Not to be Borne

Warning for: Arranged marriage, non-con, forced breeding, Twincest. HEA.

For Sharita, on their birthday.

When his twin brother presents as an omega, Michuá feels like the world is ending. In a way, becoming an omega himself seems like the only way to stay together… But Zybyn’s new alpha wants a lot more than they have bargained for and in a journey towards a strange land, there is nothing to stop him from taking it. Non-con, abuse, twincest, HEA.

Prompt: Omega twins who kill their alpha and runaway together.

Warnings: non-con, mpreg, lying, basically slavery, murder, twincest, HEA.

 

Prologue

When Zybyn presented omega, some people assumed I should be relieved, but why the fuck should I feel better that the bullet had missed me and hit the person I loved most in the world instead?

I almost wished it had been me. The way he’d looked when the elders had explained he was one of the rare omega males… I don’t think I will ever get his pain off my chest.

Our parents tried to help, kept him at home and talked to him—to us, because I couldn’t do fucking shit about what was happening to him but I wasn’t going to leave him. He was my twin, my other half… And I knew he was afraid.

Because omega males were precious and that meant they could be worth a lot to a pack, especially a pack like ours that needed so many things. The mountains were a hard place to grow up even if you had teeth and the agility of a puma on your side.

We were okay, but we were never sure we would be okay, was the thing. Sometimes there wasn’t enough prey to go around. Sometimes some of the guys would go down to the towns at the foot of our mountain and it’d turn out there was no one hiring big, burly men to do their heavy lifting or whatever.

I had been meant to go too, now that I was eighteen and tall enough to make an impression, but after Zybyn presented, I couldn’t bear to. No one tried to convince me, not the elders—they were too smart to waste their time with arguments that would lead nowhere.

We didn’t really talk about it, but I knew Zybyn was afraid they’d find him an alpha. Except they had to find him an alpha, omegas needed one. And I was only a beta, sure, but at least… At least I would be by his side to protect him as best I could.

***

The elders invited some alphas from the nearest pack to meet him. It was for the best, they said. Zybyn would have a lot of children and the packs couldn’t feed them, they added.

Like Zybyn wasn’t pack. Like he didn’t deserve to have their support.

He met with them, and that meant I met with them too—though I sat in a corner and kept quiet like I’d promised my mother. I gave them a chance because Zybyn needed me to—he’d gone into heat already and they’d had to lock him in one of the deeper caves to keep him safe.

I couldn’t pretend to myself it wasn’t hurting him to be alone after spending the full moon guarding the only entrance.

He needed an alpha and it couldn’t be one from our own pack, the elders had made that very clear.

***

Most of the alphas were nothing special. They walked in gingerly, all forced smiles and soft words, like they thought Zybyn was a child instead of a fully-grown man. I stared because Zybyn didn’t do more than glance at them. I wasn’t sure if he embarrassed or if it really hurt him to behave defiantly towards an alpha now. I was afraid to ask.

Xander was not like that. He was formal, bowing his head at each of us in turn and introducing himself. “I have come from quite far to meet you,” he told Zybyn.

My brother swallowed, stealing a look, but didn’t say anything.

“I didn’t know you had a twin,” the alpha added, glancing my way curiously. “But I’m glad you got someone on your side. It must have been quite a shock for you, for one.”

“Yeah,” Zybyn acknowledged quietly.

“It doesn’t have to be all bad, though,” Xander continued, taking a seat across from us, long legs crossing elegantly as he sat. “In my pack, you’d be honoured.”

Zybyn didn’t speak, so I did, “Honoured?”

Xander’s dark eyes turned my way, curious but not seemingly bothered by the interruption to his wooing. “Of course, an omega has great power. The greatest power, that of giving life. What is a pack without a future?”

“Would you honour him too?”

“Yes, naturally,” the alpha told me softly. He wasn’t lying about it that I could tell. “If he agreed to be my mate.”

***

After Xander, there were three other alphas in the course of two weeks and every single one of them requested Zybyn be their mate.

“You must choose someone, son,” my father told him that night after the elders had met. “There were several promising candidates, and… well, you will learn to love him, whoever it is.”

I bit my tongue not to argue; I could see it cost our dad to say it and it was true. What could any of us do against Zybyn’s heats if he remained unbonded?

Chapter 1

It was almost a relief to present myself after that. Like the other shoe dropping.

It was Zybyn who found me. We shared a room and that morning I was too drowsy to get up for the morning meal.

“Michuá?” he asked, shaking me awake.

I could hear the worry in his voice, but I still couldn’t open my eyes.

“Oh, fuck, Michuá… No!” he shook me harder, digging his sharp nails into my arms. “Snap out of it!” he demanded, and I groaned, my bones felt heavy, my muscles sore like I’d transformed back and forth three times in a row and my body hadn’t had time to heal.

“Ss—stop,” I asked, voice coming out raspy like I’d drunk ice water too fast.

“This can’t be happening,” he said, and then said it again, voice breaking.

I didn’t understand he was crying until he bent over me and pressed his forehead to my shoulder, wetting my skin with his pain. I wanted to reach out and hold him but all I could do was to make my fingers twitch. Even when I managed to open my eyes, my vision was blurry and the room seemed to sway. “Zybyn…” I managed.

He tensed on top of me and sat up, cupping my face in his hand. “Shhh,” he told me. “It’s okay, you’re going to feel a little weird, but it’s gonna be okay. It won’t—” He stopped, wiping his tears away with the back of his sleeve. “It will be okay, you gotta remember that, and I will be with you. I won’t leave you. I will keep you safe, I swear.”

I was too out of it to realise it was my own words he was repeating back to me, my own promises, so easily broken by fate—like my love meant nothing, not even if I was willing to lay my life down to prove it.

***

Heat was, if possible, worse than it looked.

And I had Zybyn in the cave with me to help. He shouldn’t have, but no one else would have been allowed. Even though I was an omega, I was still a man so I could get an omega or beta woman pregnant, and of course if an alpha or beta man fucked me…

But Zybyn was safe, and Zybyn knew what it was like. And if there was one person in the world with whom I didn’t feel humiliated wailing to be fucked… It was him.

The morning after was difficult. The lust-craze had lifted but I still remembered way too clearly that I’d asked my brother to get inside me, that the come staining my thighs was his, that he’d pressed kisses to my throat and promised me everything and anything.

But of course any awkwardness between us didn’t have time to build. The pack now had two valuable omega males ready to be mated and that meant that they could ask for even more from the alphas who’d visited.

***

I was allowed the luxury of a bath, clearly because they wanted me to look and smell good because the first thing the Elder told us was, “You can each choose one of the candidates, they won’t mind—”

“No!” I screamed.

Elder Grel turned my way and it hurt to keep looking her way, her alpha eyes seemed to pierce right through me.

But I did it anyway. For Zybyn. “No, we’re going together.”

“What?”

“We— We’ll go to the same pack,” I said. I ended up panting, eyes squeezed shut.

But of course Zybyn was there to hold me up. He put a hand on my shoulder and spoke, “The pack across Lake Iguaque is large enough. They sent an alpha named Xander,” he added. “I— I’ll mate him, and Michuá can mate another alpha from his pack.”

I clenched my fists, hurting myself. The idea of Xander touching Zybyn… much less…

It was stupid, Zybyn was going to have to get pregnant sooner rather than later—it’d be the only thing that would alleviate his heats—and an alpha could protect him and help him control his instincts better than a beta.

And this way at least we’d be together. It was easier to focus on that. We’d as good as lost everything that mattered to us—but not each other.

If I’d got to choose, I’d have chosen Zybyn anyway.

***

We didn’t talk about my first heat and the way he’d… given me what I needed. That’s all it had been, but even so, I could barely hold myself back from apologizing.

He understands what it’s like, I reminded myself the next night, curled under my blankets and facing the wall, pretending he wasn’t still awake across the room. We’d bathed and I could no longer smell him on me. My body had healed any… marks he might have left, and at least it hadn’t happened here.

In our room, we were still… still ourselves.

And we had bigger things to worry about than a crazy night of heat where we’d crossed lines that should have never been crossed.

Like Xander.

The alpha smiled in delight when we called him back from the room he’d taken in the closest human town and told him of our decision. He’d looked at me before, but it felt different now, heavier, interested.

Of course he was, even our packmates had trouble telling us apart—what did this man care that we weren’t the same person now that we were both omegas?

His interest was natural and the very reason we were talking, and it was surely normal for an omega to feel a little wary of an alpha staring at them, wasn’t it? Alphas protected omegas, naturally, but they also decided everything about their lives—where and when and how many.

Even when not in heat, an omega’s body was not their own.

“I am very happy,” he told Zybyn. “I hope to make you happy too.”

Zybyn nodded, tense, but he smiled back bravely.

And I kept my mouth shut, which was as much as anyone could ask of me given the circumstances.

Chapter 2

The journey would be long, especially since we needed to travel in human form to transport our belongings. It soon became evident that Xander’s agility didn’t make up for his lack of knowledge of how to navigate mountainous terrain. Or maybe tigers like Xander weren’t as well suited to it as pumas, even if we all had two feet at the moment.

Zybyn and I slowed down for him without being asked. We were sore and tired, and we didn’t speak much. Despite our natural adaptation to the mountain, it was still dangerous to navigate inattentively and the further we got from home—our birth pack now—the more unfamiliar the land was.

Despite his difficulties, Xander was patient but relentless, always pushing us to go a little farther than he’d originally indicated. We rose to the challenge almost without noticing that we had no choice in the matter.

There were no direct orders, not then, but the will to dominate was already evident.

I have no excuse for it, except that I didn’t even know myself and the whole world had turned upside down.

***

Maybe Zybyn knew and thought it better not to mention it, but I had genuinely forgotten heats didn’t always wait for a full moon. His next one came in the middle of the night, his twisting body waking me up from the exhausted sleep I fell into every time Xander allowed us to stop and rest for the night.

“Zybyn…” I touched his arm, heart constricting for him.

And then I heard a low growl and looked up into Xander’s face. The sound had been for me, but all his attention was on my twin. The alpha normally slept a little further down from us, a gesture I hadn’t even thought about until he climbed on top of my brother’s writhing body, hands travelling up Zybyn’s knees and under his tunic as he sniffed.

Zybyn’s eyes opened, all pupil and dazed, and Xander leaned in and claimed his mouth in a brutal kiss, shoving his tongue in Zybyn’s mouth and pressing their bodies together.

