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I'll Bring Fate to Its Knees

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It’s already cold out by the time Gulf manages to escape from his office. He doesn’t know why he still manages to stay late when it’s the interns that should be doing half of his work now. He thought once he got a permanent position at his job, and then got promoted he would go home right on time like all his other seniors. Guess he didn’t account for the fact that unlike his seniors he hated piling his work on the desk of his interns. He was just like them only three years ago. Struggling to find stability in the world, almost killing himself working through the stress. So he goes home late instead, every single day.

 

He’s supposed to catch the train but he’s so tired he can barely manage the short walk to the train station. His mind wanders, shivering through the cold permeating his suit, as he takes a look around the streets on his way. Usually he hangs his head low and walks to the train station with little to no concern for his surroundings. Tonight, though he’s especially sentimental.  

 

It’s been exactly three months now.  

 

His most recent break up that is. Gulf still isn’t over it. Not because he’s still in love, or even particularly upset. But because the relationship ended due to the one thing Gulf had promised himself he would never let happen. They had grown apart. They had stopped caring about the other person and that had led to them losing the love they once cultivated. Gulf had always told himself that he would never be like that. That if he were ever lucky enough to be in a relationship, he would cherish that person to the best of his ability. He would never stop wondering what they were doing every day, he would never stop wanting to see their face, to be close to them and to always work on any problems they had before even thinking of giving up.  

 

But then he found himself in a relationship, a sweet one that he thought he would keep forever. And yet after two years it was almost as if they no longer had anything to talk about other than mundane conversations that ended before they even started. Those conversations ceased too, the excuse of being too busy all the more prominent. One day led to the next and when he had noticed he hadn’t seen his partner in the last month, or even wanted to, it was already too late. They were over and he could feel that in his bones.  

 

He had let them go, without a fight.  

 

Gulf sighs, unbuttoning his suit jacket to be more comfortable. He spots a small bar on the opposite side of the street, right before he’s about to head into the train station and contemplates going in for a drink. His brows crease, he’s too exhausted for even that and he knows it. He heads home instead.  

 

 

It happens on an unassuming Thursday.  

 

Gulf wakes up in the morning and he has a headache. He can tell it’s going to be a long day so he showers quickly and takes an aspirin before rushing to work. He had woken up late so he misses his usual train. His stomach grumbles all the way because he had missed breakfast and his hair is still a little damp as he rests it against the train window.  

 

His boss looks cross as soon as he steps off the elevator and into his office floor. Everyone else is already doing work, their eyes daring not to glance at Gulf. His boss flicks his head in the direction of his private office and Gulf follows with his head bowed. He’s really bad at confrontations, so he usually takes these talking-tos with his eyes cast down and hands gathered together. He follows his boss inside the office and carefully closes the door behind himself. He takes a deep breath before turning back around.  

 

“You’re late,” His boss supplies, voice stern as he flips through documents on his desk. He’s sitting down in leisure and Gulf is almost certain he’s not actually reading a single thing he’s pretending to look at.  

 

“Yes, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again,” Gulf answers, his voice meek.  

 

“This is already the third time this quarter, I’m beginning to wonder if putting you in charge of a project was too much, too soon...” His boss has stopped shuffling papers now. He looks up and his gaze makes Gulf want to sigh. Another thing he hates to see, disappointment.

 

“I understand why you would think so, however my team has been making great progress with the proposal. I believe our outcome can convince you otherwise. Please just let me stay on until we finish, if you are unsatisfied with the results, I will take full responsibility.” Gulf makes sure his words are clear and decisive even though he can’t manage to look up. Honestly, he’s terrified. He can’t help but be scared of failure, however he’s nothing if not a hard worker. He’ll do his best and then worry about the rest afterwards.

 

His boss seems to have sensed his determination because he finally cracks a small smile, “Fine, but this is your last warning. Please arrive to work on time, otherwise it will set a bad precedent for your juniors,” he gestures to the door behind Gulf, his cue to leave.

 

“Of course, thank you,” Gulf replies before he speeds out of the office.  

 

He doesn’t stop until he’s inside his own small office and has his back against his closed door. He bangs his head back, and finally lets out that sigh he’s been holding in all morning. Today really isn’t his day.  

 

Someone knocks on his door, startling him out of his misery. He steps back to open the door, seeing one of his juniors looking at him while holding a cup of coffee. “Bad morning?” They say, extending the mug towards Gulf to take. Gulf opens his mouth, not really knowing what to say before he decides to just accept the small gift with a smile.  

 

“Yeah, thanks” Gulf breaks into a bigger smile and then motions for his junior to head back to their cubicle.  

 

Even though he doesn’t really drink coffee the small show of support has done wonders for his spirit. He heads to his desk, letting his briefcase drop to the ground by his chair and starts booting up his computer. Today was definitely going to be a long day. 

 

 

Gulf stays later than usual trying to finish up as much as possible. There’s no one left by the time he packs it in for the night. The office feels eerie with most of its lights off, no sounds of typing or talking echoing throughout the space. If Gulf were a lesser man he would have run towards the elevator. Instead he just walks as fast as possible. He huffs in relief once inside then catches sight of himself in the reflective mirrors and laughs at his foolish behavior.  

 

He slips out his phone and starts playing a game to pass the time. His floor is pretty high up since the broadcasting division takes up most of the upper levels. He doesn’t stop playing as he gets to the ground floor, having memorized his office building by heart. 

 

It’s not as cold out tonight, spring winds rustling the trees above him as he walks to the train station. He tries to keep himself occupied on his game but his thoughts start racing around in his head. He can’t help but think about that morning, how he was scolded by his boss and how everyone in their office floor must have noticed. His cheeks burn in embarrassment and he stuffs his phone back in his pant pocket. He lets out a groan and ruffles his hair, he can’t stop thinking about it. He wonders if other people were talking about him behind his back. His juniors had even seen the debacle.

 

Gulf barely has any friends in his workspace to begin with...he can’t imagine how many would want to get close to him now. He’s always had a pretty passive face so when he had first started as an intern his superiors often thought of him as rude and lacking passion. His fellow interns were outgoing and quickly managed to make friends. In the span of a week, Gulf felt like they were all so close to one another that there was nowhere for Gulf to intervene. If his work wasn’t so superb, he’s certain the company wouldn’t have kept him after his internship was over.  

 

Three years later and he still can’t call anyone in his own division a friend. He can talk to others more easily now, feeling more comfortable after his promotion however it always seems like too much time has passed and people are no longer interested in getting to know him. He can’t imagine what his juniors must think of him now.  

 

He’s almost at the train station now, not having realized how far he’s walked while in his bubble of self-doubt. He spots the bar he noticed a week ago and stops in his tracks. He really needs a drink. Without another thought to spare, Gulf crosses the street and heads inside.  

 

 

It’s only a Thursday but the bar is more packed than Gulf had anticipated. He looks around and feels out of place in his grey suit. Everyone else is dressed pretty casually, he checks the watch on his wrist and sees that it’s close to midnight. The music is pretty loud but the chatter of the people inside the bar is even louder. He almost drags himself back out before he spots the bartender handing out drinks at the counter and changes his mind. He really needs that drink.  

 

Gulf steps into the throng of people bustling about, trying to squeeze himself into cracks he finds between bodies so he doesn’t have to really touch anyone. The only good thing so far happens to be the small air diffusers all around the small bar that are doing a great job of keeping everyone’s scents at bay. Gulf has an especially sensitive nose so he appreciates it.  

 

He finds a vacant stool by the counter and takes it. He raises his hand to signal the bartender, then orders himself a beer. He’s squished between two groups of people who seem to be having too much fun for a Thursday night and decides to keep his elbows tucked in so he doesn’t bump into any of them.  

 

Gulf sips his beer, trying not to pay attention to the loud sounds surrounding him and just forget his entire horrible day. He had gotten a text earlier from his friend Bright and that had helped cheer him up a bit but he’s still blaming himself for everything that happened. He hates himself for not being a morning person, always having difficulty waking up.  

 

Just as Gulf is finishing off his third beer, feeling a little bit more than tipsy he feels someone bump into him from his right. The guy has both hands in the air, somehow screeching over the loud music “Mew, my main man! Finally,”  

 

Gulf furrows his brows and pulls his drink closer to himself so it doesn’t spill. He glances over to his right to throw a quiet glare over to the guy but all he sees is him pulling another man into a tight hug. He sighs and looks away, chalking it up to an accident. He’s just about to take another sip when the same guy on his right slaps his hands on the counter and hits gulf's hand in the same motion.  

 

Gulf can’t do anything but look down at where beer has spilled all over his white dress shirt. He almost wants to say something to the guy, can feel his temper rise but in the next second he just huffs out a laugh. He’s so upset that it’s all he can do. Today just isn’t his day.  

 

“Woah buddy, I think you’ve had enough for now,” The guy who was being hugged earlier says, stepping in between Gulf and his drunk friend. He slants his back towards Gulf so he can’t see his face but notices how he has pushed his entire group of friends a little further away so they aren’t so close to Gulf now. He’s not sure if it was deliberate but as long as no one is bumping into him anymore he’ll take it.  

 

Gulf grabs a few square napkins from the countertop and dabs them on his chest so he won’t feel sticky at least. He tips his beer back and finishes it in one big gulp. He’s really starting to feel drunk now. His head is woozy and he can’t keep his thoughts straight.  

 

“Sorry about that, my friend here is celebrating so he’s a little excited” A voice speaks up from his right. Gulf has to do a double take because he didn’t think that the statement was directed towards him. He dumbly points to himself and watches as the man beside him breaks into a small laugh. He nods at Gulf then looks down at the now-empty beer bottle in Gulf’s hands. He signals the bartender and points to Gulf’s beer when he catches his eye.  

 

“Oh no, I'm done for the night” Gulf says, holding up both of his hands.  

 

The man just looks at him with a smile, brows furrowed. “Who said it was for you?” He replies, mirth evident in his voice. Gulf balks, his ears burning in embarrassment. He looks down, fiddling with the beer in his hands as he tries to stop blushing. He can’t believe the nerve of this guy, teasing him when they don’t even know each other. The guy just laughs from beside him; the bartender brings the beer to him and he taps Gulf’s arm. “I was just joking; it is for you. Consider it an apology for both me and my friend’s behavior tonight.”  

 

Gulf side-eyes the beer, he really shouldn’t drink another one but he can’t just let this man think he’s a lightweight. He grabs the beer out of the other guy’s hand and chugs the whole bottle, wiping off the few drops left over on his chin with the back of his hand. He huffs afterwards, leaning over into the guy’s surprised face as he says “You’re not forgiven,”  

 

Gulf doesn’t know what he expects, maybe he wanted to feel some kind of accomplishment, as if he had won over this random stranger. But what he gets in return is the other guy laughing happily in his face. Gulf leans back a little, startled. The guy rubs a hand down his face, eyes finding Gulf’s before he follows him and leans in. “Then...what should I do to be forgiven?” Gulf feels the man place one hand around Gulf’s, holding onto the beer bottle.  

 

The surprise wears off fast, Gulf staring into the man’s eyes. His hand feels warm on top of his own. His eyes are brown, staring at Gulf before they flit down to Gulf’s pink lips. It’s only a second, then they’re back to watching Gulf’s eyes, searching and seeking.  

 

Gulf doesn’t know how he expected this day to end but he had never imagined this. He’s tired, and drunk. His shirt is still wet from the spilled beer, sticking to his chest. He can’t remember the last time someone has looked at him the way this man is right this second. Like he’s hungry for him. Starved.  

 

The longer he looks into this man’s eyes the drunker he feels. Like he’s falling into a deep abyss. A never-ending depth, swirls of chocolate brown swallowing him whole. The man takes a small step closer; his other hand comes up to rest on Gulf’s back. If Gulf were a lesser man, he might have felt trapped, vulnerable even. But instead he strangely feels calm, like the noise around him has been muffled into a small whir. The thoughts in his head, silenced. Like his worries, doubts and misfortune from the day has vanished into a dark vacuum.  

 

Gulf doesn’t know what does it, but staring into this man’s eyes seems to have made his night go from horrible to bearable. He takes his hand out from beneath the other’s and grabs his briefcase from beneath his feet. “Let's go,” is all Gulf says, not wanting to break eye contact. He stumbles a little when getting off of his stool but manages not to make it obvious. He grabs the man’s hand, still resting on the bar, and starts to head towards the exit.  

 

He thinks he hears the man say a hasty goodbye to his friends but Gulf isn’t too sure. All he knows is that the hand he’s holding is warm, that it feels nice and that he hasn’t felt so determined about something like this in a long time. Outside of the bar Gulf drags them straight to the dark alley right beside and then stops. He takes a deep breath then turns around to look at the man behind him. “I’m Mew by the way,” The guy says, hands tucked into his jean pockets and smile soft on his lips.  

 

“Yeah,” Gulf says under his breath, raising his hand and pulling the guy in by the front of his shirt. Gulf feels the wall meet his back and the surprised sound against his face before they’re kissing. Gulf closes his eyes at last, fingers loosening their grip on Mew’s shirt so he can wrap his arms around Mew’s neck instead. Mew seems to catch on quick, wrapping his own arms around Gulf’s waist and pulling them closer together.  

 

Gulf can feel his shoulders relax. The smooth slide of their lips against each other as wind passes through them feels so nice, so familiar he just wants to melt into it. He feels Mew grip his hips tighter, his kiss becoming more ravenous. When Gulf breaks away to come up for air, breath coming out harsh, his eyes immediately look for Mew’s.  

 

“Wow, okay. That was nice,” Mew whispers, like it’s a secret between just the two of them. He’s smiling even now, lips shiny under the distant streetlamps. Gulf feels himself smile too, at the absurdity of it all. “Just nice huh,” He whispers back, doesn’t know where the confidence comes from. This man that he doesn’t know at all, who’s looking at Gulf like he holds all the answers, is somehow so easy to talk to. Maybe because Gulf doesn’t know him at all, doesn’t owe him at all, that he feels like he can say anything. Like he’s the bravest person in the world.  

 

Mew pouts his lips and furrows his brows like he’s in deep thought, “Maybe a little better than just nice, but I'll need more...just to be sure,” His smile returns full force, then he’s leaning back in and Gulf closes his eyes in obedience. Mew kisses like he’s been waiting his entire life to kiss Gulf, his hands come up to shape Gulf’s face. Gulf suddenly remembers being back in high school, lying down underneath an apple tree during spring while he sipped on a juice box. The sun had been blazing but the wind was cool as it blew through the soft flowers of the tree above him. The sky had been blue, a little cloudy and he could hear his fellow classmates playing soccer in the field just below him. He remembers wanting to go join but being too lazy, closing his eyes instead and falling asleep to the sound of the breeze. That’s what being held by Mew feels like, the warmth of his body against gulf, the slick of his lips, the soft tickle of his lashes against Gulf’s cheek are singing a quiet melody lulling Gulf into submission.  

 

There’s a very sudden gush of wind and it brings with it the smell of damp earth, heavy with fallen rain. Gulf’s brows ripple. It hasn’t rained for some time. Maybe a week or so. He pulls away, eyes clouded and filled with desire. “Is that you?” Gulf asks, nose touching Mew’s.  

 

“Is what me?” Mew tilts his head, amused.  

 

Suddenly, as if announcing its presence, the smell increases tenfold. It feels like it’s permeating everything around them. Gulf has to block his nose just so his hackles don’t start to rise. “You’re an alpha?” Gulf pushes Mew back a step, just so he can maybe get a breath of regular air in. It doesn’t work.  

 

“Uh, yeah. You didn’t notice earlier?” Mew says, stepping back further after noticing Gulf’s discomfort.  

 

“And what am I?” Gulf raises his finger in a challenge, pointing at Mew.  

 

“An alpha, obviously.” Mew replies without hesitation. As if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  

 

Gulf can’t hold back his scoff. For the second time that night he admires the nerve of the guy in front of him. “And you still hit on me? I could’ve beat the shit outta you,”  

 

“But you didn’t,” Mew starts stepping back closer to him, his scent now a mild dream floating around them. Gulf is too nonplussed to do anything other than let the man close the distance. “And you still haven’t” Mew locks their hands together, not daring to get any closer. In the end he seems to have a bit of self-preservation, Gulf thinks. “Want to get out of here? I live close by” Mew looks away, back out of the alleyway which they came.  

 

Gulf has never been an adventurous person. He likes what he likes and he hates what he hates. He plays sports and he eats whenever he feels hungry no matter what time of day it may be. Growing up he had fantasies of becoming a professional soccer player, winning trophies and getting a pretty omega. So when all his friends got omega or beta partners, he didn’t think anything of it and got one himself. It’s been years since then and maybe he’s heard whispers of alphas getting together but he never believed it. How can two alphas even attempt to get that intimate without feeling threatened and wanting to rip each other's heads off?  

 

Mew must sense his internal debate because he steps closer and lets his head hang to the side. He leaves his neck bare in front of Gulf, his scent not even a little nervous as he submits. Gulf doesn’t know why the action has him so transfixed but he’s so surprised by it that it feels as if all the alcohol has seeped out of his system and he’s completely sober.  

 

“I won’t hurt you, even though I'm a big bad alpha. I promise,” Mew says as he returns back to his normal stature. All signs of the man who had previously laid his ego and pride down on the floor between their feet, gone. If any other alpha had just seen them, Mew might have been beaten into a pulp.  

 

All Gulf wants to do however is say “Let’s go,” for the second time that night.  

 

 

They stumble into Mew’s condo while kissing. The whole place is cast in shadow. Gulf almost trips over a pair of shoes left out on the floor and Mew has to catch him by the waist. They both laugh in each other’s mouths, still kissing, unwilling to let go. Gulf reaches a hand out to feel for a wall, he manages to find it right before Mew is pushing him onto it. His back hits the plaster with a soft thud, Mew’s lips a soft impact in comparison on his neck.  Gulf toes off his shoes, a rush to take off his jacket while keeping up with Mew’s pace.  

 

Mew smiles against his neck, thumb running across Gulf’s bottom lip. He laughs when Gulf gets his sleeve stuck on his watch. It would feel out of place if Gulf wasn’t also laughing at his own clumsiness. Mew steps back and helps him take his suit jacket off, eyes never leaving Gulf’s. He almost looks fond. It feels foreign to Gulf to be looked at like that. He doesn’t know why it’s affecting him so much. He swears he hasn’t felt as lonely as he does right now, with Mew staring at him.  

 

It feels as if this man he has known for little more than an hour is seeing him more clearly than anyone Gulf has ever been with in the past twenty-nine years of his life. It makes his stomach roil; his eyes glassy as he remembers all his past relationships. Does Mew look at everyone this way? He pushes Mew back, all of a sudden angry. At what, he isn’t sure. At Mew? At Himself?  

 

He backs Mew up until they’re in the condo’s core. Gulf can see a TV, game console and a couch in his peripheral. But he keeps going until Mew’s back hits the wall beside his bedroom door. The door is left ajar, Gulf can see the corner of a bed inside. He grips Mew by the front of his shirt and pulls him through the door. Once they are inside Gulf kisses Mew like he wants it to be his last. His hands are busy, anxious as he rids Mew of his denim jacket. He throws it somewhere by their feet. It’s the last thing on his mind.  

 

He can feel Mew bite at his bottom lip, can feel his anger dissipate with every slow lick of Mew’s tongue. “Easy,” Mew whispers against his lips, like he can sense Gulf’s agitation. If it were any other night, and if he were with any other alpha, that might have just riled him up more. But Mew takes one hand and runs it up from Gulf’s elbow to his shoulder, squeezes his bicep and then lets himself fall back on the bed. He rests on his elbows, relaxed, like he knows Gulf needs to be in control.  

 

Except Gulf didn’t know that what was making him so angry was that he felt like he was losing control. He hadn’t even realized his scent had started to spike. The pills he usually takes for work don’t allow his scent any leeway; he’s surprised Mew even knew he was an alpha. But it’s leaking out now, the bitter cocoa scent he doesn’t recognize much of anymore. It feels a little strange having someone else recognize his emotions better than himself.  

 

Mew just stares up at him, patient. He raises a hand, as if asking Gulf to join him on the bed. Gulf stares at the hand but decides against it. He starts unbuttoning his own shirt, making sure to look at Mew as he does. He can see it in Mew’s eyes, that same look he had at the bar. Hungry, starving. Gulf takes his time, he’s in control of the pace now, he can feel that the same way he can feel the tension in the air. He’s suddenly reminded of Mew’s scent, that same damp earth and he can still smell it now. Except it no longer bothers him. It makes his head a little hazy but it doesn’t pull that same distressing reaction from him. Instead it leaves his arms with goosebumps, his hairs standing on end. He slips his shirt off his shoulders and finally walks over.  

 

Mew’s hand falls onto the bed, limp. He takes a breath with every step Gulf takes. Mew gets a crease between his brows, watching Gulf settle on top of him on the bed, pushing him down onto his back. He looks at Gulf now like he can’t quite understand what he’s seeing. Like he’s looking at Gulf for the very first time, like he’s looking at a wonder. Mew raises his hand, brings the back of his fingers to Gulf’s cheek and sweeps them across. Gulf slaps his hand away before he can get too far.  

 

It makes him feel too vulnerable, the look in Mew’s eyes, the way his hand ghosts over him like he dares not touch it. Mew sighs in defeat, a brief smile surfacing on his face. “Just because I promised not to hurt you, doesn’t mean you can hurt me” Mew says, waits for it to register with Gulf. When it does Gulf turns scarlet.

 

“I - I've never done this before...another alpha,” Gulf says, back to his timid self. Mew snickers, “I can tell,” He slides his hand back up to Gulf’s face. This time Gulf lets him. “It’s not much different, I’ll take care of everything else that is” Mew brings Gulf’s face down, gentle as if pulling away cotton candy, and joins their lips once more.

 

“Let me?” Mew says against his lips, kissing and kissing until Gulf can’t keep himself up anymore. He nods, nervous as to what his assent will entail for him. His answer comes in the form of Mew sliding a hand behind Gulf’s back and then flipping him onto it. The next time Gulf opens his eyes Mew is staring down at him, a cheeky smirk across his lips. “Don’t worry tiger, we’ll go slow” Mew kisses him again, the scent of soil and rain like a blanket as it falls on top of him, the weight of it making Gulf feel drunk again.  

 

He doesn’t know it’s happening until it is. Mew is pressing their bodies together and it’s driving Gulf insane. He feels too close and not close enough all at the same time. The smell is really too strong, Gulf thinks again. His eyes can’t keep focus, and Mew is too busy kissing down Gulf’s neck to realize. Gulf can feel his blood boiling, as Mew goes lower and lower. The further Mew travels the worse it gets.  

 

It’s like his body can’t take the space, he needs Mew back up, kissing him right that instant. Gulf’s hand feels like it’s underwater as he reaches for Mew, his skin feels itchy, like ants are crawling all over his arms. It only subsides once his fingers connect with Mew’s. “Hm?” Mew looks up at him, and Gulf doesn’t know what he sees but it must convince him to do just what Gulf needs. Because in the next second he’s coming back to kiss Gulf’s lips. “You okay?” He asks, fingers brushing away the hair that has fallen on Gulf’s forehead.

 

Gulf nods again but he’s not really sure he is. Because he can’t stand to be even this far away from Mew, their noses already touching. His teeth ache, like he’s just eaten something too sweet. He tries to grind them together but the ache just gets worse. He feels across Mew’s back until he comes up to his neck. His fingers brush over Mew’s scent glands, can sense the scent getting headier as Mew closes his eyes. He doesn’t know why he does it, just that he needs to. Gulf lifts himself up and kisses Mew right on his scent glands. He feels like he’s drinking water with how strong the smell of rain is this close, somehow he can no longer get enough of it. He feels desperate, licking across Mew’s skin like it will bring him salvation. He sucks at the skin and feels Mew’s hand come up to support his head, fingers digging into his hair.  

 

His teeth are still aching, he can’t help himself so he just bites. He doesn’t mean to make it deep but still manages to draw blood. All of a sudden he’s ripped away, Mew staring down at him in shock. Mew pulls his own hand away from his neck and watches as it comes away wet and red. “Did you just bite me?” Mew asks, still bewildered. Gulf thinks he might have, his teeth don’t ache anymore and his head is much clearer. He can still taste the rain on his tongue. “Is that not allowed?” Gulf smiles, reaching up to pull Mew down to connect their lips again.  

 

He needs it, whatever Mew is offering.  

 

Mew straightens up only to take off his own shirt, his muscles rippling underneath the faint moonlight. He unbuckles his belt too, throws it to the floor along with the rest of their clothes. “So much for slow,” is what he says before Gulf feels his slacks being opened and then slipped off his legs. Mew is back on top of him now, between his legs this time. Before Gulf can focus in on how foreign this all feels to him, Mew slides a hand down his chest. He doesn’t stop until Gulf is groaning.  

 

The next time he kisses Mew, their eyes meet before their lips and Gulf can see that ever present look. Hungry, starving.  

 

 

Gulf is definitely not a morning person. His entire face contorts into a grimace at the sun's appearance. He tries to shield his eyes but in the end that too is too much work for his heavy limbs. He opts for turning his head instead. He’s falling back asleep when he feels a deep weight settle on his chest. Memories from last night flash through his head and he groans, it’s entirely too early to be having to deal with last night’s mistakes. He cracks one eye open and sees a mop of hair, Mew’s face buried in his neck. He can smell his own cocoa scent more now that his pills have worn off. He looks around for a clock and spots one to his left on a table.  

 

He still has some time before he needs to head into work. Hopefully he can arrive before everyone else and get changed in his office. Thank god he keeps a spare suit in there in case he has to sleep in the office some days, a trick he learned during his intern days. The pressure on his chest is starting to become unbearable now that he has noticed it. He tries to turn Mew over but the damn alpha is super heavy. The jostling around must have woken Mew up though, because he starts to stretch, arms tightening around Gulf. “Oi, Oi I’m not a pillow that hurts,” Gulf says, smacking at the arms wrapped around his middle.  

 

Mew seems to find that amusing since all he does is laugh. His voice sounds so nice in the morning, Gulf hates himself for even thinking it. “Let go, I have to get to work soon” Gulf reiterates, hand wrapping around Mew’s forearm. He feels warm even now. It must be contagious because Gulf swears, they are almost the same temperature. He’s never felt this warm before in his entire life.  

 

Mew just mumbles before rolling away, he turns his back to Gulf without a care in the world. Gulf holds back a huff as he gets up to take a shower. Except when he gets up the ache in his chest seems to expand. He grabs at his sternum like he can feel what’s wrong with his fingers. It hurts so much it’s becoming impossible to breathe. Mew must hear him gaping like a fish out of water because suddenly he’s face-to-face with a very anxious Mew. “What’s wrong?” Mew grabs at his shoulders, concern evident on his face. Gulf just continues to try and drag in breath after breath unsuccessfully, starting to feel lightheaded.  

 

“Okay. You're hyperventilating. Try to take deep breaths” Mew tries to demonstrate by taking exaggerated breaths in and out. Gulf is too panicked to listen properly; his chest doesn’t ache as much but he can’t seem to catch his breath. Mew grabs Gulf’s face and tries to catch his eyes. “Look at me,” Mew caresses his cheek with a thumb, tender and easy. “Look at me,” He repeats and Gulf looks, as if the voice had commanded him to. “Follow me,” Mew inhales, holding it for a few seconds before letting it out and then repeating. Gulf copies him until his breathing evens out. Everything comes back into focus, Mew’s chocolate brown eyes, his warm hands on Gulf’s face and the dull pang inside his chest.  

 

Gulf presses down on his heart again, hoping to make the feeling disappear. Like a string being pulled taut, the ache manifests into a sharp tether. Gulf can feel a deep pool gathering inside, a well of feelings and thoughts, emotions riddled like a puzzle he can’t fit together. Mew seems to feel the same because he’s looking down at himself in wonder. His hand is trembling where it rests on his thigh. “What is this?” Gulf asks, voice barely a squeak. He’s too afraid of the answer.  

 

“A bond,” Mew whispers, eyes hidden for the first time since Gulf has met him.  

 

 

 

 

 

In the end, yesterday really wasn’t Gulf’s day.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Gulf sits on the floor, back resting on Mew’s bed as he listens to the quiet trill of the shower. Even now he can feel that incessant pool continuing to gather inside his chest. He’s been anxious since the moment Mew had left to go take a shower, unable to understand what the other man was thinking about their situation. Gulf himself is still in disbelief. Every time he tells himself it can’t possibly be true, the weight inside his chest expands just to mock him. He can’t believe something like this is happening to him. His boring, mundane life turned on its head in the span of one night.   

 

He hears the bathroom door open, then looks up to see Mew step out wearing fresh clothes. Gulf stands up in a rush, nerves on edge. His eyes follow Mew around the room as the man heads towards the bed. Gulf clears his throat softly, “W-what are we going to do now?” he wrings his hands together. A morning breeze flutters the white curtains and Gulf feels a chill run up his spine. It makes him notice his own lack of clothing, still wearing only a pair of boxers that aren’t even his own. He’s been cold since Mew had let him go that morning.   

 

“I’m not sure,” Mew replies back, he still hasn’t looked at Gulf. It only serves to make Gulf more anxious, the bottom of his stomach dropping out. It feels as though now that there’s a tether connecting them together, a chasm has opened up between them as well. Gulf doesn’t know how he’s supposed to cross to the other side, get to where Mew is.   

 

Mew seems to sense his anguish because he stops what he’s doing and instead sits down on the bed, his face finally opposite of Gulf. “I’ve never been bonded to anyone before, so I don’t really know what to do.” Mew says the words like a sigh. His eyes look up and meet Gulf’s, the pool deepens inside of him at the mere contact. Gulf has to force his gaze away just so he can keep breathing.   

 

"So, we're bonded?" Gulf says, incredulous. He crosses his arms in front of his chest trying to shield himself from Mew’s piercing look.   

 

"Seems so," Mew replies. His voice is indifferent but his chocolate brown eyes betray him. He's sitting on the bed fluffing up his pillows while Gulf paces around in front of him. Gulf starts to pick at his nails as he walks, a constant speed to every step. The sight of it almost makes Mew crack a smile.   

 

"But we're both alphas!" Gulf cries after much thought, his eyes are demanding answers from Mew. As if Mew could lead him to the truth the same way he had led him last night, hand in hand.   

 

"That is true," Mew only sighs again, now beginning to take off his bedsheets. It seems he can’t sit still either as the tension rises in a slow peak. Gulf can't believe his eyes; he's at his wit's end. He’s almost shaking at the possibility of being bonded to a stranger, let alone another alpha, and here Mew is going about his morning like nothing is out of order.   

 

"So, this should be impossible right?" He tries to reason one more time. Mew stands up straight, hands on his hips as he ponders for a minute before replying, "Yup"  

 

The simple answer does little to soothe Gulf’s fast beating heart. "So, we aren't bonded right?" Gulf tries to smile; he takes a peek at the small clock resting undisturbed on the table to his left and takes note of the time. He's going to be late for work if this drags on too much longer.   

   

"No, we definitely are," Mew says matter-of-factly. He huffs and presses his palm against his chest, voice annoyed as he says, “Can’t you feel that? Because I can feel you, right here,” He raises his hand and brings it back down on his chest in a fist. “You’re not supposed to be and yet I can feel you, all of you. Parts of you that I can’t even begin to recognize or understand. But I can tell it’s you all the same.”   

 

Gulf is taken aback by Mew’s tone, feels it pierce through him like a needle. The sting is long lasting, like fabric being threaded through, weaving and weaving. He grinds down his teeth, mouth set in a firm line. “What? You think I wanted this?” Gulf spits out, his hands balled into fists at his sides. The pool inside his chest whirls and pulls like it wants to swallow him whole. But the fire blazing inside of him right now can’t be drowned out by an ocean's worth of water.   

 

The shift is automatic. The air becoming still between them, like it dares not circulate. Mew’s eyes harden into steel. His shoulders straighten in a challenge. “You bit me,” Mew seethes back, his accusation like a hammer to the chasm in between them, ever growing. Gulf feels his hackles rise as soon as the smell of rain hits his nose. It’s no longer the calming blanket that hugged him last night. Instead it feels like he’s being hit by pellets, droplets the size of a dime. There’s a warmth to it but it's no longer pleasing, burning hot as if Gulf was stuck inside a sauna.   

 

“Don’t. Don’t talk to me like that,” He’s so angry he can barely get the words out. Mew’s scent is making him feel like he’s standing in the middle of a storm. When he feels a wetness on his cheek, he almost thinks nothing of it. Mew turns away from him then. He runs his hands through his damp hair and curses underneath his breath. When he looks back around the chocolate brown is a flowing river again. His scent drops out like it flew away with the breeze, just passing through.   

 

Gulf hadn’t realized the weight of it, his legs almost crumbling from having to withstand the pressure until it no longer remained. Gulf reaches a hand up and feels his face, the tears running down his eyes a quiet shock. He wipes them away until his skin is red and raw. “I’m sorry,” Mew ends the silence, as easily as poking a pencil through paper. “I lost my temper, I’m sorry” He repeats it, almost as if he knew Gulf needed to hear it.   

 

“You should take a shower...I’ll make us something to eat,” Mew grabs a towel from his dresser nearby. Gulf is stunned by the topic change; he wants to protest and get to the bottom of their situation but Mew is standing in front of him before he can. “We can talk more about this later, we have all the time in the world. You said you need to get to work though right? Let’s do that first” At the mention of his job Gulf turns his head towards the clock once more. His eyes grow into saucers at how late it is. He doesn’t protest when Mew ushers him into the bathroom and leaves him alone to simmer in his thoughts.   

 

~  

 

Breakfast is an uncomfortable affair.   

 

Gulf takes big mouthfuls of his juice and stuffs his face so fast he can barely taste what Mew had cooked up for them. He wants to leave as soon as possible. They don’t talk and Mew doesn’t look at him save for the one time Gulf almost choked while trying to swallow his eggs without chewing properly. Mew had offered him a tissue without a word. Their fingers brushed as Gulf accepted it and it made the tremulant pool inside Gulf’s chest ache for an unknowable reason.   

 

Mew is still picking at his sausage when Gulf gets up out of his chair to leave. He had put back on his suit from yesterday, the faint smell of beer still stuck on his white dress shirt. “I should go now, thanks for the food” Gulf bows his head and raises his hands in a gentle goodbye. He’s heading towards the door when Mew catches up with him. His hand circles around Gulf’s wrist like a bracelet. “Hold on, I’ll drive you” Mew lets his wrist go and without the touch comes the cold. “Just let me get changed quick”   

 

“You don’t need to, really. I work close by, I can walk” Gulf states, not looking forward to spending more uncomfortable time with Mew inside a car. Mew looks at him long and hard, he lets out a small laugh too. It sounds like a soft patter inside the quiet condo. The chasm shrinks right before Gulf’s eyes. “We just bonded so we have to spend today together. I’ve heard it can make the bonded pair really sick if they don’t” Mew reaches out and grabs Gulf’s briefcase from his hand. He replaces it with his own fingers, guiding Gulf towards the couch in his living room. “So just sit here like the good boy you are and wait for me to change,” Mew places Gulf's bag down beside him before he leaves to go back to his room to get dressed.   

