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Nokk on Wood

Chapter Text

 

Caz shuddered as another pang tore through him, leaving him trembling. His insides burned, a tight ache radiating out from his thighs and crotch, and as he rested his forehead on the dinner-table he felt a soft keen tear itself unbidden from his throat. It mingled with the sound of wind and rain outside the facility, a howling storm that seemed intent on tearing the small peninsula clear off the mainland.

A cool, unwebbed hand touched his arm, and he looked up to find Dr. Humphries gazing down at him in concern. Tall and blocky, with a scruff of blond hair, and slightly vacant blue eyes that made him look like he was permanently lost. “Come on,” he murmured, “let’s get you out of here.”

“Wanna see Ollie,” Caz whispered. His legs were trembling to the point where he wasn’t sure he could stand, and Humphries must have noticed - he scooped Caz out of the chair with a grunt, and tried to position him in a firemans’ lift.

That wasn’t right. Caz squirmed in his hold, obeying some deep instinct. He needed… what? He didn’t know. Then he managed to wrap his legs around Humphries’ waist and the tight ache in his thighs eased a little. Oh, yes. That was it. He coiled his arms around his mentor’s neck and ground against him uselessly. Make this go away…

“No,” Humphries said softly, and Caz had to remind himself that it wasn’t a response - the man didn’t have the same touch-telepathy ability that he and his brethren did. He pulled Caz tighter against him in a vain attempt to stop the grinding, then set off at a near run. Out of the cafeteria and into the halls, followed by concerned and confused glances from both staff members and beta nokker.

“Need Ollie…”

“Not until his heat is over or we can get him some help,” Humphries gasped, taking a corner at full pelt. “This storm is complicating matters.” They narrowly missed smacking into the wall. The last time he’d carried Caz like this, Caz had been seven and significantly smaller; the years since then had doubled the weight and added several lanky feet to the burden.

…Also the seven year old hadn’t been grinding against him in a desperate attempt to assuage the burning ache of his twin’s heat.

Caz groaned. At least the bouncing gave some stimulation.

“Should have realised it would affect you - maybe if your change wasn’t due yet, but as things stand…” Humphries muttered, slowing to a tired stride as he approached Caz’s bedroom door. He sighed. “I know you want to see him, but you can’t while you’re both in this condition; I don’t like to think what the pair of you might get up to.”

Every scrap of yearning coalesced into a ball of frustration in Caz’s gut. “Fuck you, Humph.” He bit his lower lip. A small part of him couldn’t believe he’d said it, but another part meant it.

Humphries tensed for a moment, but then shook his head and opened the door. “See what I mean? You’re not yourself right now.”

Any reply Caz could have come up with was cut off by being unceremoniously dumped into his pool. Humphries was gone before he surfaced, the door locked behind him with a sharp click.

Caz scowled at it, then pushed down and sank past the underwater shelves and nooks to rest in the depths. His inner thighs ached with emptiness. He shoved his arms between them and squeezed, but it didn’t help enough. Something bigger?

But that was only treating a symptom, not the cause. The cause was Ollie. Ollie’s heat cycle kicking in, dragging his twin with him even though Caz hadn’t made the metamorphosis into their adult form yet. More than old enough, but not mentally ready to make the necessary sacrifices - maybe if he’d known from being a little kid, but a couple of months wasn’t long enough to come to terms with it.

The heat flared and Caz doubled over, clenching around his arms again and humping his smooth crotch against them. He had to get to Ollie - to yell at him for being such an absolute bastard, if nothing else. I don’t even have the equipment to make this go away! At least you do!

He wondered whether he was imagining the apologetic thrum against his mind. The wash of frustration and hunger that came with it suggested that he wasn’t.

If the heat was this strong second-hand, it must be hell first-hand.

Caz swallowed, then pushed up to the surface. There was more than one way out of his bedroom.

Chapter Text

None of his caretakers knew about the gap in the wall; Caz had always been careful to be back in his room by daybreak, and on the rare occasions he’d failed it had been assumed that he was hiding in a nook or cranny in the depths of his pool. He’d been faced with a few pointed comments about how ‘at least the betas didn’t go through a moody-teen phase’, but that was all.

He managed to get his shit together long enough to get out of the water, realign the filter, and tug it away from the concrete until there was enough space to crawl through. From there he could work his way through the warren of maintenance rooms and tunnels that serviced the facility’s multitude of tanks. He gritted his teeth, sent a quick prayer that his trembling legs would hold up, and set off.

Walking helped to ease out the shakes, by the time he had to risk crossing a hallway he was almost moving normally. Almost. He froze at the sound of footsteps, but it was only three betas heading up to bed: Jack, Ace, and Pip paused to give him a trio of curious stares, but when he held a finger to his lips they nodded and carried on their way. His siblings were always more likely to obey him than any human, even Humphries.

The door to the clinic was alarmed, but it wasn’t the only way in. Instead of taking the halls directly towards it, Caz turned left, took a door back into the service tunnels, and scrambled up a pipe into the ceiling where he could walk along the beams. The last time he’d come this way he’d been with Ollie, trying to get a sneak peek at Matteo - long thought dead and only recently found and rescued by the facility - while he was still in quarantine. The long lost parent they’d always day-dreamed about. Until then they’d been told they were clones.

To be fair, Humphries and the other staff-members had thought the same thing. The people responsible had over-promised, and gone to extreme measures to hide their failures. Measures that wouldn’t have even crossed Humphries’ mind.

The metal was cold and rough against Caz’s long, webbed toes, and he hoped that he wouldn’t get caught on a sharp splinter. A bleeding wound would lead to demands for an explanation. Another pang doubled him over; he narrowly avoided landing on the ceiling tiles and crashing through to the floor far below, grabbing the beam he’d been standing on instead. It dug pinpricks into his knees and hands. This wave was different - pleasure tangled up in the frustration, a sharp increase in the ache, but suffused with tormenting glimpses of satisfaction.

And still so much need.

He paused to catch his breath and think. Matteo wasn’t in his usual tank in the main clinic; the storm had trapped him up at the lake, but he’d be brought back as soon as it was over - he didn’t like open water, traumatised by years kept in a glorified fishbowl, but was being gradually introduced to the more sheltered spots as enrichment.

That imminent return meant that logically Ollie would be in a private room, safely tucked away from the only other adult-form nokk. Caz took a right turn and shuffled along the beams until he was over the catwalk that ran above the three smaller clinic rooms, then he pulled aside a ceiling tile and dropped through the hole, landing with a light slap of webbed toes.

