Cut scene #2 - The Beginning of Healing According to Ray

Originally, Beloved was written from Ray’s point of view like book 1 & book 2, when I decided I needed to let Josh have a say to even things out, all of Ray’s POV got cut. This is part of the original therapy sessions where they just sit in a café and talk things through, plus their progression into the bedroom.

 

“Ready?”

Ray nodded, rubbing his thumb against the flat surface of the spoon. It was good to have something to focus on that wasn’t words. It wasn’t words he was afraid of, of course, but they had the power to bring it all back.

“I thought of a better question,” Josh warned. Ray nodded, still braced for it. “Were you attracted to men before you presented? Physically, I mean.”

Ray exhaled, then nodded. That wasn’t that hard. He’d been embarrassed about it when he’d been a kid, but he’d got over that eventually. He was certainly over that now.

“Okay,” Josh said with approval. “Another one: did you have a crush on Gabriel?”

That made Ray jerk in surprise. For a second, he couldn't help but wonder if Gabriel had told him. But of course that was nuts, Gabriel wasn't one to share. He'd barely been able to admit it to Ray, there was no way he'd tell Josh. "Yeah," he said, shrugging.

“Me too,” Josh replied with a smile shining through in his voice. Ray snorted, feeling a little more relaxed but not quite ready to lower his guard yet. He was right. Josh’s next question was serious. “And me?”

Ray knew the answer to this one, but he could guess where the next questions would go when he answered in the affirmative.

“It’s okay,” Josh said, too quickly. He was afraid of the answer. “I’d rather you…”

“Oh, shut up,” Ray interrupted. Josh had always been too modest for his own good. “The answer is yes. Yes, I wanted you.”

“Oh.” Ray didn’t say anything, or look up, and after a minute Josh cleared his throat and kept going. “What did you want to do with me?”

“I…” The truth was that he’d tried not to think about it, and when he’d been too sleepy and tired and turned on to resist, he’d just thought of basic stuff. Nothing too gay, nothing too scary. Even in the privacy of his own head, he hadn’t dared think about touching his best friend in any way that couldn’t be excused as teenage horniness. He shrugged. “Kissing, and… I don’t know. I was really young.”

“You mean you stopped… wanting to?”

“What? No, just… I tried not to think about it. I was worried I’d give myself away if I did.”

“I see,” Josh said, then added, casual as may be. “Did you want to fuck me, Ray?”

Ray startled badly enough to rattle the table between them. He glanced around the café to see if anybody had seen. Nobody seemed to care; it was still better than looking at Josh. His face was burning and he was suddenly sweaty. “I…” He managed before he couldn’t speak anymore.

“It’s okay,” Josh said softly. He slowly reached for Ray’s hand. Ray had to concentrate to leave it on the table. Josh’s touch was more caress than grip—Ray could pull his hand away any moment. 

He didn’t, he kept breathing. In and out. In an out. 

“Gabriel said he wanted some of those light bricks, right?” he asked and his voice almost sounded normal.

“Yeah, and we promised Marisa a reading lamp,” Josh responded. His voice was overly casual, but they’d promised each other they’d stop if it got to be too much, and they had. Josh hadn’t even made him ask.

Ray didn’t see why he didn’t trust himself to treat Ray right if he became First Alpha—but he was starting to realise that he had to trust Josh to follow his own heart, not just Ray’s wishes.

 

&

 

"I thought they'd never fall asleep," Ray said to Sergi, who'd been in charge of bedtime officially. Unofficially, Jamie still wouldn't go to sleep unless he was allowed to drink milk directly from the source. Before he'd been taken, Ray had been slowly getting him use to a bib but the fright had left them both desperate for contact and... He couldn't handle hearing him cry. Not so soon after. "I need to do the bib thing again, or I'm never going to be allowed to do anything else ever again."

"What do you want to do?" Sergi asked from where he was sprawled on the ground next to the bed. He'd had to sit there because lying on the bed would have meant falling asleep himself. Ray wouldn't have minded, but Sergi insisted that at twenty-three he didn't want a seven pm bedtime.

"I don't know... draw, I guess," Ray said. He wasn't that tired but he felt half-asleep already, like his thoughts weren't quite running as they should.

Sergi rolled over and onto his feet fast enough to be a blur to Ray's eyes. He was abnormally fast even for a werewolf.

"Can I?" He checked, hand poised above the Ray's desk drawer. Ray nodded and Sergi efficiently got out a pad. "What do you want? Crayons? Pencil?"

"The 6B," Ray said and Sergi brought it all over, placing the pad on Ray's knees and playfully yanking the pencil away when Ray tried to reach for it.

Ray snorted. "If you think I've the energy for keep-away..."

Sergi smiled and held his hand still long enough for Ray to take hold of the pencil, then refused to loosen his hold. Confused, Ray raised his eyes and only then realised his palm was half wrapped around Sergi's hand. It was such a childish strategy. But Sergi's face was perfectly serious. 

Ray hesitated. The pad was still on his lap and he didn't want to give the wrong impression, but he couldn't ignore what Sergi clearly needed from him. And he didn't want to.

He tugged both pencil and hand towards his own waist and arched up until he could press a kiss against his alpha's stubbled cheek. "Thanks," he whispered right in Sergi's ear.

Sergi let go of the pencil and straightened back up looking a little flushed. "Go on, then, go have a shower and see if dinner will be done soon. I probably only have a few minutes before one of them starts getting twitchy."

"You can call me if you need me," Sergi said at once.

"I know I can," Ray promised. 

Sergi still seemed reluctant but he limited himself to a wistful glance Ray's way before he left the room.

Ray didn't think it was sex his alpha needed—none of them had given any signs that missing the full moon with him had made them more anxious to have him. They didn't even seem to have the normal level of interest he'd come to expect from them, but after what Nicholas had done, Ray could hardly bring himself to think about sex, much less...

Whatever it was, he'd take it.  

He propped the pad on his bent knee and got to work. He had pictures aplenty, but he'd never drawn them before—the very people he never wanted to stop seeing in his mind.

By the time Alec came to call him for dinner, he'd managed to get them all pencilled in—even if Sasha had turned over in her sleep and forced him to redo both her and Maria's leg.

"Wow," Alec said, staring at the pad. "You're amazing..."

Ray blinked up at him, eyes adjusting to the low light. The sun had gone down at some point—it was probably only his superior vision that had allowed him to see in the darkened room at all. "Thanks."

"No, seriously, that's..." Alec looked back at the sleeping babies, then back at Ray. "Will you... paint it over? Or colour it or something?"

"Um, sure, I could try. Sergi got me all those supplies, I should use the paint before it dries up."

"You should," Alec agreed, his eyes sparkling with pleasure. "I mean, I don't know anything about art, but this..."

"I think maybe you're a little biased," Ray teased, shading in Jamie's hair.

"Oh," Alec said in a deep voice, and when Ray glanced up he saw Alec was smiling at him, soft and pleased. Like... like he was proud of Ray. "I know I am."

Ray looked away, feeling his face heat up. He didn't know why they all had to be so damned impressed with it. He knew he didn't have any particularly impressive skills, he'd never done anything beyond what had been taught in school, really. He stood up and dropped the pad on his desk, perhaps a little too loudly. But the babies didn't seem to hear. "Dinner's ready, right?"

He took a step towards the door but Alec didn't move out of his way. "Did I… What did I do?" His pulse was too fast, and too late Ray remembered how sensitive his alpha was—much as he tried to hide it.

"Oh, no. It's just..." Ray waved and then he blurted it out, "Sergi said something about liking my paintings, and it's nice and all. But I was actually going to learn how to do it properly. Before, I mean, and..."

