deadly one. Werewolves were built for offence, vampires were built for defence.

 

Bello lunged forward so fast Markus almost fell down the remaining steps, he managed to collect himself quickly and threw himself out into the dark room behind her. Two vampires were leaning against the high table in the centre of the room, one male and one female. Bello caught the man by the neck before he could so much as raise his fists. The pair fell to the ground and out of his line of sight.

 

The woman, however, had more time to prepare herself when Markus threw himself at her with his teeth bared. He needed to be quick, the more time she spent alive, the more time she had to attract the attention of the rest of the coven. She jerked forward to claw at his face with her long nails, swinging her arms wildly. He managed to ignore the slicing pain long enough to grab her arms (an impossible task given that they were a pure blur to him) and kick her in the chest, sending her flying over the table to the ground to Bello and the man. It caused a crash that made him flinch more than any of the cuts on his face, they were attracting too much attention.

 

He leapt over the table and straight onto the woman’s chest, knocking her back down from where she had started to rise from the floor. He punched her in the face with all of his strength and she cried out but no mark appeared. Bello had the man in a leg hold with her hand over his mouth. He snarled against her palm and she snapped his neck in a clean bend, his head lolling against her as she released him.

 

Markus’ stomach sloshed like a bucket of of water but he pushed himself up regardless and swung his leg round in a powerful kick that popped her head clean off her shoulders. He retched over her, his stomach heaving, before Bello grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and yanked him out onto the patio through the sliding glass doors.

 

“Shift.” She growled to him and leapt forward, landing in her wolf form and hurtling away into the trees. Markus shifted into his wolf form and followed, the nausea still sending trembles through his limbs.

 

~

 

“So handsome!” Cassie cooed as Hank, known by his family as Tank, strutted his stuff around hers and Karliah’s bedroom. It was his first time wearing his full three-piece suit they had bought him for their bonding ceremony, including his silver bow-tie and pocket square. “You look so mature and grown-up!” The lively ten-year-old grinned and tucked his hands into his shirt sleeves self-consciously. “Is it comfy?”

 

“Yeah. I think I’m gonna take it off now though, I wanna go get muddy.” He said and hopped away to start stripping off and handing all the items to his mother for safekeeping. Karliah rolled her eyes but grinned nonetheless. Cassie was just glad he knew to take the suit off before rolling around in the grass like a wild pig, as he was prone to do with his friends.

 

The twins were chomping at the bit to do their catwalk, hovering in the corner of the room with their skirts bunched up in their hands. Karliah waved them forward and they excitedly skipped out to the centre of the room. The pair wore matching dresses that were forest green, starting at the top with lace bodices leading into half-sleeves and from their waists hung layered skirts which sat just below their knees from the front and cascaded down at the back to trail just slightly along behind them. They both wore thin, silver-plated headbands woven into their blonde waves to resemble tiaras, although each girl had her own design. Maya’s had interlocked 3D flowers and leaves with pearls dotted among petals and in place of pistils, Sadie’s was a line of five and six-pointed stars adorned with crystals. The four-year-olds had picked their own and Cassie was very pleased with the final look, Karliah didn’t know that she would be wearing a silver tiara herself at their bonding ceremony and she wanted her new sisters to match her. Bonding ceremonies didn’t include bridal parties or grooms-men but she liked to think of the twins as her flower girls.

 

The girls spun and curtsied and generally made sure to show off every inch of their elegant dresses, Karliah and Cassie applauded and complimented them repeatedly until Jay began to whine in her lap.

 

Being only two, Jay didn’t really understand why he had to wear a button-up shirt… or trousers… or even shoes. Jay didn’t like wearing clothes, but he especially didn’t like his new formal outfit. Karliah’s mother sighed and put her arms out, he climbed down from Cassie’s lap and toddled to her with his bottom lip stuck out.

 

“Yes, yes, we’re taking it off now, Jay.” His mother stripped him quickly and efficiently, leaving him to roam freely wearing only his nappy and an elated smile.

 

The girls began to dance and flounce their skirts again for the audience and continued until they had to be stopped by their mother for fear they may sweat on their dresses. They were very disappointed to take them off but were placated with the promise of just two more weeks, two more weeks and the party would be here, then they could wear their dresses and dance all night.

 

~

 

The mission team drove continuously for the next two days, officers Bello and Khan alternating between driving and sleeping so that they could minimise stops for bathroom breaks only, and even then they filled a lot of bottles with urine. The group barely spoke for the entire duration of the drive.

 

When they finally turned into the drive of the pack house and made their way up the familiar track Markus finally felt like he could breathe again.

 

Cassie and Sam were standing in the corridor his bedroom led off of, not strange considering the corkscrew-curl girl was usually following Sam around on his chores, but after what he had been through, Markus didn’t want to face anyone, least of all his mate and his little imp of a friend.

 

“Scram.” He growled at them aggressively. Sam jumped and his eyes widened, Cassie jerked her head back and looked him up and down.

 

“What the fuck happened to your face?” She asked.

 

“None of your business, shit-face.” He snapped with bared teeth.

 

“Yikes,” Cassie pulled a disgusted face, “have a word, Sam!” she said although she never looked away from Markus.

 

“Cassie!” Sam hissed quietly. “Don’t!”

 

“You heard him, Cassie.” Markus pulled his bedroom door open, stepped inside, turned around and raised his brows at her, “Don’t.” he slammed the door shut.

 

~

 

Officers Khan and Bello stood facing Markus’ father with the three younger men of the mission positioned behind them in a line. Officer Bello was coming to the end of her report on their mission and the information they had gathered.

 

“We were supposed to come out through the office window and drop into the garden,” She said quietly, “I lead us back the way we came. It’s my fault your son was injured, sir.” her muscles were tensed and Markus instantly felt guilty.

 

“I completely forgot we were going out the window too though,” He blurted. “when we found the file-”

 

“Markus, silence.” His father snapped, although his eyes never left Officer Bello. “You made a mistake, but you both got out alive.” He sighed tiredly before continuing with a deadly serious tone, “What I care about now is that not a single person in this pack finds out what the people in this room know.” he looked along the line with a severe expression.

 

The group all nodded solemnly.

 

~

 

Every member of Scarlett Moon was gossiping about the trip, what had happened and what they had found out. The problem was, no one really knew anything. No announcements, not briefing, no pack meeting, nothing. All they could tell was that Markus had got hurt, although the scratches on his face had healed pretty quickly over the following week.

 

Karliah was losing her shit. She had emailed Alpha Murphy, she had tried to call Alpha Murphy, she had left a voice mail for Alpha Murphy and Cassie was worried soon her mate would beat Alpha Murphy to a pulp if he didn’t get in contact with her. He was definitely avoiding her when she picked up and dropped off Cassie.

 

Even Sam didn’t know anything for once and usually he was the king of gossip, silently slipping past conversations he wasn’t supposed to hear. All he knew was that everyone was talking about it but no one had answers.

 

Eventually, Karliah sought out Markus. He had been on the mission, he would be one of the purest sources of information, no he-said she-said.

 

She cornered him as they left DSHE, putting her arm round his shoulder and walking him away from the exit and into an empty classroom.

 

“What the fuck is going on?” He asked snappily, shrugging her off. She closed the door.

 

“Exactly the question I was about to ask.” She said gruffly, “When were you planning to let me know what happened on your mission?” she raised a brow at him expectantly.

 

“Since when is Scarlett Moon your business?” He stomped away to perch on a table on the other side of the room, Karliah followed and sat herself opposite him.

 

“Since my mate spends just about every day there.”

 

Markus gave her a hard look, “Maybe you should collar her if you can’t keep her home.” he sneered.

 

“Maybe you should mark your mate if you don’t want to die alone.” She snapped, her blood boiling. She knew better than t lose her temper with him, Cassie was right, he was a stubborn moron and those didn’y respond well to anger. She sighed, pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath. “This isn’t helpful, just tell me if I have any reason to be worried about my mate.”

 

Markus was silent for a few moments, seemingly lost in his thoughts. She folded her arms over her chest but continued to wait semi-patiently.

 

“All the alphas need to be worried about their mates.” He murmured.

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“I can’t tell you everything, but we found the information we had been looking for. Their plan, the covens involved, the packs they’re going to target-” He was rambling and she told him so. He sighed and shook his head, running his hands through his hair. Karliah figured he had actually needed to tell someone, it was eating him up inside.

 

“What is their plan?” She asked slowly.

 

“It’s a double attack.” He breathed, sounding distraught. “The vampire council are planning to target the alpha mates, kidnap them and blame it on the coven we’re trying to form an alliance with. When the alliance falls apart and we inevitably fight them, we’re weakened. They get rid of a coven that they don’t like and then they dangle our mates like bait and force us to come to them to get them back.”

 

“Then what?” Karliah whispered, although she was sure she wasn’t going to like the answer.

 

“Blood slaves.” He said in a monotone voice. “All of us.”

 

“I really hope that’s not what I think it is.”

 

He refused to meet her eyes but answered noentheless, “Spending the rest of our natural lives locked in dog cages and being fed off of by vampires. Giving them an endless supply of blood that won’t get turned because wolves aren’t affected by vampire bites.”

 

“And my mate is on their list?” She asked angrily.

 

“Both of our mates have entire profiles written on them.” He growled lowly. “They know fucking everything, been spying on us for Goddess knows how long.”

 

“You got a copy of that file?”

 

“We took the original.”

 

“So they know that you know?”

 

“Yep.”

 

“So what now?”

 

“War, I guess.” He shrugged tiredly. If Karliah didn’t know him better she might have thought he was being nonchalant or not taking the threat seriously, but she could see the anxiety and fear bubbling under the surface, this trip had terrified him. And she needed to be terrified too. She nodded slowly, stood, and stalked out of the classroom, her mate needed her by her side every moment of every day until The Council were eradicated.

Chapter Text

Sam and Charles sat either side of the kitchen island counter, Sam nibbling at a fruit salad and Charles telling him stories of his coven, his friends and what they got up to back home.

 

“You must miss them,” Sam said after a particularly energetic story about a young girl named Crystal and all of the trouble she got into back in their coven mansion, playing pranks and tricks on anyone who crossed her path. “you’ve been here a long time.” He popped a grape into his mouth.

 

“Mmm… but only a few more months and our year will be up,” Charles replied slowly, he looked as though he were calculating something in his head as he spoke,“and then we get to go back and hopefully take some wolf representatives with us.” he wasn’t quite looking directly at Sam.

 

“I wish I could be one of the representatives.” The omega said wistfully, he leant his chin onto his palm and rested his elbow on the island.

 

“Why can’t you be?” The question didn’t pick up in tone at the end, its speaker clearly knew his answer already.

 

Sam sighed, “You know why.” he said quietly.

 

“Then why don’t we take you with us as something other than a representative?”

 

It was Sam’s turn to look away now. He and Cassie had talked about this, of course, but it was just a silly dream they discussed late at night under their covers like kids at a sleepover sharing secrets. It wasn’t real, it was a silly, fabricated fairy tale they told each other. He couldn’t actually ever leave the pack house, he would never see Charles’ home. Hearing Charles ask the question was too much for him to bear, their silly fantasy was suddenly being dangled in front of him like a carrot he could never catch.

 

“Don’t…” Sam whispered. It would hurt so much if Charles offered explicitly. He didn’t even know if he would want to leave his home… his mate…

 

A figure stomped into the kitchen, bombarding face-first into the tension without a care.

 

“Bothering our omega as usual, Charles?” Markus asked, putting particular venom on the much older man’s name. Sam frowned but stayed silent, best not to get involved.

 

“Making him an offer actually, Markus.” Replied Charles easily. Sam’s muscles clenched nervously, it was definitely not a good idea to rile up his mate, Markus had a temper that resembled an earthquake.

 

“He already has a best friend,” Markus sneered back. “maybe find someone your own age?”

 

“I just want Sam to know that he is always welcome in our home.” He spoke with complete sincerity and it squeezed Sam’s chest almost painfully.

 

Markus frowned, “He has a home.” he growled lowly. Sam could practically feel the alpha’s anger bubbling below the surface.

 

“And if his home becomes somewhere that he’s no longer happy,” Charles countered with a blank expression, “it’s going to come in handy to have… options.” he looked to Sam and gave him a small and encouraging smile. Sam returned it and stabbed another piece of apple with his fork.

 

Markus snorted, “You could offer to buy him his own mansion, it wouldn’t matter. Omega can’t leave.” he gave the pair a look as though they were both thick as two short planks.

 

“Without your father’s permission.” Added Charles, refusing to so much as look at the alpha.

 

“Which I would bet every penny I have you would never get.” Markus slammed his palms onto the counter angrily as he spoke but Charles still stared only at Sam. Sam did his best to continue eating calmly, ignoring his furious mate

 

“Don’t let him make you feel trapped, Sam.” He said gently with a sad smile down at him. Sam returned it and nodded gratefully, even if he couldn’t leave, knowing he had somewhere he could go was strangely comforting.

 

Markus did not like being ignored, he lasted only seconds before exploding,“Can’t you see what he is?!” he shouted. “Even if he’s not with The Council, he’s still a paedo!”

 

“I’m a what?” Charles breathed with horror. Sam froze, unable to comprehend the words flying out of Markus’ mouth.

 

Markus took a few deep and snarling breaths,“He’s, like, a hundred years old and you’re sixteen!” he jerked his finger at Sam accusingly.

 

Sam blinked, “I’m seventeen.” he said slowly, genuinely unsure if his mate was joking or not.

 

“You would know that if you hadn’t missed his birthday.” Charles added boldly.

 

“I- I was busy protecting our pack!”

 

“You could have prepared something in advance.” Charles responded.

 

“I have responsibilities!”

 

Sam’s head was bobbing back and forth like a spectator at a tennis match, he wasn’t sure when a good moment would come about to try and jump in the middle of the quarrel. Every moment seemed to be getting worse with every word that came out of the men’s mouths.

 

“And what of your responsibility to your mate?” Charles asked.

 

“My mate is none of your business, stop trying to get involved in our lives!” Markus shouted, slamming his hands on the island counter again. “Aren’t you a bit too old to be this invested in the love lives of teenagers?” He clenched his hands into fists. “We are still in school for fuck’s sake!”

 

“I can’t imagine what it is you think I gain from friendship with Sam but-”

 

“You want to fuck him!” Markus roared, “Just say it, we all know it!” He leant forward, his neck straining and his veins bulging.

 

“Markus!” Sam gasped, he knew he must look utterly horrified, and he was. He didn’t think he had ever met an alpha with such a lack in diplomacy as his mate, Markus just couldn’t seem to help himself from saying the most ridiculous and rude statements the moment they popped into his fat head. There was no way Charles wanted to fuck him, Markus didn’t even want to fuck him and they were soul mates!

 

“I hate to burst your bubble of rage, Markus,” Charles’ tone was low and dark and angrier than Sam had ever heard him before, it was more than a tad scary. “but while I care for Sam very much and would do anything to make him happy, I have no sexual feelings towards him.”

 

Sam didn’t think he could get any more mortified, it surely wasn’t physically possible. Here they were discussing sexual attraction to him as though he wasn’t even there! If his bowl didn’t still have chunks of pineapple swimming in the bottom he would have hidden his face in it.

 

“So you’re in love with him?” Markus asked mockingly.

 

“Are you in love with him?” Charles’ reply was soft and it sent a ripple through Sam’s chest. Did Markus love him? Did he want to stand here under their noses and find out his worst assumption was true?

 

“I…” Markus’ mouth hung open for a moment as his eyes seemed to search just above Charles’ head for his words. “don’t turn this arou-”

 

“Or do you just ‘want to fuck him’?” He used his fingers to air-quote Markus’ earlier words.

 

“He’s my mate.” Markus said firmly, and Sam’s heart fluttered a little. It was so stupid but he didn’t think Markus had ever said the words before, it was something they had both noticed and acknowledged but never spoke about. His cheeks grew hot despite his best efforts to remain blank-faced and uninvolved in the fight. Being so easily impressed as to be excited to hear his mate acknowledge him was so pathetic… almost as pathetic as letting his mate treat him like shit that’s been stepped in.

 

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

 

“In wolf culture it does.”

 

“I may not be an expert on ‘wolf culture’ but if I’ve learned anything from my time with your pack it’s that you don’t leave your mate unmarked very long.” Sam’s mouth popped open into an ‘o’ shape, Charles was going in on Markus like a dog that had gotten its grip around a meaty bone. The much older man didn’t seem to notice Sam’s utter shock as he continued, “How long has it been that the two of you have been in this limbo? Knowing you are destined to be together but with a dominant who can’t take control of the relationship,” he raised his brows elegantly and kept his eyes trained on Markus. Sam could see his mate had an almost identical expression on his face to Sam’s: disbelief.  He wondered if anyone without alpha status had ever spoken to him like this… “maybe Sam should be classed as the dominant of the couple since it seems he puts in far more effort than you.”

 

There was a very long pause before Markus replied, “You know nothing of our ways.” at a volume  barely above a whisper.

 

“You know nothing of your mate.”

 

“Leave,” Markus’ voice remained low. “you are not welcome here.”

 

“Markus…” Sam whispered. He couldn’t believe his alpha would be so stubborn as to ruin their alliance over a silly spat. Why was he so angry?

 

“He needs to find somewhere else to stay, he’s not sleeping here tonight.” Markus said, his voice held no room for disagreement.

 

“Markus!” Sam stepped back a couple of feet from the alpha and looked to Charles for guidance. “You can’t-”

 

“It’s okay, Sam, I’ll speak to the other representatives and sort this out.” He ruffled Sam’s hair and left without another glance at Markus.

 

Sam did glance at Markus, although only to give him the sharpest look he could muster before dumping his bowl in the sink and excusing himself to his bedroom.

 

~

 

Karliah’s mother laid a selection of small cake slices with a variety of flavours out on the dining room table and looked to the pair expectantly. Cassie picked up her fork, ready to taste test every single one right down to the last crumb.

 

Karliah folded her arms over her chest, “I thought we picked our main cake flavour?”

 

“You did.” Her mother said sounding flustered. “Unfortunately, there was an issue at the bakery and they say they are now unable to make the white chocolate cake so we need to pick a new flavour.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“That’s okay!” Said Cassie cheerfully, digging into the red velvet with gusto. “I like all of them!”

 

“I say we go back to our original plan of the victoria sponge with all the berries and shit on it then, natural and pretty.” Karliah suggested without picking up her wooden fork or taking a taste to aid in her decision. That was okay, Cassie could eat for the both of them.

 

“Cool,” Cassie agreed, “but we’re still having chocolate cupcakes, right?” she licked butter cream from her thumb. If she were less greedy it might have looked seductive but having caught her own reflection in the windows, she knew she just looked like a wild animal slurping up slops as she devoured every last crumb of the chocolate sample.

 

“Of course, we’re not peasants.”

 

Karliah’s mother blinked with a half smile, her body ever so slightly less tense than it had been when she ushered them into the dining room anxiously five minutes earlier.

 

“As long as those are still on the menu I don’t mind!” Cassie said with her widest smile. The chocolate cream filling was to die for in their cupcakes, she was almost more excited to gorge herself on those little chunks of chocolatey goodness than she was to make her vows. Kidding, she thought, although maybe I shouldn’t joke about that…

 

“Well, I’m glad this was an easy fix as I have another problem that I need you to tell you…” Karliah’s mother said slowly and carefully, a wince already pulling at the side of her face.

 

“What’s that?” Asked Karliah.

 

“The eucalyptus for the table floral arrangements still hasn’t arrived so we may have to bolster them with more fern and olive branches.” She said worriedly.

 

“Cool, sounds like you’ve already got it covered then!” Karliah grinned easily and Cassie imitated her, despite her cheeks being full to bursting with coffee cake. She knew neither of them were too worried about such small and trivial details, as long as they had floral arrangements and those floral arrangements were some shade of green, they were happy.

 

“Well, I-”

 

“You’re so good at this stuff, mum!” Karliah threw in before her mother could get herself worked up and worried, Cassie nodded eagerly beside her, she was so glad her mother-in-law was around to do all the worrying for her… She liked the planning and picking colours and flavours and decorations, that part had been fun, but now that the big day was approaching so quickly she was glad to hand over the nit-picky bits to Karliah’s mum.

 

“Yeah, I’m so glad this is all in your capable hands!” Added Cassie cheerfully before stuffing her round cheeks with more cake, easily polishing off the final slice in the row - carrot cake.

 

Karliah gave the pair a thumbs up and snuck away, most likely to get on with her paperwork that seemed to growing like a weed, feeding off the sunlight that glared into the office now that they were coming into Summer. Cassie made a mental note to bring her a pint of water in an hour’s time, her silly mate may be ripped but she wasn’t actually very good at remembering to look after her body. Now, Cassie’s body on the other hand, was always very well taken care of… Her eyelids fluttered momentarily and her soon-to-be mother-in-law gave her a confused look. Goddess she was so glad it was only her mate that could feel her emotions…

 

~

 

Karliah’s phone buzzed beside her laptop on the desk. She sighed to herself when it continued, signalling a call and not a text. She peeked over warily but was pleasantly surprised to see Sam’s name flashing on her screen. She quickly answered and popped the phone to her ear.