Another ripple of hunger almost knocked him into the barrier rail: a repeat of the silky-warm sense of satisfaction, but then a wave of frustration. Whatever his twin was doing wasn’t enough, might even be making things worse in the long run.

Caz listened for any sign that he’d been detected, but all caution fled the moment he spotted Ollie. He slipped under the railing and swung down into the room, then approached the large tank at one end. It was built into the corner, with the back two sides up against the wall, and three glass panels forming a half-hexagon at the front.

Ollie was bound by the wrists: fabric straps attached to a chain, loose enough that he could lie comfortably in the tank, but tight enough to keep his hands firmly above water. A writhing blur of honey-gold, copper, verdigris, and rusty red-black.

Caz paused in front of the glass and swallowed. Once upon a time they’d been identical, members of the first hatched generation of nokker, the new species of human created by an alien device. Even from the start it was obvious that they were different from the others.

Apart from Matteo, the sole survivor of the original changelings, nokker looked mostly human. Normal head, two arms, two legs, all similarly proportioned to their parent species. Typically androgynous, with common patterns among their features from all being descendants of a scant handful of individuals. The most noticeable differences were the venomous spines along their spinal-column and forearms, gill-slits in their rib-cages, and webbing between their fingers and long toes.

Caz and Ollie had almost been able to pass. They’d taken longer to grow than the betas, hitting full size at twelve instead of four, but they were also significantly larger and less gracile, their minds worked more like those of humans, and they could speak out loud. Just add some modified scuba gear and they looked and sounded like two exotic youths. They were designated as ‘alphas’, but they were known simply as ‘The Twins’: Castor and Pollux - though Humphries had nicknamed them Caz and Ollie almost immediately after taking custody.

The smaller, beta nokker were intelligent, but in their own way - one alone was not okay. They functioned best with a hive mind of at least three, and relied on telepathy instead of voice; they learned far quicker than humans, but would rarely figure things out for themselves; and they uniformly hungered for approval. Perfect little worker-bees, ripe for exploitation, which was why Humphries had been so focused on getting them out of reach of profiteers.

Caz and Ollie could at least function independently, and they were far less biddable - downright defiant by beta standards. They were defined as much by their differences to their brethren as their similarities to each other. Two of a kind.

Then Ollie had gotten trapped in a submerged cave, and had changed.

Dr. Humphries had theories, the main one being that the near-constant presence of so many betas, especially unrelated ones, had inhibited the pair of them from moving to the next stage of their life-cycle. As far as adaptations went it would prevent overcrowding and bloodshed. Some truly vicious squabbles had broken out when Matteo had been introduced to a shared tank; a split between betas who considered him family and those who considered him an interloper; between those who thought their role was to protect him, and those who wanted to protect Caz and Ollie, their alphas, from him, whether Caz and Ollie liked it or not. Their obedient natures only went so far.

Humphries thought it pointed to an alpha nokk having to find their own space before taking on their costly adult form, like a male clownfish switching to female only when there was a gap to be filled.

Caz didn’t care about any of the theories. He cared that two out of dozens had turned to one out of dozens. He cared that his identity had been snatched from him by a surprise quirk of biology. He cared about suddenly being one of a kind.

He cared about what he’d have to sacrifice if he wanted to be like his other half again.

Chapter Text

Ollie hadn’t even noticed Caz standing outside his tank. He was coiling and squirming in strange pretzel shapes, obscured by silky blankets of shimmering colour, his bound wrists behind his head, his face midway down his tail. He had something in his mouth and seemed to be trying to guide it into place.

Caz flushed and pressed a hand to his own groin as he realised that it was his twin’s new cock. What was he trying to do with it?

It wasn’t clear whether Ollie sensed movement or his mind, but he abruptly looked up. His eyes widened and he released his mouthful, then uncoiled in a tangled rush of diaphanous fins.

“Damn it, Caz!” he growled the moment he surfaced, the new timbres of his voice still startlingly unfamiliar. “Don’t just stand there like a chunk of coral, get in here and help me!”

Caz wanted to snap something pithy back, but he found he was already dragging off his skin-tight top as he scrambled into the tank, mindless of how much the multi-tasking complicated matters. He let the garment drift. The water was warmer than his bedroom-pool, and the current told him the filter was set unusually high. Were they trying to strip out some contaminant? Then he brushed against Ollie’s trailing fins and had to stifle a desperate whine. Maybe increasing skin contact had been a bad idea.

“Shh, it’s okay, it’s okay, we’re okay,” Ollie whispered, twisting in place. “Am I glad to see you.”

Caz couldn’t answer without whining again. He clenched his jaw and reached up to cup Ollie’s face with his palm, shuddering at the shared sensations that rippled through him. They’d always felt each other, but not like this; never like they were melting into one another. Their arms were tied behind their heads, yet also clinging onto each other; their skin burned with heat; their tail rubbed against their legs, wrapped up in the gossamer blanket of their trailing fins.

He took a deep breath to centre himself, and leaned back to get a better look at his twin.

Like Matteo, Ollie didn’t stand a chance of passing for human now, except maybe from the neck up in murky water. His head and face were still recognisable, though his expressive features had become more pronounced - ‘more adult’, as Humphries put it. His long-lashed coppery eyes were the same, as was his honey-gold skin and the rusty black of his hair. He was growing the latter longer now that he’d been involuntarily removed from the ‘jobs’ pool, and practicality had ceased being an issue.

Somehow that small choice to be different hurt Caz even more.

Caz put the pain out of his mind and ran his fingers down Ollie’s long neck: still the same, as was the smooth line of his collarbone, but his shoulders had broadened. His torso was different, the muscles more pronounced from working around his new mobility issues, and two more pairs of gills fluttered gently beneath his ribs. There was still a slight divot in his navel where he’d attached to his yolk in their shared egg, and Caz couldn’t help but be reassured by that surviving point of connection, small as it was.

A wash of pleasure shivered through them both, and Caz pushed his arms over Ollie’s broad shoulders and wrapped his legs around his waist. He leaned up to press their foreheads together. The warm bulk between his thighs left him trembling with relief; he moaned and shifted, squeezing.

But the pressure did absolutely nothing to satisfy Ollie.

“Damn it, Caz!” Ollie hissed, then he relaxed his arms and let them both sink beneath the surface.

Caz shivered as Ollie’s arm-fins tickled along his back. The spines between his twin’s wrists and elbows had extended and each grown a delicate feathery webbing, flaring out like the pectoral fins of a lion fish. His dorsal spines had lengthened too, and were now connected from tip to tip by a thin membrane. Now when he raised them they formed an extravagant frill patterned with swirls of copper, gold, carnelian and rust, shading to jet black along the edges, and shot through with lines and flickers of iridescent verdigris.

