He never repeated any of that to anymore. From the start, he understood on some level that what she said was wrong, even before he learned just how awful it was to shame an abandoned omega like that, even though people did it all the time.
But she also told him stories, great legends and fairy tales with a hero or heroine who was the only survivor in his or her litter. Although most of the time they were either an alpha or an omega. There were few stories he heard about being a beta survivor. She even went so far sometimes as to talk about how there was no parent more dedicated than the omega who had only given birth to one live child. Although Matt didn’t entirely like that either; it took credit away from his father to suggest his devotion was only because of his biology.
The times had changed a bit by his birth. As little as a decade prior to Jack Murdock’s first professional fight, it would’ve been unthinkable for an omega to be a boxer. But then the Supreme Court had handed down the Campbell decision, and now anti-discrimination laws were coming into place(although later he would learn just how poorly some of them were enforced), and social mores were changing too. When Matt was five, his father took his collar off and never wore it again, mostly because by then he could.
Matt had even thought he had thrown it out, until after his death, when it turned up among his things. He left it in one corner of the trunk for years, not wanting it to be there, but feeling like he ought to keep it, wishing the smell of the leather and metal wasn’t so strong. Later, he would sometimes reach down and run his hands over the rough surface and short leash-only a couple of inches, purely symbolic, but it never not hurt to, nor, later than that, to hear the creak of the chain links when he lifted the false bottom up to get at his costume.
His father hid his pain, of course; that was what he always did, in the ring and out. But all the same, Matt knew he felt it, understood that by the time he was eight or so. He, too, always kept his silence about it, but it led him to try to speak more kindly to his father when he could tell he was tired, and to smile at him more, things like that.
He was never sure how much it helped, but after the accident, he became aware that his father would sometimes cry at night, so quietly that even with his increased hearing he wouldn’t have been sure of it if he hadn’t been able to smell it the next day too. He would lay in bed, knowing trying to do anything about that would only make his father feel worse, and just wish it would all go away. His hatred of being helpless in the face of the pain of others probably stemmed from that.
Another thing he slowly became aware of was that even if his father was now allowed to fight, and nominally as an equal, the referees were more often than not biased against him, and that much of the audience took pleasure in watching him lose, in seeing an omega be put in his place, and probably got annoyed at his refusal to ever end a fight on the ground, where they thought an omega belonged. Although there were those who rooted for him because he was an omega. He got the impression his father didn’t care for the latter group of people much more than the former.
He would also always wonder how much that played into his father being approached to throw matches, and even whether it made him feel more pressured to agree to it. He would especially wonder if, had he been an alpha or a beta, he would have felt able to stick to taking a pass on that one match he had instead agreed to throw and then hadn’t.
Social mores might have been changing, but in school, one’s parentage always mattered to the other kids. When he was six, Matt got into a fight with an alpha boy who said the most awful things about his father, which turned into a tussle when his beta brother got involved. For that, his father boxed his ears, and when he said why he had gotten into the fight, he shook his head, and said, “People are going to say such things, Matty. You can’t let it affect you.” He tried not to after that, but it was hard.
He especially hated it when in third grade, he had a teacher who openly expressed her views about alphas, betas, omegas, and how horrible it was that the old ways were being discarded. She sneered at Matt, of course, said anything to him she could get away with, which was a lot, and made clear that not only did she share all his grandmother’s worst opinions on his father, but she also thought Matt himself as his father’s son was a bad person and would come to nothing. But he sometimes got the impression she didn’t think even he and his father were as bad as those children and their parents where one of the parents was a beta and the other was not. She especially picked on one poor girl with a beta mother and omega father, and was silent when one classmate even said to her that her father couldn’t have possibly gotten her mother pregnant.
Matt actually went and looked that up, and told that girl the next day that betas could have children with anyone of the opposite sex. The two of them became friends after that, and remained so for the rest of that hard year. Her name was Christine, and she was a beta too. He even went to her house a few times, and met her parents. Her father was a very gentle man, whose wife acted a lot like an alpha to him; he even wore a leash the two of them very much used, though he never saw him kneel, and he saw her handfeed him once. He would have thought it gross, if the guy hadn’t looked so happy.
But the thing that ended up affecting him the most was the day he met her mother’s family, when they all dropped in to surprise Christine on her birthday. She gleefully introduced him first to her Uncle Patrick and her Aunt Caitlin, and then said to him, “And you know what? On my mother’s side, I have three grandparents!” She had an alpha grandfather and an omega grandmother, who reminded Matt very strongly of her parents; her father and her grandmother’s collars even looked practically identical. But there was also a “betawife,” as Christine called her, an old woman whom she said had married her other two grandparents in a ceremony which had also included her grandfather formally claiming her grandmother, though biologically he’d done it already. Matt watched her act all motherly to both of Christine’s parents and at one point take her other grandmother’s leash and guide her as she sat down.
When he asked his father about it that evening, he said, “I’ve seen betawives. Even a betahusband once. I’ve heard it said back during the Middle Ages lords and ladies with arranged marriages had a lot of them, and when I was young your grandmother told me the story of King Henry VIII and his fourth and fifth wives, although I’ve never been sure if that was actually true.”
Matt had never before that day given any thought to whom he might someday marry. But now, as he thought about that big family, and also how different his and his father’s lives would have been had there been someone else who might have stayed with them after the flight of his mother, he found himself thinking he would like it if someday he was a betahusband.
Matt’s sense of smell was not like an alpha’s or an omega’s, Stick explained. “They brag their heads off, the alphas especially, about how much they can smell which we betas aren’t supposed to be able to, but all they can smell is who they want to fuck. You, on the other hand, kid, you can smell useful stuff. They’d probably be pretty put out if they knew.”
Indeed, the world of smells as experienced by alphas and omegas sounded like a pretty poetic place. During his teenage years, Matt would overhear a lot of embarrassing talk of usually alphas telling omegas about how they smelled like flowers, or fresh rain, or delicious foods-that often went into the creepy territory, honestly-or the most random things. Neither alphas nor omegas gave off that kind of smell to him. They did give off strange scents, though, especially around each other. He noticed sometimes a particular alpha and omega would give them off stronger in each other’s company. Penelope and Whitney, for instance. He took to avoiding being in the same room with the two of them whenever he could, because the smell clogged up his nose. He finally confirmed what he had already suspected that meant when the nuns caught them together and shamed them in front of the entirety of St. Agnes, including a lecture of Whitney’s alpha sister for not stopping her.
He could also tell when the omegas around him went into heat, of course. In fact, once he recognized the signs, he could tell when they were about to, long before anyone else could. By then, he had both heard and read all the descriptions of what omegas smelled like when they went into heat. “Sweet milk,” was popular in poetry. So were comparisons to fruits. One alpha he studied with compared the smell of an omega he was interested in to old book pages; it had long been established that different omegas smelled differently to different alphas. To him, if omegas’ heat-scents, like their general body scents, weren’t exactly the same, they all still generally smelled like a weird mix of menstrual blood and a smell he got off girls that later he identified as vaginal secretions.
St. Agnes being a Catholic institution, absolutely nothing was made available. Instead, as soon as one of the alpha or omega nuns detected someone was in heat, they were taken to a quarantine room and locked up in there until it passed. The room was specially placed so that no one could hear anything, but of course Matt heard them anyway, pained moans and sobs, sometimes screams for help or someone begging to be let out; he spent countless sleepless night with his ears filled with the sounds of utter misery. By the time he was eighteen, Catholic as he remained otherwise, he didn’t care what the Pope said; he could not believe such cruelty could ever be justified. He fantasized about taking the nuns to court over it, getting the practice ruled as illegal; he was pretty sure the 14th amendment could be combined with Campbell against it, since only omegas were subjected to it.