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Markus is forcing Charles to leave and it’s all my fault.” He blurted. Karliah scrunched up her face despite the fact that no one could see it, Markus was a fool.

 

“Why would he do that? He’s completely jeopardising the alliance!” And their lives, she thought, if what he had told her about The Council was correct then he was falling completely and utterly into their trap by fighting with a member of the alliance coven.

 

“He… I think he’s…” Sam mumbled something that Karliah couldn’t quite catch but she had a feeling she already knew.

 

“Is he jealous of Charles?”

 

“I think so.” He admitted in a small voice, “He called him a paedo!” he whispered scandalously.

 

“Damn.” Karliah said lamely, she had no idea how to respond to that information. Markus was so damn irrational, he just let whatever thought popped into his head roll off of his tongue. Alphas were supposed to be leaders of their packs, displaying dignity and honour. This sounded like it was a playground argument between a pair of little boys.

 

“And he said he wasn’t welcome in the pack house now and that he has to leave!” Sam rambled, his voice rising an octave as his obvious anxiety rose. “It’s all my fault and now he has nowhere to stay and the rest of his coven might not even want to stay after this! And I don’t know how to fix this!” She let him get his frustration out, it was rare for Sam to speak so much in one go, he clearly needed to vent.“I don’t know what to do…”He finished hopelessly.

 

Karliah knew what to do.

 

“I’ll sort it,” She said simply. “don’t worry.”

 

“But-”

 

“Trust me, I’ll call you back later.”

 

“O-okay.”

 

She hung up and quickly selected Charles’ number in her contact list. It only rang twice before he picked up.

 

“Hello?”

 

“I heard you’ve been thrown out of your hotel.” She said cheerfully.

 

“That I have.” He laughed.

 

“I promise you’ll like our pack house much better.” She couldn’t help but grin to herself as she spoke.

 

“Is that so?”

 

“Yep, pack your bags and get your butt over here for orientation, soldier.” She said confidently.

 

“Yes, ma’am.” He chuckled softly.

 

“Let’s not tell either of the Murphys though,” Karliah whispered conspiratorially,“I wouldn’t want them finding an excuse not to allow Sam to my bonding ceremony.” she snorted at the image in her mind of Markus’ face finding out she was stealing his vampiric alliance.

 

“Understood, text me the address?”

 

“Sure thing, see ya later.” She pulled her phone away and quickly sent him her address, he replied with a thumbs up and ten minutes later he sent her a photo of his packed suitcase. She pushed her chair back and slid out from behind the desk, she couldn’t wait to tell Cassie about their new room mate.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

A pair of lips sucked their way down Jasper’s neck, warm and wet. He shivered with arousal. Why was his mate so damn hot?

 

He continued laying out his suit for Cassie and Karliah’s bonding ceremony on his bed as her hand wandered along his waist, down to his hip and slid under the waistband of his jeans. His muscles tightened as her fingers danced down his bare skin to the top of his thigh and round to his arse. He began to tense, she had a weird obsession with his butt lately and he wasn’t quite sure how to react to her ministrations. The hand cupped his cheek and squeezed. He let out a soft breath, a squeeze was okay. Then a single finger slid down towards his hole and he jerked forward and knocking his knees against the edge of the bed, pulling her along with him.

 

“H-hey!” Jasper gasped, “Why do you keep… touching… back there?” he looked over his shoulder up at her and her easy-going expression.

 

She laughed, “Because you react so adorably when I do!” she wrapped her other arm around his stomach to pull him back against her.

 

“It feels weird!” He whined. A lone finger probed at the entrance of his hole and he gripped his hands around the arm holding his stomach nervously.

 

“And yet, you don’t seem to be complaining…” She teased before quickly turning serious, “Do you want me to stop?” Her finger paused where it was and he considered the question. It didn’t feel bad yet, but he was scared that if she wanted to do butt stuff and it escalated then it might hurt later.

 

“N-no…” He said quietly, his cheeks heating. “I just… I’m scared it might hurt.”

 

“You can always say stop,” She murmured into his hair, “we don’t have to do anything you don’t want.” her finger began to circle again and he tried to relax.

 

“O-okay…”

 

“I’m just gonna put this one in, okay?” She began to push it against his hole and he nodded with a wince, preparing for pain. With just a little pressure it slid in an inch or so. Jasper’s eyes widened, the sensation wasn’t what he was expecting. And then it slid out and was shoved back in far more roughly.

 

“Ah!” Jasper gasped, that felt far too good to be normal. He felt a stirring in his underwear as the mini Jasper began to wake up to enjoy the stimulation. She jabbed into him again, “Aah!” he whined.

 

“Lean further forward.” She advised quietly. Jasper obeyed, although he pushed his suit to one side first and then placed his hands on the soft covers. “Spread your legs a little wider and relax.” She whispered, using her free hand to unzip his jeans and shimmy them down his hips.

 

The finger inside of him was working up a steady rhythm and he moaned softly in time with each hit against his inner muscles. His eyes began to slide closed as he enjoyed the feeling of her finger massaging him with its thrusts. She bent her head and pressed her lips to the soft spot beneath his ear and nibbled there gently, Jasper bit his lip and whined quietly.

 

Her middle finger joined the first in hard thrust that maintained the rhythm perfectly but added depth.

 

“Hah!” His eyes flashed open and his fingers clutched tighter at the sheets. “Fuck.” He whispered. Somehow more only felt better.

 

“You okay, honey?” She asked gently.

 

“Y-yeah.”

 

“More?”

 

“Yes.” He breathed.

 

Finger number three slammed into him and a loud moan burst from his throat. His cheeks felt aflame, he couldn’t believe he had just made that noise, he sounded like a porn star! She chuckled softly and he bit his lip in an attempt to silence himself, her hand never stopped shoving into him.

 

As the fingers pounded into him harder and harder his heels rose off the ground, lifting his backside and lowering his head towards the bed covers. His dick was straining against his boxers, desperate for some more room to grow.

 

“Aaa-Ah!” Jasper’s forehead was getting closer and closer to the sheets with every thrust. Suddenly, the fingers pulled away and Alexa grabbed his jeans and underwear, pulling them fully down to the ground. Just as Jasper began to lift himself back up, assuming they were done, a squelching sound froze him in place. “What-” Something much smaller and harder than Alexa’s fingers pressed into him and the further she pushed it the bigger it got. “What is that?” He gasped, his brows pulling together.

 

Alexa’s free hand rubbed at his lower back soothingly as she cooed, “It’s a toy, honey.” and allowed the item to enter him further. “They’re anal beads, they get bigger slowly so you don’t have to worry about it getting too big too quickly and hurting you.”

 

“Okay.” Jasper whispered and lowered himself onto his forearms, giving his mate an easier angle to push into him. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel as good as her fingers… it was missing something.

 

A soft click unleashed a wave of vibrations through him and his cock somehow managed to get even stiffer.

 

“Ah! Ah! Aaah!” He cried out, his legs trembling and his fingers digging into the bed. That… was something. The pleasure that rippled through him with the vibrations made his eyelids flutter.

 

Alexa hummed to herself and rubbed his back again in slow circles, she leant over him to murmur, “I’m gonna push it in a bit deeper, is that okay?” into the back of his head.

 

“Y-yeah, but…” He took a soft breath, “d-don’t lose it…” he whispered.

 

“It’s okay, honey,” The toy dug deeper into him, “I’ve got my finger through the loop.” she clicked the button again and the vibrations magnified to a point he could have sworn he could feel them in his stomach. His mouth hung open and he was panting openly.

 

The hand on his lower back crept around to his tummy and then down to his dick, grasping the tip gently. He moaned quietly and jerked his hips a little, pushing himself into her hand. She grinned into his neck and began to stroke at him with the lightest of touches.

 

“Don’t tease me!” He whinged.

 

“I would never!” Alexa chuckled and grasped him fully in her soft hand, squeezing and pulling at him roughly.

 

Jasper cried out, the pleasure coming from both ends had him trembling and jerking back and forth, chasing the vibrations in his arse and the caresses of his mate’s hand. She was relentless though, pushing the toy in further and further, bouncing her hand faster and faster.

 

Jasper panted in time with the strokes, getting closer and closer to the edge until white hot sparks ran up his thighs and his legs shook as his muscles spasmed.

 

“I’m-I’m gonna-”

 

Alexa yanked the beads out in one smooth stroke, tripling the pleasure that exploded through him and out of him, spurting come across his blankets in a jagged line. A strangled scream burst from his throat.

 

When his legs gave out, his mate caught him with both arms and lowered him to the bed, wisely avoiding the white splatter. She turned him over and he blinked up at her, his eyes struggling to refocus. But he could see a splotch of blonde, and he could see round eyes, and he could see her thin lips curving upwards as she watched him too.

 

A hand ran through his slightly sweaty hair and down to his cheek where the long fingers pinched him lightly.

 

“Have I gained permission to play with your butt?” Alexa asked with a smirk.

 

Jasper snorted and rolled away and hid his face into the pillows but gave no answer, he felt it was clear enough whether or not he had liked it. She laughed and climbed up with him, entangling their limbs.

 

“Does that mean I get to play with your butt?” He asked the pillows.

 

There was a long pause before Alexa replied, “I… I guess so?” her voice was quiet and timid. Jasper turned his head to grin at her, it seems he had finally found something she wasn’t confident in. She didn’t like being out of control, as most dominants didn’t, but the only time she had ever seemed to lose her composure was when he had his head between her legs and she made a point of directing all sexual play onto his body, most likely for that very reason.

 

“Can’t wait.” He said cheerfully. She nodded, her lips tight and her eyes shifty. Ooh, he had her now.

 

~

 

Markus had been avoiding Sam since Charles had left the pack house to stay with Cassie and Karliah. Not that Markus or his father knew that was where Charles was, they thought his coven were paying for a hotel in town.

 

They hadn’t discussed what had been said during the confrontation, Markus had said nothing about missing his birthday and no one seemed to know anything about the mission he went on. He hoped the older boy was ashamed of his behaviour but knew it was more likely that he was staying away from him to avoid hearing or seeing Sam cry if he tried to argue out his position with him. Sam decided to try and force his mate to say something to him, anything.

 

He knocked on Markus’ bedroom door lightly. The alpha had been hiding away in his room with his laptop, always ‘working’ for his father.

 

“Come in.” Markus grumbled from the other side. Sam slipped in and shut the door behind him quickly, expecting to be sent away instantly. Markus lifted his head slowly and with a look of exhaustion, although surprise flitted across his face when he saw Sam hovering near his desk.

 

“I need to change your sheets.”

 

“Oh, yeah.” He said bewilderedly, lifting his laptop up and climbing off of the bed. He remained beside it with his laptop held up in his arms and continued to click and scroll through whatever he was working on.

 

Sam gritted his teeth and approached the bed slowly. His mate wouldn’t even look at him, so absorbed with his stupid computer. He deliberately started at the corner that Markus was standing by, pulling up the duvet and beginning to push through the buttons. Markus lifted the laptop over Sam’s head and brushed past him, moving to his desk and placing down his computer, although he didn’t sit in the chair.

 

Sam released a soft sigh and got on with the chore, he didn’t really need to change the sheets, at least not for another two days, but he had hoped Markus would crack and say something to him. Once he had stripped all of the covers, pillowcases and sheets from the bed, he scooped them up in a pile he couldn’t quite see past and hobbled to the door.

 

When he returned with the new sheets, Markus was still glued to his laptop. Sam began to re-dress the bed.

 

He bent over to pull the last corner of the fitted sheet down. A hand crept under his shirt, grazing over his bare back. Sam jolted and turned to give Markus a look of disbelief. Markus gripped his waist and gazed down at him with hooded eyes.

 

“What are you doing?” Sam whispered. Markus ignored the question and used his other hand to lift Sam’s shirt, sliding his thumb up his chest and rubbing it over his nipple. Sam jerked back and pushed Markus’ hands off of his skin. “Don’t.” He added firmly.

 

Markus dropped his hands and grimaced, “What’s wrong?” he grumbled.

 

“You haven’t said a word to me since you threw out Charles.” Sam said quietly, “You haven’t told me what happened on your trip…” he took a trembling breath before continuing, “I was worried about you.” he looked away shamefully.

 

Markus sighed quietly and lifted his hands to cup Sam’s face and tilt it up, forcing eye contact. He stared into Sam’s eyes with a strange expression Sam had never seen before.

 

“You don’t need to worry about me,” Markus mumbled and pressed their foreheads together, “I’m worried about you though.” he pressed a gentle kiss on Sam’s lips with a pleading look in his eyes. Sam knew he didn’t want to be asked why he was worried, he could see it in his tight expression, but he couldn’t leave without knowing.

 

“Why would you be worried about me?”

 

Markus watched him with a myriad of expressions flitting across his face at lightning speed. The one that Sam noticed flashing up most often though, was guilt.

 

“The mission…” He muttered, his eyes roaming around Sam’s face. “we found out what the council are looking for…”

 

Sam couldn’t breath, yet somehow he managed to squeak out, “Omegas?” his heart was racing.

 

“Alpha mates.” Markus whispered, finally dragging his pupils to meet Sam’s. “They’re planning to use them to start conflict in the packs with the vampires we’re allying with and weaken us… then they’ll pick each pack off one by one like plucking fruit from a tree.”

 

They stared at each other, Sam’s mouth open and his brain struggling to string together a sentence. There were too many questions he wanted to ask, too many things to be concerned about, too many emotions swirling inside his small chest.

 

“How would they know I’m your mate?” His voice would be barely audible to a human ear but Markus nodded to him. He stepped back and pulled a small photo from his pocket, he turned it to face Sam. Sam blinked and then very quickly blushed. The photo showed them kissing in the kitchen… It was a little out of focus and it was taken from the garden, the camera pointed into the kitchen through the back window.

 

“Where did you get this?” Sam asked, reaching for the photo with trembling fingers. Markus held it out of his reach.

 

“The coven house we broke into… this was in the folder with your profile.”

 

“My profile?” Sam’s eyes widened.

 

“They’ve been watching all of the alpha mates for a while.” Was all the explanation Markus gave.

 

“Cassie?” Sam whispered, his voice filled with horror. Markus nodded gravely. “Does Karliah know?” Markus nodded again. “What happens now?”

 

“That’s up to my dad.” He said, “I’m just waiting now… writing reports…” he tucked the photo back into his pocket. “Look, I’m sorry about what I said the other day… this trip really made me wary of who I let get near you, you know?”

 

“Yeah.” Sam said monotonously.

 

“If they get you,” Markus grabbed his thin shoulders firmly, “they will kill you.” his words should have terrified Sam, and while they did scare him a little, he was far more angry. Why didn’t Markus tell him this to begin with? Why wait till now to reveal that he was in danger? If Sam hadn’t turned down his advances he would never have said anything, it was all a diversion to what Sam was really upset about.

 

“Right, so you thought the best thing you could do for me in this situation was to ignore me?” He asked with every drop of anger he had infused into his words.

 

Markus seemed satisfyingly shocked but he managed to find something to say, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone about what we found.” he always had an excuse.

 

“I’m your mate.” Sam snapped.

 

“I… I know.” Markus stammered. A silence fell between them and Sam stared into Markus’ golden eyes the entire time, if this man wanted forgiveness he would have to do better than that.

 

Eventually, Sam gave up waiting, “I have chores to do.” he said sternly. He shrugged off Markus’ hands and ducked under his arm.

 

Markus grabbed the back of his shirt, “Wait-”

 

“I’ll get in trouble-”

 

“Before you go,” He spun Sam on the spot to face him, “I need to give you something.” he reached into his bedside drawer and pulled out a small envelope, he handed it to Sam gingerly. His name was scrawled on the front in Markus’ messy handwriting.

 

Sam opened the envelope slowly, inside was a glittery birthday card decorated with balloons. He pulled the card open and read the inside.

 

Dear Sam,

 

Happy birthday, sorry it’s late.

 

Love,

 

Markus

 

“Thanks.” Sam mumbled, tucking the card under his arm and striding to the door, leaving the bed half-made.

 

Markus didn’t try to stop him this time.

 

~

 

Cassie and Karliah watched the hustle and bustle of their pack arranging decorations, flowers, food and drink in preparation for the next day hand in hand. They said nothing, but both could feel the other’s excitement radiating from their wolf. One more sleep and they would be bonded. One more sleep and they would be united forever. One more sleep until they could join their families in the greatest party of their lives… until their own children’s bonding of course…

 

The pair peeked at each other with matching ecstatic grins. Karliah nodded back to the door exiting the main hall and towards the stairs… up to their bedroom. Cassie nodded and Karliah scooped her up into her arms and strode away to spend their last night unbonded cuddling in bed together.

 

As they passed Charles he gave them a friendly wink and a wave before busying himself with helping with centre piece arrangement. He seemed to be fitting in well with The Lunar Warriors.

Chapter Text

The first few notes of ‘Can’t help falling in love with you’ played on a piano drifted through the temple and Karliah took a deep breath, she had waited so long for this moment and the nerves were finally starting to set in.

 

The curtains blocking her view of the main chamber were pulled back and she stepped onto her aisle as two violins joined the song. The rows of family and friends sat either side of her aisle stood, all their eyes on her, just as Cassie’s guests did the same on the other side of the room as the second set of curtains were pulled back to reveal her mate.

 

Karliah almost tripped over her own feet at the sight of her. A vision in white and silver, gliding towards the stone altar at the centre of the room. Their eyes met and Cassie froze for a moment, Karliah could tell they were both using that moment to drink in everything about the other.

 

Cassie’s dress covered her completely, a floor-length, white, heavy silk skirt, full sleeves embellished with silver lace that connected around the bodice and a small cape attached to her shoulders. It fit her like a glove, showing all of her curves perfectly. She wore no jewellery besides a silver tiara tucked into her braided up-do. Everything about her outfit, hair and make-up had been kept simple, conservative and elegant. Karliah was glad, it let her mate’s beauty shine through on its own.

 

Karliah’s outfit was simple as well, a white women’s tuxedo with silver detailing and small flower decals sewn into her sleeves and collar. Her hair had been loosely braided into one large fishtail plait and woven with gypsophila. Her mother had helped her get ready that morning, even applied a small amount of make up for her: mascara, blush and a light silver eye shadow in the corners of her eyes that shimmered in the natural light glowing into the room through the glass ceiling.

 

A bright, beaming smile spread across Cassie’s face and she continued to float up her aisle, Karliah sucked a shaky breath in and followed suit, striding up the carpet faster now as she anticipated holding her stunningly beautiful mate in her arms.

 

When they reached the light grey stone protruding from the floor, Karliah placed her hands on her side and Cassie did the same, shivering lightly at the cold feeling on her palms. The priestess, Lou, stood on the third side and smiled warmly to them both as she waited for the music to fade out.

 

“Ladies and gentleman, we are gathered here today under the watchful eyes of our Goddess to bond a pair of soul mates, to celebrate their love for each other and declare it to all those they hold dear.” Karliah couldn’t take her eyes off her mate, she probably looked like a grinning fool but she couldn’t care less. “Karliah Stone, do you vow to always care for, protect and adore your soul mate, chosen for you by her holiness, the Goddess?”

 

“I vow it on this day for every day.”

 

“Do you vow you will give all you have in this world and the next to your soul mate, chosen for you by her holiness, the Goddess?”

 

“I vow it on this day for every day.”

 

“Do you have any personal vows you would like to make in the presence of the Goddess and her children for the mate she has chosen for you?”

 

“I do.”

 

“Please speak them now.”

 

“Casimira-” Cassie snorted before quickly covering her face behind her hand and flushing. A chuckle rumbled through the guests. Her mum beamed proudly at Karliah, she had been the one to reveal Cassie’s full name to her, everyone thought it was short for Cassandra but Karliah definitely preferred her mate’s unique first name. “Casimira Maria Linette, the vows of the Goddess are big, vague promises that can be applied to anything and I think that’s wonderful,” She smiled down at her, savouring every moment. “but I would like to take this time to promise you all the small things that I hope will bring happiness to our life together: I promise to give you every hug you request until the day my arms fall off, I promise to always hold you when you’re scared, I promise to make you hot chocolate when you can’t sleep at night, I promise to give you every last drop of my energy every single day, I promise to find you beautiful until your body has disintegrated into dust and returned to the earth and I promise to keep you warm, fed and comfortable for all of eternity.” Cassie’s cheeks were flushed, pink suited her… “I promise you every moment of my time here and now under the Goddess’ gaze. Some people tell their significant others they would give them the moon, I promise you the universe, even if it has been yours since the moment we met.” Large tears plopped onto Cassie’s cheeks and ran down to her soft chin. “Casimira, I love you.”

 

“I love you too.” Cassie’s reply was barely a whisper but the room ‘aaaw’d nonetheless. She took a slow breath, a slight hitch in the middle but otherwise managing to hold it together.