Caz loosened his thigh-hold and skimmed his fingertips further down to Ollie’s waist, stroking over the uneven line where the scales started. They were more reptilian than fish, patterned in the same shades of honey-gold and rusty red-black as his skin and hair, and each one individually gleamed with copper-verdigris iridescence. The tail stretched out further than Ollie’s legs once had, lithe and muscular, with another trailing fin where his shins once were, and ending with a vertical fluke that flared into a massive, diaphanous fan that matched his dorsal. Flags for display, like a domesticated betta fish. An outright hazard anywhere with sharp edges, and an exhausting drag when swimming any distance; adulthood hadn’t been satisfied with stealing his ability to walk. He still had a vestige of legs, but they’d pulled up into his body and formed a pair of pelvic fins. Those weren’t quite as ridiculous as the rest of him; despite the delicate, shimmery membranes they were strong enough to help him haul himself up onto a beach or a smooth rock, but the rest of dry land was now far out of reach. A tadpole in reverse, although Ollie got far more admiring glances than the average tadpole.

Sometimes Caz wished he could appreciate his twin’s stunning appearance the way everyone else did, but he couldn’t see past the ball of rejection and loss that burned in his gut, no matter how hard he tried. They weren’t supposed to be different. Not from each other.

And as much as he yearned to be two of a kind again, the sheer cost made his heart clench.

For the love of tides, stop angsting and help me! Ollie sent, the message transmitting through their touch.

Chapter Text

Caz glanced up at Ollie’s bound wrists. 'Why did they…?'

Ollie squirmed, tugging at the bonds. 'They’re worried I could hurt myself trying to get off - or that I might do something stupid and self-impregnate, but obviously I’m fast losing the ability to give any fucks about that.'

'???'

'Look, there’s ways around it, but they wouldn’t listen to me; too busy trying to come up with their own fix.' Ollie shook his head and pulled a face. 'They’re trying to get a ‘toy’ that’ll do the job, but who knows how long that’ll take with this fucking storm. You’ll help though, right?' His mental voice broke on the question, sharp with desperation, and Caz sent back a 'Yes,' before he knew what he was doing.

'Okay, take your shorts off and turn around.'

'Why?'

'Please?'

Caz did as he was told, shuddering as he wrapped his bare legs back around his twin’s waist. The increased skin-contact sent touch-echoes thrilling through him, and he wondered again whether it was wise when their connection was this intense. The thought vanished the moment he was faced with Ollie’s erect cock, and a whole new batch of concerns. It squirmed, long and prehensile, and he felt an answering, phantom frustration in his own groin that made him shudder. But it wasn’t the cock that was causing the heat; it was the need to have something inside him - wait, was that what Ollie had been doing? He glanced back over his shoulder. 'You want me to stick it in your…'

That was the other big difference, in some ways it might be the most significant: a long slit partway down Ollie’s tail that concealed his new genitalia - not just his penis when it was retracted, but also the opening to an entirely different set.

'NO!' Ollie squirmed. 'I was… just that fucking desperate, okay? I can’t use my fingers since they tied me up; I tried licking, but my tongue isn’t long enough to help any, it just made it worse- but you’re here now, you could… fingers?'

'Oh.'

But he shouldn’t. Siblings weren’t supposed to… Another arc of heat squirmed through him, itching along his back and aching between his legs. He desperately squeezed Ollie’s tail between his thighs, another soft keen escaping into the surrounding water and chorusing with his twin’s answering one. No hope of being silent; how long until they couldn’t even be quiet? He leaned forwards, squeezing his eyes closed and shuddering as something grabbed at his legs and pinned him in by the backs of his knees. Ollie’s pelvic fins, he realised. Holding him in place, and why did it feel so good? Like they were supposed to do this, to lock themselves together, hang on with what used to be legs, twine tails and-

'Help me, please.' Ollie’s mental voice shattered again.

As if there was any choice. Caz dipped his head and took a better look at Ollie’s slit, then rubbed a finger across the soft scales. He felt an answering echo in his own flesh, tingling along his thighs and groin as it found the corresponding nerve clusters in his mismatched shape. He shivered again, squeezing his legs around the arching tail beneath him. If it wasn’t for the burning ache of the heat then the sensation would actually be kind of nice…

He concentrated on keeping his claws retracted, and dipped the tip of his index finger inside. Oh, fuck, what… The alien sensation washed through him, tickling along his spine and setting off tremors in his centre.

Ollie’s cock nudged at his belly as though searching, and Caz shifted to give it something to rub against. It bumped along his navel, bringing more shocks of shared pleasure, until it found his crotch and squirmed beneath him into the tight space between their bodies. Caz closed his eyes and fluttered his gills as sensation rocketed through him. Yes, that, more. He needed more. Needed to be filled and embedded deep in a warm body at the same time. His biology might not be ready yet, but it had all the blueprints. He ground down against Ollie’s dick, chasing the sensation.

'Holy shit!' Ollie thrashed and writhed, squirming helplessly beneath him. 'Wait, no, we need to figure out - if I come in the water-'

'???'

'What if some gets inside me?' His words poured out in a rush: 'Humph says it’s unlikely in a big tank, especially with the filter turned up… But what if he’s wrong?'

Oh. Caz frowned. 'Do you have a bag anywhere?'

Ollie stilled for a moment, his long, trailing fins drifting against Caz like sheets of wet silk, then sent: 'DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE A FUCKING BAG TUCKED AWAY SOMEWHERE?!'

'Alright, alright, put your spines in.'

'FUCK YOU.'

Caz couldn’t resist: he looked back at his twin’s face and smirked. 'Nuh-uh. Just because you double-dipped the equipment cupboard, doesn’t mean I’ve got somewhere you can stick it.'

Ollie scowled at him, then pushed him a very clear mental image of a porn movie they’d once watched with curiosity and horror, both utterly bewildered by the unfamiliar human behaviour. 'Yeah, you do.'

Caz felt himself flush and dragged his gaze back to Ollie’s slit. The aching, burning hunger ravaging his core explained more about that video than any number of comparative biology lessons. He felt Ollie’s cock writhe between them again and tensed, then clutched his thighs around Ollie’s tail and squeezed down to pin the prehensile length in place, bringing its explorations to an abrupt halt. It was almost as big as his forearm. 'You are not sticking that thing up my butt!'

A shiver of surprise told him that Ollie hadn’t actually considered the possibility of a reenactment, and that specifying an orifice had inadvertently made a suggestion.

'…Does that mean your mouth would be okay?'

Caz froze. 'No. No way.'