Equally often he fantasized about sneaking out there and intervening. He wondered if they left a nun outside the room to guard it. If they did, she was never loud enough for him to hear anything. He wondered how anyone could stand to listen to that and be able to do something and not do it.
He never dared go. He didn’t want to know if there was always a guard out there, and never, ever one who relented. He didn’t want to know if these nuns would truly do that.
Also, he was afraid of how he would react if he did find one, what he would do in response. The thoughts he would have about it, the things he felt the urge to do to this imaginary nun, even when he didn’t know whether or not she existed, were bad enough. Sometimes he thought that it was what he heard within St. Agnes, not the sirens and screams outside the building, that had really first awoken the devil within him.
It was also in St. Agnes that he was brought to feel the absence of his two littermates like never before. Their deaths and memory had been a presence in his life from the time he first learned of their existence, but here, he was more subjected to how many of his fellow orphans at least had surviving littermates with them, meaning they, at least, were not alone in the world. Of course in some cases one or both of them were dead, often killed by whatever had killed their parents, and there were beta-born children as well, but Matt still felt his difference from them, how he was supposed to have what the beta-born children didn’t think to miss, and, unlike the children who had lost them later, had never had at all.
It didn’t help that the nuns felt it even more, and many of them made that known to him, especially since he was far better at detecting pity than they thought he was. He feared some of them had the same view of the whole situation as his grandmother had had. Others would offer him a chance to talk about it if he wanted to. But he couldn’t see what there was to be said. They had not survived, and nor had anyone else, except possibly his mother, and neither he nor anyone else had ever heard from her, which made him think she was probably dead too, especially if she really had been mentally ill.
Often on quieter nights, that term being relative, he imagined what it would be like if it was the three of them here together, assuming the thought of leaving three children behind didn’t drive their father to throw that fight after all. Two sisters to help guide him through the world, who would probably know about the senses the way the nuns did, as something he’d struggled to deal with, and maybe after Stick had left he would have told them more. An alpha sister to help him stand up to Stick. An omega sister they could protect together(and he guessed he would’ve had to find out whether that quarantine room was guarded, because they never would have left her in there). Two people he could hope wouldn’t leave. Although maybe they would, he didn’t know.
But instead it was just him, and the gym where his father had spent his days taking practice punches and real insults, and now he worked out in. Him, and the trunk with the robe his father had only worn once and the collar he had worn for years. Him, and the money he came into when it was time to go to college and do what his father had wanted, use his brains rather than his fists. Him, and the feeling of loneliness as he walked out of St. Agnes that he was by then long used to.
He’d been a little surprised when he was notified that he was to be roomed with an omega. It wasn’t that common to room omegas with anyone besides each other. But not many omegas tried to become lawyers, so perhaps they hadn’t had another male omega to room him with. Before going to the room for the first time, he reminded himself he’d do his best to respect the guy’s privacy; hopefully being blind would help, but he wouldn’t expect it to(maybe that was why he was the beta chosen for this). Also that while by then he’d slept with people of both sexes and all three dynamics, he was now old enough to understand that one should not make any advances towards an omega one was living with like that; the advances, if they were to be made, would have to be made by them. He didn’t expect it to be an issue anyway.
He and Foggy Nelson had a lot of similarities and a lot of differences, and maybe more of the latter than of the former, but early on they learned they had one huge thing in common: they both had been born of omegas whose alphas had abandoned them before they had been a year old. It was kind of stunning for Matt, and deeply relieving, to finally be able to talk to someone about everything that entailed without fear. But it also eventually led him to truly understand for the first time how much his father had suffered, when he met Foggy’s.
Edward Nelson had been a much luckier man. Both of Foggy’s littermates were alive and well. Also, he’d even been lucky enough to eventually be claimed for a second time. There weren’t many alphas who were willing to do that, to take on an omega who had been claimed by another alpha and been left so emotionally damaged by them, and even take on his children by somebody else. Anna Nelson was as wonderful a stepmother as anyone could ask for, and she was even more devoted to Edward. Even when she wasn’t leading him, Matt often heard her fingers stroking his collar or her otherwise touching him, whispering to him; Foggy told him once that she did everything she could to avoid being away from him for more than a handful of hours at a time.
And yet even after all the years he’d had to recover and a decade and a half of Anna’s constant love and care, Edward was still struggling, and unlike Matt’s father, he didn’t have the ability to hide it. Foggy talked about how bad he had been during his childhood; his earliest memory was of his father crying in public, trying so hard to keep it together and failing. Even now, Matt often heard him holding himself in if he didn’t have something to fully concentrate on, and it was understood that after dinner he went upstairs with Anna and they were left alone; Matt didn’t always hear him crying, but he often did. Other times he turned distant, retreating into his head and so obviously losing track of the goings-on around him that even Matt could tell, and without anyone describing the man’s face to him. “I think he’s always going to be like that at least a little,” said Foggy. “Mom’s hinted to me the psychologists he’s seen have told him that.”
It probably didn’t help matters that the woman who did it, unlike Matt’s mother, remained a presence in her children’s lives, at least as much as they would allow it. Candace no longer did; she had apparently told her that on the day they had turned eighteen, and had urged both her brothers to do the same. But neither of them could bring themselves too, and Foggy especially struggled. “I keep hearing the voices in my head telling me an omega should heed his parents,” he told Matt one night when they were drunk enough to make such confessions. “You have no idea, being a beta…I was disciplined at school for being unruly until my so-called place was hammered into me, and even though I know it’s bullshit I just…”
When Rosalind Sharpe came into the house, her former omega always retreated upstairs; according to Foggy the two of them had never seen each other since their children had been six, and Anna had banned her from staying for more than an hour at a time, even if it meant she’d had to allow her to then take the children out of the house and keep them as long as she liked. “You can’t fight a lawyer of her caliber about such things,” Foggy said. “Or at least mom couldn’t; we were lucky she wasn’t interested in having custody of us or in ever seeing dad again. Although I promise you, when I get my legal degree, I will use it to help people in the position my parents were in.”
Naturally Candace was very protective of both her littermates. Two hours after they first met, Matt found himself cornered by her alone and grilled about how he intended to conduct himself around her brother. He did at least manage to satisfy her with his answers, but she finished the conversation, “Just remember, anyone hurts him, or takes advantage of him, I hurt them, and I don’t care if you’re blind.”
It went without saying that Foggy was going to have a harder time of it than those around him, that even had he worked as hard as Matt he would never get the full credit he deserved, even that he had to endure remarks around him, and forbid Matt from taking visible offense for every single one. “Please,” he said to him. “We can’t spend all our lives constantly getting upset about it.”
He thought he fully understood the extent of it when, one day late in March, Foggy staggered in stunned, and Matt urgently asked him what was wrong. Too distracted, thankfully, to think about how Matt could tell his emotional state, he’d said, “Professor York just made an advance on me. A sexual advance.”
Matt shook his head, getting to his feet. “You have to report that, Foggy. You can’t let him get away with that.”
“It’s his word against mine,” said Foggy. “He’s a tenured old Professor, and I’m an omega in my first year here, and I’m not exactly the best in the class. You think anyone will believe me?”
But he only truly understood how bad things could get when a few days later, he came into their room to find Foggy crying on his bed, and it took him nearly ten minutes to get out of him that Professor York had accused him of plagiarism.
“You think maybe I should agree to sleep with him?” he croaked through his tears. “See if that gets him to withdraw the accusation?”
