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To whom one is engaged

Chapter Text


 


 

 

For a tender age of six, Louis knows that he is a rare one. A male-Omega who most people of the Ton will give side-glance of displeasure but won’t comment negatively. It was a passive-aggressive oppression in the adult world, but to children his age it was a different story.

He would return home from a play-date from the neighbors with shiner under his eyes just because Ben Winston taunt him about being a level below him because of him being an Omega. He retaliated with a punch in Ben’s face which started the whole boxing match between them. It didn’t help that he couldn’t hold his tongue even for a second. He will sass any impertinent remark thrown his way. He was also hot-headed, a trait that is very rare for an Omega, and would often times have discussed matters with his fist instead of words.

Many doubted his gender because of this. He even doubted it, that is until he fully presented. His first heat hitting him hard. He was in the middle of the street going to his house when he felt the intense hotness coursing through his body. He almost lost consciousness until a hand held him up and a warm chest collided with his back. Soft murmurs held his slipping consciousness from dropping to his Omega-space. A sweet vanilla scent swallowed his whole being in a warm embrace.

When he woke up, he learned that a boy two years his junior had helped him. After a week of succumbing to a heat haze fever he visited his savior and that is the start of his unrequited love story.

If Louis had thought he liked him before, that was nothing compared to what he felt after getting to know the boy who saved him. He was slowly and utterly falling in love with the Alpha who saved him.

 

Lord Harry Styles was witty, he was dashing, he had a devil-may-care jokester quality to him that made women and some men swoon, but most of all he was nice to the Omega. He was nice to him, an Omega who is a male.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Lord Styles possessed, as did all the Styles men, fabulous good looks. There was that famous curly hair, the smiling kissable lips, the broad shoulders, the six-foot height, and in the most devastating green eyes ever to grace a human face. They were the sort of eyes that haunted an Omega's dreams.

Louis was utterly head over heels in-love with the son of the Duke of Cheshire and his affection continued to deepen, that is, until that day.

Even now, thirteen years later after they met, he still referred to it as that day. He'd gone to the Styles household, as he frequently did, to take tea with Gemma and her mother. As he was walking through the front hall, he heard voices. Loud male voices.

 

It was the three young Alpha friends: Liam, Niall, and Harry. They were having one of those conversations that most Alpha men have, the kind in which they grumble a lot and poke fun at each other. He was not really eavesdropping but the first voice he heard was of Harry's, and he also caught his name mixed with not so kind words.

"... and I am certainly not going to marry Louis Tomlinson! He is man first and foremost, no matter that he is an Omega…”

“If he really is an Omega. That lad sure swears like a sailor and hit like an Alpha.” Niall snickered.

“He’s also two years my senior, by the time he is eight and twenty years he’d be in the shelves while I will be just at the peak of my bachelorhood. No way that I would be tied down before I reach my thirties. No way I’d marry that sassy Omega."

"Oh!" The word slipped over his lips before he could even think, the sudden yelp piercing the air like an off-key whistle. The three Alphas turned to face him with identical horrified faces, and Louis knew that he had just entered what would certainly be the most awful five minutes of his life.

He said nothing for what seemed like an eternity, and then, finally, with a dignity he never dreamed he possessed, he looked straight at Harry and said, "I never asked you to marry me."

The young duke cheeks went from pink to red. He opened his mouth, but not a sound came out. It was, Louis thought with wry satisfaction, probably the only time in his life he'd ever been at a loss for words.

"And I never—" he swallowed convulsively. "I never said to anyone that I wanted you to ask me."

"Louis," Harry finally managed, "I'm so sorry."

"You have nothing to apologize for," he said.

"No," he insisted, "I do. I hurt your feelings, and —"

"You didn't know I was there."

"But nevertheless—"

"You are not going to marry me," he said, his voice sounding very strange and hollow to his ears. "There is nothing wrong with that. No feelings were hurt. Now, then, if you will excuse me, Alpha, I should like to go home."

 

The three Alpha immediately stood back to let him pass, and no words were exchanged after that day.

 

The world shifted, and everything changed. Now he continued to love him from afar. He no longer entertained the invitation of Gemma to visit her at their house, instead opting to indulge his friend in leisure walk in the park where there is near zero chances of bumping to her infamous brother. Gemma, bless her soul, never probe him on what happened on that day or the sudden change in the Omega which Louis is grateful for.

 

That day Louis learned to shield his heart but failed to erase what’s already inside. A love that scarred his broken heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TBC

 

 

Chapter Text


 

 

 

“How do you do in this fine evening?”

 

Louis, stifled a groan as he turned to the gentleman who had crept up on him, presumably to make cow eyes at Lottie, as did, well, everyone who met his sister.

It was an occupational hazard of being an older brother to a stunning Omega like Charlotte. She collected broken hearts in her wake. And now here was another one.

Handsome, too. Tall, although not overly so, with warm brown hair and a rather pleasing smile and a twinkle in his brown eyes as well. Louis smiled politely, even though he couldn’t imagine that Alpha would notice.

“Pray allow me to introduce myself,” he said, much to Louis surprise. “I am Lord David Allen. ‘Dave’ to my acquaintances. And you are…?” And then he did the most astonishing thing. After disclosing his name, he leaned down and kissed Louis’ hand first. His hand! His and not of Lottie.

 

Louis’ breath caught.

Then, of course, he realized what he was doing.

Oh, he was good.

He was really good. Nothing, nothing would endear a man to Lottie faster than a compliment to her older brother. Louis was almost impressed. If nothing else, it marked him as slightly more intelligent than the average gentleman.

Could he possibly be interested in him? No, impossible. They never were. Wishful thinking on his part, at least that was what he thinks. Zayn, otherwise, had had other opinions.

And really, did it matter? Of course it would be rather charming if a man fell madly and passionately in love with him for a change. Really, he wouldn’t mind the attention.

But the truth was, Louis was practically at the age of being permanently being shelve, so there was no way having a besotted admirer of his own at his age of twenty and six.

 

“Lord Louis Tomlinson at your service my Lord. This is my younger sister Charlotte.”

“Lovely meeting you, my Lady.”

Lord Dave eyes had that slightly glazed look after kissing Lottie’s hand. His lips were parted. And there was an intensity there, as if he’d like to gather Lottie up and stride down to the cathedral with her, crowds and propriety be damned. As opposed to the way he looked at him, which could be quite easily catalogued as polite disinterest.

He snorted. He knew it was never about him. He should have realized it. He will die a spinster. A heart-broken spinster.

 

Lou? Louis?”

Louis realized with a touch of embarrassment that he had not been paying attention to the conversation. Lottie was regarding him curiously.

“Yes?” he murmured, since some sort of verbal expression seemed to be in order.

“Lord Dave has asked me to dance,” Lottie said, “but I have told him that I cannot.”

 

Lottie was forever feigning twisted ankles and headaches to keep herself off the dance floor. Which was all good and fine, except that she pushed off all her admirers onto Louis. Which was all fun and amusing at first, but it had got so common that Louis suspected that the gentlemen now thought they were being shoved in his direction out of pity, which couldn’t have been further from the truth.

 

“It would be my pleasure to lead Lord Louis in a dance,” Dave said, because, really, what else could he say?

And so Louis smiled, not entirely heartfelt, but a smile nonetheless, and allowed the Alpha to lead him to the dance hall.

Dave was nothing if not a gentleman, and he hid his disappointment well as he offered his arm to the male Omega and escorted him to the makeshift dance floor. He was, he was sure, a perfectly charming and lovely Omega, but he wasn’t Lady Charlotte. Still, this could be considered beneficial to his cause.

Lady Charlotte had positively gushed about her older brother during their brief conversation, during which time Lord Louis gazed off at something beyond his shoulder, apparently not listening to a word. And if he wished to learn more about Lady Charlotte, his brother was the obvious place to start.

 

“This way,” Louis said, giving his arm a little tug when he tried to steer them in a counterclockwise direction. He nodded, somewhat absently. He’d caught sight of Lady Charlotte out of the corner of his eye, and it was a bit difficult to concentrate on anything else. Especially as she had been surrounded by men. Dave was sure they had been just waiting for someone to remove Lord Louis from her side before moving in for the attack.

 

“Don’t feel badly,” the Omega said, craning his neck slightly as he surveyed the flock of men around his sister over Lord Dave’s shoulder as they navigate around the dance floor.

“I don’t,” Dave bit off, then waited for the Omega to actually return his attention to him. Louis turned, gazed at him frankly, and blinked. “Well, that’s new, I must say. Most men are crushed.”

Dave scowled. “What do you mean, most men are crushed?”

“Exactly what I said,” the Omega replied, giving him an impatient glance. “Or if they’re not crushed, they become rather inexplicably angry.” He let out a un-Omega like snort. “As if any of it could be considered her fault.”

“Fault?” Lord Dave echoed, because in truth, he was having a devil of a time following him.

“You are not the first gentleman to imagine himself in love with Lottie,” Louis said, his expression quite jaded. “It happens all the time.”

“I don’t imagine myself in love—” Dave cut himself off, hoping Louis didn’t notice the stress on voice.

“You don’t?” the Omega sounded pleasantly surprised. “Well, that’s refreshing.”

“Why,” he asked with narrowed eyes, “is that refreshing?

Louis returned with a “Why are you asking so many questions?”

“I’m not,” he protested, even though he was. The Omega rolled his eyes with his reply. No further words were uttered after that as they continued to dance.

And then Louis let out a little “Oh!”

His eyes followed his, to the spot where Lady Charlotte had once stood.

 

“I wonder where she went,” Louis said in slight panic.

Dave immediately turned toward the door, hoping to catch one last glimpse of her before she disappeared, but she was already gone. It was damned frustrating, that. What was the point of an immediate over-the-top attraction if one couldn’t do anything about it?

“I would happily dance and chat for the rest of the evening with you my Lord, but I believe that it is time for me to retire. I should like to check on Lottie wherever she is.” Louis whispered in frantic voice. He hurriedly walked away from the throng of people who are now preparing for the next dance to begin.

 

He needed to get out as fast as he could and as hastily as possible.

“I shall walk you to the door,” Dave said quickly. It was the least he could do to offer him this courtesy, and besides, it would not do to insult Lady Charlotte’s older brother.

 

They hurriedly said their farewells to the hosts, and Dave fit Louis arm into the crook of his elbow. If Louis raised a questioning brow at the act, he didn’t voice. They walked in silence to the door to the drawing room, and Dave said, “I trust you can make your way from here?”

“Of course,” the Omega replied. And then Louis looked up—his eyes were bluish, which Lord Dave noticed almost absently—and asked, “Would you like me to convey a message to Lottie?”

Dave lips parted with surprise. “Why would you do that?” he asked, before he could stop himself in giving a response.

Louis just shrugged and said, “You are the lesser of two evils, Lord Dave.”

He wanted desperately to ask him to clarify that comment, but he could not ask, not on such a flimsy acquaintance, so he instead worked to maintain an even expression as he said, “Give her my regards, that is all.”

“Really?” Louis’ eyes widened. Amusement written in his blue sparkling eyes.

 

Damn, but that look in the Omega’s eye was annoying. “Really.” Dave affirmed.

 

Louis bobbed the tiniest of nod and was off as Lord Dave stared at the doorway through which the Omega had disappeared for a moment, then turned back to the party. The guests had begun dancing in greater numbers, and laughter was most certainly filling the air, but somehow the night felt dull and lifeless. It didn’t even matter that the crowd was now in frenzy as the elusive Duke of Cheshire, His Grace Harry Styles made rounds to the giddy guests of the night.


 

“You’ll do what?!” Niall jerked upright in his seat, his cup rattling precariously on its saucer. Only his innate sense of balance kept him from spilling hot tea all over his fashionably tight buckskin pantaloons.
Liam looked at his friend worriedly. Something was amiss. Harry refuses the social season each and every time. “But I don’t understand. We always go away out of the country this time of year.”

Harry shook his head, he wandered over to the window and pretended to look out.. “Not this time. I am afraid something else has occurred. I will be attending the party.” He lowered his gaze. “Actually, I’m going there for a bride.”

“A bride?!” the two Alphas yelp in disbelief. Niall almost choked on his tea.

“How come we never heard of this before?” Niall’s eyes grew wide. “You’re getting married?”

“So it would appear. As you see,” he concluded, “it’s the only viable solution. I wish I could have
found an easier way out of it but it seems my late father made a promise with the Earl of Doncaster a marriage to his Omega offspring.” Harry added, affixing his legendary crooked grin on his face to ease the atmosphere his news created.

“You’re marrying Louis?” Liam jaw dropped at the announcement.

 

Harry eyed his friend wearily. He knew his friend had a crush on the said Omega when they were young lads. “This would have been prevented if you just courted Lord Louis in the first place, Li. God knows you had your eyes on him whenever he visited Gemma.”

“I would have if only that day didn’t happened,” Liam’s eyes narrowed, an ugly expression marring his features. “That day... after that day he avoided us three like the plague,” he repeated in a measured tone. “After that day, he glared at me like I’m some kind of venomous creature. He almost punched me once for holding his hand when I tried to escort him.”

 

Harry resisted the urge to sigh, at the same time putting aside any hope that matters might come to an amicable conclusion with Liam courting the stubborn Omega himself.

“Is there someone else?” Niall inquired. “No one else who would take him for a bride? Surely if someone is willing to marry Louis you would be freed from your obligation.”

“Is he still as beautiful as he was before?” Liam mused.

 

Unlike his friends, Louis and him occasionally cross paths since they have close family ties. He was, once too many, forced to escort Lord Louis in their small family gathering when they were age sixteen and eighteen. He was also required by Gemma to ask her Omega friend for a dance every time they held a small ball for her birthday. Though they never talk with each in every awkward dance they had.

“He’s…” He broke off, finding himself oddly hesitant to talk about Lord Louis. He’s interesting, he thought and unusually pretty for a boy. Even prettier than most girl Omega their age. Realizing the direction of his thoughts, he brought himself back to the topic at hand. “What does it matter what he’s like?” he said in a cool tone. “I am marrying him because it’s what I must do. Anything else is irrelevant as of now.”

 

Suddenly a merry laugh bubbled from Niall’s lips. “Well, of course! Why did I not think of it before? You will help him find a worthy husband.”

Harry straightened his waistcoat with a firm double-handed tug. “I must have misheard you. Sounded like you just suggested I play matchmaker for Lord Louis Tomlinson.”

“Not matchmaker, no. Your role will be more in the way of mentor, I supposed. You have the charm and charisma. You have the most fashion sense, maybe you can rub some off him. Maybe then he can interact to future admirers like a decent Omega should.”

“Well, I hardly think I’m the proper one to help,” he sputtered, anxious to put a stop to Niall’s wild ideas before they had a chance to propagate any further. “If the rumors are true, he refuses to attend the London Ball like we do. Heard he even slapped Lord Damon when he accompanied him in one of the dance.”

“Damon is a wagtail! Heard he was caught one time with his hand on Lady Carmel’s bosom by Lady Carmel’s husband himself. Lord Louis might have saved himself by slapping that old man’s dirty hands. Louis is still innocent and lacks in experience with Alphas.” Niall insisted. “He probably needs you to keep a vigilante eyes on him or counsel him to act like an Omega. God knows you have high opinion on that matter alone.”

 

Louis Tomlinson would describe as a stunner when they were young ins. If the rumors are to believed it seems like Lord Louis became quite the opposite as years go by. His brown hair appeared thick and unkept in an Omega-standard, fringe cover half of his face. Although unblemished by the sun, his white skin often seemed sickly and pale. Quite likely he possessed a pleasant figure for an Omega, but who could tell since he hid his slender body inside one shapeless, hideous doubled-breasted dress coats accompanied by an ill-fitting breeches.

However he still had good eyes, though, bright and luminous blue eyes. He also have lovely bone structure, with a classical sweep to his jaw and a high cheek bones that accentuate his sylphlike face but this is hidden by unruly, almost unhygienic, beard.

 

“This plan will never work. I don’t even know where to begin.” Harry railed loudly as he settle into the large chair behind his desk.

“Oh, please. You have Grimmers as a friend, do you not? He knows more fashion than women of the ton have.”

Harry slumped more against his chair, obviously wrestling with his thoughts as he rubbed a knuckle against his expressive lips. “I suppose I could ask Nicholas to assist.”

Niall clapped his hands in delight. “Oh, I knew you would see the value of my scheme.”

Liam on the other hand kept quiet the whole time as he ponders about the ridiculous idea of his friend, though said nothing. His and Harry’s eyes met, but he lowered his gaze abruptly. “Liam? Is there something on your mind?”

“No Hazza. Just be careful will you, you’re dealing with someone’s heart.”

“By god, you are still in love with him? You are, aren’t you?”

"No!" Liam said, his surprise making his voice loud and forceful. “Never mind that. What I want to know is how would be persuade Louis to attend the ball if he too was reluctant seasons ago?”

Liam gave both his friends an inquiring look, which Niall returned with confident sangfroid. “Ah, well, you see Lady Charlotte has come of age and made her debut into the society. And this season, his recluse of a brother is chaperoning her to every party she will partake.”

Dear heavens, will he do it? Will he act as a matchmaker and mentor to the eccentric Omega?

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text


 

 

"Good heavens," Louis almost moaned. If sin could take a solid form, surely it would be an eclair, preferably accompanied by a tea.

 

He watched couples dance while he sample some pastries. He glanced at his sides and saw that most of his companions – spinsters and chaperones – are doing the same thing.

Spinsterhood was a word that have a tendency to raise either dread or pity, but Louis was coming to appreciate that there were obvious benefits to the unmarried state. First of all, no one really expected the spinsters like him to dance at balls, which meant that Louis was no longer forced to hover at the edge of the dance floor, looking this way and that, pretending that he didn't really want to dance.