It was their first kiss.

Zybyn shuddered, hands twitching for just a moment before they were pinned down by the alpha’s giant paws around his wrists. He melted into the kiss then, body going pliant—he didn’t have a choice, his body was meant for this.

I knew what would happen and part of me wanted to move away, but I felt frozen to the spot watching as Xander firmly pressed Zybyn’s hands down to the floor, then let go and took hold of his knees, tugging until his bottom was exposed and Xander could fumble for his own clothes and expose his engorged alpha cock—almost twice the size of Zybyn’s. My twin was hard too, and his entrance shone with wetness as it twitched with need—a need that I knew intimately was more pain than desire, more desperation than arousal. Xander didn’t use his fingers at all, just placed his dick against it and—holding onto Zybyn’s hips—shoved himself inside my brother’s untouched body.

Zybyn’s scream tore through me, breaking me from my paralysis and making me reach out for the alpha’s arm to—

Xander shoved me aside, growling with canines extended.

“Stay,” he demanded, and I felt myself go lax right there on the ground, just a couple feet away from Zybyn.

I watched, I couldn’t not. It was the only thing I was allowed. Xander pulled on his legs and got the rest of the way in and Zybyn whimpered brokenly under him, arms still pinned by the invisible force of Xander’s will, arse held tightly in the alpha’s hands for his use. His eyes were closed but his face was turned towards me—probably just an instinct, like in his desperation he wanted me close to…

But there was nothing I could do, except watch every twitch and grimace play on his face. He was in pain and I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t do anything at all, not when I’d been told to stay in place.

Xander picked up a rhythm, pushing into my brother’s hole again and again, the smell of sex and sweat rising in the air with his moans and growls of pleasure while Zybyn whimpered quietly under him and I watched it all.

It was meant to feel good for an omega to serve his alpha, but Zybyn kept his teeth gritted throughout as his alpha took his pleasure.

Time made no sense any longer, but eventually Xander sped up and held still, keeping himself buried to the hilt, as he spent into Zybyn’s twitching body. And then it was over, he loosened his grip and let Zybyn’s legs fall open around him and removed his member—hard and hot and so long I couldn’t see how he’d fit it inside my brother’s small body.

“You weren’t quite ready,” the alpha told my brother as he reached over and helped himself to the spare shirt that I’d been using for a pillow to clean himself up. “Next time will be better.”

Zybyn didn’t answer, but the alpha didn’t notice, he was already turning back to his sleeping spot. Like he’d just had a shit in the forest instead of…

I turned my body, not even remembering the order until I realized I could move again. Zybyn was curled up away from me. He’d lowered his tunic, but he was shivering in place like he was cold. If anything, he was warmer than usual, but I pressed myself to his back, putting an arm around him, offering all I had—the heat of my body. He didn’t press back against me but after a while, he stopped shivering and then, a good while after we’d heard Xander’s snoring start again, he relaxed into sleep again.

***

Xander didn’t mention what he’d done to Zybyn. His only concession was not to criticize my brother’s slower pace the next day as we continued our descent.

I didn’t say anything either, I didn’t dare. What would happen to Zybyn if he had no one with him after his new mate was done with him? I had to be with him, I couldn’t defy his alpha… And Xander had said it was going to get better, hadn’t he? He’d seemed alright before when I’d been a beta, and everyone knew alphas couldn’t control themselves around omegas in heat. Even if they hadn’t been quite high enough in heat for…

For breeding.

That’s what Xander must have meant. And of course breeding would feel good to Zybyn.

And to me, when I was… I shoved the thought away. It was Zybyn that mattered now, would he go into heat again the next night?

He didn’t, instead it was my turn. Zybyn was next to me, petting my hair and caressing my skin. When I woke up, I surged into him, needing his touch so badly I—

And then he was gone. I blinked, dazed and confused, and saw Xander was there instead. My hole throbbed at the sight of him, but I still turned my head to look for my brother, uncomprehending. It was Zybyn I— Xander took hold of my knees and shoved them apart. I must have lost some time because the next thing I knew were the fingers twisting inside me, lighting me up even further than my body had accomplished on its own. I moaned, lost and needy and he laughed his pleasure above me.

It didn’t occur me to think he was Zybyn’s mate or that I was going to belong to a different alpha, he made me spread and put his cock into me, the immense thing I’d seen go into Zybyn slicing into my own wet passage. It split into me, one shove at a time, until the alpha was rutting in me fast and hard and I was screaming—ecstasy and pain and a need so strong I couldn’t think as I lifted my hips for more.

And then I erupted, making a mess of my thighs and clothes, and he did inside me—filling me up while he held me in place so his seed would go deep within me. My belly started hurting and glancing down I saw it was expanding as he filled me with his come. His come. His seed. He was— It was only then my brain seemed to process what was happening, and it was how my eyes were open for Xander to meet with a brutal smile as he shifted inside me and started knotting. Sealing himself inside me—breeding his cubs into my body.

Breeding was natural, but it didn’t feel it, it felt like my body was being forced into a shape it wasn’t meant to take—nothing like shifting—and I had no choice about it whatsoever. Inside me, I could feel the knot growing, increasing the pressure until I felt I’d burst. And then it stopped. It should have helped but it was actually worse, an unremitting pressure that made me squirm like I needed to pee but couldn’t. The same pressure that was making the alpha on top of me moan and grunt as he poured his need into me. “Yes, you are full now, I’ll breed a dozen into you tonight and another tomorrow. We can just stay here— I’ll have my own pack, just from you both.”

I whimpered, shaking my head, but couldn’t manage any words of denial. I couldn’t even beg.

“Please,” my twin’s voice was a thread.

“Please?” the alpha spat at him, even with the knot, he was still moving inside my body, grunting with every thrust, but he made effort to pant at Zybyn, “You’re lucky your brother is taking your place, or I’d leave you both here to rot.”

My twin didn’t speak again. I closed my eyes and stayed still under the man who now owned me. He didn’t bite me, but the mark wasn’t necessary, not when I knew his seed must have taken.

The second wave of heat was less intense. I woke from my exhausted sleep to my hips being tugged backwards until they met his groin, and he shoved it into me without warning. My body must have been learning its functions because the pain was but momentary and then there was just relief, to have my hole filled that way, to have that pressure where I needed it. I was half-unconscious as he rutted in me and the knot he allowed to form once again still hurt. As did knowing each time he did it meant that at least one more cub was conceived.

He woke me when he rolled off me, soft cock sliding off my arse and slapping against my thigh as he lay on his back next to me. His breathing went deep, he’d gone to sleep.

I raised my head from the sweaty bedding and looked for my twin. He wasn’t on the bedding, naturally, because the alpha was taking up that space now. The— My alpha, he was my alpha. Because I was carrying his cubs. I felt my neck for a bite that wasn’t there, a bond mark. I didn’t know why, but its absence bothered me. It didn’t change anything, really…

As my eyes got used to the darkness of the cave, I made out Zybyn’s body tucked into a corner, curled up tight as if he was protecting himself from something. I got to my knees at once, intent on going to him and a stab of pain ran from my arse to my belly, making me grit my teeth and grunt. My eyes went to the man who had done it to me, but he was still deeply asleep.

I had managed to get my brother’s attention, though, because when I next looked towards him, he was standing halfway between us and his hiding space. I watched him, hopeless, hurting, desperate… for something I couldn’t name but knew only he could give me.

“Zybyn?” I asked and he came to me. He made sure to avoid the alpha’s sprawled body, coming around to my other side and put a hand on my lower back, leading me back down.

“Rest,” he whispered. “He’ll come back; you have to rest.”

I shook my head; my eyes were suddenly full of tears. I couldn’t rest. I couldn’t— I couldn’t be alone. I put my head down and then used what little strength I had to reach out and grab his wrist.

His eyes widened, but after a moment, he laid himself down by my side and put his hand on my chest right where it hurt most. I let go of his hand so I could do the same, closing my eyes to the familiar rhythms of my heart.

Chapter 3

They say you can get used to anything and I found this to be mostly true. I woke often when my alpha shoved his cock into my hole—now always wet and ready for him as a secondary effect of the pregnancy—and I learned not to open my eyes while it happened.

Outside of heat, the sex was more disturbing than arousing, even when my alpha accidentally got an angle that stimulated me right, I kept getting distracted by the most mundane details—my mind desperate to escape what was happening to me. My hard dick was mostly an inconvenience that needed protecting if the bedding—just a pile of furs, not all of which were always dry enough to use—wasn’t placed quite right. Even so, I was mostly grateful when he did me face down, saving me from seeing his face and catching his smell.

There was a river nearby where I went to clean myself, and after a few weeks, Zybyn was allowed to accompany me. He kept his distance until I was ‘done’ and then we’d play fight like we were cubs again, splashing each and dunking, as uncaring of nakedness as if none of the terrible things that had happened to us both had ever touched us.

Xander hadn’t tried to touch my brother again, a small mercy I was constantly afraid would be snatched away. I couldn’t help remembering what he’d said, that he’d keep us in this mountain—far away enough from home to never run into anyone—and breed us both himself.

But for whatever reason, Zybyn hadn’t gone into heat again.

He was safe for a little longer.

***

If it hadn’t been for the stranger, maybe I would have just let it go on, let my belly go from a little tender to visibly swollen, and then…

But he came upon us in the river and stopped to watch us bathe.

I don’t know how Xander knew, maybe the stranger had left his scent elsewhere in the area where the alpha hunted—he’d made it clear it was no job for an omega.

It was Xander’s presence that made us take notice, Zybyn’s arm tightening on my elbow and turning me towards the two men seizing each other up. I inhaled and stiffened. The other man was also an alpha, though I couldn’t tell what type of shifter he was.

It could have easily devolved into a fight, an alpha showing any interest in another’s omega… But Xander smirked and tilted his head our way. “Like what you see?”

There was a beat of silence, then the other alpha nodded. “Your omega is beautiful,” he offered, obviously cautious.

Xander’s eyes bore into mine a moment later. “Come out here, Michuá.”

I was almost unaware of my legs moving me his way, and the stranger kept his eyes off me this time. It was only when I stopped next to my alpha that I realised Zybyn wasn’t far behind me.

My alpha reached out and placed a possessive hand on my belly. His touch made it feel heavy, full, but it was all in my head… and in my scent, of course. The strange alpha had known I belonged to Xander, even though my neck was bare of marks. “He is,” Xander told the other alpha, then he raised his head and looked behind me. “Come around,” he told Zybyn, and I felt my twin stepping forward until he was right next to me.