Rage filled Matt stronger than any he’d felt since he’d last had to listen to an omega in heat quarantined at St. Agnes. He had to remind himself that going and doing what he wanted to do to Professor York would probably get them both expelled. “Now you have to report the sexual harassment,” he said, feeling himself go cold to keep calm.
“Yeah, because an accusation of sexual harassment made *after* the accuser has been accused of cheating is definitely going to be believed. I’ve actually tried to talk to the department chair already. He made it pretty clear which one of us he believed, case closed. Trying to tell him that won’t help.”
“We need evidence as well, then,” said Matt. “What exactly did he say you did? Do you know?”
When Foggy had calmed enough to tell the whole story, Matt let himself consider the practicality of it for a few minutes, but he’d known already what he had to do. “All right,” he said. “We can poke holes in it, at least enough to intimidate him. Let me have a word with him about this-a lawyer who represents himself and all that.” And, of course, Matt, as a beta, lacked Foggy’s disadvantage, but they couldn’t afford to be proud about that at the moment.
“What if he goes after you too?” Foggy protested. “Matt, you shouldn’t get him angry at you. Not for me. Look, I really think maybe if I give in…”
“You are not giving in,” Matt growled. “You are not letting anyone bully you into sex. It’s wrong, and that monster should be fired.” He knew the chances of getting that accomplished were pretty low, of course, but he was at least going to teach that alpha beast he couldn’t just get whatever he wanted out of an omega. “We are going to fight this, Foggy, and we are going to win.”
A week after that, Matt and Foggy stood in the Dean’s office while he apologized to them for the “misunderstandings,” and Matt had to suppress his rage again when he hinted to Foggy that he might have misinterpreted what Professor York had initially said to him as sexual interest out of his own vanity. Foggy had repeated those words to Matt; their meaning had been pretty unmistakable. But Foggy was just relieved he wasn’t being expelled.
It took him two weeks to stop thanking Matt for it, and even then, after exams, they started looking into their grades after downing starting beers, and when York’s were up, Foggy cried out, “I passed! All thanks to you, buddy,” and then draped himself against Matt and spent several more minutes mumbling similar words to that effect.
And Matt found himself just sitting there, feeling suddenly almost overcome with affection for this roommate of his, this jocular, ridiculously kind, and more determined than he looked man who had banished the loneliness from his life. Also by protectiveness, and by a strange, soft, tender feeling he wasn’t willing to put a name to then.
He finally admitted to himself what it was when they were parted over the summer, and he felt as if a huge piece of himself was missing. Especially when he then started having the filthiest dreams he’d ever had, both with images and without.
But by then, it had become clear to him that Foggy only dated alphas. Sure, he’d been physically attracted to Matt from the start, and Matt had detected the same reaction in him with some other betas and omegas, but he’d never shown serious interest in any of them. If Foggy didn’t want to date unconventionally, that was something Matt had no choice but to respect, especially since he certainly wasn’t breaking the promise he’d made to himself about never making advances on him, especially after the whole thing that had happened with York.
Even with alphas, Foggy was cautious, which was natural for an omega raised by an abandoned one. He told Matt at one point he’d been on suppressants since he’d been sixteen, and while he did still have the occasional weak heat, he generally preferred to take out his special dildo and ride them out alone, while Matt absented himself from the room for the day or night. He often spent them in the library, trying not to think of Foggy lying in bed, groaning with pleasure and want, and how wonderful it would be if he could be there, giving him what his body truly wanted, or at least part of what it wanted. Other times he would give in and go find someone to fuck, but that felt like its own frustration, because on those nights he could never not feel disappointed they weren’t Foggy.
Even when he was dating someone, he didn’t necessarily let them take care of it. In all their time at Columbia, Matt knew he only allowed two people to knot him. The first he never knew the identity of; it was a one-night stand where he went out in the afternoon probably not even knowing he was going to have a heat, though Matt had been able to tell, and came back the next morning smelling of a knot. But when Matt asked casually if he’d done anything interesting the previous night, he’d lied and said he’d been in the library, and Matt wasn’t about to push him to confess if he didn’t want to. If he jerked off in the shower the next night while thinking about Foggy being knotted, well, Foggy didn’t have to know.
The second person was Marci. Matt never liked her from the start. He knew that might partially be jealousy, and especially fear, because he knew if Foggy got serious enough with her, it would be natural that she would take priority over Matt, that she might dictate his choices in life, choices that might take him away from his friend. But also, even in her early days, she seemed to him too much like Foggy’s biomom. He even worried Foggy might subconsciously be searching for a version of her who would be kinder to him, whom he could please. He had nightmares about her inflicting his father’s fate on Foggy, even though he knew that wasn’t fair, not really.
Indeed, though she never came anywhere near to claiming him, Foggy was pretty broken up when the relationship ended. Ironically he went into heat three days later. He hadn’t gone off the suppressants but he’d halved the dose, so that wasn’t surprising. He and Matt did their usual thing for that, except that this time Matt spends most of the time on the phone with Candace, both of them talking about how awful Marci was and how much better her brother was without her anyway and how relieving it was they’d never gone further than they had. By the end of it, Matt was mildly worried for Marci’s physical safety next time Candace happens to be on campus.
“You know,” said Candace, “sometimes I wish you’d marry him. I trust you. And maybe for him to be with a beta wouldn’t be so bad a thing.”
“He isn’t interested in that at all, though,” said Matt, keeping his voice as neutral as possible. “I don’t think he’s ever even slept with a beta.”
“Oh, he has,” said Candace. “There were a couple of them in his teen years. I don’t know why he stopped when he went to college.”
Matt tried not to think anything about it. Foggy might have just been going through an experimental phase. Besides, if he did think of the possibility, he feared he might just go crazy.
He didn’t even think much about when Foggy broke his normal routine and had a very brief fling with another Landman and Zack intern who was a fellow omega. It was over before he could fully process it, and then it seemed too bizarre a thing to mean anything. Besides, the girl had just lost both her parents and her littermates, and then gone into heat; she’d probably just snapped and thrown herself at Foggy, maybe even just as someone she knew wouldn’t get her pregnant, and he probably just hadn’t been able to bring himself to turn her down. He’d already long worried about how exploitable Foggy might be.
Matt noticed the chemical attraction between Foggy and Karen Page right away, even before he introduced them both to her. That happened sometimes, between alphas and omegas. Often they didn’t at all act like they noticed it, and they didn’t here; both Foggy and Karen’s heartbeats and breathing remained completely unaltered; Matt had long come to think it was a subconscious thing neither alpha nor omega was aware of. It wasn’t important at all.
It wasn’t important, until first Karen was serving them the recipe her grandmother had made her promise to serve only to one she had claimed(her grandmother didn’t sound like the type who would accept the possibility of her marrying anyone other than an omega), and then, even more vitally, she was being hired as their secretary. On the conscious level, he was aware that she was actually more attracted to him than to Foggy, but he was the only one she’d spent any time alone with so far, and really, maybe he was biased about Foggy’s attractiveness, but he felt that would change. They were both attracted to her, but he wasn’t sure if he should ever approach her, what with being the one of her new bosses who wasn’t an omega. He wasn’t sure if even Foggy ought to, but then, he generally waited for alphas to approach him anyway.
He was right. He knew it within the week, when they both started releasing the regular pheromones. If he’d had any doubts, they were done away with when an omega who avoided giving his name walked into their office and, among other things, cuttingly asked if only their pretty clients ended up working for them. Foggy’s surface reaction read simply as stunned, as one would expect, but he released a practical cloud of chemicals that Matt had only smelled when an omega was feeling protective of someone they had a romantic or sexual attraction to.