Now he could sit off to the side with the other spinsters and chaperones, like he is doing now. He still wanted to dance, of course—he rather liked dancing, not that anyone ever cared— but he doesn’t want a repeat on what happened to him seasons ago where a vile man touched his ample bottom. He remembered it clearly having to slap the ratbag. Then there is also the incident with Lord Winston…Then and there he bowed never to step at London ball again.

 

Oh how he detest this kind of party and avoided it like the plague. Then years drifted by, and somehow, without him realizing it, he ceased to be a debutante and found himself sitting with the chaperones, watching his younger sister enjoying her own London seasons.

At least he could eat in peace, now that no one is bothering him for a dance.

 

“Good evening,” someone greeted in a pleasant voice. Louis almost choked on the tea he was sipping, then coughed, sending a few sprays through the air. He looked up to the person he dreaded all his life seeing in the flesh. Though dreaming is an entirely different thing.

"Your Grace," he gasped, fervently praying His Grace Harry Edward Styles missed his earlier outburst. 

"Lord Louis." Harry smiled warmly. "It's good to see you. It’s been a long time since, hasn’t it?"

 

Louis eyed up the young duke warily although noted the duke to be handsomely attired in a black-colored satin for breeches, a white waistcoat and a dark tail coat that emphasized the width of his shoulders and length of his strong, masculine legs.

What is the duke doing here?

Harry took the opportunity and sat next to him, settling back upon the cushions. “You look well."

"And you," he said, too preoccupied – with trying to figure out why the hell is Harry talking to him all of a sudden – to add more to his answer. A little tingle sizzled along his spine as he stared at Harry, who gave a small smile his way. His pulse giving a rabbity hop at that.

“Seems you are enjoying your evening, my Lord?”

“Not out of any aims on my part, I assure you. If it were up to me, I'd dodge society functions like the plague. But my sister made her bow last year, and I'm forced to escort her in all the ball she attends.”

“So Lottie has come of age.” A look of amusement crossed Harry's features with Louis’ answer which irk the Omega to no end. Louis narrowed his eyes. Is Harry interested in Lottie? He couldn't tell. “Did the two of you ever meet?”

“No,” Styles admitted, “but I remember her tagging along with you when we’re little—”

“Ah, yes,” Louis said with a slight roll of his eyes and a fond smile as he remembers how adamant Lottie to accompany him in their tea session at the Styles’ household.

“Did she grow up as lovely as you” Harry murmured unthinkingly, trying to make conversation. He suddenly felt a sudden cold shiver and suddenly realized with a mental slap that he’d said exactly the wrong thing when Louis replied in a tone that could have frozen champagne, “No. She grew up to become a perfect Omega unlike me, apparently. Is that you were suggesting?”

“I assure you,” Harry said quickly, “that is never what I intended—”

“Oh please Your Grace, you are certainly not the first of Lottie’s smitten idiot to attempt to gain her favor through me. We both know that you don’t like me and honestly I also don’t like you. So, certainly there is no need for your fake commendation on my part. We both know what you really think of me.” Louis replied jauntily. “Now, if you’ll excuse me Your Grace, I must make my leave.”

 



 

 

Normally he would have enjoyed the festivities lounging near the refreshments but earlier, after two hours or four since he bolted away from Harry, Stan had informed him that the Duke of Cheshire had sought him out. Reason unknown. Now he makes himself blend with the shadows and walls.

Across the ballroom he could see the young Duke looking this way and that, and he shrank further into the shadows. He had no idea how to deal with the sudden interest of the young Duke in him, he even made it clear a while ago what he felt for the Duke when he left. He was finding it far easier to take the coward's way out and simply avoid him to save him from insanity and an obvious heart break. As if his heart hadn’t been shuttered years ago.

 

“I say, Louis, what are you doing all the way over here?” Louis looked over his shoulder to see Lord Dave  making his way toward him. “Dave,” he shot him an irritated scowl. “I came over to hide from all those idiots,” he explained.

“Am I one of them?” Dave gave him a charming smile that Louis had to shake his head and gave a faint smile. “No, thank god, you’re not like them.”

Dave gave a loud chortle, Louis crossed his arms as he see heads turning in their direction. Ambitious mamas were nudging their Omega daughters and pointing to the still laughing Alpha. So much for being hidden.

 

“Where is Lady Charlotte by the way?” Lord Dave asked, craning his neck to peer over the crowd, though he didn't have to stretch very far as he saw Lottie approaching their way together with the young Duke of Cheshire.

Louis sighed and rolled his eyes. “No escape,” he groans as Harry together with her traitorous sister made their appearance in front of them. He have a mind to ask Lottie what she’s thinking when she accepted the Duke to escort her into the dining hall.

 

“Lord Louis” Harry called out in a jovial voice as they approached the pair.  “I haven't seen you all evening, well after you left me that is.”

“Your Grace” Louis said in return, voice slightly tight with how much he was restraining himself. “How nice to see you, again.” His sarcastic note was not missed by the ambitious mamas who inches more to their party seeing as two eligible bachelors are in their company. Gossip, all of them.

“And who is this?” the young Duke inquired, as he eyes the slightly taller Alpha in front of him. A strange feeling in his gut suddenly erupted as he gazed at the pair who inches more closely to one another.

“David Allen, Earl of Bradford…Your Grace.” Dave said smoothly with a nod, earning a strange light in Louis’ eyes.  “I think we somewhat cross path at Eton and Oxford, although we don’t move in the same circle.” Dave leaned over slightly, and whispered in the Omega’s ear, “Snob.” Louis fought the urge to laugh.

 

Lottie's icicle glare said that she'd heard them and was not amused though said nothing. Then her eyes narrowed as she focused on something behind the men. “Oh heavens, it’s Lord Marcus.” The three men all twisted their necks to see what was afoot and saw a chubby bull-dog face of a man marching purposefully in their direction. Louis gave a scowl in his direction and inched more towards Lord Dave for protection. Harry noticed the slight movement and a rather irritable scowl immediately darkened his features.

 

Before Louis could ask Lord Dave to escape with him, Lottie’s voice grabbed onto the Alpha’s attention. “Lord Dave, will you accompany me to get some refreshments?” Lottie pleaded and didn’t even wait for an answer as she fled hastily, not even waiting for the the grinning Lord. Louis eyes widened at the sudden departure of his sister and friend and thought fast of how he’ll avoid the insistent Baron .

 

“Is he one of your admirers, my Lord?” Louis was caught off guard and wondered how unforgivably rude it would be if he laughed at that notion. Surely, Dave is so besotted with his sister only a fool couldn’t see.

The Omega’s head turned rather sharply in the Duke's direction. “Surely, you must be joking. Can’t you see how utterly in love Dave is with Lottie.”

Dave. Calling the Earl of Bradford just by his name seems utterly overly familiar for Harry’s taste.

Harry face looks pensive for a minute or two, then unexpectedly turned the full force of his smile on the Omega and Louis realized that he was a moment unmindful to the incoming disaster in the form of Lord Marcus.

Looking sideways, Louis’ eyes widen as he realized he had no way of escape. The Baron being a foot away made him realize that desperate times, called for desperate measures. “Your Grace,” he said quickly whipping his head to face the young Duke, “Would you care for a dance?” Gasps were escaped from the matrimony-minded mamas and daughters, who were unabashedly eavesdropping to their conversation, but Louis paid no minds. He didn't even gave the arrogant Duke the chance to accept, he had him halfway across the room. Doesn’t matter that he was the one who asked instead of the Alpha. Propriety be damned.

 

“Thank heavens, I escaped that abhorrent man,” Louis sighed loudly. Harry cocked his head and gave him a rather assessing glance, as if he’s analyzing his whole persona. Louis found the experience somewhat unnerving as the Duke said nothing. Just then the orchestra struck the first notes of a waltz, the Alpha swept him into his arms and whirled him into the throng of elegantly clad couples.

They had made a full circle of the ballroom before Harry asked, “Why do you evade Lord Marcus?”

“None of your business.”

Harry only smiled.

“What are you grinning about?” Louis asked suspiciously.

Harry shrugged slightly, his shoulders rising as his head tilted to the right. “I have half a mind to leave you here to fend for yourself after this dance,” he said, “Would you want that, Omega?”

Louis chewed on his lower lip. “Sorry for my imprudence, Your Grace. I thank you for saving me back there.” Louis fought a blush as the Duke arch an elegant brow at him to continue.

“You see, Lord Marcus is adamant to either wed my sister or myself. Me, of course, being the backup plan. Wanting to be included in the Tomlinson’s name for years.”

Harry thought for a minute with that revelation and decided that its doesn’t sit well with him that the male Omega be married off with a gollumpus man like Lord Marcus. Of course, he still has the intention of helping Louis to marry someone but he wants someone who is worthy. It’s the least he could do.

Still it’s not his character to degrade someone’s else name in vain. “Surely, Lord Marcus has some redeeming quality that someone will find delightful.”

Louis laughed at Harry’s remark, a light musical sound that warmed the Alpha's body. “I honestly think a man can always change.” That made Louis laughed again, this time with more joviality, and Harry found himself mesmerized by his smile.

“You, your Grace, are a definite boat-licker. Lord Marcus is a loiter-sack, everyone knows. You are just too coward to call the man otherwise. He is a useless sod.”

Harry raised both brows at his deadpan wit, tightening his hand slightly at the Omega’s waist as they swung around in a graceful arc. “Now that is a statement that may come back to haunt you,” he reprimanded.

A strange snorting sound came from the vicinity of Louis’ mouth. Harry had the sneaking suspicion that he was laughing at him. Again.

“Bad show,” the Alpha scolded. “Laughing at your dance partner.”

“I'm sorry,” the Omega said, his lips tight from trying not to smile. Harry glowered.

“All right,” Louis admitted, “I'm not. But only because I find this evening amusing. I never thought that you have a temper.”

“I do not.”

“Well, you do.”

 

Harry took one look at him and let out an impatient exhale. He wanted to make some sort of dry, cutting, and utterly ironic comment, but the truth was, the Omega has ruffled his feathers that he couldn't utter a word.

 

“Oh, for goodness sake, you are such a nuisance.”

 

 

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text


 

 

When the door was opened by Walsh – the Tomlinson’s butler, he looked at him for a minute and pondered, barely a quarter second before nodding, and murmuring, “The young Lord, does not accept calls for now my Lord but… maybe he was expecting you....”

“Yes, yes of course. We had prior arrangement to have tea this afternoon.” Clearly, Dave thought wryly, he should have been expected.

“Yes, of course. Right this way my Lord.”

 

Dave followed the most curious little butler in the hallway – who was muttering something to himself about Lord Louis sudden influx of admirers as he lead him to the Tomlinson’s study. He took a seat on a pale blue silk-covered sofa where he was ushered, not long after, Louis strolled in.

“Heard you had some calls this afternoon.” Dave allowed himself a small, satisfied smile for hitting a nerve as the small Omega tensed and glared at him. He wasn’t normally a mean-spirited person, well, on most occasion at least. So he finds it entertaining to see Louis’ feathers being ruffled.

“I did,” Louis said tightly, almost threw a book at his snickering companion. He circled the table a bit and sat on the edge. “And I send them all away.”

“Alphas not up to your standard, eh? Poor lads.”

 

Louis looked vaguely affronted, “I beg your pardon, are you calling me finicky?” Louis should have taken offense at Lord Dave’s dry wit but his sense of humor was so like his own he couldn’t help but enjoy it. He always adore their conversations, “Those Alpha’s are idiots, just because a Duke had one dance with me last night they think that he was after me. Idiots I tell you!” 

“Ah, so how was His Grace? Charming I believe.”

“As I was saying,” Louis continued, ignoring Dave’s comment because he always did like to remain on the topic at hand, not because of other reasons…definitely, “Once everyone realizes that someone else is pursuing another Omega, they seem to go mad with competitive feat, as if she or he is nothing but a prize to be won.”

 

Even now, Louis still remembers the long forgotten nightmares in all details of the time his self-worth was shattered to pieces. 

 

When he came of age, he was suddenly proclaimed the season's incomparable. He had no lack of callers since his arrival in Town. He became the center of any party he attended. Dozens of suitors clamoring to claim him in a dance.

His dance card was always full within minutes of his arrival at any ball, and even Alphas fought for the privilege of fetching him a glass of lemonade. Young gentlemen approached to lead him to the floor, one after another after another. He feels elated, his Omega is preening with all the Alpha’s attention. He promised himself that he’ll finally get over his unrequited love for the soon to be Duke of Cheshire. If Harry is not for him, then so be it. He can easily marry a better Alpha than him. Or so he thought. 

Oh he was such a fool. He realized too late that the men who seeks him for dance were friends of Lord Payne, their invitations no more than favors done for the young Earl of Wolverhampton. It was too late when he learned of such arrangement. The Earl had no right. He was offended, outraged, he felt he was somehow being mocked. It doesn’t matter if actions stemmed from charitable meanings, he was not his to care.

Then it also occurred to him that the other men, who were not friends with Lord Payne, had only noticed him because Liam had shown interest in him. He was a trophy to their Alpha eyes, a most coveted goal as Lord Ben Winston eloquently proclaimed:  “Alphas are always more interested in an Omega if they think other Alphas are interested.”

 

A prize. An object.

 

Louis stood up from where he was perched and took a few steps to his right and peered at the bookshelves. He then ran his fingers along the book spines. Lord Dave caught the tiny movement and attentively watched the Omega’s dainty fingers as it moves.

He was quite elegant, Lord Dave realized. It wasn’t noticeable at first, because his looks were, quite frankly, a bit shabby. But when Lord Louis moves, he looked different. He seemed to flow...glide. He would be a good dancer. He was sure of it.

 

“I hate it, for them this is just an entertainment.” A flicker of hurt passed over Louis’ eyes. Memories long forgotten played in his head again. “Like my feelings don’t amount to anything.”

Dave watched Louis’ lips as he spoke. They were ordinary lips, nothing about them had attracted his attention before but somehow at the moment it caught his interest.

Louis stepped back, feeling suddenly and overwhelmingly emotional with the onslaught of reminiscences.

“Oh, you don’t do yourself enough justice,” Dave said softly. “I know those gentlemen certainly haven’t been dropping by and sending flowers because of any urging from other people. You know you are beautiful, a truly remarkable Omega. I hope you know that.”

 

A warm gleam came into Louis’ gaze and he opened his mouth to negate but decided not to. He instead took a seat next to Lord Dave, settling back upon the cushions. “I told Walsh to send along tea and cakes. I thought we could use some refreshments. I’m sorry that Lottie can’t be here, she was sent back to Doncaster urgently by father.”

Dave just nod and shrugged, hiding his disappointment for Lady Charlotte’s absence.

 

A housemaid arrived a minute later, knocking before she entered. Setting the tray she carried onto the table in front of them, she quietly excused herself and exited the room.

Louis arrange the cups and fill them with hot strong tea, Lord Dave watched him attentively as he did. He then added milk the way his friend like and passed Dave the cup, he then slid a piece of cake onto the Earl’s saucer.

He took a glance at his Alpha friend and gave a small smile. “Drink your tea. It should be cool enough by now not to scald.”

Louis then picked up a small piece of cake for his own and popped it into his mouth, chewing as he lifted his own cup of tea. Dave watched him taking up his cup with measured care before setting it to his lips and drank, his throat working with an unconscious grace.

“Stop watching me.”

Dave tilted his head slightly to the side as he analyze the Omega more. “I can’t, I told you, you look dainty when you prepare and drink tea.” Louis’ brow shot skyward.

“I’m far from being dainty!” Louis squeaked in an appalled voice.

“Well you are. Even Zayn agrees with me.”

Louis rolled his eyes and sighed loudly then an idea hit him. He turned towards the Alpha and began fluttering his lashes in an exaggeratedly coquettish manner. “So are you implying that I am prettier than Lottie, my Lord?” Louis’ eyes twinkled with mirth as the Alpha choke on air.

“You’re a bloody menace.” Dave said with a devilish half-smile.

Louis pulled back and laughed out loud. “I don't know how anyone considered you a rake. You quiver like a leaf once an Omega so much as flirt with you. How do you intend to poke your tongue into a woman's mouth and kiss if you can’t even—”

Dave felt his throat close up, but somehow he managed to sputter, “You should not be speaking of such things.” Louis laughed again, a rich, throaty sound that Dave felt something deep in his gut.

Dave grunted and shook his head. “You're far too cheeky. Surely someone needs to take you in hand.”

Louis leaned again towards him, something odd and slightly hot sparking in the depths of his blue eyes. “Oh, you can take my hand if you want.” He murmured lowly at the Alpha.

 

For the second time, the Earl of Bradford choked on air.

Being friends with a cheeky Omega might be the death of him, he realized.

 

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

 

“Another fine shot! Well done Hazza,” Niall declared, his assessment was quickly echoed by the ten other men gathered around them on the lawn outside the infamous Malik house. It was Yasser Malik’s 60th birthday, the rich cit who surpasses the wealth of most of the ton.

“Truly excellent,” Nicholas Grimshaw stated.

“Thank you, gentlemen,” Harry replied, as he wipe the pistol spotless with a soft cloth after the shot, he set the gun cautiously aside. “But I only won this round by a couple of points. Lady luck must be on my side in this pleasant afternoon.”

“No luck about it,” Liam disputed. “You, Harry, are what’s known as a crack shot.”

“Quite right. Wish we’d had you on the battlefield while we were fighting the French,” Lord Williams added. “You’d have sent them running by miles.”

“Undeniably,” Nick concurred earning a small blush from the young Duke. “Enough, enough.” Harry threw up a hand. “Otherwise my head may puff up to the size of a balloon and burst.” All of them laughed.