Chapter Text

Ollie’s tone was blunt and logical as he sent: 'The come won’t be hanging around in the water if you swallow it or spit it out over the side. If we use a bag we’d have to work out how to get it off without it leaking…'

Less of the ‘we’, Caz thought to himself. But there was no way he could leave Ollie alone in this. Maybe if his twin was wheedling then he’d be able to gather enough outrage to storm out in a huff, but there was a certain sense to the suggestion. Necessity was the mother of invention, but she was also the godmother of bodging.

'I wouldn’t ask if it-' Ollie squirmed again as another desperate wave of heat tore through them both. 'You know I’d do the same for you.'

Even if Caz hadn’t already known, he felt it in that moment: a deep, possessive rumble of US. Their bodies were different but they were still the same; they still had each other to rely on, to get into mischief with. It had just turned into an unexpected type of mischief.

'Fine,' he muttered mentally, 'but you owe me one.'

'Oh, baby, I’ll owe you at least ten.'

Caz wrinkled his nose. 'Yeah? Well five of them can be never calling me that again.' They were exactly the same age - hatching negated any need to form an orderly queue for the exit. It rankled that Ollie’s change had brought an ‘older/younger sibling’ status with it.

He put the thought out of his mind and grabbed Ollie’s squirming dick with one hand. It was the logical way to do things - Ollie was right, a bag would be complicated, it wasn’t as though they could use a vacuum cleaner; and coming over the side of the tank, whilst struggling against those heavy fins, would involve a lot of timing for an inexperienced virgin. This would be a lot easier.

He released his thigh-grip and shuffled as far backwards as he could, but Ollie’s pelvic fins still pinned his knees in place. 'You’re gonna have to let me go, Oll…'

I don’t think I can. Ollie squirmed. 'Can’t you feel that?'

He could, though probably not as strongly as Ollie did: the instinct to cling on, like that time they’d almost gotten caught in the outflow up at the reservoir dam. The thought of letting go set a panicky horror loose in his bones the same way it had when there was a bone-shattering fall waiting for them. They were going to have to work around it.

Biting his lower lip, he tugged Ollie’s dick out from between their bodies. It nudged against his chest again, seeking a hole to bury itself in, and the echoed sensation sent washes of pleasure and need sparkling through him. A small part of him screamed that this was wrong, but… he wanted to. And it did make sense. They were just doing what was necessary. That was all there was to it.

He craned his neck down and experimentally licked the bulbous tip. 'Tastes weird.' Salty and a little fishy, a tang of fruit, but more important than the taste was the tickle of echoed pleasure that coiled up in Caz’s abdomen. He still paused to stare at the long, writhing length, his heart falling. 'I can’t take all of it.'

'Hnnngh, just the tip,' Ollie sent. 'Please, Caz, I need you…'

The words set off a warm flood of pleasure that had nothing to do with the heat burning inside them both. Caz braced himself for another touch-echo, and then ran his tongue over the end of Ollie’s dick again. Shivery tickles spread across his crotch, thighs, and lower belly. 'Oh.' Okay, he could do this.

He opened his lips wide, and sucked the tip into his mouth in one frantic gulp.

The noise Ollie made was unholy, a keening shriek that would have brought the whole facility to check on them if it hadn’t been smothered by the tank of water and the storm outside.

'Shut the fuck up!' Caz sent, but the words were weak: second-hand shocks rippled out from his groin and thighs, tingles of pure sensation gathering in his belly and flickering up his spine. If his mouth wasn’t full he’d have probably been equally loud. The stretch in his jaw ached dully, the cock a solid mass on his tongue and against his soft palate, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care that the thing was nudging against the back of his throat, trying to get deeper. He wanted to feel that pleasure again, to keep feeling it. It almost seemed worth losing his legs over…

'Damn it, Caz,' Ollie whimpered as Caz began to suck, 'you’re only getting an echo…'

'You want me to stop?'

Ollie froze. 'NO!'

Caz wished he could grin around his mouthful. For the first time since Ollie’s change he felt in control. He hadn’t realised how much he’d missed it. Then an aching pang of hunger doubled him over, reminding him who was really the boss here: they were both servants to the heat, and nothing more.

Chapter Text

Caz squeezed Ollie’s tail between his thighs. The cock in his mouth squirmed, trying to reach his throat, and he thought about the porn movie again. He might not need to breathe air, but he didn’t like the idea of gagging - besides, he had more length to deal with than the woman had. She’d had a trick though… he reached up and grabbed the dick in his left hand and squeezed, getting a good grip around its girth to block any more from getting past his lips. It writhed in protest, but failed to push through to its goal. Result.

With that issue sorted, he reached down with his right hand and dipped his fingers into his twin’s cleft. The echoed sensation tickled against his own thighs and groin, a hungry demand for more. Oh, tides, he’d never felt so empty.

Ollie shuddered along his full length, whining again as he squeezed down around Caz’s digits. ‘Yes, please, more.’

Easier asked than done. Caz wondered what the hell he was supposed to do about his claws - if Ollie flexed around his fingers too hard it could pop them out of their sheathes. Now that he thought about it, that might be why they’d tied him up.

‘Please…’

Caz made a snap judgment and curled his hand into a loose fist - Ollie’s cock was almost as big as his forearm, so he had to be built to accommodate that kind of size, right?

If only they’d had some sex-ed from Matteo, but reproduction was the last thing their traumatised parent had wanted to talk about. Maybe if he’d known that this heat was imminent he’d have made an effort, but it had caught everyone by surprise, and the communications at the lake were sketchy at the best of times.

Another ripple tore through Caz’s body: itching, yearning torture that made him want to gasp. An emptiness in places he’d never felt it before, maddening in its strength. He pressed his hand deeper, nudging with his knuckles.

‘Oh, tides, Caz, what are you…?’

A flare of hungry need caught in Caz’s throat. Of all the stupid questions- ‘What does it look like I’m doing?’

‘I can’t exactly see through you, can I?’

‘I’m improvising, okay?!’ Caz snapped, shoving a little harder than he meant to. There was brief resistance, then suddenly soft warmth engulfed his wrist, a burst of tingling pleasure flooded his core, and Ollie’s tail smacked him square in the face.

Ollie jack-knifed with a shriek, smashing Caz against the side of the tank. If they hadn’t been clinging together so tightly he might have thrown him off, but instead the water turned into a maelstrom of fins and limbs, a sea monster with two bodies attached to a single tail.