The strange alpha made a sound, something that I couldn’t quite decipher. “Uncanny,” he commented, licking his lips, he smelled intensely of arousal.

“You got anything to trade?” Xander asked him then.

The alpha’s befuddled expression was the only thing that made sense about the exchange. But it didn't last, he turned and went to a bush nearby where he retrieved a huge backpack.

He set it down and started taking things out of it and I turned to my alpha and offered, “Should I get anything from—?”

Xander gave me look, snorting and shaking his head. “You really were a virgin,” he said with disdain. “Why do I need you to get anything? I got you here to trade.”

I gawked at him. Was he talking about...?

But he was already busy surveying the stranger’s possessions.

I turned to Zybyn, but my brother was looking at the ground and I only had time to put my hand on his arm before a clap announced a deal had been struck.

Xander was already turning towards us again. “Hands and knees, Zybyn.”

Zybyn startled but obeyed, falling to his knees and shuffling back to have space to put down his hands at my feet. My heart clenched, knowing he was unable to resist an alpha’s will.

No, a voice inside me said, not Zybyn! I can… And it was loud enough I opened my mouth, “Alpha, I—”

But that was all that was allowed to come out of my mouth before Xander shut me up with a glare. “Be quiet, both of you.”

I glanced towards my twin, his head hanging low, his spine the picture of defeat. Then I realised the stranger was going around to position himself behind Zybyn’s bare arse.

The sight was like a stab to my heart and forced into silence as I was, I dug my nails into my hands instead. On the ground, I saw Zybyn’s face contract into a grimace as the alpha put his hands on his arse cheeks and squeezed without as much as a word of warning.

It was like watching Xander force himself on him all over again, and I would have taken his place in an instant if offered the chance—it was my only comfort when I had to serve my duties, that Zybyn was spared.

And now Xander was taking even that from me, he was going to let this man rape Zybyn, just to get some things. Not anything we needed like our pack had needed the money Xander himself had given them for us, to survive. There were only three of us and in this area there were plenty of mountain goats and small prey to keep us fed, and the river, of course, which was too rapid right where were but slowed down enough at other points to catch fish.

Zybyn shuddered as his hole was exposed and the stranger started rubbing at the sensitive space—from where I was standing I couldn’t see that, but I didn’t need anything but Zybyn’s face to read his pain and discomfort. He didn’t try to resist or ask them to stop. He couldn’t speak, of course, but he could have moved. Except of course he didn’t have the protection of a pregnancy and who knew how far Xander would go if he disobeyed?

The stranger huffed. “He’s too fucking dry.”

“Mmmm…” My alpha said thoughtfully. “Okay, Michuá, get on all fours, face your brother.”

My body did as it was told, even as my mind scrambled for meaning. Then my alpha came forward and patted my hip. “Get wet for me.”

It happened, like it always did, my passage slickening up, my hole clenching and sending my scent rising around all of us. My face burned with humiliation at being shown off to a stranger in this state. I checked Zybyn’s face, trying to connect once more.

He didn’t look up.

“Okay,” Xander said. “Come around to this one, dip it in, then you can start on the frigid bitch.”

I turned my head to seek out Xander, my brain struggling to understand what was happening. Was my alpha telling someone else to fuck me?

Xander shot me a disapproving look when I met his eyes.  “Look forward, and don’t move, either of you.”

That last part made Zybyn look up, which was worse of course, because now I could see my own terror and pain, like a mirror of not just my face but of my very soul.

And then I felt my own arse cheeks were spread apart and heard the man behind me hum in satisfaction and then slowly—much more slowly than Xander had ever bothered—he pushed his cock into me, inch by inch until I was full and he could fuck into me, groaning his pleasure.

Xander’s grunt reminded him to pull out and he did it too fast, making me wince.

But that was just the beginning, of course, he was already going around and even with my eyes still screwed shut, I felt Zybyn exhale, warm and wet on my face, as the alpha used my slick to force his unready body to give way for his pleasure.

I opened my eyes, blinking back tears, determined to offer Zybyn the only thing I had to offer. His own eyes were shut, for which I couldn’t blame him, so I nudged at the side of his cheek, feeling his own ragged breathing. For a moment, he didn’t move, then he swayed forward so fast he almost knocked his head against mine.

No, not him. The alpha, Zybyn’s head had fallen forward again as he got the alpha’s dick shoved into him with force, arms glistening with sweat as he locked them to stay in position and not fall on his face. The alpha probably wouldn’t have stopped, Xander hadn’t when it’d been me and I was carrying his children.

When my own hips were dragged backwards, I instinctively dug my fingers into the soft soil, but my alpha didn’t even seem to notice as he aligned himself and entered my hole. My body, intent on protecting me, had produced as much lubrication as could possibly be needed, and the penetration was as easy as if I had been designed for it.

Nature had designed me for it, according to the elders. Me and Zybyn, we were meant to be used this way by alpha men, to give them cubs and do as they told us.

They’d also told me alphas were meant to protect me, instead I was kneeling on the ground in front of the person I loved most in the universe, getting rammed with one alpha’s cocked as I head the sounds of his pained breathing because another alpha was doing it to him.

“Stop!” Xander said from behind me, hips stilling. I swayed under his hands, having been braced for his thrusts. He wasn’t speaking to me, though. Once he got me into a position, he was perfectly happy to do the hard work himself, I had learned this early and well after being told to stop bothering him when I’d offered to be more active in bed. If he wanted my mouth, I was to keep it open and my teeth covered, if he wanted my arse, I was to try and not move from where he put me—that was all an omega needed to do, wait patiently for his alpha to finish using him.

I blinked my eyes open and met Zybyn’s tired gaze. He was still again, which meant the alpha behind him… Xander pulled out of my body. “Come try this one out,” he said to the other alpha across from him. “I want to see if the frigid one’s tighter.”

Neither Zybyn nor I reacted, having been forbidden from speaking or moving. And what did it matter anyway? An alpha cock was an alpha cock. As the stranger put his inside me again and I saw Zybyn’s grimace indicating my alpha was inside him, I leaned forward enough to press our cheeks together, Zybyn understood at once, doing the same until we were locked in place, neck muscles straining. It didn’t matter, we both needed each other too much to give up this small comfort as the other men used us in tandem.

The strange alpha made quite a racket when he unloaded inside me, circling his hips to keep his cock inside my body as long as possible. I bit my lip bloody reminding myself he couldn’t knot me, Xander had already done it as many times as my body could accept. I tried not to think about it, but right then it was a comfort to know I was as full of cubs as I could get.

As his cock left me at last, his slick dripping down my thighs, I realised Zybyn was still as a rock against my face. I leaned back, opening my eyes and realised Xander was still pressed close to his back. Still inside him, I understood with a spike of panic. He couldn’t be… Zybyn wasn’t in heat, Xander couldn’t be—

My alpha grunted and pushed Zybyn forward hard enough if I hadn’t been there to catch him, he’d have ended face first on the ground.

“Can’t get a knot to catch,” he complained, clearly speaking to the other alpha.

“Well, he’s a good fuck,” the stranger commented, unconcerned. He walked straight into the river without another word to any of us.

My alpha followed him, cleaning himself perfunctorily in the shallows before stepping out and walking past us. “Clean yourselves up and get back,” he said as he did, not even looking our way.

We were grateful for that much.

***

Getting clean a second time didn’t feel as good, it wasn’t just the alpha come all over us both—the scent lingering even after we scrubbed ourselves with some grass—but the heaviness of what had happened had left inside us.

Zybyn collapsed on the shore, curling up around his own knees, and I immediately sat next to him, putting my arms around his waist.

“Zybyn?” I said, rubbing at his back, he was shivering too much. “Should we shift? You’re—”

“He said he was going to breed me, to make… to make sure I’m not… broken.” His voice was flat with shock.

It wasn’t the first time Xander had suggested he intended to have Zybyn as well as me as his mate, but I’d assumed it just something he was saying in the heat of the moment. There was no way he could support a pack as large as the one that would result if he did it, and… I felt my belly tighten with fear. Everything was wrong, I knew that, but I was an omega, how was I supposed to get myself out of this? And Zybyn? How could I let this happen to Zybyn?

“You should go.” The words were out of my mouth before I could think it through. “Just go and—”

Zybyn’s claws dug into my side, returning my touch at last. “Shut the fuck up, Michuá,” he growled. The wounds stung for a moment as he pulled away and rubbed at the broken skin, already healing. “I’m never leaving you.”

“But you can’t let him—”

“And you can?” he demanded, turning furious eyes on me. “You’re just going to take this?”

“He…” I shrugged. “He already…”

“He hasn’t bitten you,” my twin objected, a little calmer. “That means you’re not his omega yet, you’re just… They’re your cubs too,” he said firmly. “And… do you think he will really look after them?”

I blinked, heart speeding up. “They are his cubs,” I reminded Zybyn.

“Like I was supposed to be his omega?” he asked me. “What if one of your cubs is not what he wants in a child? Will he toss them out? Sell them to any passing stranger on the road?”

My fingers tightened on him, hard enough I smelt blood. Zybyn didn’t budge. “Zybyn, I…” I shook my head.

“We can’t let this happen to your cubs,” he insisted. “You have to protect them.”

It was an omega’s most basic instinct, it was true. “How?” I said in a whisper.

“What would you do if a bear was going to eat them?” Zybyn asked and let it sit there in the air between us.

It was a question that did not require an answer, naturally.

Chapter 4

We had to act normal, and that night normal was eating the goat Xander had got for us and then curling up sleep on the furs in one corner together. One of the very few of Xander’s preferences that coincided with our own was that he did not like anyone touching him while he slept.

The next morning, normal was spreading my legs for him and washing the come stained furs before breakfast. It was Zybyn’s job to clean the animals our mighty alpha brought back for us so we could sear the meat a bit in the fire—eating raw meat in human form was a bad idea, since we had neither the teeth nor the right stomachs to process it.

I thought about it, what Zybyn had said; about me, and him… and the babies. The notion of an alpha hurting his own children was— Well, taboo. But the way he treated me, the way he’d ticked us into coming here. The way he had forced me, the way he had forced Zybyn... Originally, my brother had agreed to mating him, but not… not like that. I didn’t care what the rules said, I’d seen Zybyn’s face when it’d happened and it hadn’t been right, and even though I had been high in the grasps of heat, it hadn’t felt right when it’d been me either. Certainly not the next morning when my mind had cleared.