 

Gulf doesn’t know why he listens without a word of protest but he manages to feel calmer now that the air doesn’t seem constricted. Mew seems to be trying to get rid of the aftereffects of the fight they had earlier and Gulf can’t say he doesn’t appreciate it. He hates confrontation, arguments always stress him out. Still he’s not one to back down without a fight. He tries not to ever get physical, the pills he has to take for work help keep his alpha hormones in check most of the time so he rarely gets out of control. Now that the adrenaline from the previous clash has run out Gulf can’t help but feel a little ashamed. He doesn’t make a habit of quarrelling, especially with someone he doesn’t know at all. His cheeks flame when he remembers how rude he was for having demanded Mew disregard their bond.   

 

Even if they didn’t mean for it to happen, a bond is considered sacred in their culture. It’s a deep connection similar to no other, a sign of true commitment. Gulf had stomped over that notion with his every word. The thing he had inspired to have one day if he was blessed enough had dropped right into his lap and he had kicked it to the floor. It’s just hard for him to believe he’s bonded to another alpha, his whole life he’s been taught about alpha and omega pairs. He’s never even once stopped to consider the possibility of bonding with another alpha. Gulf wonders what that would even be like and feels his thoughts drift to Mew.   

 

Now that he knows the other man is an alpha it boggles Gulf’s mind how he didn’t notice it from the start. He thinks about the way Mew carries himself, his broad shoulders and wide palms. He pouts remembering Mew’s mischievous smile, his molten eyes and his every touch. Gulf can hear his voice, a deep timbre that floats like a leaf dancing towards the ground when he laughs. His scent is instilled in every crook of the condo, Gulf can sense it as easy as dew forms before dawn.   

 

Mew is an alpha. That’s evident. Gulf needs to decide how high up on his list of problems that certain aspect is. When he thinks about the way Mew yielded to him last night without an ounce of fear his heart thumps. He’s not sure he could ever do that in front of another alpha, let alone one he met in a bar. Mew had laid himself bare right there in that alley and Gulf had not thought twice about following him back to his house then. So why is the fact that Mew is an alpha such a hindrance to Gulf now, he thinks. Or is that not the problem at all? Gulf furrows his brows.   

 

He’s not one to think too much about anything, so he’s not sure where to begin with analyzing why he feels the way he does right now. He knows he was attracted to Mew last night, hell even this morning. He knows Mew isn’t the worst guy, he made Gulf breakfast, let him take a shower and then offered to drive him to work. He had even apologized first during their earlier spat. Is it because Gulf has always had a distant notion that he would find a nice omega and bond after dating for several years when they were both ready? Was it the seemingly lack of choice he had in the matter? Even though he was the one who bit Mew, Gulf still isn’t quite sure why he did. And he had never anticipated that they would bond because of that, he’s never heard of an alpha pairing before.   

 

Gulf closes his eyes with a deep groan. He feels so uneducated on the subject. Everything he knows about pairing and bonds comes from one class he had in high school. His teacher then had made sure all the alphas and omegas sat separately, made them watch documentaries that were outdated and had them read articles on why premarital mating was a sin. Gulf pulls out his phone and starts searching on the web about alpha pairs.   

 

He doesn’t find much about bonds in specific but he finds that alpha partners are more common than he had thought. There seems to be quite a group of people who have found their life partners in other alphas. Gulf clicks on an Instagram featuring an alpha couple, they have a lot of followers. Gulf scrolls through their posts, not thinking anything in particular. They’re cute, but they look like any other couple had he not known they were both alphas. Gulf thinks, maybe that’s the whole point. They are just like any other couple.   

 

He’s startled out of his thoughts when Mew emerges out of his bedroom, he’s adorned in a simple tan suit. His hair is swept back, Gulf can tell he’s been running his fingers through it. “Ready to go?” Mew asks him, his smile a little hesitant.   

 

“Yeah,” Gulf smiles back, he looks at Mew and sees not an alpha but just a man.   

 

~  

 

Albeit they are more comfortable than when they woke up that morning, the short car ride is still spent in silence.   

 

Gulf expects Mew to just drop him off or maybe wait in the parking lot all day. Gulf isn’t exactly sure. However it becomes clear to him that when Mew said newly bonded pairs need to spend the day together, he meant attached at the hip. Mew gets off the car and follows Gulf through the parking lot. They head inside together and Gulf accepts his fate, going to the front desk to grab Mew a visitor’s day pass. Mew fidgets with his watch as they ascend in the elevator together. It’s kind of cute, Gulf thinks as he steals glances out of the corner of his eyes.   

 

When they arrive on Gulf’s floor, he’s glad to find no one is there yet aside from the custodian who is vacuuming. Mew is busy looking around so Gulf takes his hand and starts leading him through the cubicles towards his office. He’s almost made it inside the safety of his office when he sees a head pop out of the last cubicle ahead. “Oh, hello” It’s one of his juniors, they rise up and bow as Gulf tries to pass by them with an awkward smile.   

 

Mew’s hand is all of a sudden gone from his grip and he turns around in time to see Mew give a small bow and introduce himself to his junior. Gulf stands stalk still, mouth gaping as his junior brightens and starts talking to Mew like he’s known him forever. Mew laughs in the same easy way he did last night, his hands relaxed on his hips. He’s doing something Gulf hasn’t been able to do in all the three years he’s worked at this company and he’s making it look easy. Gulf is so impressed he can’t bring himself to be mad about it.   

 

If anything, it’s a little upsetting. Gulf looks away and kicks at the ground. He tries to keep his thoughts at bay, he’s got a whole day ahead of him and he can’t start spiraling this early. Gulf feels a hand at his back, Mew pats him across his shoulder blades and gives him a nod. “Let’s go,” he says, this time it’s Mew who reaches for Gulf’s hand and starts leading them away. The tether is vibrant, glowing as it sings between them. Gulf can feel its reach from his heart to the tips of his fingers where he connects with Mew. Gulf is overtaken by the sheer force of it, so much so that he has to tug Mew into his office and close the door behind them.   

 

He grabs Mew by the shoulders and gives him a silent look before he pulls him into a hug. There’s only the two of them and the office is quiet. Gulf lets himself be lured under the current, the vast pool in his chest not as terrifying with Mew in his arms. Mew buries his head in Gulf’s neck and breathes in deep. His hands are warm on Gulf’s back, the heat seeping through his suit. Gulf sighs as he comes up for air, the ache in his chest a calm river now. “Did you feel that too?” Gulf whispers. His fingers grab hold of Mew’s jacket and then release, grab and release. On repeat.   

 

Mew just hums his assent, burying his head further in Gulf’s neck. Gulf notices as his nose taps along Gulf’s scent glands. It makes Gulf’s eyes widen in surprise. He can feel Mew’s breath on his chest, soft puffs of humidity. Then his lips trail up, up, up just barely brushing against Gulf’s collar. Mew’s mouth is at his scent glands now, unmoving, stalling. Gulf dares not to budge, his ears burning from the proximity.   

 

There’s a lull, like the calm before a storm. It’s a second before Gulf closes his eyes that he can smell the rain. He doesn’t feel alarmed as his arms follow Mew’s body closer. Mew brings a hand down on the door beside Gulf’s head, the noise is loud compared to their muted surroundings and it causes Gulf to jump. Mew untangles himself and rushes backwards, only stopping once his legs collide with Gulf’s desk. Gulf is stuck at the door, hands helpless as they hold the shape of a Mew who no longer occupies them.   

 

“I almost just bit you,” Mew states in a shock. He’s got one arm across his face as he blocks his nose. “You didn’t smell like this last night” Gulf comes to the stark realization that he has yet to take his suppressants for the day. He hurries past Mew and searches through his desk until he finds his spare pill bottle. He pops one in his mouth and then throws the bottle to Mew. It’s a generic suppressant for alphas so it shouldn’t cause any adverse reactions if Mew were to take it. He watches as the other swallows one too, having sunken to the ground. Gulf uses their momentary pause to grab his suit out of his office cabinet.   

 

“I’m just going to change, stay here okay?” He doesn’t look at Mew as he leaves but he can feel Mew’s eyes on his back.   

 

~  

 

 Gulf stares at himself in the bathroom mirror in quiet contemplation.   

 

Mew had almost bitten him and Gulf had been more than willing to let him.   

 

It’s a startling realization to come to. Gulf runs a hand down the front of his new dress shirt to help get rid of any wrinkles. He’s stalling and he knows it. Mew is waiting for him back at his office and Gulf is unable to face him. Gulf is taken back to the previous night where he had bitten Mew because he needed to. His body was unable to resist doing so. It had felt like not biting Mew, right there, right then would have been the end of him. Is that what Mew had felt earlier? Gulf bites at his nail again, he doesn’t know what to make of that if it’s true.   

 

The door to the bathroom opens and a few other employees shuffle in, bowing to Gulf before going about to do their business. Gulf takes one last look at himself in the mirror and heads back out. He can’t avoid this forever, plus he has work he needs to finish up in his office. He can be normal and civilized, and he’s sure Mew will be too now that they have both taken a suppressant. Gulf steps back into his office and closes the door.   

 

Mew is standing over his desk and fiddling with Gulf’s name plate. It had been a gift from his parents after he was given a permanent position with the company. “Hey,” Mew says without looking up, he’s got a tender smile on his lips. “Hey,” Gulf replies feeling lost. He can’t help but keep rubbing at his arms just so his hands have something to do. “Sorry you can go ahead and work, I won’t get in the way” Mew steps out from behind Gulf’s desk and goes to sit on the only other chair Gulf has in the room. Gulf shuffles to his desk and starts up his computer, he’s not sure he’ll be able to focus but he’s going to try.   

 

To Gulf's surprise Mew pulls out his own phone and doesn’t speak to him for the next several hours as Gulf works. It hadn’t occurred to Gulf to ask if Mew had to go to his own job or not. Had Gulf been selfish in dragging Mew to his own workplace? Gulf spares a glance at Mew and sees him typing on his phone still, he doesn’t seem too bothered so Gulf decides to ask him about it later. Gulf manages to get himself in a focused zone and starts working without a break. He’s checking over drafts his juniors have sent him through the company email when someone places a mug of tea beside him. He looks up to see Mew holding his own hot beverage, they’re both cups from the staff kitchen on their floor.   

 

“You went out there?” Gulf points towards his door, face morphing into horror. He was so preoccupied he didn’t even notice. “Yeah, I asked Saint where the closest coffee shop was but he showed me your staff kitchen instead. Said something about how the shops around here are always packed during office hours,” Mew sips from his cup and brings his chair closer to Gulf’s desk. “Saint? As in my junior Saint?” Gulf asks in a small voice. “Did my boss see you?”   

 

“Don’t worry I ran into Saint as soon as I stepped outside your door so no one else saw me,” Mew rests his elbows across from Gulf, his eyes twinkling like he wants to be praised. All Gulf gives him is a nod to acknowledge he’s been heard. “Your junior is really nice, said a lot of good things about you” Mew says then, lowering his head to try and catch Gulf’s eyes. He must see the shock that flashes across Gulf’s face because he reaches out a hand. He lays it an inch away from Gulf’s own, not touching but just staying there. It draws Gulf’s stubborn eyes away from his keyboard. “Why are you so surprised? He said he’s learned a lot while working under you. That you’re always diligent, kind and helpful. He seems like he really admires you”   

 

Gulf can feel his heart stutter in his chest, he’s so overwhelmed his hand shakes. Mew finally closes the gap and runs his fingers over the back of Gulf’s knuckles. “I didn’t know he felt that way” Gulf sighs out. His hand feels warm beneath Mew’s, a tiny comfort. “I should get back to this spreadsheet, thanks for the tea” Gulf extracts his hand and starts typing again. He thinks Mew will go back to what he was doing before but instead the other alpha rests his head on his crossed arms and stays there for the rest of Gulf’s work day. They have a visitor around noon, a junior knocking before coming in to ask for their lunch order. The girl seems surprised to find someone inside Gulf’s office so she blushes while apologizing for interrupting their meeting.   

 

Both of the alphas brush off her words and order a sandwich so she can continue on her way. Once the food arrives Gulf takes one big bite and then doesn’t touch the rest of it until it’s cold and stale. Mew watches him work until he notices people are starting to head home by the sounds of bustling outside the door. Mew doesn’t say anything and waits. It’s not until it’s quiet outside that he peeks his head out and notices that almost everyone is gone for the day. Gulf still looks nowhere near finished with what he is doing but it’s already getting dark outside.   

 

Mew starts cleaning up around Gulf’s office to keep himself distracted while hoping Gulf would finish soon. He’s been stuck in a chair all day and it hasn’t been doing any wonders for his back. He tosses their lunches and takes their empty mugs back to the staff kitchen to wash. He alphabetizes Gulf’s small stack of books on his desk and even refolds Gulf’s suit from last night so it doesn’t get too wrinkly in the bag. Once he’s finished Gulf is still working, a crease between his brows. Mew glances at his watch and sighs.   

 

“Um...” He starts but doesn’t know what to say. His voice manages to make Gulf glance up though, his eyebrows losing their aggravated stance from earlier. “Yes?” Gulf asks. He sits up straight and presses down the front of his shirt in habit. Mew doesn’t know why that makes him smile. “I was wondering when you usually get off work” Mew decides that’s a safe enough thing to say. He doesn’t want Gulf to feel rushed to leave but he’s also worried about the fact that Gulf is staying behind so late after everyone’s already gone home. It doesn’t seem to be a one-time occurrence either.   

 

Gulf looks at the time on his computer and sees how late it’s gotten, “Oh god I didn’t realize the time. I’ll try and be faster, sorry”  

 

Gulf is about to start working again when Mew walks up behind him. He leans back against the window in Gulf’s office and stares out at the sunset. “I didn’t mean it that way, you can take as long as you need. I’m just worried” Mew replies. Gulf doesn’t know what to say, he’s been living this way for so long that he’s never considered how it may seem to others. Yeah, Gulf is tired. Sure, he wants to go home already. But he’s also terrified of what will happen if he fails this project, just like he’s been terrified of any new responsibilities he’s been given during the past two years. He knows there’s no room for failure, he can’t let down all the people depending on him.   

 

And he’s set up a high standard for himself as well, because he wants to improve and become the best in his field. That’s why staying late, being exhausted, hungry, stressed, lonely had seemed like a given in the road to his success. Gulf hadn’t let himself consider a different possibility. If his determination began to waver, his resolve would crumble under all the heartache he knew he felt throughout the years. Truthfully, the only thing keeping Gulf going is a clear goal set in front of him at all times. He tries not to let his mind stray, not look at how much more fulfilled his friend’s lives are than his own. If he does, he won’t be able to carry on. “You can take a break, and slow down. All of this” Mew gestures around Gulf’s office, “will still be here tomorrow morning.”   

 

“I know that’s easier said than done...and maybe I’m out of line but I’ve only been with you for one day and I can tell how hard you work. Your fellow employees see it too. The only one who seems to be dissatisfied is yourself,” Mew looks back out of the window, the sun long gone from the horizon. The sky is dusky oranges and purples, it’s the first time Gulf has seen the setting sun in over a year. Mew is only in a white dress shirt now, having taken off his jacket earlier in the day. His sleeves are rolled up to his forearms and his hands are hidden in his pant pockets. It reminds Gulf of that one time his friend Bright had come to his workplace to pick him up for a game of soccer. Gulf had been adamant in finishing one last thing for work before they left and had made Bright stay behind for an hour.   

 

His friend was complaining beneath his breath the whole time, making small balls with scrap paper he had found around the office. In the end they had been too late to join the game and Bright had ghosted him for a week after that. He had told Gulf that he can be greedy about things other than work, otherwise he might find himself left with nothing at the end of the day.   

 

“You’re right,” Gulf says after a while. He saves his report and shuts off the computer. Mew is giving him a lopsided smile as he packs up for the day and it makes him forget about the guilt of not finishing the last review draft.   

 

Once they’re in the elevator Mew starts making a show of stretching, saying how he hasn’t needed to sit for that long in a while. “Do you not work in an office?” Gulf asks, only now being reminded that he has no idea what Mew does for a living. “You could say I don’t, I mostly have to travel” Mew lets Gulf out of the elevator first, following behind like a puppy. “What do you do exactly?” Gulf looks back as they walk out into the parking lot. “I have a startup company. We’re a team of different engineers who help companies design, develop and improve integrated systems of equipment, people, and energy. We’ve been getting a lot of bigger contracts recently so there’s a bit of downtime in between.”   

 

Gulf pretends like he understands and just nods. Mew must get that reaction a lot because he laughs as he takes out his car keys and opens the door. “Do you want to go eat something?” Mew asks Gulf when he starts the car. Mew turns his head towards Gulf in the passenger seat and notes the weariness in his posture. “Or we can order in, I have a lot of takeout flyers at home” Mew says again as he starts to back out of the parking lot.   

 

“Until when are we supposed to stay together? Am I sleeping over too?” Gulf replies, a kitten glare directed at Mew. It’s the most nonthreatening look Mew has ever seen. He has to block his laughter with a hand against his mouth. “Yeah that would probably be for the best, at least for tonight.” Mew drives with care, his eyes focused on the road. Gulf takes his time studying his passing surroundings. The route from his work to Mew’s condo is already blooming with flowers, green across all the sidewalks. It’s a warmer night again, even without the sun there are people milling about in simple T-shirts. Gulf looks to his right, at Mew with his rolled-up sleeves and slightly unbuttoned shirt. It’s such a different view from last night where Mew was wearing a denim jacket and a black shirt underneath. His hair was soft as it cast a shadow on his forehead, now it’s pulled away from his face save for a stray strand or two.   

 

Gulf watches as Mew rubs at one of his eyes, a piece of his hair getting in the way. He doesn’t hesitate as he reaches out and sweeps it back, tucking it behind Mew’s ear. He lets his finger linger there, brushing against the shell. It becomes red beneath his touch, the only indication that Mew is paying attention to him at all. Gulf looks then at the black earring Mew is wearing, a small hoop. It’s almost glimmering as lights bounce off of it after every intersection. “Do you wear this often?” Gulf asks as he taps the piece of jewelry. Before he can hit it again Mew’s hand detaches from the steering wheel and grips his fist in the air. He brings it down and places it on Gulf’s lap, running his thumb across his knuckles as he lets go.   

 

“Don’t distract me, I’m driving.” Mew scolds, his voice isn’t stern and it has none of the heat it had that morning during their fight. It makes Gulf grin rather than sulk. “I wear it most of the time, unless I’m going to a meeting with a client who has different cultural expectations than our own. Some people think you’re frivolous if you have piercings, I’ve had to learn that the hard way” Mew explains as they arrive at his condo’s underground parking lot. He grabs Gulf’s briefcase from the backseat and proceeds to exit the car. “Did you lose clients because of it?” Gulf tries to catch up, following Mew into the building.   

 

“Yeah, at the beginning I was young and stupid. Thought the world revolved around me and that as long as I knew I was hard working it didn’t matter how others saw me. Turns out you can’t stay in business like that,” Mew turns to him in the elevator and smiles, his eyes don’t reflect the sentiment and he ends up looking a little sad instead. Gulf isn’t sure if he can see that in Mew’s face or if he’s feeling it through their bond. It draws a breath out of him, a deep sorrow settling into his bones like it’s his own. Gulf is sure there’s more to the story but he lets it go for the simple fact that he can’t handle looking at Mew’s eyes like that for another moment. He bumps his shoulder against Mew’s, not sure how else he’s supposed to comfort the man. He’s barely capable of reading emotional cues and consoling on a good day and that’s when he’s familiar with the other person.   

 

When that other person happens to be a stranger, another alpha and also someone he’s bonded to Gulf can determine he’ll be pretty much useless in the solace department. He sends Mew a glance and hopes that his feelings of sympathy get through. They must have done something because the heart wrenching feeling is no longer rooted in Gulf’s body. Mew walks out of the elevator first and starts unlocking his front door. Gulf is left to stand behind him, his only view being the broad expanse of Mew’s back. It brings Gulf back to when they had hugged in Gulf’s office, Mew’s arms were all-embracing. Like the rolling hills of a valley, as far as the eye can see.   

 

“So, I was thinking we can order from this one place close by, their food is not too bad and they have a big menu so we don’t have to compromise on what to eat” Mew’s voice interrupts Gulf’s train of thought. They both step into the dark condo, this time different from the first. Mew turns the entryway lights on and takes off his shoes. He proceeds to dump Gulf’s bag down on the couch and then collapses onto the furniture himself. Gulf doesn’t know whether to be charmed or unimpressed. “Do you want to shower first? I can order our food in the meantime,” Mew offers Gulf the flyer of the restaurant he had been talking about and lets him find something he likes.   

 

Then he proceeds to give Gulf a change of clothes and a towel so he can shower. Gulf is more surprised by the fact that it all feels so easy rather than the fact that he’s showering in Mew’s house for the second time in less than twenty-four hours. Mew takes a shower after him and they both sit down around the small coffee table in front of Mew’s couch to eat. The food had arrived while Mew was in the shower so Gulf had paid the delivery man. The food is good and Gulf feels better now that he’s had a warm shower. He piles a bit of rice onto his spoon and shovels it into his mouth. Mew is eating beside him without a word. His hair is similar now to when Gulf had first met him, a cascade of fluff across his face. He’s in a plain shirt and some sweatpants, similar to what he had given Gulf to wear.   

 

Gulf can smell the lemon of the detergent from his burrowed clothes, Mew’s own scent stronger now that the suppressants were wearing off. “Is this weird?” Gulf finally plucks up enough courage to ask. Mew stills, spoon halfway to his mouth before setting it back down. “Which part? The food or us?” Mew laughs at Gulf’s astonished reaction. “Should we talk about it now?” He pushes his plate away and leans back until he rests against the couch. Gulf can tell he’s serious but also notices the way his eyes don’t hold a candle to the ferocious spark they had in the morning. Gulf can’t think of a better time to get this over with.   

 

So he turns his body towards Mew, hands braced on each knee for support. He wipes the sweat that accumulates on his palms before looking at Mew directly. “Yes, we should talk now”   

 

Mew nods and takes out his phone, Gulf watches as he unlocks it and then hands it over to Gulf. “I contacted this hospital while you were working. They deal with a lot of newly bonded pairs and are well equipped in handling alphas. They gave me a few options for openings they had and asked that I call them back if I want an appointment. I think this will be a good start, so we can find out more about...this,” Mew stops to gesture between them, the small wave of his hand a pale comparison to the leaps and bounds the vast pool within Gulf’s chest has grown. He can feel it even now, burning for him to reach out and grab Mew.   

 

“That’s a good idea...” Gulf takes a look at the few timeslots available before telling Mew he would only be able to go on the Saturday. “I have work every other day and Sundays are when I usually see my friends,”   

 

Mew nods and tells him Saturday is fine, “I don’t have any ongoing projects until next week so it shouldn’t be a problem.”   

 

Gulf sighs, for the first time since this morning he feels like things will be okay. They linger in a sort of trance, not knowing what else to touch upon. The quiet between them starts to tread into the uncomfortable kind. Gulf hasn’t eaten everything on his plate but he’s not sure he could stomach the rest, the stress he’s been shouldering all day finally making its presence known. “Do you want to watch a movie?” Mew asks then, already starting to clear the table. Gulf manages to pick himself off of the floor and help bring the rest of their mess into Mew’s kitchen. “Sure,” He replies, feeling thankful. Mew seems to know exactly what to say and when to say it.   

 

He gets a gentle bump to his hips while they wash the dishes as a response. It seems Mew also knows when not to say anything at all.   

 

~  

 

“You can pick, I have to make a phone call” Mew gives him the remote control and disappears behind his bedroom door, now closed. Somehow it makes Gulf’s heart stumble, his bond isn’t happy about their distance. Now that Gulf isn’t preoccupied with anything else, all he can focus on is the push and pull of the tide in his chest. He can’t possibly follow after Mew, that would be rude. Instead he tries to channel his energy into finding a good blockbuster.   

 

He decides on a mindless action film, those are almost always good in Gulf’s opinion. Mew is taking longer than expected so Gulf starts to feel drowsy. He lies down on the couch; head cushioned by his own arms and decides to just close his eyes for a few minutes while he waits. He feels a tug on his wrist, barely noticeable, then a weight across his body. The smell of damp earth is back, it makes Gulf want to pull it closer. He stretches his arms out and opens his eyes. The once lit living room is now bathed in a warm orange glow. There’s only the light from a lamp by the corner illuminating the shapes surrounding Gulf. But he can see Mew, as clear as if it were day.   

 

He’s hovering over Gulf, hands tucking a thick blanket over Gulf’s shoulders. “Sorry, did I wake you?” Mew asks, voice hushed. Gulf shakes his head, groaning as he stretches again. “It’s okay, I wasn’t sleeping” He sits up, rubbing at his eyes with a small fist. Mew seems not to believe him if the smile he gives is any indication. They turn on the movie and delve into a silence that is no longer awkward. Gulf pulls his knees up to his chest beneath the blanket, lets his head rest on his arms. They laugh when they need to and wow when there’s an explosion. Mew asks Gulf if these are the movies he likes, beaming when Gulf replies “Yes,” unabashed. “Okay, noted” Mew says back, his arms a stern cross against his chest. Gulf hates how he can’t stop his eyes from wandering to them.   

 

They’re halfway through the film when Gulf can’t keep his head up anymore. He glances at Mew and sees he’s in no better shape. Gulf takes the remote from the coffee table and presses pause. “Let’s call it a night? We’re both half dead at this point,” Gulf whispers, the room plunged into a drastic silence without the sounds of the movie echoing throughout it.   

 

“Alright, I’ll go grab you a pillow. You can sleep on the couch” Mew makes to get up, his movements slow due to the weariness.   

 

“Oh? You would let your guest sleep on the sofa?” Gulf asks, feigning displeasure.   

 

“Well...you’re taller than me but I’m getting old and my back just can’t handle it. Sorry,” Mew grabs at the blanket and throws the edge of it over Gulf’s head, his hair a mess of static once he pulls it off.   

 

“I seem to remember your bed being big enough for two,” Gulf teases back, almost biting his tongue in a panic afterwards. His eyes grow wide and his palms clam up, his mind unable to process that those words just left his mouth. He can’t tear his eyes off of Mew’s frozen back even though he wants to just melt into a puddle on the floor. He sucks in a breath and turns his surprise into hubris. Yeah, he did just say that, so what?   

 

“Alright, just bring that blanket with you then” Is all Mew says, voice aloft as he heads into his bedroom. Gulf’s self-imposed confidence deflates like a sad balloon, his feet silent as he crosses the floor. Mew is already on the bed, back against the headboard as he scrolls through his phone. Gulf pauses at the door, really regretting his brash tongue. His brain to mouth filter always fails him at the worst of times. Mew doesn’t look up from his phone as he pats beside him on the bed. An invitation. A choice.   

 

Gulf slips into the other side of the bed and throws the blanket he was carrying over them both. He turns his back to Mew and squeezes his eyes shut, willing sleep to take him under. He hears the quiet clatter of Mew’s phone, set on the bedside table before the bed shifts. “Goodnight,” murmurs Mew, his voice as discreet as the moonlight. Gulf doesn’t reply, awfully aware of the space between them on the bed. His heart pounds, every breath leaving in a shake. He can feel that Mew is awake, his thoughts a swirl in the pond rippling beneath Gulf’s skin. He decides to turn onto his other side, the dark of the room doing nothing for the way his mind conjures up demons.   

 

Mew is there, his body outlined by the faint light coming in through the window. It's strangely calming, Gulf’s eyes starting to droop. He feels a lurch in their tether, like the splash of a koi fish as it ducks from unsuspecting eyes. “Are you afraid?” Gulf asks, the night making him braver. He knows Mew’s heard him but the reply comes much later, when Gulf is falling back asleep. “A little,” Mew confesses. Gulf hadn’t realized that he had made Mew bare his soul to him twice already, the thought now more than a little staggering. Mew is an alpha like no other Gulf has ever seen, vulnerable like it doesn’t make him any less, brave like he knows how much it makes him more  

 

It has Gulf wanting to be the same, at least a bit. He uncovers his right hand from beneath the blanket, laying it palm up on the bed between them. He doesn’t dare say it, can’t manage more than a clement tap against the mattress with his forefinger. Take it, his heart purrs. Take it  

 

Mew’s hand is warm when it bumps into his, always warm. He doesn’t move, testing Gulf, wondering if he’s right.  

 

 And then he laces their hands together.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

When Gulf wakes up it’s morning once more. He’s lying on his side, the blanket pulled up to below his chin and the space beside him empty. He pats at the mattress and notices that it’s cold to the touch. Mew has been gone a while. As soon as the alpha pops into his mind the pool inside his chest stirs, like a cat stretching when it finishes a nap. He can feel that Mew is far, everything inside of him feels dulled and muted. For a moment he can’t manage to sit up, his hands a weight that seem unfamiliar to him. His eyes land on the window across from him. The moonlight from last night replaced by the blinding rays of the sun. A bird chirps from somewhere outside and he can hear a few people talking, walking, mingling outside of Mew’s apartment. Gulf focuses on the ambient sounds and pushes himself off of the bed.  

 

As soon as he’s sitting up anxiety, foreign in its gravity settles upon him. He can smell Mew all around him, his very essence in every nook and cranny of the simple bedroom and yet he’s nowhere nearby. Gulf can’t even begin to understand why he feels so in despair about that fact. He’s sure Mew is just doing something for work or running some errands. It’s not as if he will never be coming back. This is his house after all.  

 

Gulf is not sure what he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t have Mew’s number and he feels estranged with the surroundings. This isn’t his home; the bedsheets are white not black, the bed is bigger, the walls are bare of photos and there’s a collection of Star Wars figurines in a large glass case. Gulf would never be caught dead watching the new Star Wars movies. Gulf stares down at the black sweatpants and white T-shirt Mew had let him burrow last night. He hasn’t had to be this clothed in the confines of his own house since his parents used to stop by all the time. Gulf reminds himself, for the second time that morning, that this isn’t his house.  

 

Focusing on other things seems to help, he doesn’t feel the incomprehensible need to see Mew right that second. Gulf stands and freshens up a little in the washroom before tidying up the bed. Honestly his own sheets are always left in a mess but he’s a guest here, Mew would probably not like it if he came back to see Gulf hadn’t even bothered to straighten the duvet.  

 

It takes him entirely too little time to do that. Gulf looks out into the living room and wonders if it would be okay for him to peruse the rest of the house. It feels a little intrusive to walk around without Mew there, like Gulf is somewhere he doesn’t belong. He ventures out anyways, feet quiet and meek. He spots a desk in a corner outside of the kitchen with a set of books lying across it. As Gulf steps closer he realizes they are all related to Mew’s line of work, piles of paperwork in a neat row. There’s only one folder out of place, a few sheets scattered loose as if Mew had been in too much of a rush to put them back in their place. Gulf smiles just thinking about it.  

 

He doesn’t know Mew much but he gets the impression that he’s a very serious individual. He’s sweet and anything but cold however he’s not one to sit back and let others dawdle. Gulf witnessed that firsthand when Mew had told him he should go home the other day, not shy and yet not overpowering. A quiet push in the right direction, stern and determined in his own way. The same way he took initiative in finding a doctor to help them understand their predicament. Gulf had been too busy trying to avoid the situation all together to even begin thinking of a way to overcome it. But Mew had been.  

 

Gulf sighs as he shuffles the few out of place papers back into their respective folders. His eyes are drawn to the family photo on the desk, the only one he has seen in Mew’s entire condo. He spots Mew right away. His hair is longer and boyish, the sharp edge of his face replaced by a youthful smile. He looks so happy. On either side of him stand, what Gulf assumes, his parents and a smaller girl. She’s sitting on the grass in front with a few dogs lying in her lap. Gulf smiles as he picks up the photograph and dusts it with the edge of his shirt. It reminds Gulf of his own family, his mom, dad and his sister. He misses them a lot. He misses them so much that he can barely stand it.  

 

It’s been a year since he’s last seen them and for what? Because he was busy. He was working. He was trying to make a living wage and make life easier for them. That’s what he told himself every time his dad would call and ask if they could visit only for Gulf to mumble a pathetic excuse. They talk on the phone sometimes but that too is far and long in between. Then a year had flown by and Gulf is just now realizing how stupid he’d been. He misses them and he wants to see them, hear their voices.  

 

He doesn’t notice how hard he’s gripping onto the framed photo until there are fingers placed atop his own. Gulf snaps out of his thoughts and looks up to see Mew slipping the picture out of his grasp. His eyes linger on the faces he sees there, a little nostalgic, a little sad. He’s smiling but it’s resigned. Gulf opens his mouth, not sure what he’s going to say but knowing he needs to say something. Mew beats him to it. “That was taken on family day when I was 14, my parents had always been sentimental so we spent it together every year. Guess they passed that gene down,” Mew puts the frame back on his desk, a lighter look to his eyes as he turns to Gulf. “You hungry? I picked up some food,” Gulf is so taken aback he can only nod and watch Mew head to the kitchen to get cutlery.  

 

They eat at the kitchen island this time, much like their first breakfast. Gulf glances at Mew throughout their meal and takes note of the fact that he’s dressed in a suit again. “Did you go to work? I thought you were on vacation,” Gulf says, words careful. Mew finishes chewing then takes another spoonful, “Yeah I am, but the others are working on a pretty big contract right now and they wanted my opinion on something so I went in for a morning meeting. I had to pick up a few things anyways," Gulf stares at the document bag that sits by the entrance where Mew left it after arriving. “Brought work home with you?” Gulf smirks, an accusation in there somewhere. It was just last night that Mew had told him to not overwork himself.  

 

Mew smiles as he continues to eat another bite. His silence is telling enough. “You were already gone when I woke up,” Gulf mumbles, pretending that his plate is the most interesting thing in the room. Mew hums in reply, a careful look taking over his eyes. “You were sound asleep and I thought you could use the rest. Did something happen?”  

 

Gulf thinks back to the way he felt when he woke up without Mew, in a place he barely knew and compares it to now. Mew’s sitting across from him and it’s as if all the turmoil he felt earlier is a distant dream, the feelings of before an echo in a hollow cave. He feels content, more comfortable than he feels he should be. “No, nothing,” Gulf sends Mew a smile, barely there but enough. They delve into silence once more and finish eating after that. Gulf feels full first and starts picking at his leftover food when a thought occurs to him. They’ve already spent all of yesterday together so he’s no longer obligated to stay at Mew’s place. Gulf wonders if Mew is going to ask him to leave after breakfast. Considering how nice and polite Mew has been so far Gulf doubts he would outright tell Gulf to leave. But does he expect Gulf to excuse himself after breakfast? Gulf fidgets with his fork while deep in thought. His brows crease as he ponders when he should announce his departure.  