It was all Caz could do to not bite down, especially with Ollie’s cock nuzzling at the back of his throat again. He grabbed it and held it in place, ignoring the pain of connecting with the glass and the ache in his jaw; they were dim and unimportant compared to the explosion of satisfaction radiating from his groin and thighs. Yes, there. He shuffled his buried hand again and pushed, working his tongue around the cock in his mouth. That was it, that was what they needed: suck and push, suck and push…

‘Wha- what the fuck, Caz!’ Ollie sent a moment later. He’d pulled his head back above water, and was gasping air and fluttering his gills at the same time.

‘I’m improvising.’

‘Oh, fuck, yes, more… wait - tell me your hand isn’t where I think it is!’

‘Your hand isn’t where I think it is…’ Caz dutifully repeated. He sucked again, wrapping his tongue around Ollie’s cock and shuddering at the answering tingle in his own crotch, then nudged his fist even deeper. Oh, that was the spot, right there, with several inches of forearm buried in the aching, hungry emptiness. He just needed to fill it, that was all. To wrap Ollie’s body around him, spread him open and fist him hard while sucking him off. Then they’d be okay.

‘Oh, fuck!’ Ollie sent, a new timbre of panic in his mental voice.

Caz didn’t get chance to ask questions. Pain exploded along his already sore shoulder and head as he was slapped against the side of the tank again. ‘What the crap, Oll?!’ he snarled as he was scraped down the wall, struggling as everything went dim. He was being crushed into the bottom corner, where the sealed concrete wall met the floor, upside down. His brain felt like it was rattling in his skull, and for a moment panic clutched at him - he couldn’t see!

Then the dim light shifted in a blur of copper-gold: he was buried in Ollie’s fins. ‘What are you…?’

There came the projected, fresh memory of a touch-pad being pressed, and a lock clicking open. ‘Door, door, door, DOOR!’

Oh. Caz froze up for the briefest moment, trying to work out what to do first. He had to get his hand free, no matter how much his body protested the idea. He braced himself for a flare in the hunger, and drew his arm back.

The tight, soft suction refused to let go, as though Ollie had clamped on. Caz pulled again, pressing his other hand against Ollie’s tail and squirming to get better leverage. The warm tunnel of muscle around his arm tightened hard enough to make his bones protest, and Caz’s heart started to pound - then Ollie’s cock took the opportunity to try for his throat again; he grabbed it and tugged it away from his mouth.

The bulbous tip hit the back of his teeth. He tugged again, harder this time, but it wouldn’t budge; a chill of horror washed into him as he realised it had grown. He tried to open his jaw wider, shove it out with his tongue, but there was no overcoming physics. He was trapped.

‘Damn it, Caz, what are you even doing down there?!!’

‘I’m stuck.’ Admitting to it was strangely calming, as though putting the words out sealed their fates. Why panic when there was nothing to be done?

Ollie didn’t share the sentiment: ‘WHAT?!’

Chapter Text

‘I’m stuck,’ Caz repeated. He winced as the heat started to rise again, helped along by his struggles and the tickling blanket of fins burying him beneath them in the bottom of the tank. His body wasn’t going to reward him for trying to break apart before they were done; that wasn’t how this was supposed to go.

‘What do you mean you’re-’ Ollie broke off at the sound footsteps, and Caz felt a wash of pure panic as he was sent an image of Humphries crossing the room towards them.

“How are you doing in here?” Humphries asked, gently. The words themselves were muffled by the water, but Ollie projected them clearly for Caz’s benefit, along with a picture of their mentor coming up to lean with his forearms crossed on the edge of the tank.

Something about the gentleness boiled away Ollie’s ability to feign calm. “Fuck off.”

“That good, huh?” Humphries paused and peered down into the water. “Why are you rubbing against the bottom like that?” He began to duck so he could look through the glass.

Ollie screeched: “Don’t look at me!” before Caz could panic, and Humphries jerked up, eyes widening. For a moment it seemed as he was going to investigate further, but then Ollie whispered, “This is embarrassing, okay? I don’t want to be gawked at like some zoo animal you're trying to breed.”

‘Nice save,’ Caz sent, relief flooding him as Humphries nodded and averted his gaze - still obviously concerned, but not to the point where he’d overstep a boundary, especially now that Ollie had invoked words like 'zoo', 'animal', and 'breed'. They just had to make sure it stayed that way.

“I don’t want to risk you rubbing yourself raw,” Humphries said.

“Humph, things are bad enough right now without-” The plea for mercy in Ollie's voice was quiet and desperate and real. “I’m not rubbing, okay? It just… feels better to push against something.”

Humphries paused for a heart-stopping moment, but then nodded again. “Alright, but if you do need to… let me know; I’m sure we can come up with something.”

Caz felt Ollie’s mood turn again, and his twin jerked on his bound wrists. “Something like tying me up?”

‘Don’t antagonise him!’

‘Shut up, Caz!’

“I came down to tell you that we got through to Archie,” Humphries said, refusing to take the bait. “Unfortunately he felt he had to tell Matteo what was going on, but at least we have some more information.”

Caz froze. Matteo would be going absolutely spare out there, imagining Humphries turning Ollie into some kind of 'brood-mare' again, or some other catastrophic fate. It was going to take weeks to calm him down, maybe even months.

If only Archie hadn't told him, but Archie had made it clear from the start that his allegiance was with the nokk he'd spent years keeping sane, not with Humphries.

Humphries had hired him anyway. There was information he needed in Archie's memory, he was a patient man, and in the meantime he also needed someone Matteo trusted - employed as an 'emotional support human' this time, instead of a rogue security guard.

“Apparently it was a good decision to not improvise a dildo,” Humphries continued. “It has to be something that can handle being clamped down on for an hour or two.”

The sheer horror that settled into Caz’s bones made the dam incident feel like a fun time. He flexed his cramped fingers uselessly inside his twin’s cunt. ‘Two hours?!’

‘Shut up and keep still,’ Ollie snapped in reply.

‘You know what, Oll, fuck you. I’m the one who’s stuck.’ The heat was starting to lick up his spine again; second-hand need dragging on his nerve-endings, setting his insides on fire, and it wasn’t even his own body doing it. Now that the satisfaction was fading his jaw ached from being wrapped around the massive cock that was renewing its quest for his throat, and his head and shoulder throbbed from being slammed into the tank walls. And he was trapped until Ollie let him go.

Some thanks for trying to help.

“On the positive side,” Humphries continued, “apparently it’ll only last a day or two, not a week like a cat has to go through. If it's on the shorter side you might be out of it by morning, even without stimulation.”

‘WE ONLY HAD TO HANG ON UNTIL MORNING?!!’

‘Damn it, Caz, shut the fuck up!’