He wasn’t even sure if they entirely realized what they were doing to each other; how her pheromones were making his body react, how even his were subtly affecting her temperament. Sometimes he wondered what either smelled like to the other. He often thought about how she could never appreciate how to him, Foggy just smelled like Foggy, and how that was better than any flowers or chocolate or books pages or warm blankets or anything else.
The thing was, while Matt sometimes felt wary about the fact that all Karen seemed willing to tell them about herself was that she was beta-born and from Vermont, he couldn’t help but be aware she’d be good for Foggy. She was kind, and smart, would take care of him if he needed it, but wouldn’t demand he let her or dictate his life to him. He practically ought to hope she proved the one to claim him. It was even in his interest; so long as she worked for them, it kept him with Matt no problem.
He had always known, of course, that the day Foggy was claimed by anyone would be a hard one for him. But he hadn’t quite been prepared how part of him hoped desperately it wouldn’t happen, how he was even filled with guilty relief when Karen refused his first offer for a second date.
Except then the day after that found him listening to Karen tell him she wasn’t going to stick her head in the sand and let it happen to somebody else because she was scared, and he could hear and smell all the anger and determination she had in her, and Matt felt his heart jump and his stomach drop out, because he’d been attracted to her already, but this…this felt different. This felt like that moment in that summer when he’d realized his feelings for Foggy.
He really was in the exact same situation there, too, because he’d known already he couldn’t approach her any more than he could approach Foggy, even if she too found him attractive. He couldn’t even think of an acceptable to way to try to find out if she was willing to actually go for a beta.
He thought then about his childhood wish to be a betahusband. But if Foggy didn’t want one, well, that he now had two people he thought he might be happy to spend his life with wasn’t going to matter much.
Then Foggy found out.
And then he was angry, interrogating Matt like he would an obviously lying witness, and his words hurt, like getting sliced through even more than Matt was already, but not as much as the fact that too much of the time he sounded and smelled like his *father* did, when he started showing the strain. Like what Matt had done to him was as bad as the worst thing an alpha could do to him. The fact that he had a heat coming on might have something to do with it, but Matt didn’t think so.
But when Foggy demanded, “What things do you just know?” Matt was, at least, finally able to give him the kind of warning he’d wanted to in the past.
So he started, “Well, for one thing, I know you’ve got a heat coming on. Some time within the next twenty hours. I’d think it’d come earlier, but I also know you’re hungry, and tired, so that might delay it.”
“You can tell when I have a heat coming on?!” Foggy interrupted him. “I thought even alphas couldn’t tell that!”
“They can’t. But I can.” He remembered Stick’s words, about how alphas and omegas would be put out, if they knew Matt’s sense of smell was better than theirs. That seemed to be the least of the reasons Foggy was upset now.
“And you never tried to warn me?!”
“I couldn’t. Would you even have believed me?”
A pause, and then, soft and heavy with pain, “I know when I would have believed you by. I would have believed you by that night I went out and my heat caught me by surprise. Do you know what happened that night, Matt? Does your supernose tell you that?”
“I know someone knotted you, someone I’ve never met. That’s all I know.”
“And you knew I lied to you about what I did that night.”
It was probably better to get another thing out there: “I usually know when people are lying too. I can hear their heartbeats.”
“You…” Foggy’s voice started to wind itself up. “Always?”
“It’s not absolutely foolproof, but usually. Especially when I’m more familiar with someone.”
Foggy’s heart stuttered for a moment, as he asked, “Are you telling me that since I’ve known you any time I wasn’t telling the truth, you knew? And what, you just played along?”
“Basically,” Matt whispered, bracing himself for the hurt.
Foggy strode forward again as he said, “I don’t remember everything that happened that night either. Effects of heat combined with the effects of alcohol. I don’t even know the name of the alpha who knotted me, if he ever even bothered mentioning it. I stumbled into an alpha/omega bar and let him take me out back….do you know how ashamed I felt, when the heat wore off? How terrified I was, that I might have even gotten pregnant? The suppressants reduce the chance of that, but they don’t get rid of it unless you take another pill, which I didn’t have any of. I could have ruined my life, and you let me go and risk doing that…if you weren’t half dead I would kick your ass, Murdock. Am I lying about that?”
“No,” said Matt, and he found himself wishing Foggy would, because he might not be saying it, might even speak of shame, but it was clear to Matt that he’d been taken advantage of that night at best, when his heat had led him to that bar. At worst…well, either way, someone had to pay for what had happened, he thought, and it should probably be him.
But Foggy didn’t. Instead he destroyed Matt with his words, and then his footsteps, walking out of his apartment, possibly out of his life. Those first moments after waking up that morning, Matt had thought he couldn’t feel worse, but he did then, when he was left to cry and curse himself and wish he had died the previous night, because that would've been preferable to living his life without Foggy.
But worse still was the moment, a day and a half later or so, when he came back to the office door, smelled Foggy inside with Karen, and knew instantly that Marci had knotted him.
He stood there by the door, dazed, trying to understand it. Foggy had known he was going into heat, Matt had been able to warn him this time. And he’d met with Marci again not too long ago, and Matt had heard enough about that meeting to be deeply thankful they hadn’t lasted. What on Earth could have driven him to be anywhere near her when he knew he was going to be vulnerable?
He wanted to ask him why when he opened the door, but he knew he had no right. All he could do was stand aside and let Foggy leave. Besides, he knew Foggy, he knew how he could sometimes react when he got upset, and yeah, he didn’t even have to ask. He knew why already.
As he stepped in, his mind was filled with nightmare images: Marci capitalizing on Foggy’s leaving Matt, Marci claiming him, and then Marci getting tired of him and walking out. It seemed all too likely a sequence of events, that Foggy was going to suffer his father’s fate, and it was all Matt’s fault.
“Well, that wasn’t awkward,” Karen commented from her desk. Did she know it had been Marci? She would be able to tell he’d been knotted while in heat, of course, but it smelled like it had been 24 hours. Had she seen him at all the previous day? Matt didn’t dare ask. It was bad enough he knew Foggy’s secrets, and Foggy had just walked away knowing Matt knew and probably hating that. He wasn’t going to risk giving them away.
There was something wrong with her too. Matt knew it within a minute, just by listening to her vitals, and smelling the chemicals she was releasing, which were a little haywire, but it quickly became clear that she wasn’t going to tell him what, so he didn’t push her.
And then he chased a blind drug mule, and found himself in a place full of blinded betas, and when they were gathered together it became clear they let off too little smell even for betas. When their mistress told him they’d blinded themselves, he wondered what else she’d had them do to themselves, or even they’d even all in fact been betas, and she herself didn’t smell like alpha, beta, omega, or anything he had ever known before. Half an hour after getting away he was still so sick with horror he went to the office because he couldn’t stand being in his apartment alone, even though he knew he’d doomed himself to loneliness once again.
Except he found Karen there, and never had the scent of an alpha been so welcome. He told her she should go home even while desperately hoping she wouldn’t. “Is this what we are now? Three people who don’t even talk to each other?” she asked, and from her he recognized the pheromones an alpha released when she was feeling protective; he supposed he looked pretty battered.
He wasn’t even sure where he was going when he started talking about Stick. He hadn’t intended to burden her with his grief; he and Foggy together were already giving her enough trouble, but it came out. “…can’t take another step…” and her protectiveness clouded itself around him, enveloped him, and it both broke him even more and somehow made him think maybe he could stand it after all. He’d thought betas couldn’t be affected by that, he never had been.
And then her arms were around him, and she was whispering, “You’re not alone, Matt. You never were.” Sobs came from her too, but her embrace was strong, and he let himself go limp and easy in it as her arms tightened. He’d never been held by an alpha like this, like she just wanted to make everything better for him, like he was the only thing in the world to her.