 

He remembers the feeling being away from Mew caused him just that morning and wonders if it will happen again if he decides to go home. How long is he supposed to stay beside Mew anyways? Forever? Gulf is sure that can’t be the case, otherwise no bonded pairs would be able to work or live normal lives. But it seems his body is really not ready to let him separate with Mew. He wonders if Mew felt any of the same feelings while he was away. He looks up at the alpha and watches as he keeps eating, no other care in the world. Gulf almost snorts at the sight. Somehow, he doubts it.  

 

Mew must sense eyes on him because he looks up at Gulf, cheeks full. He tilts his head in question but then goes back to eating when he realizes Gulf means nothing by it. “So... I’ve been thinking,” Mew says after his last bite. The words send Gulf into a bit of a frenzy. He tries to seem nonchalant as he cleans up the table, already having made a system of it since last night’s dinner. He nods at Mew to continue, not trusting his voice. “I know this happened kind of suddenly, and we have our appointment next Saturday but I was thinking we should get to know each other a bit before then,” Mew says as he settles in beside Gulf at the sink. His posture is relaxed, sleeves rolled up so they don’t get wet by the running water, voice light and airy. Mew says it like a spur of the moment suggestion but Gulf can feel it in their bond, the way Mew is hesitant and nervous. He’s not sure how he can pick out those emotions, it hasn’t happened before that very moment, only that he can feel them as clearly as if they were his own.  

 

Gulf is brought back to last night, to the stillness that the late hours of the night had accompanied, where Mew’s words had been tentative.  

 

“That’s a good idea, how do you suppose we do that?” Gulf answers in kind, trying to exude composure. Mew sends him a quick glance before he brings up one wet hand and flicks the water on his fingers at Gulf. Gulf pauses for a moment, stunned and appalled. Then he’s sporting a wicked grin as he squeezes the soap suds out of the sponge he was using to wash the dishes with into his hands. Mew is fast in his escape, running out of the kitchen and hiding behind the living room couch. Gulf finds him lying on the floor dying of laughter, pointing at Gulf’s wet bangs. His joy is dampened when he spots the handful of bubbles in each of Gulf’s fists but in the end, he’s laughing once more.  

 

Gulf stands over him and bends down to smear the foam all over Mew’s face. The other alpha puts up a lackluster defense and ends up soaked as well. Gulf sits down beside Mew to join in the chorus of chuckling. Once they both calm down they heave a small sigh. “If this is what you’re like I’m going to go into early retirement” Gulf murmurs, feeling tired from the scuffle. Mew is rubbing off the soap and water with a towel he grabbed from the kitchen, sitting on the couch now as he smiles. “If by that you mean I’m fun, loving and a joy to be with then you would be correct,” Mew replies, tossing the towel onto Gulf’s head and proceeding to dry out his wet bangs with a few rubs. When Gulf pulls away the towel his hair is tousled. Mew holds back a snicker with his hand, reaching out to pat down the places where Gulf’s strands are poking out in a strange way.  

 

“More like a nuisance,” Gulf throws back, watching in reverie as Mew helps fix his hair. Mew’s scent is subdued, like he’s taken a suppressant, but Gulf can still feel it. Not the stale, cold essence of it around Mew’s condo but the vibrant buzz of it when Mew is right in front of him. It’s like a sudden shower, the drizzle soft and quiet while the sun still shines. It’s so strange, Gulf thinks. The way Mew’s scent makes him feel.  

 

Like he’s a teenager again, sitting in his bedroom with only a small lamp on. He’s got his stereo playing by his nightstand, a gentle love song. He’s warm under his blanket and his family is sound asleep in their adjacent rooms. It’s raining outside, the sky dark as it hits against his window in steady beats.  

 

He feels safe.  

 

 

 

 

“So, we should probably exchange phone numbers,” Gulf passes Mew his phone, taking Mew’s in exchange. They’ve got a game starting up on Mew’s console. Both of them had decided to just hang out and ask each other questions naturally. Mew raises Gulf’s phone and snaps a picture to set as his contact photo before handing it back. Gulf just adds a small soccer ball beside his name in Mew’s phone and calls it a day. “Oh? Do you play?” Mew asks him once he’s got his phone back, thumb running over the screen. “Yeah, you could say I’m a pro” Gulf boasts, picking up a game console controller and starting a new run. “Hm, I’ll believe it when I see it” Mew knocks him with an elbow, Gulf’s player on the screen falling to their demise. He sends a glare to his right, Mew pretending like he’s done nothing wrong.  

 

They play like that for hours. Gulf learns Mew likes to cheat more than actually play. He continues to make bets and then does everything in his power to ensure Gulf is unable to fulfill his side of it. Gulf tries to give back just as much, blocking Mew’s line of sight with a hand and pushing at his arms during critical points but it only has Mew laughing. Even when he loses he just gives a happy giggle, it leaves Gulf feeling unsatisfied with his wins. Like they’re playing a separate game Gulf doesn’t quite understand. Every time he does something Mew seems to find interesting, he’ll make a point of asking Gulf about it.  

 

“Do you do that often?”  

 

“Do you not like that?”  

 

“Is this game fun?”  

 

“Do you like this character more?”  

 

Gulf can’t manage to do the same, just letting Mew guide the vibe. He follows his lead and answers everything, letting Mew hum and nod along. Instead Gulf sits back and observes Mew whenever he gets the chance. He sees the small tongue that pokes out when Mew is focusing extra hard on beating a level of the game. He sees the way he shakes his head to get his hair out of his eyes, his bangs a little too long. His hands that look so strong and dependable dwarfing the small controller. His laugh is deep and then high, light and then heavy, teasing and then tender. His eyes twinkle with mirth, becoming crescents when he’s especially pleased. He gets a tiny crease on his nose and he even sometimes brings up a hand to cover his laugh. It’s all very endearing in a way Gulf wasn't expecting.  

 

He’s had alpha friends before, alpha classmates and alpha colleagues. He’s been with alphas all throughout his life and yet he’s never met anyone like Mew. He’s not sure why Mew seems so different to him than anyone else. Maybe it’s the way he’s carefree around him, another alpha, in a way only possible amongst friends who’ve known each other for several years. Or maybe it’s the way he’s so unbothered with the way alphas are supposed to be, supposed to act that he can be everything that he is. He’s strong, stable and a leader but that’s expected. Gulf wouldn’t expect anything less from someone labelled an “alpha”. But then he’s soft, genuine and vulnerable. Gulf himself has trouble being anything of that sort.  

 

It might have to do with the fact that his whole life he’s been told to be one thing, an alpha. And then he’d been taught what an alpha was, headstrong, aggressive, successful. Gulf has always been a sporty guy and he had lots of alpha friends throughout high school, was even an omega magnet. However, that’s where most of his stereotypical alpha traits stopped. Gulf spent many a night during his adolescents wondering if there was something wrong with him. His friends would always tussle for no reason during their breaks, whistle after omegas in the hallways, act outrageous and be unafraid. Gulf would sit back and watch it all with a smile on his face, joining in when he could but often not feeling a need to. His friend Bright is the most like him in their circle of friends, so they get along the best. But even Bright is more outgoing, making friends easier and not afraid to speak to people when meeting for the first time.  

 

Mew is an anomaly in Gulf’s eyes. He doesn’t understand how an alpha like him exists, having surely had a similar upbringing as Gulf’s own. Somehow, unlike Gulf he isn’t ashamed of everything he’s not and proud of everything he is. It is amazing no matter how often Gulf thinks about it. He wonders if there are other alphas out there like Mew and he’s just not come across them.  

 

He takes one more look at Mew, he’s staring so hard at the TV he’s not blinking, fingers tapping at the controller with speed. No, Gulf surmises, there’s no one out there like Mew.  

 

 

 

 

As much as Gulf is worried about a rerun of the feelings he experienced earlier in the morning he’s also missing his own home. He misses his small succulents, his old leather couch and his own bed. Being surrounded by Mew’s scent all the time is also a little exhausting. It makes him want to pull the older close to him and yet his brain continues to tell him why that would not be wise. The internal conflict is really draining him. Even though both Mew and himself have been taking suppressants, Mew’s scent is so ingrained in his condo it’s hard to ignore.  

 

Mew is on his phone now, a few papers strewn across his lap from work. His legs are sprawled out on the couch, almost reaching Gulf at the other end. They are taking some time for themselves while still being close by. Gulf is thankful Mew hadn’t decided to go into his room to do work. He pulls his knees up to his chest and watches the alpha continue to scan the documents. “Uhm,” Gulf starts, the rest of his words getting caught in his throat. He coughs to break them loose, his fingers fidgeting. Mew is looking at him now, phone forgotten on his lap. “We should sleep at my place tonight,” Gulf blurts out while looking away. Mew’s blank walls are suddenly the most interesting things Gulf has ever witnessed.  

 

Mew hums in response, a thoughtful gaze surfacing. “Sure, why not” He says, phone back in his hands and fingers typing away. Gulf breathes out a sigh of relief. He is starting to see that Mew is willing to do almost anything as long as it isn’t unreasonable. He’s really a great guy, not even asking Gulf why he needs certain things. He just accepts that there are some things Gulf might not be able to say, some things Mew will have to uncover by himself. Gulf can feel Mew in the pool within his chest, he’s so hard to read. Every time Gulf thinks he can pinpoint a certain emotion or thought it disperses like paper in water. The pool is so dark that Gulf can’t see beneath its surface, he knows Mew’s in there but he’s too scared to dive in. Gulf thinks if he were to enter, he would not be able to get back out. And that scares him more than anything.  

 

He wonders what Mew is feeling about all this, does he feel Gulf inside of him as well? Does he feel Gulf’s thoughts and emotions, or is he puzzled by what he finds? Is he willing to delve into the pool, deep and full of unknowns? Or is he also undecided? Gulf pouts while he thinks about it, his game character dying on his phone. His eyes start to droop the longer he plays and he decides to take a little nap. The sun is still shining outside, casting a warm golden hue on the both of them. It’s not intrusive and doesn’t target Gulf’s eyes, just warms him from the inside out. He stretches and lies down, feet pushing a bit at Mew’s to give him some room. He hears Mew scoff out a laugh before he’s sitting further back, Gulf’s feet able to stretch a little.  

 

Not for the last time that day, Gulf feels thankful and cozy.  

 

 

 

 

“What do you usually do on Saturdays?” Mew asks him as he drives to Gulf’s place. He’s got both hands on the steering wheel but he’ll sometimes let his left one rest on the gearshift. Gulf’s eyes have no choice but to follow the movement every time.  

 

“Just some chores around my place, sleep in, play video games. It’s my one day alone so I try and relax as much as possible” Gulf replies, still looking at Mew’s hand on the gearshift. It’s like a strange sort of magic, he’s so enraptured he can’t pull his gaze away. Mew’s hands are really nice, Gulf excuses. They’re big, warm and sinewy. He’s noticed Mew doesn’t wear much jewelry save for a beaded bracelet and a blue ring. He puts on a watch when he’s wearing a suit but that’s not now. Now he’s in a jean jacket and some sweats, it’s effortless and yet he still looks good in it. Gulf finally looks away when he feels himself burn underneath a forming blush.  

 

“Oh, I’m sorry you were kind of stuck with me” Mew says then, a small frown on his face. He’s following a GPS app to Gulf’s house, making the final turn into his street. Gulf shakes his head and pats at Mew’s shoulder. “It’s fine, today was fun. I whooped your ass in ROV and Mario Kart” Gulf sticks out his tongue in a show of annoyance, he’s far too old for such a thing but it doesn’t stop him. Mew catches it from the corner of his eye and bursts out into laughter. He brings his hand away from the gearshift to cover his mouth and then lands it on Gulf’s leg, tapping it twice. The touch is gone as soon as it came, Gulf’s body going taut. Gulf’s entire chest flutters to life, their bond delighted with the slight contact.  

 

Gulf doesn’t know if he’s this happy about Mew touching him or if it’s their bond causing all these emotions. Emotions Gulf hasn’t experienced in a long while. It makes him feel a little bit insecure, maybe even a bit anxious. His heart is jumping, his stomach a kaleidoscope of butterflies and his ears a deep scarlet. In a matter of a few days Mew has made him feel every emotion known to man, good and bad. He’s sitting beside Gulf as if none the wiser, while Gulf’s entire mind is in turmoil. This alpha has been able to drag him out of his office early, has made him feel seen and wanted, has given him care and all in the span of forty-eight hours. It’s baffling.  

 

Gulf takes a deep breath as Mew pulls up to his apartment complex, parking across from the entrance. He steps out and waits as Mew pulls his duffle bag out of the trunk. Unlike Gulf who had been thrown into Mew’s life and condo without even a clean shirt to his name, Mew had packed himself a few necessities. “This way,” Gulf points with his head, directing Mew to follow him to a concrete staircase leading to the second story of the humble complex.  

 

Gulf walks past his neighbor's entrance and stops at his own door. He takes out his keychain, jingling under the yellow lights of the street below. The tiny soccer ball Bright had gifted him for his last birthday as a joke bounces in the air as he unlocks the front door. He steps inside and slides off his loafers. He's about to step further inside when he notices Mew is still outside his door. “You coming in?” Gulf asks with arms crossed against his chest. Mew wavers for a moment longer before taking a deep breath and then stepping in. He rests his free hand against the hallway wall as he takes off his sneakers. “You okay?” Gulf says as he notices how Mew is looking a little pale.  

 

“I’m fine,” Mew says and then pauses, reaching out to hold Gulf’s wrist. “Actually, that was a lie.” He laughs it off but it’s forced, his eyes downcast. “This place...smells like you” Gulf just nods, a dumb look on his face as he tries to understand. He can tell Mew is going through a lot of different things if the way the mass of energy inside him is having a field day says anything, but he can’t decipher what the other is thinking at all. “Can you open a window for a while?” Mew lets out, as if it’s the biggest ask. Gulf snorts at the question, heading straight for the closest window and opening it wide. “Do I smell that bad?” Gulf teases as he sets a path to the next window.  

 

He looks back when he doesn’t receive a response. Mew’s eyes are hidden behind his hand, he almost looks shy. Gulf is amazed at the sight of it. “Don’t make me say it,” Mew responds, dragging his duffle bag up so he can hug it to his chest in comfort. Gulf is enjoying this too much to not take advantage so he decides to push a little further. “Say what?” He asks, head tilted like the innocent boy he is. Mew huffs out in disbelief, a smile gracing his lips as he looks out the now open window. “You smell too good, that’s what” He locks eyes with Gulf then, blazing even in the dark room. Gulf stifles a gasp, hands balling into fists by his side. He’s beginning to hate how much he loves the way Mew stares at him sometimes. He feels his entire body alight with fire, hairs standing on end.  

 

Mew drops the duffle bag on the floor, the sound a dull thud compared to the hammering of Gulf’s heart. He feels his blood rush in his ears, his face already hot. He must be blushing so hard. Mew takes a step closer to him, his eyes melt into something more tender. Gulf wants to think about what all this means, what he’s feeling exactly but all he can do is stare at Mew as he comes closer. He wants to kiss him. And hold him. That’s as far as his train of thought gets before Mew is in front of him, a hairs length away. The air feels charged around them; Gulf is too scared his breathing will break the moment. He searches Mew’s face, tries to find there what he’s unable to in their bond.  

 

“Is this okay?” Mew asks, words almost swallowed by the dark. Gulf isn’t sure what he’s referring to but there’s nothing he’s against at that moment. He inches just a bit closer, his hand bumping into Mew’s and his nose doing the same. They stay like that for a while, Gulf closing his eyes and focusing on the bond between them. It keeps asking for his attention. He tries to calm the waves so he can understand. It’s tumultuous and has Gulf being swept away by a riptide. Then, like a ray of light between a parting of clouds Mew takes his hand and he can feel it. As clear as a drop of water in his palm, he can feel it. Mew wants to kiss him.  

 

They close the distance at once, Gulf’s hand tightening around Mew’s as their lips connect. It’s still dark, Gulf hadn’t managed to get to any light switches yet and his apartment barely gets any light during the day let alone at night. But they find each other with ease. Gulf doesn’t have to see him to know where he is, doesn’t have to touch him to know he’s right there. And he’s not going anywhere.  

 

Mew brings his free hand up to cup the back of Gulf’s head, fingers running through Gulf’s hair. He kisses slow and sweet like they have the rest of their lives to do so. Gulf thinks, they probably do. They breathe in between, never straying far before coming back together again. Gulf pushes at Mew until he hits the edge of a countertop and then Gulf presses into him. His hands rest on Mew’s chest, his heart beating beneath Gulf’s fingers. He goes back to kissing Mew, unable to stop. Not wanting to.  

 

Everything else around them fades into the back, the cars passing by outside a quiet whir. Gulf can only hear his own erratic heartbeat and their mingling breaths. Mew traces his face with reverent fingers, holds his body close like he wants to keep Gulf there forever. Gulf isn’t sure how long they kiss, just that his lips feel a little numb after he pulls away. He wraps his arms around Mew’s shoulders before the other alpha can get too far and buries his head there. Gulf can’t imagine looking at Mew after all that. His face is still in full bloom, he’s sure. Mew holds him back, arms wrapping around Gulf’s waist like they belong there.  

 

It’s hard to talk, Gulf feels a growing need to say something but is unsure he can muster up a complete sentence. Mew begins to rub at his back in comfort, resting his head against Gulf’s. “Uncomfortable?” Mew asks then, whisper reserved for moments like this. Gulf gives a slight shake of his head, tightening his arms around Mew. He’s not sure what that was, what he feels exactly but he knows he’s not uncomfortable. He’s not sure he will ever be able to equate that word with Mew. “Awkward, then?” Mew asks again, lips brushing against Gulf’s ear.  

 

Gulf pulls out of his hold, one hand coming up to wrap around his ear, affronted. He gives Mew’s arm a weak slap, not prepared for such an attack. “What?” Mew laughs as he defends himself. He catches Gulf’s hand and just hold’s it, bringing it down and running his thumb over Gulf’s knuckles. “I can’t believe you,” Gulf says as he squeezes Mew’s hand, his bond has never felt more satiated. Mew hums and then pulls Gulf close again, looking in his eyes. “Why did you kiss me?” Mew asks, his tone serious and unguarded. Gulf is taken aback by the question, brows furrowing in thought.  

 

“Because you wanted me to,” Gulf replies, he keeps his stare focused on Mew’s eyes and the way they gleam every time they catch the light. “Is that the only reason why?” Mew’s hand loosens around his, his scent almost disappearing. Even with suppressants it’s rare to be able to extinguish one’s scent to such a degree. Gulf is so perplexed he almost leans into Mew’s scent glands to see if he can get it back. He feels so cold without it, like he’s left alone outside after a heavy downpour. His clothes are wet and the wind is whipping at him, there’s nobody in sight. Mew rests a hand against Gulf’s chest and stops him from getting any closer. “Is that the only reason?” Mew repeats, his brown eyes a deep abyss as they plead at Gulf. Plead for what, he’s unsure of.  

 

“I don’t understand,” Gulf murmurs, trying to grasp onto their bond and see if he’ll be able to find Mew there. He’s stunned when all he feels is the sweeping pool within him still as if it were frozen over. Mew ducks his head, and gives a small nod. “Never mind,” He says, hand slipping from Gulf’s. He turns away and heads back to where he dropped his duffle bag. “We should probably get ready for bed, it’s late” He continues, the lilt of his words all wrong. 

 

 

It leaves Gulf colder than a dreary night in a never-ending winter.  

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

“Are you asleep?”   

 

It’s late into the night. Gulf can see the moon from his bedroom window, bright even though it is waning. Mew is sleeping on the ground below him in Gulf’s old sleeping bag. He’d used it a grand total of one time when he went camping in college. Gulf’s bed is smaller than Mew’s but they could have still fit on it together. Gulf turns on his side and wonders if he should have offered that instead of the sleeping bag. He’s still unsure of their kiss in the kitchen, unable to make sense of it.  

 

It was a nice kiss, an amazing kiss even. Mew had held him with a firmness that Gulf might have at one time thought suffocating, but it had been gentle. Still lax and comfortable, letting Gulf take shape as if he were clay. His lips were soft, pressure just right. And the ever-present scent of rain mingling with the earth was becoming a candle Gulf never wanted to blow out. But now Gulf wonders why they kissed in the first place. Gulf thinks back to the way Mew had stepped up to him, always fearless and then restrained. Would Gulf have still closed the distance had Mew not held his hand? Would he have kissed Mew had he not felt the other’s want through their bond? Had that even been what Mew wanted or was it all a manifestation of their pairing?   

 

Gulf groans and squeezes his eyes shut. He’s really not one to over analyze like this. Gulf hates that he has all these questions and no answers to them and no one to ask them to. They’re his own feelings and yet Gulf doesn’t have a single clue as to how to decipher them. Can it be as simple as just...him wanting to kiss Mew? Mew is an attractive, successful and kind person. If Gulf were being objective, he thinks anyone in his position would love to kiss Mew. So, is it wrong to dumb it down to a simple want? If Gulf does that, it solidifies that he had wanted to kiss Mew. So maybe he did? Or had?   

 

“Ugh,” Gulf groans, his head is beginning to hurt.   

 

“Would you stop your mumbling and go to sleep?” Mew says from below. His voice sounds tired, like he’s only half awake. His words are slurred and a little muffled, Gulf assumes his face is smushed against his pillow. He decides to poke his head out the side of the bed and peak at Mew. His assumption is proven right. Mew’s legs are bent in the sleeping bag, he looks like a caterpillar. His head is turned away from Gulf, hair scattered across the pillow in a soft mess. Gulf stifles a laugh at the sight, if he ignores the way Mew’s bicep is bulging in his white T-shirt the alpha looks kind of cute. He must have managed to make a noise anyway since Mew turns around to slide him a glare.   

 

It has no flare and it’s turned soft by the way the alpha squints in the dark. “Do you have any idea what time it is?” Mew says, gruff in the dead of the night. “Late,” Gulf replies, sounding chipper. His tone does nothing but further aggravate Mew. The alpha turns back over and places his pillow on top of his head to block out Gulf. “I can’t sleep,” Gulf continues to say, eyes glued to Mew’s broad back. “I keep thinking...about everything,” Gulf hadn’t meant to sound so emotional when he let the words slip but that’s how his voice comes across, sentence half caught in his throat. Mew drops the pillow from atop his head and turns onto his back. He lets out a long-suffering sigh and then pats the ground beside him. “Come here,” He says when Gulf doesn’t make haste to move. Gulf looks down at the hard ground and then back at Mew, eyes drawn together in offence. “What? Why?” He complains only to lose his nerve when Mew sends him another look.   

 

“Fine, fine” Gulf mumbles as he slips off his mattress and sits cross-legged beside Mew. “Now give me your hand,” Mew says, his own reaching out in between them. Gulf hesitates for only a moment before he locks their palms together. The effect is immediate, the frozen cold within Gulf turning into a molten wave. “Do you want to talk about it?” Mew asks then, letting their hands rest against the sleeping bag. The fabric crinkles under their weight, cold from where it was unable to sap heat from Mew. “I don’t really know where to start,” Gulf begins, unable to look up from where he’s picking at his shorts with his free hand. He can feel Mew’s eyes on him, a small warmth in the cold room.   

 

“Then how about I go first,” Mew says, words exhaled like a breath. Gulf hears him shift and looks up in time to see Mew close his eyes. His face is aligned with the ceiling and his arm is cushioning his head. “What do you think about fate?” His thumb caresses Gulf’s hand in the silence that follows his question. A constant rhythm, back and forth. “I don’t know, is there such a thing?” Gulf whispers, more perplexed by Mew’s question than his own. It’s just another thing to think about. Gulf is already tired of thinking. “Hm, well if there isn’t then is everything just a series of coincidences?” Mew replies back, voice sounding distant as if he were falling back asleep. Gulf squeezes his hand to keep him awake. “Well not necessarily, can’t we be in control of our own lives? Like every action has an equal or opposite reaction?” Mew’s eyes slide back open at that, “Did you just quote Newton at me?”   

 

“Who’s that?” Gulf laughs, feeling a little embarrassed. He lets his head hang, still picking at a loose thread as he tries to get the conversation back on track. “Or something like it’s a coincidence until it happens three times,” Gulf continues, lips forming a small pout. Mew hums at that, eyes on the ceiling. “Why three in specific? Is once not special enough? Or twice?” Mew asks, his thumb slower now as it circles Gulf’s skin, like it’s sinking in quicksand. “Well once is chance, twice is coincidence and three times is a pattern. Isn’t the third time fate? Like the universe is saying that you let this one thing slip away two times already and now I’ll step in and make sure this is the last time...” Gulf trails off, feeling Mew’s thumb settle into a pause on his hand. “Or something,” He whispers lamely, feeling self-conscious for reasons he can’t quite grasp.   

 

He pulls out the loose thread with a tug and looks up to where Mew is. Their eyes catch and Gulf is reminded again of that moment in his kitchen, Mew staring at him as he stepped closer. He looks much of the same now, thoughtful like he wants to say something. “Maybe you’re right,” He finally says, the tension gathered between them snapping away in an instant. Gulf cranes back, all of a sudden noticing how far forward he had been leaning. He’s tired now, his limbs heavy and eyes droopy. Mew snorts out a laugh when Gulf lets out a yawn and pulls him down onto the sleeping bag. “Just close your eyes, you have plenty of time to keep thinking tomorrow” Mew says as he slides his pillow over and let’s Gulf rest on half of it.   

 

Their hands stay clasped together between them, it keeps Gulf warm through the rest of the night as sleep overtakes him.   

 

 

~  

 

 

“Y-you’re going?” Gulf asks, not meaning to sound so panicked. Mew is standing in front of his bathroom mirror fixing his hair. He’s wearing one of his suits again. He looks more casual than the other times Gulf has seen him, there’s no tie and his collar is even unbuttoned. Gulf clutches at his cup of juice tighter as he lingers outside of the door. Mew runs his hands through his hair one more time, the strands pushed off of his forehead, before deeming it good enough. “They need me at the office for a little bit,” Mew replies as he straightens the cuffs of his sleeves. Gulf frowns at the action, they were already straight enough in his opinion. “You being on vacation was a lie wasn’t it?” Gulf says in his best sarcastic tone. He had woken up after Mew for the second time except this time he hadn’t opened his eyes to emptiness.   

 

Mew had been there, still beside him and still holding his hand. He had been humming a soft tune, eye’s squinting against the morning sun. Gulf remembers waking up and for the first time in the past three days, feeling content. Mew laughs big and bright, bringing Gulf out of his reminiscing. “No, I swear this almost never happens.” Mew pats at his shoulder when passing by him to get out of the bathroom, an almost nonexistent tap. “Do you have anywhere to go today?” Mew asks as he heads to Gulf’s couch and starts ruffling with some folders from his work bag. “I usually hang out with friends on Sundays. I think I'm just going to go over to Bright’s place and play video games,” Gulf says, feeling a little childish. He can feel his face burn a little as Mew gives out a faint chuckle.   

 

Mew puts away his papers, filing them back into his bag with concentration before he stands. “Do you want me to drop you off? I can wait while you get ready,” Mew slides the strap of his bag over his shoulder and looks at Gulf. “It’s okay, I don’t want you to be late” Gulf says before sipping at his juice. If he were to be honest he doesn’t want Mew to go, afraid of how the bond will make him feel once Mew is no longer beside him. Waking up together had been nice, Gulf had felt no anxiety or discomfort. He doesn’t want those feelings to return. But at the same time, he’s unable to say any of this to Mew. Gulf has lived most of his life never needing much and demanding nothing from anyone. His parents would always joke about how he would be the perfect spouse, low maintenance they had called it. It's strange now to feel so desperate for something, want it and yearn for it and not even know why.   

 

It's like the feeling just manifested itself without warning, Gulf having no say in the matter. Gulf’s just not used to this; can’t imagine how he’s supposed to ask for something he doesn’t know if he’s even entitled to. “They should feel lucky I'm even dragging my butt into the office, go get changed. Don't worry, I can wait” Mew says it like he means it, lips curled around a smile. Gulf doesn’t have it in him to refuse a second time, nodding and heading towards his room in quick succession. It’s a chance to spend more of his time with Mew so he’ll take it.  

 

As Gulf is changing he can hear Mew hum and sing in his living room, it’s a sweet melody, like an old love song.   

 

 

~

 

 

Gulf lets himself in when he reaches Bright’s house. He can hear the roar of Mew’s car as it leaves the driveway, muffled by the walls now in between them. Bright is sprawled out on his gaming beanbag while he fiddles with his phone, not even glancing up at Gulf’s entrance. He’s chewing some gum, blowing up a small bubble before popping it. Gulf sighs as he gets closer. He’s told Bright he hates that on several occasions, now he’s certain the other male does it just to annoy him. “You’re early today, what gives?” Bright says, phone still in hand and eyes glued to the screen.   

 

He’s always like this when he’s talking with his girlfriend and frankly Gulf is sick of it. He kicks at Bright’s outstretched legs and sticks his tongue out at him. He flops down on the couch and lets out a dramatic exhale. “Well, my mate is apparently an early riser. Who would’ve thought, am I right?” Gulf says, nonchalant as he sticks his hands in the pocket of his hoodie. The grating chew and pop of Bright’s gum comes to an immediate halt. Gulf doesn’t spare the other a glance even as he hears the beanbag let out a squeal under Bright’s weight. A shadow looms over him, silent in its shock. “Mate?” Bright repeats the word like it’s a foreign language, slow and unsure.   

 

“Mate, bond, pair. Take your pick,” Gulf laments, taking one hand out to pick and gaze at his nails. The couch dips beside him when Bright settles down with a thump. His expression is muddled, Gulf imagines this is a good representation of what he’s been feeling for the past three days. Confusion, anxiety, anger, hurt, maybe...happiness? He’s not sure about that last one. “Since when?” Bright asks, still rolling out the words like he’s eating molasses. “Thursday night? Or Friday morning...I’m not quite sure” Gulf replies. Somehow saying it all out loud is making it feel so real. He’s bonded. He’s tied to another individual. Forever.   

 

“I didn’t even know you were seeming another omega...not after-” Bright turns to him and his mouth does that weird pout it does when he can’t find the right words. Like he wants to say something important and be sympathetic but he knows his mind will fall short of conjuring it all up. “It’s another alpha,” Gulf whispers. He doesn’t mean to say it like he’s ashamed or scared but it still comes out small and demure. Bright has never mentioned alpha pairs to him and he doesn’t know where his friend stands on the subject per se. But if he can’t talk to Bright about this then who the hell is he supposed to talk to? “What’s another alpha?” Bright says, eyes squinting at Gulf. His lips are quirked to the side like he’s not following the conversation. Gulf hates his friend sometimes.   

 

“My mate, he's an alpha” Gulf says again, emphasizing the alpha part. That’s important he feels. Or used to feel, he’s still undecided on that aspect.   

 

“Oh,” Bright returns to his normal posture, back against the couch and no longer facing Gulf. A silence weighting a ton settles between them. “I didn’t know that could happen,” Bright says while he scratches his head. He closes his eyes and breathes in deep before opening them again. “Neither did I,” Gulf taps at his legs, he’s feeling anxious again. He doesn’t know if it’s because he’s away from Mew or because he doesn’t know what Bright might say next.   

 

“So, what’s it like?” Bright finally says, phone long forgotten on his beanbag.  

    

“What do you mean?” Gulf turns to him in surprise.   

 

“Like is he-” Bright pauses to gesture to himself from head to toe, “hot or what?” He finishes with a lame grin. Gulf slaps him across his head and laughs. He feels like a giant pressure has been lifted from his chest as Bright laughs along with him. Bright turns on his game console and passes Gulf a controller. Gulf pretends like he’s too busy focusing on the game to reply. They finish one round before Bright hits him with his leg and causes Gulf to topple over on the couch. “What was that for asshole?” Gulf laughs, picking up a pillow to retaliate. “I asked you if he’s hot and I'm still waiting for an answer that’s what,” Bright replies. He throws Gulf a look that says he’s not letting this go. “Tell me about him,” He continues, turning back to the TV.   

 

Gulf settles back into his spot and they start a new game. “He’s attractive,” Gulf starts, he says it like the words are harder than pulling teeth. Bright scoffs at his reluctance and gives a quiet hum. “And he’s older, by a few years.” Gulf jabs at the buttons on his controller, trying his best to not die in the game. “He’s got his own company, and his own condo. His place is super clean and tidy, and he’s super smart as far as I can tell.” Gulf’s mind conjures up an image of Mew, smile bright and suit crisp earlier that morning, just to torture him. “He’s nice. Like really sweet and considerate, always thinking ahead and making sure I’m comfortable.” Gulf looks down at the controller in his hands, now limp within his lap and sighs. He wants to see Mew already.   

 

It can’t be more than half an hour since Mew dropped him off and yet to Gulf it feels like it’s been too long. The bond is calling for him, the water a sad lull inside his chest. “Wow,” Bright mumbles, smacking his lips as he pauses the game. It’s a pointless move since both of their characters are about to die on screen anyways. “So, was it love at first sight or something? Because I've heard nothing about this guy before today,” Bright sounds a little disappointed, turning his head away. “Love at first sight?” Gulf laughs at the idea; he wouldn’t call what he experienced at that bar with Mew love. “It was an accident” Gulf mutters, a little embarrassed saying it out loud. “You bonded...with an alpha at that, by accident?” Bright asks, his voice is level but his astonishment is evident on his face. “How exactly does one do that? I’ve been dating my girl for four years and we haven’t even bonded yet,” Bright laughs and slaps at Gulf’s shoulder.   

 

Sometimes Gulf hates his friend. “I’m loving the support, thanks” Gulf says, sass intended. He pushes Bright off of the couch using his feet and finds a little comfort in the thud his fall makes. “You’re the worst,”  

 

Bright holds up his hands in surrender, still laughing. “Well, there’s no use crying over spilt milk, right? So when do I meet him?” Gulf has to do a double take, mouth twisting into a grimace. “Did you just say me getting bonded by accident is equivalent to spilt milk? This is my livelihood we are talking about! My life, my future. Tied to some stranger,” Gulf states in a fit of anger. He pauses afterwards, feeling surprised at himself. He hadn’t realized he was so aggravated at his current predicament. Sure, he had gotten lucky and the person he had bonded with was Mew. And Mew is great, he’s someone Gulf would have never thought to have a chance with in a million years outside of their current situation. But that doesn’t mean Gulf doesn’t want what he’s always wanted.   

 

Meeting someone by chance on the street or at a coffee shop, talking about mundane things, falling slowly, asking them out, going on dates, having anniversaries, spending every first together, and then talking about spending the rest of their lives together when they were both ready. Marriage, and then bonding. But now it’s like all of that, the things he had imagined and hoped to one day experience have been ripped away from him. Maybe he’s blaming Mew a little bit for that as well. Blaming him for starting up a conversation that first night, for looking as good as he did and for being everything Gulf needed in that moment. Blaming him for allowing Gulf to pull him into that alley and kiss him the way he had and being so unlike anything Gulf has ever witnessed so that Gulf had no choice but to want to get to know him more. Blaming him for living close by and the way he smelled so good, in a way that he shouldn’t to Gulf. They were both alphas, none of it was supposed to happen and yet, it had. Gulf doesn’t have it in him to blame himself so he’s been blaming Mew. Just a little bit.   