 

A loud round of claps suddenly jolted them from their own merriments. “The other side seem to be having a good time too,” Lord William remarked, gazing to the left where numerous archery targets had been arranged.

“Good heavens, what a shot!” Liam exclaimed as he looks on. “Who made it?” Harry inquired, turning towards the crowd to watch as well. Liam eyed him curiously. “From what I can see, the archer appears to be Lord Louis Tomlinson. By Jove, that Omega hit that bull’s-eye dead on again.”

 

The young Duke observed with the rest of the audience as Louis calmly loaded another arrow into his bow and drew back the string. His shot hit the target with the same perfect aim as its predecessors. Without waiting to discuss the matter, the men set off towards the Omega.

“Where in the world did you learn to shoot like that?” Mr. Royce, was asking Louis as the Alphas came within hearing range. “I don’t believe you have missed once since.”

 

Louis beamed at the heartfelt complements and relaxed his stance, lowering the bow he held to his side. “Oh, well, it is only because I have had a great deal of practice.”

‘Ah’ and “oh’ were muttered. “Really? How did you come by that?” Lady Ayda inquired in an probing voice, though said in a soft manner Louis could still hint a condescending tone.

“My father enlisted a man who live off as a hunter to teach me when I was just a young lad. Told me that a man should know how to defend himself.”

 

Man.

 

That declaration raised some disapproving brows, mostly from the aristocrats in the audience. The commoners, who are mostly Betas, were quite impressed that an Omega was taught such skills.

“How amazing!” Louis gave a tiny smile to the Beta lady besides him.

 

Marching up to the group, Harry stopped and gave a small nod to the old ladies of the ton. “Your abilities show that your practice were far from waste.” Louis’ eyes met up to his own, their color luxurious and as bright as the summer’s sky Harry noted.

“Fine afternoon to you, Your Grace,” Louis gave a small nod. “What fetches you and the other gentlemen here? Weren’t you shooting over there,” and he purposely pointed away, connotation was not lost to the young Duke.  “We were, but had to come see your outstanding skill with a bow and arrow and may I say you are indeed an ace.”

A faint smile suddenly slipped up the edges of Louis’ lovely lips.  

“May I ask how far you can shoot? That is if you don’t mind, my Lord? You have stirred my curiosity.” Among other things, he couldn’t help but add to himself. Though notion was hurriedly shoved back again to the hindmost of his mind. Hoping not to stir something inside him. What it is? He doesn’t know…cannot know.

 

Louis observed  the Duke carefully, he then paused and peeked around – all eyes upon him. “A few yards, maybe.”

“From what I have observed, I suspect a few yards is an understatement. Do you think you can do forty?”

Louis hesitated, being the center of much unnecessary attention doesn’t sit well with him. He glanced at Zayn who was quietly watching him and the Duke with interest.  “Give it a try,” the Alpha Duke encouraged. “I think all of us want to see, I believe.”

“I have to admit, I actually do,” Zayn finally gave his first input of the day, folding his arms over his chest. “Give it your best shot, love,” he encouraged.

 

Love.

 

Harry brows furrowed at the term of endearment but before he could ask about it a loud cheer of ‘Yes” resonated around him.

Louis glanced around again, his gaze uncertain.  In the distance, the footman set the target ten feet back and moved well out of the way after. Lifting his bow, the Omega assumed his stance and set his arrow. He raised the bow slowly and drew back the string, his arm held taut, elbow cocked properly as he aim towards his target.

The arrow went flying, a solid thud resounding as it hit its mark dead in the center.

“By god!” Niall shouted, several others murmuring their approval.

Harry studied the target for a moment. “Can you do double of that, eighty perhaps?” Meeting the Omega’s gaze, he saw a spark of true competition glitter in his blue eyes, his usual bored face coming alive with an undisguised enthusiasm.

Louis shrugged with one shoulder but flashed him with a confident smirk.

 

Cheeky little Omega. Harry thought to himself.

 

Louis made yet another perfect shot, he was now laughing and accepting another round of congratulations.

“Double it again,” Harry said. The chatter faded to an abrupt halt. Liam and Niall gaze at Harry curiously. Nicholas on the other hand had his face in a pinch as the Alpha paid another attention to the sloopy looking Omega.

“That seems a bit too much, don’t you think?” Liam protested, concern marring his face. “You might be pushing Lord Louis too hard? He might get hurt.”

Instantly Harry paused to consider as the murmurs starts getting louder. He regard the Omega cautiously but Louis tossed him a look that he couldn’t fully read.  

“And if I win?” Louis’ voice sounds challenging.

“Ah, a wager,” Niall chimed. “This would be good.” At his statement, Harry and Louis both turned their heads to fix him with a look. “Oh come on lads, this is just for fun,” he stated in a rush. “Don’t have to be money?” Give it to Niall to make anything and everything about gambling. Harry smiled at his friend’s silly antics.

 “In that case, I challenge Lord Louis to make another bull’s-eye at a distance of two hundred feet.” He smiled at the Omega. “If he succeeds, I will grant him the price of his choice, payment of which he may collect from me at any time, as it suits his pleasure.”

“And if I miss the shot?” Louis asked, his chin angling up for a challenge.

 

Harry gazed at Louis, momentarily tracing his eyes over the shorter man’s hair down to his eyes, nose, cheeks and finally resting on the Omega’s lips. “Well,” he drawled as he leveled his eyes to Louis’, “if you fail to make your shot, you must promise to take an afternoon of tea with me.”

“A Tea? That is all?” Louis eyes widen in surprise. “Yes,” he replied, forcing down a roguish grin. “Just tea.”

Louis stared at the Duke for a long moment – trying to analyze if the Alpha has some evil plot, but came out with nothing. “Well, in that case, I accept.”

“Are you sure you can do it, Louis?” Liam asked but the Omega shot him an icy glare. Liam visually whimpered and it was not lost with Zayn’s observant eye.

“Go for it Tommo, I’m behind you. My money’s on you,” Niall cheered, being all too familiar with the Omega as he used his childhood nickname. Harry scoffed at that. “If I am not mistaken, I believe I have just been slighted,” Harry complained in teasing affront. “I assumed that you would support me.”

 

Niall just shrugged. A fresh round of laughter ensued.

“Liam, what say you?” Harry ask. “Are you with me?” Liam shook his head. “I’m actually gunning for Louis to win.”

“By god, traitors all of you. Nicholas surely, you are on my side?”

“Obviously. Though if you win, our plans will have to be push back another day. I don’t plan myself entertaining some unruly company for a tea.” Nick said, much to everyone’s horrid surprise.

 

Louis took a step towards the impertinent Beta with his eyes narrowed and burning with fury. The Beta who’s attire is not exactly appropriate for a shooting game and more for a formal dance, cocked his brow and waited for the boorish Omega to launched at him. Sensing the tension Zayn grabbed on to Louis and then gently caressed the Omega’s arm to calm him down. Louis paid him an apologetic smile.

Turning, Louis forced himself to walk away and move back to his place. As he did, he began the process of putting Harry and Nicholas out of his mind as he grew deadly serious.

Stillness fell as he studied his target, taking his time to evaluate the shot. He holds up a single dampened finger in order to test the wind, then took up his bow, reached for a fresh arrow, and slid it into place. He once more assumed an elegant stance while everyone held their breath. Drawing a deep breath, he drew back the bowstring.

Time slowed, each second ticking past in a languid movement. In the blink of an eye, he released the arrow, the weapon making a hissing sound as it flew toward the straw bale and the round target. The arrow struck with a solid impact.

From a distance, no one could tell if it had hit square in the target’s center. A footman hurried forward to check, waving his arms a second later and shaking his head. The footman hurriedly went and told the group that the arrow missed the target only a few centimeters away.

 

Though he lost, a wild cheer still exploded, both Niall, Liam and Zayn hurrying to engulf him in a group hug. Louis came up laughing, an expression of happy amazement on his face as Niall gushed about his skills and promised him an afternoon of pastries. Liam pat him on the back and beam at him with pride and approval.

“So afternoon tea it is.” A wide grin teased Harry’s lips as he turned towards the Omega still engulfed by his own friends. “I look forward for tomorrow.”

“Do not worry, I’d ask Cook to prepare a sumptuous meal tomorrow.” Niall patted Louis’s shoulder.

“And who invited you Horan?”

“Louis of course. Right Tommo?” Laughter rippled among everyone again. Happy excitement glittered like stars in Louis’ eye. Though he lost, this was the most fun he had all these years. And it doesn’t help that Lord Niall’s happy demeanor is infectious.

 

A moment later, Mr. Grimshaw stepped forward to interrupt. “What a superb display of talent, Lord Louis, quite extraordinary for an Omega. Too bad you lost, must be that fringe of yours. Are you sure you can properly see behind those hairs?”

Harry watched as Louis eyes flashed with bloody murder, before he could placate the two, Zayn broke into the conversation. “I have just been informed that our luncheon is ready, and Cook will be quite put out if we are late.”

Most of the audience left hurriedly with the announcement as they don’t want to be involve in a growing squabble between the Beta and the Omega.

Louis, also taking the hint, made a small bow at Harry made a beeline towards the pavilion. Niall and Liam hot on his trails.  Zayn who was following the trio behind peered over his shoulder. “Your Grace?”

“Yes, yes of course.” Harry who just awoken up from his stupor followed several paces behind, Nick fell into step beside him. “Seems as if we have a lot of work to do. That thing is not an Omega,” Nicholas hissed.

Harry raised a brow. “You are being quite rude, Nicholas.”

“I am merely stating a fact. He shoots arrows like low-life huntsman in quest for food. I tremble to imagine what else he was taught for that so-called protection. He could pass off as an Alpha.”

 

Harry paused, tucking his hands into his pockets. “Perhaps I shouldn’t mention it, but I could not help but notice the way you are seething at him. Jealous maybe?”

“Oh please. I look more of an Omega than him. He’s a total raggabrash!”

“Tread carefully there, my friend. I am betrothed to the man you are insulting.”

“Thankfully, you have me to help you end that asinine engagement. I’m going to help you find him a husband,” Grimshaw promised, one of his hands curling into a fist at his side. “Who knows, maybe he’ll meet a decent man, someone confident enough that his lack of Omega qualities won’t bother him.”

“Again, I owe you my thanks.” Harry ruefully smiled.

 

Reaching the house, they stepped inside the main hallway. As Harry walked upstairs to change clothes for nuncheon, he reviewed his conversation with Nick, vowing again to follow through on his promise. But as he let himself into his guest bedroom suite, he found himself pondering a far more dangerous question.

Why does his heart clench whenever he thinks of Louis with another Alpha?

 

 

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text



 

 



 

 

 

Something filled him, something hot and terrible, it was emotion, pure and undiluted, a bizarre mix of anger, loathing, dread and betrayal. And Louis, who'd spent half of his life avoiding such messy feelings had no idea what to do about it.

Whatever had been racing through his mind—it hadn't been made up of words or sentences or conscious thought. Pure feeling and instinct. That's all there had been. No reason, no logic, nothing even remotely rational or sane. He stared down at his hand, to his now empty cup he’s holding. He dropped the porcelain like it electrocuted him.

Louis felt a rush of something utterly foreign fill his lungs. It was air, he realized dumbly. He'd been holding his breath. He hadn't even realized he'd been holding his breath. He looked up and saw Grimshaw seething gaze, face drenched with tea. He looked around and met with shocked faces of Niall and Liam.

 

“Omega, apologize immediately.”  Harry’s voice was alarmingly rough; it was a moment before Louis turned towards him, but when his eyes met his, he could sense the tension in his body.

“Bloody hell Hazza!” Liam interjected.

Louis did not spare Liam a glance nor Nick who was smirking triumphantly—he could not take his eyes off from Harry, eyes gone wide with surprise and filled with dread. Nor could Harry take his eyes off him.

“Louis? Are you all right?” Niall demanded, putting his hand on the Omega’s arm. “I…I…Yes, of course,” Louis answered, and nervously cleared his throat. Without taking his gaze from the Duke, he said, “I need to go.” He pressed his lips together and exchanged a look with Niall before giving Harry a curt nod and turning on his heel. Without  a thought he ran away, almost knocking a maid as he navigated, exiting the drawing room.

Niall and Liam watched Louis go, their horror plainly evident in their expression, and then shifted their gaze to their friend, they looked at Harry as if he were mad. Before they could reprimand their friend, Harry was out the door, hot on Louis’ tail

 

“Stop.”

Louis paused, hating the Duke for using his Alpha voice on him and cursing his Omega for obeying. Harry took him firmly by the elbow, prompting him to look at him. “I said stop.”

Something snapped inside Louis, shifting to face him fully, “I am not your help to be ordered about as you please!” he said, yanking his arm free of his grasp.

Harry caught his elbow again and leaned in close. “I’m sorry Omega. I…I don’t…I don’t…”

“Don’t call me Omega. You have no right.” Louis said through gritted teeth, trying to jerk from Harry’s hold. But Harry did not let go.

“Let go.”

“Please, Louis. Please let me apologize.”

“I will say this once, ” he said, yanking his arm free of Harry’s grasp once more. “I do not care for your explanation, that Beta insulted me and I depended myself. I will not say sorry for what I did, you cannot force me against my will!” With that, he whirled around and marched out of the house, his head high but his heart was again broken.

 

Louis felt depleted, empty, emptier than he’d felt in a very long time. He was  broken into pieces all over again. He looked back at the Styles house and trembled lightly as the previous happenings dawned on him heavily.

They didn't know anything about cruel words and shattered dreams. They didn't know the impossible feeling of rejection.

They do not know how wrecked Louis is feeling.

 

“I wish I could truly hate you Harry,” he said, and turned away with tearful eyes and the invisible wounds that still oozed after all those years. “…so that it would be easier to fall out of love with you.”

 



 

 

Louis, who had been sitting listlessly on the sofa in the drawing room, looked up to see Zayn gazing at him with an expression of deep concern.

Zayn leaned against the edge of console table, but he shifted uncomfortably, looking oddly ill at ease. Louis regarded him with a long and even stare. Zayn pushed himself away from the furniture and walked towards the door. Louis groaned and sank further into the leather chair. “Fine, I’ll talk.”

Zayn paused and twirl around and sat beside the Omega. “Come on now love, you know me,” Zayn said. “I’m the soul of discretion, tell uncle Zayn your problems.” Louis shook his head as he tries to hide a growing smile on his lips.

“No, you’re not. You are exactly the opposite.”

Zayn grinned. “I’m the soul of only teasing you about things when nobody else is around to hear me.”

“Oh damnation,” Louis said. “You told Dave my most embarrassing secret the minute you two met.”

 

The Zayn didn’t blink at the profanity, he simply watch his Omega friend’s face light up a bit. Louis has always been quick-minded, foul-mouthed and he’d always been clever. It was just easier to see his friend as the prankster he’d been as a child, rather than an actual serious-minded adult. Thus, he hate seeing his friend like this: serious, miserable and downright wretched.

“Well now, it’s our secrets. One more person to share your deepest and most humiliating experience.”  

Louis beamed at that, he had been thinking how lovely it was to be around people who understood him. His cheeks flushed as he remembers Dave scandalized face.

Louis  let out a little laugh. “Next time we’ll share your embarrassment then,” He leaned in and rest his head on Zayn’s shoulder as his Beta friend shifted a bit to make him more comfortable. The atmosphere suddenly transform to a serious one. Zayn patted Louis’ hand signaling the Omega to start.

 

“Grimshaw told me that I’m not an Omega and calling me one is an insult to all those other Omega of the ton,” Louis quietly narrated, “that I look like a farmer on how tan I am, that I look like I haven’t had a bath with how my hair looks and my overgrown beard…”

Louis stopped and buried his face further into his friend’s shoulder. A small sniffing sound broke into the deafening silence. “Told me mamma must have been so disappointed in me for bringing up an Omega like me.”

“What did,” Zayn took a deep breath, trying to control his temper. “what did the others do?”

“Liam and Niall rebuke him for me but he kept on going and going. Insult after insult after insult.”

“And Harry?”

Louis shook his head, didn’t want to say a word because he knows a sob would escape his lips. Though it didn’t matter because that simple act is all Zayn needs to formulate why his friend is in distress.

 

“Never think yourself inferior because you are not. If you’re not the archetypal Omega, it’s because you’re unique.” Zayn reached for Louis’ hand again, this time held it between his. “You love running around under the sun and playing with the young lads of your gamekeeper. If it’s makes you dirty and cause you to tan, so what? You love doing that, you are happy when you do that.”

Louis nods but kept silent.

“The cad, saying such things,” Zayn breathed harshly “is a lying bull.”

Louis took his hand away from Zayn’s and simply wrapped his arms loosely around the Beta and shook his head. “But what if I am? A disgrace. Ben said…”

Zayn’s features hardened. “Ben is a scoundrel who thinks everybody revolves around him because he’s an Alpha.”

“…he said an Omega…”

“No, he is wrong. An Omega should do whatever the damn well he wants to do…”

“…Maybe I…”

“No, you don’t need to change just because someone demands you to change for their own satisfaction. You should only change when you think you needed to change.”

“…but I’m at an age of…”

“Lou, we talked about this. I may not love you romantically but…” Zayn said as he squeeze Louis’ thigh.

Louis snorted and shook his head vigorously. “No, I still say no. You will marry someday and you’ll regret….”

“…it’s still up for debate, we still have four years to think it through…”

“…but you like him, just like I like Harry. It’s unfair that…”

 

Zaynie heave a sigh. “Well, that’s life. At least we still have each other.” They stayed silent for a few minutes after that, dissipating the melancholic mood around them. 

Louis raised his chin and gave him a flat look. “My future is not a joke, Zaynie. I cannot live with you knowing you are prettier than me.”

“And wiser.”