"And now you are here?" Alec guessed.

Ray swallowed. "Pretty much."

"Do you want to take some classes at college?"

"But how's that going to work?" Ray glanced at the bed, feeling tired all over again. "Jamie's not going to sleep without me."

Alec turned and glanced about the room. "What happened to the bib?"

Ray licked his lips. "I... I was freaked out, so I stopped it. I think he was upset, too."

Alec sighed, sounding exactly like a doctor whose patients had ignored his advice. "Well, we'll start on it again. It's not good for either of you if you can't go anywhere."

Ray nodded. "Can you remind me? That I shouldn't... give in, I guess?"

He knew it was hard for Alec to be firm with him—the man avoided conflict like a cat avoided water—so when he nodded, Ray stepped up to him and squeezed him close for a moment. Just long enough for it to register, and then he stepped around him. "Come on, I'm starving and you've been torturing me with that roast all afternoon."

 

&

 

They’d agreed to go back to the city, but they chose another café each time. Sometimes Ray still couldn’t keep from checking if someone was listening, but at least he knew that if they were, they probably couldn’t follow the conversation.

“I’m going to ask again,” Josh warned. He gave Ray a moment to adjust to the idea before he actually did. “Did you want to fuck me?”

Ray didn’t recoil this time. He’d made himself think about it, huddled in front of the TV with all of them around but none of them paying him any mind. A place where he was safe if the things in his own head got to be too much for him to handle… He knew the answer now. “Yes.”

Josh inhaled shakily and Ray looked up to see him looking flushed. It took him a moment to smell the first tendrils of arousal. Josh blushed even hotter. “Sorry, I—”

“I don’t want to anymore,” Ray added, and that seemed to confuse Josh enough to distract him from whatever had got him so bothered.

“You don’t?” he asked, and he almost seemed disappointed. Ray was a little sorry, too, like when he’d eaten 24 packs of Cheetos and ended up never being able to even smell them without wanting to throw up.

Except there was no memory or experience to put him off. He remembered thinking about pushing his cock into Josh’s arse. He’d wondered if it’d be tighter than a girl’s cunt, or hotter. He’d jerked off so much he’d chaffed despite how fast his superficial wounds healed.

And now it simply seemed odd. He shook his head. “If I think about it… it just feels… Not wrong, but, boring? Unappealing, I guess.” He realised what he’d said and winced. “No offense, it’s not—”

“Of course not, I asked you. I wanted to know.”

Ray licked his lips and offered, “We could try it? Can try anything once.”

Josh shook his head. “I wouldn’t want to, not if you’re not into it, too.”

Ray hesitated, then nodded. He’d been generous with his body all along because they needed him to, but he didn’t really want Josh to push him any further than their instincts demanded. He was kind of disappointed that the desire was gone when he’d never even got to try, but it was like wishing you were hungry simply because there was an appetizing meal in front of you.

Maybe one day he’d grow bored or curious, or hungry for it again. But for now… he wanted the chance to grow bored. He wanted to find a new normal, a new self that was free to use his body for pleasure as well as duty.

“Next question,” Josh told him. But it wasn’t enough warning for it. “Did you want me to fuck you?”

He hunched over, exhaling slowly. “I thought about it,” he explained. “Because I didn’t want you to think that I would ask without offering.”

“Ray the fair,” Josh said almost teasingly. He could joke but if you spent your developing years arbitrating fights between your siblings, quickly assessing what was fair became a valuable skill. “Sorry,” he added after a moment. “Go on.”

Ray shrugged. “I could never… I tried to picture it, and… fingers. Didn’t do much for me. I’d have done it anyway, I mean, if you had…”

Josh was breathing a little raggedly and Ray didn’t need to look up from the table top to know he’d affected him deeply. Josh was keeping his arousal to himself, somehow he could concentrate enough to keep Ray’s wolf from thinking it needed to prepare for his alpha. Ray was grateful—but he couldn’t stop being nervous about it. Especially because the next question would only make things worse…

“Do you want to go look at wiring for the rabbit cages?” Josh asked, and Ray’s head snapped up in surprise.

Josh was still a little pinker than usual, but he only offered him an embarrassed shrug when Ray looked at him askance.

 

&

 

“I think we should have our next conversation in private,” Josh said as he put Sasha down on the sofa. Ray blinked at him in surprise from where he’d been adding items to their online shopping list. Marisa had called him an idiot when he’d said they just went to the shop and picked up whatever they needed instead of planning ahead what to buy. Josh was supposed to be helping Alec bath the babies.

“What?” Ray asked. He couldn’t help the alarm, after all, he knew what the next question was going to be and he knew what consequences the answer would have.

“Not because of that, Ray,” Josh said, almost sadly. “Because I might make you… If I get turned on enough, I might not be able to stop it from affecting you. We are not doing anything about it. No matter what.”

It was an outrageous promise for an alpha to give his omega. Alphas weren’t even meant to be able to control themselves around an omega they’d claimed—not that they often had reason to try. 

But Ray believed him. After all, before Josh had done it, Ray hadn’t even known an alpha could stop himself from projecting his arousal onto the closest omega.

Josh had waited for him to agree, but he hadn’t seemed particularly pleased about it or anything.

Not that he had much to look forward to if all they’d be doing the next day was sit in a room together and get painfully turned on without any hope of relief.

He got pulled from his grim thoughts by the sound of Alec yelling at Josh for his prolonged absence. He set the computer down and picked up his daughter from where she was trying to crawl under the rug. There was something about the smell of it that seemed irresistible to the pups. “No,” he told her. “We just got you clean. No way are you messing that up when I’m in charge. Alec would kill me.”

 

&

 

He’d wanted to have a nice relaxed evening with his pack, but even the betas’ presence couldn’t keep his mind away from the ideas Josh’s proposal had brought to the forefront of his mind. His brain must have been blocking it before—trauma, or shock, or simply the stress—but now that he’d noticed that he hadn’t felt any of his alphas’ arousal for weeks, he couldn’t help but wonder. Could they all turn it off so it wouldn’t affect him like Josh did? 

In a way, it had been a relief not to have to take responsibility for what they made him want, until Nicholas. Suddenly the alpha influence had seemed overwhelming and invasive, not just uncomfortably intense, but wrong. Ray’s own will had been stronger than that, stronger than his own wolf even.

He still wanted things. He still wanted sex.

But deep down, that was what he’d been afraid of. It didn’t matter if he’d managed to overpower the wolf once—in very specific circumstances—because he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep it up. He could insist on going through a few heats on his own—and his alphas would probably agree to it as long as he physically removed himself from their vicinity—but it would never work for long.

Heat wasn’t optional for an omega, and he couldn’t afford to think it might be. Hope was all well and good, but only when there was a decent chance it might work or that you’d never find out either way. Ray had been telling the others for months now; but maybe somewhere in his head where he’d needed to hide to survive what his body was going through, he’d kept the last tendrils of his own miserable dream. 

It was time to let it go: he needed to get rid of any shirts that scratched against the sensitive skin of his nipples—because they’d always be sensitive now, either from being drank from or because of a pregnancy—and give away his razor—the facial hair wouldn’t come in again with the pregnancy hormones rushing through his body.

But that wasn’t all that there was to it. Josh had asked about Ray wanting to fuck someone, instead of the other way around, and the alphas and he had exchanged blowjobs in the past. Outside of heat, there were options—and he’d spend most of his life not in heat. It wasn’t little.

 

&

 

“I have a question,” he told Josh as soon as they were settled on the armchairs next to his own window with steaming cups of tea.