 

Of course it was just an accident, Mew would’ve been more guarded had he known a bite from another alpha could also form a bond. Gulf knows this, he does. So, he shouldn’t blame Mew, and he should maybe accept their circumstance. After all, he’s the one who bit the other man. “Uhm, okay so we hate him. Got it,” Bright says, laughter all gone as he stares up at Gulf. Gulf just shakes his head, feeling a little ridiculous. “No, I actually like him a lot" He says, a deep frown etching onto his face. “I’m just a little frustrated, at a lot of different things I guess” Gulf mumbles, picking at his nails in habit. “You’re taking this a lot better than me I feel like,” Gulf says with a choked laugh.   

 

“Hm,” Bright hums, “Of course I am. It’s not my life” Gulf slaps him with a pillow, both of them breaking into a small squabble. “What’s bothering you the most?” Bright asks, then a moment later he adds “That he’s an alpha?” Gulf pauses and swallows hard. Bright has an omega girlfriend and Gulf has spent enough time with them to see how sweet they are together. Gulf and Bright have been friends for a long time, spending most of their adolescents talking about dating, sports, games and music. Never once have they ever brought up alpha pairs. Gulf had simply been ignorant about the topic, unaware it even occurred. It feels like being swept up in a whirlwind now that he’s bonded with another alpha.   

 

“I don’t know, maybe It’s the fact that it’s not bothering me much at all..."   

 

 

~

 

 

Mew texts him after lunch and asks if he wants a ride back later, saying they can grab dinner on the way. Gulf smiles just reading the message, foregoing the soccer ball he was dribbling to reply. Not talking to Mew all day has been difficult, only made bearable with Bright’s constant distraction. He tells Mew what time to come get him and then pockets his phone to continue his game with Bright.   

 

It’s two hours later when Mew calls him to let him know he’s arrived. Gulf can see Bright peeking out his living room window to catch a glimpse at the alpha, maybe to see if he can go out there and assert his dominance. “Can you not?” Gulf grumbles as he passes by him. He slips his shoes on and waves at Bright before heading out the front door. Bright follows him to the door and keeps an eye on him as he reaches Mew’s car. He can feel his friend’s gaze burning through his back. Once he gets inside the car he finds Mew’s eyes locked with Bright’s through the windshield. Bright has his eyes squinted and his jaw jutted out in defiance. Gulf glances at Mew and sees his lips set in stern indifference. Before Gulf can say anything Mew breaks out into a quiet laugh. His eyes shut in little crescents; lips curled at the edges.   

 

He raises one hand off the steering wheel and waves goodbye at Bright before beginning to pull out of the parking lot. Both Gulf and Bright look to each other in shock. Gulf knows Bright hadn’t meant anything by it but he was definitely trying to intimidate Mew, telling him that he wasn’t scared to do something if anything provoked him. Most alphas hate being challenged in such a way, especially by a stranger. It causes a lot of fights in public places and in schools with raging adolescents. Mew laughing it off is the most bizarre reaction Gulf has ever witnessed to such an event.   

 

“That was your friend, Bright right?” Mew says as they start driving further from Bright’s house. Gulf is still stunned but he manages to nod. “You guys seem close, that’s nice” Mew continues after taking a look at Gulf. “Yeah. We’ve known each other since elementary school” Gulf replies, feeling robotic. He turns to Mew and sees his relaxed posture, easy going smile and shining eyes. He’s really not that affected. Gulf smiles to himself. It’s Mew, so of course he’s different than any other alpha Gulf has seen. When will he learn to stop being surprised by that fact? “Sorry about earlier, it was just his way of being protective” Gulf says anyways, even though he can feel that Mew isn’t mad. Now that he’s sitting beside the other alpha their bond is making its presence known again.   

 

Gulf can feel its want in the way the waves tumble over each other, as if racing in an imagined contest. It makes Gulf feel giddy, wanting to keep looking at Mew. “I know,” Mew returns his smile, hand reaching out to pat at Gulf’s. His touch is warm, like sunlight in the afternoon. Its pressure is light in comparison like a cool breeze, carrying with it a beauty of dragonflies. Mew’s hand flutters down onto his until the weight is all consuming and stays there. Gulf feels like he’s transported to a day in the middle of summer, sitting on the grass and watching as a pinwheel twirls and twirls.   

 

Mew spots a small food stall on a street corner when stopped at a street light. He asks Gulf if he’s fine with calling that their destination for the night and pulls over to park. It’s a little chilly now that the sun has begun to set, wind rustling the hair of people passing by. Gulf walks beside Mew to the stall and rubs at his arms to generate a bit more heat. They manage to grab a small table with two plastic chairs and order food when a server comes by. “How was work?” Gulf asks while they wait, seeing that Mew is still in his suit from earlier that morning. He must have been at the office the whole day. Vacation must look different to Mew, Gulf thinks. “It was fine, I ordered lunch for everyone and begged them to stop calling me in” Mew jokes while bringing up his arms to cross over his chest.   

 

“Somehow I doubt you actually said that,” Gulf tilts his head and looks sardonic. Considering Mew has been willing to drag himself to the office even on his days off already speaks volumes about his work ethic. Gulf can’t see him complaining about it. “Oho, do you know me that well already?” Mew smirks and leans forward across the table. His face makes Gulf scoff, a blush creeping over his cheeks. He doesn’t know anything about Mew actually. Well not anything, but not anything more than the bare minimum. Afterall, Mew has lived for decades and experienced a whole nother life than Gulf so it would be impossible to know the man in only a couple of days.   

 

But somehow it makes Gulf happy to think about knowing Mew well, well enough to notice when he’s kidding and when he’s happy. Well enough to know he’s a hard worker, dedicated to his job and colleagues. Well enough to know he can be serious and angry, but has his own limits too. He has lines he won’t cross, that was evident since the first morning they woke up together. And well enough to know that he doesn’t know him at all. Mew is proving again and again how complex he is. Complicated. Someone who seems to be easy to get along with but also someone who keeps you an inch away at all times. Don’t get too close, I won’t let you. Gulf thinks he’ll have to spend a lot of time with the other alpha before he’s let into that guarded barrier. How long it will be, he’s not sure.   

 

Their server brings out their food and they dig in. It’s silent between them, like it often is when they eat together but that just allows Gulf to observe Mew more. For someone who seems so put together and neat, the man eats a little bit like an over excited child. His cheeks puff out and he spills half of the things he gathered onto his spoon in the journey from his plate to his mouth. Gulf can’t really judge though, he’s clumsy on the best of days and eating is no exception to that. He gets food stuck to his face almost always without fail. He hears Mew suck in a breath between his teeth and passes him some water. “Thanks, it’s a little too spicy” Mew says after he takes a few gulps. Gulf looks at Mew’s dish and frowns. “Do you want to switch? Mine isn’t that bad” Gulf pushes his plate closer to Mew, watching as the older man pats at his mouth with a napkin. Mew takes his own spoon and scoops up a bit of Gulf’s food to try. He’s chewed on it once before he looks at Gulf in betrayal. “This is so much worse than my own,” Mew whines, food stored in his cheeks like a chipmunk.   

 

“Really? But it’s not spicy to me,” Gulf says in a small voice, concern shining in his eyes. Mew swallows with another sip of water and pushes Gulf’s plate back towards him. “I guess you don’t eat spicy food often, huh? Sorry” Gulf fiddles with his rice, not looking up. Mew clears his throat and smiles, “Don’t be sorry, it’s my fault for not asking them to make my food with a baby’s taste buds in mind. I was too distracted.” He looks up after he takes another bite of his own dish, feet nudging at Gulf’s under the table. “You’re right, that does sound like your fault” Gulf muses. He brings the tip of his left foot up and places his shoe on top of Mew’s. Gulf doesn’t press down or even scuff them but it’s like a veiled threat saying that he could. “These oxfords are irreplaceable to me you know, I’ll never forgive you if you step on them” Mew challenges, pointing at Gulf’s raised eyebrow with his spoon. It’s very threatening when combined with Mew’s lopsided smile.   

 

“Okay, okay. You win. I can’t possibly have you begrudge the rest of your life to hating me,” Gulf laughs out and retracts his foot. He lets his ankles tie together and sits still for the rest of the meal. It’s a normal evening. The sun sets, people come and go out of the outdoor diner, the breeze dies down before picking back up and no one spares them a second glance. He wonders if anyone can tell that him and Mew are bonded. That they are two alphas who are bonded, eating out in public. Both of them are taking suppressants and they’re outside so the air is filled with a menagerie of scents so Gulf doubts it. But what would happen if people did know? The thought suddenly troubles him, his chewing coming to a halt.   

 

He sits frozen as he imagines it. What would he have done if he had seen a bonded alpha pair before meeting Mew? He would’ve been surprised that’s for sure. Would he have been...disgusted? The thought alone pains him, a pang of guilt rippling through him from his core. He drops his cutlery onto his plate, no longer hungry. He can’t believe he just thought that, he wants to believe he would never have reacted with so much prejudice but if he’s being honest, he doesn’t know. Because before Mew the thought had never occurred to him, an alpha with another alpha. That alone must mean he had always been opposed to such an ordeal, no?   

 

He sees Mew’s hand reach for him and then feels when it reaches his face. “Why do you eat like such a mess?” Mew says as he wipes his thumb at the corner of Gulf’s mouth. His eyes are focused on Gulf’s lips and his touch is delicate. A single snowflake sitting on the windshield of a car.   

 

Gulf feels his shoulders go lax before he notices how knitted together they were in the first place. His eyes land on Mew. He’s an alpha no matter how much Gulf looks at him, he doesn’t know how he didn’t see it the first time. Mew is an alpha and he’s sitting right across from him. He’s reaching out and touching him, holding his face without asking him for permission or hesitating. It’s so strange, Gulf thinks again. He’s not put off by any bit of it. He feels like that lone snowflake on the windshield of a car, melting into a trickle of water. His eyes soften the more he looks at Mew, the other tending to Gulf without a care in the world. It’s like he doesn’t see that they are outside, that there are others seated by them, others walking past. All he sees is Gulf, and his task at hand. And Gulf guesses he finds that a little endearing.   

 

“Gulf?” a voice startles him out of his trance. Gulf pulls away from Mew’s hand and wipes his mouth with his own, in case there’s still something stuck there. He looks up and sees three of his coworkers staring down at him. They’re holding a few shopping bags in each hand. They look between Mew’s fallen hand and Gulf a few times, then a few more. “Hi,” Gulf squeaks out, running his palms down the front of his shirt for no real reason. It’s not like he’s wearing a button down and his sweater isn’t prone to wrinkles. “It’s so nice seeing you outside of the office, do you come here often?” One of them says. Gulf turns to him and blanks on what his name is. He’s sweating now, the cold air a forgotten memory. “Not really,” It’s a curt response but Gulf can’t muster up much more.   

 

“Is this your friend?” Another one, Ploy, asks. She looks to Mew and gives a small greeting. Mew stands and greets them all individually. Ploy steps back and bumps into the other two, eyes falling to Gulf again. “Well, we didn’t mean to interrupt. You should enjoy your dinner,” Ploy mumbles and starts ushering the others to leave. “See you at the office tomorrow!” The first guy yells out with a wave, Ploy is dragging them away with a vice grip.   

 

Gulf lets out a breath, it’s loud in the silence that had settled between them after their departure. “Coworkers?” Mew asks, pouring Gulf a cup of water and sliding it over. Gulf just nods and takes the glass. He swallows it all with his eyes closed. Gulf is sure he’s got no luck in this life, maybe he’ll do better in his next try. To think he would run into people from his office out here in the middle of nowhere the one time he’s out with Mew. He slaps the cup down onto the table and stands. “I’m going to the washroom” He needs to rinse his face and maybe forget the past five minutes ever happened.   

 

“Sure,” Mew looks after him with a bit of concern but still lets him go. He doesn’t follow him and he doesn’t ask more about it when Gulf returns. He’s already paid by the time Gulf re-emerges and starts walking back to the car. Gulf feels cold again now that they’ve left the food stall, his hands back to rubbing at his arms. “You okay?” Mew looks back at him, hands stuffed into his pant pockets. “Cold?” He asks again once he sees the way Gulf is holding himself and bracing against the wind. Gulf tilts his head up as if to look down at Mew and huffs. “Don’t even think of doing something cheesy like offering me your suit jacket,” Gulf says using his most manly voice. He puffs out his chest and walks faster so he’s in pace with Mew. His bravado pulls a laugh out of Mew who shakes his head in Gulf’s peripheral.   

 

“Why would I do that? Then I would be cold,” Mew says, full of mirth. “Come here,” He opens up his right arm instead, watching Gulf with careful eyes. Gulf leans into him without much thought and lets Mew’s arm wrap around his shoulders. His hand squeezes Gulf’s bicep and then rubs it to get rid of the goosebumps. Gulf hides his own hands in his sweater pockets and turns his head away from Mew. He can feel that the other man is smiling, through their bond or through his mere touch alone Gulf is unable to determine.   

 

 

~

 

 

Gulf’s windows have been left open since last night so his place doesn’t smell much of him anymore. This seems to make Mew more comfortable compared to the first time as he starts preparing for bed. They spend a few hours doing their own thing, Gulf just plays games on his phone and Mew does something on his laptop. Then they both shower and change into sleep clothes. Gulf is already in bed when Mew comes into the room and heads for the sleeping bag that’s rolled up into a small burrito. Gulf tries to look natural lying on his back, stiff as a board with the duvet pulled up to his neck. His eyes follow Mew as the man starts unrolling the sleeping bag. He grips onto the edge of the duvet with his fingers and clears his throat. Mew seems not to hear him so after another moment he clears his throat again.   

 

Mew pauses and turns to him, eyebrows raised in question. “You can sleep here, there’s enough space” Gulf mumbles as he looks at the ceiling. It’s not like he cares. Mew can sleep on the floor or if he is mindful about his back, he can come and sleep in bed beside Gulf. Mew doesn’t move but he doesn’t say anything either. Gulf grows a little restless just watching the way shadows from his blinds dance across his ceiling with each passing car. He slides his eyes towards Mew, curious now more than anything. If Mew is so troubled he can just say no, it’s not like it was a demand. Gulf pouts, feeling petulant. When Gulf manages to look Mew in the eyes he can see the older man staring back. Mew smiles, slow and gentle. It feels meaningful, the way his lips part in surrender and his cheeks lift up to shape his eyes into crescents. Every smile from Mew is sweet, carefree and yet full of purpose.   

 

Gulf has never felt like Mew has smiled at him simply for lack of words or actions. Every smile, laugh and touch has felt genuine. Natural in a way that is simply Mew. And yet this one seems special. Gulf isn’t sure what he’s done to deserve it.   

 

“Okay,” is all Mew says before climbing under the sheets. He lies down on his back just like Gulf and they both turn their heads towards the ceiling. The shadows continue to dance and they remain silent. It’s nice, Gulf thinks as his eyelids grow heavy with sleep. Mew is beside him, close enough that Gulf can feel his warmth radiate. His scent reaches out for the first time all day, subtle as if asking for a handshake. Gulf smiles and lets it envelope him, it’s like moments after a hard rain shower. Gulf can almost see a rainbow, droplets leaping off the edge of leaves and looking like diamonds amongst grass. He can hear Mew breathe and shift, a steady rhythm.   

 

He falls asleep to it, basking in the presence of the man beside him.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

For the first time in a while Gulf wakes before the sun. He squirms underneath the heavy duvet and blinks his eyes open, a slow surrender. Somehow, he doesn’t feel tired like he expected. His eyes don’t ache and his body is thriving with budding energy. He turns his head and sees Mew, still asleep by his side. Gulf lets out a soft sigh, his room bathed in a strange glow from the rising sun. It’s still dark but it’s also a shade of blue and pink outside Gulf’s window. Mew’s face is serene as he sleeps. He’s on his side facing Gulf, one arm beneath his head and the other laying in front of him on the sheets. It’s so quiet that Gulf fears his tiny movements will be loud enough to wake the other alpha. He turns towards Mew and just looks at him.   

 

Like this Mew seems half the size he appears to be, huddled into a ball. Gulf slips in closer and reaches out a finger to trace Mew’s arm. Gulf’s eyes focus on the path his finger creates from the tip of Mew’s pinky, up to his knuckles, across the back of his hand and towards his elbow. Mew’s skin is warm, as always. It makes Gulf’s finger tingle, like passing over an open flame. His eyes slip to Mew’s neck and the bite mark there. It’s still a bit raw but somehow almost fading. Gulf’s heart thuds in his chest at the sight. Maybe, he thinks, this all happened for a reason.   

 

Maybe, he was supposed to find Mew.  

 

Maybe, he was supposed to bite Mew.   

 

Gulf swallows the lump in his throat and lets his hand rest on the bite mark, across Mew’s scent glands. He wants to try, this thing with Mew. Maybe if he stops being afraid of all the things he doesn’t know or understands and just focuses on the man in front of him he’ll get the answers he’s so desperate for. Afterall, it’s a bit of a miracle that someone like Mew appeared in his life. He runs his thumb over the healing wound and lets go of a shudder, the bond blooming in Gulf’s chest. It feels like a grove of cherry blossom trees have blossomed and now there are Sakura flowers floating across the water within him. Mew’s scent is so strong while he’s asleep, all encompassing. Gulf feels himself sink into the mattress; body lax.   

 

“Can’t a man sleep around you?” Mew says, voice hoarse. His eyes stay closed but his hand reaches up to grasp Gulf’s. He brings it away from his neck and holds onto it instead, between them on the bed. “How long have you been awake?” Gulf asks in a small voice. He doesn’t pull his hand away and tightens his fingers around Mew’s. “Not long,” Mew smiles, “You’re up early” he opens his eyes and looks up at Gulf. “I can wake up early,” Gulf grumbles with a pout. It’s true, he’s managed it at least a handful of times in his life. Mew laughs, the sound full and bright. “Then you make food today and I’ll let myself be pampered,” Mew turns away in triumph, hands stretching above his head.   

 

“I’m sorry but what is this pampering you speak of? I’ve never seen it,” Gulf huffs and gets out of bed. The morning air is chilly, more so without the sun and without Mew holding his hand. “Oh? You dare say that after all the care and adoration I have shown you?” Mew kicks at him from under the duvet. It's a futile attempt since his leg doesn’t reach Gulf who is already at the bedroom door. “If that was you showing care and adoration it’s no wonder you’re still single,” Gulf is so pleased with his teasing he lets out a big laugh, carrying it all the way into the kitchen. Gulf quiets as he pauses at the stove. If he’s honest, Mew has been taking care of him for the past few days.   

 

Gulf can’t imagine this has been that much easier on Mew and yet the other alpha has been going out of his way to accommodate Gulf. He’s made him breakfast and bought him dinner, let him stay over and then he had been there whenever Gulf had needed him. He hasn’t complained this whole time and has thought ahead for the both of them. Gulf is reminded once again that Mew is someone special. And now he’s bonded to Gulf. As soon as Gulf thinks it, his hands tremble.   

 

He rests his weight on the counter and takes a deep breath. Hasn’t he been lonely? Hasn’t he been wanting something exactly like this? A person he can be himself around, someone he is comfortable just sitting beside, someone who can be there but also give him his space. Isn’t Mew just that? In the span of a few days he’s already went out of his way to understand Gulf more than anyone before. Can’t Gulf forget about the rest and enjoy that fact instead? Gulf sighs and starts making some sandwiches, something he knows he can’t burn.   

 

It’s been a good morning so far and Gulf refuses to let his own mind sabotage that. So, he plates their sandwiches and then eats with Mew. He smiles when Mew makes a joke and lets the other man bump their feet together beneath the table. He lets himself be in the moment and lets Mew compliment him on his mediocre sandwich making abilities. It’s so much more fun being with Mew when Gulf lets himself go and stops stressing over things he can’t control.   

 

 

~  

 

 

As soon as Gulf walks into work he knows something is wrong.   

 

Everyone turns around and looks at him as he walks by. He’s not even late. And Saint who is usually overeager to talk to Gulf does the opposite and ducks his head without a single glance. Gulf tries to ignore it and head into his office to start on work but his nerves remain on edge. He hears a few people giggle and shuffle by him through the hallway before he’s settled into the safety of his office. Gulf tilts his head in thought and takes out his phone to check his appearance. There’s nothing on his face and his fly isn’t open either.   

 

He chalks it up to nothing and sits behind his desk to begin working. Mew sends him a quick text saying to have a good day and that he’ll pick him up if he wants whenever Gulf finishes. It puts a smile back on Gulf’s lips and he focuses with ease afterwards. It isn’t until noon that Gulf starts to notice something is seriously wrong. No one comes in to take his lunch order and his juniors are all dragging their feet with submitting in their work for him to look over. Gulf thinks it might just be one of those days, Mondays are always hard anyways.   

 

Gulf heads out of his office to get himself some tea and stops outside of their floor's shared office kitchen when he hears people inside talking. He doesn’t know why he stops but now that he has, he feels too awkward to go in, as if he were eavesdropping. He can’t even hear what they are saying since it’s all in hushed whispers and faint giggles. Then there’s a loud bang from inside, Gulf startles at the doorway and steps back. “You shouldn’t be talking about something you know nothing about! These are just rumors, you’re ruining a man’s reputation when you keep gossiping like that” Gulf can hear Saint speak, recognizes his voice even when his soft tone is nowhere present. Then the doors open with a gust and Gulf comes face to face with Saint. His junior’s eyes grow wide and his cheeks flush, like a kid caught sticking his hand in the cookie jar.   

 

“I-I’m sorry,” Saint bows and rushes past him with his head down. Inside the kitchen Gulf sees two of his other juniors standing stiff as a board, looking ashamed. “Hello,” Gulf says and tries to smile as he walks in and starts preparing his tea. The two keep looking back and forth between each other but make no move to leave. Gulf spares them a glance every now and then only to find them averting their eyes every time. It’s strange and it causes Gulf’s nerves to reemerge. “You shouldn’t fight with your coworkers,” Gulf says with a laugh and turns to give the two a look to signal that they aren’t in actual trouble, “or at least save it for when your superiors can’t walk in on you.”   

 

The two juniors turn red and nod, eyes wide as saucers. Gulf huffs, a little amused by their behavior. He’s not sure what is going on or what would cause Saint to yell like that but it isn’t uncommon to have disagreements at work. He just hopes his juniors keep that to a minimum so they don’t get into trouble with the big boss. They’re lucky Gulf is the only one who overheard the exchange. “I’m still waiting for your drafts,” Gulf says with finality. His juniors get the hint and stand, saying a hurried goodbye before they’re gone. “Kids,” Gulf mumbles as he sips at his tea. He shakes his head and sighs. Everyone is acting so unusual today. He stays behind in the kitchen and drinks his tea in peace. The office seems so quiet from in here that Gulf wonders if the room is a bit soundproofed.   

 

He’s just about finished his drink when a few other people walk in. Its Ploy and the two others that ran into Gulf and Mew just yesterday night. Ploy has her back turned to him and she’s talking, sounding a bit distressed. “The whole office knows now. This is why I told you not to say anything!” The other two meet eyes with Gulf and freeze in the doorway. Gulf gives a small greeting and feels his smile fade when it doesn’t get returned. Ploy turns around then and almost bumps into Gulf by the counter. She jumps a bit, hand flying to her heart as she steadies herself. “Sorry,” She whispers and drags her two companions to the table to sit down.   

 

It's the second time today that someone has apologized to Gulf and yet managed to make him feel worse because of it. He’s really starting to get the sense that something is going on, everyone in the office is acting skittish and they are either avoiding looking at Gulf or staring at him outright. He leaves the kitchen and returns to his office in a rush, feeling like an animal caged in the zoo. He can feel eyes on the back of his neck as beads of sweat start gathering there. It only serves to make him more anxious, feeling suffocated.  

 

Gulf takes off his coat and loosens his tie, hair falling into his face in a bit of a mess. He huffs out a quiet breath and closes his eyes. The bond within him squirms, begging to be freed and he listens to it. Looks at the deep depths and remembers Mew’s chocolate eyes. He knows Mew is probably at his own condo right now, doing some work for his company even though he’s on a supposed vacation. He’s probably got his glasses on, sitting on his couch with a T-shirt and some sweats. Gulf takes another breath and calms down. There’s nobody staring at him because he’s alone in his office. There’s some gossip going around, that much is true but that doesn’t mean it has anything to do with Gulf. Gulf has always been left out of the loop so this time is not an exception.  

 

He’s being paranoid for no reason. Gulf laughs and ruffles his hair. He walks over to his desk and sits down. His juniors that he met at the kitchen earlier have finally sent in their drafts for approval and Gulf sets out to read them over. He works in complete concentration for the rest of the day and not a single person disturbs him. His team of juniors are slower than normal in their feedback and they drag their feet when Gulf asks them to fix certain things. The only one who is doing his work like usual is Saint and even he is acting strange. He’s the one who is most vocal in their team group chat, asking Gulf and the others what to improve on and what to have for lunch. But he’s been radio silent all day. Gulf thinks it might just be because he’s fighting with some people from their team and decides he’ll have a talk with Saint later to help clear it up.   

 

Gulf sighs as the work day draws to a close, they didn’t manage to get much done today. Gulf is determined to push the team a little harder tomorrow to make up for it. Just as he’s starting to pack up, he hears rain hit his office window. It starts as a small tap, tap that builds into a downpour in a matter of minutes. He smiles and stuffs his work into his bag. Not that he needed it but this gives him a good excuse to ask Mew to come pick him up. He’s got his phone out when someone knocks on his office door. “Come in,” Gulf says and clears his throat. He slips his phone into his bag and stands to put on his suit jacket. He’ll just text Mew once he gets downstairs.   

 

An intern pops their head into his room and says, “Boss says he wants to talk to you sir,”   

 

“I’ll be right out,” Gulf nods at them and once again notices how they are avoiding his eyes. The intern bows their head and leaves without another word. It’s been a long day and Gulf is almost at his limit, ignoring the way people have been acting around him. He’s starting to think it isn’t just in his head. The last thing he needs is another talk with his boss. He doesn’t know what he’s done wrong now but Gulf guesses he’ll find out once he steps into his boss’s office.   

 

It’s a larger room than Gulf’s own, by far. His desk looks dense, like it’s made of expensive wood and not the cheap stuff that Gulf’s desk is carved from. His boss is standing by it, tall and domineering. It’s such a different look from what Gulf normally sees that he’s shocked into standing still. He has stopped only one step into the office as the heavy door shuts behind him. The hustle and bustle of their peers outside is lost to the thickness of the room. All Gulf can hear is the ringing in his ears. His boss is looking at him, dead on and that is just another thing on his ever-growing list of things that make his stomach churn.   

 

“Sit, please” His boss instructs, pointing to the chair in front of him. Gulf forces his legs to move and sits himself down. His boss doesn’t do the same. He continues to stand in front of Gulf with his arms in a casual cross. “I’m sure you have noticed by now Mr. Kanawut that there has been some...” He pauses here and sighs, like this conversation is something that is a waste of his valuable time “some chatter about you around the office”  

 

Gulf swallows the lump lodged in his throat and looks down. His hands are a nervous wreck in his lap, twisting and twirling. He feels sweat bead at the back of his neck, the eyes he had felt on him earlier that day back with a vengeance. “Now, I don’t find it to be my purview to interfere with such matters. In fact, never before has such matters even managed to reach my ears.” He stops here and crosses the room towards his window. He looks out at the view obstructed by the dark and rain. Gulf lets out a breath, uneven and burdened. “But it seems that this matter has not only caused a stir amongst the company’s employees but has come to the point of affecting their work. I noticed that your team’s progress was slow today, slower than ever before.”  

 

“I -” Gulf blurts out on impulse, feeling like he needs to give an excuse. Justify why his team has been uncooperative all day but he comes up blank. He’s not even sure who he’s trying to defend. Himself? His juniors? He’s still not even certain what any of this is about. “Some of them have even requested an audience with me to state their displeasure, wanting another mentor.” His boss ambles on, startling Gulf for the second time. Gulf snaps his head up and stares at his boss’s back. The man doesn’t glance at him but he’s radiating displeasure. Gulf doesn’t have to smell it to know. This office used to be one of the only places devoid of any scent, many times Gulf had wondered if his boss was a beta rather than an alpha considering how at ease Gulf felt in there. Yet now, all Gulf feels is a deep layer of disappointment.  

 

Gulf can’t keep up with the conversation at all, zoning in and out. His own team, his juniors that he has tried to guide and lead for the past year had asked to be transferred to another mentor? Gulf feels sick, hands gripping onto his knees for some kind of support. “I’m not sure I quite understand,” Gulf says in the lull, voice not far above a whisper. “I think it would be best for you to take some time off, until everyone quiets down and forgets about everything” His boss says then, looking back towards his desk. Gulf follows his line of sight and spots a few forms for just that, a paid vacation. It’s a glorified suspension, a way to get Gulf out of the office so that the company can put a band aid on the situation and hope it disappears into thin air by the time Gulf has to come back.   

 

Except Gulf doesn’t even know what he has done to deserve this. As far as he is concerned, they had already discussed his issue of coming in late to work and it hasn’t happened ever since. Other than that Gulf has always been an exceptional employee. He’s never caused trouble and always minded his own business. He’s never had trouble working with anyone in the office and he’s never said no to any topic he had been asked to cover. No matter how much Gulf racks his brain, he can’t think of anything he’s done to make his own juniors hate him let alone for the company to suspend him. “I don’t understand,” Gulf whispers, reaching out for the forms and scanning through them without reading a single thing.  

 

He feels so lost, so helpless. He’s losing his job right in front of his eyes, can feel it slipping through his hands and he doesn’t know where to start in getting it back. “Of course, this isn’t mandatory, it’s your own decision whether to take this option. However, I think you should be aware that if the situation doesn’t resolve on its own the company is prepared to take more drastic measures.” His boss looks at him then, his voice is stern and Gulf can see it in his eyes. What he means to say but can’t seem to. They will fire him. If things don’t get fixed, he’ll be fired.   

 

“Take tonight to think things over. I expect the forms on my desk tomorrow morning and your vacation to start the following day.” His boss lets him gape like a fish for a few minutes, lets him flip through the pages in a bit of a daze and then finally tells him he’s free to leave. Gulf realizes he has no say in the matter and gets up. This is already decided, has been since before he stepped foot in this room. He’s just expected to grit and bear it.   

 

Gulf exits through the door and tucks the sheets into his bag. He starts walking towards the elevators, feeling numb all over. This is really happening; he thinks and feels his eyes start to water. Leaning against the hallway walls he finds Saint, a concerned frown masking his features. Gulf makes to walk past him and into an awaiting elevator but gets stopped. He had been grateful that by the time his little chitchat with the boss had finished nobody was left in the office, all having gone home for the day. He’s really not in the mood to see Saint right now, one of his juniors. For all he knows Saint could have been one of the few who had wanted to switch out from his team.   

 

“Is everything okay?” Saint asks, his hand that had reached out to block Gulf’s path cowering back to his side. Gulf looks at him, his eyes holding all the contempt and vexation he wasn’t able to show or even conjure up for their boss. “Not really, no” Is his simple answer. Saint stares back at him and instead of scorn all Gulf finds in his eyes is guilt. “I’m really sorry, I should have done more to stop it. I just – at first, I didn’t think much of it. I mean it was ridiculous that people were talking about that in the first place! I didn’t think it would spread outside the two junior teams; I didn’t even think about how much this would impact you” Saint wrings his hands together as he speaks, eyes darting from Gulf back to the floor.  

 

Gulf feels his temper flare the more he listens, his hands forming fists by his sides. He’s so sick of everyone talking about him and tiptoeing around the subject. He feels like some kind of pariah, having been isolated for the entire day and yet gossiped about. “I don’t understand.” Gulf grits out, teeth clacking around the words. He backs Saint up against the wall and says it again. “I don’t understand what any of this is about. So if you’re sorry, truly sorry like you say why don’t you enlighten me?”   

 

Saint looks up at him with wide eyes, now colored by pity. “You don’t know?” He whispers, eyes looking around them to make sure no one else is listening in. Gulf nods, still angry and impatient. “It’s about your mate,” Saint says, words like a bucket of ice water down Gulf’s back. “The fact that he’s an alpha,” Saint goes on, speaking as if he’s ashamed “Like you”   

 

Gulf stumbles a step back, in utter disbelief. All of this, the whole day had been about Mew. The realization is almost jarring. But then again of course it’s about Mew, Gulf thinks. For the past few days there is not a single thing that he has done that hasn’t been about Mew. “N-not that there’s anything wrong with that, in my opinion. I-I mean not that my opinion even matters! But some people in the office were saying how they saw you with another alpha, eating and how he had a bond mark on his neck. They said you guys smelled bonded and somehow that spread like wildfire. I guess, it exposed people’s bigotry. A few of our team even...they...I mean they,” Saint stops himself and swallows his words. He doesn’t need to say any more anyway, Gulf gets the point.   

 

He’s an alpha, who’s mate is another alpha and that is unacceptable.   

 

 

~  

 

 

Gulf leaves the company with his thoughts blank. Maybe his mind should be a mess, maybe he should be angry but all he feels is numb. Mew, his Mew is who people were talking about all day. His relationship had been chewed and spit out through several mouths all behind his back and he had been none the wiser. Gulf steps out into the rain and starts walking. Rain falls down upon him, his clothes getting soaked and starting to cling to him. His hair slips onto his forehead and gets plastered there. Unlike he expected, Gulf feels warm.  

 

The weather outside isn’t cold or windy. The rain plummets from the sky in a straight path to the ground, bouncing off of his shoulders. There is a bit of mist covering the ground from the sheer heat of the atmosphere. Gulf hasn’t been in such a storm before. Not that he’s able to think about anything at the moment. He keeps walking like a zombie, not knowing where he’s heading and not caring either.  

 

He finds himself sitting on a park bench and just staring at the empty playground in front of him. He’s completely soaked through now. His hands are limp in his lap as he watches water pile up on the end of slides and rattling small swings back and forth. It’s a bit eerie with no children playing and screeching, like Gulf is in a forgotten nook of the world.  

 

He’s not sure how long he stays frozen there but he knows it’s long enough for the sky to turn pitch black, the rain to slow to a drizzle and for the streetlights to turn on. They line a small path out of the park, a gentle glow casting on Gulf’s face. It brings Gulf back to the present, his body jumping as he looks around to see he doesn’t know where he is. All of a sudden, he remembers everything that happened that day. All the stares, the giggling, the hushed voices, his suspension, Saint’s apology. It comes tumbling back and Gulf feels gross, like he’s going to puke.  