He was all too aware, also, of just how in love with her he might fall. But it didn’t matter. Whatever the consequences of that would have to be, because if Foggy was gone, then he simply could not do without her. He wasn’t even sure he could have anyway.
It was a little strange, because Foggy missing Ben’s funeral was actually something he couldn’t just be excused for, but it was Karen’s anger at that, after they returned to the office, that finally caused the question Matt had been biting back for days to spill out: “Are you more mad at Foggy than at me because he went for another alpha over you?” A moment later, he hastily said, “No, I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t ask that-”
“I shouldn’t be,” Karen laughed bitterly. “I mean, though you'd think after he found out *why* I took the raincheck on the second date, he’d understood I’d meant it when I’d said that I would…but…” Then she too was bursting out with words she’d clearly been holding back, “But what on Earth caused him to run to that bitch Marci?!”
When Matt didn’t respond, she said, “Yeah, I don’t know if you could tell it was her, but he went into heat the night you had that argument, and he’s been smelling like her ever since. Two nights after the woman she had talked about like that had been *murdered*…I may have only been in her company for two minutes, but I’d know that smell of ice and knives anywhere. And I don’t care how different she once was, I still don’t understand how Foggy ever let her touch him!”
“She genuinely was,” said Matt, and even if he’d never trusted or liked Marci, he’d always known why she’d done everything she’d done: “Karen, you have to understand, to succeed in our profession, women, even alphas like Marci…”
“Probably don’t have any harder a time of it than omegas do, even male ones, and yet you don’t see Foggy…although I’m starting to wonder about what her going back to her says about him!” Her heart didn’t really believe that last part, but he feared she wanted to.
But then she sagged down as she sat down; Matt had never heard anyone do so that loudly, even Foggy at his most exhausted during finals. “But as I said,” she sighed. “I shouldn’t. Not now, since you know, I’ve since decided I shouldn’t be trusted with an omega anyway. Maybe not even to knot, definitely never to claim. And if he wants children…I won’t have them, not with an omega or even with a beta male; I shouldn’t be trusted with them either.”
She was on the verge of tears, and now Matt truly was shocked. “When…when did you decide that?”
“Very recently,” she said. “After he’d already gone to Marci; I never led him on.”
“Is this because you’re blaming yourself for Ben’s death?”
“No. Well, maybe it is, a little. I can’t….I can’t…” She was breaking down, and Matt wanted to do something, anything, but she was also emitting the kind of pheromones alphas only released when they really didn’t want anyone getting too close. Of course, what he really wanted to do was ask her what had happened in those days right after the argument and before Ben’s murder, because it was clearer than ever something had. But he knew very, very well he had no right to.
“Why don’t you go home?” he tried. “Get some rest, huh?”
“I can’t,” she breathed. “Every time I close my eyes I see…” She stopped then, and when she continued, “What if he finds out that I…that I was with Ben…” and he knew that wasn’t what she saw when she closed her eyes.
It was strange, the conversation that followed, the promise to protect her. Many an alpha would have found his words insulting, even if they’d known his secret, which of course Karen didn’t. But she had already shown herself to be an alpha who didn’t mind admitting she was scared. Instead she was one who was willing to face down anything for the sake of others anyway, but she didn’t mind help, except for how it made her worry about the people helping her getting hurt-her way of taking an alpha’s responsibility?
Perhaps, he thought, if it was just the two of them for long enough, he would tell her his secret, avoid making the mistake he’d made with Foggy. Hopefully then she’d have the sense to let him protect her more fully, alpha or no. Although he was also afraid him putting himself in danger every night would just become another thing she’d feel the need to do something about and put herself in danger too on account of.
The next morning, Foggy walked into the gym. And then, when Matt tried to walk away from him, his voice was filled with anguish as he called, “Last time you went after Fisk I found you half dead! More than half!” Also, he was releasing the exact same pheromones he had when he’d gotten protective of Karen.
Matt refused to think of the significance of that last detail. Not when minutes later Foggy was making clear he didn’t want things to end between them after all, and when he accepted his offer to move forward, well, he certainly wasn’t going to ask for more than that then.
It wasn’t until a few days later, after the excitement of bringing Fisk down had worn off, that the two of them sat down in Matt’s apartment and had a long, serious, rational conversation. There were too many things it was impossible for them to resolve entirely, and Matt was too aware Foggy at this point was just resigning himself to them, but Matt apologized to lying to him for so long, and Foggy seemed to accept his apology, and say he at least partly understood why Matt had been so afraid to tell anyone about the senses. They discussed Karen, and Matt admitted he wasn’t sure if he ever could tell her, especially since he was afraid she’d want to get involved and wouldn’t take no for an answer, a point Foggy conceded, though he remained for telling her at some point.
Late in the afternoon the conversation ended up turning to Marci, and Matt ended up saying, “Look, if you really think I don’t have the right to say this, go ahead and stop me in the middle of it, but I have to at least try. You know what Marci is. Even if she did a good deed, we know what she’s always been, the things about her that are never going to change. And as your friend, I am worried about her hurting you.”
“I know exactly what you’re afraid of, buddy,” said Foggy. “Don’t need supersenses for that one. But let me tell you something. I started going to her place before I went into heat, though I took the pill to make sure I couldn’t get pregnant at that point. When I arrived, I was in the early stages, before anyone would argue about my ability to give consent. But she still balked initially, and after I’d told her I’d taken the pill; she was still very worried about taking advantage of me; that’s one line right there she’ll never cross.
And I know she’s not someone I should let claim me, at least not as she is right now, and she probably won’t change enough for that, although I’m not ready to say I would never, ever let her claim me. But I don’t know if I’d be looking for an alpha to claim me right now anyway. I still don’t really know how long this relationship’s going to go on. It might end next week. It might go on for years. Point is, Matt, I know what I’m doing. Remember, I’m the one who grew up with the father who didn’t hold it all in. I’m not going to do anything stupid.”
“But you deserve better than her!” Matt hadn’t intended to say it out loud. For the first moment after he heard his voice speak it, he was confused. Then his heart sank, because not only had he spoken, but he had done so in a voice that didn’t hide his distress at all, or the full cause of it to someone who knew him as well as Foggy did.
Any hope that his friend hadn’t understood that was gone once he heard how his heart reacted. Even so he tried to retreat, give Foggy some plausible deniability, “I mean, like Karen. She would have, you know…” Then he remembered what Karen had said to him later.
“Oh, Matt,” sighed Foggy. “You know how she feels about you. Her smell makes that pretty damn obvious to me, and I can’t even hear her heartbeat. And just yesterday she sat me down and told me that she plans to never claim an omega, which was kind of a ridiculous way of letting me down gently…”
“No, she was telling the truth,” Matt said, because he wasn’t going to let Foggy believe that. “She said that to me, too, and she meant it. I don’t know why she’s thinking that way, but it’s really not you; it really is her.”
“Wow,” said Foggy, but there was too much grief in his voice all of a sudden.
Before Matt could think of anything more to say, he then said, “You know, I know you’ve never seen me date anyone who wasn’t an alpha, but…I never ruled betas out entirely, I just…” He sighed. “Didn’t go for it after high school. And…I sometimes thought…if I was ever to date a beta again…” Matt held his breath, until he finished, “But that was before I knew….”
“I see,” said Matt. He couldn’t even be sorry, he supposed. Not if Foggy was unwilling to date a vigilante, because he still wasn’t sorry he was one, and never would be. Even if losing this possibility because of it hurt so badly.
He wasn’t going to ask if Foggy might have been willing if it hadn’t been for all the lying. He didn’t think he could take a yes.