Louis jumped to his feet, pushing away from Zayn. “I’m older,” he said, not even bothering to moderate his high pitch tone.

“Doesn’t mean your wiser, it just mean you will be aging much faster than I am.”

“It’s not a joke, no matter what you might think, and I’ll thank you to stop treating it as one.” The corner of Louis’ mouth lifted now, dispelling the illusion of the previous depressed Omega. “We cannot compete each morning in front of the mirror asking who’s the fairest of them all.”

 

Before Zayn could retort, there were three rhythmic knocks at the door interrupting them. The door opened to reveal Walsh, “My Lord, a gentleman is here to see you.”

“Is it Dave? Bring him in Walsh.”

“Unfortunately, it is I,” Harry gave his famous crocked smile that most Omega of the ton would faint to see, “Harry, the duke of Cheshire. Fine afternoon to you dear Omega.”

Louis eyes widened and his whole body stiffened as he heard the familiar low voice dripping like honey. He quickly turned around and came face to face with his unrequited love. “Your Grace,” he made himself say, with all the warmth he could muster to save face, “How can I help you?”

 

Louis thought, as the Duke of Cheshire entered, how handsome he was. The morning sunlight streaming in through the windows bounced off brown hair that would have been too long, had it not for the unruly curls to it. This only highlighted his sparkling green eyes with a tinge of hidden mischievousness. There was something boyish about his good looks, a hint of shyness in his smile.

Harry’s eyes landed on him and rested for a few seconds, and then darted to Zayn, who’s now stood by the Omega’s side. For a fleeting moment a frown spoiled his face but then replaced again with his famous smile.

 

“Mr. Malik, good afternoon to you,” he eyed the small distance separating the two friends, “I hope I wasn’t interrupting something important.”

Zayn jaw was tense as his fists were clenched at his side, only nod at the insincere greeting. Sensing the ominous aura Louis glanced at Zayn and lightly ran his finger over the clenched fist. Zayn visually relaxed at that and gave a sigh of resignation.

 

Harry eyed them warily as the two communicated wordlessly. A few minutes pass as the two made passing glances at each other. Zayn face sported at irate expression as Louis gave him small apologetic smile as he held the Beta’s hand, squeezing every now and then as they conversed mutely.

The butler entered with a large tray a moment later breaking the tense atmosphere. Walsh nodded at the three and removed the covers from the serving dishes. It was a cold repast—pieces of biscuit, cheese, and fruits, accompanied by a tall pitcher of lemonade.

“Refreshments, my Lord.”

“Thank you, Walsh.” Louis excused himself away from his friend’s side and walked towards the tray of food as it was settled at the small table and sat back at the sofa. “I’ll take it from here. Please escort Zayn out as he needs to get home and attend to some business.” Louis glanced up to the Beta who stood stiffly. Zayn eyed him dangerously but he only answered by giving a sheepish grin.

Zayn gave an exasperated groan, bowed at Harry and stalked out of the room without more preamble. Harry felt slightly elated at the Beta’s exit as he watched the Omega arranged the food in front of him.

 

“What are you here for, Your Grace?” There was a dangerous tone to his voice now.

The tone annoyed Harry. “Why did I interrupt something between—” He looked away regretfully as the words slipped from his lips. “Shite. I didn’t mean to say that.” He glanced down again at the Omega who’s staring daggers at him.

It was the look on the Omega’s face that sparked his recognition—that defiant, accusing glare directed at him once more. It made him catch his breath, remembering the Omega from years ago.

“My apologies Omega. I do not mean anything with my phrase.”

Harry fixed him with his most earnest gaze, and Louis recalled, rather belatedly, that Harry had something of a gift for enthralling both women and men. He’d still be smitten with that look. A dimple emerged on Harry’s cheek. Louis glanced up at him—once—and he almost couldn’t breathe.

“You always seem to think the worst of me. If you think that we are doing something that would go against propriety, then I’ll stop you now to tell you I am not that kind of Omega. Even if you don’t consider me one.”

The Omega’s words cut right through him and released the wind from his lungs. He supposed he had known it deep inside, but hearing him say the words aloud—he clenched one hand at his side, tried to find his bearings. He cannot refute it, he admitted to himself remorsefully.

 

Louis felt depleted as Harry stayed silent, confirming his assumption. He was broken into pieces all over. He looked up at Harry, saw that he too was trembling slightly.

“Louis," Harry began after a second too late, startled by the hesitancy in his own voice. He sat down next to the Omega, not trusting  his legs to support him. He reached out, touched his fingers to Louis’ cheek, then his jaw. His eyes widened and withdraw his hand like it caught on fire.

 

Harry runs his fingers through his hair, confused as his hand suddenly drawn towards the Omega when he saw the forlorn expression on the smaller man’s face.

“I am not here to place judgement. I’m here to apologize for the transgression of my friend.”

Louis gaze met Harry’s. His eyes grew big and round. He didn’t scream, he didn’t huff. He didn’t twitch so much as an inch. He simply fixed him with a look that bristled with silent, venomous accusation. His nostrils flared. He turned away in a gesture so regally, as dismissive as possible.

 

He is only here to apologize for his friend. Louis seethe with jealousy. His hope suddenly shattering. Of course he’s here only for that.

 

Oh he was consumed with so much jealousy.

Oh, no. Not on the outside he hadn’t shown it, will not show it. But inside… His blue eyes darkening with an unholy light, something deep inside him, something red and angry are spreading over his vision. But he will not show it.

 

“You should not be the one saying sorry for him,” Louis took a sipped at his lemonade, praying to heavens that his hand won’t tremble as he did so, “But it means anything, I forgive him, seeing as I and him will never cross paths again.”

“I hope that you really would forgive him because he means something to me and I hate that our friendship would be ruined because of it.”

‘Grimshaw means something to him’. Well go on, twist the knife.  Louis thought as he pressed his lips together and looked up, as if imploring the heavens. “We were never friends, Your Grace. So nothing to wreck.” Just my heart.

 

Louis voice had gone very cold, and a little shiver ran up Harry’s arms. Harry’s instinct is getting awry the more he’s close to the Omega’s presence. Sad, mad, glad. Hot, cold. Then hot, hot, hot, a fire igniting within. He tried to curb it.

Harry closed his eyes, rubbed his fingers on them. “I apologize. Profusely. Completely. With all that I am, I apologize,” he said, and opened his eyes. He couldn’t name his offences, but he was aware the list might be quite long with the way the Omega is acting. “For…everything,” he tried pleadingly.

“You don’t even know what you are apologizing for, Your Grace. And if you are apologizing again for your friend,” Louis spat vehemently, “I already said I forgive him.”

“No, this time I am apologizing for myself. It seems like I am not liked by you for whatever reason…”

 

Louis stared at him in puzzlement. “Oh,” he said flatly. “You’re attempting to be kind even if you don’t know what wrong doings you’ve done.” He sounded as if the possibility had never occurred to him before.

Harry didn't say anything, just reached for a piece of cheese off the tray. Louis watched him while he ate, and then, after he'd washed it down with more lemonade, his entire demeanor changed. He seemed more resigned, as he asked, “What did I do? Pray tell me what I did wrong so that I may rectify it.”

 

Betrayed me, broke my heart, stomped on it and all that without you knowing it. Louis thought but shook his head. Of course he couldn’t say it. “It doesn’t matter. We are not friends, we could co-exist in civilized manner around each other with occasional meaningless pleasantries if you want,” Louis brushed an invisible lint on his trouser, “I believe that one person not liking you will not tarnish your high reputation with the ton. So if that is all, You Grace, I wish to retire now to my room.”

 

“This is ridiculous,” Harry he said, taking a swig of his lemonade. It sloshed on the table when he set the glass down, he actually heard himself growl at him. “You know this is all hogwash. You can tell yourself that I’m thinking myself superior to you all you like, but it has no relation to the truth. You see the good in other people – Alphas, Betas, except me. I have nothing wicked done to you, so, why?”

That is rubbish, Louis thought of most of the ton are stupid, impertinent and arrogant. Harry was the only exception of being the opposite.

“That is not…”

“You met Allen just a few weeks and you are thick as thieves.” For a moment Louis did nothing but blink. “You say you hate Liam but you let him hug you, touch you,” Harry snarled.

“You are not friends,” Harry made an air quotation on the word ‘not’ for emphasis, “with Niall and yet you laugh with him.”

Fury—consuming, white-hot, suffocating, indignant fury—filled Harry and he didn’t know why. “You even let some Alpha groped you! Didn’t you even think about being ruined…”

Louis gasped with outrage, he didn’t think. He pulled back his arm and slapped him as hard as he could. He slapped him so hard that he could feel his palm heating.

 

Harry rubbed his cheek and straightened. “I suppose I deserved that,” he said, somewhat remorsefully. The shock brought him to his senses. He didn’t know what came over him. He never loose temper. Never. He was famous for it, a people pleaser. A subservient Alpha, but whenever he’s with Louis he looses control. Instinct takes over.

Louis stare at the reddening cheek of the Alpha and a sudden panic crawled inside him. His Omega screamed from within in agitation. Harry sensing the sudden shift in the Omega’s behavior put his hand on the Omega’s shoulder.

Louis shivered like a leaf, his eyes glazing. Harry on instinct cajoled him the best he could.

“It’s nothing. It’s nothing.” With each repetition, Harry smoothed the smaller man’s hair. “You’re a good Omega. You’re a good Omega. Such a good Omega.” Each whisper brought greater calm, until Louis could curb his rising panic. He almost went down.

He never went down. This was a first. He doesn’t know what to do, but the soothing low voice of the Alpha soothes his Omega’s fear.

“So good darling, so good for me.” Harry brushed off the hair off Louis’ eyes and stared at the bluest eyes he ever saw, and for just one moment, he saw something —a hopeless yearning in the way the Omega face tilted toward his, a flutter in Louis’ ragged breathing. The Omega’s lips parted, and he seemed suddenly, devastatingly beautiful.

 

For a moment Harry could not even blink. How was it possible he'd never noticed how beautiful Louis’ eyes were? He'd known they were blue, of course, and if he were to be honest with himself, he would have to admit that if asked earlier this morning, he'd not have been able to identify the other colors of the Omega’s eyes. There were specks of green, a dash of gold. It changes to a darker shades as the Omega’s pupil dilates.

A crack of laughter out the door broke the silence.

“Dave.” Harry watched as Louis mouthed the name silently. A hot coil burned again at the pit of his stomach. And felt something bile in his mouth.

“Ow, Your Grace, what are you doing here?” Allen looked shocked but in a jolly mood not sensing the awkward atmosphere.

 

Harry stood up and eyed the other Alpha warily. “Not of your concern Bradford.” He placed himself in front of Louis shielding him from the prying eyes of Dave. Louis was thankful for that, he tries to composed himself and shake himself from his stupor. He wielded his scent to go back to normal as it burst into something that he doesn’t recognize. A hint of Lavender and a fresh douse  of Green Tea.

He could also smells Harry’s scent mixing with his. Vanilla with whiff of Tobacco. It was intoxicating, almost lulling him to sleep now that he is more aware of it. He gripped the fabric of his thigh as he tries to take a hold of himself.

Dave gave a goofy smile and shrugged. “Well Louis and I are schedule to attend a ball of Lord James.” Dave tried to glance at his friend hidden behind the Duke. “Isn’t it right, Lou?”

Lou. Overly familiar.

“Yes, yes of course. I just need to dress up a bit, if you could wait?” Louis stood quickly, head bowed avoiding both Dave and Harry’s eyes.  

 

Harry looked over his shoulder at the Omega, “Just the two of you?” Condescending. Louis wanted to say it but preferred to nod as he glanced up to the frowning Alpha in front of him.

Terror. Louis felt shivers all over his body.

“Ah, yeah. I was supposedly the chaperone of Lottie when we accepted but she’s back home for the time being and it’s too late to decline now.”

Harry pivoted and faced Louis fully, “Then who are chaperoning you? You need one.” His eyes narrowed in concentration, and a frown left a furrow on his chin.

Louis gave a confused look that exasperated the Alpha more. “I don’t think I need one, Your Grace.”

“That is not up for debate Omega. I’ll make sure you are accompanied by respectable people.” Harry waved a hand dismissively.

Louis found himself standing just a little taller, looking at him with a hint of frost in his expression. “I beg your pardon.”

 

 

 

 

 TBC

Chapter Text



 

 

He hates that upper-class politeness, those moments of frozen silence. It’s those occasions when someone made a calculation based on manners and decided to hold his cruel thoughts to himself rather than speak aloud and risk rudeness.

Although Louis didn’t also agree to mocking people behind their backs. It was gutless and cruel, and he knew from personal experience that it was never as unobserved as the ridiculers imagined. But what he hates more are the passive-aggressive insults directed at your face in a patronizing tone usually made by entitled Alphas of the ton. Back then, when he was called a plump little calf by Winston, followed by making mooing sounds, he solved his problems with his fists. But now…

“…you may be a defective Omega, but you have money and the title…and I suppose that will do...” Louis tried hard to shut his hearing off as Lord Cowell ranted about him like he had the authority to do so.

His throat felt too tight, and his fingers curled into a ball.  Don’t fight it, just nod your head and let him talk nonsense.

“…. then you are already at the shelving stage…” Louis bowed his head slightly, fringe making a veil over his eyes. Conceal, don’t feel.

“…although it’s much better than being wed to that trader’s son…what’s his name again…. ah yeah, Malik…you’re better than that...”

 

Conceal, don’t feel.

 

Louis, with his head still tilted down, could only perceived shadows and movements, his fringe acting like a curtain. His jaw tensed but no one realized as it was hidden in plain-sight by his overgrown beard, his thin lips likewise obscured by it.

 

Conceal, don’t feel.

 

“… your mother must have been so heartbroken …children these days…still you’ll always be an Earl’s son, you’d still be up there high in the society, undeserved or not....”

 

Conceal, don’t feel.

 

Something brushed on Louis’ lower back, a light touch that sends warmth all over his body. The shadow besides him did not say a word but that single touch propelled something in Louis to burst, to be free. It’s like someone is saying: I am here, you are not alone.

 

I have your back.

 

He may not be allowed to fight with his fist, but he can always opt to fight with words and his wit.

 

You are not alone, I have your back.

 

“I believe you are right, my Lord,” Louis tapped a considering finger against his lips. “Like you for example,” he added, waving a hand in Simon’s direction, “Maybe there are deficiencies in your comprehension, but nobody will ever remark on it, so long as you make absolutely clear to announce yourself as a Baron first.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Louis leaned towards the Baron and spoke again, this time raising his voice and slowing his words as if he were talking to an old half-deaf man. “What I meant was that I had not thought that you were intelligent enough, surely telling being a Baron would help any cause.” Telling men like Simon that he only received respect because of his title is downright satisfying now that he had done it.

Simon stared at him, “Did you—” He seemed to grasp hold of his shock with a visible struggle. Simon took several deep breaths but came out with nothing to retort, his fist clench at his side.

“There’s no need to worry,” Dave who was watching quietly suddenly made his presence known to the other guest of the group. “Not everyone has that capability to retort back to Louis. Not everyone is clever enough to think of something to say immediately and challenge his wit.” He patted his hand comfortingly at Simon’s back, a silent threat to stay quiet. The baron frowned and suddenly excused himself as more people gravitated towards their small group. No one peep, afraid to offend the young Earl of Bradford.

Louis gave Dave a grateful smile. In all the years in which Louis had been shielding himself from Alpha’s advances or ire, he’d learned to deal with almost every emotional response to his boorish ways. He’d seen everything from anger to disbelief. But David always respond with him with playfulness and that was new to him. David took his sharp wittiness as something refreshing and never took anything to heart. For the Alpha, the Omega’s sharp-tongue is a source of endless amusement.

 

Like him, David is also one of the few people of the ton who doesn’t like the uptight ways of society. He’s glad he found another kindred spirit.

The Earl of Bradford was smiling, a hard, evil smile as Louis grinned back at him triumphantly. A sudden movement caught Louis’ peripheral vision and as he turned around and could see the horrified expression on Harry’s face, the one he didn’t quite seem able to repress while Lady Anne, gave him a too-amused smile.

 

Harry watched the two exchange infuriating smirks at each other, he was long past the point of getting annoyed, he got more pressing matter to attend to, like the insults Cowell just threw at Louis. He almost felt sorry for Louis, yes, he was argumentative, crude, unmannerly but no one has the right to insult him in his face especially a low scum like Cowell. Harry’s lips thinned as he hears murmurs from people surrounding them about the ill-mannered Omega, he wanted to rebuke them. He wanted to do something that is uncharacteristic of him, he wanted to lash out. Propriety be damn.

Harry watched Louis sheepish smile and decided not to cause more dramas for the Omega’s sake. Instead he made an elegant bow then extended his right hand towards Louis. Hoping to whisk away the smaller man away from the infuriating ton’s buzzes. “Lord Louis, would you do me the honor of a dance?” The words came out of his mouth a little too gentlemanly than he liked.

 

A set was just starting, and he offered his arm to the Omega. Louis bowed at Lady Anne and Dave and excused himself, he found himself being escorted by Alpha to the dance floor. Harry didn’t speak until they were on the ballroom floor, something for which Louis was very thankful for. He was still agitated from the previous encounter and being caught with his impoliteness by the Duke himself.

Louis had to remind himself to breathe when Harry placed one hand on his waist and took his hand into his. His palm fit small and unsteady within Harry’s hold, the Alpha’s controlled strength evident in his touch. Harry took a step and propelled him into a waltz. Moving on blind instinct, Louis followed his lead. He led him easily around the floor, his feet gliding in a smooth, effortless rhythm. “So, Louis,” he said, his voice rich and warm as syrup, “how do you find Lord Simon’s company?”