Josh closes his mouth, then nods. “Sure, what?”

“You said you thought it’d be hard to control, to… keep it to yourself, I guess. But how have you been doing it at all? The way they talked about it, alphas can’t help it.”

Josh frowned. “I know. But I really didn’t want to…” He licks his lips with a cautious look at Ray. “You were busy, I didn’t want to make it worse for you. So I told myself I’d go in a bit, I thought about food a lot, that distracts the wolf.”

“You weren’t thinking about food in the café,” Ray pointed out. He remembered how Josh had flushed.

“No,” Josh said, looking down. “I was thinking about you. I wanted to know what you felt, so… I just kept the wolf down, I guess. It’s like holding a horse’s reins really short? You have total control. They keep tugging a little but it’s mostly okay.”

“Oh, it sounds uncomfortable.”

“Tense,” Josh corrected. “It’s an effort, but it doesn’t hurt me, and it makes me happy to know you’re okay and you can tell me whatever you really feel.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to thank him, but in the end he settled for something neither of them had any reason to argue with. “Me too. I didn’t we’d be able to talk about this at all.”

Josh smiled, then asked, “Can I ask then?”

Ray waved at him to get on with it.

“Do you want me to fuck you?” Josh said. They’d both known it was coming but the air between them seemed to vibrate at a different rate after it was said anyway.

Ray exhaled, eyes firmly on the ground where he wouldn’t be able to catch even a hint of what his mate was feeling. His wolf wasn’t being influenced by the alpha’s pheromones or magic yet, but that didn’t mean it’d take much for it to figure it out. It wouldn’t change his answer. He’d thought of it last night in this very room, as free from influence as he could be.

“Ray?” Josh sounded a little concerned.

“Yes,” he bit out, almost a dare—whether to himself or Josh, he couldn’t be sure.

Josh exhale was more than half whimper, and Ray looked up in concern to find he was clutching the arms of the chair hard enough that one of his nails had gone into the stuffing. “It’s okay, I don’t mind feeling it now. You can…”

Josh didn’t need to be told twice; he released whatever hold he’d had on his wolf and Ray’s wolf sat up to attention. Ray found his hips shifting on the comfortable chair as his insides grew slick for his alpha and when Josh caught the scent, the intensity of the need became so strong that he had to bend double to keep from through himself to the floor and positioning himself to be taken. He kept his own nails digging into his thighs, using the pain to keep the pleasure at bay. And he heard Josh do the same, breathe through it till he could manage to calm down.

“We need more tea,” Josh finally said after a few minutes. He had circled around to stand behind his chair, establishing a barrier between their bodies. “I’ll go make it.”

“Wait,” Ray called out, still feeling weak, “when did you teach this to the others…?”

Josh barely paused to answer, too intent on getting away. “I didn’t.”

And then he left, leaving behind the teapot and everything else. Ray didn’t call him back—he obviously needed a moment alone and he wasn’t feeling too steady himself—without even going into the mess he was sure to find in his underwear.

He went to the toilet and cleaned himself up as best he could without having a shower. But that didn’t stop his mind from churning away. Something was up. Either one of the others had figured out the trick for it—unlikely, considering they’d all been told it wasn’t possible—or… It felt like his blood was freezing in his veins. Could the wolves tell?

Josh’s voice brought him back from his thoughts. “Ray?

His friend didn’t actually have any tea but he’d picked up another packet of digestives on his way back. His face looked scrubbed clean. And for once, having him there didn’t ease the worry in Ray’s gut. He just wanted to stop wondering, to kill that last flicker of hope once and for all and move on. It would not be the life he’d planned on, but it would be his. He could make it his, he knew it. And Josh and the other alphas were more than willing to help.

“Are there any more questions you need to ask?” he demanded. It came out almost angry but he didn’t regret.

Josh put the biscuits down without quite looking down. He was calmer but he clearly hadn’t forgotten Ray’s words or the resulting effect. Josh took a step closer, ignoring Ray’s stiff posture to take hold of his hand. His other hand came up to cup Ray’s face with a tenderness that was almost painful. It was all Ray could do to keep his eyes on his face. “Are you sure?” Josh asked softly.

Ray swallowed. He was. If he needed a First Alpha, he wanted Josh. He wasn’t so sure about everything else. He didn’t know if Josh still would want him when it was time to go through with it, or if he’d remember whose hands had been on Ray’s body last. He didn’t know if he could forget those hands and welcome his friend’s touch.

He wasn’t sure the ritual would work if he couldn’t stop being afraid.

Josh brought him closer, holding him as delicately as if he was made of glass. Ray leaned into him, digging his fingers into his friend too hard. Josh didn’t complain, and his voice was still kind and calm when he spoke, “we’ll do it tomorrow then.”

Ray startled, but Josh’s embrace held. “I told you nothing would happen today,” he explained.

Ray snorted, half laugh, half relief. 

 

&

 

“I have one more question,” Josh said as soon as they were alone. They hadn’t really gone far down the hill, just enough for moderate privacy—their whole pack was aware of what they were doing, but that they didn’t want it witnessed.

Ray dropped the bag of supplies on the ground and turned to look at him, understandably wary. He understood why Josh was worried—hell, he was worried enough himself, even with all the talking they’d done beforehand, it’d still be the first time he was going to get fucked since Nicholas had forced him.

But that was exactly why he couldn’t bear to put it off any longer. If they tried it, he might freak out—even with the wolf on Josh’s side—but if they didn’t… Well, he’d have to keep worrying about it until the moon rose and he had no choice left. Ray didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to his body anymore, he didn’t appreciate Josh’s insistence on managing one of the few he did have.

Josh knew it, too. “Don’t worry,” he told him at once, “I’m not going to take it back.”

That eased the hold on Ray’s insides enough that he could joke, “Sure, now I’m not worried. It’s not like you’ve been finding the most embarrassing questions known to man to ask me for the last three weeks.”

Josh tried for a smile, and failed. He was nervous, too. Of course he was, he was probably more concerned about hurting or scaring Ray than Ray himself. “Okay, you can worry then. But I realised I never asked for specifics. You said you wanted me to… to fuck you. But did you enjoy it?” he asked, and he sounded so pained to be asking. 

Ray almost swallowed his own tongue. He wanted to say yes, that simply, that honestly. It was what Josh needed to hear, but there was only so far he could stretch the truth.

“Sometimes,” he said instead.

Josh flinched, and Ray had to force himself to keep looking. “It’s not that. I… I want to,” he admitted. When he imagined it, the idea turned him more than a little now. He knew he hadn’t felt that way about getting fucked before presenting, but that was abstract, and the arousal that coursed through him was very real. And it didn’t even have to do with the wolf, the wolf felt arousal only when the moon was high, or one of the alphas was turned on—it didn’t give a fuck about Ray’s fantasies.

“You want me to fuck you, even though you don’t enjoy it?” His friend asked between gritted teeth. Any other man might have been offended, but Josh was simply sad. He didn’t really have a choice himself, Ray realised all of sudden, and he almost wanted to take it back. He could bear whatever pain an unfulfilled heat entailed, if only… But that was the fantasy, if anything was, of course. He couldn’t stop needing it, even if he didn’t need right this second, and Josh knew it too well to be fooled.

No, he couldn’t take the easy way out. He had to explain, to somehow describe his own half-buried lust, to show Josh that it could be true between them without any magic or pull.

“I do enjoy it,” he said slowly, trying to infuse the truth into his voice, to convince Josh that his rapid pulse wasn’t the mark of a lie. He was just upset, it was just too much. “Only not always. Sometimes… the instincts are too much.”