Things got better slowly. Trust grew back between him and Foggy. Karen seemed to be in less distress, though she never seemed free of it entirely. They started winning cases.
Foggy continued to see Marci, though from Matt could tell, they still weren’t too serious. And then, after many months, Karen started throwing hints at him. He still couldn’t help but feel she ought to be with Foggy; he was both the one who deserved her and the one she deserved. But when she wouldn’t have him, and he was thus the one of them she would have, and she the one of her and Foggy he himself could have, well, ultimately he found the temptation too much to resist.
It didn’t run smooth, any more than any course of true love did. There ended up being complications with Elektra and the existence of the Punisher both, and also when she found his secrets out, though at least she didn’t take it as badly as Foggy had. But they kissed for the first time outside Josie’s one night, and they made love for the first time a couple of weeks later, with her restless and desperate beneath him, so unlike any other alpha he had ever slept with. Afterwards she told him the first of her own secrets, how she’d been driven out of her parents’ home, though she outright refused to tell him why, and what she’d then done to pay for college. Hearing that story gave Matt a whole new level of appreciation for how strong she truly was.
She moved in quickly; Foggy, obviously not wanting Matt to be in the apartment alone, urged her on, completely indifferent to the guilt that generated in them both. Now Matt was arriving home to a warm and loving heartbeat and a woman who held him while he slept, wrapping herself around him until she felt like armor.
She was like that during the day too. It was more subtle then, but she’d often come and drape herself over him when he was at his desk, and she always seemed to know when he was getting stressed or tired or his computer was having trouble; he started to wonder if maybe alphas could smell more than Stick had realized.
Then there was the time a disgruntled rejected alpha client did his best to loom over him, after speaking to Foggy in such a way to make clear he saw him as too low to even threaten, and spoke menacing words and a few disparaging ones related to his being blind. Karen started just by walking behind him and emitting enough pheromones to choke someone, then put her hands on his shoulders, then urged him with her fingers to stand up when he happened to make a statement to the client repeating that Nelson and Murdock could not take his case at this time. When he stayed standing, she had her arms shamelessly pressed over his, apparently not caring at all about how unprofessional that looked, and from the way her jaw was fidgeting and the air was whistling between her teeth, he thought she was fighting the urge to bare them. He thought it provoked something in the alpha, made him retreat; he did leave within a minute or so.
She took to choosing what he wore; at first she stammered out he could wear what he wanted, of course, but eventually he made clear he didn’t mind, and even let her literally dress him on those mornings when he was more hurt or sleep-deprived, or had court. She combed his hair most mornings too. Sometimes she handfed him when they were alone. It all made him feel so taken care of it ached.
Matt knew he ought to happy. And much of the time, he was, at least as much as he was capable of being happy. In the mornings when he woke up with her still locked around him, or the afternoons when they walked home together and he managed to make her laugh, or the evenings when he often lingered in her arms before finally heading out. He never took a moment with Karen for granted, and he truly was grateful to have her love. He knew it was ridiculous of him to want more.
But there were moments at night when the bed felt a little too big. When he heard one pair of footsteps in the morning, and wanted very badly to hear two. When he and Karen took their leave of Foggy at Josie’s when the night ended, and he couldn’t help but think about what it would be like if he instead left with them.
It probably didn’t help matters that Matt was pretty sure he wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Her relationship with him did absolutely nothing to Karen’s tells around Foggy; if anything, they just got stronger. There was one incident when an alpha who came into the office made a pass at him, and there were a couple of points during what ensued that Matt thought Karen was seriously going to literally shove her out the door. Then there was the way she often talked about him when he wasn’t there, her fond words, her wishing he was. If he had not been Matt and Foggy had not been Foggy, Matt might have been jealous.
As long as Foggy remained with Marci, it didn’t matter. But when he started showing up to the office upset whenever he smelled of her, and got an email or two from her that he loudly refused to talk about, and seemed to be spending less and less time with her, well, Matt started to think if they could only change their minds, they would all three of them be much happier. Maybe Foggy didn’t even have to entirely; maybe if he trusted Matt enough now, having Karen there, whom he absolutely would trust, would be enough. And Karen ought to, because while Foggy had good reason for thinking as he did, she, Matt knew, was dead wrong about herself, if he could just convince her.
The start of things coming to a head happened one night at Josie’s, when Matt said softly, “Foggy, I think you’ve got a heat coming on. Fast-approaching one; it might hit at late as tomorrow night, but tonight smells more likely.”
“Thanks,” said Foggy, and rose to his feet to call to Josie.
“You going over to Marci?” asked Karen, the annoyance at that not quite as hidden as it had once had been.
“No,” said Foggy, immediately and loudly, not really to either of their surprise. “Going home to the dildo. If I’m not in tomorrow, you’ll know why, obviously.”
Matt carefully avoiding thinking too much about that while he was still in the bar, but he didn’t bother while he and Karen were walking home, and from the smell of things, neither did she. They didn’t talk about it, then. But he was half-hard by the time they got in, and he got the rest of the way there fast when she slammed him against the door, and kissed him hard. She was soaking wet already, and he could tell her knot was swollen too.
“Karen,” he hissed to her. “You can knot me, if you want.” They’d talked on and off about it, even researched the easiest ways to knot a male beta.
When she froze up, and he smelled guilt, he added, “I’m not jealous; you should know by now I don’t have the right to be,” which was the closest they’d ever gotten to addressing that elephant.
At least until a moment later, when she simply said, “I’m not going to pretend you’re Foggy. You’re Matt,” and took his mouth with her tongue and teeth as if she wanted to devour him alive.
The way she dragged him to the bed was all alpha, though, her nails drawing blood. So was the way she threw him down and held him down as she rode him. Matt tried to concentrate on her, the relentless shoving of her body up and down, the tight grip and heat of her cunt and her hands, the hammering of her heart and roar of her blood, her short, wild moans, the feel of her clit pulsating when his fingers found it. But there were moments when the thought of Foggy invaded, that he might now be stretched out on his bed, shoving that dildo in and out, the whir of its motor drowned out by his cries. He came hearing the cries of both of them. Karen followed a minute later, her knot surging within her until he could feel the push of it, desperate to get out.
He waited until they had cleaned up and she was curled up on top of the sheets, presumably thinking he was going to go get suited up, and then he said, “Karen, you know, when I was young, I once dreamed of being a betahusband. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be with you, and I’ll be glad to be with you even if you say no, but, well, I know you want him too, and we both know he and Marci aren’t going to last much longer.”
The sound of the sheets shifting as she rolled to face away from him was loud. “Does the Catholic Church even allow that when you can’t get him pregnant?” she snapped.
“If you claimed him first, yes,” said Matt. “Look, Karen, it’s not true that you can’t take care of an omega. Sometimes I feel like you’re already taking care of both of us, in your way. I think you’d be the best thing that could ever happen to Foggy.”
“You don’t know anything!” she burst out. “Saying that about someone who’s murdered an omega!”
Matt just stood there, shocked, for a minute or so. But then the rest of the story spilled out of her, with her weeping by the end of it, and he shook his head and said, “That wasn’t murder; that was self-defense, and anyone in your position would have done the exact same thing.”
“He was an omega, and I killed him!”
“He was an omega who threatened to kill us all. I’m sure most would applaud you for protecting both of us!”
“Oh yes,” she laughed bitterly. “Kill to protect, I’ve heard *that* one before. From my father, who absolutely did murder an omega, and used that as an excuse…you’re a beta, Matt, you have absolutely no idea how wrong that is, how much power I had over him, how I’m not supposed to abuse my power…”
Matt had multiple answers to that, as well as questions, but ultimately those were the last words he got out of her that night, both before going out and even after coming back.