“Blazes.” A profanity escaped Louis’ lips before he could stop it. He mentally slapped the back of his head for his mistake.

Harry chuckled at his response, flecks of green glittering like polished emeralds inside his lively eyes. He swung Louis into a gentle turn, his body moving with an unconscious grace. A faint shiver rippled through Louis as he did so.

 

The set was a lively one, and they didn’t have to make polite small talk immediately, which Louis is grateful for. He’s just content to basked at the Alpha’s presence for now. He feels like he was dreaming and wanted the time to stop. Louis fixed his gaze upon Harry’s sharp chiseled jaw and slightly up to his red kissable lips. Louis caught a scent of fresh trace of the shaving soap that lingered on Harry’s cleanshaven cheeks. He also enjoyed, with his fingertips, the soft texture of the fine satin stretched across the Duke’s powerful shoulders. Reveled in the sensation of his hand held so intimately within the Alpha’s own.

With a small tug, Harry drew him closer, careful to leave the proper distance between their bodies. “Omega,” Harry said, a few moments after. He had a pleasant tone in his voice, as he dipped his head to him. Louis put his head to one side and smiled at the Alpha.

 

Louis was pretty, that annoying part of Harry’s brain couldn’t stop noticing it in spite of the lousy way the Omega dressed himself. Now even more so that he’s so close to the Omega’s face, fringe swept to the side revealing all the Omega’s expression without hindrance. For a moment Harry could do nothing but stare at Louis. He'd never seen Louis quite so subdue, and it was strange but good, really, good.

“Yes, Alpha?” A soft, raspy gasp escaped the Omega’s lips.

As the words escaped Louis’, he realized immediately his mistake as he raised his fingers to his lips, stricken. He searched Harry’s eyes, but the Alpha never gave him that freezing look that suggested that he’d been offended. Instead, he looked…amused.

“I mean…Alpha…because you are one…” Louis tried to shake his brain for something to explain his predicament, “So I called you that, not because…you know…it’s because you are…”

It was all jumbled of nonsense and Harry had the urge to laughed out loud but sensing the blush creeping off Louis’ cheeks, he opted not to, instead showered him with a wide smile, “Why did you call me that? Have you acknowledge me as one?” he then he winked.

Louis ducked his head and flushed faintly. “Shut up. Stop using your charm on me.”

“Is it working?” Harry knew he was fishing for compliments, but he didn't much care as he asked, his eyes met Louis’ as the other looked up, and they were serious, inquisitive. “Have you fallen for my charms?”

 

A laugh burst from Louis’ mouth, head tilting backwards. Louis had a pleasant intonation—silky, raspy and musical—and a lovely bright, airy laugh. Louis returned his gaze back at the Duke and eyed his stupidly green sparkling eyes, trying to look for something.

“Why do you do that? Why do you enchant people then put them at a distance?”

Many thinks that Harry was a quiet harmless little rabbit, but he isn’t, Louis thinks. For Louis, Harry is a wolf, he’s a predator who has a perverse enjoyment in waiting for his victim, playing with them, then attacking in the last minute. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. It sends a chill on Louis’ spine just thinking about it.

“You usually play a role as a gentle, nice guy,” Louis eye scanned the man across from him, every plane of the Duke’s face, his broad shoulders. He feels heat radiating from the strong arms on his waist. “But there’s something cold about your expression when you think people are no longer watching you.”

He contemplated about the Duke’s easy manner, his entire god-like presence. It hurts to think that every time he looked at Harry’s mouth all he could think about is receiving the Duke’s most rumored knee buckling kisses. He got a quite reputation with the Omega’s of the ton. But there’s aloofness hidden…There is an aura about him like he tries to hard to show his good side.

 

Harry frowned slightly in contemplation, tightening his hand slightly at Louis’ waist as they swung around in a graceful arc.  “Why do you read me like that?”

“My apologies, but it just seems so shallow. Too contrived. Like an actor,” Louis blushed slightly but Harry had been watching him closely had clearly saw it but didn't say anything, however, so he added, “It’s like you thrive on praises and attention but shield your inner thoughts if they get closer…”

A soft but unmistakable snort erupted from Harry. A fresh blush stole over Louis’ cheeks. Harry rolled his eyes, then heaved a long suffering sigh.

“Do you think I’m faking it now?” Harry wanted to make some sort of dry, cutting, and utterly ironic comment, but the truth was, the Omega has so startled him with his honest opinion. He never thought that about himself, although Liam and Niall did make some passing words about it when they’re still in Oxford.

Louis searched the Duke’s face for signs of rage, “To answer your question,” Louis continued, “No. No, I don’t think you are. This is the most warmth I seen in you, you seem somewhat unguarded.” Harry caught his gaze, the Duke’s eyes burning hot and intense into his. A warning bell sounded in his mind. Then suddenly the Duke smiled, a genuine smile on his lips.

“You make me feel things Omega. Things that I never felt before. I don’t agree with your assumption, but I must admit that I feel more open in speaking my mind and heart to you as I do to others. You make me want to know you and you to know me,” Harry leaned closer, “Will you?”

Louis laughed again, this time in lightheartedness, and Harry once again found himself mesmerized by his smile. “It is ten years too late, don’t you think so,” Louis looked down and bit his lower lip for a few seconds then tilted his head to the side and gaze up, “…Your Grace?” He then nailed it with a flirty smile.

The Omega smiled at him, and oh God, he felt it, felt the force of Louis’ smile all the way to his toes. Harry stared into the Omega’s face that should have been just slightly above the ordinary and felt his whole body come to a standstill. His heart ceased to beat, lungs seized up in his chest.  The air felt heavy and thick between them. He feels there was nothing but him and Louis.

 

He wanted to say that the Omega is turning the table on him, that the Omega is the one who’s putting on the charms. But all that came out was a little choke, deep in his throat—something rough and desperate, something he hadn’t even known was lodged inside him. He shook his head, clearing his mind of the intoxicating presence of the smaller man. Trying to block the light, fresh, sweet scent with a faint hint of lavender emitting from the Omega, that is now starting to take over his senses.

Louis must have felt it too, Harry thought, as the Omega’s smirk faded from his face and replaced with a flush and expression of panic and embarrassment as he faced away. It was his chance, to turn back the table to its proper place, as he tugged Louis closer, much closer, chest already touching.

Slowly, Louis gaze lifted once more to meet Harry’s. The Duke looked back at him through hooded eyes and smiled that devastating smile, deep inset of dimples added a blindingly irritating sensuality to his smile.

 

Oh bloody hell, what have I gotten myself into this time? Louis thought in dread. His cheekiness back-fired. He didn’t calculate rightly that this is not Dave. The Earl would have stutter and blush like a schoolboy, no, this is a new level of opponent. Harry is a rake, a very well-versed rake. Damnation, the man was dangerous!

 

"What are you doing to me, Louis" Harry whispered, leaning towards his face, lips mere inches from each other, hot breath mixing in tantalizing dance. Harry eyed Louis intently, watching his soft lips inhaled and exhaled in such a slow erotic manner.

“What are you doing to me, Omega?”

 



 

 

"All right now," Eric said, acting as the leader, "you wait ten seconds so that we can take our places, my Lord."

Louis smirked and shrugged one shoulder in response as the two children snicker in anticipation.

“You need to count, Lord Lou Lou.” Christopher, the youngest slapped Louis’ thigh, then ran off. Louis snorted at the cheekiness of the four years old boy. “Fine, I’ll begin now, 1….2….3….”

"10…Are you ready?" he loudly enquired. No response. That meant yes.

“Now, where could these lads be hiding?” Louis wondered in a booming voice. A few sniggers and chuckles followed his question. He took a few baby steps to the right earning a high-pitched childish giggle of excited delight, clearly, he’s on the right track. “Could they be over here?” He bent at the waist, tried groping for something but all he got is air. More hoots and squeals of laughter.

 

He sauntered towards the source of the noise. Louis’ mouth curved wide when a tiny gasp of breathless anticipation broke the stillness of the room, followed by a second, separate titter.

As he near them he leaned forward and tried grabbing something, someone. The two kids race from their hiding place with exuberant shouts and exclamations, and swarmed around him, earnestly hugging him. Louis dropped down to his knees, in returned tried tickling the duo.

 

As Dave approached the door of the drawing room, sounds of laughter increased, with a few squeals thrown in for good measure. The sounds brought a smile to the Earl's face, he reached the open doorway, and then, he saw him – Louis, he was blindfolded, laughing as he made grabby hands at the giggling children.

He walked toward the Omega, slowly, his footsteps just loud enough so that Louis had to know another person had entered the room. Little heads turned their faces towards him and silence reign.

“Dave?” Louis hurriedly took off the blindfold and grinned up at his friend from where he is sitting on the carpeted floor. The two brats were stunned looking up to the gigantic man in front of them. Louis looked down at the duo and gave an amused laugh. “Come on now, up, up. Ran along now and go back to your mother.” He gave them last squeeze and released them, then climbed to his feet.

 

The boys hurriedly obeyed and ran towards the door. Each giving a doe eyed stare at the Earl. Louis cackle more at the youngsters’ reaction as he followed them with his eyes, melting under the spell of children’s innocent charm.

 

“You love children.” It was not a question, it’s a statement and Louis is confused if he needs to respond so he opted to shrug his shoulders and smile. “You are even making that cooing and silly faces.”

Louis drew back his shoulders, his chin pointing upward and tried to look tall. “I do not!”  He starts fumbling with the knot at the back of his head, while Dave just watched him as he tore at the scarf. “Why are you here this ear—?”

 

For a bare moment, Louis paused. His hand froze in the middle of throwing the scarf. He looked over at Dave, his eyes wide—and then he looked away as sudden realization dawned on him. “You’ve read the letter?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault. It is I, who fell for your lovely sister. You have no fault.”

Louis seemed to come back into himself with one long, slow breath. “Still, I shouldn’t have encouraged you had I known what my father is thinking.” He moved towards the settee and took a seat. He closed his eyes, trying to not show how guilty he feels. Dave followed as he settled himself beside his friend. “We still have no proof of it, just merely assumptions.”

“He went ballistic when he learned that the Duke visited here while Lottie is away, and now he summoned her hurriedly even though mother is still not well. It is clear as the summer’s sky to me.” Eyes still closed, he waited for his friends respond.

Dave grabbed his hand instead, his eyes flashed open, and he stared as Dave quirked a smile and bestowed a warm kiss on his hand. “You’re suffering more than I am.” Louis raised an eyebrow at him, the Earl answered with a wolfish smile. “I must admit that I adore your sister, but I am just twenty and six. Still young to get married and be tied down. Maybe it is not meant to be.”

Dave then leaned and rested his head on Louis’ shoulder, the positioned was awkward and his neck will probably kill him later but the scent his friend is emitting is much stronger with this proximity. It was calming, soothing his aching heart. “You never told your father how you felt regarding Cheshire?”

“No,” Louis sighed. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my father dearly but sometimes he does things that he thinks he’s responsible for. But I cannot fault him, he sees it as right, he does it because he loves us. He just wants us to be settled…”

The alpha shifted a bit to make himself comfortable, Louis could feel his breath hot on his neck. “Yet here you are, unmarried, waiting for the right person. Who might be probably betrothed to your sister…”

 

He knew Dave well enough to speak plainly to him, but he didn't expect him to find the whole situation so amusing. He wanted to be offended, but he felt so drained. He thought that Harry and he might be getting some progress but crashed down when his father has implied that he plans Lottie to be betrothed to the Duke of Cheshire and had already discussed it with the young Duke.

Betrayed once again. So, the Duke is really faking it when he tried to befriend him. A mere politeness to the soon-to-be brother-in-law.

He supposed that if he were braver, he'd have asked his father to arranged him with the Duke years ago. But would that have really made much difference? Would Harry be as accommodating as he is now with his and Lottie’s soon to be engagement.

"You're very quiet," Dave said softly.

"I was just thinking."

"About?"

"About what I'd miss— if I could have just change, would have it made any difference?"

Dave tilted his head to look up, his eyes grew intense. "In what way?"

“If I could have held my tongue and temper and bow down to all the Alpha like they asked me too, do you think Harry and I had a chance? Do you think someone would have me as an Omega?”

Dave voice grew so quiet it was almost a whisper, "Then you are no longer Louis." He shook his head and tried to keep the sadness out of his voice, "You may be brash, and clever for your own good but that what makes you, you

 

Louis kept silent. A minute had pass and its infuriated Dave slightly. He took his head off the Omega and straightened his back. "Listen to me," Dave said, eyes moving towards the door that remained technically open, should anyone object about proprieties. He reaches his arms forward, and slightly shook Louis’ shoulders. “All those who said you are not enough, that you need to change who you are, are the same people who are afraid of what you are capable of. You’re smart, you’re charming, you can’t help that people are drawn to you. Those Alphas who belittle you are the same people who have nothing but their decorum to protect them against your true power.”

Louis looked at him, deeply into his eyes. There was something heartbreaking in the way he was gazing at Dave. “I’m just afraid to disappoint them.”

“No, no, believe me they’re not disappointed in you in the way that you think. Your mother is so proud of you. The only reason that she’s sad is the way people treats you and she can’t be with you,” Louis’ mouth curved up in a wry smile. “She’s upset that you are trying to mend things with this bull society and in return you are being unhappy.”

Leaning nearer, Dave placed a pair of fingers beneath Louis’ jaw and tipped up his chin. “If people couldn’t see who you really are,” he murmured, “then they have no right to be with you.”

Louis gave a shaky laugh and a nod, but he could say nothing further, his hands curled into his lap as he tries hard to put his emotion in check. He closed his eyes as he tried to hold back a tear.

 

“Remember the first time we’ve met?”

Louis eyes fluttered open to find Dave watching him intently, the Alpha’s face only inches away. “It wasn’t actually the first time,” Dave skimmed a thumb across his lower jaw. “It was actually the third time. The first time was, when you walked passed me like you can’t see me, like you are blind to those around you. You were muttering something, over and over.”

Dave edged closer and cocked his head slightly to one side, studying his friend’s face. “The second time I saw you, you’re trying your best to stay polite to the underhanded insults of Lord Allan and Lady Margarette. Both times I can’t see your eyes. Your face half hidden by hairs, but I can’t stop but be drawn to you.”

He slid a broad palm around the back of Louis’ neck, soothing the tension on the Omega’s nape. “Even with your walls, your brightness still shone. I felt like a moth attracted to your fire.”

In easy, gentle circles, Dave rubbed his thumb against the base of Louis skull. “You are not alone, Louis. We are here, Zayn and me. Same with Oli, Stan, Calvin, Luke… let us protect you.”

He gently moved the fringe hovering over the Omega’s eyes, “Let down your shield,” he let his fingers dance on the stubbles on Louis’ jaw, “Let go of your armor.”

Louis gaze roved over his friend’s heated features, his breath coming in shallow drafts as he listened to the soothing sound of his friend’s voice. “Let me protect you, Lou.”

 

“Are you two lads flirting again?”

Dave snapped straight and spun on his seat to watch Zayn stroll towards them. Reaching them, the Beta stopped, looked first at Louis, then at Dave. “I hope you know that once Lou wrapped you around his fingers, he’ll going to expect you to bring him the moon.”

“Didn’t you give him a moon-shaped pendant?” Dave said, quirking an eyebrow.

Zayn gave him a smile and an absent nod, then turned to Louis. “We’ll he deserves it.”

 

Oo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

 

A few hours before the start of the Lord James ball…

 

He took out his pocket watch and wondered, for what felt like the hundredth time, what was taking his mother so long. They need to fetch Louis and should have already been there since an hour ago. It was now twenty minutes past the time of their intended arrival at the Omega’s home, and his need to bolt was growing with each passing minute.

He walked inside the drawing room and saw his mother lounging at the settee. His anger shoots up as he trudged towards her.  “Mother, there is no time for tea!”

“There is always time for tea, Harry,” she eyed his only son as the young man walked back and forth then stamped his foot on the carpeted floor, “Are you having a tantrum?”

Harry pivoted to looked at his mother, “No!” he vehemently denied, “I never had one.”

“Psshhh,” Anne waved her hand in dismissal, an amuse smile graced her beautiful face, “I remember when you were a brat, you use to throw one every time Gemma refused to share her pretty Omega friend.”

 

The young Duke’s jaw dropped and stuttered for a retort, but his mother beat him to it, “If my memory serves me right, you had a fit when I scolded you when you secretly followed Louis home.”

“I beg your pardon, you say it like I did it in a perverse way,” he frowned as he remembers the past event, “He shouldn’t have walked home alone. Something could have happened, something much worse.”

“Of course, you’re right, and we are thankful that you got to him first before anybody did. The first heat is always the scariest.” Anne tilted her head and gave a proud smile at her child, she watched at her now blushing son. A moment of contemplation she gave a loud resigned sigh, “If only Li…”

 

“Enough mother…”

 

 

 

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text



 

 

 

It’s been three weeks since he had seen and flirted with the Duke of Cheshire at Lord James Corden’s ball, been exactly seventeen days since he’d learned the Duke and Lottie’s possible betrothal. Been two weeks since the said Duke became a regular caller in the Tomlinson’s household.

Although they never crossed paths these past few days, his fault entirely, because he opted to stay in his room—faking headaches or visited Zayn’s or Stan’s house whenever the Duke will visit.

He’s not healed yet to see his own sister in the arms of his love.

So, it was a surprised to him that he came face to face with the devil himself in the early hours of Sunday.

 

“Good morning, Omega.” Louis whirled around at the sound of a deep, syrupy male voice. Good heavens, it’s really His Grace Harry Styles, looking sinfully handsome in a blue morning coat. What the devil was he doing here this early?

Well, there is no sense in not asking. “What the damn—” he caught himself just in time, he continued cursing in his head instead. “What are you doing here, Your Grace?”