Josh nodded for him to go ahead. His eyes were dark and attentive, almost like he was taking mental notes. “What times?”

“I don’t like heat, I don’t…” he swallowed the words. He could do that much, even if he had to clench his hands hard enough to hurt to keep the images away. It wouldn’t have been accurate to say he hadn’t enjoyed heat; he’d come his brains out several times, after all. But he hadn’t liked it. He didn’t want to feel like sex was something that was happening to him, instead of something he was doing. And he didn’t want to pay for the pleasure…

“You don’t want to get pregnant,” Josh said, getting right at the heart of it.

And it shouldn’t have been news to anybody, but he’d never said it before. Josh had no way of knowing it other than from having watched Ray closely. Pregnancy was never easy, particularly not when it was a large litter, but…

“No…” he confirmed, a little shocked at himself.

Josh looked more resigned than anything else, and it was only then than Ray realised he’d expected him to resent Ray for saying it. All through it Ray had done nothing but hope he’d feel better about it once the pups were born, but loving them didn’t change how helpless he’d felt. The idea of going through it again still made his stomach roil.

He hadn’t wanted Josh to pity him for it. Not when it couldn’t be helped. Not by Ray and certainly not by Josh, not beyond what they’d all do to keep the pregnancies as spaced out as possible for all of their sakes’.

He shoved the thought away, reached for something that he could give his mate instead.

“I liked that time on the sofa, and when you…” He had to swallow at the memory. “When you sucked me off in your room.” He knew he was blushing by the way Josh’s eyes were tracking the colour on his cheeks. 

“You didn’t care that they were watching us?” Josh asked, sounding shocked.

Ray frowned. “I don’t even remember that, it didn’t… You were so…”  He couldn’t find the words for how Josh had touched him like he was something precious, something he could lose at any time. No, not something, someone. Josh’s every touch had coaxed him closer, woken his skin to the magic of contact and begged that Ray look at him, touch him bac k. Love him. He couldn’t have said it then, but now he knew why it’d been so different with Josh, why it hadn’t mattered when they others had watched and even helped with their clothes. For a few minutes, Ray had been the centre of Josh’s world and he’d reached out and made Josh the centre of his.

“I’d like to suck you off,” Josh said, eyes flickering down Ray’s body. “If you want.”

Ray knew that wouldn’t do for the ritual, but what the hell? Why shouldn’t they enjoy themselves? He nodded, and Josh was on his knees in front of him without even taking off his jacket or putting any of the blankets on the ground. Ray lost his chance to remind him of it in a gasp of surprised pleasure as Josh put his mouth right against his cock and sucked through the cloth.

 

&

 

His friend’s beautiful hazel eyes were more pupil than iris when he looked up at him.

“Blanket,” he reminded him, and Josh seemed almost annoyed, but he turned and dragged one of the thick woolly ones from the backpack. Ray reached and helped him put it down, hands trembling slightly and not from the slight chill of the night. By the time the blanket was settled, they were both kneeling on it and Ray found it easy to lean in and kiss Josh. His alpha moaned and took hold of his neck to keep him in place for his tongue to explore his mouth. Ray whimpered, feeling himself harden in his trousers. He wasn’t wet, though. It wasn’t Josh’s arousal pushing his own, like he’d got used to in the last year. He still got hard on his own sometimes, but he couldn’t remember the last time it’d happened in the alphas’ presence.

Before he could get too lost in those thoughts, though, Josh reached for his zipper and lowered it fast enough to make him jump. His friend used his distraction to push him down on his back and with a final bruising kiss, abandoned Ray’s mouth to crawl down his body. Ray could barely hold back a groan as Josh’s fingers slid up his shirt, a little rough but careful as they cupped Ray’s hips and then slid back down to his buttocks, dragging Ray’s underwear down until his cock sprang free. 

He glanced down his own body at that, just in time to catch Josh leaning in to lick a line down the line of his erection. The sight had him clutching at the ground and twisting his hips to seek more contact. Josh kept him from knocking him away in his enthusiasm.

Ray was almost ready to beg, but Josh didn’t tease, just circled a hand around the base of Ray’s dick and sucked the head in, tongue tucked in snug against the delicate skin. Ray squirmed, biting his lips uselessly to try and keep his whimpers in check. Josh sucked harder still and Ray’s hips snapped to meet him. His cock slid deep and smooth, barely finding any resistance.

Josh was on top of him, but for a moment at the height of his arch, Ray froze. And then Josh sucked, pushing his tongue against Ray’s dick even as his throat closed against the head. Ray twisted his head, wild and desperate to come, and thrust again without even meaning to. His lover didn’t pause or hesitate, just pushed harder against him—like breathing was a fancy illusion—and used his grip on Ray’s buttocks to force him to fuck harder into the silky heat of his mouth. It was too much, too fast, too soon. Ray cried out as his orgasm rose, nerves singing and muscles about to snap, and finally, he came—this time, nobody else’s finale announced his own.

He blinked his eyes open, hands unclenching and skin cooling too fast in the night air, and stared at the stars above in a daze. It was the first time he’d come on his own in… He couldn’t even remember. Josh’s face was resting on his thigh registered slowly, his breathing stirring the hair on Ray’s groin. The image made a shiver run through him, like his body couldn’t quite accept that it was done.

Josh’s eyes opened and met his and had to swallow. Because suddenly, despite the fact that his alpha was completely dressed, Ray could tell how aroused he was. Like Josh’s control had slipped for a moment and his desire shone through whatever shield he put up to protect Ray.

He could hardly comprehend that he could manage to wait if he felt that way—and then he saw that Josh’s right arm was curled against his own body and pressed against the bulge in his trousers. “Don’t…” he started, pushing on his elbow.

Josh rolled onto his knees, groaning as he pushed into his own hand.

Transition to fucking

He’d been afraid it’d remind him of what had happened. But even though they were under the sky and the moon was close to full, it was impossible to take Josh’s expression on top of him for anything but utter devotion. If anything, it was the intensity of his love that frightened Ray now. He thought of asking Josh to stop, just to test it—but he simply couldn’t bear it. He’d had Josh before. No, he’d let Josh have him, but never after he’d admitted to himself, to them both, that he wanted it. And he didn’t just want it, he felt like if Josh’s skin stopped touching him for even an instant, he might combust with the absence. Their touch burned, but  it also sated a thirst Ray hadn’t known himself capable of.

The wolf was there too, the mating instinct and the need to possess and mark and own. But so were the air and the moon and the grass where the blanket had rolled over. They were part of the world, part of him, but not his core.

He’d been so afraid of what it meant to want another man that he’d forgotten to think on what it meant to want someone you loved. It was like nothing else. He’d watched Josh’s body from afar for so long, even without meaning to, because Josh himself had always demanded his attention. And now every thought, every unrealised touch and imagined shiver became fact under his hands, his mouth, his cock trailing precome on Josh’s taut stomach muscles.

“Ray,” his friend panted as he bottomed out inside him. Ray could feel him shaking with the intensity of it where he was clawing at his back to keep him there. “Please.”

fucking

Pulling his mouth from those lips was almost painful, but Ray did it. He allowed himself only a handful of breaths before he used the hand on Josh’s neck to bring it down to his mouth. He tasted of sweat, salty and a little sour, but also of something sweet that Ray couldn’t explain. Maybe because it didn’t have an explanation, he thought as his teeth sank into the tender skin. Josh moaned loud and broken, cock jerking madly inside Ray’s arse as he started to come and for a moment Ray saw white as the intensity of the new bond and the sex both overwhelmed his senses.