 

He bends over on the bench and retches until his eyes well up. He’s not sure what feels worse, the fact that everyone had been talking badly about him and Mew or the fact that exactly what he’s been worried about ever since getting bonded has come to fruition. The internal war between how his mate is another alpha and what that means for him has become something he can no longer push aside. Gulf can’t bring himself to start wondering what people in the office had been saying. Were they saying bad things about his mate? About Mew  

 

Gulf shivers as a cold wind brushes past him, his clothes still dripping wet onto the pavement. He gets up and starts walking, following the little yellow streetlights as they guide him.   

 

 

~  

 

 

Gulf knocks three times. His knuckles scrape against the surface of the apartment door with no real weight. He’s almost afraid of the door opening. But he can’t imagine what he’ll do if it doesn’t open. His hand rests against the door as he contemplates knocking again. He’s so exhausted he’s on his feet by sheer demand alone. He feels distraught with every bone in his body, aching all over. It pulls at his mouth until his lips have curled down into a deep frown. His eyes blink slow, lashes heavy with tears.   

 

The door opens.   

 

Gulf’s head snaps up and there stands Mew. He’s in his home clothes, casual and comfy with his glasses perched on top of his head. Mew seems to be startled, at Gulf’s appearance or at his late arrival Gulf isn’t sure. “You’re wet,” Mew states, concern washing over his features. He reaches out and tugs at Gulf’s wrist until the alpha steps into his apartment. Gulf drops his bag onto the floor and kicks off his shoes. His clothes rub at his skin as he moves and he can hear the tiny drip drop of the water he’s trailing inside. His bangs are covering half of his eyes and he’s so cold.   

 

Mew’s hand feels like an anchor, pulling him in and keeping him there. “I said I would come pick you up, why didn’t you call me?” Mew continues as he heads inside, turning his back towards Gulf. The bond simmers, bubbling beneath the surface. Gulf stops walking, dragging Mew to a halt as well. His clothes continue to drip, now creating small puddles beneath him. Mew turns to face him, a question on the tip of his tongue.  

 

It comes easy to him, Gulf notes. Reaching out and hugging Mew, bringing him so close that Gulf can feel his heart beat against his own chest. Mew's glasses get knocked off his head as Gulf clings on even tighter, burying his face in Mew’s shoulder. He’s so cold it feels like he’ll never be warm again. And yet Mew does just that, radiates like the sun is in Gulf’s arms. He breathes in Mew’s scent and feels like he’s back outside when it was raining. Hammered by rain drops, covered by water like he was submerged in a flowing river. Mew’s arms circle around his back and pat at it, up and down, soft like Gulf is a scared cat. “You’re okay,” Mew whispers, as if he knows. Maybe he does, Gulf surmises. Maybe Mew is better at reading their bond than Gulf will ever be. “You’re okay,” Mew repeats and it drags a soft whine out of Gulf’s mouth.   

 

He doesn’t feel okay. Nothing feels okay.   

 

He’s lost his reputation, possibly his job, his subordinates and his pride all in one fell swoop. Worse of all, he feels like he’s lost himself. He doesn’t know who he is anymore. He’s always thought himself to be pretty easy-going, straightforward and sometimes silly. He’s never been one to judge or hate, not himself or others. And yet ever since bonding with Mew he feels like he’s never been any of those things. How can he live with himself after being so ashamed of his mate, his bond, Mew? He’s no better than the people at the office who were gossiping, saying probably all the things Gulf has thought to himself the past few days.  

 

How can two alphas bond? How can two alphas be together? Isn’t that strange? Isn’t that wrong?   

 

Gulf grabs a fistful of Mew’s shirt, hands fisted in the soft cotton at Mew’s back. God, Mew. Mew who’s been nothing but kind and understanding. Mew who’s been there for him and tried to help him every step of the way. Mew who’s never too much or too little, Mew who is always there but knows when not to be. Mew who can just let Gulf hug him, soaking wet with rain, dripping all over his condo hardwood and not utter a word of complaint. Mew who is willing to hug Gulf back and rub his thumbs across his back until Gulf can calm down, not even asking for an explanation.   

 

That is who Gulf’s mate is. Not a no name, no face alpha. He’s not someone people are allowed to water down like some cheap beer, not someone who is just one thing. A label, a box. The situation itself would be funny if it wasn’t so unjust and aggravating. Mew is someone Gulf knows very little about, someone who is still an enigma. Yet Gulf can feel it, who Mew is deep down and that is enough. Enough to not want anyone to utter his name with an ounce of disrespect, enough to not want him to be caught in the mess that has become his work-life, enough to want what's best for him. So the fact that people had been dragging Mew’s name through the mud, without even knowing him is rage inducing.   

 

Gulf tries to calm down, keep his cool and control his breathing but he’s just getting more upset. He turns his face into Mew’s neck and noses at his scent glands, a final attempt to get away from his thoughts. His scent flows out, past the suppressants like a trickle. It helps Gulf take a deep breath; eyes shut tight as he inches impossibly closer. He feels Mew stiffen, taken aback but he doesn’t say anything. Gulf traces Mew’s neck with the tip of his nose until he can leave a kiss beneath his jaw. He wants to be closer still, his clothes still dripping, Mew’s own clothes wet now too.  

 

Gulf is tired of feeling lost, he wants to come home. He kisses at Mew’s cheek next, then opens his eyes. He wants to see Mew, wants to look at him forever. Then Gulf kisses him, really kisses him. He breathes in deep and brings both his hands up to hold Mew’s face. His fingers ache from how hard he had been clutching at Mew’s T-shirt, the pads of his fingers a blotch of red and white. Gulf stands on his toes and towers over Mew, pushing the other alpha a step back.  

 

Their lips brush, push and clash. Mew’s hands haven’t moved from his back, a constant pressure. Mew tilts his head away, breaking the kiss and tries to say something. Gulf pulls his head back and kisses him again, harder. He bites and demands and Mew just lets him. Until Gulf feels Mew’s hands start a slow rhythm on his back. They press against him, travelling up to his shoulder blades and then following that same path back down until they reach his hips. It’s not the pace Gulf was setting, and it makes him slow his kisses.  

 

Gulf pulls away, lips red and swollen to look at Mew. He feels a little betrayed, like Mew is rejecting him. His eyes turn into slits, hands retracting. Mew holds onto him then, one hand caressing his face while the other stops Gulf’s arm from getting too far. Mew touches his cheekbone and looks at Gulf, straight in the eyes. “Is this what you need?” He asks, voice tender. Gulf doesn’t know what Mew is referring to, feels that maybe that is too loaded of a question. Mew smiles at his confusion, soft like Gulf is doing something loveable. “If this is what you need you can take it, I’ll let you” Mew tells him, letting Gulf’s hands rest against his heart.  

 

Gulf still doesn’t understand, he’s getting cold again now that Mew is no longer pressed against him. “But I think you need something else instead” Mew just continues, letting go of Gulf’s face so he can pull both of them towards the couch. He settles down and tugs Gulf along with him. He brings Gulf in close, so close the alpha is almost sitting on his lap and then pulls a blanket over them. It's the quilt Mew keeps on the back of his couch that Gulf discovered on day one was more itchy than comfy but it keeps him warm now. Mew lets Gulf melt against him, head on his shoulder.  

 

It makes Gulf feel small, smaller than he is. He feels protected somehow, like he's a kid again and Mew is punishing the rock Gulf had tripped over. “You should take a shower; you’re not warming up at all. You’ll get sick at this rate” Mew says, hands rubbing at Gulf to try and generate some heat. Gulf pouts, not having the energy to move a single muscle. “I feel warm though” Gulf replies, reiterating his point by snuggling into Mew.   

 

Mew chuckles, the sound rumbling between them. “That may be but your body is still cold,” Mew looks down at him and sees that his eyes are closed, a weak attempt at feigning sleep. It works none the less since Mew lets him be for a few moments. Gulf almost does fall asleep, feeling his exhaustion seep back in. He feels safe too, for the first time that day. He drops his guard. He’s in a state of in between when he feels Mew shift. He slips away, letting Gulf rest against the couch instead. Gulf wants to complain, pull him back but he’s too tired to. He can’t open his eyes, lids feeling heavy.   

 

“Come,” Mew’s voice approaches a little while later. His hands hold Gulf’s face and rub at his ears until Gulf is forced to open his eyes. “Come,” Mew repeats, giving Gulf a smile he can’t say no to. Gulf stands, albeit with some effort, and lets Mew lead him into the bathroom. Mew’s bathroom is much larger than Gulf’s own. It has a bathtub and a separate shower, two sinks and a mini chandelier. Now it is lit only by the orange glow of several candles placed around the bathtub. Gulf is taken aback at how beautiful it all looks. Mew slips his hands around the collar of Gulf’s jacket and takes it off of him. “You did this?” Gulf asks, his voice betraying him. His words echo in the room, a quiet whisper. It’s a stupid thing to ask, Gulf knows Mew did this. There’s no one else here but them and yet he can’t fathom that something like this is in front of him.   

 

Mew just smiles as he starts to unbutton Gulf’s dress shirt, stuck to his chest from the rain. He lets Mew take his shirt off too, hears it hit the tile floor with a wet smack. His eyes follow Mew, watching the man as he reaches down for Gulf’s slacks. Gulf feels his face flush and covers Mew’s hand with his own. Mew stops and stares up at him, eyes liquid like coffee. “It’s okay, let me” He says, like it’s the easiest thing in the world. He doesn’t move until Gulf nods, letting his hand slip away so Mew can continue. He looks over Mew’s shoulder to avoid eye contact, feels his flush travel down to his chest as Mew slips his pants and underwear off at the same time.   

 

He guides Gulf’s legs out of the mess of fabric one at a time, hands steady and warm everywhere they touch. Gulf toes off his own socks before Mew does something stupid like get on his knees. Then Mew is holding his face again, Gulf's cheeks dwarfed by Mew’s palms. He looks at Gulf’s eyes and holds the contact. It somehow makes Gulf feel more naked than he already is. “Okay,” Mew says, breaking the moment with a laugh before leading Gulf towards the bath.  

 

Gulf steps into the water and hisses at the hot temperature. He grits his teeth and sinks in, stretching his legs out as much as possible while leaning back. Mew settles down beside him outside of the tub and Gulf turns his head to look at him. Now that he’s a little more awake he sees that Mew has changed into some dry clothes. Mew rests his arms on the edge and looks back. “You going to stay the whole time?” Gulf asks, an eyebrow raised. Mew shrugs his shoulders, “If you want me to,” he says.  

 

Gulf smiles, fingers playing with the water. He’s warm now, the water a nice temperature and Mew’s eyes on him. “Do you want to talk about it?” Mew says then, the smile is gone from his face. His eyes are serious and his body is less relaxed. He looks ready to fight. “Talk about what?” Gulf fakes ignorance. He pretends that Mew can’t feel his turmoil through their bond the same way he can feel Mew’s concern. Pretends like everything after his breakfast with Mew and before his arrival at Mew’s apartment was a bad dream. But he knows he can’t pretend for long, not with the way Mew is staring at him, unrelenting.   

 

So he tells him, about everything. Gulf takes one big breath and lets it all out. He can’t bear to look at Mew as he does, his voice trembling here and there. And he doesn’t stop after recounting the whole day either, he goes on and spills all his beans. He tells Mew about his apprehension about bonding with another alpha, about bonding with someone in general. He tells Mew about his anxiety that time he woke up and found out Mew wasn’t with him, tells Mew about how bad he feels for feeling anything. Like his emotions aren’t his own, like he can’t tell what he feels sometimes because of the bond.   

 

Mew listens to every word, not interrupting and face remaining neutral.   

 

When Gulf finishes he’s staring at the wall opposite him with his knees tucked into his chest. The room falls into a thick silence. Gulf is too scared to peer over at Mew, the water has begun to turn cold and he shivers. “I get it,” Is all Mew says, after Gulf’s ginormous spiel. Gulf turns to him in bewilderment. “You get what?” He asks, almost squeaky in his panic.   

 

“All of it, your anxiety, your fears, your reservations. I get it. I mean I’ve been with alphas before, have been open to it most of my life but when I first found out I didn’t mind being with an alpha I was just a teen. I was confused and a little bit in despair over it. It caused a lot of teenage angst, I rebelled, disappointed my parents for a few months and then found someone who was just like me. They helped me see that I wasn’t wrong, I was just me and that was a wonderful thing. So I get it, I don’t expect you to do my twenty years of soul searching in a mere four days. And the separation anxiety, well I felt that too”  

 

“You did?” Gulf whispers, self-conscious and a bit amazed as well.   

 

“Yeah that morning was hard, being away from you. I had to try my hardest to focus on other things just so I wouldn’t run back.” Mew smiles and slips one hand into the water to find Gulf’s. “Lastly, the thing about your work...well I've seen my fair share of that throughout the years as well. I’m a pretty open person and I’m not afraid to be who I am, I refuse to compromise myself just for others to be comfortable and that hasn’t always gone over well. So I get that too. Unfortunately.” Mew looks sad now, his smile having lost its luster. It makes Gulf’s own heart sink, his lips turning down at the corners. “But that doesn’t mean we should just let it slide, just because it happens often. Why don’t we try and come up with a solution together? Maybe tomorrow once you get home?” Mew asks him, head tilting.   

 

He looks so soft and adorable, eyes full of hope. “Home?” Gulf teases, slipping closer to the edge where Mew is resting. “You know what I mean,” Mew laughs, his eyes flitting down to Gulf’s lips before they’re focused on his eyes once more. Gulf doesn’t miss the movement, his flush back with full force.   

 

 

“Okay, once I get home” Gulf says, the words slipping off his tongue like candy.   

 

Sweet.   

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gulf’s eyes start to droop as the bath water continues to cool. Mew is cupping water into his hands and then letting it drip slow over Gulf’s shoulder and back. It kind of tickles whenever his fingers brush against Gulf’s bare skin. It’s also a little soothing, the faint glow of the candles helping to guide in Gulf’s descent towards sleep. “Hey sleepyhead, this is nowhere to pass out” Mew says, the mirth not concealed in his voice. Gulf opens his eyes long enough to stare at Mew and give a soft huff before they’re closing again. Mew chuckles, his wet fingers cupping Gulf’s cheek for a second. “I’ll go get you a towel,” And just like that he’s gone, leaving Gulf to sit alone in the bath.   

 

Without Mew there, talking or creating ripples in the water it’s almost too silent. Gulf takes a moment to stretch and yawn, the flickering of all the candles drawing his attention. He watches them dance and feels warm in their presence. His whole body feels light, like he’s just put down a huge boulder he’s been carrying on his back for miles. Talking to Mew, telling him any and everything that has been bothering him had really helped. And what’s more, the alpha hadn’t tried to talk over him or invalidate any of his feelings the entire time. He had just been the most patient, understanding person that Gulf had needed him to be.   

 

Maybe Gulf shouldn’t be surprised about that but he still is. Still can’t believe someone like Mew is in his life. He shivers as the water is all of a sudden too cold for him to withstand sitting in. “Okay, so you’re in luck” Mew appears then, a large fluffy towel in his hands. “I just did laundry and this bad boy is still warm,” Mew looks down at Gulf, all smiles. He holds the towel out as Gulf stands and wraps it around the latter’s body. Gulf is pleased to find that the towel is indeed still warm and smells fresh, a little bit like lavender. Mew ruffles Gulf’s hair with the towel for a bit and then makes sure he’s wrapped Gulf tight in the cotton before helping him out of the tub. He hugs Gulf and waddles them towards his room, doing his best to not let Gulf get cold throughout the journey.  

 

Gulf plops down on the mattress and stares down at his toes. He feels a bit dazed, drained now that all his worry and anxiety is out in the open. Mew is flitting about the room looking for clothes that Gulf can borrow, humming as he goes. “I don’t know if you’ve eaten but I have some leftovers from my own dinner in the fridge. I can warm it up if you want,” Mew says as he brings a shirt up and sniffs at it to see if it’s clean. He must deem it so since he throws it at Gulf’s head and starts looking for pants. Gulf almost falls backwards from the force of it, laughing out loud as he drags the piece of clothing off. “I’m okay,” he whispers, watching Mew’s back as he moves. He looks down at the shirt in his hands and almost bursts into laughter again at the cute panda cartoon on the front of it.  

 

His eyes crinkle as he imagines Mew wearing it, trying to look stoic and failing. “Here,” Mew comes to him and hands him the rest of his outfit. “I’ll go heat up the food,” He says and starts to walk away before Gulf can argue. Gulf puts on the clothes and then pats at his stomach. He hears it thump in a hollow way and thinks maybe he is hungry after all. Now that he thinks about it he hasn’t eaten much all day. He walks out of the bedroom and finds Mew sitting in the living room with a plate of food on the coffee table.  

 

It’s steaming and smells really good now that Gulf is close enough to notice. He sits down on the floor and picks up the cutlery without a word. He knows Mew is smiling in that smug way when he thinks he’s won and Gulf doesn’t have to acknowledge it if he doesn’t see it. “You didn’t dry your hair?” Mew grumbles, running his fingers through Gulf’s wet hair. His nails drag at Gulf’s scalp and he plays with Gulf’s bangs until they aren’t in his eyes. “It’ll dry by itself,” Gulf says around a mouthful of food. Mew bends down over him from the couch and gives him a look of utter displeasure. “You’ll catch a cold,” He says, his tone is serious but his scent betrays him. Mew smells gentle, like a soft sea breeze carrying with it the laughter of children and the sound of blue waves.  

 

Gulf decides his stomach is his current priority and so he takes another bite, not breaking his eye contact with Mew. When the older’s eyes narrow into a frown Gulf just chipmunks his food and smiles. “Didn’t you want me to eat? I’m eating,” Gulf whines. He scoops up more food and makes a show of chewing, acting busy. Mew nods his head and chuckles, “Okay fine, you win” he grabs the towel hanging around Gulf’s neck and starts drying his hair. Gulf keeps eating and feels his lips twitch in triumph. Mew is so easy to understand sometimes, it feels like as long as Gulf lets him, he’s willing to do anything. And if Gulf were to be honest, he doesn’t mind at all.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Later that night when they are both in bed and about to sleep, a thought comes to Gulf.   

 

“I can’t believe they would be willing to fire me because of who my mate is,” he whispers, not sure if Mew is even still awake. The other alpha has his back to him and he doesn’t move with the admission. Gulf sighs and shuffles closer towards Mew. “What assholes, and to think I’m their best employee,” he grumbles with a pout. His hand reaches out and pinches Mew’s shirt. The material is soft between his fingers, a thin cotton. “I’m gonna go in tomorrow and give them a piece of my mind! If they are going to fire me anyway, I might as well” Gulf lets his hand fall back to the bed, his eyes watching the little hairs on Mew’s nape shine in the light from the window.   

 

Mew moves then and grabs his hand. He brings it around his waist until Gulf’s chest is pressed against his back. “If that is what you want,” Mew says, soft and sleepy. Gulf tightens his arm around Mew and settles against him.   

 

He closes his eyes with a new found resolve.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Gulf walks into work with an air of confidence he only half feels. He sets out to head straight to his boss’s office to tell him he won’t be handing in the vacation forms, that he won’t cower and hide away. Because Gulf has done nothing wrong and he shouldn’t feel ashamed. Yet his resolve crumbles in the face of all the eyes that watch him as soon as he sets foot into work. He tries to keep his head high and not meet their eyes but it makes him pause once he reaches his boss’s door. “Do you think he’s going to resign?” He hears someone whisper from nearby. He feels his shoulders shrink and head bow. “Wouldn’t you? Just the humiliation alone -” Another person pipes in and it isn’t long before Gulf can hear them all join in behind him. He had felt so brave all morning, puffing out his chest and keeping his brows furrowed while Mew drove him to work. Mew had even held his hand before Gulf left the car and squeezed it in support. “Go show them who they’re messing with,” Mew had said, confidence shining in his eyes. Confidence in Gulf, and yet Gulf carries none of that with him now. He huffs out a breath, all determination gone with the exhale and turns around. A sharp hush carries over the office and everyone makes quick work of pretending to work.  

 

Gulf feels a bout of anger, so sudden and intense he has to clamp his jaw shut so he doesn’t say something he knows he will regret. His eyes land on Ploy, the person he assumes he has to thank for this whole mess. She isn’t looking back at him, continuing to type as if she can’t feel Gulf’s burning gaze. Her lack of acknowledgement snaps Gulf out of his daze and he relaxes his hands. He hadn’t realized that he had made tight fists, nails creating crescents in his palms. He has to force his shoulders back down from where he had them gathered at his ears and starts to walk towards his own office. Gulf is glad once again for his company’s suppressant policy since nobody can smell how infuriated he is. Once he’s behind his own door he lets out the breath caught in his lungs. He sinks down into his chair and goes limp. His ceiling is a dull grey as he looks at it, a horrible colour in Gulf’s opinion. It only manages to drag down his current mood further. He sits up and pulls out the dreaded vacation forms from his bag that are at the epicenter of his impending dilemma.   

 

He had decided not to fill them out in a fit last night but now he is once again unsure. What if they really did fire him? The topic didn’t appear to be fizzling out throughout the office anytime soon. What will Gulf do, if that happens? He thinks about his parents and how disappointed they will be. They always supported and motivated Gulf to do better, to be better. How will they feel once he tells them? Would he even be able to tell them?  

 

Gulf puts the pages aside and turns on his office computer. He’ll talk to his boss after lunch...after he’s managed to be super productive and finished not only yesterday’s but today’s tasks as well. He’ll show them, Gulf thinks. He’ll show them all how much they need him; how valuable he is. So he settles down in his chair and starts work with a laser-type focus. Whenever one of his team starts dragging their feet and not answering him, Gulf takes to the chatroom and starts asking them to work with efficiency. When it gets really bad, he even steps out and visits them at their cubicle so that his presence alone makes his team shift gears. It’s not his usual style, hell, it’s not something he’s ever contemplated doing. But that was before he had to do it, when everyone just thought Gulf was polite and quiet but still respected him. Now they’ve twisted his arm and Gulf will be damned if he lets them.   

 

Somehow, even though today the work gets done much faster than yesterday Gulf only grows more frustrated by the hour. Every time he has to badger one of his team to hurry along it chips away at him, wearing him down. By the time lunch rolls around he’s got a massive headache and he feels a bit nauseous too from all the anxiety. Having to be forceful all day hasn’t been comfortable in the least. Gulf doesn’t know how he’s supposed to manage a talk with his superior but he knows it’s inevitable.   

 

As Gulf makes the walk to his boss’s office for the second time while most of the employees are busy getting ready for lunch he tries to think about pleasant things. For one, his team has managed to catch up with their work and are actually ahead. Also, it is nice and sunny out, no clouds in sight. Gulf is sure the flowers are enjoying that. Mew had made him a cute breakfast with little faces made out of the ingredients. It had looked a little sloppy but had managed to make him smile nonetheless. Gulf smiles now too, just thinking about it. He stops at the same door that had intimidated him so much in the morning and knocks.  

 

“Come in,” His boss says, voice carrying across the heavy door with ease.

 

He steps inside and closes the door behind himself. He feels a bit of DeJa'Vu, staring at his boss flip through papers at his desk as he spares Gulf a short glance. “Sir,” Gulf starts and stops, voice cracking under the pressure. He clears his throat and wipes his palms on his suit pants. It doesn’t help with their trembling so he just folds them behind his back. Now is not the time to show fear, Gulf tells himself. Eyes bright and unwavering. For once he hopes his boss looks up because Gulf doesn’t have his head down. He won’t cower now; he needs to do this. “Sir, I’ve decided I won’t be taking any vacation days. I have thought about it and I don’t think it’s right,” Gulf says in one breath. He’d spent the last ten minutes rehearsing just that one line to make sure he didn’t stutter through it. He gulps once he finishes, proud of himself.   

 

“Alright,” His boss says. He flips to another page on his desk, his small pink rubber finger betraying his cold exterior. Gulf’s eyes almost bug out of his head.   

 

“A-alright? That's it sir?” Gulf squeaks, all composure broken due to his surprise.   

 

“Yes Mr. Kanawut, just alright. I can’t force you into a vacation, and like you have said you’ve done nothing wrong.” His boss quiets, the sound of paper rustling all that is left in the office. Gulf nods his head, almost to himself, as he starts to leave.   

 

“And Mr. Kanawut,” His boss voices, looking up at him now, “I saw that your team has been doing much better today. That will be noted,”   

 

Gulf gapes as the older man goes back to his documents, giving Gulf a silent go-ahead to leave. When he exits the office he grabs onto a nearby wall and sighs out in relief. That was so easy that Gulf feels silly for his previous worrying. It almost makes him feel ridiculous about how much he stressed himself out. He knows this is only the start of the battle, that he’ll have to deal with his team and the rest of his colleagues but for now it feels like a tiny victory. Once Gulf calms down he looks up to an empty office. All the cubicles are deserted, not a single person in sight. It makes him frown; steps hesitant as he walks around. It feels like a ghost town, even if it’s lunch time it never gets this quiet. Everyone usually gets an intern to order in, a few people choosing to eat out if they have the time.   

 

As Gulf walks further he starts hearing chatter from their conference room. They only use it for monthly meetings so it’s strange to have it occupied now. Gulf walks up to the room and opens the door, his curiosity getting the best of him. Nobody notices his entrance, too busy talking and chatting around a table full of food. Their giant conference table is covered like a buffet. Gulf looks around in shock, that is until his eyes land on Mew. He’s standing in the corner talking to a bunch of people from Gulf’s team. He’s laid back and nonchalant, Gulf would even go as far as to say smiley. Saint is trying his hardest to stop the other juniors' pestering but it seems to be of no avail.  

 

Gulf grabs the person closest to him, a man he doesn’t quite recognize so he must be new, and asks him what is going on. “I was just told there was free food,” he says with disinterest, plate stacked in his hands. “Right,” Gulf mumbles and moves through the room trying to get to Mew. “Are you friends with Mr. Vin? Our boss’s friends never treat us this well though,” One of Gulf’s juniors is saying just as Gulf reaches them. Mew lets out a quiet chuckle, hand coming up to rub at his nape. Gulf freezes at the words, unable to do anything and watch as another intern jumps in. “You and the boss must be super close if you’re here to support him like this! This is why alphas are so cool,” the first intern manages to smack the latter, a sign to stop talking.  

 

“Actually, my mate works here. He’s been having a hard time recently so I wanted to cheer him up,” Mew looks at him then, eyes finding Gulf in a sea of people as if he knew where to look. He smiles bright, hands crossed over his chest with his stupid fluffy hair falling over his forehead. He’s wearing a button-down shirt and some slacks and yet he still looks more put together than half of the people in the room in full work attire. “Isn’t that right Gulf?” Mew points at him with his chin, eyes mischievous as the rest of the room quiets down.    

 

Maybe Gulf should be aware of the way his team starts having an epiphany and putting two and two together but all he can think of is Mew. How Mew is looking at him, in front of everybody. How Mew just called him his mate, in front of everybody. How Mew can do all that like it’s easy, even though it isn’t. Gulf knows it isn’t. Even though Mew looks relaxed and calm, Gulf knows he isn’t. But he’s doing this for Gulf, coming here and exposing himself for the whole world to see. “Yeah,” He manages to whisper, eyes big and sparkling. Gulf feels, so much. So much that he can’t start to understand half of it, so he just holds out his hand.   

 

“Yeah, that’s right” He repeats, voice more confident the second time as Mew takes his hand. He turns and starts pulling Mew through the throng of people. Every single person stares at them as they go, as if they are animals in a zoo. Gulf doesn’t pay it any mind. Mew’s grip is tight on his hand and that is all the support he needs. “Enjoy your lunch,” Mew says before bowing one last time. He remains polite even in the face of all the confusion and prejudice they show him, not faltering for a single second until they’re both out of the room.   

 

Gulf keeps them going until they reach his office. Mew’s smile is long gone by now, brows a bit stern in its place. Their hands fall apart in the small space. Just the two of them now, all alone. Gulf has his back to Mew as he rests his hands on his desk. “Are you mad?” Mew says, footsteps quiet as he approaches Gulf. His words make Gulf turn around, hands reaching for Mew in a heartbeat. “No, I’m not mad” He replies into Mew’s shoulder. It feels so good to hug Mew after the day he’s had. Gulf can feel his exhaustion sapping away by the second. He can barely smell Mew’s scent because of the suppressants but somehow, he doesn’t need it. Just being in Mew’s arms makes him feel like he’s enveloped in it. The type of rain that comes after the hottest day in summer, blanketing the asphalt and covering all the earth. “This’ll sure give them more to talk about though,” Gulf laughs, sounding a bit wet with how choked up he feels.   

 

Mew tightens his arms around him and nuzzles his head against Gulf’s. “I just thought, I don’t know. I thought maybe a lot of the rumors and the prejudice might be coming from ignorance. And fear. Fear of the unknown. I wanted to show them that even though you’re mated to another alpha, I’m not some weird or mysterious creature. I’m just someone, like the rest of them, who happens to also be an alpha. I was hoping that if I showed up and was all charming, maybe bribed them with some food, that they wouldn’t find it so strange. You and me.” Gulf holds tight to Mew, not knowing what to say. He’s so overwhelmed that all words seem to fail him. He closes his eyes and turns his head to peck Mew’s neck.  

 

“Thank you,” It’s not nearly enough to articulate what he feels but it’ll have to do. Gulf lets his guard down and lets himself go to the bond. It has been tugging at him all day, restless with his frustration. It had only become silent once he had Mew’s hand in his own. And now, as Gulf looks down at the vast water he doesn’t feel afraid. He slips his hand in and it’s warm, like the bath Mew had ran for him the night before. It’s still dark and Gulf can’t see the bottom but he knows Mew is there, somewhere. So when he plunges in there’s no fear. Gulf has never been that good at thinking much anyways. He’s tired of doubting himself, doubting Mew, their bond.   

 

This feels right, being with Mew. So he’s just going to be with Mew.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

“So I told him I’m not going to be taking the vacation days because UHM hello?! I did shit wrong, so he can just shove those papers up his -” Mew shoves a spoonful of rice into Gulf’s mouth to save their surrounding audience from the profanity. They are seated in a small park by Mew’s apartment, takeout spread in front of them for dinner. There are little kids playing nearby and in the playground beside them. Mew gives Gulf a stern look, eyes darting to the small devils shrieking and not paying them an ounce of attention. Gulf pulls the spoon out of his mouth with a grumble. “They aren’t listening,” He mutters, sticking the spoon back into his food carton to get another mouthful.  

 

“Kids are always listening,” Mew warns, looking down at his own food. After Mew and him had hugged for the entirety of Gulf’s lunch break the older alpha had excused himself so Gulf could finish the rest of his shift. He had asked Gulf to meet him at their current location for dinner, an apology for not letting Gulf eat earlier. “And it’s not like they don’t already know those words, I was saying much worse at their age,” Gulf says, cheeks full as he talks. Mew doesn’t know whether to be amused or horrified. “So you’re going to keep working at the company huh?” Mew asks, trying to redirect their conversation to their original topic. “Yeah, I’ll do my best to make the office quiet down. I hope my team at least is done with their pettiness.”   

 

“It might get worse from here,” Mew says. He sounds worried and he’s pushing his food around his plate instead of eating it. “I’m worried I did more bad than good,”  

 

“It might also get better, right? I didn’t know you were such a pessimist!” Gulf laughs, bright and loud. He’s not anxious at all anymore, Mew’s actions that afternoon solidified that what he was doing was important. That it was right, and that it was necessary. His parents didn’t raise him to be a coward, and he’s been taught to stand up for himself so that’s what he will do. “You’re amazing you know,” Mew says then, looking all tender as he looks at Gulf. It makes Gulf pause, cheeks flushing as he laughs off his embarrassment. Mew always leaves him speechless. “The only amazing one here is you,” He replies in a bit of retaliation. He hopes Mew feels even an ounce of the butterflies he keeps getting.  

 

“No, you’re...brave. Much braver than I will ever be,” Mew speaks, so soft it almost gets lost in the chatter of the kids around them. The trees rustle in the wind as minutes tick by and the two just stare at one another. Gulf breaks the contact first, kicking at Mew’s sneakers underneath the table. “You’re such a greaseball.” Mew only smiles back at him, all smug and handsome. It’s like he knows Gulf likes it, all his sweet words and actions, the way he takes care of him. Gulf feigns apathy and goes back to his food.   

 

He tries not to let his smile show on his face when Mew locks their ankles together, because it doesn’t please him in the least.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

The rest of the week passes by in a blur. Gulf goes to work only to come back home grumpy and exhausted. Turns out that Mew’s appearance had quelled some people’s curiosity but only fueled others’ animosity. Every day is filled with resistance and Gulf is having a hard time with it. His team at least has been having the decency to focus on their work. If Gulf were to choose one positive, it would be that. Mew is there for him through all of it. It’s kind of odd, how someone Gulf has known for a day more than a week is such a vital part of his existence now. It feels like Mew has always been there, like coming home to Mew is routine. He goes to sleep with Mew and wakes up to Mew. He’s happy, even though his career is in turmoil and he still hasn’t had time to see his parents, he’s happy.   

 

Mew makes him happy. And he’s so busy that by the time Saturday rolls around he almost forgets that they have a doctor’s appointment. They haven't talked about it much after those first few days and so Gulf doesn’t know what to expect now going into it. Mew is quiet as they drive there but that might just be because he didn’t sleep well last night and is pouting about it. He’s in comfy clothes and Gulf’s brain only registers that with cuddles now. It’s a slight problem. “Nervous?” Mew asks him as they sit in the waiting room. “I just don’t like needles,” Gulf says. A nurse had informed them when they arrived that they needed a full workup. That included blood tests. Gulf’s leg bounces as they wait, the white walls surrounding them so plain he can’t manage to find a distraction.   

 

“Let’s play a game then,” Mew says, hand reaching towards Gulf’s knee and resting there. He doesn’t press down but his palm carries a weight with it. It makes Gulf’s leg stop its movements, not wanting to displace it. “A game?” Gulf asks, raising an eyebrow in question. Mew and him have played many games throughout their days together. Most of the time Gulf wins but he guesses that’s only because Mew hasn’t been putting the time in to train himself. Gulf has noticed how much better he’s gotten since the first few times they played, maybe he’s been practicing behind Gulf’s back now that he’s on vacation. “Yeah, a game. I downloaded this on my phone the other day, it’s pretty cool” Mew slides him the device while looking around the room, as if he’s doing something he shouldn’t be. Gulf stares at him with delight, trying his best not to laugh.  

 

“Since when do you play mobile games? Thought you were a fancy scholar,” Gulf teases, taking the phone and clicking through the different modes of the game. Mew takes his hand off Gulf's knee and brings it around the top of Gulf’s chair instead. He leans in close to rest his chin on Gulf’s shoulder and watches him play. “I’ll have you know that any time no one is supervising me at work I'm either napping or playing on my phone.”  