Harry raised a brow as he adjusted his coat.  “I believe it’s expected for suitors to call upon young Omega, yes?” he murmured. “Or did I misplace my etiquette book?”

“I meant,” Louis heard himself growled lowly, “how did you get in? No one alerted me on your arrival. You are not supposed to be here this early.”

Harry gave an amused smile and cocked his head towards the hall. “The usual manner, I knocked on your front door, like any other decent men, Walsh let me in as always. And for your second question, I informed Lady Charlotte the change of my arrival yesterday while you’re on the run, again.”

 

Louis’ look of irritation at his sarcasm did not prevent him from continuing with, “Did the time of my arrival ruined any of your plans this morning Dear Omega?” the Duke continued, maintaining a rather impressively supercilious tone, “Or are you avoiding me by any chance?”

“None of that,” Louis muttered, lying through his teeth. “Why would I? Your presence doesn’t bother me at all.”

“Really?” the young Duke said with a chuckle, “I wouldn’t have thought so.”

 “Yes,” Louis groaned, “Besides, if you are attempting to gain my sister’s favor through me,” he narrowed his eyes icily at the curly man, “You don’t have to, you are doing a very good job of it by going directly to my father.”

“I’m confuse,” Harry said, frowning a bit. “Why would I need to gain your sister’s favor? And I thought we were progressing when we were at Lord James’ ball.” He grinned roguishly, “But it seems like we are back to square one, Omega.”

 

His smile, Louis realized with dismay, was truly a force to be reckoned with. He suddenly felt faint.

Blazes, he’s swooning again.

A seat…yes, what he needed to do was sit down. “Please, have a seat,” Louis said, waving at the sofa as he scrambled across the room to a chair, his legs were starting to feel awfully wobbly. Harry nodded in reply, and then politely asked, “And your plan for this morning, Omega?”

Louis practically choked on air. Why the hell is the Duke asking him? “Just going on a stroll.”

“With?”

“Why are you asking?”

“I’m just concern for your welfare.”

“I’m not your ward, Your Grace,” the Omega couldn’t resist pointing out. “Besides, I’m going out with Zayn and Dave.”

Harry grimaced. “Surely, a larger group will be safer.”

Louis let out a little snort. “And by larger group you mean?” He cocked his head, regarding the Duke with a quizzical gaze, “together with you?”

“An excellent idea!” Harry practically barked. Louis eyes widened, didn’t realized he had fallen into a trap. His face drenched in pink as he envisioned himself and the Duke in a stroll down the park, just the two of them.

Be still fluttering heart.

 

Louis gazed longingly out the door. “I don’t think Zayn and Dave would like the sudden change of plan.”

“So, you would leave me to the company of your sister, again? How brave of you?”

“Surely you are joking! I would never let my sister be compromised. She is always accompanied by her lady maid.” Louis explained as he sprang to his feet and crossed the room to the bell pull. Giving it a firm yank, he said, “I’ll just ring for someone to alert Lottie now of your arrival.”

“Ah, but I had invited Niall and Liam too, three Alphas against one Lady and a maid. This would be an interesting…morning.”

Louis froze halfway back to his chair. “Absolutely not.” Harry shrugged, enjoying the Omega’s discomfort.

“No way in blazes I will allow my sister to be in company of three Alpha’s she doesn’t know fully—” Louis abruptly cut himself off, noting the arrival of both Zayn and Dave in the doorway. Both eyed the two suspiciously. “What is going on?”

 

Harry just smiled in that annoying manner, looking terribly relaxed and comfortable on the sofa. “Louis and I made plans to visit the park this fine morning.”

An awkward silence fell across the room. Louis offered a tight smile at his two friends who’s giving him and Harry questioning look. Harry just raised a brow in return.

Just then a small commotion broke out in the hall—loud laughter echoed together with a girly giggle. “Ah, I think that is Niall, Liam and your sister.”

 



 

 

Louis glanced forward, he watched as Lottie took Harry’s proffered arm and allowed him to lead her out. Harry adjusted his gait for Lottie and her maid, engaging her in a conversation.

“So where are we headed?” Niall touched Louis’ elbow jolting him suddenly to the Irish man’s presence. Dave eyebrow furrowed slightly at Niall’s proximity. Louis subtly tug his arm, but Niall quite simply refused to let go. Zayn fell in step beside Dave, while Liam ambled on, somewhere near Niall. Niall tucked Louis’ hand in the crook of his arm before he could escape.

The quintuple continued towards the park in amiable silence, punctuated by Niall’s occasional attempts to draw Louis away into a conversation with Dave. Louis glanced up to his now exasperated friend with an apologetic smile.

“Shall we go to the maze?” Dave asked Louis, trying hard to ignore the impertinent chattering Irish man.

“Hmmm?” was the Omega’s distracted reply. He had a small smile on his face as his head tipped up to the sun and was basking in its warmth and for one extremely perplexing minute, the Alpha felt a jolt of electricity down his spine. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath, hoping it would clear his fuzzy head. Instead, he simply got an intoxicating whiff of Louis’ soothing scent.

Louis smiled, turning to face Dave with a clear-eyed gaze. “It’s been a while seen I’ve played inside a Maze.” A wind caught his fringe off his face revealing his cheeks painted in pink due to the morning sun, he looked so enchantingly lovely that Dave nearly forgot to breathe. The Omega’s lips were caught somewhere between a laugh and a smile, and the sun glinted on his caramel colored hair making him glow, just being in his presence made Dave want to grin like an idiot.

 

Unfortunately, Niall caught the entire exchange, and he moved from his place and rather curtly insinuated himself between Dave and Louis, grasping Louis’ arm with far more strength than grace. “We are falling behind Louis,” he growled, “Let us hurry.”

Louis was baffled at the sudden shift in Niall’s behavior. He never seen the happy-go-lucky lad in such a hateful state. He whispered urgently at the blond. “What is going on? Why are you being so mean?”

“I am not being mean, I’m just doing my job.” Niall hissed back.

Louis’ eyes narrowed, “Unhand me now, Niall,” and he continued in a low, deadly voice, “or else”.

“But Lu…”

“Now, now lads. Niall, I suggest you walk with Harry and Lottie in front and I’ll stay behind here with Louis.” Liam tried to sound jovially, clearly aware that Louis was likely to murder Niall if he opened his mouth one more time. The blond man nodded, glancing at the Omega with an apologetic smile as he hurried to keep pace with Harry and Lottie up front.

“Move back Liam,” Louis ground out, “Just walked behind me with Zayn.” Liam blinked a few times, his lips parted with dismay.

Zayn stared at his friend, fascinated by the vein leaping in his throat. Zaynie’s mouth opened and closed a few more times, and then he said, “C’mon Li, do as he say.” He didn’t like to think himself as a pushover, but self-preservation was another matter entirely. His Omega friend is out for blood, seeing as the Omega’s sister and his unrequited love is now in a cheery conversation. He doesn’t want to aggravate his friend with his defiance.

As soon as they are out of hearing, Louis inched closer to his Alpha friend and muttered an apology. “It is not like Niall at all.”

“Don’t worry, I know Horan is a top lad. Played with him a few times on a table. Maybe he’s having a bad day, maybe?”

“Still,” Louis grounds out, “he wasn’t polite nor very nice. In fact, he was insufferably arrogant and dreadfully rude and insulting.” Louis’ lips twisted into a grimace.

 

Dave saw the play of emotion on his friend’s face and immediately turned sympathetic. “Cheer up lad,” he murmured. “At least, you’ve done a good deed on Zaynie over there.” They both looked back over their shoulders at their friend who’s now in deep conversation with the young Earl, likely about art.

Louis let out a long and ill-disguised sigh of relief. “He’s going to kill me later.”

“You bet. I’ll wager a ten grand on it that he’ll kill you there in the maze.” Louis let out a little laugh as they followed the rest of their group toward the maze. “I think,” Louis said, “that you are the evilest man I’ve ever met. Such a bad, bad man.”

Dave choked out a laugh at Louis’ teasing, then leaned over so that his lips were a mere inch from Louis’ ear. “Am I? Should I cease being a gentleman and decide to lead you astray in this maze?” Dave in turn studied his face, his head tilting slightly as he took in his features. The wind had brought color to Louis’ cheeks and ruffled his caramel brown hair once again.

Louis knew Dave proximity was deliberate, that he sought to intimidate rather than seduce, they’d been playing this game of teasing that Louis refuses to back down. This at least would take his mind off Harry and Lottie.

“Maybe I want to be led astray,” Louis murmured, hand reaching up to his tall friend letting his forefinger trail down the side of the Alpha’s cheek. His finger slid along the line of his jaw. “What do you say to that?”

A slow smile crossed his mouth as Dave gave a little head shake. They both knew the Omega had won. Once again. “I’m glad you’re an Omega. If you had been an Alpha, you’d make a lot of boys and girls cry.”

A laugh burst from Louis’ sensuous lips. Unknown to the duo, a pair of green eyes are watching intensely their interaction. Fury evident of his eyes.

They soon arrived at the maze entrance, the precisely trimmed box wood hedge rising upward in a seemingly impenetrable wall of thick, leafy green. Harry, Niall, Lottie and her maid already inside.

“Shall we go inside, then?” Dave asked, directing their footsteps along the path that led to the labyrinth. “Do you want to make a game of it? See which one of us reaches the exit first?”

 

Louis bit his lip and smirked, “You’re on.” Then without preamble his feet flying as he hurried along a narrow corridor of greenery that towered far above his head. He didn’t even wait for his friend as he made a dash on it. He was agile, quick and stealthy on his feet and he knew that he was few feet in advance from Dave.

Each turn he makes looked frustratingly like the one before, every angle leading to a potential trap. He looked right, then left, wondering which choice led in the correct direction. Making a random choice, he turned and dashed forward, the move led him deeper into the labyrinth.  Turning again, he glided forward, he came to another dead end, he feels trapped. He backed away hurriedly and as he was just passing through, a strong arm appeared out of nowhere, curling around his waist.

A manly squeal escaped his lips, the sound reverberating in the air, as he twisted for a moment and turned around to see he’s in Harry Style’s grasp.

“Caught you, Omega” A gleam came into the Duke’s eyes, along with an expression he’d never seen him wear before. “I told you,” he murmured in a tone as rough as gravel, “a larger group will be safer.” Louis trembled, abruptly aware that Harry was still holding him against him.

Louis’ lips parted, but he couldn’t have uttered a word if his life had depended on it. He had no doubt that his heart was beating like a racing horse.

“Now you are at risk, Omega,” Harry whispered, so close now that his breath kissed the Omega’s lips. Louis tried to twist his body away from the Duke’s grip, but his muscles refused to obey.

 

Harry knew he had to be mad. There could be no other explanation. He’d meant to scare Louis, terrify him, make him understand how risky it is to be with another Alpha, and instead he became the biggest threat.

He doesn’t know what came over him. Just moments he was having a blast, conversing with Lady Charlotte then the next he was watching intently the Omega flirting with another Alpha. He also hated the fact that he can’t see Louis’ expression as his fringe once again hiding Omega’s expression.

He shook his head, his gaze roaming over Louis’ face before lowering to his lips. It irritated him that he needs to be this close to see the sparkle in Louis’ eyes, the blush on his cheeks. He loathed that he could envisioned Louis in the arms of another man gazing down on him. His eyes flashed with fire and suddenly he had the urge to kiss him.

The plan was to leave him bothered and breathless but when there was scarcely an inch between them, there’s a pull that grew too strong. The Omega’s scent was too enticing, enveloping his every senses. The sound of his breathing was too arousing, lulling him to a place of wanton.

 

Suddenly, his hand shoots up and cupped the back of Louis’ head as his lips took the Omega’s in an explosion of both anger and desire. The Omega’s melting gaze lifted to his, and in the space of a single heartbeat, they were kissing. Louis gasped against his mouth, and he took advantage of the Omega’s parted lips by sliding his tongue between them.  Fervent and needy, he took his mouth with a kind of savage desperation, releasing all the pent-up anger and apprehension that had plagued him over the last three weeks.

Harry plunged both of them deep, earning more gasped from the Omega. Catching Louis’ lower lip between his teeth, he nibbled for a long moment before giving a subtle tug that coaxed Louis’ mouth wider. His tongue stroked more inside, he teased and tormented the Omega, exploring the outlines of the Omega’s mouth. Teeth and tongue he roamed, across the tender flesh of one inner cheek before moving on to trace the other side, memorizing every detail, every nook and cranny.

He closed his eyes and let himself get lost to the dulcet sweetness of Louis’. His hands then wandered off, stroking over the smaller man’s back, he caressed his hips, then glided down, sliding lower until he curved his palms over the rounded softness of Louis’ derriere, cupping him, gently kneading the fleshiest part of the Omega. Louis produced a mewing sound of pleasure with Harry’s ministration.

They parted a little and just stared at each other’s eyes, “This is madness,” he whispered against Louis’ lips as he plunged again once more. Louis’ reply on the other hand was incoherent, producing a confused moan, and his body became slightly more pliant in the Duke’s arms, allowing him to mold him even closer to the Alpha’s form.

A low, triumphant growl emerged from Harry’s mouth, “Hell, you taste so good.”

 

Lord, what am I doing? Louis conscience abruptly kicked-in and give him a sudden, painful jab.

 

Louis planted his hands on the Alpha’s chest and wrenched himself away, leaving the Duke off balance and panting. Harry let out a curse, and not a mild one.

Louis scurried away, far enough away from the Duke so that he was not in arms’ reach. “What in damnation are you doing?” his voice so low it was almost a whisper.

A heavy scowl settled over Harry’s brows but then shrugged, suddenly looking a little less angry and trying to be a little less trembling. “Kissing you, obviously.”

Louis gasped a bit, “but why?”

“Because I wanted to.”

“But you don’t like me!”

“True,” Harry allowed.

“And I don’t like you.” Lies.

“So, you’ve been telling me,” Harry said smoothly, “I’ll have to take your word for it, since it wasn’t particularly apparent a few seconds ago.”

 

The air rushed from Louis’ lungs, leaving his head spinning as though he had taken a bad fall. He couldn’t be saying these things. Guilt assailed him, Louis felt his cheeks flush with shame, his knuckles turned white at his side as he tries hard to stop himself from lunging forward to strangle the curly lad. “I am not going to let you near my sister ever again,” he said in a very low voice as he stepped backward on shaky legs. “You’re nothing but a rake, a shameless one.”

“Lottie,” Harry murmured, moving slowly forward towards Louis, backing the Omega to a wall of leaves, his eyes blazed and one of his hands shot out to grip Louis’ chin. He held him that way for several seconds, forcing him to meet his gaze. “Lottie,” he said in a deadly voice, “All I hear is Lottie. Believe it or not, not everything revolves around your lovely sister. Lady Charlotte got nothing to do with this.”

Louis went white. Of course, it has everything to do with Lottie. For the first time in his life, he felt the blood drain from his skin. Surely, if Lottie married the Duke it would mean a loveless and faithless marriage.  “I won’t let you make her unhappy. I won’t let you ruin her life,” Louis said, the words choking in his throat. “I won’t let a rake like you, who even kiss her brother like it meant nothing! I won’t let you marr—”

“—you kissed me back,” Harry interjected before Louis could finished his words, “Not with any great enthusiasm, I’ll admit, but that would be just a matter of time,” he continued with a small, satisfied smile.

Louis shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing. “How can you talk of such things? Do you have no honor?”

Harry watched Louis closely, his eyes trained on the Omega’s face, somehow rendered beautiful by the force of his anger. A very misplaced anger. His cheeks were high with color, his eyes shone with tears he was fighting hard to keep off his face. God, he looks so gorgeous even in rage.

Harry found himself brushing a fingertip across Louis’ cheek, then slide along the length of his throat. Louis tried hard not to swoon, but right then and there, when Harry leaned in and put a tiny nip at his earlobes, a sound that was part sigh, part whimper escaped his lips. The Duke smiled at the Omega’s reaction and moved to nuzzle the underside of his jaw.

“God, you’re intoxicating.”

 

Not again. Louis eyes popped open in an instant, he set his hands against his chest, intending to push him away, make him stop.

 

Only Harry did not stop.

 

“Stop! I don’t want this!” Louis growled as he pushed the Duke off him, this time more forcefully, “I don’t want you! Let me go!” Struggling harder, Louis lifted his foot and gave him a hard kick in the shin. Harry grunted in obvious pain, tumbling backwards a few steps.

Then without warning, a big black blur blocked his view of the Duke and fists sailed through the air, the sound of flesh beating against flesh giving off sickening thuds. Harry was now sprawled on the stone surface.

“You, filthy cad! You, despicable cur! Get up!” Dave declared, “Get up! Coward!”

Louis watched the two in horror and worry. “Get up so I can hit you again,” Louis heard Dave taunting the duke, his friend’s fists clenched at his sides.

Harry glanced up and stared at Louis as he climbed to his feet. “I suppose I deserved that punch,” Harry said, refusing to look away from the Omega, “but if you want to try for another, we’ll have to take this to an alternate location.”

 



 

 

“What the hell were you thinking?!” Soft footfalls tread across the lush carpet runners in the hall, Nick striding unannounced into the room, “I told you to entice other Alpha towards that pathetic excuse of a man but not like this!”

“Good afternoon to you too, Grimshaw.”

“Cut the bull Harry. You do realize Lord Allen’s reputation? If he wasn’t an Earl, he could take boxing for a living and be filthy rich just for that.”

Abruptly, in anger, Harry set his drink aside and climbed to his feet. His jaw bruised, eyes red-rimmed with clear exhaustion. “I’ll have you know I can hold myself in the ring,”

“Doesn’t matter! It is not worth it, that Omega is not worth it.”