It was hard to argue that a man who didn’t care if his partner enjoyed sex or whether he wanted sex at all wouldn’t do terrible things. And he had, in fact, just done something even worse.

When he’d returned to the cave at last, we’d seen the stash of new things in the corner of the cave he’d chosen for himself. It was just some clothes, and a bottle of tequila, strong enough to affect even a shifter. That was all, what he’d traded our bodies and our trust for: a relaxing drink and a fresh shirt.

So I thought about it, about getting away, about getting Zybyn away before Xander’s promises became acts and he did to my twin what he had already done to me.

***

A couple nights later I was lying in the dark, eyes open following the half-seen half-imagined edge of the cave ceiling when Zybyn shifted next to me and I felt his hand on mine. Right on top of where I was resting it on my belly. In this position, it felt no different, but I could still tell. It hadn’t been a month yet, and there were no heartbeats, no… But I knew.

I turned my head towards my twin. His eyes were full of love, but there was a sadness too, a depth too it one could drown into if you weren’t careful. And he wasn’t, he was showing me all his pain and need. He knew, of course, that he could trust me to get him out of this situation at any cost. That if it had been him with a rapist’s children in his belly, I would have done anything.

It wasn’t him, but I understood very well that he couldn’t allow it to be me any more than I could have. I had to help, or he’d try on his own.

I gave him a sharp nod, and his eyes widened, nose flaring and then, getting himself under control, he buried his face against my neck and clung to me, shaking a little. Until I brought him close to me, anchored him against the storm inside with the silent promise of my presence, though I knew it would cost me everything to follow through.

But if there was one person in the world that I could promise my everything to, it was the other half of my soul.

***

After those first few days when he’d made Zybyn stay in the cave with him—and my twin had sworn on our mother’s heart that nothing had happened those times—Xander had started sending us both out to wash ourselves and our few furs every morning. That way we’d have time to spread them out under the high morning sun and collect them in the afternoon once they were dry. Breakfast was always some leftover meat and any fresh fruit we’d scavenged from around the cave—some of those berries were probably slightly poisonous, but we needed something other than meat and our systems could take a slight stomachache.

“We cannot let him speak,” Zybyn said that day in the river, and I nodded. “So either we go in really fast so he cannot stop us…”

“From the back,” I said, feeling like my veins were full of ice despite the rather sunny day.

Zybyn was staring at me. Shocked, horrified at my dishonourable suggestion.

“Come off it,” I told him. “This isn’t a duel or a fair fight, he wouldn’t let us fight fairly. He doesn’t even think we can hunt!”

“I think he just wants us to feel helpless,” Zybyn whispered, hands on the fur he’d been beating against the rocks moments before.

I growled, exasperated. Did this alpha really think we had forgotten both our instincts and our whole lives? We’d been hunting around our own mountain—much less fertile and therefore much poorer in fauna too—since we’d been able to run without stumbling over our own feet.

“Zybyn?” I demanded.

He exhaled and gave me a nod in response, dark eyes on mine. “You’re right,” he admitted and he sounded so miffed about it, like I’d figured out a game or a secret before he’d managed, like… like we were back home and we were free. That’s why the laughter started, and it was also way halfway through that it turned to tears, wrecking my body as I curled forward, only held away from the edge of the water by my twin’s strong arms around me.

“Hey,” he whispered in my left ear from behind, and I didn’t think it was the first time he’d said it, but it was the first time I could hear it. “Shuffle back a little, you don’t need another bath.”

I let him pull me backwards and then I rolled over to bury my face into his neck, claws digging into his arms too hard. He didn’t complain, just held me back and rocked us both a little from side to side, humming something I thought was a lullaby. Fuck, I had no idea how to be a parent, I realised, but I couldn’t put that terror into words, not with everything else that was twisting inside me. It just came out as tears that shook me in his hold, all I had left in the world, but enough. Enough that the tears stopped eventually and I breathed in his familiar scent, trying to convince my body I was safe when I knew in my mind it could all be snatched from me any moment.

“I can’t take this much longer,” I told him once I could speak again, my cheek pressed to the steady beating of his heart, his arms around my back securing me in place against him.

“You won’t have to,” he said at once with the kind of certainty that I’d learned to trust early. Zybyn never lied and he seemed to have unlimited reserves of both imagination and willpower.

Of course, neither of those had helped him when it came to Xander so far, but then again… I’d been more than useless. Maybe if we put our minds to it like we used to, we could do something. I rubbed his back encouragingly.

He squeezed me tight once more. “I have some ideas about how… how to end this.” He leaned back a little to meet my eyes. “I love you more than anything, remember that.”

“I love you too,” I said at once, following his lead as he got to his feet and walked me back to get the furs and extend them over higher rocks, a smaller rock on top to prevent them from flying off.

We had our own rock to shift, all that remained was the technique.

***

There were no good options. Even before presenting as omegas, Zybyn and I had not indulged in pointless violence. We hunted, of course, and we’d fight defensively but we did that together for the most part and the experience of being surrounded tended to get most shifters overwhelmed enough to fuck off. We’d much preferred coming up with tricks to make mountain goats come our way than running after them for half an hour anyway. When you have to work hard each day just to have enough to eat for you and your family, there isn’t much time for silly amusements, but using our ingenuity for hunting had been both practical and satisfying.

Our attitude towards violence was no accident, we weren’t really suited to it. And in a pack as desperate as ours for resources, we’d been brought up to believe defence was the only good reason to attack. It was just common sense, up in the mountains all we had were other members of our pack and if we couldn’t trust each other to have our backs…

Any violence was dangerous because it would engender more violence, and in-fighting would drain the energy you needed to survive. It’d worked for us, and it’d always felt true, but nobody had bothered to talk us through all the possible monsters hiding in the world. All the scenarios we’d been presented with had been straightforward, someone in danger right in front of our eyes, someone trying to kill somebody else.

Had no one thought of what torture it could be to be left to live a life so empty? To be made into something empty? A vessel for an alpha to fill? A warm body to fuck, and later for cubs to live in, and later for them to feed from.

I’d much rather have been dead even if it hadn’t included watching Zybyn go through the same things.

Death would only hurt for a moment, not extend through the years, slowly poisoning me until not just my body but my very soul were rotten.

Xander was going to die, I knew with certainly as he fucked me that night.

The only question was how.

***

Zybyn had some ideas, but in the end the answer came to me. “He won’t let you get that close,” I told my twin. “But I can…” I exhaled, pushing away a wave of nausea. “I can do it, while he’s fucking me.” I forced the words out, refusing to be ashamed of something I couldn’t control, reminding myself of why I was doing… of who I needed to do this for.

“You want to…?” Zybyn’s eyes were full of pain. He gestured with his fingers bent like claws.

“No,” I said, the truth coming to me. “I need more force.”

For a moment, my brother clearly didn’t understand, then his eyes widened as he inhaled raggedly. “Michuá…” My name was a plea, a cry for mercy to a world that wouldn’t listen.

“It’s the only way,” I said, gritting my teeth to bear his pain as well as my own.

***

It was true, and we both knew it. It was also cold-blooded murder, no matter how certain I knew it was necessary, how convinced I was that I couldn’t survive this life for long—my body would, but my mind would shatter into a thousand pieces.

And if anything happened to Zybyn…

I could feel my twin’s attention on me, but other than the worried look in his eyes, that was all the indication I got that he was thinking of our ‘plan’. Maybe, I thought that night as I braced my elbows on the hard ground to keep myself in place for the alpha’s cock to stab into me with all his might. Each thrust made my belly bounce, more noticeable in this position than on the normal course of most other activities, which Xander had made clear wasn’t accidental by rubbing at it with possessive pleasure earlier in the proceedings.

Now he’d clearly got distracted by the old incentive of getting off in my wet hole.

But it wasn’t that he always kept me facing away, and I’d be lying if I said there’s some omega instinct that kept me from it. The truth is that I was just afraid, afraid enough that even a darker future couldn’t sway me, couldn’t make me do the right thing.

It’s funny to think about it like that, the right thing. But it was. I had known the moment Zybyn had told me about Xander’s plans for him, and I knew that from a practical point of view it had to be me.

It was the right thing to do, and I couldn’t fucking do it. I thought about it the next time Xander decided to fuck me face to face, about reaching out and extending my claws to their fullest until they would go in easy into the skin of his neck, past muscle and into tendon. He’d scream, but all I had to do was hold on and yank him down to my teeth, sharp enough even if I didn’t transform at all. I just needed to keep him from talking and then… once my mouth was full of his blood, I just had to hold on. Hold on until it was over, hold on even though he would still be inside me. Would always be inside me, because…

I shuddered and he grunted over me and I let it happen again, even knowing he could hurt Zybyn again. He most certainly would given the chance, or even on a whim. And he could hurt my cubs, they were his too but that wouldn’t matter. He had me, but that didn’t mean he cared about me. Not even as much as he cared for objects he owned—I’d seen him carefully stash his clothes and ration the alcohol. But me… Well, I was an inexhaustible resource, wasn’t I? He’d take and take and take, and never give anything back.

Not unless I took it.

Chapter 5

It was Zybyn in the end, of course it was. My brave beautiful brother, the one everyone thought of as the shy one, the quiet twin, the kind half to my mischievous self. Not that most of our pack could keep track of us that well, there was no time for haircuts or even clothes that were anything beyond the practical, and in truth… Why should we make an effort to set ourselves apart for people who couldn’t be bothered to figure us out? I’d never minded if people called me by his name, and we kept no secrets from each other so who cared if someone was angry for something he’d done and threw the punch at me?

If there was ever a time when we’d look different—and most certainly smell it—it was now. When I was filling out with… hormones, and he was losing weight with our scarce diet and lack of exercise, and the worry and the pain. But his body somehow came around to its business in the end.

I think I was the first one to notice that the way he had been napping all day wasn’t simply boredom or exhaustion. I frowned and buried my nose in his neck, sniffing, and had my worse suspicions confirmed. His heat was rising again.

I pulled him close, wondering how to disguise his scent from the alpha. Xander normally didn’t pay much attention to Zybyn unless he wanted him to do something, but he’d be coming back with some prey soon. Even if I offered to clean it and cook it instead, there was no way an alpha could miss the sticky sweetness of heat. Not in a fucking cave.