Josh's shirt was still on and scratchy under Ray's cheek. Maybe it wouldn't be enough to get rid of his own wardrobe, maybe he needed to replace Josh's as well. They could have born the cold if they'd wanted to, but once they'd began, they hadn't been able to wait. He didn't mind, their clothes were sweaty and come-stained but he couldn't regret the way their scents were mixing all around them. 

"Alright?" Josh whispered, and Ray could feel it resonate as well as hear it.

"Yeah," Ray whispered back. He was a little sore, but it was fading fast. He'd pushed Josh into doing it without enough preparation but his body was made to withstand a lot more than a desperate fuck on the ground and he was already half healed. Or maybe he just didn't care. It was hard to, getting to hold Josh the way he was.

"Do you want to go inside?"

Ray hesitated. He wasn't sure he wanted to face the others. They'd known he'd chosen Josh as First alpha, of course--it'd have done no good to try and hide it—but it was bound to bring some strong emotions, anyway.

He wasn't ready to talk about it, to talk about what he really felt for Josh. He'd said it out loud, sort of, but he'd made no promises.

And Josh had made him none either.

It didn't make the way he was curled up in his friend's arms any safer; it wouldn't keep him from dreaming about more... But it was a line, at least, that he hadn't crossed.

And if things didn't go well... Well, he wouldn't have to resent Josh for it.

"Yeah, but..." He sat up, eyeing the house to keep his gaze firmly aware from Josh's. "I'd rather not get into it with the others. I just..." He waved a hand, hoping the gesture would do.

"Of course," Josh agreed at once. "They know, they don't need to... They won't mind."

Ray nodded and tried to get to his feet, but Josh's hands on his waist tightened instead of loosening their grip and he almost stumbled before his friend followed him up. Ray glared, annoyed. "What..."

But he'd made the mistake of looking and once he did, he couldn't look away. Josh's eyes seemed to sparkle in the moonlight and he was watching Ray like he was spellbound. Ray watched him right back, completely unable to explain it but just as caught. His chest hurt, he realised, because his heart was beating too fast, and he was cold too even though the weather hadn't changed. He didn't even notice he was shivering until Josh placed a hand on his neck and rubbed gently. It shouldn't have helped but his touch almost burned the exposed skin there and sent a flush up Ray's neck to his face that made him gasp for breath.

It wasn't even arousal, nothing like what the alpha wolf could made him feel.

"Ray..." Josh said softly and Ray's only response was to moan softly—it felt like something in him was breaking free—and sway in his hold. And then they were kissing again; wet and desperate and messy, pressing against each other hard enough to hurt—except pain didn't even seem possible right then. There wasn't any pain in a world in which Josh held him fast to his body and devoured his mouth like there was no other source of oxygen in the universe. Ray kissed him back like he wouldn't have minded giving him his last breath and pushed their hips together like he really believed what his body was telling him was true—they could never get close enough.

After the second time, they did manage to get inside. They got in through the kitchen and sneaked into Ray's room like teenagers. They were about as careful, too, so the others must have been pretending not to hear them.

Ray didn't care. He couldn't stop. He felt like he was crashing, like he'd been a star orbiting Josh for months, years, decades, and now he'd lost the battle against gravity and he was doing where he was supposed to at last. Their bodies met like two pieces of a whole that had been torn but whose jagged edges had never lost their sharpness—two parts that could only become complete again together.

 

&

 

He woke with the first rays of dawn poking at his face and his lover's chin digging into his neck. The whole bed smelled like them, but it wasn't even that. Something deeper in Ray, something maybe even truer than the wolf, knew that things had changed. He knew beyond logic and instinct, with a certainty that was more like peace than knowledge.

He couldn't have explained it with words, but it was there nonetheless. Josh was his. The cycle that had started with giving himself up had been completed when Josh had returned the favour.

 

& Ray was not really that okay at all, of course.

 

“But you can’t ever leave me. I can’t…what if it doesn’t work, Josh? What will we do if it turns awful and sad between us? How am I going to keep…” he exhaled, blinking hard. He didn’t know what scared him more: losing Josh and losing the last part of himself he had left.

“I will never stop loving you,” Josh said it like it was nothing. Like it cost him nothing. He didn’t look down or away when Ray met his eyes in shock. He didn’t seem ashamed or even shy about the fact. “I have loved you for as long as I can remember. But I have been in love with you for at least five years.”

It felt like tearing out his own heart, but Ray shook his head. “I… you matter too much. I can’t… If I fuck this up, I’ll have nothing left.”

“What are you talking about?” Josh asked, and because he was Josh, he didn’t even sound angry that Ray hadn’t answered his confession. “You will have me, and you’ve your family and our pack. Of course…”

“No! I… you’re the last normal thing, the last… the last thing I chose and… you’re all tangled up in this, too, but… but you’re still my friend. You haven’t stopped treating me like you did before.”

 

& Then they got super confused by all the variables.

 

Alec thought that claiming Josh as First Alpha might have done something to Ray’s heat cycle. They’d all been prepared for a mating heat but the moment the moon had become visible in the sky in the late afternoon, all Ray had wanted was to run. It hadn’t changed as night fell, either. By the time it got dark, he was starving and hoping they could track something bigger than a rabbit and felt none of the arousal he’d been expecting. He changed into a wolf almost gingerly, with Marisa standing close in case he needed her and Hugo to take the pups away. But the wolf—although aware of the alphas milling about—tugged Ray towards the pups and Ray found himself playfully chasing them around. He didn't understand it, but wolves weren't wont to question their lives much. So he ran.

The alphas and the betas ran with him: Gabriel and Josh staying towards the back to herd the pups in when they tripped or fell back, Alec, Sergi and Iesu bounding ahead and catching rabbits when they got to close. Marisa, Hugo, Irina, Yossi and Angel had stayed a little apart, but they'd come to share their food and rolled around the grassy hills with them. Maybe they didn't quite feel like pack yet, but they were getting there.

They'd ended up the night in a heap in the garden, sated from good food and too much running.

And then Ray had woken up still shifted and Alec had been staring at him. His mate had been dressed already—he'd probably gone in to get breakfast started—but that hadn't been what had alarmed Ray enough to make him shift back. 

"Ray..." Alec said and his voice sounded like he'd been crying.

"What is it?" Ray demanded.

Alec's eyes slid down his exposed body, nostrils flaring. Then his eyes slid towards the other bodies on the ground. "Come with me," he asked in a clipped tone.

Ray almost objected but he could tell it was serious. 

Alec offered him his overshirt the moment they crossed threshold and Ray put it on silently. Alec favoured big clothing but it still barely made for decency—and he couldn't help but feel that anything that required him to get dressed couldn't be good news. 

Alec turned and met his eyes. "Who... Did someone knot you? Back when I told you it was a good idea to practice so we wouldn't do it during heat?"

"No," Ray said simply. "I had to ask... I had to ask Gabriel, but he pulled out." He wanted to ask more but he didn't think he could get the words out.

Alec leaned both hands on the table. "That shouldn't have been enough, not outside heat..."

"Alec, what the fuck are you talking about? Enough for what?"

"To get you pregnant," Alec finally explained. "I'm sorry, but when I smelled you right now... I could tell. My senses are probably sharper because of the full moon, but..."

"No," Ray stopped him. "I'm not. I would know. You can't..."

 

[End cut scene 2]

***

Cut scene #3

The first time Josh tells Ray he won’t sleep with him and puts him off, they also talk about the other alphas a little more. It was way too direct to actually work so I rewrote the scene, but if you are curious… This used to be the beginning of chapter 13.

 

 

“Iesu stayed too,” Josh pointed out.