 

Karliah leant over the dais to wipe her tears with the pads of her thumbs, carefully smoothing over her make-up so as not to dislodge anything. She knew she wasn’t supposed to take her hands off the altar but that rule only really applied for when you were speaking - especially vows as they lost all validity if they were made without your hands pressed against the sacred stone. When Karliah had returned her palms to the altar the priestess spoke,

 

“Cassie Linette,” she paused, allowing Cassie to compose herself just a little more before she got ready to give her answers. “do you vow to always care for, protect and adore your soul mate, chosen for you by her holiness, the Goddess?”

 

“I vow it on this day for every day.” Cassie sniffed quietly between her words.

 

“Do you vow you will give all you have in this world and the next to your soul mate, chosen for you by her holiness, the Goddess?”

 

“I vow it on this day for every day.” Karliah couldn’t help being distracted by Cassie’s wet lashes glistening and making her round doe eyes look, unbelievably, even larger and more innocent.

 

“Do you have any personal vows you would like to make in the presence of the Goddess and her children for the mate she has chosen for you?”

 

“Y-yes, ma’am.”

 

“Please speak them now.” The priestess smiled warmly, encouraging Cassie with a kind look. Cassie locked eyes with Karliah.

 

“Karliah Christine Stone,” She smiled cheekily and a low rumble of muted laughter ran through the room. They probably thought Cassie was grinning because she had gotten even in the name-and-shame game. But Karliah knew they were sharing a private joke as Cassie was one of three people who knew her middle name was in fact ‘Christopher’. Something she was embarrassed enough of not to tell people but not enough to take the time to get it changed officially. She liked Cassie’s reinvention and made a note to get it changed as soon as she had a spare moment, she liked the idea of her mate choosing her new middle name, it gave it weight and meaning and gave her the push to change it when she actually had something to change it to. “you have been a force of utter chaos since you entered my life,” Karliah laughed heartily. “but I am so glad you did, because although you bring the madness and the extreme to my days, you also bring the calm. My soul has never felt this kind of peace, the sense of tranquillity that has settled on me since your mark was branded into my skin is indescribable. I am so content in your presence and empty when we are apart.” She paused. “I vow to do everything I can to bring that level of happiness back to you, I vow to give you every drop of my love and affection, I vow to obey you as both my dominant and my alpha,” Karliah liked that vow, a lot. “I vow to pull you up with all of my strength and support you with all that I am. Please, let me be someone you lean on - and not just because I’m short.” Another collective laugh ran through the crowd and Karliah leant forward over the pedestal to press their foreheads together.

 

“Always and forever.” She murmured.

 

“We shall now move on to the binding of your hands.” The priestess draped gold silk down the centre of the stone altar and both women lifted their hands and interlocked their fingers before placing them onto the shining material. Karliah rubbed circles on the backs of Cassie’s hands as the priestess brought up the edges of the silken ribbon and tied them in a delicate bow over their knuckles.

 

They began the ceremony.

 

~

 

Applause thundered through the temple as Cassie and Karliah glided down the middle aisle towards the main entrance and then straight through the large double doors pulled open by their witnesses ahead of them: Sam and Alexa.

 

The newly bonded pair clasped hands as they greeted the baking sun outside. The weight of the vows they had made, the bonds they had built and the love they had shared inside lifted from Cassie’s chest with a deep breath of clean, fresh air. Their life as a bonded couple, as bonded mates, began from that day forward. She couldn’t wait for the rest of their lives. Looking up at Karliah’s beaming grin, she knew she wasn’t the only one.

 

~

 

The main hall of the Lunar Warriors pack house was overflowing with flowers and decorations, long tables covered in white lace and floral centre pieces stretched across the room, banners blaring the Lunar Warriors pack symbol hung from the rafters and glittered in the light allowed in by the wide windows that chased the hall the entire way round.

 

Karliah and Cassie led the procession inside, enjoying the loud reactions of their guests at the sparkling hall. Lots of ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s and the occasional comment about the fine silverware.

 

They took their time swanning down between the middle tables, taking in the glorious hall. You only get one bonding ceremony, you had to savour every moment!

 

Their forest green theme could be found in every nook and cranny with hints of silver in the trimmings. Dark green silk bows adorned every chair, garlands woven with fern leaves, ivy and small bursts of gypsophilas trailed down from the tables and curled around the legs, silver confetti was sprinkled over just about every inch of table and floor bar the magnificent cake that towered impressively behind the head table.

 

That was exactly where Karliah and Cassie were marching to, the two throne-like seats behind it were calling to them with twinkling metal frames and plush white seats. Beside each throne was a chair like any of the other guests had although they were reserved for two very important people.

 

Once Cassie and Karliah had slid into their oversized seats (Cassie with a fair bit more difficulty due to her gown), Alexa and Sam took their places at their sides. Their guests filed in with a rumble of polite conversation and slowly slotted themselves into their assigned seats.

 

A flurry of hired staff made their way down the tables taking drink orders and quickly filling glasses, when every wolf in the room had their poison of choice sat in front of them the staff disappeared.

 

A hush fell over the congregation as Alexa stood to address the room, “In honour of the bonding of Karliah and Cassie Stone, would all of their treasured guests please raise their glass to toast their long and healthy lives, together.” She raised her own glass and the room followed, a booming chorus of ‘together’ shook the floral arrangements. The room drank heartily.

 

Alexa dropped back into her seat and Karliah stood, “Thank you, Alexa. And thank you to everyone who came to enjoy our special day with us, we appreciate the effort you’ve made to be here greatly. So I’m sure you’ll appreciate me calling the feast to start pronto!” The room laughed and cheered, many raising their glasses again.

 

The staff returned with platters of appetizers and their guests began to chatter excitedly. Karliah sat and took Cassie’s hand gently, they gazed into each other’s eyes until a tray of food bumped onto their table and they shared a giggle before picking at the starters.

 

~

 

It wasn’t long before the feast was in full swing and it was time for Karliah and Cassie to make their rounds, greeting their guests, shaking hands and attempting to form bonds with their neighbour packs.

 

“Alpha and alpha mate Mwangolo, thank you so much for joining us on this special day.” Karliah said with her usual charming smile, shaking the alpha’s hand and bobbing her head in a quick bow to his mate. Both men returned her greeting with polite expressions.

 

“We are honoured to be here, the Silken Furs send their best to you both and wish you a beautiful future together.”

 

“Thank you, I hope our packs can continue to grow closer.”

 

“Of course, we hope you enjoy our gift.”

 

“Thank you.” All four nodded and Karliah led Cassie away to the next couple.

 

~

 

Sam kept his eyes glued to his glass, he refused to look over and check, he knew Markus was staring at him, he could feel it pressing against his temple.

 

He had stared at him throughout the entire ceremony (after escorting him to the temple and walking him to his place near the altar) and had practically tail-gated Karliah’s car the entire journey back to the Silver Warriors pack house.

 

He didn’t seem angry though, his usual fury wasn’t rolling off of him in sickly waves that had Sam’s wolf cowering inside of him. If Sam didn’t know Markus better he might have thought he was nervous. But there was little in this world that his mate feared, it was a trait that he both respected and hated.

 

He continued to stare at his drink, a tropical smoothie with a bright blue straw.

 

~

 

As the newly-bonded couple approached another pair from another pack, Karliah took a moment to murmur in Cassie’s ear, “This is the alpha and alpha female of Timber Fang.” she seamlessly straightened up and they continued their walk smoothly towards them.

 

Cassie’s stomach had tightened and her pulse began to speed up but she refused to let herself be overwhelmed. It was not her fault one of their own had been killed, she was the victim first, she had nothing to feel guilty or sorry for. She did her best to set her face into an impassive and light expression, they would not be allowed to see her discomfort, they didn’t deserve it.

 

As they approached, Cassie squeezed Karliah’s hand, signalling that she would begin the conversation. She held the power here and she wanted them to know it.

 

“Alpha Hutchinson and Alpha Female Hutchinson, how lovely you could be here for us.” She allowed her voice to drip slowly like honey, letting her breaths push through her chest deeply and give her an easy rhythm.

 

The pair nodded curtly before Alpha Hutchinson replied, “We are, of course, honoured to be here.”

 

“Thank you, we trust you are enjoying yourselves?” She deliberately used the word ‘we’, reminding him subtly of her mate and her power. Part of the reminder was for herself, to calm her own nerves. Karliah was by her side and therefore she had nothing to fear.

 

“We are, of course, honoured to be here.” Alpha Mate Hutchinson repeated her alpha’s words.

 

“I’m glad to hear it.” Karliah said, her grin was stretched and crooked and clearly fake. “But I don’t know if I believe it.”

 

Cassie’s breath caught in her throat, this didn’t seem like the time or place to be sharp with the couple. She trusted her mate though and kept her expression as neutral as possible as though she had been expecting this topic to arise in their pleasant and boring introductions.

 

“I am sure you can sympathise…” Alpha Mate Hutchinson whispered, “We are under immense pressure from our pack-”

 

“I’m sure you can sympathise that my mate was brutalised.” Karliah snapped, although she managed to keep her voice low enough to not attract attention from their other guests.

 

“Our pack member was murdered.” Alpha Hutchinson replied.

 

“While under the care of another pack, not the Lunar Warriors.”

 

“While being held on charges against your pack.”

 

“Severe charges.”

 

Both of the alpha females heads were bobbing back and forth as though tey were watching a tennis match, except that their expressions clearly indicated that Alpha Mate Hutchinson was less confident in her chosen athlete than Cassie was.

 

“We should have been allowed to hold him in our cells.”

 

“You should have noticed the problem before it had begun.” Karliah’s eyebrows were almost in her hairline and her eyes were squinting as though she couldn’t comprehend the stupidity before her. “That boy had serious problems, well-documented problems, and you did nothing. You have no right to speak to me of what should or shouldn’t have happened when nothing would have happened if you were diligent in your duties as alpha.”

 

Alpha Mate Hutchinson finally found her voice again, although meek and timid in tone and volume, “We are not fools, Alpha Stone.” she said. “We know what you did and you will face justice for it.”

 

Cassie decided she should insert herself back into the game as well, she couldn’t have her mate playing doubles without a partner, “I think you have eaten up enough of our time and our food, I advise you scurry on home now.” she had mimicked Karliah’s expression exactly in the hopes it would give her a boost in confidence, and it worked. Eyebrows up and eyes squeezed in a tight look of extreme confidence, that those she was aiming the expression at simply weren’t on her level. She felt like Serena Williams striding her way onto the court.

 

Alpha Hutchinson growled, “This is not over.” and wrapped his arm around his mate’s shoulders comfortingly.

 

“You’re right, the party is only just getting started.” Karliah smiled venomously and nodded for Damien and a member of their guard to approach. “Escort our honoured guests to the end of the drive and see to it that they do not return.” The pair nodded and stood on each side of the Hutchinsons who huffed and muttered between themselves as they were manoeuvred away and towards the entrance to the hall.

 

“Are you okay, sweetness?” Karliah whispered into Cassie’s hair. They hadn't moved since they watched their opponents leave. Cassie took a slow breath and began to walk slowly through the crowd, taking Karliah’s hand to keep her close so they could still talk without drawing attention.

 

“Yeah, I just…” She rubbed her lips together nervously, this wasn’t something she thought she would end up asking her mate on their bonding ceremony day. It was something she didn’t think she had ever planned to confront Karliah about. “you didn’t do it, did you?”

 

Karliah was silent for a few moments. They continued through the crowd, nodding and smiling at every guest who caught their eye or raised a glass in their direction.

 

Once they were round the back of the tables and out of sight, Karliah finally answered, “No, I didn’t.” she sighed, “I would have told you if I had.” she sounded a little disappointed and Cassie felt a twinge of guilt in her tummy for even asking.

 

“I know…” She whispered, unsure if Karliah heard her over the crowds chatting and laughing.

 

“If I was going to kill him I would have done it when I found you.” She continued, “To be honest I’m not sure how I managed to keep myself from killing him then.” she squeezed Cassie’s hand gently.

 

“Until he was killed I didn’t know what I wanted to happen to him when the trial came, I thought about it all the time.” Cassie admitted quietly.

 

“I wanted him dead. I’ve never denied it, but I also didn’t do it.”

 

“Then we have nothing to worry about, right?” She turned to fully face her, stopping them in a darker corner of the hall, behind the far left tables.

 

“Yeah.” Karliah agreed with a nod although Cassie could see a slight strain to her smile for a moment. She was worried about something. Cassie took a moment to gaze at her mate’s face, she could trust that if it was something serious, Karliah would tell her.

 

They continued their rounds of the room.

 

~

 

As the clock approached ten the lights in the hall were dimmed and fairy lights lit up along the tables which were pushed back, opening up the wooden floor for dancing.

 

Couples descended upon the open space, bopping and twirling as the speakers dotted around the room blared with upbeat music. Sam watched them dance and twirl with his chin resting on his fist and his straw dangling from his mouth. Cassie and Karliah had popped back to the head table a few times to chat but had spent most of their time since they finished eating mingling with their guests. He felt selfish for missing them, it was their special day. They seemed to be enjoying it so much, and they both looked stunningly beautiful, Sam knew for sure he only liked men but even he could appreciate the glow radiating from them, Cassie’s dress flowing behind them in rippling waves and Karliah’s suit fitted to hug every curve of her body.

 

A hand ruffled Sam’s hair and he jerked upright. Alexa’s head poked forward beside his and she smiled warmly.

 

“Would you treat me to a dance?” She asked.

 

“Oh, yeah, of course.”

 

“Don’t tell Jasper you got my first dance of the night though, he can get surprisingly jealous!”

 

Sam laughed awkwardly and followed her down to the dance floor.

 

“Where is he right now?”

 

“Probably outside with the hog roast, for someone with such a small body he sure can fit a hell of a lot of food inside of him!” She grinned proudly and nodded at the open doors where a large group of people had congregated to acquire servings of the whole hog being roasted just outside.

 

Thankfully the slow songs wouldn’t start for another few hours so they just swayed their bodies in time with the music and Alexa spun him a few times and hugged him. After a song or two he could almost fully ignore the presence lurking at the edge of the dance floor and examining his every move.

 

~

 

Skipping with excitement, Cassie dragged Karliah to the dance floor. They had greeted every guest and shook every hand and now it was finally time to party! Karliah squeezed her hand and followed with her long strides.

 

She clocked Sam and Alexa bopping and bouncing to the pop music near the back of the room, about a metre in front of the head table. She hurried to them and grabbed Sam’s hand with her one free one, creating a ring out of the four of them as Alexa and Sam had been clasping hands to dance.

 

It wasn’t long before Jasper, Aminali, Hanmi and even Damien joined them making fools of themselves on the polished floor.

 

They danced together as a group, laughing at themselves and each other for their messy moves.

 

 

~

 

Markus had been trying to catch his attention for quite a few songs when Sam finally gave in and looked him in the eyes, the alpha nodded him over with a stern expression and Sam held in a frustrated groan, he gave his friends an apologetic look and headed over with a slow gait.

 

“What’s wrong, sir?” He asked once near enough to be heard.

 

“Nothing, just don’t stray too far.” Markus said with a very uncharacteristic softness to his voice.

 

Sam sighed tiredly, “I’m going back to the head table.” he said.

 

“You can sit at our table, this seat is free.” Markus pulled the chair beside him out and patted the seat twice.

 

Sam thought about it, he couldn’t think of a reason why sitting alone at the head table would be better than sitting beside his alpha and mate. He also couldn’t find the energy to bicker with Markus, the dancing had worn him out embarrassingly quickly. A seat was a seat, he supposed. As long as he got to rest his tired feet for a bit.

 

He slid into the chair but turned away from Markus and forced his attention onto those still flinging themselves around the dance floor. Alexa caught his eyes and gave him an inquisitive nod, he nodded back, letting her know he was fine.

 

A song or two drifted along uneventfully and Sam’s eyelids began to droop ever so slightly… He hoped they would bring out the coffees soon, he would need one to get him back on the dance floor before the night was over.

 

Large fingers tickled at a small patch of skin that had been exposed on his back where his shirt had become untucked while dancing, sending sparks through him that tingled in his neck. Sam shivered, but said nothing.

 

The hands the inquisitive fingers were attached to pulled him back, sliding him into Markus’ lap. His body froze but his eyes darted to and fro, analysing the guests in the hall, who could see them, what kind of expression they had when looking at him and what it might mean.

 

Even though Markus was the one initiating, it would still be him who got the blame if someone asked questions or made an accusation. Maybe he was drunk, maybe he was testing Sam to see if he would push away and stop him.

 

The hands slid around his waist and held him firmly. Warm. Heavy against his tummy. The stream of nervous and fluttering thoughts running through Sam’s mind dried up, it was very hard to worry about other people’s thoughts when you had butterflies in your belly. The weight of Markus’ hands felt good against him, protective and safe, he knew he was letting himself relax too quickly… But no one had said anything yet, none of the looks they had gotten had been too curious…

 

He watched pairs and small groups of guests turn and spin together until they blurred, until he could barely distinguish one floral dress from another and his head began to slowly tilt back until it hit Markus’ chest.

 

His eyelids sunk, dragging his lashes to his cheeks, and the last thing he remembered seeing that night was Cassie spinning one of Karliah’s sisters in the air, god those twins looked so bloody identical…

 

~

 

It wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that the crowds truly began to disperse and the newly-weds were able to sneak away to enjoy their first night as a bonded couple. Although they did take a moment to pause and share uneasy looks at Sam dozing in Markus’ lap. The alpha was clutching his tiny body tightly to his chest with a fiercely defensive expression that he directed at anyone who got too close.

 

Karliah led Cassie up the stairs to their room by the hand.

 

When they reached their door she opened it for them and allowed Cassie to walk in first, her heavy dress dragging along the floor. She heard the door shut behind her and stopped in the centre of the room, waiting for her mate to meet her there.

 

Hands ran up her waist, to her shoulders, up and down her neck and then to the corset that held the flowing white gown to her body. Karliah tugged at the ribbons criss-crossing up the corset, loosening the item further and further until it fell open completely. The same gentle hands pushed down the cape and sleeves until they bunched around Cassie’s waist. Her bra was slipped off easily and the wandering hands pulled at her nipples softly a few times until they pushed out puffy and pink.

 

She was turned to face her mate. They held a stare between them like they would a delicate flower petal, gentle and full of patience. Karliah shrugged off her waistcoat but left her shirt on, the sleeves rolled up to her elbows from when they had been dancing. Cassie bit her lip, why was that such a sexy look?

 

Karliah slid her hands down to Cassie’s waist, gripping her and pulling her in close, lowering her head, laying her lips over her right breast. She sucked gently and Cassie moaned breathily.

 

Cassie’s hands stretched out to grab at Karliah’s shirt and yanked at the opening in the middle, ripping buttons out and baring Karliah’s chest. The buttons that were left still she popped out quickly to allow the shirt to hang completely open. A pair of utterly perfect breasts stared at her from the cups of a white lacy bra. Cassie managed not to drool.

 

“Fuck me.” She whined.

 

“Always and forever.” Karliah replied with that cheeky grin that Cassie adored.

Chapter Text

Sam couldn’t remember the last time, if there had been a last time, that he had woken up feeling so warm and so comfortable. He felt like a princess in a Disney movie waking up to a room flooded with natural light with birds singing and cheerful bells tolling from afar. Except in the room he woke up in there were no bells or birds… the only sound in the room was a rumbling drone that was sending vibrations into the back of Sam’s head.

 

With great difficulty, Sam peeled his left eye open (his right was smushed into the pillow). He couldn’t see a great deal through it but just the act of cracking an eyelid already made him feel a tad more awake. And he could see enough to know this was not his room.

 

He lifted his head a couple of centimetres to get a better view and a deep voice grunted and mumbled behind him.

 

He froze, “Markus?” he whispered.

 

“Mmm.” The alpha grumbled back, squeezing his thick arms where they were resting around Sam’s waist and pulling him back down. Sam took a moment to take stock of the situation. He was still wearing his shirt and smart trousers from the bonding ceremony (his jacket, waistcoat and tie were missing) and from what he could tell about the alpha’s body pressed up against him, he was still clothed too. So no sexual activities then, at least the evidence was stacked against that.

 

The last thing Sam remembered was leaning back against Markus’ chest, feeling tired and letting himself relax into his mate’s breathing rhythm. And now he was in his bed. Pressed against him. His wolf was ready to howl for joy and snuggle into his mate given this rare opportunity for intimacy. Sam’s human side, thankfully his dominant one of the two, could hear alarm bells ringing in his head. Something had to be wrong.

 

“Wh-what happened?” He whispered.

 

The pause that hung in the room was so long that Sam was convinced Markus had fallen deeply asleep again by the time he finally answered with a grunt, then a moan as he stretched his neck against the pillow, and eventually, actual words,

 

“What did you say?” he mumbled.

 

“What happened? Last night?”

 

“Mmm?” Markus groaned again, “You fell asleep. I took you home when the party ended.” he said simply.

 

“And then?”

 

“And then I went to sleep.” He pressed a chaste kiss to the back of Sam’s neck, “Are you disappointed I didn’t try to molest you?”

 

“No.” Sam mumbled. Despite the fact that Markus couldn’t see his face, his cheeks still flared red.