“Zybyn.” I shook him and he groaned, trying to curl up away from me, but I insisted. “Wake up, you need to wake up… You— your heat is coming.”

That made him blink his eyes open. “Mmm?”

“Heat,” I repeated.

And he shook his head. “Ugh, pregnant.”

I almost laughed, which was to say I almost started to cry. “Not me, you.”

Had he forgotten? Well, if he had forgotten that first time, I could only be grateful, it was seared in my mind. The worst thing I had ever witnessed. Worse than the time in the riverbank with the strange alpha because back then I had still believed Xander meant it when he’d said he’d honour his mate.

I couldn’t see it again; I couldn’t let it happen again. “You have to get out,” I told him. “He’ll be back soon and—”

Zybyn’s claws dug into my wrist and I realised he’d been trying to speak. He swallowed with some difficulty. He wasn’t too far gone but his cheeks were flushed, his pupils huge. “Opportunity,” he got out. “I can— I can do it.” He was panting a little by the end.

“What? You want to…” I glanced towards the door. “Zybyn, you can’t, you’re in heat, you—”

“It’s not that bad,” he insisted. “It’s not— I can do it.”

His other hand rose until it reached the side of my neck. “Can do it. You… I can keep you safe, Michuá.”

Keep me safe, like it was somehow his responsibility.

I could insist that I would have refused him, sent him away, played up all my tricks to keep Xander from following.

But what ifs don’t matter. I’d been too focused on Zybyn to hear the alpha approaching, but his delighted laugh as he crossed the threshold was impossible to miss, like my blood freezing over.

“What’s this?” he boomed, dropping whatever poor animal had crossed his path today on the ground without a second look. “Not so frigid after all, my little omega bitch?” he asked Zybyn.

My grip on my brother’s side tightened and I could barely control the impulse of curling up around him to block him from my alpha’s view. If I reminded Xander that Zybyn’s heats rose slowly, he’d… he’d wait until my brother was out of his mind and begging for it. He’d wait until it was too late.

Zybyn squirmed against me, moaning brokenly. I glanced down at him, startled. Was the presence of an alpha affecting him that much or was he faking it…?

“Get out of the way,” Xander told me, eyes fixed on my twin. Perhaps out of consideration for my state, he gave me enough time to roll away.

It felt like tearing myself in two, leaving my weaker half exposed, my whole self calling out to Zybyn, body and soul.

Zybyn reached out for Xander at once, dragging him down on top of him in a way I thought for sure would get him reprimanded, but the alpha growled and kissed him full on the mouth, rubbing himself all over my twin and pushing up his tunic to expose his bottom half. He didn’t seem concerned with the proper behaviour of omegas he’d insisted so much on with me. But then again, if anyone could resist having Zybyn arching under them sucking on their tongue and doing his best to meld their hips together…

I bit my lip, way closer than I wished but frozen in place by duty. If Zybyn meant to go through with it, my pain didn’t matter. In fact, my pain was owed. He was once more doing this in my stead.

He must have been thinking about it, under the writhing and moaning, but for me it just looked like one moment he was spreading his legs to take Xander’s cock in his arse and the next the hand in the alpha’s hair was closing steady and fast on the tiger shifter’s long black hair and yanking him down. The pained grunt from Xander as Zybyn’s teeth and claws sank into his neck were only made worse by the sound of his blood gushing out, pumping scarlet all over my brother’s chest and neck, down to the bedding as the man on top of him jerked. I was on him in a moment, yanking his hands away from Zybyn with my own clawed fingers.

It took forever and only moments before he stopped struggling.

When I dragged his body away from Zybyn’s, my brother was soaked through in his blood, the smell so repugnant I almost lost the little food left in my belly from the morning meal. I could see Zybin’s chest rising and falling too fast, but it wasn’t until he blinked his eyes open, lashes working hard to rid themselves of the sticky red blood, that I knew my brother was still with me.

I went to him at once, using my own clothes to clean his face and neck as best as he could until he stopped me. “River.”

We went to the same spot out of habit, but it was completely different this time and not just because we were dragging Xander’s body with us to let the current take it. As it went under, heavy and lifeless, I finally felt the weight of his power over me lifting.

We were free.

I turned to check on Zybyn, who was scrubbing furiously, holding his breath so he could get all the blood out of his hair, and had to quickly look away when I noticed he was cleaning himself from a different leftover fluid altogether. There couldn’t have been a lot, Xander hadn’t finished, and I just hoped—

“What happened to your heat?” I asked the next time I heard him resurface.

Zybyn stilled long enough for me to feel it was safe to look his way. He looked dazed, as if he was one blink from falling asleep. “I…” He shook his head, glancing down his body. “Shock?” he offered, and I jumped forward to catch him around the waist as he swayed.

“Hey,” I said. “None of that, let’s get you out.”

I didn’t feel safe lying in the sun to dry out, so I walked him back to the cave with an arm around his waist. Once there it quickly became evident the furs we’d been using were beyond repair, so I took him over to the pile Xander had appropriated—thicker and warmer, and told myself our scent would soon wash his away. Zybyn didn’t object at all, curling up against my side with a little mewling noise like he was a cub, body relaxing against mine. I carded my fingers through his wet hair and waited, standing vigil.

It was the least I could do.

Chapter 6

Despite my best intentions, I fell asleep in his arms. It was alright, though, because that's where I woke as well, warm and safe.

Zybyn was back to normal, at least as far as I could tell. I wasn't, not really, relief and horror making me dizzy by turns. Maybe he could tell because the first thing he did was hunt down some berries and force me to fill my belly. That helped and I ignored his pleased smile as he sucked his fingers clean—the same fingers who’d been covered in blood not even a day earlier...

He looked tired, but a shadow had lifted from over his expression, and every time our eyes met, his lit up like he was remembering all over again.

I was glad he was happy, but I didn’t know how I could ever repay him for what he’d done for me.

Fruit was all we could stomach and it was still quite cold in the cave, so I dragged him back to the furs, already smelling of us both. He came easy, pressing close to me until I could relax against his warmth. We’d appropriated some of the clothes Xander had used us to buy, as much as we could take back.

“I’m sorry,” I said into his neck. “I should have— It was supposed to be me.”

“Shhh…” My brother kissed my cheek, rocking me a little. “No,” he said firmly. “It doesn’t matter, and I… I owed you.”

“What?” I spat, incredulous. And then I felt the hand on my waist travel towards the front of my body, just enough that his palm was against the swell of my belly.

“It was supposed to be me,” he told me, the words full of pain. “So… I owed you.”

I pushed closer, forcing his hand to return to my back and clutching him to me. “You don’t owe me shit,” I hissed. “I was glad it wasn’t you.”

He huffed, half laugh, half sob. “Oh, goddess, Michuá, fine then, we’re even. That work for you?”

I hesitated, but what was the point? We were free, and we were together. What else was there to keep score of?

“Okay,” I grudgingly conceded. “We’re even. What the hell are we gonna do now?”

Zybyn snorted. “I have no fucking idea.” His hand was rubbing my back all the way down to the bottom of my spine and I wanted to arch like I was in my feline form and he was the sun. “Maybe we can stay.” I felt him swallow against my cheek. “I mean, we have time, before…”

I burrowed further into his arms. Even though he couldn’t say it: before I gave birth.

It was almost like he was more scared of it than me, and I guess it made sense: all that could happen to me was that I could die, but Zybyn… Zybyn could end up all alone.

“Do you wanna… we could go back home, if—” Because at least then he’d have someone, and I wouldn’t have to think about—

“No,” he said sharply. “We can’t trust them, Michuá. Look what happened— I mean, they don’t want us, they made that plenty clear. I mean, I— Do you miss them?”

“No!” I said at once, then admitted, “Maybe the kids, and Bachué. But it doesn’t matter, I— I don’t need anyone. Just you. But you’re not…” I shrugged and pressed my face to his shoulder, needing to be close even as I was talking of him going away.

Fucked. Ruined. You could take your pick, but in the end, it meant the same; he wasn’t an omega pregnant by an alpha who wouldn’t take care of him. Useless to the pack, only able to bring new mouths to feed, without ever being able to contribute enough.

“Shhh…” Zybyn cut me off, he must have known what I was thinking. “Don’t,” he whispered harshly. “I am whatever you are, wherever you are. Come on, Michuá, don’t make me get all mushy, you know we’re in this together, that’s it.”

“Okay,” I managed to say past my tight throat. “We stay for a bit, and then… we’ll see.”

Chapter 7

As marvellous as being able to choose when to wake and where to go and what I did with my own body was… The consequences weren’t really over and they were getting significantly bigger at an alarming rate. Not quite knowing what to expect, other than for me to transform to give birth, we’d decided to stick to the cave we’d been occupying. We’d washed the furs in the river but what helped the most was sleeping in them ourselves, making the space ours.

We’d set down one of the thinner furs Xander had ceded to us out to cover the spot where the ground was still stained. Sometimes I thought I could smell the blood still, but no matter how powerful my nostrils, the only way I would get even a whiff was if I pressed them right against the rock where it’d spilled.

I knew it was in my head. I thought it was probably in Zybyn’s head too, brave as he was. He didn’t speak of it, but I knew by the way he’d cling to me when he woke in the night, shaking his head if I tried to ask him what made him seize and cry out and then simply weep quietly. I could give him time, and space, and the warmth of my presence. I had failed to keep him safe before, but I would still make the promise to try again—whatever it cost me to feel him fall apart in my arms.

I dreamt too, mostly of what had happened to us both, and I’d wake up in a terror, trying to get away from him despite having gone to sleep tangled in his arms. It didn’t take Zybyn long to figure out he had to let me get away first before I would be ready to take his comfort. That night was particularly bad, maybe because we’d gone to the river to bathe that day and I’d noticed how big my belly was, big enough to float a little in the water. I crawled back into the bedding but turned my back to him, not wanting it between us.

But this was Zybyn, my twin, and his hand kept rubbing my arm until it got to my hand curled around my middle. His fingers fit perfectly on top of mine, pressing my fingers against the distended skin but not touching it himself. “You freaked out?” he asked, though it wasn’t like he didn’t know.

I inhaled as slowly as I could manage, nodding a bit.

“The puma knows how to do this,” he offered, pressing his chin to the top of my shoulder, and I knew him too; for some crazy reason he wanted to touch it. But he wouldn’t ask, not beyond his hand on top of mine. “You just let it take over and—”

I yanked my hand from under his, it was the only way I could make myself do it, and Zybyn gasped as his palm landed on my belly and I put mine on top to keep it there.