“Iesu?”

“Yes, and he got the betas with me, because that’s the other thing, isn’t it?”

Ray blinked at him. It should have been, if he’d been thinking straight. But he hadn’t even considered the betas—the very thing he and his pack had needed the most in the long term—because… because it was Josh. Without Gabriel’s claim to maturity, there was no one else Ray could even think of to lead his pack. He hesitated, he didn’t want to lie, but he didn’t need to answer, either. “Iesu is good, but I wouldn’t mess with him and Sergi that way. And you’re my oldest friend, why shouldn’t I choose you?”

Josh paused for a long time before he looked up. His face was serious and almost completely closed off. “You know the power and responsibility being First Alpha imply.”

Ray nodded. He was all too aware, and he also knew that if there was one man in the world he could trust to see to the needs of their pack above his own or Ray’s… “Of course, and I trust you with it.”

Josh nodded slowly, watching Ray like he thought he might disappear. “If you want me to do this… I’ve got ask.”

Ray stiffened and looked away. “What is there to ask? You know everything.”

“I don’t," Josh replied in his calm even voice, but Ray could hear how fast his heart was beating, could feel the tension hiding behind his half sprawled limbs. He didn't know if it was because of how attuned he was to his alpha, or because it was Josh. "I know the facts, but I don’t know how you feel.”

“How I feel?” Ray looked back in surprise. Josh’s face was still oddly impassive.

“I need to know,” Josh said, almost an apology.

He snorted. “What does it matter how I feel?" He asked. He couldn't quite hold back the bitterness, because it didn't matter. Maybe Josh cared, but so what? Neither of them could change the basic facts of Ray's existence by caring. "You did the right thing anyway, why…”

Josh reached across the table and took Ray’s hand in his, holding on hard enough for him to truly feel it. Ray stopped talking, but he didn't look up. “No,” Josh said firmly. “You’re not going to dismiss your feelings again. I will not put myself in a position to give you orders without understanding how you feel about me.”

"You are in a position to give me orders already." Ray frowned at their hands, but in a way he was grateful for an excuse not to look up. “And I told you how I feel.”

Josh’s grip loosened slightly. “Not really. You said you had feelings for me, and I assumed… I assumed what I wanted to assume, that you meant you returned my feelings.”

Ray shifted on his seat. “I did.”

“Okay,” Josh agreed, too easily, but before Ray had time to grow suspicious he added, “How do you feel about sex, Ray?”

He didn’t mean to, but he tried to yank his hand away. Josh’s grip tightened and kept him in place. The wolf immediately backed down and his arm slackened in Josh’s grip. But Ray’s very human heart didn’t seem to understand, racing ahead and making it hard to breathe. 

“Calm down,” Josh ordered in a soft even voice. It was an alpha’s voice, full of power, and Ray wanted to listen. Of course he didn’t want to be upset, but... Josh’s thumb was rubbing against his pulse point. “Just breathe, you’re safe. You’re always safe with me, you know that.”

And Ray did. He didn’t understand why he’d tried to pull away. He didn’t want to talk about sex, of course, but it shouldn’t have mattered if Josh was touching him while he refused. He licked his dry lips, then reached for his tea. It wasn’t hot any longer, but he drank it greedily. When he was done with it, Josh let go of his hand.

Ray looked up at him in surprise.

“Do you understand why I can’t?” his friend asked him.

“You can’t?” Ray repeated, upset enough to risk meeting his eyes. “You have to… What if... if something happens again. You won’t be able to find me, you won’t be able to tell if anybody else is in our territory, or…”

Josh raised a hand to silence him. “I can't do it now, Ray. I'm not saying never, but you’re not okay. What happened…” He glanced down. “What happened has affected us all, but you lived through something that should have never have happened. You need time to heal from that. And you don’t have to worry about the pack: we’ll get the sensors and set up the computer. Hugo knows all about it and my whole next paycheck is going towards it.”

“You don’t want to,” Ray said, realisation sinking like led in his stomach. Of course Josh wouldn’t want to: becoming First Alpha included a second bonding ritual, and it was sexual. If he really knew what had happened with Nicholas, he wouldn’t want to…

Josh stared at him. “I don’t want to?” he asked Ray, sounding almost angry.

"You can just tell me, you don't need to let me down easy with all this healing bullshit..."

"It's not bullshit, Ray!" Josh snapped. "You are going to get better."

He wanted to be angry at that, at Josh's trust, at how utterly impossible it would be to live up to his expectations. But he was too tired for anger... Too hurt. It was supposed to be his decision who became First Alpha. One of the few things that was up to him—it had never crossed his mind that Josh might refuse.

"Ray..." His friend said softly. "I'm not rejecting you."

"You said no."

“You just almost run across the room when I mentioned sex,” Josh said, low and tight. "If the word freaks you out..."

“What difference does it make?” Ray asked in utter despair. “When the next full moon…” He stopped because his throat had just closed up the words. He was shivering slightly. He knew he was proving Josh right, but he couldn’t help himself.

“We’ve got at least three weeks, Ray,” Josh said softly, and Ray wanted him to be angry again. If Josh was soft and sweet, he didn’t think he’d be able to keep from crying again. “And maybe it’s not as long as we need, but I’ll take it.”

“We?” Ray echoed. It seemed like he was the one who needed to get over what had happened, Josh's whole contribution was to leave him hanging until he somehow managed.

"It's always been 'we'." His were full of a sorrow so profound Ray wanted to look away. "It will always be. I don't need to be your First Alpha for that."

"But I want you to be," Ray whispered, face burning with the humiliation of asking again. It was an honour. It was what any alpha dreamed of.

"Goddess, Ray, do you really think I don't?" Josh was leaning over the table, but still not close enough to touch. Ray felt every millimetre of space between them. And the forbidding presence of every other person in the room. "I want you more than anything, and a true bond... If I could know what you are feeling, too..." He swallowed and Ray saw his cheeks colouring. "And I want to be able to find you. Sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night and need to go stand outside your door and listen in, make sure you are okay."

Ray stared. It hadn't even occurred to him that alphas might be worried that he'd be taken again. "So why not?"

“I know it didn’t…” Josh closed his eyes for a moment, then met Ray’s eyes again—. “I know I wasn’t there, and it’s not the same to… to imagine it. But I failed to protect you, and you got hurt, and that’s something that I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Ray argued. “I invited them into the house, I trusted them in the first place…”

“We brought you the offer, and I didn’t check on you for hours. And I didn’t come after you.”

“I didn’t want you to come after me,” Ray said and he could hear his own heart skip a beat at the lie. “No,” he insisted, “I really didn’t, not rationally. I’m glad you didn’t.”

“I know you wouldn’t have asked me to, if the choice had been for me to stay with the babies…” Josh admitted with a heavy sigh. “But I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you. And I’ll be sorry all my life.”

“I don’t want you to be!”

“There’s no changing the past,” Josh said simply. “But we could do something about the future.” 

Even though a part of Ray wanted to keep arguing, he could see it’d no good. The wound was too fresh, the guilt too clear. And a part of him thought Josh was right: he should have been there when Ray needed him. Just like he’d always been before.

“Like what?”

"Like take as much time as we can. Give ourselves time to process, time to... maybe there isn’t enough time to heal, but there's no point in rushing it." He licked his lips. "The wolves aren't... They don't need it. So let’s wait as long as we can, take it slow."

Ray had known Josh his whole life, he could tell when he was serious. 

“Okay,” he agreed. It wasn’t what he’d wanted, but it was what he needed, he could be mature enough to admit that—if only inside his own head.

 

&

 

Since they were in town, they’d gone grocery shopping.