 

“Mmm.” Another kiss, this time curling up under his ear, “Do you want me to start now?”and another just behind it.

 

Sam didn’t answer. Partly because the lips were so distracting and partly because he didn’t want the lips to stop being so distracting. He let out a small whine and the arms around his waist slid down a little and under his shirt. Sam froze, he didn’t want things to get more intense too quickly, he was enjoying the affectionate atmosphere between them. He waited to feel the fingers crawl up and graze his nipples. Why did things always have to be sexual with Markus? Either he wanted nothing to do with Sam or he just wanted to play with his body like a sex toy…

 

The large hands ran along his tummy, pressing against the skin firmly, up to the bottom of his ribcage, and then slid back down. And then did the same motion again.

 

Sam pulled a face at the dim room in front of him, was Markus giving him a belly rub?

 

He slowly unclenched his muscles and relaxed into the touch despite the logical side of his brain warning him that this was almost definitely a trap and that any minute he would have a monster dick stuffed in his mouth. The feel of his fingers was so light, so gentle… Markus was being so soft with his ministrations it almost tickled.

 

“Am I making you uncomfortable?” Markus asked Sam’s neck.

 

“Are you trying to?”

 

He laughed, “No, I just wanted to check.”

 

Sam shrugged awkwardly, “It feels nice, I like when you’re…” he trailed off and pushed his face into the pillow under his head, too embarrassed to continue.

 

“When I’m what?”

 

“Just… I like when you’re a bit more… careful with me.”

 

“Careful?”

 

“Sometimes, it feels like you’re trying to break me.” He paused, waiting for Markus to cut him off or deny it. “You can be so rough.” He added in a barely audible whisper.

 

It was a few painful seconds before Markus responded, and when he did his voice was low as though letting Sam in on a secret, “I’m sorry. I would never want to break you.”

 

They stayed in silence for a few moments and Markus’ hands slowed on Sam’s stomach, eventually coming to a stop. Sam felt suspicion rise in his tummy like bile and he listened for movement carefully.

 

With a blur of the room’s ceiling, Sam was flipped onto his opposite side and pulled in tightly against Markus’ chest in a crushing hug, Markus’ lips pressed into his forehead.

 

“I honestly don’t want to break you, Sam.” He mumbled.

 

He pulled back just a little, just enough to grab Sam’s lips with his own. The warmth of his lips was sweet and comforting as he pushed against his own.

 

Gentle touches, fingers tracing over skin delicately, Markus’ hands trickled over Sam’s body like raindrops, asking nothing of him but to touch him and bring shivers forth from him.

 

Sam allowed it. Enjoyed it. Every graze over his thighs or inner forearms sending light prickles of pleasure along his spine. His mate’s eyes eating up every inch of him only added to his heightened senses, for once he wasn’t self-conscious or embarrassed to be gazed upon, Markus’ hungry expression melted every drop of apprehension Sam had inside of him. Leaving him bare, exposed, open.

 

He could barely breath from the weight of his own desperation for his mate’s affection. His wolf was taking control. He needed to break away. His human side was desperately trying to drag the wild animal back, pleading with him not to get sucked in. This wasn’t real, it was Markus playing pretend behind closed doors.

 

With great, great difficulty, Sam raised one hand to push insistently on Markus’ chest. The alpha was slow to pull back, but when he did, Sam disentangled himself from beneath him gingerly.

 

“What’re you doing?” Markus asked with humour in his voice.

 

Sam slid off the bed, looking away as he said, “I have chores.” in a soft voice.

 

“Oh.”

 

As Sam had been expecting, Markus let him leave without a fight. He was nothing more than a pleasure toy, and although he was aware of it, every reminder seemed to hurt more than the last.

 

~

 

Things had been quiet for a few days since Cassie and Karliah’s bonding ceremony. Markus was his usual stoic self, avoiding Sam when his family were near, school was boring and long and his friends were utter loons. It was almost perfect.

 

Sam pottered about the kitchen, tidying and preparing ingredients for some baking he planned to do later in the day. He sometimes popped the radio on when he was alone in the kitchen but this day he decided to enjoy the peace and quiet of a lazy afternoon with his day of school behind him. He had homework to do for the following day but he didn’t worry about it for the moment. He let his thoughts wander as he continued his sorting.

 

The crack of breaking glass snapped him out of his head.

 

The window above the sink lay in pieces across the sideboard with a foot poised in the centre of the frame.

 

Sam backed up quickly until the back of his head hit the fridge as a woman pulled herself through the window-frame, the broken glass unable to make so much as a scratch on her skin. A vampire. Definitely not one of the representatives. Her hair was a muddy brown, darker at the roots, short and roughly cut, most likely with a knife or razor blade. She crouched on the side board, utterly motionless for three of the most tense seconds in Sam’s short life.

 

With a snarl she leapt forward, lunging for him with canines bared and wild eyes. Sam dropped to the floor as she collided with the fridge, denting the metal under her weight. He scooted round the island, trying and failing to put distance between them as she threw herself around the room, gravity having next to no effect on her. She swung her fist down, missing his shoulder by barely an inch when he jerked his top half down and launched himself through her legs. He grabbed the closest knife on the magnetic strip above the oven and swung it round to face her. She hissed at him but hesitated.

 

Charles’ words flashed into Sam’s mind, just because you couldn’t break a vampire’s skin easily didn’t mean they didn’t feel you trying. Although he had grabbed the knife purely due to instinct, now he felt maybe he could use it. His muscles tensed, readying to dart back if needed.

 

She hissed again but with a wide mouth, her canines flashing viciously and her eyebrows pointing inwards sharply. Sam hadn’t understood what was scary about the way vampires looked until that moment. He thought they were just thick skinned, lacking in visible veins and unable to grow new hair; this woman was an actual mythical monster when she stretched her face open like a viper preparing to swallow an animal whole.

 

She lunged. He dipped low and jerked forward, thrusting the knife forwards. It connected with her gut and she screeched, swinging her fists twice each at his head even as she kicked herself back, putting as much distance as the cupboards would allow between them and clutching her stomach for a brief moment. She landed both hits but they thankfully didn’t have a great deal of force behind them, vampires were fast but they didn’t have the raw power that wolves did. Neither did Sam, given that he was an omega, but he was stronger than a human and he was pretty certain he matched her.

 

His head would be bruised along his left temple and beneath his right ear later, but he couldn’t worry about that just yet. She leapt over the island with dizzying speed to where he was crouched and slammed her body into his, knocking the breath out of him and pinning him down with her weight. The back of his head clunked against the tiled floor painfully but he doubted it was cracked and she didn’t give him enough time to fret before throwing down a barrage of punches to his face and chest. His hand clutched the knife tightly but he couldn’t raise the arm attached, it was like trying to stand up in the sea after a wave had knocked you down and the next ones were following immediately after. Her fists may not be pounding into him like a werewolf bully’s would, but they were unleashing enough force to stop him from wielding his only weapon. She was still hunched as though her stomach was paining her though, he had made some damage, he could make more.

 

He kicked his feet up, thanking the goddess for blessing him with a bendy body, and caught them under the woman’s arm pits and slammed her down to the tiled floor with every ounce of core strength he had and kicked furiously as he pulled his chest up and crawled forwards.

 

She leapt up like a firecracker, although her eyes seemed a tad unfocused - most likely from thumping her head on the floor. One arm reflexively darted back to her stomach protectively but she met him in the middle to grab his shirt at the neck and throw him backwards onto the counter, he couldn’t move quickly enough to stop his body crashing into the pots and pans hanging from metal hooks, sending them cascading out across the floor along with his knife. His brain was scrambled and his muscles ached but he did manage to catch a large pot with a wide base and throw it up in front of his face when she appeared in front of him like a blur with her own blade drawn.

 

Metal clanged against metal, but he only managed to deflect the first tree hits and then her dizzying speed caught up with him and his upper arm caught the slice, cutting open the sleeve of his t-shirt with it. It wasn’t deep but he flinched, giving her an opening to catch him again, this time in the knee, knocking him off his crouched balance.

 

The floor came at his face but he flung his arms out and rolled across the tiles messily, bumping his knees and elbows on the handles of the cupboards.

 

She followed, her back bowed and her face contorted with pain. He scrambled across the small space left between them and snatched up his favourite vegetable-chopping knife from where he had dropped it earlier. He didn’t bother to try and pull away, she was already in front of him, lunging for him, he swiped at her leg and she squealed when the knife grazed over the side of her ankle, leaving it by all appearances unscathed, but her yells told a different story and he used her momentary distraction to jab at the same spot again and again until she crumbled, her hands clawing at his hair, trying to pull him away. With her head so close to his he used his free hand to swing at her shoulder and knock her down to the floor with him, swinging his knife wildly, uncaring if he caught himself in the crossfire. She screeched and howled and struggled, taking strikes across her chest, neck and face from his wildly wielded weapon.

 

A painful blow finally caught Sam in the neck, her fist cracking a choked noise out of him as he was knocked about a foot away on the floor, clutching his throat. She was panting, her chest heaving and her face contorted into pure rage. She crawled to him with clear difficulty and snatched his knife from his hand. Sam desperately fought to draw a gasp of breath, his throat felt tight, the pain exploding from one side to the other.

 

A hard finger pressed down onto his forehead, pinning his head to the tiles. Sam coughed and finally drew one heaving gulp of air, his eyelids fluttering. His own knife lowered to his face, the point pressed above his eyebrow.

 

He flailed his arms and legs with an outraged cry.

 

“Don’t move, I might take your eye out by accident.” The woman cooed, although she was struggling to stop panting herself.

 

Sam froze every muscle he had control over, his chest couldn’t cease its shuddering as he tried to regulate his breathing again.

 

“I’m not going to kill you, I can admit defeat in a battle,” She said sadly. “if we were to continue like this, you’d probably win. But this is about the war, kid.” She tried to grin but her previous expression of rage was hard to contort or paste over with a smile. “I’m just going to give you something to remember me by.”

Chapter Text

Markus hurtled down the last few steps to the ground floor and through the cramped hallway leading to the kitchen.

 

It sounded like an avalanche had just occurred downstairs. Crashes and banging and an awful screech that sounded very much human.

 

His first thought had been Sam, had he been crushed under the fridge? Was one of the guards picking on him? He sent a silent prayer to the Goddess that the noise had come from outside, that it was stupid kids playing stupid games with their stupid plastic weapons.

 

Once he reached the kitchen he kicked the door open without checking if it was actually locked, he didn’t have time to waste. It slammed so hard against the wall the hinges cracked and the handle rattled.

 

“Jesus!” Sam’s voice yelped.

 

Markus froze in the doorway, his eyes scanning the room.

 

The kitchen looked like a rocket had hit it, pots and pans strewn across the work surfaces, the central island and the floor. Also on the floor was Sam, his body was half-hidden by the island but Markus could see he was barely holding himself up in a cross-legged sitting position. His head was tilted down and his wild bed-head style hair was wet in one portion at the front.

 

Markus sniffed, the scent of blood was hanging faintly in the air, fresh blood.

 

“What the hell happened?” He barked, although his voice cracked and his hands were shaking.

 

Sam pointed at the door, waving his finger frantically, his head was still pointed at the floor as he gave directions,“She crawled out but she’s injured,” he said hurriedly, “you can catch her, she can’t have gotten far!”

 

“What? Who?”

 

“Vampire!” Sam shouted as though it were obvious, “She ran out - not fast though her leg is...” he didn’t continue but waved at the back door leading to the garden again. Markus hovered, torn as to whether to stay with Sam or chase the enemy, it was definitely blood slicking Sam’s hair to his face, and the hand he was using to wave Markus out also had a coating of scarlet.

 

“I-”

 

“Get her!” Sam cried, “Please, Markus, I’m fine!”

 

“Right.” He breathed, and barrelled out the screen door.

 

Sam was right, she hadn't gotten far, in fact a pair of their patrolling officers had already nabbed her halfway across the open fields that led to the forest. One had his foot on her back and the other was pointing a gun at her face. She wasn’t struggling, but her expression was one of extreme rage.

 

When the guards saw Markus lurch out the back door towards her they gave him a friendly wave, one calling out,“We’ll take her to the justice office, she’s no threat in her current state.”

 

Markus nodded, his face slack and his brain trying to both compute a hundred thoughts and shut down at the same time.

 

He stumbled back into the kitchen clumsily, pulling the back door closed behind him and slid to his knees in front of Sam, who hadn’t moved an inch since he left. The smaller boy lifted his head slowly and a sharp breath ripped out of Markus’ chest. His hands shook and his vision blurred slightly as he took Sam’s face in his hands as gently as he could, imagining his skin to be the wings of a butterfly.

 

He could only keep one eye open, the other had a stream of blood sliding over the lid and down his cheek like tears, the liquid originating from a deep cut that ran from just beneath his left eyebrow to barely below his hairline. His cheeks were blue and purple in a watercolour painting of bruises that ran to his jaw and round his eyes.

 

With Sam’s one open eye he examined Markus’ face with a nervousness in his expression that made the alpha’s heart ache.

 

“We need to get the pack doctor.” He said solemnly.

 

“It’s not that bad.” Sam whispered.

 

“Sam,” Markus whispered softly, “this is going to need stitches.” he stared into his one eye for an extra moment to drive his point home. He was serious, this was serious. “Can you stand?”

 

“Y-yeah.” Sam muttered although he made no movement to begin lifting himself. Markus slid his hands under his armpits and pulled, hoisting his body up to almost standing position and holding him there for a moment. His legs were trembling so bad that Markus lowered him back to the ground. There was no point trying to drag his battered body to the doctor’s office.

 

“We’ll stay here and I’ll call her.”

 

A very rushed phone call later, Markus began rooting around in the cupboard under the sink, finally pulling out a new cloth and wetting it under the tap before crouching forward and wiping from Sam’s chin to just beneath his closed lashes. It did a relatively good job of cleaning his face but left splatters of red here and there.

 

“Does your eye hurt?”

 

“Not if the blood doesn't go in it.” Sam answered quietly.

 

“Okay, I’m gonna wipe that too then.” His hand was trembling when he ran the cloth over Sam’s eye, cleaning most of the red liquid from it, and then over it again when a rogue drip slid from his eyebrow. As Sam dared to open it, Markus pressed the wet material to the cut and he winced with a sniff.

 

“Sorry.” Markus managed to gasp out, his throat felt tight, his stomach felt tight, his muscles felt tight. His whole body felt coiled and ready to spring but without a target. The woman? Yes. But he already knew this wasn’t a standalone attack. This was the council, and he had brought them here, to his doorstep, to his mate.

 

“It’s okay.” Sam mumbled.

 

“Please, tell me what happened.” Markus didn’t think he had ever sounded so sincere in his life but he needed Sam to tell him. “I need to know.” He added when Sam averted his gaze.

 

His mate sighed, closed his eyes, held them closed for a couple of seconds, opened them and dragged them back to Markus’ face before answering in the softest tone possible for a living person to manage, “I was doing my chores, she came in through the window and we fought,” his voice somehow seemed to be getting quieter with every word, “I used my vegetable knife and she had one too. I got her a few times and she got me.” his eyes flicked away again.

 

“And then she just let you live?” Markus asked incredulously, bringing his face in closer.

 

“No, she told me I had won the battle but not the war, then she ran.”

 

Markus’ brain was struggling to translate Sam’s words into a tangible language, his head seemed to be filled with a strange buzzing sound. He couldn’t compute. Sam watched him silently until Dr Miles arrived through the back door with a flurry of bags and shifted herself in beside Markus, working at the wound efficiently while he attempted to digest the knowledge that Sam, his teeny tiny adorable mate, had fought a vampire… and won.

 

The words mumbled to him from a fatigued body suddenly shot back into his head like a bullet.

 

“It was me. I killed Brandon.”

 

That statement didn’t seem so ridiculous any more.

 

The only people in his pack house with a reason to take that lunatic out were Cassie and her family, Sam was practically a brother to her, he was raised almost entirely by her parents. The knife was from their kitchen, the one he spends all day in. He was the last person to visit the prisoner.

 

Markus didn’t often feel foolish, he had too much pride. But knowing his mate had slipped under his radar so easily as to commit murder was a foolish act he couldn’t ignore.

 

Dr Miles gave him a nod with a kind and sympathetic smile as she left, she had been giving Sam a run-through of how to care for his dressing but Markus hadn’t heard most of it. Too lost in his thoughts. He did catch the last thing she called back, as it was directed at him,

 

“I’ll leave you to patch up the smaller cuts with the first aid kit, make sure you clean them thoroughly.”

 

Markus nodded and took up the small green bag she had left beside Sam’s knee, which coincidentally had the first scratch he intended to tend to. His jeans had a clean slice across the centre, exposing his whole kneecap and the light cut running across it with small rivulets of blood leaking from the centre and edges.

 

Sam broke the silence as he was laying a large plaster over the thin wound, “Are you okay?”

 

The question knocked a surprised laugh out of him, why was Sam asking if he was okay?

 

“You got a concussion or something? Why are you asking if I’m okay?”

 

“You seemed… I don’t know… sorry, forget I said it…” He shrugged weakly.

 

“Don’t apologise, it’s sweet.” He paused before awkwardly adding, “But I’m more concerned about you.” He moved to the next scrape on Sam’s lower arm. “How long did Dr Miles say it’s gonna take for your face to heal?”

 

“A few weeks of scabby gross-ness and then it’ll slowly fade into a scar.” Sam replied with a sigh.

 

“It’s not gonna go completely?”

 

“No, too deep.” He pouted, which was far too cute for this situation. “I’ll never have matching eyebrows again.” He added with a tight and very fake smile.

 

“Is that something that you think is worth worrying about right now?” Markus asked slowly, his concentration on wiping at Sam’s pale skin with antiseptic wipes - why did this kid have so many damn freckles? It was impossible to tell what was freckle and what was dirt!

 

Sam shrugged, “Cassie would, she’s gonna flip when she finds out.”

 

“About you being attacked or your non-symmetrical brows?”

 

“Both.” He managed a feeble smile, at least this one seemed far more genuine. “She’ll be very concerned about how this hideous scar is going to affect my image.”

 

“Well,” Markus’ cheeks began to warm before he had even got the words out, he couldn’t believe he was even planning to say them. “I think you’ll still be just as cute with a scar as you were before.”

 

Sam’s entire face went up in flames and Markus wanted to kick himself, so stupid and sappy.

 

“Thanks.” Sam mumbled, dragging away his perfectly round blue eyes and lowering his long lashes. Markus looked away too, pretending to be incredibly interested in the plaster he was unwrapping, these things could be tricky to a novice first-aider…

 

“You may have scared the shit out of me at first,” Markus started slowly, “but now I know you’re semi-okay I can admit that what you did was kind of badass.” it felt surreal to be saying that about his omega, but it was true and he felt like Sam deserved to hear it.

 

“Got my butt handed to me?” Sam offered sadly.

 

Markus took his shoulders firmly and forced those big beautiful eyes to point at him, “Fought off a vampire,” he said with all the vigour he had, determined to convince his mate how amazing he had been. “had her running for the hills, didn’t cry when you were having your face stitched up…”

 

He paused to think of another item to add to the list but Sam jumped in, “I cried a little, you just weren’t paying attention.” he admitted quietly.

 

Markus couldn’t help a light chuckle that escaped, “That’s okay, I would have too.”

 

“No you wouldn’t,” Sam gave a small smile, “you’d swear and grumble and growl but you wouldn’t cry.”

 

Markus pulled a face of a agreement and shrugged, pulling his hands back and continuing with his slow process of cleaning and plaster-covering.

 

“Well, that’s everything cleaned and bandaged.”

 

“Yeah, thank you, you didn’t need to do that for me.”

 

“Of course I do, I’m your…” Markus froze, he didn’t know why, it was so stupid, but he just couldn’t get his tongue to finish the sentence. His wolf snarled at him. Although wolves tended to ‘speak’ in emotions rather than words, he knew his wolf wanted to call him a coward. That’s what he wanted to call himself in that moment.

 

“Alpha.” Sam offered, his eyes low and his voice barely above a whisper.

 

“Yeah,” Markus breathed sheepishly, “and as your alpha I care about you.”

 

“Yeah.” Sam mumbled.

 

“Sometimes… sometimes I care a bit too much and it comes out the wrong way.” He packed away the first aid kit with clumsy hands, anything to keep his eyes from Sam’s sad eyes. “I don’t-” He glanced at both entrances to the kitchen for listeners, “I don’t always know how to deal with my feelings for you, they’re so strong and I get frustrated at myself, at my wolf-”

 

“At me.” Sam added.

 

“I would be lying if I said I hadn’t felt frustration towards you…”

 

Sam muttered into the silence, “It probably doesn’t help that you’re embarrassed of me.” and it wasn’t the words that stabbed Markus in the chest, right between the ribs, it was the voice speaking them. Soft and broken. His mate was hurt and now it would hurt him.

 

“I- that’s not true!” He stammered, desperate to reassure him, to remove the pain quickly, pull the sharp splinter from his side with the quick and easy tweezers of denial. “Why-”

 

“You just checked the doors to make sure no one would hear you saying you have feelings for me.”