“Oh,” he breathed right into my ear. “Fuck, you pillock, I—” His heart was beating hard enough for me to feel it against my spine where he was flush against me, only his tunic between our bodies. He was shaking a little. “Michuá,” he said, like my name was a prayer.

“It’s fine,” I told him. “It doesn’t… it’s just weird.”

“I don’t want you to leave me,” he said into my skin, his hand on my middle was careful but firm, the kind of touch one used with a child too young to know better. “It was all I could think of when I presented, that they’d make me leave you. I can’t—”

“Hey!” I interrupted, tugging at his hand and rolling towards him. His eyes popped open, lashes a little wet, and my heart jumped in fright, hand going to his cheek and brushing the wetness away like I could take away his pain. “I won’t, you know I won’t. You think…? I was only going because of you, you know that.”

His lips were a little swollen, as if he had been biting at them, and they parted slightly but no words came out.

“Zybyn?” I asked. “I love you, you know that, don’t you?”

His dark eyelashes hid his eyes, and then I felt his body tense up and he carefully sat back, legs crossed in front of him and hands on his own lap. My own hand felt cold where it’d been left behind between us and I suddenly remembered I was stark naked since I’d dropped my tunic—sweated right through—on the ground near the entrance where we kept fresh water.

“You remember heat?” he asked. “The first time?”

I frowned. Of course I did, though I wasn’t sure whose first time he was referring to. “Yeah.”

“Did I…?” His throat worked visibly to help him swallow, eyes still lowered. “Did I make you feel better?”

I froze, torn between hiding my own face in the bedding or getting up and getting something to cover my nakedness with. I opted for sitting up and pulling the corner of one of the furs over my lap and middle. “Yes.” I stared at my own hands, begging my body not to react to the inevitable sense memory of him on top of me. Inside me, while I burned up, as he became everything I needed as well as everything I loved.

I could feel his eyes on me, but now I couldn’t seem to look up. This was bad enough, and I didn’t understand why he was bringing it up now. I knew I’d asked for too much, but—

“So I… I could help you, again.”

My head snapped up. “What?”

“I don’t want you get an alpha,” the words were almost bitten out, as if I’d forced them out of him, but his eyes were fierce on mine.

“G— Get an alpha?” I repeated, the notion both terrifying and ridiculous. No alpha would take me like this, and we both knew it.

“You— the cubs and you, you need someone to take care of you, but…” His eyes went soft and pleading, impossible to look away from. “But I can do it, you don’t need to get an alpha.”

I gawked at him, overwhelmed with sadness and regret. He could do it, of course, and since he was unable to impregnate me, that would mean I could get through heat with just sex. Even if it lasted longer, I’d take in a heartbeat. “But you… who’s gonna take care of you?”

He shrugged a little, like he’d already discarded any concerns about his own needs. “You don’t have to, I’ll—”

“What? No!” Before I knew it, my hand was on his knee where his tunic had ridden up. “What the fuck, Zybyn? That’s not what I mean, of course… of course I will. I’ll take care of you, but…”

He shook his head, bringing his knees up, curling into himself and away from me.

And then it was as if my brain caught up to the strange meandering path of our conversation. I’d told him I loved him, and he hadn’t said it back—not that I needed telling, but it was how things went, when we did get mushy. Instead he’d spoken about my first heat, when I’d begged him until he’d fucked me like I’d needed.

“You want to be my alpha…” The words tumbled past my lips as if they had a will of their own and I startled almost as much as my twin once I heard them.

I cringed, mind racing to think of how to take it back but before I had a chance, he shook his head, eyes wide. “No, I’m— I’d never… I want… You’re my soul, Michuá,” he said at last, his shoulders went down and his body relaxed. “I love you,” he added and there was a certainty to him now, like something had settled. His eyes were clear, the truth shining in them as unquestionable as the sun. “I was born to love you and take care of you. That’s all, whatever form it takes.”

He loved me, of course he loved me, it was the only thing I had ever known for sure when I didn’t have claws and the nose of a predator. And he didn’t want me to get an alpha. “So you can help me, and I can… help you?” I checked.

“Yeah,” he didn’t look away, but I caught his hesitation anyway.

“Because… because you love me,” I continued, tentative, chest hurting, but I pushed through. For him. For us. “And I love you.”

His nod was still unsure. Words, I understood then, weren’t enough. Because there weren’t words for what he meant to me, he’d tried his best to tell me but here we were, suspended in time, unable to truly get through to each other.

It was unconscionable.

Maybe what he wanted to tell me wasn’t what I hoped, this clawing aching longing lodged in my throat and making my heart race. But I couldn’t bear to see him doubt, to have him watch me as if there could ever be any part of me that he couldn’t have. Any part of me I wouldn’t gladly give him.

There weren’t words, so I exhaled and leaned forward, using my hand on his knee to support my weight. I wasn’t moving fast and I thought he’d reach out for me, if only a steadying hand on my shoulder or side. Instead he didn’t move at all, watching as I hovered over him, naked and ridiculous and looking him right in the eye as I let him see it all—my fear, my desperation, the impossible almost unbearable love that had kept me alive in my darkest days. I licked my lips, swallowing past my dry mouth, and his eyes flickered down my face for a moment, and then I was close enough to feel his breath—wet and fast—and then I was closer still. Close enough my lips brushed his at last. I could feel them tremble for an infinite second before I pressed my mouth to his, drinking in his gasp and forcing myself into stillness. I could never be anything like— His hands were on my shoulders, strong and sure, and his mouth was kissing me back. He was clumsy with it and my position didn’t help, but I sucked on his lip, so grateful I could have fallen to my knees to thank the Moon if I hadn’t already been there.

Zybyn’s cut-off moan felt almost as good as it sounded and I licked at his teeth, just a swipe, wanting, hoping...

“Goddess,” he mumbled, turning his head a little to breathe. His hands were on my sides, and his calves were almost hooked around mine where I knelt between his spread legs. He was also holding both of our weights with some effort, I realised, since he had nothing at his back.

I straightened, the scent of him sharp and vital between us, struggling to keep my eyes on his face. Zybyn looked up at me, fingers digging into my skin. “Just…” I tried, then discovered I had to swallow. “Awkward position.”

He laughed, a happy carefree sound I’d almost forgotten. “Yeah,” he agreed, eyes stuck on mine like he couldn’t look away. He was glowing, like this meant as much to him as it did to me, like I’d given him a gift he couldn’t believe he deserved.

He did, though, more than.

When I lowered myself onto my side, he came with, hands relinquishing their hold even as his body drew closer, our knees bumping. “Can I…?” he asked, hand hovering over my side. But I knew what he was really asking.

I’d had him touching my belly already, but this would be different. This would be… This would be me telling him I’d share this part of myself, just as I shared every other part.

I was afraid too, because I wanted it so much. For him to love me, even like this, even after what had been done to me and could never be undone. “Yes.”

Zybyn didn’t go right for it, following the curve of my waist with gentle hands instead. “Your skin’s so soft…” he whispered in the space between us, eyes following his fingers. My cock twitched, though I couldn’t have said whether at the touch or the words. When he found the curve of my belly at last, there was no vacillation, just a tender sigh. That’s what he’d sound like when he held my cubs, I knew at once, like he couldn’t believe his eyes or his senses, like he had something precious and knew it.

I squirmed and it made me realise I was getting wet and clench against it. The scent was unmistakeable to us both and that gave my twin pause, a shudder running through him as I screwed my eyes shut.

It was his hand on my jaw, lifting my face to his for a soft barely-there brush of lips that made me open them again. “We don’t have to do that,” he told me. “You know we don’t have to do anything, right?” he added a little anxiously.

“Yeah,” I said quickly. “Yeah,” I repeated and put my hand over his own. “I…” My request became an action then as I tugged his arm around me and got my hand on his cheek to direct his mouth to mine. I licked at the seal of his lips and he gave way, easily, sucking on my tongue until I knew I was welcome, then giving me the same until we were drinking from each other’s mouths, needing to know and claim each and every crevice.

I couldn’t say if he pulled me closer or I did it myself, just that my nipples against his tunic made me squirm, pain and pleasure at once as I got the stimulation I needed but it was too rough. Zybyn moaned, arching into me, his knee slipping instinctively between my thighs, luxuriously bare against my cock and balls. My hips rolled into him, whimpers coming off me like air as I rubbed myself against him.

“Fuck, Michuá,” he said right into my ear. I’d lost track of the kiss, but I arched my neck for him to suck and scrape his teeth against and his hand between us, inevitably bumping into my stomach, shocked me enough to make me buckle.

Zybyn froze. “I was gonna—”

“Shhh…” I said harshly, I was shaking against him, overwhelmed, needy and hard as nails, so wet I knew I’d be making a mess of the furs. I breathed him in, his scent, his racing pulse, his careful stillness. It was nothing like the night of my first heat.

Much less like the second or any of the other times I had been used.

But there was one thing I hadn’t been able to forget, to stop wanting, and that was to have him inside me again, strong and hot, body melding into mine like a long-lost part of myself.

I tugged at his clothes, and he startled. “Oh, yeah…”

He sat up and pulled it over his head, leaving himself as bare as I was. Impossible to look away from. Strong and slim, skin like fertile soil, except for his cock, which jutted out darker with blood. It wasn’t big like an alpha’s, just a normal cock. I reached out slowly enough even a human would have had enough time to stop me, but Zybyn didn’t move from where he knelt in front of me, just let me take hold of the silky heat of him and grunted when I thumbed the head and spread his precome over the rest of him.

He let me lie him down on his back, going easily and unselfconsciously. For a moment, I remembered what had happened here in this cave, but I was on top of him and he was just arching into my strokes, eyes fluttering closed as he became overwhelmed and then opening again to seek out mine. His hands were by his sides, at least until I pushed myself and straddled his right knee, hissing as my arse cheeks parted, pressing his hot skin against my sack and opening up my wet hole to the chilly air in the cave.

“Fuck,” my brother said again under me, his hands were on my hips and he was arching into me. “Michuá, what… what do you want?”

“You,” I told him, almost angrily. It was the stupidest question in existence, so obvious voicing it was almost an insult, but Zybyn’s face was openly awed as he watched me. I gulped, forcing myself to stop rubbing myself against him. “I want to have you inside me.” I’d lost the bravery to look him in the eye halfway through.