“Of course, that’s assuming yours are the same length as Matteo’s…” Humphries continued. “I suppose we should brace ourselves in case it takes longer.”

‘See!’ Ollie sent.

Oh, so you can talk and I can’t? Caz thought. The heat was was itching at his core again, aching in his thighs, and he could barely stifle the soft keen that tried to escape him.

‘Keep still!’

‘Fine, whatever you say.’ Caz shifted just enough to find a vein of frustration, then held himself very still. It was only a light tickle, but Ollie’s first-hand experience of it would be so much stronger, and building fast...

The noise that came out of his twin’s lungs sounded barely human.

“Ollie?” Humphries asked.

“Get out!” Ollie practically screeched at him. “If you can’t help then leave me the fuck alone to deal with it!”

Humphries nodded uncertainly. “Alright, I’m going to go see if we can come up with something. This is affecting your brother too.”

“Don’t you fucking dare talk to me about that little shit right now!” Ollie snarled, twisting in place to glare at his mentor.

Well, that wasn't very nice, but what to do about it...? Caz shifted his fingers gently, enjoyed Ollie's cascade of relief, but then put every scrap of control he had into keeping his mental voice quiet and polite as he asked: ‘Would you like me to stop again?’

The howl of dissent scratched an itch that had nothing to do with the heat. Caz nudged his hand back into the depths, wriggling his knuckles, losing himself in the second-hand relief. Ollie’s cock took advantage of his inattention, startling him back to reality. He grabbed at it, dragging it back as his throat muscles protested. Oh, tides, if he choked then he'd definitely be noticed-

-It wasn’t as though he was using his lungs. Fight and be found, or... He concentrated on keeping his airway shut off, braced himself, and let it have its way.

It plunged in as though invited, deeper than he’d planned, but the glow of satisfied pleasure that exploded in his core burned away any regret. The second-hand sensations thrummed along his nerve-endings, beating back the frustrated burn, soothing any panic over the huge length questing into his gullet.

Ollie wailed, his entire body writhing as he desperately tried to keep enough control to conceal Caz.

Humphries said something muffled, and Caz heard footsteps practically running from the room, but Ollie was too far gone to notice.

Chapter Text

“Oh, tides, you absolute asshole,” Ollie hissed the moment he recovered. He gasped for air and turned to look at the door, listening for whether the vocalisation had been overheard, and then let himself droop back into the pool, uncoiling with a groan. ‘How are you taking so much?’

‘I could ask you the same thing.’ Caz could feel the thick length of Ollie’s cock working its way down his throat, still intent on burying itself to the hilt, and he briefly wondered whether the two sensations could meet. He should be angry about it, but…

He decided against examining the sense of calm, flexed his fingers again, and set to working his knuckles even deeper into Ollie, relishing the clutching warmth and the answering echoes in his own groin.

Ollie cried out, writhing and trembling, still clinging tightly to Caz’s knees with his pelvic fins. ‘Please…’

The pleading fell on Caz like a caress. He shifted in place to move Ollie’s cock inside him, rocking back and forth. The tip felt weird deep in his chest, but the feedback from his twin overwhelmed any discomfort. His throat was a warm, clutching hole, breached open and welcoming, just like the one his forearm was buried in. He worked his wrist in tandem with his movements, a push-pull-push that narrowed Ollie’s thoughts down to ‘please’ and ‘Caz’. Nothing else existed for his twin, and the power felt almost as good as the relief washing through him, tingling and intoxicating.

Caz squirmed his hand deeper into the tight heat of Ollie’s body, tugged back slightly then pushed in again while rotating his wrist, relishing every twitch and shudder he was creating, every echoed sensation that sparked in his own flesh. Satisfaction built in his belly, fighting back the heat. This was it, this was what they needed. A work-around for their deep-seated hungers.

The soft moans from Ollie indicated he agreed despite his earlier protests. He shifted and brought his arm-fins up to stroke Caz’s back and sides, feathery touches that sent trembles through Caz’s whole body. Normally Caz would screech and flail at a tickle like that, but it felt right to be petted, to be tangled up in the wet satin of Ollie’s tail and elongated fins. It was all he could do to not get lost in it. This was what they were supposed to do - maybe not exactly, but in spirit. Cling to each other, bury themselves inside each other, and hold on all the way to climax.

‘Wanna touch you so bad.’ Ollie struggled against his bound wrists again. ‘Should have got you to let me out of these first…’

But then I wouldn’t be in control, Caz thought, carefully keeping the words away from his twin. ‘Don’t have as much to touch,’ he sent, the words more wistful than he expected. How would it feel to have their fins brushing against each other, every flicker and drift a caress?

‘You have enough…’ Then a mental image: they were both humanoid again and in the crowded cafeteria. Caz was laid on his back on a table; Jack and Ace had hold of his wrists, and Pip and Diamond had his ankles, all pinning him down and looking on with interest while Ollie took his time exploring him. Dream-Caz didn’t struggle while Ollie kissed and licked and caressed, lightly nipping here and there, going over every centimetre of him; he just moaned and accepted it, letting himself be touched until he was a shaking wreck, begging to be claimed in front of everyone. And Ollie was happy to oblige: gentle at first, then hungrier, needy, burying his fingers in Caz’s hair so he could pull his head back and lick his neck, suck a bruise into his honey-gold skin. A mark that everyone would see.

‘Oh, tides…’ Caz sent back, unable to scramble together anything meaningful like “you’ve been thinking about me?” or “how long have you been thinking about this?” or “how do we undo you so we can try that out,” or even “is there any more?” The fantasy ramped up the burning need: he worked his arm inside the clutching heat of Ollie’s body, shuddering around the echo of it inside himself. So big, so deep, thrusting him open while he whined for more. Ollie’s cock flexed in his throat, using him the same way he was using Ollie’s cunt; a loop of sensation.

‘Put your spines down,’ Ollie murmured, and Caz felt him shifting and coiling, moving them both through the water until he had Caz right where he wanted him. He’d taken control, and Caz wasn’t sure he cared.

He did as he was told, shuddering in surprise as he felt Ollie’s torso press against his back. Ollie drifted kisses across the nape of his neck, his shoulders, the top of his spine, nuzzling and caressing with his tongue the way he did in the fantasy. Each touch sent shivers across Caz’s skin, ripples in the deep pool of pleasure gathering inside him, blurring the edge between reality and the dream. He clung to Ollie’s tail with his thighs, rubbing his crotch against the smooth scales while he rocked desperately around the cock buried deep in his throat. He was pinned in place as surely as if he was being held down by their siblings.

‘Arch your back,’ Ollie sent, not pausing his explorations. ‘And keep moving. Please.’