 

Gulf turns away from his screen, his character dying, and gives Mew a judgmental look. “Really?” He says, not believing Mew’s haughty look for a second. They both crack up at the same time, falling into each other even more. “No, I wish. I’m too much of a workaholic, in fact everyone around the office would love it if I slacked off more” Mew laughs, voice light as he digs his chin into Gulf. Gulf opens his mouth to complain about it, say something like how Mew is so rough and mean. A typical alpha. But he’s interrupted by a nurse announcing his turn for the blood test.   

 

All his nerves come back to him as he stands. He looks back at Mew and almost smiles at the small thumbs up the other alpha gives him. He’ll be fine, Gulf reminds himself. Besides the scariest thing about today isn’t the blood test, it’s the actual meeting with the doctor. Gulf doesn’t know why he’s so terrified about something that just last week had been his only saving grace. He just knows that his bond is anxious and it’s in turn making him anxious. He feels like everything is going to change and he’s not sure he’s ready for that.   

 

 

~  

 

 

Mew sits down beside him in the small doctor’s office. The desk in front of them is clean and holds only a cup of pens and a computer. There’s a minimalistic name plaque that reads Dr. Simon Ayutthaya. Gulf’s eyes drag around the many educational posters pasted on the walls and tries to read a few. There’s one about the phases of anatomy a male alpha’s scent glands go through during and after bonding. Gulf looks to Mew and finds that the alpha is already staring at him. He gives a hesitant smile and looks away. “Everything will be fine,” Mew says to him. Gulf feels the ghost of his fingers on his arm just as the door opens behind them.   

 

“Hello, Mr. Suppasit and Kanawut.” The doctor stumbles around their chairs before sitting down at his desk. He places two files down onto his desk, Gulf peeks and finds their names on them. “So I hear that you two have bonded,” The doctor speaks as he scrolls through the computer in front of him. Gulf looks to Mew, his mind failing to provide him with any words. The alpha must understand what he means because from there on he takes the reins in answering most of the questions. When did you bond? What had you been doing when it happened? Was it intended? Was it painful?  

 

After what feels like an interrogation, the doctor pauses to type up everything onto the computer. Gulf holds his breath as he waits. He had so many questions just a few days ago and now sitting here, in front of maybe one of the only people who could answer them he was speechless. Those questions seem so insignificant now, like they were thought up by someone years ago. He feels leaps and bounds different after everything he and Mew have had to go through in such a short amount of time together.  

 

“You both seem to be in good health, your blood tests were both normal. I have noticed that only one of you has been bitten, perhaps due to the nature of how your bond came to be that is to be expected. When you first called you were very concerned with the fact that you are both alphas.” Both of them nod at that, watching as the doctor opens up their files. “Uhm, contrary to popular belief two alphas can indeed bond. The process is just a tad bit more, arduous, shall we say. Our scent glands produce a specific or a signature smell once we reach puberty due to certain hormones. Our noses have certain receptors that help translate these scents from our peers into information our brains can understand.” Gulf isn’t sure about Mew but he’s having trouble following along already, the doctor is talking way too much and way too fast. He sits back in his chair and furrows his brows to focus harder. “Our scent glands work a lot like a lock and key, when scents are able to fit together chemically, a bond is possible. Alphas and omegas all have either a lock or key so they can bond with no trouble. Betas tend to not have enough of certain hormones to develop the proper lock or key.” The doctor starts gesturing with his hands, pulling out building blocks from the desk and putting them together and pulling them apart. Gulf wonders if he has to give this speech a lot.  

 

“Alphas have very similar locks or keys and so it is difficult to find a match that will, fit so to speak. But it’s not...impossible. I think what happened between you two was just a case of having found a really great match – scent wise, at least,” The doctor puts up a hand as if to placate Mew and Gulf in case they are about to disagree with him. He hesitates as they do nothing but blink back at him. “Right, well. Did you have any other questions?”  

 

Gulf looks down at his hands and then to Mew in contemplation. “The fact that Mew hasn’t bitten me, is that important?” Gulf asks, voice soft. He can’t seem to look back at Mew as his cheeks flush, a bit embarrassed. “Uhm, yes in a way. You told me how he almost bit you once, that it felt out of your control and that is to be expected. The bond isn’t complete and since your scents are so well matched your bodies will want to make the connection permanent. It is also the reason why either of you might feel uneasy while being away from one another. Since the bond isn’t fully formed you aren’t able to sense each other like other bonded pairs. Each pair is different of course, but most can at least always feel that their partner is with them even when far away. Some can even share thoughts and feelings between the bond.”   

 

“W-wait, what do you mean permanent?” Gulf sputters, leaning forward in his chair. The doctor pauses, lost at what Gulf is talking about before he laughs and readjusts his glasses. “Yes, permanent. As of right now your bond isn’t permanent. It can be dissolved if that is what you wish for. Bonds forming by accident or between unwilling partners is rare so it isn’t a process that is done often but it is doable.” Gulf sits back, mouth agape. He doesn’t know how to feel. He can’t even look at Mew. The person who has been nothing but a comfort to him since this whole fiasco is sitting right beside him and yet Gulf is too terrified to turn his head or run into his arms.   

 

Would Mew want to break their bond? Gulf doesn’t know, he hasn’t entertained the thought at all. Maybe because since the beginning he has been such a consistent mess that Mew has been taking care of him, Gulf had assumed Mew wanted to be there. What if he was just being nice? What if he had felt like it was his responsibility? Gulf grits his teeth, hands clutching at his chair for some kind of purchase. “Although I would have to warn you, it won’t be a walk in the park. For Mr. Suppasit here –”   

 

“Doctor,” Mew interrupts, his voice the same as ever. Deep and smooth, calm. “Can we talk in private if it pertains to me,” Mew says. The words a bucket of ice down Gulf’s back. He turns to see Mew, just to see him. Because he wants to know what he looks like as he says those words, if he looks any bit as tortured as Gulf feels. But Mew’s face is impassive and his hand is covering his mouth. He doesn’t look at Gulf, body turned away. He feels so far away even though Gulf could touch him if he just reached out and tried.   

 

It’s just that Gulf doesn’t think that he’s allowed to. Not at this moment anyway. Mew has closed himself off. His entire stature is shut down and cold. Gulf can’t feel Mew inside his chest, like that giant body of water has shrunk into a tiny puddle. “Then why don’t we talk first and then Mr. Kanawut, you can come back in for a one on one session as well.” The doctor states, a smile on his face as he directs Gulf to the bench in the hallway outside.  

 

Gulf sits there in silence and clasps his hands together. He feels miserable. He feels miserable and he wants to hold Mew’s hand instead, because he knows that will make him feel better. But he can’t do that now, if ever again. Gulf chokes out a laugh, feeling pathetic. Mew’s spoiled him rotten, now he can’t even handle a minor heartbreak without him. So what if Mew wants to break their bond? That’s his right, he’s been dragged into this whole mess by Gulf from the very start. And Gulf has been nothing but a handful since, a big baby disguised as a twenty-nine-year-old. If Mew wants to leave it’s understandable. Gulf tries to swallow the lump in his throat but it stays stuck there, his mouth almost metallic in taste.   

 

It’ll be fine, Gulf tells himself. He looks up and Mew is there exiting the office. He still doesn’t look at Gulf as they pass one another.   

 

It’ll be fine.   

 

It’ll be fine.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gulf has been through a lot in his life. He’s been through relationships that didn’t last, friendships that came and went with the passing of time and also a pet or two that ran away from home. Every separation is different, every single one hurts different. Gulf’s only constant is his family, his parents and his sister who he adores. They fight, often or at least they did. But now whenever Gulf thinks of her and his family those aren’t the memories that resurface, it’s all the sweet moments. All the times his sister gave him advice or his parents hugged him in consolation. So when Gulf thinks of Mew, it isn’t too difficult to default into his preconceived notions. People always leave and Mew is just another one of those people.   

 

It isn’t difficult to think that way, Gulf wishes he thought that way. Except he doesn’t. As he stares at Mew’s face while the older drives them home, all he can think about is how much he wants Mew to stay. Mew’s hands have a firm grip on the steering wheel and he hasn’t said a word since they parted with the doctor. Gulf can’t blame him much; he hasn’t mustered up enough courage to speak either. The car’s radio fills the silence between them so it doesn’t become too awkward. Gulf can feel a tension between them that he hasn’t sensed since that first morning they spent together. Much like then Mew feels like a stranger. His scent is blocked by suppressants and Gulf still can’t find him in their bond. The water is so small inside him that he’s petrified.  

 

It’s motionless and clear and if Gulf didn’t know any better, he would think it was glass instead.   

 

“We’re here,” Mew says, startling Gulf so much that he whips his head forward. He looks out of the windshield and is met with the front of his apartment building. He pauses, brows furrowing before he turns back to Mew. The alpha is still not looking at him, stubborn in the way he can get sometimes. “I thought we were going to stay at your place tonight,” Gulf says. His voice sounds meek, a terrible feeling bubbling inside of him. “You don’t have your stuff with you,” He continues, eyes glancing to the backseat to confirm that Mew hasn’t brought his usual duffle bag. Gulf looks back to Mew then and finds the alpha just staring ahead without a word. He can see his jaw clench, eyes closing as he blinks slow, as if he’s preparing to say something. Finally, finally say something. “It’s okay, I have a spare toothbrush and you can just borrow some of my clothes.” Gulf finishes and turns, hoping to leave the car before Mew can open his mouth.   

 

He knows that if Mew does, he’s going to say something Gulf won’t like. He doesn’t want to hear it. “Gulf,” Mew grabs onto his arm and stops him, skin warm and touch gentle. The feeling it invokes in Gulf is so monumental it has him pausing just to take in a breath. No matter how much easier it might be to pretend that Mew is like any other person in Gulf’s life, like his absence would be sad but expected, just another moment in Gulf’s life he will get past, it isn’t the truth. Because Mew has become so much more than that. He’s become someone Gulf can depend on, someone Gulf can run to, someone Gulf can confide in, someone Gulf can be himself with, someone Gulf can discover himself with.  

 

Gulf doesn’t want that to change. He doesn’t want them to change. He’s willing to do anything to keep them the same. And with that Gulf slips his hand into Mew’s, takes courage from their connection and squeezes. “Please. Stay the night, please” He whispers, fingers still holding onto Mew for dear life. Gulf doesn’t know what he’ll do if Mew lets go but he’s not at all prepared to find out. It’s silent, for one moment and then two.   

 

“Okay,” Mew says, he squeezes back, just a small bit and then he’s letting go to step out of the car. Gulf follows suit and walks behind him. It is dark throughout the outdoor steps towards his apartment door, the only light coming from the streetlamps on the other side of the parking lot. Gulf keeps his eyes on Mew’s back, the shadows playing across his broad shoulders with each step and commits it to memory. When they reach Gulf’s front door Mew steps aside to let Gulf open it, hands tucked in his pockets and looking at the night sky.   

 

“Come in,” Gulf says as he slips off his shoes in the entrance, making a beeline to the windows so he can open them. Mew is standing in the hallway when he looks back, as if unsure where to go. It makes Gulf stop his task as he watches the other alpha. Mew has been over to his house quite a handful of times now, he’s slept in Gulf’s bed and lounged on Gulf’s couch. He’s cooked in the kitchen and even spilled tea on Gulf’s carpet at one point. It makes Gulf’s heart pang, a deep ache, as Mew stands there looking so uncomfortable now. “Let’s talk,” Mew tells him, hands still in his pockets like they have been sewn in.  

 

Gulf wants to laugh, a small distraught smile taking over his face instead. All he’s been wanting to do is talk. Talk to Mew and ask him why he wanted to speak to the doctor without him, how the meeting had gone, if Mew wants to break their bond, if he thinks of Gulf as a burden. He’s been wanting to talk and yet he’s so worried about what this discussion will uncover that he wants to run away just as much. But Mew is reaching out, wanting to tell him how he feels and so Gulf will listen. It is the least he can do for Mew after all the things the other alpha has done for him. “Okay, yeah. Let’s talk,” Gulf gestures to the suede couch behind Mew and steps passed him to sit down.  

 

His legs start to tap against the ground due to his nerves, shaking a little as they do. Gulf settles his hands on his knees and forces them down. He doesn’t want Mew to worry about him, that is the last thing he needs. Mew is still beside him, statuesque in the way he looks down and folds his hands together. Gulf looks to him and can’t find his eyes; it is starting to become a routine that Gulf doesn’t care for. “You and me, what do you think about us?” Mew starts and his voice sounds small, soft in a way Gulf has never heard before. It’s different than the quiet whisper when they speak late into the night, cuddled beneath a heavy blanket. It’s fragile, vulnerable and yet so guarded that Gulf doesn’t know what to make of it.   

 

Gulf tilts his head in thought, eyes slipping from Mew to stare at his own toes instead. He’s wearing some plain black socks, like usual. It almost makes him laugh because he knows without turning that Mew is wearing some crazy atrocity instead, maybe some socks with sushi or Pokémon on them. That’s just the type of guy Mew is, poles apart from Gulf and so unique. So confident in himself that Gulf is unsure why he sounds so unlike himself now, sitting beside Gulf and looking frail. “I think that we are very different people,” Gulf begins with the same gentle voice, trying to arrange his thoughts in a way that will make sense. He feels like this conversation is important, so crucial to what will happen next that if he messes it up his chance will be gone forever.  

 

“So different that I’m amazed we met in the first place,” Gulf turns back to Mew and hopes with all he has left that Mew will glance at him. Just once. He misses his eyes, his gaze. The warmth he feels when Mew looks at him that can’t be replicated or replaced. “Because when I see you, I see someone so kind and amazing that it is often breath taking. You are so much of everything I can never be that I feel a little bit intimidated, a little lacking.” Mew seems to want to object here, neck craning up and mouth slipping open.  

 

“But also, so lucky,” Gulf finishes in a whisper. He smiles to himself and feels his cheeks aflame. He stuffs his hands beneath his thighs to help warm them up. He’s sweating all over from the nerves and yet he feels cold as ever, like he’s stuck in the tundra. “What do you think about us?” Gulf asks back, curiosity taking over the fear he feels still gripping his heart. Mew is quiet for a while, hand rubbing at the back of his neck. Gulf wonders what that would feel like, to have his own hand there instead. Maybe he could squeeze and massage Mew’s neck to get rid of his stress, maybe he could pat at his short hair, scratch at his scalp. The thought only makes him blush harder but his hands remain where they are.  

 

“I’m not sure what to think to be honest.” Mew says then, hand dropping and head raising until his eyes appear. Gulf looks in those deep brown chocolate orbs and feels the glass shatter inside him. Mew looks so minute and tired, looking at Gulf with a small frown. There’s concern written all over his face and if Gulf wasn’t such a coward, he might’ve tried to clear that worry away with gentle ministrations. Except all he can do is stare with a deep longing at Mew and just hope for the other to feel what he wants, what he needs. Mew doesn’t seem to get the message as he tumbles on, fingers tugging and spinning at the ring on his thumb. “This all happened so suddenly and we were strangers, so I know neither of us had this in our future plans. But you’re amazing Gulf, you’re a great guy and I love spending time with you. Maybe if, if we just had … I don’t know.” Mew stops to stare right into Gulf’s eyes and then he smiles. It’s a sad little smile and it only helps Gulf grow colder.  

 

Gulf doesn’t know everything about Mew, but he likes to think he knows Mew well enough by now. So he can tell that the other alpha is suffering. He’s in pain and it’s all Gulf’s fault. He’s not sure what he can do at this point to remedy the situation but he’s willing to do anything Mew wants so that the other alpha can be happy. It’s been a long time since Gulf has loved someone, and even then it had been different. Gulf isn’t sure if it’s because the feeling is still so new and fresh that he’s feeling it so strongly or just that it’s leaps and bounds apart from his other relationships. Either way, he’s just realized that he loves Mew. He loves Mew, and he wants to be with Mew.   

 

It sounds so stupidly simple in his mind, like he can grasp it in his palm if he really wanted. But the reality of it is that Gulf doesn’t think he’ll ever have it. Mew is the kind of man who is willing to try and compromise, he’s even willing to sacrifice and be a martyr. Gulf is sure of that, because he’s guessing that is what Mew has been doing all along. He let Gulf infiltrate his life and let him hang off of his muscular arms like a lost puppy. He didn’t argue or put up a fight when Gulf got closer, needed help because he must’ve looked every bit as lonely and pathetic as he now feels.   

 

“It’s okay, I know what you mean” Gulf says and smiles back. It’s another sad little smile but he hopes Mew doesn’t really notice. “Do you think, maybe it was like a meteor shower?” Gulf asks and folds further into himself as he looks away. He feels cold and Mew’s eyes are just too sad to keep staring into. He doesn’t want to remember Mew this way, that he made Mew this way. Mew doesn’t respond so Gulf assumes he is confused, deciding to continue instead. “Us meeting, I mean. Like something beautiful and precious, but just passing through. Something that we got to witness because of fate or luck or whatever,” Gulf chuckles, it sounds nothing like the happy laughter he’s been giving away these past few days.   

 

“Didn’t know you were such a poet,” Mew laughs along after him, it sounds hollow in Gulf’s ears. “Is that what you want?”   

 

The question brings Gulf back to the night they shared a kiss right here in his apartment. Just a few steps back, in Gulf’s small kitchen where he pressed Mew up against his countertop and lost himself in the man sitting beside him. Mew had asked him why he had kissed him and Gulf had said it was because Mew wanted him to. But the truth of it was that Gulf had wanted to, he knows that now. Gulf was afraid of what that want would mean, what it would entail and so he had let himself believe that it was all Mew’s desire. That things wouldn’t change if he just closed his eyes and buried his head in the sand. It comes back to what he wants now, like a runner completing a lap in a track field.  

 

What Gulf wants. He wishes he could go back to that night and change his answer. Maybe if he had realized sooner, if he had tried harder to make Mew fall for him, what he wants now could be an actual possibility. What Gulf wants is for Mew to look at him, smile in that sweet way he always does, hold his hands and cuddle. What Gulf wants is for them to be together, to sleep and wake together, to eat and drink together, to talk and read together. What Gulf wants is to be happy.   

 

But what he needs more than he wants is for Mew to be happy.   

 

“If that’s what you want,” he replies. A sigh leaving his lips with his determination.   

 

“But what do you want?” Mew asks, a little bit more insistent. He wraps has hand around his mouth and looks at Gulf with a gaze that is burning.   

 

It makes Gulf hesitate, eyes catching Mew’s once more. He tightens his jaw and feels his ears light up. “Well, what do you want?” Gulf states back, harsher than he'd been intending to. “Why is it all on me?” Gulf says the words through clenched teeth, eyes returning the fire Mew has been scalding him with. “Because you already know what I want!” Mew says then. He doesn’t yell but he says it so much louder than the way they have been talking that it feels like he is. It only fuels Gulf more, his nostrils flaring as he stands. He’s reminded of the way Mew had looked away from him, asked to speak to the doctor alone, how he was distant and reserved on the way back and thinks he does know. He just wishes he didn’t.  

 

“Fine then, let’s call it” Gulf says, trying to keep the emotion out of his voice. He looks away from Mew and finds himself staring at his kitchen tiles instead. It’s a shoddy distraction since every inch of his place reminds him of Mew now anyways. “Let’s take some time and think everything through, then talk again,” Mew replies as he stands. His words swallow the dark around them, making Gulf almost break down on the spot. “Okay,” He murmurs and heads to his bathroom to get ready for bed. Gulf knows he should just end things and let Mew go as soon as possible. That would be best for the both of them. Yet he’s weak. He’s so weak for Mew, getting to spend some more time with Mew, getting to still see Mew that he’ll take what he can get.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Gulf brushes his teeth and takes a shower, trying to calm down the entire time before getting dressed in a new set of clothes. He sighs and steps out to give Mew a spare toothbrush when he spots the older standing at the balcony with his phone to his ear. Gulf stands back and fidgets with the things in his hands as he waits. He can’t hear what Mew is saying but he still feels awkward standing behind him like this, as if he’s seeing something he’s not privy to. The thought only reminds him that he won’t be privy to anything that has to do with Mew soon. “Gulf?” He hears Mew call him and startles at the alpha who is now standing in front of him. “H-here,” Gulf hands over the toothbrush and some clothes to Mew, heart hammering in his chest.   

 

“Thanks,” Mew says as they brush fingers, hands still warm. “I’m going to go shower then,” Mew states but he doesn't move, still standing in front of Gulf. “Okay,” Gulf looks at him, eyes searching as Mew doesn’t move. They both stay frozen for a moment as time ticks by. Gulf opens his mouth, not knowing what he’s about to say when Mew does the same and they both keep silent anyways. Mew looks so tired, eyes dark as they flicker over Gulf’s face and then they soften. It makes Gulf’s knees go weak, his heart stuttering in his chest as Mew reaches up with one hand and ruffles Gulf’s hair. “Go sleep,” He says, the anger from before gone like fog.  

 

Gulf nods, not trusting his voice to carry him through a response and tells himself not to turn and follow Mew as the alpha leaves him alone in the room. He waits for the click of the door and then crumbles to the floor. He buries his head in his arms, breathing deep to keep breathing at all. The way the bond inside him is trembling with want is so terrifying Gulf doesn’t know what to do. He wants to chase after Mew and beg for more contact, just a small touch or even another smile like that but he knows he shouldn’t. He can’t.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a little while later that Mew emerges, he stands at the entrance of Gulf’s room and lingers. Gulf is awake even though his back is turned and his eyes are shut. He can feel Mew’s reluctance, the way he walks to the sleeping bag still left abandoned on Gulf’s floor. Gulf wants to turn around and ask him to sleep beside him on the bed, his lips wobble with the strength it takes to not utter a word. His lungs burn as he holds his breath in anticipation and only release once Gulf feels the mattress dip behind him. Mew’s shadow looms over him, his breath fanning across Gulf’s shoulder and then there’s a hand pulling the duvet up to Gulf’s neck. Mew pats at the fabric twice before retreating back to his side of the bed.   

 

Gulf relaxes as he feels Mew settle in. His fingers clutch at the blanket and his eyes flutter open and close until he can’t resist anymore and he falls asleep. He’s so tired from the chaos of the day that he lets the current take him under without protest. He only half hopes that the entire day has been a bad dream that he’ll wake from in the morning.  

 

 

 

 

Except when Gulf wakes next it isn’t morning.   

 

His eyes flash open to darkness, the outline of trees swaying outside his window all he can see. At first he’s confused about what woke him until he hears it. A soft patter of footsteps coming from outside his bedroom. Normally Gulf wouldn’t wake at such a thing, he can be a real log when he’s tired but somehow he’s up and alert now. He shifts onto his back and looks beside him only to find the space empty. It makes Gulf panic for a moment, eyes wide as his remaining grogginess jumps out of him but then he hears the footsteps again and finds they sound familiar.   

 

It’s Mew.   

 

He slips out of bed and walks to the doorway where he stares out at Mew shuffling with a few things on Gulf’s coffee table. Gulf lets himself enjoy the view for a moment before he clears his throat, leaning against the wood of his walls for support. Mew jumps at the sound and turns around with his hand over his heart. “Sorry,” Gulf says, a bit sheepish. Mew relaxes once he spots Gulf and turns back to the task in his hands. Gulf notices with a start that Mew is back to his own clothes, Gulf’s burrowed ones folded neatly on the table. There’s a paper and pen in Mew’s hands that he’s fiddling with now. “Were you going somewhere?” Gulf asks, tone holding all the distraught he feels. He can’t even bring himself to hide it.   

 

“I was just in the middle of leaving you a note,” Mew says like that’ll answer Gulf’s question. He stands and Gulf takes a step towards him on impulse. “Someone from work called earlier, said my vacation is being cut short. A client in Japan is being uncooperative with our agreement and I have to go smooth things over for a while,” Gulf wrings the hem of his shirt in his hands, toes curled against the floor. He doesn’t know what to say. Doesn’t think he can say anything.   

 

“But the bond …” He mutters out, mind reeling for a way to ask Mew to take him along.   

 

“I’m sorry, it’ll be hard but I think this is for the best. We should spend some time apart anyways to think about what we each want.” Mew puts down the paper in his hands and grabs his phone off the couch as he heads over to where Gulf is standing, speechless. Mew takes a deep breath and pockets his phone before reaching out and holding both of Gulf’s biceps in his palms. They fit there so easily, like Mew doesn’t even have to try to wrap around Gulf. His hands are still warm, fire on Gulf’s skin. “Please, Gulf. I want you to really think about what you want. From me, from us. And when I get back, I want you to tell me everything in your heart. I promise I’ll accept all of you, no matter what. Okay?” Gulf doesn’t know what to say so he stands still and lets tears gather in his eyes. How is he supposed to say to Mew that he doesn’t need any more time? That he knows exactly what he wants right now, right here?   

 

“Gulf …” Mew’s hands travel up and cup his face instead, thumb rubbing soft circles into his cheeks. “Okay?”   

 

“Then you too. Promise you’ll think about it too, seriously. Me, and us.” Gulf whispers, chocked up and embarrassed. His hands are gripping onto his shirt so hard they throb. Mew’s eyes sparkle even in the dim light as he looks at him. “Okay, I promise” Mew says and he smiles. He pulls Gulf into him and wraps his arms around him like a cozy sweater. Gulf latches on with ease, T-shirt finally free from his grasp. Gulf buries his head into Mew’s neck and inhales deep. He hasn’t been able to smell Mew for hours now and he’s desperate for it. Mew’s hands card through his hair and feel warm on his back all the while.  

 

“It’ll be alright. Everything will work out,” Mew tells him. It makes Gulf feel young in Mew’s embrace. Like Mew is so many years ahead of him, holding onto him with a certainty that Gulf wishes he could feel. He pulls back even though he doesn’t want to and stares at Mew. The other alpha is so beautiful it makes Gulf sigh, eyelashes wet and cheeks flushed. “Okay, I trust you” He replies and watches as Mew nods back at him. Mew pulls out of his hold and heads towards the door, turning back once he’s got his shoes on to wave before he’s gone.   

 

It’s only four a.m. when Gulf looks at the clock on his bedside table as he’s collapsing into bed. He grabs onto the pillow on Mew’s side and brings it to his chest. It smells like him, a mellow pitter patter of rain that is common during spring, so Gulf pulls it closer. He falls asleep with it pressed against his face while pretending Mew is still with him.   

 

 

 

~    

 

 

 

Gulf wakes around noon, the sun no longer letting him slumber. His eyes are swollen and his throat aches. His chest feels empty, the ocean within it no longer holding the same intimidating feeling of vast water. Instead it's like the minuscule amount of liquid left at the bottom of a cup, the kind that you know and can see is there but won’t drip down no matter how much you try. Mew feels so far away, maybe because Gulf knows that he is.  

 

He doesn’t want to get out of bed and so he rolls around for a bit trying to go back to sleep with no luck. His phone starts ringing about an hour later and Gulf grumbles before picking it up. “You dead or what?” Bright says, too loud for Gulf’s liking. He rolls his eyes and almost hangs up but decides against it. “What do you want?” Gulf says, sounding scratchy. “What do I want? My man, you’re supposed to come here and help me beat these punks in ROV.”   

 

“Oh, right” Gulf sighs and rubs a hand down his face. He rolls out of bed and heads to his closet. “And to think I thought your magical boyfriend would be able to wake you up early for longer than just the one time last week,” Bright scoffs, words causing Gulf to stop with his pants around his ankles. “He’s not my boyfriend,” Gulf says. He pulls on his jeans and throws his phone on his bed with the speaker mode on as he gets a shirt. “Ah, he’s your mate. Your bond. Your fated soulmate. I almost forgot about all that, silly me” Bright chuckles and if it weren’t for how fucking heartbroken Gulf felt he would laugh too. “You’re an asshole, friend” He says instead and listens to Bright laugh harder. “Just get here before I decide to take away your snacking privileges.”   

 

“God, anything but that” Gulf lays on the sarcasm thick because by snacks he knows Bright means some stale ass bread and a few sports drinks. Still he tries to be quick, washing his face and cringing at how awful he looks, brushing his teeth and then heading down to the subway station. As he waits for it to come, he’s reminded of the day Mew drove him over to Bright’s house, the way Mew had looked so good. He smiles at the memory and tells himself to remember it forever.  

 

 

 

~    

 

 

 

“Are you going to tell me what’s up with this?” Bright says as they sit on his couch and play some new crappy game on his PlayStation. It’s a shooting game and so Gulf is taking full advantage of his internal anger to decimate everything in his line of sight. He looks over to Bright and finds him gesturing to Gulf’s face with wild hands. Gulf scrunches up his face in betrayal and focuses back on the game. “What do you mean? I even washed my face for you, you should be ever so grateful”   

 

“Yeah, thanks for that. I meant more like what’s with the puffy, red eyes and your bloated face. You been crying?” Bright sounds serious now although he’s back to playing too, hands moving fast on the controller. When Gulf doesn’t respond Bright jabs at him with an elbow. Then another. Until Gulf’s character dies by an ambush. “You prick!” Gulf shouts, only half earnest about it but then relents when he sees the look on Bright’s face. He settles back into the couch with a huff and crosses his arms.  

 

“Yeah so I cried a little. What about it?” Gulf kicks the beanbag by his feet and pouts. If Bright thinks he came over for a heart to heart he’s mistaken. Gulf came here to get his mind off of Mew, distract himself from the unbearable pain threatening to rip his chest apart at just the mention of the man. Bright is managing to do the opposite of that and Gulf doesn’t appreciate it. “What happened? Is this about your office again? Or that scumbag alpha of yours?” Bright sits up straight, squaring his shoulders like he’s ready to fight. “I knew he was trouble, I never liked him from the very start.” Bright crosses his arms and scowls, the show he’s putting on finally gets a smile out of Gulf.   

 

“Right? He's the worst.” Gulf agrees, before his smile slips off. He shakes his head and rubs at his eyes. They feel so sore and itchy, his skin raw wherever he touches. “How dare he be so perfect, hot, kind, giving and mature. How dare he make me fall for him and then not fall for me back, isn’t that a crime?” Gulf huffs out as he stands. Bright nods his head with complete agreement, face devoid of the laughter he feels inside. “I mean look at me, I’m a catch right?” Gulf gestures to himself in a quick up and down motion. He looks to Bright for affirmation and finds his friend staring back at him with a grimace. “I mean, I wouldn’t go that far,” Bright says before springing up off the couch to duck behind it.   

 

If Gulf didn’t love his friend so much he would act out the murder plan he’s conjured in his mind. Instead he settles for beating him with a throw pillow. They fight and bicker for a few more hours as they continue to play and Gulf is thankful for it. His mind is preoccupied with something other than Mew, at least for a little while and he can laugh. He can sit beside his friend and enjoy his company, talk about their favourite sports teams and video games. He even lets Bright go on and on about his girlfriend because the other lights up whenever she’s mentioned. It’s nice, and it makes Gulf think that he can get by.   

 

That even after Mew, he’ll survive. He can handle it, he’s sure. So as he sits on a cushioned window seat in the subway and watches the evening sun set he reminds himself to remember Mew for what he is. An amazing part of his life, a great friend that he hopes he’ll always have and someone that he can see once in a while if he’s lucky even after they break their bond. He doesn’t want to be bitter about it, even if his heart is in pieces just thinking about their separation. He’ll be strong, for the both of them. It’s what Mew needs from him and Gulf is willing to give the alpha that if nothing else.  

 

Once he gets home, he stops in his tracks. The light from outside has cast his home in an orange glow and it’s quiet. His apartment is not big by any means, just enough for him and him alone. But somehow with Mew it had always felt so much smaller, the man holding double the amount of space with his aura alone. Now Gulf feels all the empty space as he looks around and finds nobody there. This is what he’ll have to get used to seeing so he convinces himself to suck it up. He walks towards his couch and spots the clothes Mew had left there last night, still folded on his table. Gulf had been in such a rush earlier he had forgotten about them.  

 

And truthfully, he's been ignoring them on purpose. He wonders if they smell like Mew, if they’ll carry the scent of rain and earth, heavy with it even though Mew wasn’t wearing them for long. His eyes slide over to the letter, sitting like an innocent flower across Gulf’s coffee table. Gulf isn’t sure what is written there, maybe a short “I’m heading out” or a “Will be gone for a while” could even be a “Let’s talk when I get back” but somehow Gulf shakes as he reaches for it. Mew wrote him this letter, in the middle of the night as he was about to leave him. Mew took the time and put the effort in putting it on paper instead of just sending Gulf a text and that makes it mean more in a way. Gulf stops to take a breath as he stares at the folded edges of it, crisp and neat before he opens it.  

 

Mew’s handwriting is a bit of a mess so with just one look Gulf breaks into a laugh. He’s a bit surprised but also endeared, the fact that someone like Mew still writes like a middle schooler. He settles down and finally reads. He can hear Mew’s voice in every word, written so much like how Mew speaks that it brings a smile to Gulf’s lips. “Gulf, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you earlier, I know how much you hate that. I’ve been feeling a little lost and I’m scared of letting you down. I know we’re both adults and I owe you nothing but I've come to care for you like no other. I want to protect you and be there for you, whenever you need. Instead all I seem to be doing is hurting you.   

 

I’m not as mature and perfect as you may think, as I may seem. I lack in a lot of ways and I've become more and more afraid that you will see that. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you though, that’s on me. It’ll never happen again, I promise.   

 

I’m being called back to work, ha-ha I know what you’re thinking, a workaholic right? The pot calling the kettle black, that’s what we are. I’m going to be away for a week, maybe less if I can manage it but we’ll have to be apart. I know I didn’t leave things too well last night, I was being childish and in my own head about things but if the bond bothers you too much don’t be hesitant to call me. I’ll always answer your call, and you can always count on me. After I get back, I’ll tell you everything.   

 

How I feel, what I want and I hope when that time comes, you’ll understand. I want you to know that I -”   

 

The letter cuts off, left unfinished from where Gulf presumes he had interrupted Mew last night. He sniffles and wipes a sleeve across his face. Gulf’s tears dampen the fabric and leave it splotchy, a mess of snot and sweat mixed in. He feels so gross and so alone. He misses Mew so much he’s willing to go all the way to Japan to see him. He smooths the letter out between his hands and puts it back where Mew had placed it last night. He grabs the clothes Mew had worn and carries them to his bed, laying them on top of the pillow he’s been smothering since last night and then burying his nose in it.  

 

It isn’t like having Mew there, it isn’t even close and that draws a groan of frustration out of Gulf. It’s all he’s got. He grabs his phone and almost calls the alpha, thumb hovering over his name for a moment before he chickens out. Mew is probably busy anyways. Gulf doesn’t want to disturb him.   

 

He’ll wait for Mew to come back and when he does Gulf will be ready.   