His strong body trembled under mine as if overcome and I tightened my grip on his shoulders, stealing a glance. His eyes were squeezed shut and his cock head was white with precome once again. I didn’t need to ask if he wanted it too.

“When you… when you helped me, I couldn’t understand how it could better with an alpha,” I admitted, keeping my eyes on his body because I couldn’t bear to meet his eyes. “I mean, I just— You were so… you took care of me, and you gave me what I needed, and you… you held me.”

“Shh…” Zybyn said, his fingers tangling with mine over his chest. “Of course I held you, I’m never letting you go.”

“Me too, not if we have a choice…. Do we have a choice?”

“I don’t know,” my twin admitted. “But I want to. I want to try with you. I want to try to give you what you need.” His eyes flickered up my body. He lifted his other hand and reached for my dick, holding it tenderly before squeezing and rubbing up and down, making me yelp as sensation zinged through me.

“Zybyn!” I half moaned; half complained. And his grip tightened until I sighed, grinding down onto his thigh, getting my slick all over his skin.

His knee jerked up, giving me the pressure I need for just a moment before it went down again. He pulled on my erection as if to make up for it. “Fucking hell, Michuá! You’re—”

“Give it to me,” I cut in. “I’m—”

“Okay, okay, can you… lift yourself?”

I blinked my eyes opened, dazed. “What?”

“I… I have seen people do it, you can be on top of me.”

The idea seemed wildly strange, even though I had also seen people fuck that way. It was also absolutely perfect because while I wanted it, I wasn’t stupid enough not to realise… Well, the past never left us, not completely.

When I got on my knees, he let go of my cock and put both hands on my hips to help me keep my balance. I hesitated, then shook myself out of it, as amused as I was scared, then reached behind myself and took my brother’s cock to guide it right where I needed it to the wetness of my body.

He bit back a whimper. He was hard and soft at once, his skin slick with my desire and his, the heat of him craved and too much. But it was the way his thighs trembled under me, the way his nails dug into my waist as I lowered myself that truly made it impossible to hold back for long even as I opened myself up for him too fast. My body, grown complacent in the days since, protested the roughness of the sudden stretch.

Under me, Zybyn shook like he was coming apart, and didn’t move an inch.

I put my hand on his shoulder and pushed back his sweaty hair with the other, panting a little. “Hey.”

His eyes were moon dark, but he gave me a nod of reassurance anyway, fighting his body for my sake, like it was nothing, as if the instincts that had led us down these terrifying path now ending into this glorious togetherness were nothing but an inconvenience in the face of his love. Of our love. I squeeze around him as I pulled back up, and he threw his head hard enough that I heard the thump through the furs.

I swore, curling forward and hurriedly putting my left hand behind his neck to keep him from doing it again. It made his cock inside me change angles, turning the slowly rising pleasure into a sharp spike that had me digging my knees into his sides and shoving back. And then I was kissing him again, drinking from his mouth the joy I was giving, and receiving it back. The heat of him lighting me up from the inside each time I pushed myself down.

I slapped his side and demanded, “Help me.”

He surged under me like a boat torn away from the shore by the tide, the movement of his hips taking over my centre of gravity and forcing me to grab at his arms, tightening my legs around him as he let his own need surface to respond to my own. I pushed right back, knowing he could take it. All I wanted was more, of him. All I needed was more of him. And, impossibly, he seemed to know it, he seemed to share it, and he gave it to me, taking as he provided, holding as he was held, our bodies striking a perfect balance, reforging a bond of pleasure that couldn’t be denied. But this was not an equilibrium that could last, bodies were not strong enough to sustain such ecstasy for long; he sheathed himself inside me, true and mine, and I lost it, my cock throbbing in his fist, my arse clenching as I screamed and painted him with my seed.

When my arms gave out on me, trembling too hard to hold me, Zybyn took the burden of my heaving body, drawing me close and guiding me down by his side, legs still locked so he didn’t slip out of me. My hole twitched, sensitive, but I didn’t want him gone yet. I tugged at his arm, shifting my hips to indicate he should complete the roll. He went where I asked, pressing close and whimpering as he moved inside me again. My cock complained at the indirect stimulation, but my arse was intent on sucking him in, on… “Come inside me.” The words were past my lips already, gone and in the open between us.

Zybyn’s lips were parted in shock above me and I felt my face burn, but the moment I tensed, he was on me, taking hold of my face and kissing me deeply, hips thrusting again already, entering me faster now that he had more leverage. It was… too much, but it was also not enough. Maybe words weren’t quite enough, but those words were nothing but the truth. I wanted him to mark me this way, to leave something in me, to… to give me what I should have had from a mate.

And he could deny me nothing.

Chapter 8

Being a puma was as natural to me as being a man, but I’d never been a female puma before and it was not comfortable. It was also the way things were, quite simply, omega males started shifting into female animals the moment they were pregnant.

No one had bothered to tell me if I would go back to the body I’d been born with once the pregnancy was over, and now I had no one to ask.

We’d left the cave where Xander had kept us captive, not wanting the babies to be born in a place soaked with blood and trauma and knowing it’d be hard to travel once we had them. It also meant we were closer to civilization. Human civilization. But as dangerous as they could be, they were our safest option right now. To them, we’d just be two guys, they’d know we were brothers, but they wouldn’t be able to tell we were together with one sniff, and of course they wouldn’t question why the cubs were half tigers.

Any pack of shifters would have asked several awkward questions, and possibly tried to force us to mate, or… But that wasn’t going to happen, not if we stuck to our cave and soon to the cabin we were building deep in the forest but in walking distance of the small town by the riverside.

“Michuá?” My twin’s hand was gentle on my fur and I rubbed my head against him, asking to be petted. He snorted. “You’re such a house cat,” he teased me, but he was pressing close to my side, the hand that wasn’t on my head massaging my distended belly. They’d come soon, I knew because I couldn’t seem to shift back, but other than that, it was a waiting game.

***

I’ll spare you the details of the birth, but let’s say it made me consider speaking to my mother again. The first cub was the hardest to push out, but even though the second came easier, I had to stop after the fourth, body shaking with exhaustion. There was just one more after that, but of course Zybyn remembered the afterbirth had to be expelled too.

He cleaned them for me, shifting so he could lick them clean while I clung to consciousness by the tip of my claws. My eyes didn’t seem able to focus on the tiny bodies squirming against me, instinctively trying to latch onto my tits.

“Just rest, I’ve got them,” my brother told me, so I did, letting nature take its course, trusting him to steer mine.

***

The cubs were small enough to fit in the palm of Zybyn’s hand, though mostly they crowded against me to feed, their little mouths insistent and demanding, jostling each other and competing even though I actually had an extra tit. Zybyn arranged them in place so they’d all fit but they often squirmed themselves into a tangled mess of limbs while my brother and I slept and woke up mewling.

“Thank the goddess they’re kittens,” my twin commented one day, and I growled at him. From what we knew, they’d transform into babies the moment I shifted into my human form myself, which left me stuck. “Sorry!” he said at once, and that night he came back from hunting with a fat rabbit, a lot more meat than the birds and monkeys we usually hunted normally provided.

They all had tiger stripes, though very faint against their yellow fur and disappearing in their tails and feet. Other than that, there wasn’t any sign of who had fathered them, not in the shape of their paws or faces… Maybe I just couldn’t see it, and my twin wasn’t going to bring it up.

It didn’t matter. They would be loved and honoured and their blood was nothing but an unfortunate accident from the past. Something they’d never know of because it was not their pain to bear—I could do that. With Zybyn.

With Zybyn, I thought I could do anything.

***

Being back to my human form was almost as shocking to me as discovering their new shape was to our children. Oñi had started crying the moment he’d had lungs for it, loud and high-pitched and absolutely inconsolable until he set off Tia and Gio. I’d picked him up with trembling hands, knowing just enough about newborns to be acutely aware of how badly I could hurt him without meaning to. But he was able to hold his head up and once I brought him close to my body, he nuzzled at my chest until I gave in and let him suckle. I gasped at the intensity of it, but my baby calmed down at once like his human mouth made absolutely no difference to him as long as the milk came out.

I suppose he had his priorities straight.

Zybyn kept his calm, rocking the other four to sleep and placing them against my bare skin where they squirmed, probably curious about their new senses, but seemed to sense they were safe.

It wasn’t always that easy, but we didn’t do too badly, for a pair of teenagers with a whole litter and no support at all.

Epilogue

“They’re finally asleep,” my twin told me, collapsing next to me in our brand-new bed. I turned his way, curling around his warmth and nuzzling into his neck. He let out a little whimper as I sucked on his earlobe. “Michuá…”

“Too tired?”

“Mmm…” He tugged me closer but didn’t speak for a long time. “Would you like… I know I haven’t had a heat, but…”

My brain seemed to grind to a halt and then restart at double speed. “You want— Fuck, you want me to fuck you?” I had to make myself uncurl my fingers when I realised I was digging them into his back. I rubbed at the abused skin in apology, biting my tongue to keep all my other questions inside. We’d agreed I would help him when he went into heat, but all these months we’d done it the other way around.

Like he really was my alpha.

But he wasn’t, and he didn’t want to be. He’d told me himself. He nodded against my cheek, shaking a little.

“Shh…” I told him, rubbing his back. I wasn’t sure why he was so overwhelmed to ask me for what I’d gladly accepted from him. Maybe he was just nervous about the act itself—I could hardly blame him, sometimes I still couldn’t get my mind in the zone if I wasn’t on top of him. “I would love that. I… I would love to be that close to you.”

I heard him swallow and then exhale and slowly he moved back enough to meet my eyes. “You mean it,” he said, he had heard it in my voice. “You really…”

“What? You think I didn’t think about it before…” I shrugged, suddenly feeling like it was me on the spot, but he’d been brave and I could be too. “I really want to fuck you. I couldn’t… I always wondered, what if I hadn’t been a beta when you presented…”

“Oh,” Zybyn’s eyes were perfectly rounded. “That… I mean, that makes sense, it’s instincts and—”

“Zybyn!” I cut in, shaking his hip a little where I still held it. “Don’t be a total idiot, I wanted you. Do you still… do you still not believe me?” My voice grew thin. “That I love you?”

“No,” he said quickly. “I mean, I do, and I love you too, but… Michuá, I wanted you before. Before presenting, before… Remember when we practiced kissing?”