Caz shivered but did as he was told, continuing his gentle rocking. His jaw hurt and he didn’t care, too overwhelmed by the thick length forcing him open and the phantom sensations from Ollie. His gag-reflex twitched, but it couldn’t fight against the intrusion. An air-tight fit, filling him, swelling inside him, forcing him to open up for it. He let it happen, fucking himself on the cock, feeling the bulbous tip move back-and-forth in his chest while Ollie kissed and licked a trail from the nape of his neck to the small of his back, and then down.

Ollie didn’t send the next mental image, it was as though it escaped, filthier for his attempts to hold back his day-dream of flipping Caz over onto his front and rubbing his cock against the cleft of his ass. It squirmed and thrust, trying to find his hole the same way it had his throat, and Caz gasped as he realised the sensation wasn’t all fantasy - something was pushing into him, something hot and prehensile and determined. Electricity rocketed through his nerve-endings, sending a tidal wave through the building pool of pleasure.

Ollie shoved his tongue into Caz’s asshole, timing it with the fantasy of dragging Caz back by his hips and burying his cock inside him. In the daydream Caz moaned filthy words as he was filled; he shook and swore and accepted every millimetre, begged Ollie for more while the betas watched curiously. And Ollie gave him it, hauling him back and thrusting in deeper.

Caz whined and shoved backwards against Ollie’s exploring tongue, hungry for more: more sensation, more fantasy, more of everything. He gulped frantically around the cock in his mouth and upped the tempo of his hand, the touch-echo and the day-dream blurring together until he wasn't sure where the edges were.

Another set of thoughts, blurry with guilty humiliation: the betas leaning in to touch Caz while Ollie fucked him; they teased and tormented with lips, tongues and fingertips, exploring him as thoroughly as Ollie had, kissing him hungrily as he jerked and trembled on Ollie’s cock. Hands stroked the moving bulge in his abdomen, petting him delightedly while fingers slid between his legs and traced his tight rim where it stretched obscenely around Ollie’s cock. They held him still and did what they wanted, claiming him just as much as Ollie was, passing every sensation between each other and then back to their alphas. Wave upon wave of Caz being fucked.

Oh, tides, Caz mumbled, shoving backwards for more lapping tongue, for a day-dreamed cock filling his ass, for more of his own fist within an echoed cunt, mindlessly begging for both fantasy and reality.

Caz, Ollie whimpered, I’m gonna-

Caz had just enough time to think a muzzy Gonna what? before Ollie clamped down around his hand hard enough to make the bones creak, and a rush of tingling pleasure knocked all thoughts out of his head. In that instant there was him, and Ollie, and the warm, throbbing pulse of yes, pure satisfaction flooding in and overwhelming everything else. Ollie’s cock twitched and spasmed against his tongue and all the way down his throat, and he swallowed convulsively, feeling the heat fill his stomach without ever touching his mouth. Tides, how much had he managed to fit? He wondered whether he’d show a bulge like in his twin’s imagination...

Oh, fuck, oh, fuck… Ollie’s mental voice trembled over the words, and Caz couldn’t help but agree as he relaxed, shivering, into the aftershocks.

They let themselves drift in the water for a few moments, neither wanting to spoil the mood by discussing what they’d just done - or the contents of Ollie’s fantasy, for that matter.

That had been… something. Caz wasn’t sure he’d be able to look Jack and the others in the eyes for a while.

But his jaw ached, and his head and shoulder were starting to protest again. He closed his eyes, and sent, Time’s almost up, right?

Uh huh.

That was a relief, Caz thought. He suspected he was going to have to come up with an explanation for some weird bruising.

Ollie squeezed gently around his hand, stroked his back with his arm-fins again, and sent, Just an hour and a bit to go…

Chapter Text

They fucked again before the time was up - less frantic this time, just a slow, almost lazy coupling. A confirmation, proving to each other that there were no regrets.

Caz had assumed that he’d want to be out of the tank the moment he was freed, but something kept him there. His arm ached, his fingers were cramped, he was bruised and battered from being smacked against the walls, his jaw was sore from being forced open for so long, and the less said about his throat the better, but he still wanted to cling to Ollie and bask in the sensation of being closer than they’d ever been.

‘Need your shorts,’ Ollie sent, his mental voice still thick and muzzy. ‘In case Humph…’

So Ollie wanted him to stay. Caz smiled past the pain in his jaw and looked around for his discarded clothes. He found them right at the front of the tank, hidden below the point where the glass started, and managed to hook a toe into his shorts and pull them up, slipping them on without letting go of his twin’s chest. He left his shirt where it was.

Shorts on, he snuggled back against Ollie again: head tucked beneath his chin, arms around his torso, legs loosely wrapped around his tail.

‘Come up here, I want to try something,’ Ollie sent.

Caz replied with a grumpy mumble about having just gotten comfortable, but there was no way he was going to ignore his curiosity. He squirmed into the same position they’d first started in: his legs around Ollie’s slender waist, arms thrown across his broad shoulders, foreheads pressed together. ‘Now what?’

‘This.’ Ollie leaned forwards and brushed his lips against Caz’s.

Caz gasped. His throat twinged at the sudden movement, but the wash of first-hand pleasure overwhelmed the pain. Warmth flooded him, soft tingles thrilling through his body as Ollie deepened the kiss. Somehow it felt like more than fucking each other. This was unnecessary; it didn’t fill a biological need, it was just… pleasure. The intimacy of Ollie’s tongue touching his, lightly exploring previously uncharted territory.

After a long moment Ollie pulled back, looking dazed, and murmured, “You taste like my dick.”

“I’m not even going to mention what you taste like.” Caz’s voice came out as a painful croak. ‘Fuck, I think I’ve got internal bruising…’

‘Serves you right for pulling that stunt while I was trying to talk to Humph.’ Before Caz could respond, he added, ‘As much as I want you to stay, if he catches you here…’

The last thing Caz wanted to do was leave, but Ollie was right: if they were caught then they’d have to come up with explanations, reassure Humphries that they hadn’t done what they’d just done… And he needed time to think, to lock the last two hours away in his brain where the betas wouldn’t find it and start asking questions - or worse, start gossiping between themselves.

‘Feels like the heat’s over; if he doesn’t catch you then we’ll be able to see each other in a few hours,’ Ollie pointed out.

And if he did catch them then what would happen? Caz couldn’t believe that Humphries would be cruel enough to keep them apart for life, but a few days was another matter, and the thought made his skin crawl. ‘Okay, you win; wish me luck.’