Foggy didn’t show up in the office the next day, but late in the afternoon he called them to tell them his heat had broken, but he was exhausted. “It never used to wear me down like this,” he said to Matt over the phone.
“Just rest,” Matt told him. “You need anything from me or Karen, you know you only have to call us.”
He hadn’t thought Foggy would, though, and he was stunned when, in the wee hours of the next morning, he came in to find Karen dressed and with washing materials, clothes, and his coat at the ready for him. “Foggy called in tears,” she said. “He wasn’t very coherent, but I think Marci just dumped him.” Her voice was filled with the same fear and anger that Matt’s heart immediately flew to.
Foggy actually turned out to be not in quite as bad a way as he had been last time he’d split from Marci, but that wasn’t saying much. He was still collapsed on top of the bed as if getting under it would take too much effort, still made nothing but pained noises when they first tried to talk to him, and still was in no shape to tell them what had happened for a while. Matt was extremely glad to have Karen with them this time around. He would try to sooth Foggy with words and make life as easy for him as possible for the next day or so, but she wordlessly hugged him from behind and flooded him with pheromones, and Matt noticed the difference, could hear Foggy’s twitching diminish and smell the decrease of his distress pheromones.
Then, Karen called to him, “You should come here and hug him too,” and when Foggy made no protest, vocally or otherwise, Matt got on to the bed on Foggy’s other side, and pressed in when Foggy’s arms unexpectedly latched around him tight.
“You make me feel better, too,” he whispered to him after a few minutes. Matt supposed he might, from a perspective of providing purely emotional support. He reminded himself that an omega in this situation would often reveal things they might otherwise keep to themselves. He hoped Karen had known that. Maybe he should have advised her about it. But he was sure she wouldn’t go telling Foggy’s secrets to anyone, so it ought to be okay.
A little after that, he said, “Marci thought I’d fucked you two.”
“What?” they both demanded together, then Karen said, “How could she possibly think that? Did her nose suddenly break?”
“She said your scents on me were inconclusive,” he said. “She admitted she couldn’t think I’d been knotted, but she didn’t care. She also said that at the very least, she knew I desperately wanted to.”
A pause, before he added, “She’s right on that one.”
There was nothing either of them dared to say to that, but Foggy kept talking, “I’m sorry I ever let her knot me that night. I should have known better. But I mean, I’d spent all that time wanting you, Matt, even if it took me an eternity to admit it to myself, that the person I wanted more than anything was a beta, and then I couldn’t want you anymore…at least not then. Maybe I should’ve gone to you, Karen, but I wasn’t up to lying to your face, and I was afraid you’d refuse me. I knew it wouldn’t hurt if Marci refused me…”
Karen’s heart was beating faster than Matt had ever heard it. His own was still faster.
He wanted them both to stay here. He wanted them to roll Foggy under the sheets and kiss him until he felt better, and hold him while he slept. He wanted to wake up with both of them to breakfast, and the walk to the office, and for them all to go to the same place and the same bed at the end of the day. And the at least not then…he had the feeling Foggy wanted that too.
In fact, so did Karen. It was just that she wouldn’t let herself have it.
Foggy didn’t say much more; he fell asleep like that, and they did roll him under the sheets, but then left him there. Karen wrote a note forbidding him to come in the next day.
“We can make him happy,” said Matt when they were out of the apartment and heading down the stairs.
“It’s not so easy for me to believe that,” she replied.
They went straight to sleep when they arrived home, without even setting the alarm; they would have to go in some time that day, but it could wait. When Matt woke up, the sun was already high enough its rays were coming directly into the room. Karen was lying beside him, and it took him a moment or so to determine she was awake; she was so still.
“My parents were living in a three-way arrangement,” she said, when he’d shifted enough for her to realize he too was awake. “The problem was, my mother didn’t know about it. And all the while, my father was talking a lot to me about how it was the job of alphas to take care of people, especially omegas, and beaming when my mother told me how well he took care of her, and I don’t even know exactly how long he had his omega on the side, but I do know it was for years. Roger Carson was his name; I like to remember it. And my parents were the kind of Baptists who thought of homosexuality as a sin even when it was between alpha and omega.
And then he got pregnant. And then he decided my mother should know about him, and he actually showed up at our house in the middle of the night, banged the door down, woke us all up, and when my father answered it he marched up to my mother and told her. She didn’t believe him at first; maybe if my father had left it alone…I still remember standing there with her, Roger had stormed out, and my father followed saying he was going to have a word with ‘that liar,’ and I just wished one of us had noticed he had one of our two guns with him. We heard shouting, couldn’t understand the words, and then the gunshot.” She was crying now. “And I ran to the safe and got the other gun, I don’t even know what I was thinking when I did that, but I came out holding it. My father didn’t even notice. He and mom were yelling at each other, and she was crying, and he was saying we had to pretend he’d been an intruder, and he smelled terrible, like a bear.
And he was waving the gun at mom, and calling her an ungrateful bitch, that he’d only done it to protect us, and she was screaming was she not enough for him, and he yelled at her to shut up and pointed his gun straight at her, and I, I just panicked and…I didn’t even mean to hit him; I just meant to fire warning shots. But I was shooting at random, and I happened to hit him in the shoulder. And by now someone had heard the commotion and called 911, and we heard the police sirens, and my father was on the ground and was growling at me I’d regret it if I didn’t say it was an intruder…”
“You didn’t, did you?” said Matt, and he tried not to smile, he really did, but that was just so Karen.
Her tears grew less noisy; she even gave a slight chuckle. “I told them everything. They tested the unborn children’s DNA, so that proved the affair. He got ten years. Only ten years, for murdering the omega he’d fucked, taken, kept for years, made emotionally dependent on him, not much less than he would have had he claimed him, gotten pregnant with his own children, just because that omega had become inconvenient to him. But my mother…she blamed me. Said I’d betrayed my own parents. Said I’d tried to kill him. I don’t know how much they really believed her, but it was enough to put me in juvenile detention for ten months until I turned eighteen, by which time I knew they wouldn’t give me anywhere to go to; I walked out with only the clothes on my back and an acceptance letter to a college I had no money to pay for, and the rest, you know.”
When Matt put his arms around her, he said to her, “You are nothing like him. I don’t understand how you could ever think you are.”
“We really have been a lot alike,” she smirked sadly into his neck. “Had you met him, you’d have been able to tell that immediately. Same aggressiveness, same tendency to poke our noses into other people’s business; I even sound the same way he did when he was angry. More than one person had even told us we smelled the same, like crackling fire. And now, I’ve got one of the two best men I’ve ever met, and I want to keep him, and I’m so greedy I want to have the other one too.”
“And you’re telling me that honestly, and you want nothing I don’t want too. Look, at the very least, put this all to Foggy. He’s perfectly capable of making his own choices; we’ve let him over that past year despite our own strong feelings about it.”
She didn’t then, of course; Foggy was still in no state to deal with it even when they dropped in on him the following evening. He returned to work the next day; by then they’d lost enough time that there was work left to be done on a case that kept them both in the office after hours. When Karen went out and came back with takeout, she stood there for a moment as they both started to eat, and they both realized what she was thinking; Foggy’s hormonal response was pretty unmistakable.
About a month later, after a relatively slow night on the streets, Matt returned to his apartment to the sound of the two of them talking, by the time he quietly slid into his bedroom through the window, he was pretty sure she’d just told him all her secrets at once. As he pulled the mask off, he heard Foggy say, “This frightens you, doesn’t it?”
“More than anything I’ve done in my life, even going after Fisk.”
“And you don’t really refrain from doing much out of fear, do you?” Matt could hear Foggy’s smile.
