Cut scene #1 from "Protectors of the Pack"
Alec looked at the envelope in his hands; the paper was soft under his thumb. It wasn’t the kind of thing you got at W.H. Smith. It was expensive paper, heavier, creamier. There was even a wax seal. He risked a glance at Gabriel. Their nights together the week before had given him enough courage to google what he should have figured out years earlier. He knew he couldn’t just take whatever Gabriel had written and sign himself away. The logical part of him even understood that it was a good thing that he wasn’t really willing to do it—anxiety was a little crazy, but agreeing to doing whatever someone else wanted was truly insane.
He could guess there was a questionnaire inside for him to fill out, and one for Gabriel—already full of answers to questions Alec himself could never bring himself to ask—but that was about as far as he could think. He tried to visualize it, imagined getting a pen, writing down a number. It’d probably be one of the numbered ones, from (1) Not ever to (5) Yes, please. They were common and Gabriel had liked the range of the stoplight system Alec had chosen instead of a single safeword.
“Hey.” Gabriel’s fingertips brushed his hand, bringing him out of his daze. “You don’t have to open it now.”
He swallowed. “But I want to…”
“I could just blow you,” Gabriel offered. Alec’s eyes snapped to his and Gabriel’s mouth twisted. “Well, now I know what face you make when you’re not into something.”
“What? No!” he said at once. “I just… Isn’t that kind of the opposite of…?”
“Dominating you?” Gabriel offered. There was not even a hint of embarrassment in his tone, but he was looking at Alec so closely he didn’t feel like he could look back at him. He stepped closer still and put his other hand on Alec’s hip, then leaned closer and whispered, more air than sound, “You think I can’t do that on my knees?” Alec shivered and Gabriel’s hold on his hand and waist tightened. “See? I can do whatever I want and you’d still let me.” He pressed a kiss under Alec’s ear, soft at first and then with a hint of tongue. “And I want that, I want to swallow you whole.”
Alec exhaled, shaky and a little unsteady, but it didn’t matter, Gabriel’s hold on him was firm. He wouldn’t let him fall. “Or we could just go make dinner early. Or maybe Marissa and Irina will babysit and we can drag Ray out of his cave.”
Ray’s name was like a bucket of cold water and Alec stiffened. He shook his head. “He doesn’t want to see us.”
Gabriel rubbed his back. “We can ask.”
“I don’t even… I don’t even know if he’ll ever talk to me again after this,” he admitted.
Cut scene #2 from "Protectors of the Pack"
"Maybe he didn’t want to be an omega, but he chose to be our omega and not anybody else’s. Maybe we were the best of a bad lot, that’s fine. I never expected him to love me…” His voice broke a little on the word and he had to stop to breathe.
He regretted standing up at once when he saw the soft look on Gabriel’s eyes. He didn’t have time to lament it for long because the other alpha's hands raised to his elbows and tugged, not hard enough to force him to move, but enough of an excuse to step forward into his arms. His bent knees slotted neatly around Gabriel’s sides and Gabriel had no trouble holding him upright with a single arm. Alec gave up the pretence that he needed no comfort and curled up further into him, burying his face into Gabriel’s shoulder and squeezing him tight—as if he would never let him go again. The other arm came around to hold him back, almost crushing him against Gabriel. He could feel Gabriel’s heart thumping against his own chest.
In his arms, with his strength around him, a shield against a world that never really understood him, and that never appreciated whatever it understood, Alec felt his breathing return to normal. He’d always known Ray wasn’t going to fall in love with him, even if he was capable of loving more than one man at once. But it still hurt a little. He tried to pull back, suddenly feeling vulnerable instead of protected. But Gabriel kept holding on. “Stay,” he asked. The word was like a spell; Alec’s muscles relaxed and Gabriel loosened his hold enough that he could lean back on his lap.
“I have changed,” he repeated, meeting Alec’s eyes almost defiantly. Except it wasn’t a gesture of alpha dominance, he was daring Alec to believe him. Because he didn’t quite believe it himself. “I have learned to ask instead of assuming, and that just because someone is not saying no, it doesn’t mean they are saying yes…” His eyes flickered away, his scent turning sour for a minute, but he was not a man easily discouraged. His hold tightened on the small of Alec’s back and he tilted his head back to meet his eyes once more. “And I have learned I can’t wait for you to ask me.”
Alec tensed, instinctively wanting to retreat, but Gabriel shook his head. “No,” he said softly, and his right hand left Alec’s back to come forward and cup his face. Alec’s gaze flickered to his. “I don’t mean it like that. I just forgot it’s hard for you, and it’s easy for me. Normally. It hasn’t been easy, and if you’re half as scared as I’m right now…”
Alec tucked his chin in, lowering his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see his face. But he clung on to Gabriel’s shoulders. “Don’t be,” he asked. He couldn’t imagine a world where Gabriel didn’t have all the answers. Gabriel pulled his hand back, placed it back on Alec’s waist so lightly it could have been just to ensure he stayed upright.
“Do you want to get up?” he offered.
Alec hesitated. He didn’t want to be further away from Gabriel, but if Gabriel was worried about telling him something… It had to be big enough he might need the distance. Gabriel gave him a little shove up when he disentangled his legs and got to his feet. He took a further step back and away from the bed on his own. “Go,” he said.
“I know you have changed, too, but I want to be with you,” Gabriel said, he was sure, but there was strain in his voice to. “And… I don’t expect things to be the same. But I want to talk about it.” The words were like a shock to the system and even though he tried not to let it show, Gabriel’s voice grew almost frantic. “I need to talk about it, I can’t fuck up again now. I have to know what it’s okay. I’m not trying to freak you out, but this is too serious for guessing.”
Alec gave himself a minute to process. “Did you write it?”
“The contract? Yes, of course. I… I revised a few times, too, even when I thought it was pointless.”
Alec glanced up and offered him a smile, weak but honest. He wasn’t oblivious to the way Gabriel was slowly baring his metaphorical throat to him, showing him that it wasn’t just Alec who was worried, or afraid. “Can I see it?”
“Yes, but… I haven’t revised it since… since you met Ray.” Since he’d become an alpha, he meant.
“I haven’t really changed that much,” Alec said with a shrug, his heart beating like it’d overrun him. He knew what he was saying, even if he’d avoided all the key words.
And so would Gabriel. He caught him tensing up out of the corner of his eye. “You haven’t…”
He shook his head, all the confirmation he could afford to give. But Gabriel didn’t answer for too long and the words finally spilled out of him. “Are you… angry?”
“Angry?” he echoed. “Why would I be angry? There wasn’t anything you needed to change. I’m just not sure how… I mean, you are an alpha now.”
Alec sighed, finding a chair and slumping into it. Gabriel’s newfound need to talk everything out didn’t seem likely to go away anytime soon and if they needed to talk, he needed to be as far away as possible. “I know.”
“I thought that was why you stopped talking to me.” Gabriel sounded oddly neutral. “Back then, I mean.”
Alec sighed, and focused on his lap so he could speak, “I couldn’t... I needed some time. And then it’d been too long and you had stopped talking to me too.”
“Alec, I had to,” Gabriel said, too quickly, too... angry?
“What?” He looked up. He knew he could have got in contact with Gabriel—if he'd been brave enough, which was to say, if he'd been a different person—but why would Gabriel be under any constraints? Gabriel was free to do as he pleased, he'd made it clear from day one without ever needing to mention it. And he’d certainly proven it when he’d visited Alec out of the blue and asked him to join Ray’s pack.