“We should get some rabbits,” Josh suggested. “Worst case scenario, they end up crossing over to Lakeside.”

“And we can start an inter-pack conflict right off the bat?”

“There’s like four hundred of them, why would they complain about free food? And our pack is so small we don’t even have a name yet, your uncle wouldn’t really start anything…”

“A name!” Ray said. “How on earth do we not have a name?”

“We’ve been busy,” Josh protested. “But if we don’t come up with something, we’ll end being south lakers or whatever descriptor seems more apt to them.”

Ray wrinkled his nose, both at the broccoli Josh had just put in the trolley—he’d never managed to eat it again after it’d made him throw up during his pregnancy— and the lack of geographical understanding. “We’re east of the lake, Josh. Honestly.”

 

[End cut scene 3]

This was the first version of Josh and Ray finally sleeping together because they wanted to.

 

& version 1

 

He also didn't speak, which meant it was up to Ray, and fuck if Ray knew what to say. But he had to try.

“You know that therapy thing?” Ray asked as he fluffed up his pillow. "I think we both need to do it.”

“Yeah… I— Just tell me how—”

Ray leaned in and put the tip of his to Josh’s trembling mouth. Josh’s eyes were wide when he pulled back. “You are not going to hurt me,” he said. He was telling the truth, he’d said it before and he’d said it again, he realised. He’d tell Josh as many times as he needed to hear it. “You are not…” He allowed himself to look away from a moment. “You won’t hold me down.” Josh flinched and Ray glanced up, not sure if he should continue. His friend met his eyes like a man staring down a firing squad and nodded. “And you will listen when I ask for things. I know… I know I can say stop anytime and you will. I know. So… I get that it’s hard, and I don’t… I can’t ask you to just forget. But can you… I liked it when you kissed me in the Jeep, when you couldn’t…” He stopped, not knowing how to explain the difference between losing control and hurting someone and losing control and giving them a gift, of giving yourself to them.

He wanted Josh to give himself to Ray, to close his eyes and trust Ray to catch him.

Josh had said he was willing never to have sex with Ray again if it meant keeping their relationship and maybe Ray was just being greedy by wanting more… It wasn’t like there was a chance that he’d be lacking in sex ever again, was there? What right did he have to expect Josh to forget what he’d told him? It’d happened to Josh as much as to him, in a way. Josh hadn’t known he was hurting him so how could he be sure he wasn’t doing it again?

“Ray?”

He glanced up. He’d been silent too long. Worse, he hadn’t managed to say what he wanted.

Josh looked calmer, though, more… focused. “I get it,” he said and brought a hand up and touched Ray’s face. They weren't going to do anything, so it was just that, a hand pressed against Ray's cheek, warm and comforting—steadying the world like it was his own axis. “You want it to be normal, like it… like it was supposed to be. If… if either us had been smart enough to say something before.”

Ray nodded, barely holding himself back from burying his face into Josh’s neck and clinging. Of course Josh got it. It was Josh.

Josh played with his hair, eyes wandering down Ray’s face and neck. “I don’t think it can be like that,” he said and it was the truth, too.

Not just something Josh believed, either, but the facts. He was right. Ray swallowed and pulled back and he didn’t know if was any better in the fact that it took Josh a second to let him go. That Josh didn’t want to let go. And that he did anyway.

Josh cleared his throat. “So maybe we have to make something up. I’m not sure how, and maybe it isn’t what you want—”

Josh had crossed his arms across his chest—he looked oddly hunched in under the moonlight. His hair shone almost white and he looked stupidly young with wide, scared eyes. Ray met his eyes and repeated, “I told you: you are what I want.”

Josh swallowed and straightened, less like he wanted to be upright and more like his body was straining to get closer to Ray’s. “Me too,” he said. “I mean. I want you. Any way I can have you.”

“Yes,” Ray bit out, suddenly angry. “Antarctica.”

It was a little crazy because it’d been such a sweet thing to say and he knew it meant that Josh loved him. And Ray could have said the same thing back: he’d kept his interest a secret for years for that very reason… But why did he have to make do with less than everything when just looking at Josh made him feel like he was burning up?

There was nothing wrong with being so adored that your lover was happy to smell your scent off paper or watch you longingly from a distance. But it wasn’t what Ray wanted: he wanted an actual person who’d touch him and mean it. Someone who try as they might kept looking back, kept coming back for more, kept begging with fingers and mouth and skin to be touched because they needed to feel him.

“Fuck Antarctica,” Josh replied, voice raw and eyes boring into his. “I want you to fuck me.”

"W—What?"

"You didn't write that on your list," Josh said. "But I figured..."

Ray swallowed, mouth suddenly dry. It wasn’t that he’d never thought about fucking a guy—he was only human, for all the powers conceded by the moon—but Josh… “You… you can’t,” he pointed out and it was obvious Josh heard the lack of conviction in his voice as clearly as he did. He reminded himself that no matter what, they were not going to do anything that night. He'd promised. Josh was looking down at his own hands fiddling with the covers, body a little stiff on his side of the bed. His passion had simmered down like somebody had dropped a bucket of ice on him. Like Ray had... And he didn't speak. Ray couldn't understand why he wouldn't speak. He couldn't possibly think he had said enough... Ray wasn't even sure he'd heard right, let alone heard the truth. "Josh?" He asked softly. "Can you say it again?"

Josh tensed up, glancing at Ray almost resentfully. "Why?"

"I just—Did you mean it?"

"I know it sounds weird, but... You have never done that, so it would be... Special."

 

& version 2, where they actually get to the sex.

 

Josh frowned. “That’s not the question, Ray,” he said calmly. “Do you want to fuck me?”

Ray’s pulse spiked again and he swallowed, mind running in circles. Want… Want seemed like such a crazy question to ask about this.

Josh sighed. “You don’t have to. I mean, obviously you don’t have to, but you don’t have to want to. I mean, some guys just aren’t into it and—”

Words were still beyond him but when Ray raised his right hand, Josh stopped speaking. Ray met his eyes for the first time in what felt like ages and had to be less than five minutes. Josh looked uncertain again.

Not because he didn’t want Ray, because he did. And he cared about him too. He couldn’t stop being afraid of hurting Ray, not as long as things were so uncertain between them. Ray had wanted their relationship to go back to normal, but they hadn’t got to normal in a few months—it’d taken them years to learn how to be rough with each other without hurting each other in the process. It had seemed easy, but maybe it was just that it had been before either of them understood how badly you could damage another person not just with fists and claws but with simple carelessness.

That innocence of childhood was the one thing they were never getting back and now that they understood, neither of them could bear to risk hurting each other again.

And if Ray had learned one thing, it was that the truth might be uncomfortable, but it was the lies and omissions that stabbed you in the back.

“I do want to,” he told his best friend. It came out a little low but Josh’s shoulders slackened like Ray had removed a heavy weigh. “But I don’t get how.”

Josh’s lips twitched at that and he couldn’t repress his smile long. Ray huffed and rolled his eyes at him.

“Sorry,” Josh said quickly, cheeks a little flushed. “Um, you mean because of the alpha thing?”

Ray nodded.

Josh shrugged. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

“You don’t think?” Ray echoed, stomach suddenly tight. Had Josh… He cut the thought off. He had no right to expect Josh to be faithful to him when Ray couldn’t offer the same. He glanced away, trying to calm his suddenly racing heart. He didn’t get to be angry about this. It was bad enough that—

“Ray?” Josh’s hand on his arm made him jump and he looked up to find they were close enough to kiss. Except it wasn’t kissing that Ray was thinking about as he watched Josh’s mouth. “Where did you go? Why—?”