 

“That’s not what it-”

 

“I should really get on with cleaning this place up,” Sam announced with a pointed look, “thanks again for your help.” he added.

 

“But- I’m not-”

 

“Don’t you have a prisoner to interrogate?”

 

“Yeah, but-”

 

“Thank you, Alpha.”

 

Markus took the hint begrudgingly, pulling himself up using the counter and striding to the door, then halted and spun on his toes to point his index finger at Sam, still crumpled on the floor, and added, “If you really want me gone that badly, take yourself to bed. You look like a rogue sneeze could take you out at any moment.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“I’ll send someone to clean this up.”

 

“Thank you, sir.”

 

“Well?”

 

Sam pulled an expression that mixed guilty brows with pouty lips and pushed at the floor with his palms. Nothing happened.

 

“I… I can’t..” He said with a look of embarrassed bewilderment.

 

Markus gave a pretend huff and stomped forward dramatically, squatted, scooped Sam with one hand under his knees and another at his shoulder blades and swooped him up.

 

He booted Sam’s bedroom door, far more lightly than he did the kitchen one, and laid him down on his bed gently.

 

They stared at each other for a long and awkward pause, both clearly unsure as to how to say goodbye.

 

Markus hovered beside him for a moment more before leaning down to plant a soft kiss on Sam’s forehead, beside the large white chunk of gauze taped to the left side. Sam’s eyes were closed when he pulled back but they fluttered open when he backed away and Sam gave him an exhausted look as he slipped out the door.

Chapter Text

Cassie barrelled towards Karliah’s office, ignoring the guard stationed at the door commanding her to stop. She is the next alpha female of the Lunar Warriors, she obeys only her mate.

 

He tried again even as she was grasping for the handle, “Alpha Stone is in a meeting with his daughter, you can’t interrup-”

 

She forced her way through the door. The scent of her mate hitting her nostrils was enough to bring her tears to the surface, the fear and distress that had been bubbling under her skin came rushing to her eyes in the form of fat droplets preparing to dive down her plump cheeks.

 

“Karliah.” She gasped, pulling the door shut in the face of the guard still trying to halt her without so much as looking back, her eyes glued to her mate who’s head had snapped up upon her entrance.

 

“What’s wrong?” Karliah flew from her father to the other side of the room and Cassie was in her arms in an instant, “What happened?” she took Cassie’s face in her huge hands and squeezed her cheeks, pressing the first tear out unintentionally.

 

“Sam.”Cassie whispered.

 

Karliah’s eyes flicked back forth between Cassie’s, searching her face for more information.

 

“He was attacked. A vampire broke in and attacked him.”

 

“Where is he now? How hurt are we talking?”

 

“He’s at home, he just called me from his bed.” She gave Karliah a pleading look, “I need to see him, now.”

 

“Of course, darling, let’s go.” She hesitated suddenly, turning back to give her father an apologetic nod, “Dad, my mate needs me.”

 

“Of course, Li-lo, I will be here when you get back to continue our discussion.”

 

Cassie managed to get as far as the upper hallway before managing a weak smile, “Li-lo?” she asked with raised brows.

 

“Your dad calls you ‘Cassle-tassle’.” Karliah responded a little defensively.

 

They hurried down the main stairs and to the front doors, Cassie barely managing to keep her strides up to Karliah’s speed.

 

“But I told you that,” She rolled her eyes, almost stumbling on one of the steps. “how is this the first I’ve heard of your nickname?”

 

“My dad’s the only one that uses it and he’s not around much.” She shrugged, very obviously attempting to end the conversation there. She pulled the door open and ushered Cassie through.

 

“Your dad isn’t going to be the only one that uses it from now on.” Cassie grinned.

 

“What is more important right now, your best friend or my dumb nickname?” Karliah asked firmly as she opened the passenger side door of her car.

 

“You’re right, I’m sorry.” Cassie mumbled, instant guilt shooting into her veins. She only wanted to distract herself, she didn’t want to think about what state Sammy could be in… She slid in silently and waited for Karliah to begin driving.

 

~

 

Markus slammed his palms to the wooden desk his father sat behind.

 

“They have gone too far! We need to take them out once and for all!” He declared, tired of their discussion following the same loop.

 

“You need to calm down, we have other options beside mass murder.” His father said dismissively, “We must think about this clearly.”

 

“Father-”

 

“Our omega took a scratch-”

 

“My. Mate. Was. Attacked.” Markus growled, barely managing to restrain his voice from bellowing for all to hear. His wolf was howling, his ears were pounding with blood, and fuck anyone who had something to say about his mate in that moment.

 

There was a pause. A silent one. Where he and his father held eye contact that began to burn, both from holding his eyes open and the realisation of what he had admitted.

 

“What did you just say?” His father breathed, his brows pulling together and his eyes hardening.

 

Markus felt at least half of his bravado deflate out of him like a squashed balloon.

 

He managed to drag up enough confidence to grit out, “I am taking the lead on this mission and I will make them pay.” with what he hoped was a firm and unquestionable expression.

 

“The runt.” His father said slowly, “He’s your mate?”

 

The last of his courage slipped out of his fingertips and toes, leaving behind a cold feeling of water creeping through his veins.

 

“Don’t call him that.” Markus whispered pathetically.

 

“When were you planning to tell me?” Markus didn’t think he had ever heard his father speak so softly, his usual boom of a voice reduced with shock.

 

“Never.” He admitted, surprised by his own honesty.

 

“I can’t believe this.” His father growled, seemingly more to himself than to Markus. “I just can’t believe it. How could you not tell me?” His eyes grabbed Markus with a hard stare that made his legs feel like jelly and his stomach feel like a water bottle being shaken. “This could ruin your alphahood. As alphas our mates are our biggest weakness but to have a weak mate is going to be a reflection on you, what kind of reputation will you have with an omega mate?”

 

Markus didn’t have an answer for that, instead he attempted to deflect, “You know that we don’t choose our mates, dad.” he said lamely.

 

“And you know that no one can know about him, right?”

 

“I haven’t told anyone yet.”

 

“Good,” His father replied, Markus wasn’t sure if he had intentionally ignored the ‘yet’. “I’d rather you be known as a lonely alpha than a weak one.”

 

They held their locked gaze, Markus feeling borderline submissive under his father’s intense and judgemental gaze, this is exactly what he had feared from the beginning. From the moment he had been drawn to Sam’s sleeping form he had been dreading this precise confrontation.

 

“Isn’t the council more important for us to be worrying about than my mate?” He asked pleadingly, he didn’t know how much more disappointment he could take to look at on his father’s face.

 

Instead of answering, his father stood slowly and paced behind his desk, up to one bookshelf, then along the window seat and then back to the other book shelf. He repeated these steps many times, in silence, as Markus watched with apprehension.

 

“A week.” He said finally, “In a week I’ll send a hunting party to take The Council down, you may go, since you have a… personal connection… but you will not be leading and you will be respectful of your place among both our veterans and those of our allied packs.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Now get the hell out,” He said bitterly, “I need to call every pack that was on the council’s list, they all had better offer us some fucking fighters.”

 

“Dad,” Markus said hesitantly, knowing full well he was pushing his luck, “while I’m gone, Sam needs to be protected.”

 

“Yes, sure,” His father waved him off dismissively, “I’ll have someone watch him.” he said with distaste.

 

“Dad.” Markus repeated sternly, growing bold with concern for his mate, “I need your word that no one will harm him while I’m gone.”

 

“You think I’d let someone hurt my son’s mate?”

 

“I think you’d turn a blind eye to your omega growing new cuts and bruises.”

 

“You have my word, Markus.”

 

Markus nodded and backed out of the room, surprised to find his head still on his shoulders, even if his heart was now in his stomach.

 

 

~

 

“Sammy!”

 

Sam jerked awake, his arms and legs flapping for a moment as he was thrust into consciousness.

 

“Cassie! Don’t wake him!” A second voice chastised gently.

 

“Is okay.” Sam slurred, blinking sleepily. His favourite power couple grew into focus before his eyes. “M’glad to see you.”

 

“What on Earth happened?” Karliah breathed, her eyes raking over him voraciously. She was hovering over him, her large frame blocking out part of the light, Cassie was tucked under her and balancing her butt on the edge of the mattress, her face a mask of worry.

 

And so, he told them. He tried to keep his account short and sweet but Cassie was the queen of unnecessary questions.

 

“A scar?” Cassie asked carefully.

 

“Yeah, but Dr Miles said it’ll fade over time until it’s just a pink line.”

 

“You’ll be missing a chunk of eyebrow forever though.” She whispered dramatically.

 

“He’s alive, Cassie.” Karliah reminded her. That was one of Sam’s favourite things about her, she was great at putting things back into perspective.

 

“He’s a badass, Li-lo.” Cassie replied, poking her tongue out cheekily. Karliah grabbed her cheek and pinched it swiftly, earning a squeal from his curly-haired best friend.

 

“Li-lo?” Sam asked, wondering what he’d missed.

 

“New nickname I picked up from her dad,” Cassie explained matter-of-factly, “feel free to use it liberally.”

 

“Will do.” He managed a weak grin.

 

“So what happens now?” Karliah asked, dragging the two subs back on track. “Where is the vampire?”

 

“In one of our cells, most likely being interrogated. I don’t know for sure though, I haven’t left my bed since I was plopped in it.”

 

“By your knight in shining armour?” Karliah teased lightly.

 

“By his royal pain in the arse.” Cassie corrected.

 

“Cassie.” Karliah grumbled warningly.

 

“Li-lo.” Cassie replied cheekily, never taking her eyes off Sam. “What did she look like?”

 

“Who?” Sam asked slowly, his head still swimming.

 

“The vampire!”

 

“Oh… I don’t really remember specifics… It was all so quick… She was kinda dirty and rough-looking…”

 

Karliah snorted, “You’re gonna be kinda rough-looking when you get your scar!” she interjected.

 

“Karliah!” Cassie gasped, “Not funny!”

 

Karliah’s expression fell into one of severe guilt, “Sorry, too soon.” she said with a wince in Sam’s direction.

 

“It’s okay,” Sam smiled, it really was okay, he was just so damn happy to be alive, “I still have my eye, that’s literally all that matters to me right now.” he added.

 

“Good to see your priorities are in order.” Karliah said warmly and gave his shoulder a soft squeeze. Sam would never get over how good it felt to be reminded that there were people who really and truly cared about you, when Karliah looked at him like that, he felt it right to his soul.

 

“Yeah, I would definitely be more upset about a ruined eyebrow.” Cassie decided, utterly deadpan.

 

~

 

The cut was healing, slowly. Far slower than a normal werewolf’s. It had only been a couple of days but Sam was already getting incredibly frustrated with the itchy gauze taped to his head, his eyelashes catching on the bottom every time he blinked.

 

He hadn’t seen Markus a great deal but he knew the vampire had been interrogated by him and he had reported what had happened in the kitchen between Sam and the woman to his father. He assumed his mate was sulking because he got called out for being embarrassed of him. He had some nerve to have the grumps over Sam bringing it up when they both knew it was true, he just didn’t want to admit it because then he’d have to admit he had been a bad mate. Then he’d have to admit all the awful things he had done because of his embarrassment.

 

“Alpha Markus wants you in the office.” A sharp voice announced behind him, Sam blinked and turned slowly.

 

“Oh, okay.” He said, “Thank you.”

 

“Now!” She barked, clearly enjoying getting to order him about, most pack members did.

 

He nodded obediently and laid his duster down on the arm of the sofa where he had been attempting to reach the nooks and crannies behind it.

 

She didn’t bother to walk him to the office.

 

When he arrived he gave a short and soft knock, Markus called him in immediately.

 

“You needed me, sir?” He said courteously, given that he wasn’t sure why he was being called in he didn’t think it wise to walk in with an attitude.

 

“Sit down.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Sam dropped into the armchair opposite Markus, who sat behind his father’s desk.

 

“After the other day’s events I have had some time to think.” He said slowly, “And I know what you did.”

 

“Sir?”

 

“It was you who killed that Timber Fang prisoner.”

 

Sam’s expression held steady and utterly blank, he couldn’t let Markus see how scared he was. He couldn’t let him know how acidic his mouth tasted, how hot his ears felt, how hard it was to keep from fidgeting under his gaze.

 

Markus frowned and stood from behind the desk to ask, “Do you deny it?”

 

Sam didn’t hesitate, “No, sir.” he croaked.

 

“You understand that I have to turn you in?”

 

Sam swallowed, his throat bone dry and still sore from the punch he took the day before. It felt as though he were swallowing back his hurt and anger as well, how could Markus do this to him?

 

“I understand, sir.” His voice cracked and his eyes stung but he managed to hold back his tears, he wouldn’t shed them now, he wanted to stay strong.

 

“Do you have any idea what your crime has done for pack relations at this trying time, with hostile vampires on our doorstep?” Markus growled, although he kept his voice low, “Do you know what my father has been through, trying to keep Timber Fang from starting a war with us?” he was approaching, his angry aura rolling off of him in waves and lapping at Sam harder and harder as he got closer. “And after all our efforts to smoothed over relations for it to turn out to be our own omega is going to be just another humiliation for our pack! You’re going to end up in the exact same cell as he was in but you deserve it more because you lied!” He thrust a finger in Sam’s direction and he flinched involuntarily but Markus paid the action no notice. He was unstoppable in his tirade, “How could you not tell me? You can’t keep a secret like this from me!”

 

Sam’s frustration grew to fury as he was berated until he couldn’t keep his thin lips pressed together any longer, “Charles knew from day one and he never threatened to turn me in!” he blurted raggedly. “Because despite what you think, he actually cares about me!” He wasn’t shouting, but there was a force not often found in his voice holding him together just enough to sound angry rather than blubbery. “Unlike you, I knew if I ever told you that you would turn me in because no matter how many times you kiss me or touch me or pretend to be gentle, you don’t care about Sam the person, you care about Sam the sex toy!”

 

The tears hovered on his lash line and his lips trembled as he awaited the wrath of Markus to fall upon him.

 

Instead, silence sat between them for a few moments. Sam assumed Markus was simply so angry he was struggling to find words.

 

“Come here.”

 

Sam’s stomach fell through his body to the floor. He was gonna get it, and it was gonna hurt. Markus’ expression could stop a storm in its tracks.

 

He dragged himself from the chair on shaky arms and even shakier legs.

 

He approached slowly, cautiously, shitting-his-pants-edly.

 

~

 

Markus watched his mate approach with barely contained frustration.

 

Frustration at everything and everyone. He needed Sam’s scent to calm him down, he needed his body pressed into his own, small and bony digging into his muscle. He craved Sam’s ambrosial smell every damn moment of every damn day but when his emotions were in the extremes, especially the extreme lows, he felt a deep-rooted need. His natural instincts kicking in.

 

The moment Sam was within in grabbing distance, Markus snatched him by the shirt and deposited him in his lap, gripping at his skin with desperate fingers and burying his nose in the warmest crease of his neck. He held his body curled around Sam’s, inhaling deeply, allowing the omega’s natural perfume to perforate his anger and frustration like a pin to a balloon, releasing all the tension trapped inside like air rushing from his mind. He took deep, gulping breaths of him.

 

“I was never going to turn you in, I just wanted to give you a scare.”

 

Sam crumbled, tears flowing out like raindrops down his cheeks, “I’m more scared of you than going to prison.” he sobbed, pressing his face into Markus’ top, leaving round wet patches on his chest.

 

Markus said nothing, he could think of nothing to reply to that. His mate had just said something so heartbreaking he couldn’t find the words to express what he was feeling, even if he could he didn’t think he would have wanted to, they didn’t need two crybabies complicating the situation. So he let Sam cry, held him tight, and breathed many more deep breaths.

 

When Sam’s body fell slack, finally signalling he had cried himself to sleep, Markus lifted him as gently as possible and slipped out, transporting his light body down to his room and depositing him into his bed. He pulled the blankets up to Sam’s chin and and gave his plump, tear-stained cheek a soft pinch before scarpering as usual, he was a coward in the less-conventional sense.

 

~

 

Markus lined up with the officers of Scarlett Moon, matching their strict posture and wide-legged stances. His father stood ahead of them, watching with hard eyes, waiting for complete and utter silence,

 

“The pack has been threatened,” He began, “our lands have been trespassed, our alpha mates stalked, our people terrorised and now, our omega has been attacked.” he paused, letting his words sink into the hearts of those before him, “This ‘council’, as they call themselves, have made it abundantly clear that they want war. What I want, what the counties’ alphas want, is an end to this nonsense.” a few brave men and women cheered and howled their agreement but his father stared them down, waiting for silence again before resuming his speech, “Scarlett Moon previously sent a small team to scout one of their bases, you will all be provided with every word of information we have on them to prepare you.” he nodded to the smaller group of senior officers at his side, “Those of you who will be on this mission should already know your teams and the outline of the battle plan.” His father took another moment to look over the lines of warriors before nodding his head and giving the slightest of smiles that was laced with pride, “We leave in two days, say goodbye to your loved ones and pack your bags.”

 

With that, the crowd dispersed to do exactly that.

 

~

 

Underwear. Socks. Water bottle. Markus had laid out the items he planned to pack on his bed beside his backpack but had become fixated on checking each item over and over. As though putting them into the bag was too final. He was a man, he needed to be brave and get it together. He only had an hour until he would be piling into the back of one of many SUVs provided, squashed in with dominants from every other pack in the area, and heading to what would most likely be the toughest battle of his life.

 

The most delicate of knocks froze his brain for a moment, his mate’s scent creeping under the door. He had barely seen him since the announcement had been made, just flashes of brown fluffy hair darting around the house, busying himself with chores. Markus had seen enough of him though to notice his visible bruises were healing well, although slowly. His elbows and lower arms were green, his neck light brown and while his forehead bruises were sill purple and blue but had shrunk considerably.

 

“Come in.” He called as gently as he could.

 

Sam entered and Markus ditched the items on his bed, he could put them in the bag later. He turned to watch his mate approach, shuffling along the carpet as though there was a rope tied round his waist dragging him along. Once he was under Markus’ nose, a foot between them, he stopped, staring at Markus’ chest. He said nothing but his fingers fidgeted with his long-sleeved top.

 

“You okay?” Markus asked lamely. Why were subs so hard to read? They just looked nervous and shy all the time, a dominant would march in and announce what they wanted and when they wanted it. With subs you had to work it out, draw it out of them.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Markus plopped his butt down onto the bed and pulled Sam closer, his thin hips bumping against Markus’ thighs.

 

“What do you need?”

 

Sam thought about his answer for a long time, “For you to stay here.” he finally whispered.

 

“I’m here right now.” Markus mumbled and squeezed his waist in what he hoped was an affectionate way.

 

“But you’re leaving with the others.”

 

“I have to, we have a war to win.”

 

“All of the packs have provided soldiers,” Sam whinged almost childishly, "let them go.”

 

“But-”

 

“You’re an only child, your parents don’t have a back-up.”

 

Markus blinked and stammered, “What-”

 

“Don’t leave me.” Sam pleaded, his voice barely audible, the word ‘me’ was a squeak that could hardly be distinguished as a real word.

 

Markus felt the physical pain of his heart snapping in two. Those three words might have been both the most shocking and sweetest he had ever heard. His arms snapped tightly around Sam’s waist and he pulled him in against his chest. Hard. He buried his face into Sam’s neck, smelling him and listening to his speeding heartbeat.

 

“I-” Markus was at a loss for words, “I don’t want to go, but I have to.”

 

No.” Sam whined.

 

“Why would you want me to stay?” Markus asked honestly, “I’m shit at being your mate.” he admitted, more to himself than to Sam. Surely Sam would want a break from Markus’ dickhead ways?

 

“It’s dangerous,” Sam squeaked, “even more dangerous than the last time you left.” he added,“If something happened to you…” he squashed his face into Markus’ shoulder like a puppy hiding its face.

 

As though on auto-pilot, Markus responded monotonously,“Nothing is going to happen to me.”

 

You can’t guarantee that, the nasty little voice in his head sneered, you could have your head crushed in.

 

“You don’t know that.” Sam pulled his head back, looking up into Markus’ eyes, his own swimming in tears, the watery effect shimmered over his blue irises, turning them into small pools with rippling waves.

 

“H-hey, don’t-” Markus was interrupted not by a sound, but the sight of Sam’s tears spilling over and his lips squeezing together to contain the inevitable sobs.

 

He slid his hands up to cup his cheeks, the ears tickling his thumbs, and pressed a soft kiss to the tip of his nose.

 

“It’s going to be okay. You don’t have to be afraid, no one can get in here to hurt you again, my father swore to me.”

 

“I’m not scared of vampires!” Sam exclaimed, “I’m scared of losing my mate!”

 

Markus nodded sadly and dragged his tiny body into his lap and cradled him, peppering kisses across his forehead and stroking along his arms and waist. Sam clung to him desperately, short finger nails digging into his muscles, head buried in his shirt, and Markus actually felt guilty at how satisfying it was to feel his mate holding him so wretchedly.