 

Harry eyes narrowed, “Of course, Louis is always worth it,” he stated in a harsh, low-pitched voice sending shivers down Nick’s spine. It was the first time the Beta is seeing his friend in such ire. And all of this due to a useless Omega.

Nick cursed under his breath, “Are you…are you contemplating on going forward with this engagement?”

 

Harry shoulders tightened, then for a moment, confusion drenched his lovely face in contemplation. A few seconds passed then a laugh escaped his lips at his friend’s outrageous comment. “You must be kidding?!”

“Am I?”

“Clearly, you are,” Harry clicked his tongue in obvious exasperation, “This is all part of the plan. Before the six months’ time this engagement will be dissolved. A proper man would ask to marry Louis and I’d be living my bachelor’s life once again.”

 

Nick tossed him a look, obviously unconvinced.

 

“Now, if you’ll excuse me gentlemen, I can feel a headache coming and I need to retire early. Good day to you two.”

Nick glanced at the body lurking at the corner, trying to blend in with the shadows, “I don’t know what you are doing Horan, but you got to stop, or I...”

 

Niall raised his eyebrows in acknowledgement. “Or what?”

“Or I’ll tell Hazza. I can have a detailed list of all the Alpha’s you’ve threatened to stay away from Tomlinson. I don’t know what you are playing but I want you to stop.”

Niall crossed his arms over his chest and leaned a seemingly carelessly against the desk beside him. “Hmm, not bad,” he mused aloud, craning his head one way and then the other, “Your spies are really doing a fantastic job, Grimers.”

Nick’s thin nostrils quivered faintly around their edges, lips rounding into a disapproving frown. “You are ruining our plan.”

Niall kept his features impassive. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not ours. Mine,” he paused, then snapped his fingers, “and I don’t like where you’re taking it,” he continued with wagging a finger.

Nick jaws tightened.

“A word a caution, I don’t like other people messing with my Pack,” Niall laughed and gave the Beta a merry wink, “From now on, stay out of my Pack…Mr. Grimshaw.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

TBC

 

 

 

Chapter Text



 

 

 

Harry crossed the room. “Bradford.” He offered a hand, Dave accepted and returned the handshake, quick and extra firm. “May the best man win.”

 

Anticipation hummed through both Alphas as they allowed servant boys to lace them into their gloves. Harry smacked one hard, padded fist into his other gloved hand, enjoying the sense of power as the impact reverberated up his arms. He stepped up into the ring as Dave followed.

 

Several practice matches ceased around the room, gentlemen and commoners alike assemble to watch the match between the two high-ranking young gentlemen of the ton.

 

Inside the ring, the Duke and the Earl touched gloves in a sportsmanlike salute to start the fight.

 

Dave moved backward, gloves instantly high and ready, he began to circle the Duke slowly, studying the slightly shorter opponent. Harry mirrored Allen’s movement trying to judge and measure, tried to anticipate what Bradford’s opening move might be.

 

A jab toward his rib snaps Harry’s reverie, though he was prepared as he tucked his arms tight to his chest to deflect the blow. He countered with an uppercut that connected with Bradford’s jaw snapping the Earl’s head to one side.

 

Dave jogged a few steps in place, shook out his head and arms. He honestly didn’t expect a hard punch from the Duke. Thought that the Duke being a good sportsman is a myth they made in Oxford. Didn’t believe for a second that the gentlemanly and always polite Duke has a mean bone in his body.

 

They moved around each other, gloves poised for action, anticipating each other’s movement.  Harry shot a quick jab but was met Dave’s counter jab. Series of jabs and counter-jabs were given by the two, trying to outpace the other.

 

Harry found an opening, he gave two straight blows into Bradford’s right flank. Dave winced, instinctively tucking in his elbows after, but it was already too late. The blows hurt, but they hadn’t been hard enough to break ribs or cause damage to his kidney.

 

Dave’s eyes narrowed as he sent the Duke another penetrating look. God, he must be crazy promising Louis not to hit Styles in the face. The annoying grin he is giving is irritating the hell out of him.

 

They circled each other again, trading punches and blows randomly. Dave connected a couple times as he caught Harry’s rhythm and he came in once again landing a pair of solid punches to the Duke’s stomach that drove the air out of his lungs. Harry pulled back quickly and lowered down his arms to shield his midriff before another blow could fall.

 

Loud gasped escaped Louis’ lips as he saw the pain expression of Harry. He almost went into the ring except Zayn was quick enough to hold him to his place. Niall and Liam suddenly appeared at his sides.

 

No escape.

 

When a break was called, Louis swiftly went to Dave’s side to give him his fluids. Dave toweled his sweaty face dry. He gulped a couple of swallows of water to ease the dryness from his mouth. He gave an appreciative smile at his Omega friend who was, unexpectedly, glaring at him.

 

“What?”

 

“I told you not to hurt him.”

 

Dave had to work hard to keep his expression neutral. What the devil had gotten into Louis?

 

“I promised not to hurt is face, again.” Allen said, his tone clearly unrepentant.

 

“I never conceded with this stupid match. I want you to stop.” Louis demanded in a low tone meant only for the Earl’s ears.

 

Quirking a brow in challenge Dave said, “And what if I don’t? What will you do, Omega?”

 

Louis saw red, gripping the towel he was holding tightly his hand ached, he stepped closer to the Alpha and leaned forward not wanting to risk being overheard, “Don’t you ever call me that again. Not even as a joke. If you do, I’ll fucking castrate you and feed it to the wolves,” Anger burned in Louis’ gut, heating his blood, “do you understand me?” Louis growled lowly. Dave’s eyes narrowed as he sent Louis a penetrating look but uttered no words.

 

A bell sound was heard, breaking the intense glaring of the two friends, signaling that the rest period was over.

 

Harry and Dave converged once more in the center of the ring, calls and shouts coming from the crowd to urge the pair of them on, wagers having obviously been made. All of these Dave paid no minds as he can’t wrapped around the thought that he and Louis just fought and was even threatened by the Omega, all because of this damn Alpha.

 

Harry didn’t wait, as soon as the bell rang he came at Bradford swiftly, striking hard and fast in a series of hammering punches. Dave tried to protect himself and get in a punch of his own, but Harry seems more determined than ever and landed a successful blow, a punch that landed on the Earl’s cheek.

 

Dave shook his head to clear it, a trickle of blood leaked out of his nose. He wiped it onto his arm and glared at the Duke.

 

Dave then came at Harry again, the Duke getting his gloves up a fraction of a second to defend himself from the Earls’ hard one-two in the sides. Dave pressed on, using alternating rhythms, with small jabs and right hook, thrown in unexpected patterns and at varying speeds to keep the Duke off balance and squarely on the defensive. Harry too was doing the same thing, defending and going on offensive.

 

Both men were laboring for air, skins running slick with sweat by the time another round was called. Both flushed, chest heaving to catch his breath, muscles quivering, but both refused to give up.

 

Dave threw a combination of jabs, on which Harry returned with the same vigor, as soon as the break was over. When Harry drew close enough to strike, the Earl reached out and yanked him into a rib-crushing hug, utilizing his advantageous height over the Duke. “Stay away from Louis,” David said into Harry’s ear as they wrestled.

 

“I’ll do what I want,” Harry spat. With a growl, Dave threw off his hold on the Duke and then laid out some punches his way, hitting the Duke straight on his gut.  Harry eyes widened as Dave swings another jab to pummel the Duke’s gut. The Duke stumbled back but caught himself before he fell.

 

 

“You are not his Alpha,” Harry said, fending off Dave’s Jabs without making much effort to counter. “You are just a friend. So, quit acting like you own him.”

 

In some vague part of his brain Dave knew he shouldn’t have reacted intensely with the Duke’s mocking but a larger part of his brain, mostly the Alpha’s, demanded to stake his claim. So, by the time he registered most of what he is thinking his body is already throwing punches and one blow made straight to the Duke’s face.

 

His head swam, he blinked and swayed, then he was suddenly surrounded by cheering people, patting him on the shoulder and congratulating him. He tried to focus his attention to a certain Omega who’s now at the side of the fallen Duke.

 

Something in him breaks as he saw tears running down Louis’ face. It wasn’t a victory for him, at the end, Harry still won by default. He still has Louis.

 

Harry felt pain all over his face, little spitting sparks of light floating before his eyes. He tried blinking to focus his gaze at the man besides him weeping. He tried to look around to assess the situation, it seems like the lads – Liam, Niall, Stan, Calvin, Oli, Luke and even Zayn, made a circle around them both, fending off others away from them. Louis was now openly sobbing, as he tries to look for some damage the curly man received. Although he didn’t expect getting a light smack across the undamaged side of his face from the Omega.

 

“Hey,” Harry groggily complained, trying to roll away from Louis. “Why you do that for?”

 

“Thank god, you’re fine.” Louis half sob, half smiled at him.

 

Louis stood up quickly and walked towards the man in charge of the boxing salon. “I want you to call the doctor immediately. And bring me something cold to put on his face.”

 

The Beta – the man in charge, looked at the Omega with confusion, he then turned his gazed at the now sitting Alpha on floor. “What do you wish, Your Grace?”

 

Harry gave an amused smile as he fixed his eye on the fuming smaller man. “He already said it. Do as he say.”

 

Louis eyes narrowed at the insolent man who bowed his head to both of them.

 

“You do love giving orders, Omega.”

 

“Well, people here are stupid without others commanding at them.”

 

“Ah, so it seems.” Harry smiled and tilted his head but doing so made him wince in pain.  Louis eyes widened in worry. He walked hurriedly back to the Alpha and kneeled at his side, reaching out he caught Harry’s chin in his hand and angled the Duke’s face, so he could inspect the wound. The bruise clearly painful, blood-encrusted cut also marred Harry’s still kissable lips.

 

“You really need to lie down again.” Louis took his handkerchief from his pocket and tried to wipe some blood off Harry’s face. Something blue caught Harry’s eyes, he grabbed onto Louis’ wrist and tilted it to see clearer. “You kept it.”

 

“Yeah,” Louis eyes widened in realization, “I should probably return it.” The mere thought of parting with the old but precious handkerchief made Louis stomach clenched in a knot.

 

The first time he saw the hankie his Omega leaped inside with joy upon seeing the initial, ‘H S’ in a fancy embroidery. It excited him that something that belongs to the young Styles, now belongs to him. Feels like they shared something, a conjugal property.

 

A possession. A claim.

 

 “No, no, no. Why would you do that?”

 

“Well, because it’s yours.” Or at least Stan said so.

 

Harry captured Louis’ hand and drew it closer to his lips, brushing a kiss over his knuckles “No. It’s yours. I embroider that and told Stanley to give it to you as a present.”

 

“But,” Louis blinked in confusion, stunned by the quick touch of Harry’s lips on his skin, “it has your initial on it.”

 

Lord, does that mean what I think it means?

 



 

 

“This had gone far too long…”  Harry glanced up sharply at Nick’s statement. He’d been listening to Nick’s non-stop rant about his spontaneous trip to the river with lads. It shouldn’t concern anybody but apparently being the most eligible bachelor of the ton means that he shouldn’t have swam and played with the kids of the Tomlinson’s helpers. He gave a loud sigh and tried hard to block-off Nick’s voice. “…He’s ruining your reputation, bit by bit!”

 

Liam, on the other hand was amused, as he smiled and glanced back and forth between him and Nick, eyebrows raised in two perfect arches of expectation. “We were just playing, no harm in doing that once in a while.”

 

Nick stopped pacing and crossed his arms over his chest, “A true gentleman never associate themselves with peasants!” Harry cut a glance to his friend’s declaration, his mouth pinched, and his brow lowered in some sort of disapproving expression. “Nicholas,” he said in warning.

 

“What?! They are! You are just influenced by that peasant-loving Omega of yours to think otherwise.”

 

“Enough!” Styles rebuked, a spark of annoyance gleaming in his green eyes, “What Louis and I do is none of your business.”

 

“Not my business? Are you kidding me? You asked for my help,” Nick growled lowly, “to escape your engagement with him, and now you are telling me, it is not my business?” Grimshaw stared hard at his friend for a whole minute then gave a defeated sigh, “Did you change your mind? Do you want to get married to that kind of man?”

 

Sighing hugely, Harry stood up from the sofa and walked towards the window overseeing the lush garden outside the Payne’s manor, “I will, if I must. It is my responsibility after all to abide to a gentleman’s promise.”

 

“Bloody hell! So, just like that you are giving up?” Nick snapped, coming to stand directly in front of Harry and grabbing onto his arms, “Hazza, you can’t give up. You still have four months left, right? Didn’t the Earl give you 6 months to think it through?”

 

Harry’s own brows pinched as he lifted his chin to face his friends gaze, “Four months is a short time to find Louis a suitable partner.”

 

Nick snorted and rolled his eyes. Like I care.

 

“And I’ll be damn if I let him marry someone I don’t approve,” Harry said lowly, all the while leveling a furious, narrowed eyes at Nicolas.

 

“Look, why can’t Liam marry him instead? I heard his mellowed towards him this past few days,” Nick turned around to address Liam, “Isn’t that right, my Lord?” Liam looked back and forth at the Beta and Alpha, “Well, yes. He’s speaking to me more but…”

 

“There you have it, problem solved. Liam and Louis will marry, and you are a free man.”

 

Something gnawed at Harry’s heart as he refused to look at Liam. “Is that what you wish, Li?”

 

Guilt.

 

“Well…let’s not get our hopes up lads…I don’t think Lou…”

 

Sadness.

 

“It would be nice, but you know…He is really pretty though…”

 

Anger.

 

“But no, no I would not marry him. Not in this situation, not due to this scheme. I’m sorry Hazza, I can’t.”

 

Hope.

 

Something felt light, like something being lifted off his chest, Harry let a silent sigh escaped his lips that he never knew he was holding, “Marriage is a means for strengthening bonds between allies, I am prepared to sacrifice my entire life for this cause. And if marrying Louis is the only way, so be it.”

 

Relief.

 

Nick’s nostrils flared, though the rest of him remained unnervingly still. “You are out of your mind. That Omega has brain-washed you!”

 

Harry swallowed hard against the need to lash out but to antagonize his friend at this point would only make things worse. Straightening his spine, he nodded. “I am sorry Nicholas that I have wasted your time and effort, it was never my intention to. Be that as it may, we’ll proceed with this arrangement, if that is what you wish. Although, I will not tolerate anything that will hurt Louis in the process. That is my condition, do you agree?”

 

Blood had buzzed like angry insects inside Nick’s head, a lump of bile rising in a sickening wave within his gut, “I agree. But I also have some conditions.”

 

“What are they?”

 

“You have to make Tomlinson attend the Prince’s Ball. I want you force him to dress appropriately for an Omega of his standing. That is all I am asking, after that ball I promise you he’d be betrothed to an Alpha that is not you.”

 

The air felt heavy and thick between them, Harry’s hand was a white-knuckled fist at his side.  He bit his tongue, literally, and nodded, “That is all I wish for.” A niggling little voice whispered something inside his head, but he refused to acknowledge it. The deal was done. There is nothing more he could do.

 

“Very well then, I must take my leave, Your Grace,” Nick nods at Harry and then turned towards Liam, “my Lord.”

 

“Yes, of course. Good day to you Nicholas.”

 

A small silence hung for a moment inside the room as Grimshaw exits only to be shattered by a muffled curse.

 

“Your friend really needs to learn some manners, Harold.” Louis said aloud as he entered the Payne’s parlor. Harry instantly smiled, “Does he?” he mused aloud. “Yes,” Louis growled lowly, but came off as menacingly as a new born kitten, “You agree with me, right Payno?”

 

“Yes of course. Always, Lou.” Liam agreed with a grin. Harry warily glance at his friend. Looking at his expression, scrutinizing his body language. But came up with nothing. Although what he was looking was beyond him, though his Alpha seems to know as it gave a sigh of relief. Louis waved his right hand towards the Earl’s direction, “See?”

 

“Alright, I agree. Now, are we ready to go out now?” he questioned in a soft voice, a subconscious feeling that he wanted to be heard by Louis alone. “Sure,” Louis smiled at him. The Omega then leaned on the side a bit to face Liam’s direction and offering a careless little grin he asks, “Payno? You are coming?”

 

Liam angled his head towards the Duke, his gaze far too observant for Harry’s peace of mind. Harry stiffened under his friend’s scrutiny. His lungs couldn’t seem to remember how to function, his breath left his body in a whoosh as he awaits Liam’s answer. “I’m afraid I cannot. I have promised Zayn that I will meet him at the museum after lunch and I don’t want to be late on that.”

 

Louis lifted one corner of his mouth is a teasing grin, knowing full well that Liam would fluster when he acted as though he was some sort of a flirt. “As if Zaynie would reprimand you for being late, while he himself usual arrive half an hour later to the specified time. Although,” Louis tap his chin with his finger, and wiggle his brows at Liam, “heh, never mind. See you later then, Payno.”

 

Harry heart pounded like a battle drum, his throat was tight. He gave his head a little shake to clear a growing ire inside him at the unseemly filtration by the two. “Are you,” His words felt strained, he swallowed and tried again, “Are you sure you don’t want to join us, Li?”

 

“Quite sure, Hazza.”

 

Harry swallowed past the lump in his throat and nodded briskly. “Yes, of course. I’ll see you then tomorrow.”

 

Relief.

 

“Come along now Omega.”

 



 

 

A smile curved Louis’ lips as he played the blade of the sword in a slow circle. Raising his left arm into the air behind his head as he assumed a fencer’s stance. “En garde,” he dared the Duke.

 

“Your form is terrible, Omega.”