“This is different. It’s not me who’ll get all fucked up if this goes wrong. Although, of course, it wasn’t always before either…”
“Actually,” said Foggy. “I think it kind of would be. Yeah, me more, but I know you, Karen. You’d never forgive yourself if you hurt me, would you?
Look,” he continued, “I know how hard this has got to be, especially since you know, you’re the one who was abandoned by both her parents; at least Matt and I had fathers who loved us and did their best for us. But I think that means that you, like us, know how important this is, how careful you need to be. I believe you will be.
And do you want to know what I think the real reason is Marci and I broke up? Yeah, the actual impetus was what I said, but that wasn’t the core of it. The real reason was the realization I had that I never wanted any alpha to take care of me but you, Karen. I didn’t even care if you never fucked me, if you and Matt stayed just a couple. You’ve protected me, directed me about-you know I never feel comfortable taking a case anymore if you don’t seem to like the idea of it?-dropped in when I’ve been ill, even without Matt. You’ve already done more for me than any alpha ever has besides my stepmother, and I trust you more than I have any besides her or Candace, and nothing you’ve said to me tonight has changed that. Honestly, Karen, if Matt’s on board, why not just make it official?”
Matt had lingered as he’d stripped down to his underwear; he knew when Foggy had his argument in hand and was sure to win it provided he wasn’t interrupted. But then Karen called, “You’re in there, Matt, aren’t you? I can smell him, you know. He doesn’t smell like anything fancy; it’s just a scent I’ve come to know. You know what you smell like to me?”
“What does he smell like to you?” Matt asked, as he emerged from the bedroom, although he had the feeling he might just be going back in there very soon. Especially since he was smelling streams of desire coming off of both of them already.
“Like a spring day from my childhood." There was a sort of broken longing in her voice; she was so close to giving in, but still holding out. “Like melted ice and soil warmed by the sun and crocuses just peering out of the grass. The kind where I feared if I touched anything, it would all dissolve away. And when, as I said to you, Matt, to most alphas and omegas I smell like fire…”
“You smell like warmth to me,” said Foggy. “Like an old heater, the noisy kind that blasts you with it. Especially whenever I’ve felt cold, and believe me, I’ve felt cold a lot this past month, Karen…”
That desperate, hungry hiss of her name finally did it; Karen was on him a second later; Matt could hear the slap of her tongue against his teeth and this was her kissing him at her most aggressive, like there was no part of his mouth she didn’t want for herself. Foggy let out so tiny a moan Matt wasn’t sure even he or Karen could hear it, and he was on Foggy himself a moment later, pressing wanting, adoring kisses to the bare skin of his neck, trying to lick down under his shirt collar before going up to his ear, wanting to just rip the shirt off so he could finally get his hands on everything he’d wanted for so long. And Foggy just sunk down into their arms until they were supporting his weight and tilting his head back and his hips forward, presenting to them automatically, wanting and trusting them so much.
Matt was right about the quick return to the bedroom. He woke up there the next morning pressed into the warmth of Foggy, who slept dead to the world, and Matt could tell from his heat pattern he was still going to be pretty sore when he woke up, unsurprisingly, since he’d been ravished like crazy by two people the previous night. On his other side, Karen slept as peacefully as he’d ever heard her do. He concentrated on the sounds of them, his alpha and omega, the only companions he wanted in life from now on.
The first time Karen knotted Foggy, Matt held both of their hands until he finally had to let go out of a desperate need to jerk off. Afterwards, he brought them both washcloths, and took charge of cleaning Foggy off, loving to feel how much his body was humming contentment. “Lie down on his chest and hear his heart, Karen,” he said. “You’ll know you did good then.” Her nose should have told her that, of course, but obeying that instruction probably helped too, and she ended up falling asleep that way.
Much later, she knotted Matt too. Foggy talked him through it. It was a little overwhelming; it was a good thing he had two voices and four hands keeping him grounded.
It was a little harder to figure his role out than he’d quite anticipated. When he was alone with Foggy or Karen, it was easy enough. He especially liked those moments alone on court days, when he could rub Foggy’s shoulders and kiss his forehead in encouragement. But for the first few months, they were never sure, when they sat down to eat in private, who was going to be feeding whom(Foggy wasn’t comfortable with being handfed in public), or who was going to be doing what in the morning, or even who was going to wash Foggy’s hair, since that was something he really liked his alpha to do for him.
By the time they’d been together a year, though, they’d mostly figured things out. Karen ran the office, she dressed them both on court days and did the hair-washing on those and other bigger days. But Matt got a turn on slower days, and when Foggy took to cooking them all breakfast he often proved the one to pick up a fork and feed it to him. On the other hand, when they got takeout, Karen was usually the one wielding the chopsticks for all three of them; she was more adept with them than either of the guys had ever been anyway.
Although ultimately, it varied day by day, especially when it came to everyone’s deeper needs. On days when Matt was more injured, Karen ordered him to bed, and often Foggy just became her assistant there anyway. During weeks with more grueling cases, she became the caretaker to both of them, with almost no difference in her treatment of each. On nights she had nightmares, they cuddled her and whispered to her as if she was the omega until she felt better. At those times Foggy showed his fatigue, or had trouble with his biomom, the two of them did that to him. And whenever anyone treated him badly because he was an omega, they soon found themselves facing down two angry protectors.
Matt had known what he’d wanted the end result to be from the start, and the other two wanted it as well before long, but it took them a while to take the plunge, the fear that it would go wrong holding all three of them back. But at last they found Foggy an understated cloth collar that a modern omega lawyer could get away with wearing, and Karen claimed him, though with all the anxiety about it they feared it wouldn’t take. But it did, and weeks later Father Lantom joined Matt to the two of them together.
Foggy initially said that Matt and Karen really should have the children. “You two are the lookers of the three of us,” he said. “Besides, it’ll be easier if we raise them one at a time.” But they’d both long realized by then what he truly wanted.
Matt went out as Daredevil for the last time the night before Jack, Ben, and Annie turned seven. He hadn’t been going out very often by then, anyway; his body had aged fast, and he definitely could no long win the kinds of fights he’d punched and endured his way through when he’d been younger. By the time he knocked out his last ever mugger, he was also aware that even the devil inside him was getting old and tired, no longer growling for blood the way it once had. It might never go away entirely; he suspected he’d be bit more aggressive in his day job in the future, but he no longer needed the violence of the streets as a release.
When he came home, and placed the costume at the bottom of the chest, another relic of the past now, he paused for a moment just to concentrate on the sound of the children asleep. Three healthy, strong, living hearts, sleeping easily, in the confidence that in the morning three healthy parents would be there to wake them up. He had never told Foggy and Karen how much he, too, had wanted to grow their family this way. They might have guessed, though.
They’d waited up for him, lying on top of the sheets and sounding fully clothed, except that they’d both dozed off. They woke quickly when Matt stepped in, though. Foggy let out a long exhale. “You survived it,” he said simply; to the end, they had never lost that fear, Foggy especially; this one great possibility of how their family could’ve gone down from three to two, and then from six to five, the reason why they never could have been together without having Karen with them.
Matt grinned, and said, “You’ve got a heat coming on.”
“Oh no,” Foggy groaned. “Ever since I went back on the suppressants, my body had really had it in for me.” Karen giggled at that, stunningly relaxed.
“It’s all right,” said Matt, as he lay down between them, letting them both press their bodies against him, know their betahusband has come home. “It’s coming on slow, might be as much as forty hours. You’ll make it through the birthday party tomorrow.”
“After which,” said Karen, “I’ll think we’ll have plans for you. Although maybe not as many as the plans the two of us have for you, Matt, whenever we next have the time for those…”