 

Markus squeezed him, his fingers pressing through Sam’s clothes and seeking out the warmth radiating through. He inhaled his sweet and delicate scent deeply, it sent a wave of ease through him, like honey sliding through his system.

 

“I can’t let them get away with hurting my mate.” He whispered into Sam’s hair.

 

~

 

“I can’t let them get away with hurting my mate.”

 

A bitter-sweet wave of warmth blistered through Sam’s entire body. His mate was being protective of him, his mate was holding him, kissing him, his mate was trying to reassure him, and his mate was leaving him.

 

A highly dangerous mission. A mission so dangerous the members of the pack who weren’t even going to fight were being forbidden from leaving their territory. His mate could be about to march to his death and he picked now to squeeze Sam lovingly against his hard chest and kiss him so sweetly and fill him with warmth and affection, ten minutes before driving away to what could far too easily be his death.

 

Sam clung to him, wringing out every last moment he could get in his mate’s arms. He got approximately nine and a half minutes before Markus stood, lifting him like a soft toy in his arms, and placed him on the floor gently. He wanted to behave like a child and refuse to drop his feet to the carpet but he knew it wouldn’t make a difference, they were expecting Markus to be on the drive and ready to go in seconds.

 

Markus gave him a guilty look before flinging the clothing littered across his bed into his rucksack messily, pulling the drawstring closed and yanking it onto his back hurriedly.

 

“I’m sorry.” He whispered, and Sam had to admit he did look it, but that didn’t ease the ache in his heart and the pit in his stomach.

 

Markus grabbed his chin roughly and pulled him up to his tip toes for a quick and wet kiss before dashing out, leaving the door open behind him.

 

Sam listened to his mate’s footsteps hammering down the stairs as he raced to meet the other soldiers, the pit in Sam’s stomach was too heavy for him to move from his spot in the centre of Markus’ room, it might as well have been the centre of his world.

 

Team Scarlet began their journey without a hitch, speeding away to meet their comrades and eventually, the council.

Chapter Text

The mission had begun badly and had only gotten worse since.

 

They had had issues with their trucks, their supplies and their communication links during the journey and Markus was pretty sure he could speak for the whole team if he were to say he was exhausted already. Problems caused stress, stress wore you out and being worn out while trying to stay on high alert while travelling all day was beginning to get to him.

 

As they finally approached the territory line of the council, every man, woman and beast in the car Markus was in fell dead silent instinctively. If you told him no one was breathing he would have most likely believed you.

 

Ash and Malachai were in the car behind, he didn’t think he’d missed them so much before in his life.

 

A screech like that of a wild banshee cut through the air and with a loud clunk a dent appeared in the roof of their truck. All eyes darted to the ceiling and a few mouths popped open, so much for the element of surprise.

 

The warriors very quickly vacated the car. Markus swung out hurriedly and turned immediately to look up at the cannonball that had landed on their vehicle: a woman with wild eyes and a buzz cut.

 

She climbed to her feet with a snarl.

 

~

 

“What exactly is it that you’re asking of me, Miss Stone?” Alpha Murphy asked slowly.

 

“Give Sam permission to leave your pack house and come stay in ours.” Karliah responded confidently.

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“Why?” She asked just a tad too quickly, her wolf winced a little, she didn’t want to sound childish or impudent.

 

Alpha Murphy sighed before reciting the same line that had been fed to all of the pack alphas when the warriors left to fight, “All pack members must stay within their pack houses until we are absolutely certain there is no longer a threat.”

 

“What is wrong with our pack house?” She asked. Okay, now she knew she sounded whiny and puerile.

 

“It is not his.”

 

“What difference does it make?”

 

“Exactly,” Alpha Murphy gave a hint of a smile and Karliah had to fight her rising anger, she had walked straight into that. “you have no reason to steal our omega.”

 

“I’m concerned for his safety-”

 

“You think I can’t keep my own people safe?” He interrupted, although his voice only portrayed exasperation rather than actual rage.

 

“I think-”

 

“You will not change my mind, young lady.”

 

Young lady? Ooh, she was bristling. Her father’s favourite saying was drilling into the back of her skull: alphas must stay in control at all times and anger was the opening of the doorway to losing control.

 

She took a slow and deep breath, “I won’t let it go if he is hurt, sir.” she said carefully.

 

“He won’t be, you have my word.”

 

Karliah had no reason to continue arguing with him, she had an alpha’s word and under normal circumstances that meant something. She was unsure how much weight to put on Alpha Murphy’s promises but it was all she had.

 

~

 

They had breached the main building, an enormous fortress of stone, with great difficulty.

 

Simply making it to the front doors had been painful, figuratively and literally, as the moment their feet touched the hard ground of the forest lands surrounding The Council’s headquarters, they had been under unrelenting attack. Markus could only hope once he made it completely inside that it would transpire the building was empty, otherwise they had seriously underestimated the sheer amount of bodies The Council had under its command.

 

The well-structured, highly emphasised plan that had been drilled into their skulls since they left home quickly dissipated once they cracked through the large double doors and into the entrance hall. Partly because that wasn’t where they had intended to start their attack (they had been counting on the element of surprise to aid them in each team taking a different entrance) and partly because a large group of armed vampires was waiting for them as they burst in.

 

Every werewolf of their army simultaneously and silently accepted in that moment that from now on, it was a full-frontal assault. They didn’t have time to dwell on what an awful decision that was due to a staggeringly tall gentleman brandishing a bayonet yelling, “Charge!”

 

~

 

Cassie stomped her foot and huffed, “I can’t believe they won’t let him stay here, what if he’s targeted again?” she grumbled.

 

“I have Alpha Murphy’s word that he’ll be kept safe.” Karliah sighed tiredly.

 

“He needs constant protection, he’s not strong enough to be left alone!”

 

“He’s stronger than you think, Cass.”

 

She flopped onto their bed with a pout and kicked her feet up behind her, “As badass as it was that he survived the vampire attack, and as much as I love him to bits, he couldn’t do it again!”

 

“Cassie,” Karliah’s hand rested on her lower back gently, “Sam is much more deadly than you give him credit for.” she advised quietly.

 

Cassie’s ears perked and she lifted her head up, “What are you talking about?” she asked suspiciously.

 

Karliah pulled her hand off of Cassie’s back and ruffled her hair quickly before moving to make a swift exit.

 

“Nothing, I’m sorry I argued with you.” She called over her shoulder as she pulled their door open.

 

“We’re not arguing but now you’re hiding something from me.” Cassie said sternly.

 

She watched Karliah’s muscles freeze, lines of tension running around them. She was right, Karliah was hiding something from her.

 

“Cassie…” Karliah whispered carefully, but Cassie wasn’t in the mood to be placated.

 

“Whatever it is, you need to tell me.” She said firmly.

 

“It’s not my secret to tell.”

 

Cassie stared at her as she contemplated her words. She didn’t want to admit what she thought she knew. If she said it out loud it could be true and if it was true then she had acknowledged it and if she acknowledged it she had to do something about it. She didn’t want to do anything, Brandon was dead, as far as she was concerned that was that.

 

Karliah left without another word.

 

~

 

A cluster of voices approached the kitchen’s back door, fortunately, they were familiar to Sam. When he pulled open the screen door his friends greeted him with nervous smiles.

 

“We thought we’d see how you’re holding up, you know, cooped up in here.” Aminali announced without needing to be asked, “Plus, we wanted to get Jasper out of the house, he was moping.”

 

Sam nodded understandingly, he wasn’t the only one whose mate had been drafted in for the fight, Alexa was of age to be sent on missions. Although Markus wasn’t technically old enough yet, he hadn’t turned eighteen, everyone knew he was taking the place of his father so no one questioned it. A pack couldn’t ask every other pack in the area for support in a battle and then not send their alpha, it was cowardly. The two boys gave each other matching sympathetic smiles.

 

“You guys should be careful coming round the back like this,” Sam said as he pushed the door open fully, “the patrols might mistake you for spies.” he nodded them in. Even if they weren’t mistaken for spies, they’d still be in a hell of a lot of trouble if they were caught outside of their own pack houses.

 

“No one is sending a trio of subs to do their reconnaissance!” Cassie snorted with an eye-roll.

 

“As it was we barely found our way up the drive!” Aminali added.

 

“In our defence, there is a slight curve near the beginning…” Hanmi added with a quiet laugh.

 

“Come on,” Sam lead the way to the kitchen, “I’ll make tea.”

 

“And I’ll serve the real tea.” Announced Aminali with a sly grin and cracked her fingers. “Being cooped up in my own pack house for three days has generated gossip aplenty!”

 

~

 

How Markus was still alive was a mystery, how he had managed to keep Ash and Malachai with him till now was a miracle.

 

After forcing their way through the main hall, pushing back the vampire forces that had met them there with great difficulty and eventually taking out enough of them to split up, Markus had formed a small group with his two closest companions and two women he didn’t recognise as being officers in Scarlett Moon’s guard. He couldn’t ask them what packs they were from while they were all in wolf form but they were swift and capable warriors and he was more than grateful to have them with him regardless of their background.

 

The larger of the two had incredibly light brown fur covering her head, back and tail with almost pure white legs and stomach, she easily kept pace with him and he got the impression she matched Malachai in terms of raw strength. The slightly smaller woman was coated in a variety of grey shades, no square inch of her fur seemed to match any other, but she was fast and smart and an obvious strategist. Both had no problems handling themselves even if their fighting styles differed immensely. In his head he had named them Ms Brown and Ms Grey.

 

Their group worked their way through the enormous building at complete random, selecting corridors and rooms with no rhyme or reason. Their mission had become very simple: ‘kill all the vampires you can find and don’t die’.

 

It sounded much simpler than it truly was.

 

~

 

They hadn’t been able to break Sam out of Scarlett Moon even for the afternoon to visit Aminali and Hanmi, but that didn’t mean Cassie, Karliah and Jasper couldn’t still visit and bring back the abridged version for him.

 

They parked round the side of the house and knocked on the back door, hoping it wouldn’t be opened by an officer.

 

By a stroke of incredible luck, they were answered by Aminali’s mother.

 

“Of course you can visit Mina, she’s in her room - you know where it is, don’t you, Jasper?” She cooed kindly.

 

“Yes, ma’am!”

 

“Good boy, she’s been up there all day, quiet as a mouse, I’m sure she’d love some company!”

 

They thanked the warm woman (Jasper got a back-breaking cuddle) and headed up to meet their friend. Jasper lead the way and made a dramatic showing of waving his arms at her bedroom door. Cassie rolled her eyes, knocked, and grabbed the handle.

 

“Mina we- woah!” As she had pulled the door open, the sight inside stopped the breaths of every member of the group. Aminali… and a stranger… with their hands under each other’s clothes… Cassie blinked, her eyes darting between the pair and their group.

 

“Holy shit.” Jasper whispered, his eyes bulging out of his head.

 

The pair stared at them, frozen in place. The woman was clearly a dominant, strong but sinewy with long limbs under blue jeans and a slightly oversized band tee. Her black hair sprouted out of the back of her head in a high, long and dead-straight ponytail that rested between her shoulder blades.

 

“Y-your mum said you were… here.” Cassie explained lamely.

 

Aminali pulled away from the woman’s wandering hands and straightened her crop top,“Yep, it’s my room.” she replied, a little testily.

 

“She didn’t mention, uh-”

 

“She doesn’t know.”

 

“Ahh.”

 

The five of them stood in silence for a few incredibly awkward moments. Everyone except the woman on Aminali’s bed appeared visibly uncomfortable, surprisingly she remained lounged against the pillows with raised brows and a mischievous twinkle in her dark eyes.

 

“Guys… this is Lena.” Aminali finally announced, she flicked her braids over her shoulder self-consciously, “Lena… these are my friends.” she added.

 

“Hey.” Lena nodded at them confidently.

 

“Hi.” Cassie said, waggling her fingers weakly in place of a wave.

 

Jasper’s head flicked between them back and forth as he blurted, “For someone who loves gossip you managed to keep this quiet for a hell of a long time!” with strong indignation.

 

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t ready yet.”

 

Cassie couldn’t quite believe this was the Aminali she knew and loved, standing before them… embarrassed? Who knew it was possible for her to feel that emotion? This was a girl who revelled in scandal and revelations… She didn’t know her friend could keep a secret, let alone one this big.

 

Hanmi burst into the corridor behind them, “Wait! Don’t go in there!” she yelled louder than Cassie had ever heard her say anything.

 

“It’s okay, Mimi,” Aminali called, “they already saw.”

 

“Sorry, Mina.” Hanmi sighed dejectedly, reaching the doorway and leaning through it with a guilty expression.

 

“You knew that Aminali had found her mate and didn’t tell us?”

 

“You shouldn’t be forced to be open about your mating until you’re ready, Mina wasn’t.”

 

“It’s done now.” Aminali said decidedly, “Let’s move on and get some tea - I would kill for a custard cream right about now!” she shooed them out of her room and followed with Lena at her side.

 

They retired to one of the upper sitting rooms for the afternoon and did what they usually did when in a room together - nattered and chattered endlessly. Lena was incredibly quiet, Cassie noted, although she was unsure if that was due to being thrust into a group she knew little about with zero forewarning or if that was simply her personality. She did seem to be observing them though, Cassie got the impression she was making mental notes on each of them, filing away information in her mind. She had very intelligent eyes.

 

As the sky began to darken just a little the subs perked up from their slouched positions on the couches around the room.

 

“Shit, we have to get going before the patrols get doubled for the night.”

 

“Let us walk you to the door.”

 

Cassie wondered if that ‘us’ included Lena, would she be staying the night? Was that any of their business if she did? Who was she kidding, it wasn’t her business but that wouldn’t stop her wondering.

 

As they passed through the entranceway leading to the drive Jasper stumbled and gripped the wall with clammy hands.

 

“Jasper?” Karliah grabbed his waist to steady him, “You don’t look so good, what’s wrong?” she turned him to face her.

 

‘You don’t look so good’ was a slight understatement, he looked like he needed to be quarantined. His skin had turned ashy and his eyes drooping as though all the energy was being sucked out of him.

 

“I just… feel a bit sick…”

 

“Come back to ours, we’ll get you wrapped up warm with lots of water.” Cassie offered with a decisive nod from Karliah.

 

“‘kay…” He mumbled, letting himself sink back against Karliah’s chest.

 

“There’s probably something going around his pack house… Once one person gets sick everyone else follows…” Karliah suggested, although there was little belief in her voice… It made Cassie nervous to see her mate so concerned, there was definitely something she wasn’t understanding here but she nodded obediently and followed as Karliah half-carried him to her car, his feet a couple of inches from the ground.

Chapter Text

Every room they entered managed to contain more vampires.

 

More armed and angry vampires.

 

Markus began to wonder if they would eventually reach a room filled with cloning pods because he couldn’t quite believe just how many of the psychotic bastards were lurking around every corner. He could tell he wasn’t the only one growing exhausted, their group hadn’t had more than a thirty second break from fighting for their lives in hours. His back was streaked with small cuts and his joints ached from leaping around, trying to stay quick and nimble against the incredible speed of the literal walking dead.

 

They came to a crossroad-like divide of corridors and, due to his exhaustion, he picked the one with less doors to start with, only two.

 

The first room was surprisingly empty and they quickly moved on to the one at the end. Markus shoulder-barged the door with all his might and it slammed against the wall as it opened.

 

Inside, a huddle of men and women turned in unison to survey the scraggly group. There had to be at least eight vampires in the circle, all of them leapt forward at once.

 

~

 

The room was filled with growls, yelling and panting.

 

Vampires one, two and three were being kept busy by Ms Grey and having their limbs wrenched from their bodies by Ms Brown, her teeth snapping with a wet ferocity that reminded Markus of a blood-soaked bear trap.

 

He himself had two vampires diving and snarling at him and he trusted Ash and Malachai were handling the others, he couldn’t drag his concentration away to look and see, he was already struggling to keep up as it was, damn speedy vampires.

 

He continued to aim for the legs, swiping at their ankles and managing to bite a chunk of calf off of one. His head had already begun to hurt from trying to keep track of them. With a foolish lunge forward he managed to catch hold of one of them and rip his leg clean off at the hip, although this left him open to attack from the back, he took the chance to finish the job, killing the man who was screeching hysterically beneath him.

 

A glint of metal flashed by his throat but he was able to jerk away before it was sliced, biting at the hand and catching the ends of the woman’s fingers, causing her to cry out and fall back. He finally had a chance to glance around the room and take stock of how his comrades were doing.

 

As expected, Ash and Malachai were putting their officer training to good use, manoeuvring and executing the enemy almost flawlessly, although Markus could tell they were drained of energy and wouldn’t be able to keep up their tactics for long.

 

Ms Brown and Ms Grey had managed to kill one of their targets but the other two had unfortunately succeeded in splitting them up and forcing them to fight one-on-one.

 

Markus returned his attention to the woman circling him. With her knife-wielding hand limp, she struggled to fight back when he took the offensive, leaping at her with a bellowing growl that could have blown her hair back from her face. She was almost too easy to finish.

 

A yelp cut through the air, causing Markus’ head to whip round, as Ms Grey stumbled and her partner leapt over her, slashing her ear in the process. She was back on her feet quickly enough but it was clear her style of combat wasn’t compatible with vampires, she was built for speed but they were built for extreme speed. Ms Brown was on him in an instant, her jaws around his neck.

 

With her attacker locked into Ms Brown’s teeth, Ms Grey snatched the knife from his hand and tossed it away before he could use it to defend himself. He was dead in a mater of seconds, the skin of his neck punctured and barely connecting his head to his body any more. She was panting a little and Markus wondered, not for the first time, why she had been stuffed into the front line with the rest of them when she was clearly a talented strategist who could do far more damage from the shadows, she wasn’t a berserker, she was a rogue.

 

Vampire number two, apparently disgruntled at having lost the attention of Ms Brown, threw himself down onto her back but his weight wasn’t enough to knock her to the floor, she flung them over and gnashed at his face with her sharp teeth. He tried to jerk away but she pursued him low along the ground as he tried to shuffle away on his behind. Markus noted with a nauseas feeling that her limbs were moving slower than before, leaving a trail of glistening liquid along the ground. Her light fur was instantly dyed a dark and shocking red the moment it came into contact with the spreading blood. Ms Grey had darted forward to help but was too late.

 

He had got her. Markus could only focus on those words as he lunged forward to aid her as well, but he needn’t have bothered, Ms Brown ripped his neck out with her teeth and spat it across the room. His body fell limp, a combat knife falling from his hand with a loud clatter.

 

Every sound seemed too loud all of a sudden, now that their attackers were lying in pieces scattered about the room the quiet seemed so much more intense. Ms Brown gave the room a once over with her eyes, her shoulders heaving with panted breaths and her canines bared.

 

Unfortunately once she noted there were no enemies left, that was where her fighting energy finished, she dragged herself to the nearest wall and braced herself against it. Her side was dripping blood like a leaky pipe. The others gathered around her quickly, Markus was relieved to note that no one else appeared to have sustained any serious injuries.

 

Her blood-soaked fur slowly shifted into wet skin stretched over thick muscles and she pulled herself up into a wonky sitting position with her back against the wall. Her face was pale below a blonde pixie cut that was slicked to her forehead with sweat and she was already visibly struggling to take deep breaths, she would not be making her way any deeper into the fortress in her state. Nevertheless, she was already tearing strips of material from a throw that had been discarded on the floor and wrapping them around her torso, tying them tightly to stem the bleeding.

 

Markus nodded to the door and Ash ran over and pushed it closed with his nose before falling back on his hind legs to keep watch beside it. Malachai joined him.

 

Ms Grey and Markus had apparently shared the same thought as they shifted to their human forms side-by-side until both crouched in front of Ms Brown, Ash and Malachai and the door at their backs. Even in human form both were covered in scratches, blood oozing from various spots on their bodies except now they could see the bruises too, purple and black splotches crawling over their skin painfully. Most werewolves shared similarities between their wolf and human form, hair colour similar to fur colour and their eyes being identical of course, but Markus was surprised to see Ms Grey genuinely resembled a wolf, from her face shape to the size of her body and the way she held herself. She didn’t bother to look at him, her focus was on Ms Brown, where Markus’ conscience reminded him his own focus should be.

 

He looked to the blonde woman, “You can’t go any further like this.” he stated quietly, he could tell from her lack of a shocked expression that she was well aware of her situation. Instead she continued layering her makeshift bandages around her waist and knotting them messily.

 

“It’s fine, I can stay here.” She grumbled, surprising him with an American accent. “You saw where those vampires were heading before, the main battle is clearly taking place down that big staircase to the North. Go and finish this with the rest of them.”

 

“I don’t think we should leave you alone though, I wish we could leave a radio or something with you.”

 

“I can handle myself.”

 

“I don’t deny that, but you are also still losing blood and your face looks fuckin’ feverish.” He looked hopefully to the woman with the wild black hair.

 

“I’ll stay with her.” Announced Ms Grey, “But you lot had better come back for us.”

 

“Of course, I promise.” He said with every ounce of sincerity inside of him. “What’re your names?”

 

“I’m Renee, from the Silken Furs.”