 

He’s got one week to prepare himself and his heart for the agony that awaits.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

Gulf stays in bed the rest of the day, daylight comes and goes until it’s dark out as he remains in the same spot. He crawls out of bed to take a quick shower since he’s feeling so completely gross in hopes that he’ll pass out as soon as his head hits his pillow once more. Instead once he comes back into his room with a towel wrapped around him all he sees is his messy sheets and no Mew. It’s ridiculous, the way he expected Mew to be there after he got out. It was a stupid thought, something that dispels just as quickly as it came. He can’t smell Mew anymore, the only thing lingering in his room is himself. He hates it. He can’t stand it. It’s almost like Mew was never there at all.   

 

As a final attempt he pulls on the clothes Mew burrowed last night and sleeps on Mew’s side of the bed. It makes him feel a little better, if at all. Gulf might have let Mew baby him all this time but now he’s got to do this all alone. This, he can’t ask help for. Gulf’s got to do this by himself and get back onto his feet so he knows that he can.   

 

He falls asleep and wakes up. He showers and gets dressed, he eats and heads out. He walks into the office with red eyes but a stoic face. The last thing he needs is more drama at work. He keeps himself busy, his focus on himself and his job. His team is being less vexing as days go by, seeming to remember why they used to admire Gulf in the first place. He tries to put the past week behind him and not hold it against any of his juniors as they come to him for help or advice. They’re young and just need guidance, if Gulf’s kindness can help them see the world in a different way then that’s what he’ll do. It’s never too late to change, to grow, at least that’s what Mew has taught him.   

 

Saint knocks at his door during lunch and enters with a wave. Gulf glances away from his computer to give him his undivided attention. Saint puts a mug of tea on Gulf’s desk followed by a slice of cake. Gulf stares at the sweet confection in confusion, head tilting. “Uhm, Mew...he told me that the café down the street from our office has some really great cakes. Apparently, he’s been spending some time there while he waited for someone recently.” Saint pauses and glances at Gulf with a smile. “I thought I could bring you an apology, for last week. I know it won’t make up for everything that happened but I really, respect you. I’ve felt horrible about not standing up for you more,” Saint frowns down at his hands and trails off.   

 

Gulf touches the plastic packaging of the chocolate cake and thinks of Mew. He’s never been one for sweets but he guesses Mew’s his opposite in that aspect as well. It makes him chuckle, looking at Saint and feeling warm all over. “You’re my subordinate, you shouldn’t have to be defending me. But thank you,” Gulf stands from behind his desk and rounds it. He brings up a hand and rests it on Saint’s shoulder. “You’re great at your job and I have no doubt you have a bright future ahead of you, I’m proud you’re in my team.” Gulf says it straight and fast because it’s the truth, he means it and he shouldn’t be embarrassed to say it. Saint deserves to know his work is appreciated; the way Gulf wishes someone had told him the same.   

 

“Thank you,” Saint looks up at him with stars in his eyes, “I know it isn’t my place, but I think you guys are amazing together. I aspire to have something like that one day,” He blushes and shuffles back. Gulf feels his heart sting, a papercut that’s not bleeding but that hurts more than any other scrape. He too wants something like that one day. Saint gives him a bow and exits the office to let him get back to work, but Gulf’s mind is too much of a mess. He glances at the chocolate cake and opens it. He takes a bite and chews even though it’s sweet, rich. He can see Mew sitting at a café, looking at his phone while he bites into the same pastry Gulf is eating now.   

 

Could it have been different if they met on another day? If they hadn’t skipped right to the end and bonded, forced themselves into a path full of responsibility and burden? Would they even be able to meet, if not then? And would Gulf be able to have a chance, would Mew look at him?   

 

The cake sticks in his mouth, his cheeks full as he stops chewing. It’s useless to think of such things now, Gulf knows there’s no changing the past. He’s not even sure there’s any changing the future.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Work ends the same way as usual and Gulf heads home late, like a time before Mew. A time when he had nothing and no one to go home to, to look forward to. Gulf sighs as he shuts off his computer and packs up for the night. The windows show the pitch black of night as he passes each one, clock ticking throughout the empty office. Gulf pulls out his phone and stares at the empty line chat with Mew, the last message being from Friday. He scrolls up a bit and reads through their conversation, laughing at the easy way they spoke to one another. His laugh tapers off into a small frown as he remembers he’s been trying to keep his mind off Mew, not on him.   

 

He pulls up a game app instead and commits to beating a new level by the time he makes it to the train station. He can’t let his mind linger, lest it wander off to things that will only hurt him. Gulf walks out into the cold air, feels the breeze, the changing of the weather and wonders when summer got so chilly. He’s used to this walk and he knows it well. It’s been years that he’s had the same apartment and the same job, the same mundane routine of travelling between the two. And yet for a while his life had become something that was so extraordinary that now Gulf can’t help but feel the missing pieces.   

 

Mew’s laugh for example. Gulf can almost hear it in the wind, an eerie hollow imitation of the colourful timbre that it truly is. He imagines that all his days will be like this now. He’s just going back to his mundane, ordinary, colourless life and Gulf is okay with that. At least, he’s trying to be. He will be, because he has to be.  

 

Tuesday is much of the same, Gulf leaves work even later and doesn’t manage to sleep much when he gets home. He shivers in bed after taking a shower, hair still damp as he closes his eyes and keeps them shut in sheer stubborn fashion until the sun rises. Sleep doesn’t find him more than an hour at a time and it leaves him grumpy in the morning as he hurries to the office.   

 

Wednesday is the worst day of all. Gulf’s head is killing him all morning, he steps on a pile of mushy garbage in the subway, dirties his shoes and to make matters worse, one of his team calls in sick so he struggles to shoulder the extra work. His bond rages inside his chest for Mew, the waves crash one after another inside of him. Gulf coughs as he feels a cold take over his body, really regretting sleeping with wet hair the night before and does his best to ignore it. He’s so tired by the time work hours finish he packs up and decides to just head home. He doesn’t think he’ll survive another late night in the dark, empty office all alone.   

 

He’s barely gotten off the elevator when he feels his phone buzz in his jacket pocket. Gulf rubs at his eyes and clears his throat before picking up. It’s an unknown number so he’s not sure who it could be. When he brings the phone to his ear he is met with loud chatter. It sounds like a busy office or restaurant, but no one seems to be talking into the phone. Gulf squints and almost hangs up.   

 

“- No, no thank you. None for me,” Gulf has to stop walking to make sure he’s hearing right. It’s Mew. That’s definitely Mew’s voice. Gulf can pick it out even amongst a crowd, has it embedded in his mind. “Gulf? Hey, can you hear me?” Mew says over the line, his voice warm and soft against Gulf’s ear.   

 

He blinks as words fail him, mouth flapping open with no use. A soft hum is what he manages, hand tightening around his phone. “How are you doing?” Mew asks him after a beat. Gulf begins to walk again, breathing in deep through his mouth so he has a semblance of the natural ease Mew does. “I’m okay, you?” Gulf strains against the loud sounds from Mew’s side and tries to focus on his alpha. “Give me a second Gulf, I can’t hear you properly – I'm stepping out,” Mew talks away from the phone and then their conversation is plunged into silence. Gulf can hear Mew’s soft breathing now, the shuffling of his clothes as he puts his free hand in his pocket and the scratch of his shoes against the ground. “That’s better,” Mew laughs and it has Gulf smiling, his eyes closing to cherish it.   

 

Gulf feels a cough bubble up before he has a chance to muffle it with his sleeve, his body shaking with the force of it. “What’s wrong? Did you catch a cold?” Mew doesn’t miss it of course; his voice is full of worry as he stops laughing. “I’m fine, I just didn’t dry my hair last night when I went to bed” Gulf mumbles. He hears Mew groan in disapproval, he knows the other alpha is going to nag him before it even begins. “How many times did I tell you to stop doing that? How bad is it? Do you have a fever too?”   

 

“Oho, I feel a little cold but I don’t think I have a fever. And I don’t remember you saying anything of that sort to me,” Gulf teases to lighten up the mood, he doesn’t need Mew taking care of him when he’s in Japan for work. He’s done being a burden to the man. “You don’t remember huh? What am I going to do with you?” Mew chuckles, it’s dark and deep over the line. Gulf’s heart thumps a few times against his chest at the sound of it. “Nothing, you’re not here” Gulf says it without thinking and then stills. He’d only been joking; it wasn’t supposed to come out so honest and tortured. He didn’t want to guilt Mew about something he had no choice in, he didn’t want to stoop that low, be that desperate.   

 

Yet here he is. He can feel Mew’s discomfort in the silence that follows. Gulf wants to crumble down to the ground and just stay there in his shame. “You’re right. I’m not there,” Mew talks slow, calm in the way he gets when he’s resigned and upset. Gulf opens his mouth to apologize, but he’s interrupted before he can get anything out. “But I will be.” Mew says it like it’s a promise and seals it against Gulf’s heart. “I’m going to come back and when I see you Gulf,” He laughs here, tone playful in a way Gulf has trouble keeping up with. “You’re going to be sorry for teasing me, you little devil” Gulf has no choice but to laugh at the absurd nickname, shocked at how Mew has completely rid him of his previous guilt.   

 

“I’ll have you know, I’m neither little nor a devil” Gulf whines in retaliation, hands opening up a door as he steps inside the building. “Okay but where’s your proof?” Mew doubles down and snickers, he’s not letting Gulf go. “What is there to prove? I’m taller than you first of all, and I'm super nice” Gulf rides up in an elevator, worried the line will disconnect for a moment. “Hmm, fine so you’re not a devil but I distinctly remember being at least a smidge taller than you,” Gulf can’t stop his laugh at Mew’s obvious teasing. “Just because I always hunch over!” Gulf walks out of the elevator, a perk in his step that carries him through the hall.  

 

His smile can’t leave his face, listening to Mew talk and hearing his voice for as little as ten minutes lifts him up that much. It’s as if all the sorrow and misery of the past few days are a forgotten memory, something that doesn’t equate with the unbridled happiness pouring out of Gulf now. Mew laughs and it’s not the hollow eerie timbre that has followed Gulf through the wind. He talks and it sounds like home to Gulf, as if Mew and him were cuddled together on a couch, talking face to face. Gulf feels warm for the first time since Mew left him.  

 

His steps stop when he reaches a door. It’s black and sturdy, familiar in its height with the number 518 written on it in gold. “And it’s kind of cold here still, even though it’s almost summer now. I’ve had to go out every night with all these stuffy business men types. It makes me miss home,” Mew is still talking, used to the silence Gulf usually gives him in exchange for his full attention. Yet Gulf is stuck in his spot, unable to move let alone speak. “I miss- ”  

 

“I’m outside your place,” Gulf rushes out, a little breathless. He doesn’t know how it happened but his feet brought him to the front door of Mew’s apartment. He knows the alpha isn’t there, he knows that with every fiber of his being. That even if he opens this door Mew won’t be behind it and still, he’s here. He doesn’t know why and it makes the sadness return once more. He feels like a fool. Acting giddy, smiling and talking with Mew like nothing’s changed. As if the distance isn’t killing him, as if the bond isn’t a constant ache, a constant reminder of what he’s missing. Like he doesn’t know what will happen once Mew comes back and they part ways, after they break their bond. “I must be crazy,” Gulf says, a humourless laugh escaping him.  

 

Gulf hates the bond. Has felt trapped by it since the beginning. With its incessant tugging, pushing and pulling, it has done nothing but be a reoccurring annoyance. But the bond is also Mew. It’s where Mew lives inside of Gulf, the deep bottomless water with all of its ups and downs. It’s where Gulf knows he can slip inside and let himself go to all of his feelings for Mew. Can be enveloped and embraced by them, swallowed whole by their sheer intensity. And without it, without the bond all of that will be gone. Mew will be gone, the water will be gone, and Gulf won’t have anyone to hold him together as he feels everything with his whole heart. All Mew does is make him feel. So much and so hard. The thought of it alone brings all of it back to Gulf now, everything he’s been trying to avoid for days.   

 

It crashes into him full force, an ocean wave that looks beautiful from afar but is merciless when it tugs him under. “Gulf...” his name leaves Mew in a breath. “I-I don’t know why I came here,” Gulf mutters, sounding as embarrassed as he feels. Gulf shudders out an exhale, eyes wet as his hand rests against the door. He’s trying his best not to let Mew hear his voice waver but he’s unsure if he’s succeeding. Mew is silent for a long time, simply listening to Gulf as he tries to calm down. Gulf wonders if he can go inside and stay there for a bit. He wonders if that would be intrusive, if Mew would hate it. But Gulf knows that Mew’s place, just beyond that black door, is filled with Mew’s scent. Carries it through every room and every piece of furniture, has it sewn deep into every fiber. Gulf is willing to give anything to be able to be in there right now, surrounded by rain and earth. “Can you do me a favour Gulf?” Mew asks him, interrupting Gulf’s slow descend into turmoil. Gulf falters at Mew’s odd change of pace, rubbing a hand against his face to stop any wayward tears. He hums in response not yet trusting his voice.   

 

“I actually left a really important document at home and I was going to send Tul over to get it but would you mind going in and taking a picture of it for me instead?” Gulf sucks in a quick breath, fingers retracting from the door to twiddle with his jacket instead. “You want me to go inside?” Gulf asks, almost dares to hope as he curls more towards Mew’s apartment. He hears Mew chuckle, the sound as cozy as a cup of hot chocolate. “Yes Gulf, you’ll have to go inside to get it”   

 

“But is that okay?” Gulf hesitates even as his hand reaches for the electronic keypad. He already knows the passcode, having seen Mew punch it in plenty of times. At first he had tried to avert his eyes to let Mew have some privacy but one night Mew had held him in his arms, wrapped gently in each other as Mew had put the combination in and Gulf hadn’t felt the need to look away. Mew had kept him there, right by his side as if Gulf was welcome to know it, as if he wanted Gulf to know it. “Of course it’s okay, my home is your home” Mew says it like it’s nothing, as easy as telling Gulf his favourite colour.  

 

Except that sentence alone takes Gulf by complete surprise. His heart jumps as he keys in the code and steps inside. Not one foot in and all Gulf can smell is Mew. It brings the tears back to Gulf’s eyes, the smell of fallen rain wrapping around him as he closes the door. It’s so comforting Gulf is tempted to sit down right at the entrance and stay there forever. “Let me know once you get to my desk okay?” Mew’s voice snaps him out of it, Gulf shucking off his shoes so he can hurry and get Mew his document. He’s not here because Mew wants him to be, he’s here because Mew needs him.   

 

If Gulf can be of any use to the alpha he’s going to take the opportunity, especially if it lets him be surrounded by Mew’s scent for a while. “Okay I’m here” Gulf tells Mew once he’s in front of the messy paperwork. He smiles at the piles of scattered pages and the picture of Mew’s family. It almost feels like a lifetime ago that he was here for the first time, staring at the picture with no clue of what the future had in store for him. “It should be on the left side of the desk,” Mew answers. Gulf looks to the files on that side and picks one up. “Is it in the red folder, or the green one?” Gulf asks him as he puts the phone on speaker so his hands are free. “Uh, the red one?” Gulf huffs out a laugh at Mew’s uncertain tone. “And what page did you need?” Gulf opens up the folder and smiles down at the messy scrawl he sees in between the printouts.   

 

Mew’s handwriting is the cutest. Gulf remembers the letter he still hasn’t moved from his coffee table and sighs. “The first one” Mew says in a hurry. It pulls another quiet laugh out of Gulf, “Are you playing with me?” Gulf whines as he hears Mew laugh along. He raises his phone and takes a picture of the page nonetheless and sends it to Mew through text. “Thank you, Gulf,” Mew’s voice melts into something soft and sincere. “You’re amazing you know that?” Gulf’s heart is hanging on by a thread at most, his hands fisting together and Mew seems determined to pull the rug out from beneath him with every word. “I really miss you...the bond, the bond isn’t happy at all about how far away you are” Gulf wraps one hand around his mouth to stop it from saying something impulsive.   

 

He almost wants to blurt out how much he feels the same, how much he misses Mew. The way he’s been utterly miserable without him, that he can’t imagine having to be this way for the rest of his life. But he shouldn’t, he can’t. And Mew won’t let him anyways, continuing to shatter his entire world one word at a time. “Being here without you has been so hard Gulf, I hope things have been easier for you at least. I have been trying to give you lots of space, the time that I had promised you Saturday night. Because that’s what you deserve. This isn’t an easy decision and I know how difficult it is to make when we feel so tied together, all the time, wrapped up in one another. So I told myself I wouldn’t call, that I wouldn’t text and just let you have all of that.” Mew pauses here, he exhales into the phone. It’s quiet and holds all kinds of emotion that Gulf can’t understand over the phone. He wants to see Mew so bad, see his face and his eyes so that he can better comprehend what the other man is feeling.   

 

His legs feel weak and Gulf slides down to the floor, he rests against the drawers of the desk and brings the phone to his chest. Time and space. Neither of those were things Gulf asked for, nor needed. He wonders if Mew has been able to use all the time and space between them to his advantage because all it’s done for Gulf is make him realize how pathetic and in love he is with Mew. Even more than he thought, it seems. “But today...today was so goddamn horrible. I wanted to hear your voice, I - I wanted to hear your laugh,” Gulf looks up and bites down on his tongue. Mew’s really doing this. He’s all the way in Japan and he’s still got his hand wrapped around Gulf’s heart. “I’m sorry for calling you out of the blue, my phone died earlier and I was late for a meeting too, the bond kept-” Mew stops himself short, sighing out in resignation. “The bond felt so unsettled today, all I could think about was you.”   

 

Gulf shudders, sitting down on the cold hard ground, surrounded by the smell of rain and earth with Mew’s voice in his ears saying words that are giving him hope, it’s all too much. “I miss you too,” He whispers, unable to say much else. Gulf is afraid of just what will spill out of his mouth if he opens it again. He hears Mew laugh, a soft tinkle like a wind chime and throws his caution to the wind. “I want to see you,” Gulf continues. His voice is small and unsure as Mew becomes silent. “I’m glad you called, this is nice” Gulf bites his lip, worrying it between his teeth and considers saying more. How much can he get away with? How much can he gush and whine before Mew realizes Gulf’s real intentions?   

 

“Being back here, in your place...it’s almost like you’re with me” Gulf sniffles at the end, a lame attempt at controlling his emotions. He hopes Mew thinks nothing of it other than Gulf’s cold acting up.   

 

 

Mew is quiet for a while, the only sound between them is their synchronized breathing.   

 

It’s not an uncomfortable quiet but Gulf is so nervous he’s said too much that he’s begging Mew to say something, anything at all. “I wish I was. But I'm glad you feel better, you’re always welcome to come by.” Mew tells him and lets the rest go unsaid. You can come whenever; my home is your home. Gulf smiles, shaking his head at how generous Mew is being. “Even when you’re not here?” He’s pushing his luck. He knows Mew doesn’t say no often, hasn’t heard Mew say it in all the time they’ve spent together. But being here, in Mew’s home is a close second to being with Mew himself in how safe Gulf feels. If he could, Gulf would stay here until Mew returned.   

 

Mew chuckles, bright even through the phone. “Yes Gulf, even when I'm not there. Just don’t steal anything,” It’s Gulf’s turn to laugh then, his whole body vibrating with nervous energy. “Then I’m going to sleep here tonight,” Gulf announces, voice full of a bravado he doesn’t actually feel. If Mew retracts his offer, Gulf can always play it off as a joke. But Mew doesn’t hesitate when he tells him that he can, doesn’t even laugh about it. Maybe he knows just how much Gulf is struggling without him, or maybe he just trusts Gulf that much. Either way Gulf is grateful, once again reaffirmed in his feelings of loving Mew.   

 

“I have to get back; they’re waiting for me." Mew tells him after a while. He sounds as reluctant as Gulf feels, dragging out the silences and the spaces between their words. “Okay, yeah. I don’t wanna keep you” Gulf mutters, hand fisting in his shirt. He listens to the quiet hum of the static line, Mew’s soft exhales and waits for Mew to hang up. “Have a good night Gulf,” Mew says, soft and sincere. Gulf nods his head and gives a quiet hum. “Don’t sleep with your hair wet again,” Mew speaks up once more, pretending to sound authoritative as he does. “Okay, Alpha,” Gulf laughs, pleased with his own teasing before he realizes just what he’s said.   

 

Gulf’s eyes widen and he scrambles off the ground in a panic. “Alpha huh?” Mew says. He doesn’t sound mad, or disgusted so Gulf manages to swallow the lump in his throat. He wants to laugh it off, say it was a joke, because it was. However his lips are glued shut, fear pricking at his heart. “I kind of like the sound of that,” Mew continues, “if you keep playing those kinds of jokes, I’ll have to get revenge.” Gulf sighs out in relief, trying to gather his wits before bidding Mew a final farewell. They finally end the call and Gulf is left alone once more.   

 

Suddenly the bond feels heavy again, as if a large anchor has been left inside his chest. It disturbs the flow of the waves, sinking deep into the abyss. Speaking to Mew had almost made the loneliness vanish, and now the illusion is gone. The reality of his situation is apparent once more, that Gulf is by himself. That even though Mew’s scent, wafting throughout his entire home, brings Gulf immense comfort, it’ll never be enough. Not really, not without Mew. And even this small comfort won't last.   

 

Gulf’s headache returns full force, dragging him from his thoughts as he heads into Mew’s bathroom. He runs himself a bath, like Mew would. Takes a small bath bomb Mew likes to use and drops it in too. He sits on the ground and watches it fizz, spinning throughout the water as its colour seeps out. The whole room starts smelling like a soft lavender, just enough to help Gulf relax and not worsen his headache. He strips down and makes himself into a small ball in the big tub. He wraps his arms around his knees and rests his head there. If he closes his eyes he can almost pretend Mew’s there with him, running his hands through the water and carefully pulling Gulf’s hair away from his eyes.   

 

The lights are dim, and Mew is talking to him in a hushed voice. He can talk for hours if Gulf lets him, about any and everything. He’ll tell him about his day and Gulf will listen, content to hear about all of Mew’s colleagues and friends. Then Mew will pause and stare at Gulf with his bright sparkly eyes, crescents in the making and wait for him to talk instead. In the beginning it might have been hard for Gulf to talk to Mew, about his friends and his family but not now, not anymore. When someone is so open and forthcoming about themselves it helps others open up too and Gulf has never felt so comfortable around anyone other than Mew. So when Mew gives him that look, puppy dog eyes staring at him with so much patience and acceptance it’s easy for Gulf to give in.   

 

He’ll talk, tell Mew about his office, about his shitty day, his horrible headache. Mew will pout and massage his back, fingers slipping into Gulf’s hair to help him destress. They’ll laugh at something or another and Gulf will slip in a joke or two. Mew will go grab Gulf a towel when he notices that the water is turning cold and then come running back in before Gulf can even think about feeling lonely.   

 

Gulf can see it all, and yet when he opens his eyes Mew’s not there. The bathroom is quiet save for the trickle of the faucet. The water has run cold and Gulf wonders why he didn’t prepare himself a towel in advance.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

It’s only once Gulf’s already out of the bath, dripping wet and cold does he remember that he hasn’t brought with him a change of clothes. His eyes shift to Mew’s clothing drawer before he reaches for it. He finds a soft t-shirt and some shorts that he can slip on. The fact that they smell like Mew is a bonus, Gulf feeling enveloped by the scent. He dries his hair and then sits down on Mew’s couch to order himself some food. He’s really tired and almost positive now that his cold is only going to worsen but he needs to eat some food if he hopes to take any medicine and drift off.   

 

Just as he calls a place nearby for some spicy soup and rice, his mom calls. Gulf smiles before even answering. “Hello, ma” Gulf says softly, laying down on the couch to try and get more comfortable. “How’s my sweet boy? Your voice sounds hoarse, are you sick?” Her words fill Gulf’s eyes with tears. He’s been feeling so dejected, deserted in a big city all by himself for the first time in a long time and so hearing his mom fret about him even miles away makes Gulf emotional. He misses his family so much, especially now that he’s sick and heartbroken. He wants to go home and fall into his mother’s arms. A place he knows will always be a home to him.   

 

“No mama, just tired” Gulf lies, a poor attempt at not worrying her. “I miss you guys,” Gulf shifts onto his side, holding the phone close to his ear. “We’ve missed you too,” His mom trills, the sounds of his father filtering in from behind her. “Even Grace?” Gulf jokes, trying to sound lighthearted. “Even Grace,” His mom laughs, the sound bringing Gulf back to his childhood. Back when he was only seven, running around in the sun with a soccer ball, not a single care in the world. His mother who has always been by his side, from soccer teams, to high school, to his awkward sex ed talks through puberty and even his first few omega partners. His mother who’s always been a source of light to him, who’s never judged him for being a little different, who’s always encouraged him to go after what he wants. She’s always been with him, through thick and thin, growing older with him too.   

 

Now she sounds frailer than Gulf remembers, she looks more worn down whenever he visits and if he’s honest with himself, it’s one of the reasons why he’s been avoiding going to see her. “How’s work been sweetheart? Has it been very difficult?” His mother, unlike his father never asks him why he isn’t coming home to see them more. Gulf knows it’s not because she doesn’t want him to, but more because of the fact that she’s trying to respect his independence. She’s trying her best to support him in the way that he needs. “It’s been okay mama; you don’t need to worry about me. How have you and dad been? Is the store still okay?” His mother brightens up at the topic change, going on and on about Gulf’s father and how inattentive he’s been lately. Gulf hears his father deny the accusations from the back and snorts at their behaviour. It must be nice, Gulf muses, having someone to bicker with.  

 

Someone who you trust and are so in love with even after years of being together that even the same old tasks are never boring. Gulf wants that too, something similar to what his parents have. “When will I be able to argue like you guys, hm?” Gulf teases, laughing at his father’s shrieks in the background. It’s endearing to say the least. It makes him miss home even more. His mother quiets down, clearing her throat before she talks. “Gulf, are you in a relationship?” His mother has always been more perceptive than him, straightforward too. Gulf is left reeling at the steer of the conversation, anxiety spiking at just the thought of Mew. "No mama, why would you say that?"

 

“Because you only get sentimental like this when you’re in love” She’s right. Of course she is. Gulf isn’t much of a romantic on the best of days so when he’s not seeing anyone, his head is always in the clouds. He doesn’t ponder much about his future or a family or love in general. He’s always thought that it’ll come when it comes, that if someone was interested, they would talk to him and if he was too, they would date. The rest would be history. That’s what Gulf thought, never thinking too hard or deep about what ifs and rejections. But when Gulf is in love, much like he is now, it’s hard to think about much else.   

 

It’s like a giant boulder stranded in the middle of a road, Gulf just wants to drive through but he has no idea how. So he spends days and weeks trying to move the boulder, stare at the boulder, ignore the boulder, until finally he decides to change his destination and drive the opposite way. That’s how it should’ve been, Gulf wants so badly to leave this boulder behind. He wants to watch it in his rearview mirror as he speeds off, but this boulder is like no other. This boulder is Mew. It’s soft touches, sweet words, midnight cuddles and rain.   

 

“I don’t know what to do mama,” Gulf chokes out, voice thick with stress and pain. He feels so lost, so unsure of the future that his bond starts reacting in kind. It creates the same kind of chaos happening in his mind right within his chest, a cruel imitation. “I really don’t know what I'm supposed to do,” He feels his eyes start to well up, his mother cooing at him softly only egging him on. It’s so easy to cry after the day he’s had. “Come home little one, come home and tell me everything. I promise we’ll figure it out together okay?” His mom stays on the phone with him until he’s calmed down, reassuring voice echoing in his ears.   

 

He's scared. Of what will happen when he tells her, and about what will happen when Mew returns but Gulf can’t run anymore. He knows there’s no driving away from this problem, he’s going to need a solution and only someone who’s wiser and more emotionally attuned can help him. There’s only two people he knows like that, one happens to be the source of his issues and all the way in Japan while the other one is his mom.   

 

“Okay ma, tomorrow I’m going to come home” Gulf whispers. He hopes he’ll have the strength to tell her everything, because he’s going to need a lot of support if he’s to come up with a plan on how to survive Sunday night when Mew returns.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Waking up is even harder for Gulf than falling asleep had been the previous night. His cold is much worse, nose stuffed and his whole body feverish. His eyes crack open with strain, blurry as he tries to focus on the clock in Mew’s room. Sleeping in Mew’s bed had been a good choice since it had helped his bond stabilize. His arms tighten around Mew’s pillow, hugged tight towards his chest. He nuzzles his nose deep into the fabric and sighs, work is as appealing right now as falling into a lava pit. Gulf stretches his legs out, toes falling off the edge and rallies up enough strength to sit up. It's only five a.m. so he can sleep more if he wants but he doesn’t think he’ll be able to with how stuffy his nose feels. He wraps himself in Mew’s duvet and slinks his way into the kitchen for some food.   

 

He heats up his leftovers from last night and sits on the floor in front of the coffee table just staring at the steam rise from his soup. He’s got no appetite, which is strange but he guesses it’s because of his cold. Gulf taps onto his phone and wonders if he should call in sick or not. He’s just starting to get back into the good graces of everyone in the office so he almost feels like he has to drag himself into work. The next second a rough cough slips past his lips and makes his mind up for him. He’s suffering enough, he’s not going to be able to handle all the nasty stares and whispers. He quickly emails his boss and another team leader that he won’t make it in today.   

 

Not even bothering to wait for a reply he closes his email and starts up a game.   

 

He spends the rest of the day curled into a small burrito on Mew’s couch. He watches a few movies, starts a new TV show that Mew recommended and plays some games. It isn’t until dinner time that he notices how late it’s gotten, the sky turning dark outside the windows. His phone buzzes from the coffee table where he left it in the morning, ringing a few times before stopping. Gulf watches it with a glare, daring whoever it was to try calling again. He huffs out in relief when no one calls, about to resume his game when he hears it start ringing again.   

 

Gulf slumps down from the couch, landing with a loud thud onto the floor before he picks up. “Hello?” His voice rasps, making him cough and try to clear his throat. “Gulf sweetie? You okay?” It's his mom. Gulf almost slaps his forehead for forgetting about going home today. “Hey ma, I'm fine just have a sore throat”   

 

“Oh dear, well me and your father are almost at your company to pick you up. Pack up your things so we can bring you home and take care of you,” Gulf freezes, breathing picking up at the idea of having to leave Mew’s place. All day he’s been focusing on the scent all around him and it’s helped, a lot. He’s not sure how he’ll fair without it, besides he’s not even at his company today.   

 

“I- I’m actually at home, I called in sick” Gulf replies, coughing a few times before standing to go get changed. “Oh, okay we can come there. Honey, turn around Gulf’s at his condo” He hears his mom speaking to his father, a groan slipping past his lips. “No, I'm not at my condo. Sorry I... I’ll send you my address okay? Just let me know when you’re here” Gulf hangs up and sends his mom Mew’s address quickly so that he can change.   

 

He’s been sweating in his clothes all day so he decides to take a quick shower too. Once he gets out he pulls on one of Mew’s sweaters and a matching pair of pants before shuffling to the door. He checks his phone and sure enough his mom has left him a message telling him she’s arrived. There’s a Line notification too so he taps on the app as he slips on a pair of Mew’s slippers.   

 

It’s a message from Mew.   

 

Gulf stops and stares down at his phone for a moment, heart racing.   

 

Mew [19:21 P.M.] You’re not stealing anything are you?   

 

Gulf has to muffle his laughter with a hand to not draw attention to himself. His mouth pulls up into a big heart-shaped smile for the first time since waking up that morning as he responds.   

 

Gulf [20:03 P.M.] I’m a good boy, I would never :P  

 

He runs a thumb over Mew’s Line ID with reverence, eyes lingering before he shuts off his phone and heads downstairs. He spots his family’s car parked in front of the building’s entrance, a minivan in a sea of luxury cars and jogs up to it. His mother gets out of the passenger seat, opening her arms and awaiting his arrival. Gulf doesn’t stop jogging until he’s got her arms wrapped around him, his head falling to her shoulder as he hunches down. He can smell her floral shampoo, her soft ponytail and her thin fingers rubbing at his back. It takes all of Gulf’s strength not to break down right there, in the middle of the road, as his mother hugs him for the first time in a long time.   

 

“My sweet boy,” She kisses his head and pulls away, cradling his face in her small hands. “Look how much taller you’ve grown, and you’ve gotten skinny too. Are you eating well?” She chastises, turning his head with her hands to get a good look at him. Gulf almost rolls his eyes at her antics, a fond smile on his lips. “I haven’t grown an inch in five years ma, and I’ll have you know I feed myself well” Gulf stares down at her, smile straining at all the questions he sees in her eyes. Whose place is this? Why are you here? But he’s thankful when his mother doesn’t voice her concerns. She ushers him to the backseat and then gets in herself, letting Gulf rest his head on her shoulder.   

 

She’s much smaller than him and he has to bend in a weird way but Gulf wouldn’t trade it for the world. Her hands pat at his damp hair, carding through it until his eyes start to flutter shut.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

For the second time in one day Gulf has trouble opening his eyes. His head hurts and he can hear pots and pans in the distance, the TV a quiet crackle as a sports announcer chatters on. Gulf lifts up onto his elbows only to be greeted by his childhood home. He’s sprawled out on the large living room sofa bed, his dad sitting beside him and watching a soccer match. He can hear his mom humming something in the kitchen, dishes clattering. Gulf smiles and settles back down, feeling content. He pulls his sleeves over his fists and brings Mew’s sweater up to his nose. He imagines what it would be like to bring Mew home and introduce him to Gulf’s family. Gulf’s sure Mew would impress the heck out of all of them, being kind to Grace, talking all soft to his mom and even bringing up a business discussion with his dad.   

 

Gulf sighs, snapping himself out of the fantasy. He turns his eyes onto the soccer game, trying to pay attention so he can shout in joy alongside his dad when a goal happens. It feels nice being here, just surrounded by people that he holds so dear. Gulf is happy he came home, his bond is quiet too, finally silent as the sea stills, waiting for a storm. His mother joins them around the end, wrapping a hand around Gulf and watching along. It’s become a habit of hers since she had to watch so many of Gulf’s soccer matches growing up. At the start she would say watching helped her learn the rules better, so she can support Gulf but Gulf knows it’s simply because it helps her spend more time with him and his father.   

 

After they eat dinner, Gulf finds himself on the porch in their backyard. He's watching the grass blow in the wind and branches shake with the force, his blue blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He doesn’t notice his mother sit down beside him until she places her soft hand onto his. Gulf turns to look at her, brown eyes dark as the sun slips almost completely below the horizon. She squeezes his hand without a word, her intentions clear. Are you ready to talk?  

 

Gulf turns back towards the yard, breath shaky as he holds his mother’s hand in between his own. “I bonded with someone Ma,” He keeps his eyes on the darkening sky, stars beginning to peak through because he can’t bear to look at the woman beside him. “It was an accident,” Gulf tacks on at the end, too ashamed to turn his head. He waits a moment for his mother to speak, to berate him, to be angry or disappointed. “Is that where you were today? Your bond’s apartment?” His mother sounds thoughtful instead, hand still squeezing Gulf’s.   