He reluctantly let go of Ollie, retrieved his shirt, and swam over to the small platform that hung over the side of the tank. He had to take his shorts off to wring his clothes out, his heart in his mouth until he was dressed again, then he jumped for the catwalk, caught the edge with his hands, and hauled himself up.

He was almost back at his room when he heard the commotion: doors banging, Matteo snarling and spitting insults, Archie trying to calm him down, Humphries trying to placate him, then swiftly approaching footsteps.

He’s coming to get me… he realised with a jolt. He fled into the maintenance tunnels, worming his way through the gap in the wall until he was at the back of his bedroom filter. He was halfway through when he heard the first knock on the door. He scrambled out, almost fell into the water, but managed to save himself at the last moment and shove the filter back into place. Oh, tides…

He couldn’t let Humphries see he was panicking. He slipped silently into the pool. Anger, anger was key. He hadn’t seen Ollie, he was still frustrated beyond all belief, wrecked by heat. “Leave me alone!”

“I would, but Matteo is asking for you,” Humphries replied, and Caz heard an edge of pleading in his tone. “And you can see Ollie soon. As soon as we’re sure he’s out of it we’re going to add him to the tank, prove that I haven’t hurt him, or…”

Oh, damn it. Refusing to see Ollie and Matteo would be suspicious. Caz dropped several choice curses into the water, then pulled himself gingerly back out of his pool. Everything hurt, and there was no way to hide the angry purple bruising he could see along his shoulder. He didn’t like to think what his face must look like. His head was still throbbing.

He crossed the tiles of his bedroom floor, opened the door, and was treated to Humphries’ look of relief abruptly changing to concern.

“What the hell happened?” he demanded, catching Caz’s chin in his fingers and tilting his head. “Caz, talk to me!”

Caz fought past the pain in his bruised and chafed throat, and said, “I… must have done it while I was thrashing around in the water. It got really bad…” It was technically the truth, even if it was only pieces of it; he had to lean into that. He wasn’t as good at lying as Ollie was.

“Damn it, I thought you’d be okay as long as… I’m sorry, we’re going to have to keep a closer eye on you next time. Say something else.”

What? “Why?”

“Please.”

Caz swallowed, realisation dawning. His voice was still husky from the abuse it had taken. Not quite the croak it had been, but noticeably different to normal. Humphries couldn’t suspect why, otherwise he wouldn’t be this calm… “Can I see Ollie yet?”

Humphries made a pained noise. “I was hoping that separating you would prevent Ollie from pulling you into the change, but it’s possible that your voice is breaking. Right, clinic. It might be nothing, but I want you under observation immediately, and we need to see to those bruises. Matteo is going to throw an absolute fit at me, but what else is new?”

Caz froze. Had Ollie’s heat really triggered something, or was his voice just affected by having his throat fucked? He couldn’t ask…

Oh, tides, what if Humphries was right?

He found himself being scooted through the corridors and into the clinic. The only bright side was that Humphries wasn’t stopping for any curious betas. Caz was so caught up in his thoughts that he barely noticed being examined, checked for concussion and changes to his lower body, coated in probes, and then chivvied up the stairs of the largest clinic tank.

Inside it Matteo was anxiously prowling around, using his hands to pull himself along, his atrophied tail dragging behind him. Their parent. He resembled an older, gaunter, masculine version of Ollie, scarred from the years of neglect and abuse since his change. His scales were dull, his diaphanous fins long lost to filthy water; tiny, pale frills showed where they were beginning to grow back, but progress was slowed by his distrust of his new, safe environment. Dark stripes patterned his back and shoulders, like a mackerel, and Caz sometimes wondered whether they were there to make up for the loss of colour, a result of age, or there because Matteo had once been human.

A thought struck Caz halfway up the steps - he’d be safe in this tank. All the reassurance of being with another one of his kind, without the risk of letting the betas near his mind. Matteo hadn’t been born with touch-telepathy; he could pick up a projected thought, and send one himself as long as the receiver didn’t mind his total lack of volume control, but he couldn’t dig deeper. He didn’t have the nuance of mental-voice that his many children did.

Caz would have a chance to get his thoughts together, and if worst came to worst he wouldn’t be alone while his body remade itself. Matteo might not have spent his whole life as a nokk, but he understood what it was like to be utterly altered. He’d clutched Ollie to him in the days after his change, sick with concern, whispering “I didn’t want this for you,” over and over, like his desires could reverse biology.

A small, usually-ignored part of Caz craved that kind of one-on-one attention from his parent; he'd almost resented Ollie. Almost.

The moment he was in the water Matteo pulled him into a cuddle, and he relaxed into it, shuddering. He returned the embrace, tucking his head under Matteo’s chin as they sank beneath the surface. He could feel worry and terror seeping off his parent, chased by relief at being reunited.

‘It’s okay, ‘Teo, we’re okay,’ he sent, projecting feelings of safety. ‘I know Ollie's okay, and you’re okay too. We’re all safe here.’ He rubbed Matteo’s back gently, wincing at the feel of ribs sticking out, and the nobbles and bumps where his dorsal fin should be. It had been sacrificed to remove the venomous spines that supported it, long before fin-rot and ammonia levels had taken the rest.

Sometimes it was hard to believe that Humphries was the same species as the monsters responsible for what had been done to Matteo.

‘NO, WE’RE NOT,’ Matteo sent.

Caz decided not to beat the dead horse; he had to think about the present. This was all going to be okay. He was just bruised, and none of the sensors had revealed any changes to his lower body. The idea that he was going into metamorphosis was based entirely on his voice being funny, and there was another explanation for that. There was time to think and shuffle memories around, and he had the sense of safety that came from skin-contact. Matteo’s mind might be chaotic and paranoid, filled with horrors, but that helped too - it forced Caz to centre himself; he could be more introspective if there was a reason not to let his mind wander into shared thoughts.

Everything was fine, and it would stay that way.

Then Matteo tensed, and turned to glare through the glass at the humans on the other side.

‘What’s wrong?’ Caz sent.

‘WHY DO YOU REEK OF SEX??’

Oh. Oh, no. Caz tried to project denial, but it was no use.

‘I CAN TASTE IT ON YOU. WHICH ONE OF THESE PERVERTS TOUCHED YOU? SO HELP ME, I WILL DROWN THEM ALL. ONE BY ONE.’

Oh, tides, he was so busted. The thought of keeping quiet briefly crossed Caz's mind, but he couldn’t risk Matteo trying to follow through on his threat. He averted his gaze to the back of the tank, and sent, ‘I may or may not have snuck in to help Ollie, okay? Don’t be mad!’

‘WHAT?!?’

Caz let out a mental sigh. So much for everything being fine.