 

The blonde woman tilted her head back against the wall and took a few shallow breaths, she looked ready to puke.

 

“Alexa,” She finally groaned, “Lunar Warriors.”

 

~

 

“Something’s bothering you.”

 

It wasn’t a question, but Sam knew Charles was expecting an answer.

 

He sighed, laying his head in his hand where it was propped up on the wooden island, “There’s a lot going on at the moment.” he said almost defensively, “All of our officers are off fighting, including my mate, none of us are allowed out of the house and I’m the only one who can’t sneak out, Jasper came down with some phantom illness today while he was at Aminali and Hanmi’s house…”

 

“And yet, I still get the feeling it’s not any of those things I’m sensing sitting in the pit of your stomach.” Charles noted casually, standing from his stool and crossing the kitchen to put the kettle on.

 

Sam sighed again, this time in resignation, this man was far too good, “Timber Fang are getting really angry about Brandon’s death, they think our pack is hiding something from them or not making an effort to solve the case.”

 

Charles didn’t turn around to ask, “You’re worried about the other pack?”

 

“They could do something stupid if they were angry enough,” Sam explained quietly, watching his friend pull out his mug and a single tea bag. “our pack has sent its best fighters away for The Council…”

 

“Wh-”

 

“Markus knows it was me.” Sam blurted.

 

Charles paused and the only sound in the room for a solid five seconds was the kettle bubbling.

 

“Okay,” He said finally, turning to glance at Sam over his shoulder, “is he angry?”

 

“Yes, but he said he wouldn’t tell.”

 

“Do you believe him?”

 

“Right now… yes.” Sam mumbled, it was hard not to believe your own mate anyway but Markus ad actually seemed genuine, no facade and no jokes and no bravado. Sam did believe him, even if it was probably foolish to do so. Charles nodded and returned to his tea-making, adding sugar to the cup. Sam continued, “But if Timber Fang keep putting pressure on our pack and it turns out he’s told someone they might crack and toss me to the literal wolves.”

 

“I won’t let that happen, Sam.” Charles announced with steel-like sincerity. No room for doubt in his voice.

 

“What if someone works it out?”

 

“If they haven’t worked it out by now, I don’t think they will.” He added the boiling water to the mug and zipped to the fridge to collect the milk, his image a blur. “They’re fools, blinded by their prejudice towards you. But that weakness of theirs will work in your favour, you have nothing to worry about.”

 

He removed the tea bag and placed the steaming mug gently in front of Sam’s trembling hands.

 

“I can’t help worrying. I can’t sleep properly because I can’t stop thinking about it.” He began to ramble, refusing to look Charles in the eyes as he spilled his guts in the form of words. “And the worst part is I don’t even feel guilty for the actual crime, I would do it again if someone hurt Cassie like that and I know it. But I’ve put the pack in danger and-”

 

“Sam.” Charles interrupted quietly, leaning down to bring his head in close, “Breathe.” he took the back of Sam’s head gently in his large hand and turned him to look into his eyes.

 

“Y-yeah.” Sam whispered. His cheeks began to heat and he wanted to hide inside of his shirt, his stupid body was reacting to Charles’ stupid handsome face and his stupid angelic hair. His mate was in grave danger and he was blushing over this vampire touching him. He deserved to feel crappy.

 

“It will be fine,” Charles reassured, he didn’t acknowledge Sam’s pinkness, “I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise.” he stroked Sam’s hair twice with his thumb and returned to his seat on the other side of the table.

 

“Now, let’s take your mind off of all this, what’re you reading at the moment?”

 

Sam was very grateful, not only for the change in topic but for Charles giving him some distance, even if it was only the kitchen island. Plus he was right, Charles wouldn’t let Timber Fang hurt him, at least until Markus got back for him to hide behind. And he was coming back, Sam refused to think otherwise.

 

~

 

The three boys had managed to scrabble and drag their trembling butts to an alcove metres from the heart of the battle, Alexa had been right about that staircase, although they had had to fight their way down it tooth and nail. Clangs and bangs and growls filled the air around them now, the real fight was near. With a deep collective breath, they shifted back to their human forms, butt naked and covered in cuts, bruises and debris.

 

For a moment, the trio sat in a daze, their bodies revelling in the novelty of simply sitting still. Although their minds couldn’t rest, constantly replaying the last half hour. Markus let his eyes slide shut for a moment, they were going to make it, they were going to go back for Alexa and Renee, they were all going to go home to their families, he was going to see Sam…

 

Malachai took a deep shuddering breath that grabbed Markus’ attention and opened his eyes, but his friend wasn’t focused on him, he was looking at Ash as he announced, “Ash, I love you so fucking much.” with a voice full of fear. He grabbed and squeezed the slightly shorter boy’s face in his hands, bringing their foreheads together. “I just… I need you to know that… Just in c-”

 

“Don’t say it, I love you too, so much, but don’t say that.” Ash had tears in his eyes but they didn’t spill. “Because if you say it, it means you’re thinking it and you’re not allowed to think we’re not going to make it out of this.” He smashed their faces together in a passionate kiss and Markus couldn’t take his eyes away for the first few seconds, the shock holding him solid.

 

“Guys,” He said. The pair broke apart and looked to him with mixtures of curious and sheepish expressions. “I know we don’t have much time but I have to say this,” He gritted his teeth and shut his eyes for a moment before staring at them both head-on, “Sam, our omega, he’s my mate.” their eyes and mouths fell wide. “He’s my mate and I love him and I’m such a fucking idiot for not marking him and just… just fucking loving him… If I die he-”

 

“Markus!” Ash lunged forward and grabbed him by the ear. “The both of you need to get a fucking grip, we are going to get out of here.” He took Malachai’s ear as well and pulled all three of their heads together. “The only thing lowering our chances of survival is sitting here blubbering, we need to get out there and kick butt!”

 

“And when we do, we stop being fucking cowards and accept our mates for who they are.” Malachai added with hard eyes, his brows set in a look of determination.

 

Ash nodded firmly with gritted teeth and Markus gave them both the most grateful look he could manage, “On three, we charge.” he whispered.

 

His two best friends in the entire world nodded in unison.

 

A roar pierced the air, quickly followed by a thud and a crunch and a chorus of growls; the boys winced.

 

“One.” Said Malachai.

 

“Two.” Said Ash.

 

“Three.” Said Markus.

Chapter Text

Green leaves. Crunchy twigs. Soft earth with that comforting warm smell.

 

The air was still, the temperature mild, not a sound to be heard.

 

Everything as it should be. Everything the same as it was before. Normal.

 

It didn’t seem right for everything to still be as it was when they left.

 

As their truck pulled up the drive of their pack house, Markus couldn’t force his brain to believe he was home. He was still alive.

 

The final battle in the main hall had been horrifying, Markus knew he would never forget some of the things he saw in that room. Far too many people didn’t make it back, including a large number of those from Scarlett Moon. They would have to send a team back to that room, to collect the bodies, to wash the blood from the walls before an unsuspecting human could stumble across the carnage. But right now he could breathe and rest and focus on his soul still clinging to his body.

 

Those in the car around him were silent and he was grateful for it, he wasn’t just physically exhausted, he was mentally so as well. Conversation seemed far out of his skill set just then.

 

He was sat beside the window, leaning his head against it and staring out at the far-too-tranquil world.

 

Since stumbling out of The Council’s fortress, time felt slowed, yanking him back hard enough to give him whiplash after the hundred-mile-an-hour fight-or-flight horror show that had been their battle with The Council.

 

As the pack house came into view he finally allowed himself to peer over at his fellow survivors: Malachai was sprawled on the opposite side with Ash curled in his lap, both of their bodies were littered with bruises of varying sizes. Malachai’s frohawk was completely misshapen with a wild curl springing out of the top defiantly and his dark eyes were half-lidded. Ash’s thick brown hair, normally sat up in a small quiff, had been flattened to his forehead, as limp and lifeless as he was snoozing against Malachai’s chest. There were two more officers in the boot seats and two up front, none of them spoke or looked at one another.

 

The car was parked with a jolt around the back of the house but no one moved to leave. The silence held in the air like fragile crystal, one loud breath and it would crack and their peace would be ruined. Five more vehicles pulled up around them, but they too held their passengers inside.

 

Ultimately, it was their eagerly awaiting pack family that roused them from their confinement. A bustling and rumbling crowd stormed out of the house in a flood of bodies big and small, running to the vehicles with matching expressions of concern and fear. Everyone wanted their friends and family to be the ones who made it back. Every twinge, every off-feeling, every bout of flu would have been analysed and panicked over while they were away. You never knew how your mate’s injury could affect you. He couldn’t imagine how stress-inducing it must be to have your mate so far and be waiting for an awful feeling in your stomach to tell you if they were still alive.

 

Markus sucked in a deep breath through his nose but it did nothing to calm the panic bubbling in his stomach, he sighed the air back out and pushed his door open to march towards the group, meeting them before they could reach the cars.

 

“Please don’t crowd the vehicles, our officers would greatly appreciate some space at this time.” He called tiredly, spreading his arms to emphasise his point.

 

The crowd stopped a foot from the vehicles and the rest of the officers crept out slowly, some hobbled and some with noticeable winces.

 

“My son,” His father bellowed over the heads of those of the front two rows, “I received your message, you were successful!”

 

A cheer rang out from the group but it didn’t quite match his father’s powerful voice, these people were too busy scanning the warriors appearing from the cars, searching for their beloved ones. Markus couldn’t blame them, he had done the same when the lucky wolves that were still breathing had scraped themselves off the floor of the great hall and dragged themselves out onto the lawns at dawn. His eyes had ached from running over every haggard and drooping face, searching for familiarity, counting off names in his head.

 

Now his eyes only searched for one face. Big blue eyes. Fluffy brown bed-head. Freckles absolutely everywhere. He was somewhere in the crowd of spectators and Markus was determined to find him.

 

A curl of fluffy hair appeared at the elbow of an older woman scanning the survivors with her hands clasped together and he dove forward, parting people like the red sea until Sam’s heart-shaped face appeared and suddenly nothing else existed.

 

Markus reached into the squash of bodies, throwing his hands out and grabbing Sam’s oversized shirt, pulling him out of the group.

 

The entire pack, what was left of them, stared openly when he pulled him up into the air, one hand around his waist and the other supporting his neck and attacked his mate’s mouth with his own impatiently. Sam’s body tensed all over for only a moment before melting into Markus’, their forms fitting together like the pieces of an incredibly easy puzzle. No kiss they had ever shared before could match this one, he had never appreciated the taste of his mate with all of his being before.

 

The reaction of the crowd was of no importance to Markus, he slid his hands over Sam’s soft skin, tasted his warm mouth and sucked in lungfuls of his addictive scent. Nothing had ever felt so incredible. Walking away from their battle with The Council alive and victorious paled in comparison to Sam’s precious and tiny frame wrapped in his arms, clinging to him just as desperately as he was gripping him against his body like a life preserver.

 

Pulling apart very, very, very slowly, Markus drank in Sam’s flushed cheeks over pale freckled skin, shining blue eyes blinking in surprise, his permanent chocolate-brown bed-head curling around his plump cheeks and small ears. All the ingredients needed for a single serving of perfect.

 

Markus shifted him to his side carefully, supporting his butt with one arm and letting his legs dangle either side of his hip, and turned his attention back to the hundreds of pack members watching with a wide spectrum of expressions.

 

 “Scarlett Moon,” He bellowed with a wide smile, “greatest pack in the world, I present to you my mate: Sam.”

 

With one arm he hoisted Sam up until his bottom rested on his shoulder, displaying him to all with eyes. Sam’s face had turned as red as their pack name although it was only visible for the three seconds before he whipped his hands up to hide behind.

 

Markus laughed freely for the first time in far too long, “Don’t cover your face, love. Alpha mates should be proud to be admired by their pack.”

 

“Markus.” Sam mumbled, managing to scrub his hands down until they only clung to his mouth.

 

“I know, love, but one last thing - I need to apologise and you all need to hear it.” He dropped Sam back to his side and his little mate buried his face in Markus’ shirt, this did nothing to stop the words that Markus knew needed to be spoken. He continued to speak at a loud enough level that every pack member would hear him, “I did not treat my mate the way he should have been from the moment we connected, I am ashamed of my behaviour and I will never be able to compensate for what I’ve done. I apologise, deeply and profusely, to my mate and promise to treat him as nothing less than my soul mate for ever more.”

 

He could feel Sam’s heart hammering against him and took it as a good sign, even if his head was still half hidden in Markus’ shirt.

 

“I demand that you all treat him no less than what he is, your next alpha mate.” He ordered with a grin so large it was painful on his dry lips and bruised face.

 

~

 

Exhilarating warmth spread through Sam’s body like an explosion of glitter, clinging to all of his organs and blinding him from the inside. It was made up of an array of colours, so many emotions swirling together like a rainbow. Excitement and embarrassment. Adoration and apprehension. Solace and self-consciousness.

 

Hundreds of pairs of eyes watched his every move as his entire body was balanced on Markus’ hip while his handsome, and more importantly very much alive, mate added to his astonishing announcement with a far more sombre speech to the confused crowd.

 

“I know you all have loved ones you need to reunite with so I will keep this as short as I can. Thank you to all of the officers who joined us and fought The Council, who aided us in ending them. Thank you to those who waited patiently at home for us to come back. Thank you to those who patched us up on our journey home. But most importantly, thank you to those who gave their lives fighting to protect our pack. If it weren’t for the sacrifices made by our brave warriors, we would have been enslaved and held as living blood donors for the rest of our days. We owe them everything. A moment of silence, please?”

 

The crowd bowed their heads for a few seconds where all that could be heard was the tweeting of birds and the whistle of the wind.

 

Markus ended the silence with a loud and calm, “Thank you.” before squeezing Sam’s waist tighter and adding, “Father, I will debrief you in full tomorrow but for tonight my attention will be solely on my mate.”

 

He nodded in a short and simple way that left no room for disagreement and divided the crowd with confident strides. Sam clung to his shoulder as he was was whisked away to the house.

 

~

 

Soft blonde tufts of hair rested around the edges of Jasper’s pouting face, his eyes were closed and his cheeks puffy. The urge to brush the strands back behind his ears had Alexa’s fingers twitching around the rims of her chair. She rolled closer and pressed the back of her hand against his cheek, heat radiated from his bundled and blanketed body.

 

“Jasper.” She whispered. “Honey.”

 

His eyes rolled a little, the lids lifting slightly to reveal the whites. He mumbled nonsense and wriggled a little in his straight-jacket of wool.

 

“Good boy, come on.” She poked his nose, right at the tip, and he managed to peel one eye open.

 

“Mmm…” He moaned, “M’tired.”

 

Alexa chuckled and it sent a sharp shooting pain through her side, “Ah! Fuck!” she huffed, struggling to take a deep breath again. Jasper jerked up a little, much wider awake after hearing his mate swear.

 

“Wha- ‘l-lexa?” His glazed gaze dragged over her, over the chair, over the thick dressings layered along her torso. “You’re back…” He whispered, “You’re hurt…”

 

“It’s fine, honey.”

 

He struggled against his blanket bindings like a seal flapping back and forth on a rock. His face full of despair.

 

“Honey, relax, it’s okay.” She said as soothingly as she could, resting her hand on his shoulder and pushing him back against the pillows gently. She was inappropriately pleased that she was still so much stronger than him even in her sorry state.

 

“You’re hurt! I knew something was wrong!” He sniffed, his lips trembling and tears filling his bright eyes.

 

“It was a small… stabbing.” She explained.

 

“Small and stabbing aren’t words that fit together.” Jasper grumbled, although his puffy-just-woken-up face took some of the edge out of his disapproval. It was very hard to take him seriously when he looked so cute.

 

“I’ll be fine in a few more days-”

 

“-The wheelchair-” He interrupted, his wide, tear-filled eyes roving over the metal frame of her chair.

 

“Temporary.” She reassured him with an outstretched hand, untucking his own from the covers and squeezing it, partly to show him the strength she still held and partly because she craved the feel of his skin so badly but didn’t have the energy to hold him in her arms fully. “I’ve had trouble taking full breaths while the wound is still new and my body is completely drained while all my energy is dedicated to healing. I just need rest and the chair was the only way the doctor could get me to stop trying to drag myself around against his orders.”

 

She didn’t bother to include the other advice the doctor had given her, that only the full-time chair use was temporary, part-time use may stay for life. Alexa knew Jasper would take it far worse than she had but chronic pain and debilitating breathing problems were a hell of a lot better than death in her books. When she had time to explain everything fully he would understand, she was sure of it.

 

“I knew something was wrong.” He mumbled, “I could feel it.”

 

“Karliah told me. I’m sorry you were put through that.”

 

“I’m so glad you’re gonna be okay.” He gasped out like he had been punched in the stomach, his eyes oversized as though he were in shock.

 

It seemed she wasn’t the only one who couldn’t quite believe her luck. It didn’t feel real that it was all over, every quiet moment since they left The Council’s building she had this awful sensation she’d hear the snarl of just one more vampire, one more bloodsucker that wanted to rip her into tiny chunks of dogmeat.

 

But she was home now, she could unclench, she could sleep.

 

She examined the bed, calculating that there was easily enough room for her to squash herself in.

 

“Move over,” She ordered with a grin, “I could do with a nice long nap with my mate beside me.”

 

 

~

 

Markus plopped Sam onto his bed carefully, handling him like a delicate doll.

 

“Sam.” He murmured, tucking a short curl behind his ear so gently it made Sam blush. The touch was far more intimate than he was used to.

 

Sam shivered before replying, “Yes, sir?”

 

“As hot as it is to hear you call me ‘sir’, you don’t need to.”

 

“Okay, sir.” Sam whispered nervously.

 

“Markus, call me Markus.”

 

“Markus.”

 

“Or jackass, I would deserve it if you called me that.”

 

Sam laughed weakly but it broke the tension, his body relaxing just enough that he no longer felt as though he was going to snap in half at any moment.

 

“I’m so sorry for what I’ve done and I’m sorry that I’ll never be able to make it up to you but I promise I’m going to keep trying until the day I die.”

 

“It’s okay.”

 

“No, it’s not. Can’t you try to act mad at me? I know you must be so hurt and angry on the inside, can you just show it on the outside?”

 

“I can’t be mad right now, I’m sorry.” Sam smiled sheepishly and shrugged,“I’ve spent a week worried senseless about you. Now you’ve come back alive and announced me as your mate all in the space of ten minutes. Maybe in a week’s time I’ll be physically able to generate some frustration with you but right now I’m just too happy.”

 

“So, I shouldn’t ruin the moment?”

 

“If you can manage that.”

 

“Yes, sir.” Markus said with a wink.

 

He reached forward, grabbing Sam’s shirt and pulling them against each other.

 

“Samuel soon-to-be Murphy,” Markus began with a lopsided grin and Sam shivered at the thought of taking his mate’s family name. “would you please give me permission to mark you?”

 

“Yes.” Sam squeaked, although his muscles were bunching again as the tension overtook his body from waves of anxiety flooding through him.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Mmhmm.”

 

“Can I take your clothes off?”

 

“Only if you take yours off too.” He mumbled as he fumbled his fingers together.

 

Markus grinned, “No problem.” he replied and shirked off his jacket followed by his t-shirt and combat trousers, dropping them all in a pile to the floor. His taut muscles proudly displayed… well, everywhere that Sam could lay his eyes. Markus never usually took his clothes off when they were intimate, it was always Sam who had to bare his skin to Markus’ touches.

 

His body also wasn’t just layered with muscles, he had cuts and bruises, all at different healing stages, creeping around his arms, legs and back. If they were causing him any bother he didn’t show it.

 

Sam watched with wide eyes and his lips pressed together with anticipation when only one item remained. When the boxers dropped a soft gasp slipped out of him. He had seen it before but not for a long time… had it gotten bigger?

 

This reaction apparently pleased Markus and he gave a proud wink.

 

“Your turn.” Was all the warning he gave before he began tugging on Sam’s trouser legs, dragging them to his ankles and flinging them over his shoulder. The rest of his clothes quickly followed, even his underwear was pulled off hastily, it seemed Markus had an egg timer counting down from a minute inside of his head the way he was rushing every button on Sam’s shirt.

 

Now that Sam was naked too Markus still seemed to have his pedal to the metal, his hands grasping for him desperately, touching every inch he could.

 

“Wait.” Sam said firmly, pressing his hand to Markus’ bare chest. Markus paused with a pout. “What’s going on? Why are you going so fast?”

 

Markus sat back on his heels with an anxious expression, “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be un-romantic, I swear.” he sighed and rubbed his hands over his forehead and into his hair, “I just had a moment, on the mission, before we made the final push, this moment of complete clarity where I realised how stupid I’d been to not mark you as soon as I realised you were my mate. I’ve been stewing ever since on that thought of all the time I’ve lost because of it. If something were to happen to one of us, I’d want to know that we got every single moment together that we could.”

 

“And we will,” Sam didn’t know where his calm and confident delivery was coming from but he planned to cling to it as long as he could, “You have all night to mark me, that part you don’t need to rush.” he still blushed after the words had vacated his mouth, regardless of how well he had spoken them.