“Have you done it?” Ray bit out. He had no right, he knew it, and he didn’t care. He was holding onto Josh’s wrist too hard and he couldn’t even remember reaching out, but he couldn’t seem to let go.

Josh’s chocolate eyes widened and he shook his head. “No. I— No, I haven’t. Just…” He hesitated. “Hands, and oral,” he admitted like a confession. “Before,” he added quickly.

Ray exhaled shakily, nodding a little and extended his other hand to clutch at Josh’s upper arm more gently and keep him close. “It’s none of my business. I know that, I just—”

Josh leaned in and blew the word against his ear. “Jealous?”

Ray shuddered, then tried to shake his head. But that was a goddamned lie. “I—yes,” he gritted out. “I know it’s stupid—” Josh kissed his neck, adding a little tongue to seal the deal, and Ray stopped. “You… you like that?” he whispered.

Josh nodded into his neck, then offered another kiss. “Do I like that the idea of me with someone else drives you nuts?” he asked incredulously. “A little,” he added with a mocking tilt.

Ray let go of his wrist and put his arm behind his back, bringing their bodies almost flush together. “But I can’t—”

“Shhh…” Josh told him gently. “It’s not about that,” he explained. “I just like that you want me that much.”

Ray’s hands clenched on his back at the words. It was true. For Josh. Knowing his other alphas were in the process of having a good time together in bed made Ray smile, but if it had been Josh…

“I do,” he confirmed. He’d told Josh himself but it was different to hear him say it, to know that he believed it. He was tired of holding back, tired of being afraid. “I—” He couldn’t find words beyond that so he tilted his head and captured Josh’s mouth into a kiss, biting at his lip and then pushing his tongue inside as if he had a hope in the world of getting enough of him, getting deep enough, staying long enough. Josh sucked on his tongue, clutching at him greedily and Ray stumbled back towards the bed until he could tug and push Josh down on his back.

Josh went but he pulled Ray along with him, refusing to let go for even a moment. Ray fell too heavily, making him gasp for breath and making his hand dig into Ray’s back too hard. No, not his hand. The baby monitor. Ray laughed out loud, twisting to pluck it off his hand and dropping it on the bed next to them. “God, man, you are such a mother hen!”

Josh rolled his eyes at him. “Shut up and fuck me,” he demanded and even with the way he couldn’t quite keep his voice from going lower towards the end, it made Ray’s cock twitch in his pants. He bent down and kissed him again. He had to, he had to lick at every molar and every ridge and taste Josh’s tongue deep in his own mouth. He had to press his dick to Josh’s stomach and grind down against Josh’s erection under his arse. He had to have everything, every little thing and all of it together and it could never stop. He couldn’t stop. He couldn’t bear to.

Josh pulled his shirt off and Ray ripped Josh’s a little and he knew they had to stop rubbing against each other if they wanted to get the rest of their clothes off—thank god they had discarded their shoes earlier before cuddling—but how did one just stop?

And then Josh found the strength to push Ray away by the shoulders. Ray panted down at him, feeling like he was on a ledge and Josh the only thing keeping him from falling. “Trousers?” Josh said and for no logical reason it reminded Ray of Josh’s request, of…

Oh, moon, Josh wanted Ray inside him. He shuddered, and almost fell in his haste to scramble off the bed. It didn’t help much with unhooking and unzipping his own jeans but Josh was clearly determined to take advantage of his freedom of movement while Ray was distracted because when Ray glanced up from kicking off his boxers, he found his friend had beat him to it.

He was sitting on the bed. Completely bare. Not just naked, that would have had Ray throwing himself into his arms without hesitation. But he was looking at Ray openly: lips parted as if he was about to speak but his thoughts were too fragile to voice, eyes dipping to Ray’s shoulders and lower still but returning to his face as if searching for something there.

Ray didn’t what there was to find, but if it was in him… Josh had to see it. He swallowed, suddenly afraid. Because this was the only way to express what he felt, to finally reveal himself to the man he’d loved for as long as he could remember… And he already knew too well that their bodies were dangerous and prone to overwhelm their minds.

“Ray?” Josh asked softly.

He exhaled, held himself still a moment longer. “You will tell me if I…”

Josh nodded. “Yeah,” he promised easily, and leaned back on his elbows, exposing his torso and legs and drawing Ray’s eyes inevitably to the rise of his erection.

It was crazy. He remembered choking, and the sting in his eye was long gone but the memory wasn’t, and he still wanted to taste him again. He took a step closer, his knee bumped Josh’s and somehow he was straddling him, no time in between and he was blanketing Josh’s body with his own, the warmth of their skins becoming sweaty and they pressed against each other too hard and too fast, as if deep down they could not believe that there was such an absurd limit between them as skin.

“Josh,” Ray begged quietly. He was clutching too hard at Josh’s forearms and he couldn’t… he couldn’t stop pushing his cock against the hot skin of Josh’s hip, his stomach, it wasn’t enough. And he…

Josh’s hand tightened on his arse, pressing their groins even closer together, a sweaty, sticky mess and then he arched into Ray and their dicks slid together—silky and raw and perfect and Ray couldn’t breathe.

The taste of blood came first, only then did Josh’s hands rubbing his back register. He blinked, rolling his head to get some air into his deprived lungs and then he smelled it too and he finally understood what he’d done.

He tried to get away at once and he’d have fallen right off the bed if Josh hadn’t locked both his arms and a leg around him. “No,” he demanded and there was no alpha will in it, but it was a command of sorts, so Ray stopped, freezing in Josh’s hold instead as his mind raced.

He’d… he’d bitten him. Josh helped him sit up, rolling him over and touching his face softly. “Ray?” he asked. “Please don’t freak out.”

Ray met his eyes, then immediately had to look away. “I—I” He risked a glanced down at Josh’s torso. At Josh’s neck.

Where there was blood, Josh’s blood. His hand was shaking as he raised it to clean away the worst of it, already drying… On skin that had already healed.

Oh, thank fuck. And the Moon and the Starts and the grains of sand. He hadn’t… He sagged forward and let Josh hold him up and rub his back.

“You got a little carried away,” his mate whispered. “I don’t mind. It was hot.”

Ray shook his head. “You didn’t—”

“You can bite me, you can mark me as your mate,” Josh interrupted. “I’m ready now. I’ll be your First Alpha.”

Ray didn’t try to object, just held on to him. “I’m sorry,” he said anyway. “This is…”

Josh cupped his face and made him look up. “Hard?” he suggested with a little smile.

Ray snorted. He couldn’t manage the energy to roll his eyes. But the idea was too intriguing for him not to try and sneak a look at Josh’s lap. Josh snickered and used his hold on his face to prevent him from peaking. Ray stopped trying and met his eyes.

Josh looked serious again. “Do you still want me to be?”

“Yes,” he said, not doubt in his mind. “What… We just…” He stopped because he couldn’t quite put his finger on what was different about what they had just shared.

But Josh nodded like he knew what Ray meant. “Okay, so… You should do it. Bite me.” He swallowed and Ray could feel the blood rushing to his face. “When you fuck me. You can—”

But it was too much, the offer, the confession, the promise. Ray put his hands on his neck and pulled him forward into a kiss so desperate it was more a crash of mouths and teeth than a coordinated effort. It didn’t matter; Josh pulled him down on top of him again and maybe because he hadn’t come yet, it was he who took one of Ray’s hands and put it on his belly where Ray’s come was still warm.

He bent his own knee to his chest and guided Ray’s hand to the trail behind his balls.

[end cut scene 4]

 
 
 

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