 

Gulf tucks his head to his chest and nods, his eyes land on the fabric of Mew’s sweater and stay there. He’s so nervous he starts counting the small polka dots all over the warm jumper. “Well, what kind of person are they?” His mom leans forward trying to catch a glimpse of Gulf’s eyes. It proves to be a difficult task as Gulf hides his face further. “He...he’s great. He’s sweet and kind. He’s patient and outgoing, and he’s brave too.” Gulf mumbles it all with a pout on his lips. “hm, and how do you feel about him?” Gulf feels that lump in his throat returning once more. It grows so large that he can’t manage a single swallow, as if his whole heart is lodged there.   

 

“I love him,”   

 

Gulf deflates once he’s said the words, a weight that’s been lifted off his shoulders. Saying the words out loud seems easy now that he’s done it. His mom smiles beside him, a warm feeling settling in her chest. Gulf turns to her and she must notice the forlorn look in his eyes because her smile disappears. “He wants to break our bond” Gulf whispers. His mother looks at him in shock, taken aback by the information. “He said that to you?” His mother finally replies. She talks slow and delicate, like Gulf might break. He feels, he just might.   

 

“No... not yet. Not in so many words anyway, but he’s coming back on Sunday and then we’re going to have the talk” Gulf bumps his shoulder with his mother’s, trying his best not to break down. “Well, have you told him how you feel sweetheart?”   

 

“No mama, I’ve been too scared.” Gulf scrunches up his nose, voice a soft whine. He watches as his mom gives him a stern glare. Gulf is expecting the scolding before it even comes. “How do you expect your relationship to go anywhere if you don’t communicate things with your partner? I’ve raised you better than that, there’s nothing in this world you can’t achieve and I'm sure of that.” She retracts her hand from where it was nestled between Gulf’s and wraps him in her arms instead. Her voice is soft now as she says, “Gulf, my sweet boy. You’ve already grown up, so much and so far, that I can no longer always protect you. But sometimes you still act like a little kid.”   

 

Gulf almost stands up to protest, pout evident on his face. His mother keeps talking before he gets a chance to, hands tightening around him as if she knows. “Even your father and I went through a lot of things after we bonded. It’s a big learning curve, and it’s hard but when you find someone that is worth it you have to fight for it. This is no time for you to be surrendering to a tackle, you have to get back up and onto the field”   

 

Gulf smiles, resting his head on her shoulders as they stare up into the night sky. “You did not just use a soccer metaphor mom,” Gulf giggles, warm in her embrace.   

 

“I was being inspirational,” She turns towards him and plants a kiss on his cheek. “Did it work?”   

 

Gulf nods, smile still on his face. “There’s just one more thing I have to tell you ma,”   

 

“What is it love?” She says, resting her head atop of Gulf’s soft hair.   

 

 

 

 

“He’s an alpha,” Gulf whispers, hands twisting together on his lap as he closes his eyes. There, he’s said it. That’s all of it, and it had gone mostly well. Gulf’s always been honest with his mother and he sees no reason now why he should ever stop. She’s the most amazing woman he knows, she’s everything he aspires to be and he hopes that he will be. This won’t change a thing between them, Gulf is sure. Mostly because he doesn’t know what he’ll do if it does.   

 

His mother doesn’t say anything for a while but she doesn’t move either, arms still around Gulf’s shoulders like a jacket. Then she lifts her head and kisses Gulf on his temple, gentle and loving. “Thank you for telling me, bring him over one day for dinner” She says, all casual and nonchalant. Gulf feels a tear slip past his lashes, silent in its slow crawl. He’s so thankful and happy he can’t say a single thing. He doesn’t need to, not with his mom. She always knows, she’s been able to read him like a book since he was born.   

 

They stay there together until it gets a little cold, his mother offering to make him a cup of tea as they head in.   

 

Gulf thinks back to her words all throughout the night and about the kind of person his mother is. She’s someone strong and determined, someone who’s soft but knows when to stand up for herself. She’s someone who wouldn’t let their bond go without at least telling them how they feel.   

 

 

And if Gulf is truly trying to live his life by her standards, aspiring to be like the most amazing and persevering person he knows then he should try.   

 

He should at least try and confess, so that he can leave with no regrets. So that Mew will know how special he is to Gulf.   

 

 

When you find someone that is worth it you have to fight for it.  

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Gulf kisses his mom and dad goodbye in the morning as he heads to his apartment before work. He’s still feeling a bit sick but much better than yesterday. Plus, he doesn’t imagine being able to get two days off in a row without getting some backlash. He’s been texting Mew back and forth ever since last night, giddy with every single exchange. He’s certain of his feelings and what he’ll have to do, so somehow talking to Mew is easier now. Similar to how it was before Gulf knew of a Dr. Simon Ayutthaya and that it was possible to dissolve a bond. There’s no impending loom of Gulf’s giant feelings over their conversations and so it flows easy, and Gulf is happier this way.   

 

He tells himself that once he and Mew have the talk Gulf will do his best to still keep Mew in his life no matter the outcome. Gulf knows, maybe better than anybody else, just how understanding and kind Mew is. So Gulf hopes that even after their dreaded conversation about the future of their bond, Mew will be generous enough to let Gulf stay by his side.   

 

Gulf goes to work with a lighter step, smiles at his coworkers with ease and gets through the day not worrying about a single thing. It isn’t until Friday night when Gulf is tucked beneath Mew’s duvet that he starts worrying. He’s staring, unblinking, at Mew’s message from earlier.   

 

Mew [17:56 P.M.] I’m going to be back a day early to do some work at the main office, does Sunday night still work for you?   

 

Gulf has yet to reply. It’s been thirty minutes since he’s read the message after getting home and yet he’s said nothing. Suddenly the thought of having to actually confess, with his own mouth using his own words is like a daunting figure standing in the corner of the dark room. Gulf hasn’t prepared a speech, hasn’t thought of an idea or a good place to do it either. Besides he has to clean up Mew’s whole house before the other alpha returns and sees the disaster that it’s become in his absence.   

 

Gulf [22:13 P.M.] Yup, Sunday   

 

Gulf rolls onto his back and sighs. How is he supposed to spend all day tomorrow if he can’t be at Mew’s apartment, knowing that the alpha is back but unable to see him. Gulf shuts his eyes and tries to sleep, he’s stressed enough about the confession, he shouldn’t also be thinking about a very real Mew being close by. A thought comes to him then, almost like a dream but quicker than a bolt of light. Gulf sits up in bed and grabs his phone. Why shouldn’t he just go see Mew tomorrow?   

 

He texts his sister in a hurry and asks if she’s still friends with that botanist on their street. Grace replies with speed but annoyance, it’s understandable since Gulf knows she sleeps early. He asks her to request a bouquet for him to pick up tomorrow and then falls back into bed. He’ll just show up tomorrow, surprise Mew, give him flowers and treat him to a welcome home dinner before confessing somewhere private. God forbid his rejection happens in the middle of a restaurant for everyone to witness, Gulf shudders at the thought.   

 

When he’s nervous like this it’s best to just do things as fast as possible. Sunday is simply too far away; Gulf will overthink the whole time until then. But now, he can just wing it. Go with the flow, it’s what he’s best at.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Having said that, Gulf spends the rest of his morning the next day coming up with a speech as he cleans Mew’s apartment. He washes all the dishes, laundries all the sheets and the duvet cover. He manages to vacuum too before he leaves, making sure everything is the same as when he arrived. Gulf is halfway to the train station when he realizes he’s still wearing one of Mew’s hoodies. He pouts down at the cozy sweater, contemplating going back before deciding against it. It’s not considered stealing since he’ll return it back to Mew once he sees him. Okay maybe not right away, tonight has to be special but soon. He’ll bring it back soon.   

 

Gulf gets home and showers, doing his best to style his hair afterwards with a bit of gel. He’s not really talented in this department, hands clumsy as the gel goops through his fingers and falls into the sink. He looks at himself in the mirror and thinks he looks a little ridiculous. He’s seen this exact hairstyle on Mew before, when the older alpha had been heading into work and yet on Gulf it makes him look like a drowned rat. He huffs out in annoyance, running his fingers through it to make it a little less structured. A few strands break loose and make him look better so he decides it’ll have to do.   

 

He heads towards his wardrobe and picks out one of his nicer suits, a light beige with a white shirt underneath. He’s dressed in ten minutes and he checks his phone only to notice the time. It's a bit past noon but it’s still early, Gulf hasn’t even had breakfast or lunch. His cheeks flush at his eagerness to get ready as he trudges to his kitchen to make himself some cereal. Once he’s full he sits down on his couch and turns on the TV, hands smoothing down the fabric on his thighs due to his nerves.   

 

When his phone rings from the flower shop saying they have his bouquet, Gulf gets up with the relief of having something to do. He turns off the TV and heads out, taking the train to his old neighbourhood to grab the flowers he ordered. Gulf’s hands shake the whole ride as he listens to some music to calm down. He must look so silly, all dressed up in the afternoon with headphones in his ears and taking a grimy bus. Maybe he should invest in a car soon.  

 

He gets the flowers, the white gardenias looking soft surrounded by the yellow acacias. He smiles wide at the arrangement and takes a cab to Mew’s office. He’s not willing to go through another embarrassing bus and train ride with flowers in his hands. He stops by the café Saint told him Mew likes and gets a slice of cake with some tea for Mew as well. He’s sure Mew’s got to be tired with all the flying and work so he thinks it’ll be a nice treat. His nerves don’t kick in again until he’s at the door of Mew’s office building. Its height is daunting for a supposed start up that isn’t even a decade old. Gulf swallows and enters, feeling immediately out of place in the bright and colourful space of the entrance.   

 

He’s so busy looking around that he misses the front receptionist who smiles at him. “Hello sir, can I help you with anything today?” Her voice snaps Gulf out of his daze, almost making him jump. He shuffles forward with a slight blush on his cheeks until he’s at her counter. “Uhm, I’m looking for Mew Suppasit.” He mutters, blush reaching his ears. “Oh, uh Mr. Suppasit isn’t available for appointments today. Can I leave him a message for you?” She smiles at Gulf all business-like as she takes out a small notepad and a pen.   

 

“Actually... I’m just- I'm a friend and wanted to welcome him back from Japan that’s all,” Gulf starts getting worried that he won’t even get to Mew, let alone confess to him. His heart sinks at the thought that all his plans were for nothing. However, the woman’s tone changes as soon as she hears Gulf is a friend. “Oh? What's your name?” She asks, a twinkle in her eye.   

 

“Gulf, Gulf Kanawut” He replies, a bit dazed. She seems to brighten up at that and holds up a finger in front of Gulf’s face to wait. Gulf nods, enthusiastic about anything that’ll help him see Mew. The receptionist picks up her office phone and dials a number before speaking. “Mr. Suppasit sir, has your meeting finished?” She locks eyes with Gulf, both of them holding their breath in anticipation of the answer. “Yes sir, I’ll schedule it right away.” There’s a pause in which Gulf bites his bottom lip, flowers crinkling in his hand. “There’s a guest here to see you. Yes sir, I let them know already. It seems to be an urgent matter.” She gives Gulf a wink, waiting for her boss’s approval. Gulf is so impressed by her impromptu acting he gives a silent thumbs up.   

 

“Yes sir, right away.” She hangs up the phone and sighs. Gulf’s shoulders fall down, a sad pout on his face at her reaction. “You can go in,” She pipes up with a smile. “Really?!” Gulf could hug her he’s so happy. He doesn’t though, of course not. She tells him to head on through until he reaches the end of the hallway. That’s where Mew’s office is. Gulf nods his head and starts walking away with a small wave. He stops by one of the offices with glass for walls and checks his reflection. He struggles to straighten his suit jacket and blow a few strands of hair out of his eyes before he keeps walking. Thankfully the office is pretty empty given it’s a Saturday.   

 

Gulf can spot Mew’s office a few steps ahead, all of his doors are made of glass and it’s bright as sunlight filters in from the windows. Except as Gulf gets closer, he notices that Mew isn’t alone. He’s leaning on the side of his desk while talking to two other people. They’re engrossed in their conversation and laughing, Mew’s eyes crinkling at the corners. Gulf hesitates, wondering if he’ll be interrupting an important meeting if he steps inside. The choice is taken from him when one of the people inside the office turns around and spots him standing like an awkward beanpole in the hallway. He turns back to Mew and says something, gesturing to Gulf and then Mew is looking up. Their eyes find each other and Gulf startles, flowers squished against his chest as he tries to breathe through all the nervous energy in his body.   

 

“Gulf?” Mew asks, stepping away from his desk as confusion fills his face. His voice helps Gulf’s body regain control. He steps inside the office, glancing at the two men sitting down before finding Mew again. “Hi,” Gulf says, all bashful. His ears have yet to cool down from earlier but they’re flaming to life again now. Mew smiles and approaches him, his arms come up and Gulf thinks for a moment he’ll get a hug but Mew settles his hands on Gulf’s biceps instead. “What’re you doing here?” Gulf looks down at the flowers still in his right hand and presses them into Mew’s chest. “For you,” He says as he looks at Mew, hoping to see a positive reaction.   

 

Mew looks down at the flowers and then back to Gulf a few times before he takes the bouquet carefully. “You bought these for me?” Mew asks him, voice soft and full of emotion. Gulf nods his head and then remembers the tea in his other hand. “And this,” Gulf holds out the steaming cup of tea so that Mew can grab it. Gulf watches as Mew’s brows crease once again in confusion but his smile doesn’t leave his face. “Thanks Gulf, you didn’t have to do this” Mew turns back to his office and sets the flowers down on his desk, covering all his work documents. “I- It’s no problem, I wanted to” Gulf mumbles, face still flushed. “I wanted to come see you,” Gulf continues, eyes set in determination as Mew blushes in turn.   

 

Someone clears their throat to Gulf’s left and Gulf looks down at one of the men who were in Mew’s room before he arrived. “What’s that?” The man asks while pointing to the plastic bag hanging from Gulf’s wrist. Gulf looks down and sees the slice of cake he has yet to give to Mew. He looks up and notices Mew already staring at him, eyes small crescents as he smiles. “I brought a small snack too since I didn’t know if you’d be hungry or not,” Gulf pouts in embarrassment, feeling three sets of eyes on him as he talks. Mew reaches out to him and takes the bag, when their fingers brush Gulf almost feels the urge to grab Mew’s hand instead. “So this is Gulf huh?” The same guy speaks up, looking to Mew now for clarification.   

 

Mew looks down at him with a small glare and nods. “Gulf, this is Mild and this one here is Tul” Gulf turns to say hello to both men and feels out of place when he sees everyone is in such casual attire aside from him. Even Mew who usually wears a suit to work is in just a button up and some jeans. “Did I come at a bad time?” Gulf turns to Mew and asks, almost a whisper between just the two of them. Mew just shakes his head, still smiling, still little moon crescents for eyes. Seeing Mew like this makes Gulf break out into a smile too. He’s been so worried that Mew will treat him coldly once they see each other again but now he knows his fears were unfounded.   

 

“Sooo does this mean you’re not coming out with us tonight?” Mild says again, breaking their atmosphere. Gulf turns to Mild before looking at Mew again, seeing the alpha’s conflicted expression. “Oh... you had plans? I’m sorry,” Gulf takes a small step back, already regretting coming all on his own accord without checking if Mew was available. Mew grabs onto his hand and stops him from going any further. “I didn’t have plans. I don’t have plans. These two just came here five minutes ago talking about some wild boys night out at the bar we usually go to.” Gulf looks at Mew, not quite believing him.   

 

“Hey Gulf, why don’t you join us?” Tul says. His words are directed at Gulf but his gaze is on Mew, the two men talking between each other with their eyes. Gulf turns to Mew once more and squeezes his hand. “Is that okay?” He sees the hesitation in Mew’s eyes and is about to retract his question when Mew interrupts him. “Why not? It'll be fun,” He smiles at Gulf and then turns to his two friends. “Now can you two rascals disperse so I can pack up and meet you guys out front?” Mew gives Mild a pointed look until his friend stands up from his seat with a salute. “Aye, sir. Let’s go Tul, we probably shouldn’t witness this” Mild escapes out of the room before Mew can throw a pencil at the back of his head, Tul trailing behind with a chuckle.   

 

The room plummets into silence as Gulf starts fidgeting with Mew’s fingers, still clasped with his own. Now that they’re alone all Gulf can think about is how much he’s missed Mew, how much he loves Mew and how much he wants to hug Mew. “Gulf?” Mew cradles his face with one hand, turning Gulf’s eyes up towards his own. “Are you sure you want to come? They can get pretty rowdy when drunk, they’re too much for me half the time” Mew chuckles, his thumb caressing Gulf’s cheek as he talks. “Well, you’re going right?” Gulf asks, eyes wide in innocence. Mew nods his head, a small frown on his face. “Then I'm going too, so I can be with you,” Gulf smiles wide, nose scrunching up as his eyes close into slits.   

 

Mew is just looking at him in wonder, long after Gulf’s laughter mellows out. “Yeah, okay” He replies, finally slipping his hand from Gulf’s face so he can head back towards his desk. He phones his receptionist and asks for a vase to put the flowers in, then settles down to sip at his tea. Gulf wanders around Mew’s office and pokes at every book, photo or certificate he sees. There's a picture framed on Mew’s bookshelf of his family. Gulf picks it up and smiles down at all the happy faces in the photo. He feels Mew approach him from behind before his warmth encases Gulf’s back. “That’s Jom, my little sister. That’s my mom, chopper and my dad” Mew points to each person as he goes, even stopping on the small fluffy Pomeranian in his mom’s arms. “You don’t talk about them much,” Gulf turns his head to peer at Mew over his shoulder. He catches the sad look in Mew's eyes before he feels the melancholy in their bond.   

 

“They passed, a few years ago. Only my sister is left and she lives with her partner in a different city. It was hard on her, being here” Mew trails off, eyes fixated on the photo in Gulf’s hands. Gulf feels tears well up in his eyes, unsure if he’s the one that brought them on or if Mew’s sadness is so strong over the bond that it’s causing them. Either way Gulf knows he hates seeing Mew sad the most in the whole world. He places the photo back on its shelf and then turns around. He opens his arms, an invitation if Mew wants it. Mew hesitates only for a moment, falling into Gulf like he’s coming home. Gulf’s arms wrap around his shoulders, rubbing circles into Mew’s back. “They would be so proud of you, everything you’ve accomplished and the man you’ve become” Gulf whispers.   

 

He feels Mew’s arms tighten around him in response and it’s enough. Just holding each other is enough.  

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Gulf feels a weird sense of déjà vu as he enters the same bar where he met Mew just a few weeks ago. The only difference now is that Mew and his friends are with him instead of just beside him. He slides into a booth with Mew as Max and Tul go order their whole group a few drinks. Gulf starts feeling a little self-conscious at how overdressed he is, it makes him continuously fiddle with his hair. Mew notices it after a while, hand coming up to brush aside his bangs. The gel in Gulf’s hair is shiny in the dim lights of the bar and his bangs refuse to stay put. “You look great, I like the hair” Mew tells him, so effortless as if he means it. Gulf can’t help the way he beams at the compliment.   

 

After their drinks arrive, Gulf comes to the realization that Mew’s friends are truly a bit wild. Mew hadn’t been exaggerating when he said that. Mild has been guffawing so loud, occasionally trying to climb the table to dance only to be stopped by Tul, and Max can’t seem to keep his shirt on. Tul has been dubbed the designated driver so he’s sober otherwise Gulf is sure he’d be wilding out too. Mew has been nursing his one glass all night and Gulf is so concerned about his approaching confession that he’s afraid he’ll puke up anything he tries to drink. After watching Gulf twirl his beer bottle between his fingers for the umpteenth time, Mew sidles closer to Gulf and wraps an arm around him. “You okay?” He asks, concern evident on his face.   

 

“Yeah, actually I think I have to pee.” Gulf points across Mew towards the washrooms, waiting until the alpha slides out of the booth so he can get out. Mew sits back down and watches him go but Gulf can still feel his concern through their bond.   

 

In the washroom Gulf splashes his face with some water and glares at his reflection. “You’ve got this,” He mumbles, pointing at the mirror. “You’re an attractive, successful alpha and you have many great qualities. Mew would be lucky to have you as a forever bond. This is your fate, he’s the one and it’ll all work out” Gulf sighs after his pep talk, eyes quaking even though he wants to feel firm. He stands by his decision, he’s going to confess, and he’ll have no regrets but he’s still...scared. He’s terrified. Losing Mew is an option he can’t help but stress over, even now. Gulf dries his hands and paces a bit to calm down, feeling his hands shake every time he imagines having to spew out his feelings to Mew.   

 

The door to the washroom opens and Gulf is half expecting Mew to walk in, checking in on him but instead it’s Mild. His cheeks are flushed from the alcohol but he’s walking straight so Gulf assumes he isn’t here to throw up his dinner into the toilet. Mild walks up to Gulf and crosses his arms, the carefree man Gulf had met just hours prior all but gone. “You.” He says, pointed as he glares at Gulf. Gulf has to look behind himself just to make sure there hasn’t been a mistake, dumbly pointing at his own chest when it’s apparent no one else is with them. “Yeah you. What are your intentions with Mew?” Mild squares his shoulders and starts tapping with one foot. It might’ve been intimidating if Gulf were not a full head taller than him.   

 

“Uhm I, I care about Mew a lot” Gulf says, unable to tell Mild the whole truth. After all if Mild is as drunk as he seems, he could go running off screaming Gulf’s confession for the whole bar to hear. Mild’s eyes thin to dangerous slits as he hums, somehow unsatisfied with Gulf’s answer. “How much do you care? Be honest”  

 

Gulf is a bit flabbergasted at the line of questioning, brows pulling together on his face. “A lot. I care about Mew more than anyone.” Gulf replies, hoping that it will be enough for the other man. “If you mean that, truly, then please don’t break your bond.” Mild’s demeanour changes in an instant, gone is the ferocious tiger he was trying to be. Gulf is bewildered at why Mild thinks he wants to break the bond in the first place. “I’ll do what Mew wants. I can’t keep him tied to me if he’ll just be sad the whole time.” Gulf tries to reason, surely Mild can see this is a decision that falls on Mew’s lap not Gulf’s.  

 

 

“No, you don’t understand,” Mild grabs at Gulf’s shoulders, squeezing hard “you can’t break the bond, if you do Mew might not be able to bond with anyone ever again.”   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Gulf storms out of the washroom, door banging open against the wall of the club. The music covers the noise well, pumping throughout the bar with a slew of inebriated people who are too busy drinking to notice the disturbance. Gulf keeps his eyes low and heads for the exit. He’s so upset, so angry that he doesn’t stop even as people bump into him as he trudges through. His hands are shaking, knuckles white as he forms them into little fists.   

 

He can’t believe it. That Mew would hide something like this from him. Gulf finally gets outside and huffs, chest rising fast because of how hard his heart is beating. He starts walking, not knowing where he's going but just needing to. His feet lead him to the alleyway behind the bar with ease, still dark and empty. He keeps walking until his legs feel too weak, making him lean against a wall. His breathing is still too fast, nails leaving crescents in his palm from his strength alone. Gulf closes his eyes and tries to calm down, shivering as the sweat on his back cools in the wind.   

 

“Gulf?”   

 

It’s Mew. Gulf grimaces, body stiffening as he straightens up. He really hadn’t wanted to talk to Mew while he was like this, still this angry and upset. He almost hopes that if he ignores Mew that the alpha will leave. But of course that’s not what happens, because Mew wouldn’t leave Gulf if ever given a choice. “What happened?” Mew says as he steps closer, shoes scarping against the tough gravel beneath them. Gulf’s breath stutters, chest heaving still. He turns around and stares at Mew as if seeing him clearly for the first time. Mew must be stricken by the look on his face because he stops, feet dragging to a halt a meter away.   

 

“How could you not tell me?” Gulf starts, his voice wobbly as he tries to reign in his emotions. He wants to run his hands through his hair but knows it’ll be no use with all the gel he’s put in there. Mew continues to look at him in surprise, face morphing into something more perplexed and anxious. “How could you even think about doing that?” Gulf continues, the thought alone bringing tears to his eyes. “Is being bonded to me so bad? You’d rather be in pain and lose your entire future than spend it with me?” Gulf sobs out. His hand comes up to cover his mouth, embarrassed and so harrowed that he can’t control his words.   

 

Mew seems to finally catch on, his shoulders drooping as he places his hands on his hips. “Did Mild tell you?” He says, calm as a sunny day in the middle of winter. He’s so aloof about the whole ordeal that Gulf’s anger reemerges tenfold. “What does it matter who told me? Why didn’t you tell me?” Gulf spits out. Mew seethes for a second, eyes flashing before he turns away and lets out a deep breath. When he turns back to Gulf the anger is gone once more. “How could I tell you Gulf? What would that do other than just trap you further in this relationship?” Mew starts closing the distance between them and drops his arms, lets them swing by his sides as he walks.   

 

He looks resigned and tired, the light from outside the alley barely reaching his face now. “I wanted you to come to a decision first, to be able to think things through properly before you knew. That’s all. I was going to tell you after, I promise” Mew whispers the last two words, soft between them. Gulf scoffs, eyes closing shut as he wipes at his eyes with his sleeves. He feels so torn, distraught at having to hear about how breaking the bond would be an excruciating process for Mew and how Mew had hidden it all from him. He knows Mew only did it to protect him, like always but that’s the main problem. Mew’s willing to go far and wide just to make sure Gulf is satisfied but isn’t willing to put himself first.   

 

“What decision? There is no decision! There’s not a single scenario in any universe where I would let you do this!” Gulf is pacing now, his volume rising. This finally breaks Mew out of his calm demeanour as he takes a step back and runs a hand through his hair, bangs flopping back down onto his forehead. “Don’t you see that this, what’s happening right now, was what I was trying to avoid?” Mew waves his hand in the air between them, his scent escalating until it feels as though the air is thick with humidity, as if the sky is about to crack open and start a downpour.  

 

“How could I have told you when this is what I've been afraid of all along?!” Mew takes another step back, one of his palms coming up to cover his eyes, shielding Gulf from the pool of agony swimming in them. The air is thick enough now that Gulf feels it pushing on his shoulders from above, a weight so heavy that his body can barely move. Gulf reaches his hand out and clasps onto Mew, doing his best to stabilize the other alpha.   

 

“What is there to be afraid of, hm? As if I ever wanted to break the bond in the first place,” Gulf mutters, his hand clutching onto Mew’s wrist to keep himself grounded. He looks up at Mew, the man’s eyes still hidden away. “You never have to be afraid with me, you know that right?” Gulf traces his free hand against the one covering Mew’s eyes, guiding it down until he can see the bright brown beneath. “Gulf...” Mew calls in a soft voice, all the fight knocked out of him. “What I said before I left, did you think about it carefully?”   

 

Gulf nods his head, eyes blinking closed in determination. This is it, his big confession. “Can you be honest with me? Forget about what Mild said, or what I said. Can you just tell me what you want?” Mew squeezes his hand and waits. His eyes shine with encouragement as Gulf tries to remember that speech he’d come up with hours ago. His head is so frazzled he can’t think. He inhales deep, a little bit shaky but better than before Mew was holding his hand.   

 

“I want you.” Gulf says it like he’s savouring the taste of each word on his tongue, unsure at first and then, again, “I want you. That’s all I've wanted for a while now,” He feels Mew’s hand go slack and tightens his own grip in turn. He’s petrified that Mew will slip away if he lets go. “I love you. And I know that maybe this feels fast, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that” Gulf pauses to lick his lips, mouth all of a sudden dry from how nervous he feels. “But I do, because you make me feel like I want to be the best version of myself. You make me not want to settle for less than I deserve, from the people around me and from myself. You treat me how I wish I'd always been treated, you’re amazing and beautiful and the strongest person I have ever seen. I just feel safe with you, god that was cheesy,” Gulf laughs, trying to sound light hearted but it comes out wet and garbled instead.  

 

His heart hurts, for Mew and for himself. “I’m so sorry, for dragging you into this and for putting you in a situation like this. I - I know you probably don’t feel the same way but please, don’t break the bond. I wouldn’t know what to do if you were in pain because of me. I’ll do whatever you want, so please” Gulf shuts his mouth with a clack, feeling his emotions take over. His lower lip wobbles no matter how much he tries to force it not to. Mew pulls him into his chest and tucks Gulf’s head into his neck. He rubs soothing circles into Gulf’s back, bodies warm against each other.   

 

“I was supposed to take you out to a nice dinner and confess,” Gulf breathes into Mew’s neck, taking this chance to close his eyes and savor the smell of rain, cool and refreshing. Mew pulls back just slightly, one hand cradling Gulf’s face as he peers into the younger’s eyes. “You’re not just saying this for me, right?” Mew whispers. “You mean it?”   

 

Gulf can still see the doubt in Mew’s face, his molten brown eyes looking for answers. It feels right somehow, as Gulf bares his neck for Mew and falls to his knees, that they do this here. In the same alleyway that started it all, where Mew first submitted to Gulf and where they began their journey together. Now, Mew watches in fascination as Gulf completely submits in front of him. If Gulf were to be honest, he’s embarrassed beyond belief. His entire chest is burning from a blush and his ears feel just as hot. He’s never done this before, not in front of his parents when he got in trouble and not in front of teachers while getting reprimanded.   

 

He’s certainly never done this for any of his previous partners, and he’d never given any thought of doing this ever. For another alpha no less. But that was all before Mew. Before Mew had come bulldozing into his life and changing his whole perception about life, love and pride. So even though he’s feeling all sorts of shy doing this, he knows that the one person that will never make fun of him for it is Mew. If this is the only way to get Mew to believe how sincere he is about his feelings then so be it, Gulf can kneel here all night. “Gulf,” His name sounds gruff rolling off Mew’s tongue, the alpha’s eyes dark as he stares down at Gulf.   

 

Mew crouches down in front of him and sighs, “You’re going to be the end of me.” Gulf flushes darker as a wave of arousal clouds Mew’s scent. Gulf feels his eyes fall to half-mast, drawing his hands into fists on his thighs. Mew brushes a thumb beneath Gulf’s lashes, gentle and warm. “How long have you been feeling like this? Like I have?” He asks as he draws closer and kisses Gulf right along the path his thumb created. Gulf feels his eyes water, snapping out of his submissive stance. “Like you?” He asks, tentative in his approach. Mew smiles and this time it reaches his eyes, creating waning moons and scrunching his nose. “Yeah, stupidly in love” Mew huffs out a laugh, a bit in disbelief and excitement.   

 

Gulf feels a tear cascade down his cheek right before he’s laughing out loud. He grabs onto the collar of Mew’s shirt and tugs him closer. “Kiss me already,” Gulf says and locks their lips together. Mew holds his face in both hands, lips dragging against one another in a heated hurry.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Falling into Mew’s apartment is easy. Gulf manages to keep his hands occupied by fiddling with Mew’s rings so he doesn’t jump the other man in the elevator ride up. Mew hugs him from behind as they walk towards the apartment door, waddling a bit as they go. Gulf keys in the code and opens the door, the dark entrance greeting them. Gulf takes in the quiet space, lit only by the lone moon in the sky as Mew takes his shoes off behind him. “Hey,” Mew returns to his back once more, nosing at the scent glands on Gulf’s neck. He wraps both arms around Gulf’s middle and runs his large palms over the younger alpha’s abdomen. “You okay?”   

 

“Yeah, I'm just glad you’re back” Gulf tells him, letting his eyes roll back when he feels Mew start kissing behind his ear. “Come here,” Mew says, stepping away from Gulf to enter the apartment. Gulf shuffles off his shoes with haste, walking into Mew’s arms again. The older alpha kisses him deep and slow, sensual in the way his lips move. Gulf feels hands drag down his sides before he’s whisked up into Mew’s arms. He wraps his legs around Mew’s waist and laughs, delighted when he stares down and sees the adoration in Mew’s eyes.   

 

Gulf hunches down so he can keep kissing Mew, fingers wrapped in the elder's hair. Mew drops him down onto the bed and crawls in after him, smile evident even as they kiss. “Mew,” Gulf sighs, feeling the bond sing as Mew starts descending down towards his neck. All he can smell is rain, a tropical flurry as Mew licks at his scent glands. The alpha sucks and kisses on each one until Gulf can’t breathe. His body feels sensitive, like a string pulled so taut it might snap. “Mew,” Gulf repeats, a bit whinier now. Mew looks at him from where he is, mouth panting and slick with saliva. Gulf shivers at the sight alone. “Can you bite me? Please?”   

 

Gulf doesn’t specify but he doesn’t need to. There’s only one thing he means and Mew knows it, can feel it. “Are you sure?” Mew comes up to look at Gulf more closely. Gulf nods, “I’ve never been more sure of anything”   

 

Mew settles between Gulf’s thighs, using his forearms for support as he starts at Gulf’s cheek and starts kissing down towards his neck. He noses along the scent gland there and relishes the soft cocoa scent that spills out the longer he does. He rakes his teeth along the skin and bites down. Gulf’s hands twist in the back of his shirt as Mew’s teeth go deeper. The bond falls silent for the first time since that fateful morning Gulf had first noticed it. The water stills as if it’s a picture of an ocean, time frozen. Mew hums and then retracts his teeth, lapping at it to soothe the ache that follows. Gulf gasps at the pain until Mew kisses him again.   

 

He can feel how hard Mew is against his thigh, his own erection just as bad. The kiss is different now, more charged, more urgent as Mew rocks against him. “Still okay?” He asks Gulf, voice low in Gulf’s ear. The younger alpha rocks back into him in response. The bond fades until it only feels like an afterthought instead of the niggling always-there presence it was before. Now there’s just Mew and Gulf. Gulf can feel him, not only the way Mew’s hands sear, coasting across his flesh or the pressure of lips on his own but also the bottomless pit of want and desire inside Mew. Gulf feels the sorrow, anxiety and fear of not having his feelings returned. He feels the all-consuming love and care Mew feels for him, the longing and the joy of it too.   

 

Mew holds him through it all, kisses him soft and slow until Gulf is too spent to do anything other than drift off.   

 

 

 

~  

 

 

 

Gulf goes to work Monday morning with a bright smile on his face. His coworkers continue to treat him like before the whole fiasco last week and Gulf manages to finish all his work early. He closes his laptop and heads out of his office, bag slung over his shoulder. Saint is still at his desk typing away with a few other interns. Gulf smiles and bids them all a good evening as he exits. Mew’s waiting for him downstairs, leaning against the door of his car. He smiles big and waves when Gulf pops out of the building. The sky is starting to set and the sky is tinged orange, purple and blue a litany of stars above them.   

 

Mew opens the car door for him, placing a kiss on his cheek once he’s seated.   

 

Gulf can’t help the small laugh that bursts out of him at the action, hands dragging his seatbelt over his chest. Once Mew is seated beside him at the wheel Gulf places his hand on the middle console, palm side up. Mew laces their fingers together as he starts the car.  

 

 

“Let’s go home,” He says, soft over the radio.