I paused, thrown. “When we were… thirteen,” I guessed. It’d been my first kiss, and my second and it’d got heated quickly enough that… “Yes, I—”

“I wanted you then,” Zybyn bit out, eyes flickering away like he wanted to hide from me, body tensing where he still let me hold on.

“Oh, goddess…” I said as slow realisation dawned on me. I was an idiot. “You did?”

Zybyn could only seem to manage a nod and my brain finally caught on to the fact that his rabbiting heart wasn’t a good sign. “Hey,” I said, squeezing his arm, then putting my hand on his chin and guiding his face up and close to mine. I pecked him on the lips, making him gasp in surprise—whatever it took to get him breathing. His lashes fluttered against my cheek and I pulled back, still close enough he couldn’t look anywhere but at me—his eyes shone in the low light of the candle we kept in our bedroom. “I wanted you too, I just—”

“You don’t need to say that,” he interrupted, shaking his head and dislodging my hand. He took my fingers in his, as if catching a kite about to fly off. “I know it was too much, I—”

“It was!” I quickly agreed and he lost steam, watching me. Maybe he could listen for more than a second now. “It was too much; I was a kid and it was… You were everything I loved, and the kissing was one thing, a little rebellion or whatever, but when I started getting hard from it…” I shook my head and met his eyes. “I was afraid.”

“Because the pack would have known?”

“Yeah.” I gulped hard, even just imagining the price we would have paid for a little love. “And then I would have lost you.”

“We could have found a way, gone to the lake or—”

I glared, crushing his fingers in mine. “Zybyn, there is no sex in the world that compares to having you by my side, not even sex with you.”

His words seemed to die in his throat, and he shook his head, swallowing, and then leaned forward to press his cheek to my shoulder, clumsily burrowing into me. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I was an idiot, and you hurt me.”

 “You are an idiot,” I told him fondly, cradling him in my arms. “But you’re mine, and whatever lies we have to tell out there to the humans, in this house, you’re my mate, the father of my children.”

Zybyn shuddered hard at those words. “Fuck, Michuá… I— I love you; I love them. I—”

“We are yours,” I promised. “You love us so we’re yours, and we love you, so you are ours.”

I tugged harder until he was fully on top of me and I could tangle my legs with his—it was impossible, of course, but it felt like we might have been tangled like that for months in our mother’s belly, the first position we’d known, the one our bones recognized as safety and love.

“Please,” he said, voice high and thready, with all the rearranging, his cock had ended up against my thigh—it throbbed, hard and ready.

He’d requested something else, though. Something I could figure out, even if… “Do you have anything to prepare…?”

My twin swallowed; body gone still. “You could… If you touch me, I think…”

I opened my arms in response and he moved away and laid himself face down next to me.

“Zybyn,” I said at once. “Turn around and look at me.”

He did, shrugging a little but not arguing.

As long as he realised I knew more about this than he did and listened, I had no interest in discussing it either. The memories were heavy enough without talking about them. I took hold of his ankles and arranged him with his feet on the ground and his legs a little spread; he was hard and his balls were swollen, a good sign to go with his obvious nerves. I started with his knees, running the tips of my fingers all the way to the soft downy hair of his inner thighs until I found the trail of pubic hair at the juncture of his legs and followed it low enough to find the swell of his arse. He twitched under my teasing hands, and I inhaled the scent of his arousal like I could devour it. “Michuá…” he whined. “I— I’m—”

“No one’s ever let me do this,” I explained, knowing I was playing dirty. But it was true for him as well and he deserved it, the care I was taking, the love I was trying to put on his skin.

His eyes widened and he struggled to raise his head, making the image of his body spread for me all the more enticing.

“Tell me if it’s really too much,” I offered. “Say… Say ‘puma’ and I’ll...”

He fell backwards with a huff. “Fuck it, do your thing.” He placed his open palms on the bedcovers—no furs in sight—and exposed his neck, as vulnerable as he could be without any bindings. I had to close my eyes and breathe, the show of trust almost too much for my already tortured cock.

I dragged my tunic over my head—with five babies, one hardly wanted to be adding to the washing—and got Zybyn out of his, palming his arse until he lifted it. “Off, off, off!”

He remerged with his dark hair—longer now—mused and his eyes heavy with need, and leaned back on his elbows to watch me like I was a meal.

I grinned back at him, preening a little. My body had mostly returned to its former litheness and I could certainly appreciate the interest now. Not that he hadn’t looked at me the exact same way when I was almost ready to pop. I held his gaze as I braced myself on his knees and leaned to breathe over his groin, exhaling deeply over his wet cock, tongue flicking over the head and sometimes the sides until he was leaking steady and shaking so hard that I had to brace my knees to stay in place.

I gave him a moment, unsure, then quickly collected some of his precome, making him bite down a scream and throw his head back hard enough I could hear his bones crack—thank the Goddess we no longer needed to do this on hard rocky floors. “Shh…” I soothed, using my clean hand to pet him. “Gonna get you ready now.” The words made his muscles seize under my palm and I paused, waiting. “Zybyn?”

“Mmm?”

“We good?”

In response, he let his knees fall open even further, exposing the darker skin between his arse cheeks. I couldn’t see his hole, not with his balls hanging heavy over it, but as I shuffled back and separated the tender flesh of his arse, I almost expected to find it shiny with slick already. It wasn’t, but it fluttered as I exposed it to the air and Zybyn’s hips jerked up as he let out a deep guttural groan.

Maybe he wasn’t wet for me—maybe it wasn’t something his body did any more—but he certainly wanted me. I rubbed my wet fingers over the wrinkled skin, and he clenched around them, gasping under me like I’d done a lot more than put some slick on him.

My own body imitated him, sympathetically and then I realised… What Xander had realised in the river. I couldn’t…

Zybyn rolled a little to the side, enough he could get his right elbow under himself and raise his head, frowning but still looking pretty out of it. “What happened? You suddenly…”

“I…”

His knee knocked my arm. “Michuá,” he said reprovingly. “Out with it, look where we are, man!”

I gulped, then closed my eyes and explained as calmly as I could, “I’m wet.”

“I know—” he cut himself off like he’d taken a punch to the stomach. “Oh.” His voice sounded thin, like something that’d broken, but when I risked a look at his face, his lips were parted and he was visibly flushing. “Yes,” he told me. “Please.”

I didn’t quite understand why neither of us were thinking of that time in the river, or I was really, I just didn’t care. It was my pleasure and it wasn’t being forced out of me by an arbitrary order but softly begged through skin and word and look by the person I loved most in the world.

And I wanted to share it with him. And Zybyn obviously wanted it too.

I gave him a sharp nod, then raised myself on my knees so I could reach my own hole with the same fingers that had touched his, that had worshipped his cock and his body. My own body gave me what I desired, ecstasy at my own fingers that made me ache from the inside out. It took me a few moments to realise it was Zybyn whimpering and not me, as if he could feel my nerves lightening up as I curled my digits to get as much of my own wetness out of myself as possible.

When I finally took my hand away from myself to bring around to him, I found my brother had his hand clenched tightly around the base of his erection, red and wetter than I’d left it. His eyes were on me like I was the moon, and I was trapped in their depths, my own body forgotten as I drank in his—the long lines of his limbs, the unmistakable proof of his desire, and the gleam of sweat that marked his patience.

His patience. His love. He’d waited for me. Even after I’d ran away from the powerful connection between us, too young to understand no laws or customs could matter in the face of our devotion to each other.

Slowly, I brought my fingers back to the v of his legs, gently lifting his sack to reach his hole. Placing the tips there, wet with my own slick, sent a rush of heat through me, like a spark had been lit and Zybyn moved against me, pushing back and taking the two of my fingers inside the impossible blazing grip of his body. And he kept taking, my hand and his hips finding a rhythm until I was pushing three fingers in and out of him with ease and he was moaning brokenly, saying my name again and again like he couldn’t stop.

And I couldn’t either, except…

“Fuck me!” he spat out suddenly. “Michuá, do it, fuck me!”

I scrambled to get close enough and align my cock—slippery with my own impatience—with the warm space where my fingers still resided. Pulling them out made Zybyn grunt in displeasure, but the head of my dick against his entrance turned the sound into a gasp and then I was falling, right into him, my body finding its path like it’d been marked by the stars, like there could have been no other.

It was home, not a place but a person, and his body opened to me like I was a long-lost part of itself, his arms coming up to my waist to drag me close enough to kiss. Just for a moment because being inside him was too much on its own without adding more to it and, in truth, I was too overwhelmed with pleasure to do more than press wet kisses to his mouth—by turns open to beg for more or closed so he could shove against my thrusts with all the considerable power of his own body.

The universe began and ended in him, my soulmate, somehow cruelly torn from me at birth. But now we were finally reunited again, our bodies recreating a bridge that the world had attempted to sever out of some imagined righteousness. There could never be anything right about anything that came between Zybyn and I, if there was one thing that was absolutely true, it had to be that.

He dug his heels into my sides and I sped up my thrusts, almost not pulling out, just rutting into him as he clawed at my arms and tried to catch another kiss that he’d lose almost at once, too distracted panting for air and trying to get more of my cock into him. I don’t know what it was, but my brain eventually caught on to the fact that I wasn’t close enough for his own cock to get the stimulation it needed. I covered him with my body at once, trapping his erection between us and making him scream on my next thrust inside him—a little awkward due to the angle—also gave him my stomach to rub against.

I pulled out a little, and he waited for me to return to him before exploding, marking me with his seed as he sobbed out my name and turned his head to the side, eyes scrunched shut as if he couldn’t bear to see me. My mouth found the exposed column of his neck like the sun finds the horizon, it was just there and it was mine. My teeth sank into the skin and I tasted blood and that was the final line to cross for my body to finish as well, filling him with my seed even as his blood filled my mouth—a cycle at last complete.

***

My body had cooled down enough that I appreciated the warmth of his body wrapped over me, but I couldn’t relax. “Are you… mad?”

Zybyn gave me a flat look, then dropped his head back on my shoulder. “Go to sleep, Michuá, I’ll give you your own tattoo in the morning.”

I snorted. “Idiot, it’ll fade.”

“It won’t,” Zybyn said with certainty.

And maybe, just maybe, he was right, and the Goddess could tell when a mating was true—no matter what stories the world had made up to explain her will.

I closed my eyes, his calm sipping into me. I didn’t know why, but for the first time in my life, I felt at peace and I could believe things would turn out alright.

***

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©2018 by N.J. Lysk. Contact NJLysk@lostinabook.org if there are any issues.