 

“Thank you, love.” Markus whispered, peppering soft kisses along his forehead and down to the tip of his nose. Sam couldn’t help noticing the way his eyes drifted to the scar running through his eyebrow when he pulled away, he instantly felt a poking sensation in his tummy, did it bother Markus?

 

“It’ll fade more…” He mumbled awkwardly.

 

“It’s already healed so well! Goddess, I’m glad that psycho didn’t get your eye.”

 

“It’s ugly though.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous, you could never look ugly! It looks like the scar of someone I wouldn’t want to fight, which is good, it’ll keep you safe!”

 

Sam had to laugh, he had a moron for a mate and he loved him far too much.

 

~

 

Sam was laughing, that was a good sign. He was relaxing. Markus had been sure he’d freaked him out with his desperation to put his mark on him. He was filled with the sensation that he was behind, that time was running out.

 

He leaned forward and stroked his fingers from Sam’s ankles, along his calves and up to his velvet soft thighs. They spread just a little and he took the excuse to push them open even further, staking his claim to the space between them. Sam was already at half-mast but Markus needed them to be on the same level, he was rock-hard already, Sam’s pretty little body causing such a surge of arousal in him he was surprised he wasn’t light-headed.

 

He grazed his fingers over Sam’s dick, tracing from his balls to the tip and then gripping him firmly, and a shiver ran through his teeny body. But he said nothing, watching Markus’ movements in utter silence, his lips pressed together nervously.

 

“You’ll tell me if you want me to stop, won’t you?”

 

Sam nodded.

 

“You are in control as much as I am.”

 

Sam nodded less certainly.

 

“Sam, I’m yours.”

 

Sam blushed.

 

“You already know that I’m yours.” He mumbled awkwardly, “Omegas are hand-me-downs for alpha parents and children.”

 

“You are no one’s property, least of all my father.” Markus growled low in his throat, “You are the next alpha mate, so starting now you get to treat the rest of us like plebs.”

 

“Maybe I’ll just treat you like a pleb.”

 

“That’s fair.” Markus agreed with a shrug and a teasing grin.

 

His hands slowly moved again, easing Sam into his massaging touches carefully so as not to spook him. The smaller boy’s breathing was deepening as he was stroked, his cock growing in gentle jerks.

 

“Ah-hah!” Sam gasped, his member twitching in Markus’ palm. He continued without hesitation, gentle pulling and stroking, and Sam managed to contain his soft moans with tight lips.

 

Once it was standing fully to attention, he tightened his grip, drawing a squeak and tremble from Sam that sent a shot of pleasure down his own spine.

 

Markus shuffled his body down, lining his face up with it and running a slow, wide-tongued lick from the tip to Sam’s balls, feeling them shiver just a little when he grazed past them. He didn’t allow his tongue to pause, running it along his taint and finally to his tight pink hole, squeezing handfuls of flesh as he spread Sam’s cheeks.    

 

Sam gasped softly and grabbed the sheets either side of his hips.

 

His tongue began to curl against him, softening and opening him just a little, Sam responded with beautiful mewling sounds that had Markus’ balls clenching.

 

“Oh! Hah… Oh!” Sam whined.

 

The more Markus licked and lapped at the sensitive pink skin, the tighter Sam’s legs curled around his neck, locking him in place. Markus wasn’t complaining, he was glad to feel his mate accepting his advances, enjoying the stimulation. His fingers crept down to meet his mouth, trailing along his soft skin until he could press his index finger gently against the hole just below his tongue.

 

Sam’s thighs tensed by Markus’ ears, freezing his finger before it could push through the ring. He pulled his mouth away by a centimetre or two to ask, “Are you okay, baby?”

 

“Y-yes.” Sam gasped.

 

Markus wasn’t going to ask twice, he leant across to his bedside drawer for his small bottle of lube and squeezed a blob between this thumb and index finger, rubbing them together to spread the slick liquid. He returned his index finger to Sam’s hole and pressed slowly, slowly, slowly until it slid inside, then pulled it back and repeated the action, digging deeper with every push.

 

When he could get his finger knuckle deep he added a second and once that one was diving in and out with easy wet sounds he brought a third into the action. Sam had begun to make quiet whimpering noises that only encouraged Markus’ fingers to spread him further and further.

 

His insides were soft, supple and easy to stretch but Markus continued until he could be sure he was opened enough. When he was confident beyond any doubt his mate was ready to take him he pulled himself up to gaze down on his beautiful body, splayed on the bed languidly.

 

“You ready, baby?” He whispered.

 

Sam bit his lip and nodded with half-lidded eyes.

 

Markus’ wolf was pacing impatiently inside of him, he wanted his mate, he wanted to claim him, mark him, fill him with more pleasure than his body could handle.

 

“I love you so much.”

 

Sam could only make eye contact for a second before his pupils darted away and his face flushed. It was progress. It wasn’t his fault that he had been conditioned beyond submissiveness, to be embarrassed to look others in the eyes. Markus would change that, he promised himself. Words wouldn’t be enough though, he needed to show him through actions. His mate was someone to be respected and from now on he would treat him with respect for everyone to see and replicate.

 

“I love you too.” Sam mumbled, although his eyes were still downcast.

 

Markus took his chin with one finger and tilted it up, bring Sam’s big blue eyes with it.

 

“I also respect you and would do anything for you.” He said with utmost sincerity. “But I’m not just going to keep saying it, I’m going to do it, you’ll see it every day from now on, I promise.”

 

“Do it.” Sam said with the slightest hint of a cheeky grin.

 

A wide grin of his own beamed back, “Yes, sir.” he chuckled and pressed Sam’s legs open just a little wider to fit himself even closer into the space between them, using one hand to line himself up with his entrance and pushing in tentatively, watching his mate’s expression for even a hint of discomfort. He is so small, Markus couldn’t fathom how it was all going to fit.

 

Inch by inch he slid in and Sam’s brows pulled together but with a look of concentration rather than distress. His inner muscles were clinging to Markus, testing his willpower tremendously as he wrestled with the urge to ram him into the mattress, to feel more of the soft heat.

 

He continued pushing in, almost painfully slowly.

 

Sam let out a slow breath with pinched lips and then a gasp when Markus stopped halfway and began to pull back again. He peered up at Markus questioningly.

 

“Patience. You’re too little for me to shove it all in at once, you’ll get split in half!” Markus explained with a cocky smile.

 

“Who is responsible for your enormous ego?”

 

“The real question is who is responsible for my enormous-”

 

“Markus!” Sam yelped.

 

He laughed to himself and slammed the rest of the way in, if his miniature mate thought he could handle the whole thing he was going to get it.

 

“Aaah!” Sam cried out, his legs trembling for a few moments as he adjusted.

 

Meanwhile, Markus had to fight to keep his eyes from crossing, he was so tight. He paused to get himself together, to pull all of his focus into not cumming immediately.

 

A soft whine almost destroyed that focus completely. Did his mate know the intensity of the arousal he felt when he made noises like that?

 

Apparently not as he followed the whine with a whimpered, “Please, Markus.” that had Markus’ balls tightening almost painfully.

 

“You,” He growled, “are too sexy for your own good.”

 

Sam blinked his round and innocent eyes and Markus’ hips pistoned into action of their own accord, slamming Sam into the covers with the force of his thrusts alone. He hadn’t meant to lose control, his mate was just so cute, and Sam certainly wasn’t complaining. He cried out with loud moans from the first thrust, his brows pulled together and his mouth hanging open.

 

Their bodies naturally curled around each other as Markus found his pace, Sam’s thin legs circling Markus’ waist and Markus’ chest dropping to be inches from Sam’s.

 

“Aah! Aah! Aaaaah!” Sam squeaked out with the rhythm of his pounding. His tiny hands scrabbled to find a hold in the sheets but after sliding around sweatily for a few seconds he wrapped them around Markus’ forearms tightly.

 

His reaction only spurred Markus’ desperation to sink his canines into Sam’s soft, freckled neck. He growled and sped up his thrusts, drawing louder and more wretched sounds from Sam. They were harmonised with the hot squelching sounds of his dick pulling in and out of Sam’s lubed hole, seamlessly sliding in and out.

 

There wasn’t much time left, Markus was going to blow. He grabbed Sam’s cock and began to stroke it messily. Sam’s stomach muscles visibly clenched and his chest lifted off the bed slightly, his mouth falling fully open and his eyes scrunching shut.

 

Maybe it was a mate thing, maybe it was that wanton expression, either way Markus could sense that Sam was on the edge. It was time. He let his torso fall to extinguish the small and sweaty gap between them and latched his mouth to the pale skin in the crux of Sam’s neck. He mouthed at the area first, wetting and preparing it before finding the spot he wanted, where everyone would see his mark and know who he belonged to, and bit down roughly.

 

An incredible strength seemed to surge through Sam’s body in reaction to the bite as his limbs bound Markus to him in a steel-like embrace while a broken scream poured into Markus’ collar bone. But Markus wasn’t in the state of mind to notice the iron grip holding him as pleasure exploded through his body, spreading through every vein, tingling over every inch of his skin. Somehow his hips were still managing to jerk, albeit without rhythm or much power behind the thrusts, right up until he released deep inside of Sam’s tightness. His brain short-circuited from the ecstasy that had flooded him. His mind filled with nothing but the sight, sent, sound and feeling of his mate all around him, the only thing that mattered in his world was Sam. His mate, his baby, his love. He had never heard Sam make so much noise, the fact that the noises he was hollering into Markus’ ear were so dirty and desperate added another rippling layer of sexiness to Markus’ already intense orgasm. He couldn’t have told you his own name in that moment, a moment that seemed to last for hours.

 

With gasping breaths their bodies collapsed into the bed.

 

Markus rolled onto his side, dragging Sam’s body with him with what little strength he had left in his limbs. Sam’s eyes lolled in his head as he tried to focus on Markus’ face, pure exhaustion clouding his face.

 

“Sleep, love.” Markus mumbled, dotting soft and feeble kisses along his freckles until his eyes slid completely closed, his long, dark lashes resting on plump freckled cheeks.

 

He watched Sam sleep for as long as he could hold his own drooping lids open, desperate not to miss another moment with his mate, he had wasted far too much time already.

Chapter Text

Warm and gentle fingers traced light lines along Sam’s bare back.

 

He had been awake for a while but had no reason to break the tranquil aura of the room. The bed beneath him was soft, the sheets clean except for the small… mess he had made last night. A wave of warmth ran through Sam at the thought, last night had been the most magical night of his life.

 

A messy and rushed knock at the bedroom door dragged Sam’s eyes half-open.

 

“Come in.” Markus’ voice rumbled into the back of Sam’s neck.

 

Sam knew that normally he would feel self-conscious being naked in front of literally anyone but lying beneath his mate with his lower half covered with a blanket suddenly seemed like perfectly enough modesty for him. If Markus wanted access to his skin, to touch and play with him at his pleasure, nothing seemed more important.

 

A young man entered the room but Sam barely glanced at him with a flick of his eyes before letting his lids fall shut again and burying his face in the pillow beneath him, whatever this man had come in to say it would have nothing to do with him.

 

“An arrest had been made, sir.” The man panted out.

 

“Does it look like that is something that would be at the top of our priority lists right now?” Markus drawled.

 

Sam very nearly beamed when he said ‘our’, what a lovesick fool he was!

 

The man could not be shooed though, “Someone confessed to the murder of that Timber Fang prisoner.” he continued.

 

He had Sam’s attention now but he still didn’t stir or move, he simply listened intently.

 

“Who?” Markus asked sternly.

 

“One of those vampire ambassadors.”

 

Sam’s eyes snapped open, his mind instantly reeling back to a conversation he had had only days ago in the kitchen with Charles, a conversation in which he had expressed his fear of Timber Fang and their anger at Scarlett Moon’s inability to find Brandon’s killer.

 

“I need to go.” He stammered, pulling himself up and rolling out of the bed to the side the messenger wouldn’t be able to see him, scooping up his discarded clothes and pulling them on haphazardly.

 

Markus dismissed the man at the door and followed Sam to the opposite side of the bed, lying on his side with a curious expression.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“Charles.” Sam muttered, zipping his fly hurriedly.

 

“What?”

 

“It’s Charles, I know it, he’s confessing to protect me.”

 

He had dashed out of the door before Markus’ heels touched the carpet.

 

~

 

Protesters from Timber Fang were huddled in a group around forty-strong outside the justice office and its connected prison with placards and raised voices as their weapons.

 

There was a clear leader, a wide man with thinning hair and ears that could be used to hang coats on, his voice bellowed above all of the others, firing them up with a seemingly-endless speech about the evils of vampires. He never seemed to stop for air, his tirade simply ran on continuously as though it were on loop and his mouth was powered with those special ‘long-life’ batteries Sam saw advertised on TV all the time.

 

“-and so the same pack which demanded- that’s right! DEMANDED our help to eradicate THEIR vampire problem now wishes to hold OUR aggressor in THEIR prison! Did Brandon get to be held at home? Or was he dragged away to this very prison? If they have the right to imprison their so-called enemies, we should be allowed to as well! Have Scarlett Moon learned nothing of the dangers and the atrocities committed by vampires? How many of us have to give our lives to these bloodsuckers?”

 

Sam did his best to block out the raucous rambling and avoid eye contact with the group but they all glared at him from over their signs as he hurried past.

 

He approached the door of the office, a small twinge of nerves pulled at his stomach as he wondered if he may be turned away by the guards outside. The pair stood either side of the closed door with matching bored and grumpy expressions.

 

Once Sam was within arms distance the woman on the left gave him a small nod and greeted him with a simple, “Morning, Alpha Mate.”

 

He paused and blinked for a few moments. Her words didn’t translate as English at first. Before he could think of something to say in response she opened the door for him and he scurried through skittishly.

 

“Can I help you, alpha mate?”

 

Sam froze again, his brain struggling to process the respectful question. He turned slowly on his heel to face the senior officer who had stood behind his desk and was watching him curiously.

 

In all the times he had breezed through the justice office never once had someone noticed or questioned him. If they had he would never have been capable of committing the murder his friend was now locked up for.

 

“Um, yes… please.” He attempted to stand a little straighter as he spoke, “I would like to see the prisoner?”

 

“Which one, alpha mate?”

 

“The vampire who confessed to murder this morning.”

 

“I apologise, alpha mate, but you’re too late.”

 

Sam’s stomach squeezed what little food was inside and for a horrifying moment he thought he was going to vomit all over the senior officer’s paperwork.

 

“Pardon?” He managed to croak out.

 

“He escaped this morning.”

 

“Oh, thank the Goddess.” Sam gasped, gripping his heart over his shirt with a trembling hand.

 

His reaction drew raised eyebrows from every officer in the room.

 

“I thought he’d been executed.” Sam explained weakly.

 

“He hadn’t been sentenced yet, only stuck around for half an hour after handing in his confession.” An officer buried under paperwork called out from behind the stacks he was fighting against.

 

“Please don’t mention anything to our friends outside though,” The senior officer continued tiredly, his body slumping back into his chair like a marionette having its strings cut, “we need to get them escorted off our land first and we’re still rousing the manpower.”

 

“You don’t have enough officers?” Sam asked curiously.

 

Another officer answered first, “Those that survived the fight with The Council all got a week’s recovery leave.” she grunted as she heaved a large box with no clues to its contents across the room and down the stairs to the cells. Sam decided he didn’t want to know.

 

“The only people working for the next seven days are those of us that didn’t go on the mission.” The senior officer added, every word sounding like a sigh.

 

Sam felt silly before he had even asked the question that came out of his mouth next, “Is there any way I could help?”

 

The senior officer genuinely considered his question for a few moments.

 

“Is it true you’re close with the alpha of the Lunar Warriors?” He asked.

 

“Karliah? Yeah, she’s one of my best friends.”

 

“Any chance you could ask her for some extra hands to get these guys off our land?”

 

His face was full of desperation and Sam pulled his mobile out of his back pocket without hesitation. He called Karliah’s number from his favourites list.

 

She answered immediately, “What’s up?”

 

“Charles confessed to killing Brandon-”

 

“But he didn’t-”

 

Sam quickly cut her off to explain, “He handed in his written confession this morning and then escaped half an hour later.” he added, I’m in the justice office now.” to hint at her not to reveal anything in case they could hear her.

 

“Are you okay?” She murmured, her voice suddenly dropping and sounding far more deadly.

 

“Yeah, but I need your help.”

 

“Anything.”

 

“There are protesters here from Timber Fang and we don’t have the man power to get them off our land with so many people on rest from fighting The Council. I know you have a lot of injured people too but I don’t suppose you have any officers spare to help us shift them before we break the news that Charles is no longer in our custody?”

 

“Of course, I’ll come over personally with Damien and a few of the others that didn’t go on the mission. Your pack sent the most members to fight, you deserve our support.” She paused for a moment, “Plus, Cassie tells me congratulations are in order!”

 

“Thanks.” Sam mumbled with a blush.

 

He may have texted Cassie with trembling fingers as he was carried away by Markus yesterday, letting her know VERY briefly that he had been announced as his mate. He may have also shot her a quick text as he was power walking to the justice office letting her know he was now marked. And she may have been trying to call him for the last half an hour.

 

Despite his embarrassment, he was excited to share this incredible day with his best friend. The pair of them both marked and mated to alphas before they had even left school, at any moment he was going to wake up and this wouldn’t be real, none of it.

 

Karliah laughed, “See you in half an hour.”

 

She hung up and he turned back to the waiting officers although he was sure they probably already heard the full conversation.

 

“Karliah is coming over with reinforcements, she’ll be here in half an hour.” He announced, just in case.

 

The senior officer jumped back out of his chair with a renewed vigour and stood up straight, “Thank you so much, sir!” he barked sincerely.

 

The others stood to attention too and the senior officer took Sam’s hand and shook it twice firmly.

 

“I hope Alpha Markus won’t mind me touching you to show my gratitude, alpha mate.”

 

“Y-you don’t need to-”

 

He cut off Sam’s stammering, “We really appreciate your help.” he said slowly. “If you could update Alpha Markus on the situation we would be very grateful.”

 

Sam could tell the man was giving him an easy out to avoid the awkward tension of this transition in seniority from omega to alpha mate. He took it gladly.

 

“I will, thank you.” He said, nodding awkwardly to the other officers and striding out with the little confidence he could muster.

 

Before he returned to Markus though he needed to work out what he was going to do about the Charles situation.

 

He wandered to the kitchen in a daze to re-cooperate and plan out his next step, he needed peace and quiet and no one came to the kitchen without reason. He believed he could get at least half an hour of silence if no one knew he was there.

 

As he closed the door leading to the gardens behind him he noticed an unusual pile of items on the island in the centre of the room.

 

An envelope rested atop a cubic parcel, taller than it was wide and wrapped in brown shiny paper and decorated with twine tied into a large bow on top. The envelope had his name on, his soon-to-be bonded name: Samuel Aiden Murphy.

 

He started with the envelope, peeling it open and reading the elegant, swirling, blue handwriting that covered the thick piece of card:

 

Dearest Sam,

 

I apologise for leaving you without saying goodbye in person, I hope you can forgive me. I couldn’t risk incriminating you with my confession and I am absolutely not wasting 30 years of my life in prison - even if I am immortal! From today you will no longer need to fear retribution for your heroic actions, no one will have any reason to suspect you. Sleep soundly and enjoy your new life as what I believe you call an ‘alpha mate’. I can’t explain how happy I am for you that your ‘soul mate’ appears to finally be treating you like the precious angel we all know you are. Long may it continue and long may you rule. Just make sure that you remember how perfect you are too.

 

One day, when the heat has cooled off suitably, I will return for a visit - Markus had better be keeping up his good behaviour when I do! In the meantime, you have my number (although I would advise you are tentative in who you disclose that information to). If ever you should need me, for any reason at all, I am but a phone call away.

 

All my love,

 

Charles U. Godfry

P.S. I apologise for never making my feelings clear to you, it was not fair for me to hint and pine while you were going through such a hard time in your life. For the sake of honesty I feel I must finally tell you that if ever Markus were to revert to his old ways there would unquestionably be a place for you in my home - I have been told I make a rather fine husband.

P.P.S. I would definitely advise burning this letter immediately after opening, I don’t think Markus would appreciate my heart-felt words at all.

 

Sam knew he would never be able to bring himself to burn the letter, he would simply keep it somewhere safe.

 

He tore the thick brown paper off of the parcel almost feverishly and three books slid out, one atop the other. He scanned the titles quickly: ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini, ‘1984’ by George Orwell and ‘The Colour Purple’ by Alice Walker. A note slid from between the books and he snatched it up hurriedly.

 

‘Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things… I’ve read a fair amount of books in my time and we seem to share a few favourites, please find enclosed a few more of them and be sure to let me know what you think. C x

 

Sam blinked furiously, if he started crying he wouldn’t be able to stop.

 

He hid away the letter and the books in his own room for now and headed back for Markus to let him know the good news: his mate wasn’t a fugitive any more.

 

Things weren’t going to return to normal, but they were going to keep getting better and Sam could settle for that.