 

Louis gasped at the sudden declaration, he swung around his foil towards the Duke in retaliation. Harry’s smiling face was inches from his blade. Though the Duke didn’t even have the decency to flinch, damn that man. “Bragging will be your downfall, Alpha. I, for one, will be victorious in this match.” Swishing of thin foil metal through the cool air, Louis moved forward swiftly, danced backwards, and thrust again. Nothing but mist met his blade, as the Duke evaded each attack with grace of a dancer. Funny, because the Duke is an opposite of a dancer once he is just casually walking. He would trip at an invisible stone or foot while they stroll.

 

Stepping back, Harry whipped his own sword up to clang against the Omega, “Want to make a bet on it, Omega?” He smiled at Louis, that devastating smile that makes Louis weak at the knees. Louis gave him a skeptical look, “Wager?”

 

“You first.” he urged, showing him his most winsome smile.

 

Damn, he’ll get wet by the minute if Harry continued his rakish behavior, Louis thought.

 

Louis rolled his eyes, sending a brief glance heavenward before meeting the Duke’s gaze. Time for a counter-attack then.

 

“A kiss.” Louis flashed Harry a mischievous grin. Harry blinked, taken aback by the Omega’s request. He almost tripped on a non-existent rock as he backed up a step. Louis move fast a strike, the rapiers sliding against each other in a high-pitched whining of honed metal as Harry quickly evaded. Louis almost knocked Harry’s sword to one side.

 

Harry chuckled once he regains his bearing, “Outrageous minx!”

 

Louis arched a brow. “I’m in it to win it,” he gave a nod for them to continue, and assume the proper stance to begin.

 

“Well, it won’t be a bet if both wanted a kiss for the prize.”

 

Louis knew it drove him mad when Harry efficiently countered his well-thought seduction, it irritated him that Harry is always one step ahead of him as he gave him a self-satisfied smile. “Then, bounty for me would be twenty questions that you have to answer truthfully.”

 

Before the last word had even left Harry’s mouth, Louis lunged forward, going straight for the Duke’s gut. Harry nearly flitted backwards, deflecting the Omega’s strike and countering forward with one of his own. “Why would you want that?”

 

“I simply want to know you in a more personal level.”

 

Louis gritted his teeth to stop his Omega from preening and submitting to the Alpha. He was toying with him. Bloody hell. This time Louis came at him with a bit more force. Still, the Alpha was careful to hold back, far too aware of his superior strength and the fact that it would take very little effort on his part to overpower the tiny Omega.

 

“Though, kissing you will be heaven,” Harry licked his lips. Louis stood frozen with that declaration. Harry wasted no seconds and lunged forward three steps and set the blunted tip of the foil against Louis chest. “I have you at my mercy, Omega.”

 

Louis cast a fleeting glimpse down to where the blade rested against his shirt. He looked up again and was surprised to come face to face with Harry leaning closer to him. “First question, why did you avoided me when I call upon your house?”

 

Louis can’t look away as he stared at Harry’s green, sparkling, mischievous eyes. He bit his lip, forcing his mind back to reality. “I don’t know what you mean.” His words came out in staccato puffs as he struggled to hold his ground.

 

“Stop lying. Truth is what I want Omega.” Harry growled lowly, not out anger but of something else and Louis’ Omega is reacting to it. The Omega tilted his head with arrogant refusal. No way in bloody hell he’ll admit why.

 

“Tell me why every time I asked for you, you are either nursing a headache or is out with Zayn or Stan? Tell me.”

 

Louis became acutely aware of the fact that they were, the two of them, very much alone, and the Duke is crowding him, backing him up to a nearby wall. Being this close to the Alpha, Louis was finding it hard to breath. “I didn’t think I was needed to be there when you visited Lottie.” he whispered. It was half the truth.

 

“Why would I visit your…” Harry shook his head in agitation, “Never mind. Next question, why do you hide your eyes?”

 

Harry raised a hand to fix his fringed away from the Omega’s eyes, then his thumb brushed along the smaller man’s cheek. “Why do you hide it? I don’t like that I can’t see your eyes if I’m not near you,” Louis unconsciously, swayed even closer to Alpha as the Alpha wrapped his other hand around Louis’ upper arm and dragged him against him. “And I hate it more, that people need to get near you to see it.” Harry leaned down, lips almost brushing, “Do you want them near you, Omega?”

 

A whimpered ‘no’ escaped Louis’ lips, earning a smirk from the Duke. “Your reason, Omega?”

 

Louis looked away, embarrass on what he will admit, “I have a very expressive face, I was told once by a tutor. I can’t hide what I feel.” Louis could feel the Duke intense gaze as he continued, “I once rolled my eyes at the Dowager of Westing and she reprimanded my mum about raising an Omega son like me with such manners.”

 

A laugh almost rippled from Harry’s throat, “Surely that is all a bull,” he gave a Louis a skeptical look. No way in hell will someone belittle the Tomlinson’s because they will surely get the ire of the Styles and nobody will ever want that. “But you always did that when we were little…”

 

“When uncle was alive I did, but it surely changes everything when he was gone.”

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

 

“No, don’t apologize,” Louis snarled as he pushed the Duke away then wrapped his arms around himself like a protection or some sort. The implication of Harry’s words was like a knife to his heart, he doesn’t need no pity. He can stand on his own, he’s been doing that ever since. He doesn’t need no protection from anyone, not even from a pack leader like the Styles. “Look, I don’t care what people say about me. I am demanding, I am sassy, and I am bloody hell proud of it. I am honored to be an Omega, but I won’t stoop low to become a subservient one you deemed to be the ‘ideal Omega’, just to stroke all your egos. But it’s a different story if my family is involved…”

 

“Omega…”

 

“Did you know that they ostracized my Father because of how I behaved? That my mom was isolated during a gathering just because I told Lady Spencer that red wasn’t her color?” Louis almost laughed at the absurdity of it, he gazes upward trying to keep the tears at bay. “I wouldn’t give a bloody hell what they say about me, but I can’t…”

 

“Lou…”

 

“I can’t Hazza, I can’t protect them. If hiding is my only way of protecting them, so be it…” Louis met Harry’s gaze again, and the Duke hated seeing the hurt and disappointment reflected in the Omega’s eyes. “It’s conflicting…I don’t know anymore.”

 

Harry reached for Louis hand, but he snatched it back. The Omega couldn’t bear to have him touching him right now. “Why can’t I, be me? Why can’t they allow me to be what my hearts wants me to be? Why do they hurt my family just to get back at me?” The memory of his father’s forlorn face as the old Tomlinson walked away from a group of Alphas who were laughing merrily at the Earl’s expense made Louis’ stomach ache.

 

“Who are those people? Who are those people who hurt you and your family, Omega?” Harry snapped, coming to stand directly in front of Louis, grabbing both the arms of the Omega forcing him to face him.

 

“It doesn’t matter. It is not of your concern.” Louis’ words were raspy, filled with barely leashed emotion.

 

“The hell, it is!”

 

“Stop acting like that,” Louis want to baldly state the truth they all knew but no one ever said. He wanted to call out on Harry.

 

“Stop acting like what?” Dozen arguments sprang to Louis’ mind, though he clamped his mouth shut. “Stop acting like what? Like an Alpha?” Harry asked between clenched teeth.

 

Louis glared at him, “Stop acting like you are above all of us and that we are beneath you,” This time Louis made no effort to hide his resentment, pinning the Alpha with his furious gaze, “Stop acting like you’re the perfect Alpha and the most respected member of the society and that everything is your responsibility. I am not your responsibility.”

 

Harry hands dropped off Louis’ arms, some of his anger visibly faded, replaced by an expression of confusion. “Is that how you think of me?” He was always called the perfect specimen of English manhood and he is proud of it. He abided all the rules, he says things that is right for the occasion, befriended those who are worthy. He was polite to all, even to people outside the ton. It doesn’t mean that he has a holier-than-thou attitude. Does he?

 

Louis shook his head and finally let his tears out, his Omega was gnawing inside him as he reached out to the Alpha, “Yes… No, no, I’m sorry. It’s just what people says, I’m sorry for believing them,” Harry moved closer to the Omega, his Alpha instinct dictating him to pacify the wailing Omega. As the Duke reached him, Louis twine his hands around the Alpha’s neck.

 

Harry rubbed his nose at Louis’ temple as his arms wound around the Omega’s waist. Sniffing down, he then brushed his nose at the angle of the Omega’s jaw then brushed his lips against the pulse point of Louis’ neck when the Omega gave a satisfied whine.  That seemed to encourage him more, as he brushed his tongue against the skin, he could taste the saltiness and at the same time sweetness of the Omega’s skin.

 

“I’m sorry Alpha,” Louis gave a small sniffle. Harry sighed, he admits that what Louis had said hurt him—hurt his pride and something more. “Do you also believed that I am an empty-headed charmer," he mumbled at the crook of Louis’ neck, “that I am a rake that seduce women?”

 

“Yes,” Louis lower lip trembled faintly, “but not anymore, I am learning to know who you are.”

 

“Do you?”

 

“Yes, and I want to know more.”

 

Harry’s hands moved lower, down to the Omega’s hips, and he pressed him fully against him as he buried his nose at Louis’ neck and sniffed the scent coming from the Omega’s scent gland. “I talk slow because I ponder things before I say it.”

 

“I know.”

 

“I always trip because I’m clumsy on my feet.”

 

Louis gave a small nod and a chuckle earning a small smile from the Alpha.

 

“I talk to a lot of girls because they talked to me first and I don’t want to be rude by not talking to them. I just don’t know why they think I was flirting with them?” The Alpha sighed and inhale deeply the calming scent Louis is emitting.

 

Louis pinched Harry’s neck, “Because you always give them that crooked, sexy smile of yours. No wonder they think you are flirting.” The Duke pulled away and looked down at the seething Omega. His eyes had darkened a bit, “You think my smile is sexy?”

 

The heated expression of Harry sent shivers of excitement through Louis. “No, I don’t,” Louis pouted and tried looking away from the grinning Alpha. “Yes, you do. I know that face, that’s your guilty lying face.” Harry unconsciously licked his lips and Louis almost groaned in frustration. This was too much. “I believe I still have some questions left.” Harry bit his lower lip then grin.

 

No man should have to endure such torture.

 

“Why do you wear these horrid garments?” The Alpha tugged Louis’ linen shirt that is two sizes bigger for him. 

 

As Louis’ gaze at Harry’s green eyes that were burning – with something he can’t put his fingers on, at the Duke’s cherry red lips slightly parted as he breathes, awareness then washed over the Omega -- cascading through his veins then landing deep in his belly – that he was cuddling with a tall, powerful, handsome-as-sin man and he is about to blurt out his most embarrassing secret.

 

“Omega, I tell you my flaws and secrets. No more lying to your Alpha.”

 

A flush rose into Louis’ cheeks as he clears his throat, “I have a disproportionate body.”

 

“You have what?”

 

Louis closed his eyes and hid his face on the Alpha’s chest as he mumbles, “Disproportionate body.”

 

“No, you don’t.”

 

“I do.”

 

Without preamble, Harry pulled Louis off him and with a sudden surge of determination placed his hands, on Louis’ chest, down to his abdomen then sneaking it under the Omega’s shirt and began exploring the muscles there. “I feel no imperfection.”

 

Louis’ heart slammed against his ribs, pounding harder than it was moments ago. This was bordering inappropriate but his Omega doesn’t give a damn as he let the Alpha explore his body more under his shirt. His brain says he’d be ruined, has been compromised. His Omega countered the it didn’t give a damn about the buzzing of the ton if this was out. “Your body is perfect, Omega.” Harry’s voice was hoarse, but a smile was firmly in place as he gazes down at the smaller man.

 

Louis bit his lip as he held back a moan, “I have an uneven body. My waist is too narrow. My arms may not be thin, but it does not get bulkier like yours do. But down, its big everywhere. My hips are wide for a male, my thighs are thick, and I have a big derriere…”

 

Harry closed his eyes to shut out the overwhelming temptation that was Louis Tomlinson. Oh, such an innocent sweet Omega.

 

“…. that stretched from behind if I wear my normal pants.”

 

Harry groaned inwardly.

 



 

 

“Hey, Stan my heat will be coming in two weeks.”

 

“Ummm…want your usual stash for your nest?”

 

“Yeah and about that…”

 

“Hmmm?”

 

“Who do you get it from? The shirts all have the same smell, so it might come from just one person.”

 

“…”

 

“I don’t really remember the smell, per se, but I remember it being the same consistency or at least my Omega thinks it is. And it kind of smells familiar now, so…”

 

“Boo-bear please don’t do this to me, the Alpha would kill me.”

Chapter Text


 


 

 

Loud impact of padded gloves resonated all over the hall. Dave narrowly missed taking a sharp jab to the gut, but he was on to the tactic and he held steady. He raised his gloves as his opponent strike, connecting with a solid on his left flank, followed quickly by another pair of blows to the ribs. Staggering he pursued and tried punching back, with a series of clean, powerful blows.

When he saw an opening, he went with a sharp punch hitting his opponent straight on the face. The man swayed and toppled over, the wooden floor reverberating as the man crashed onto it.

An easy win, once again.

Dave sat down as he patted sweat from his face with a towel, then flipped the cloth back to the waiting servant boy. The win did nothing to appease his burning desire to kill someone, specifically a certain Alpha. He accepted a glass of cooled lemon water and drank it down in a few deep-throated gulps. He was still in a surly mood, two weeks after the fight. Though, no one was foolish enough to mention it. He had gone hard and straight into the practice every day, trying to forget.

 

“Still not talking to him? You do know he misses you but won’t admit it.” Zayn remarked, eyeing the few drops of perspiration on Dave’s skin.

Huffing out a breath he looked up to the beautiful Beta. “Does he? It seems like he’s having fun with that Duke.”

“I don’t know what the two of you fought, but it’s not what it seems.” Yeah, right, his brain screamed inside.

“Oh, how so?” Dave crossed his arms over his chest as he waited for Zayn to explain. “I promised that I wouldn’t tell you this…”

Dave eyebrow rose a bit then shook his head, irritated that he’s once more in the dark regarding the pretty Omega. So, what was worrying him? So why is there a niggling discontent inside him? Why the longing for something else, something more? He didn’t understand himself these days.

Zayn considered for a long moment but decided that he needed the two to make up. Louis needs the Alpha, more than the Omega would admit.

 

“Look, after the match a lot of gossip spread. Since the two most eligible bachelor of the ton is fighting, obviously someone needed to be blame for it. Louis was the prime pick for that. Many blamed him that Harry got a shiner, they blamed him that he pitted the two of you against each other.”

Blast, Dave cursed in his head. That thought never crossed his mind, he didn’t think that Louis would be dragged with their mess. He didn’t take in to account that somehow Louis would be blamed for his rush move. “What about Lord Mark Tomlinson?” Dave ground out, hating the question, but he must know. “What did he say?”

“He was not amused, that I tell you,” Zayn stated, hoping such an admission might persuade the Alpha to act. “He knew that you like Lottie and he is convinced that Louis got nothing to do with the fight, still, he thinks that Louis is on your side on that fight. So, now he is forcing Lou to make friends with the Duke. For future sake and all.”

Dave looked down and snort, he then waved a dismissive hand, “Surely, Louis would love that?” To be close to his prince charming, Dave thought bitterly.

 

“Seriously?” Zayn snapped as he raked a hand through his hair, “How could you think that? Do you really think Louis is happy seeing the love of his life courting his sister? Do you?” Zayn demanded earning a guilty look from the Earl.

Zayne snorted in exasperation, “Look, obviously he didn’t jump ship and abandoned you. If he had a choice, he wouldn’t be where he is now. But you know him, his family come first. He’d pick his family before his heart.” Zayn gave a sad smile, “He’s hurting, he’s hurting so much, and he needs a friend. Please, for Louis.”

 

Well, I need him too, Dave mused still unable to looked up again at the Beta. Who would ever have imagined, Dave pondered, that the sassy, quick-witted but kind Omega would be someone Dave could be no longer without. But, he was really hurt, his Alpha was slashed deep with the Omega’s words and action. A memory flashed of Louis tending to the Duke makes his fist tightened, lip curling up in a sneer at the image. Damn, he thought.

“He really needs you, Allen.” His pride and his heart debated. His heart ached, he’d been without the Omega for a fortnight and he was forced to admit that he craved the Omega—needed him with a hunger that was nearly driving him mad this past few days. A craving he doesn’t know the reason, nor he wanted to know the answer.

“I don’t know what Harry’s intentions are. Even though, he seems to be sincere in making Louis his friend,” Friends, hmm? Somehow Dave is doubting the Duke’s intention. The man was branded as a rake, maybe he was only amusing himself by befriending the smaller man.

Amusing himself by slowly luring Louis into his bed, that thought made bitter gall rose into Dave’s throat, the idea of the Omega underneath the Duke in bed is making him literally ill. He literally wanted to punch someone.

“But kindness from an unrequited love can hurt even more,” Zayn shook his head and gave a sad smile, “sometimes, cruelty can be more humane. So, if you still consider Louis your friend, please be there for him in his time of pain.”

 

He liked Louis as a friend, he always had. The Omega always made him smile and kept him amused with his redundant noble life. When they were together, there was no place else he longed to be. And when they were apart…he wished he was with Louis as well. He remembers the memories he shared with the Omega and he felt a pressure blossom inside his chest. Fleeting reminiscences flashed before his eyes, memories like seeing the Omega lift his face to the sun, a slow smile moving over his cherry red lips. And abruptly the anger he’d been nursing these past weeks fell away, along with the misery that had left him numb and only half-alive.

“Alright, I’ll make amends. But I do not want to play nice with Cheshire. I am doing this for Louis.”

“Of course, though I insist that you say no words of what I have told you to Louis, nor to anyone else. The only silver lining in all of these is that his sister was spared from the gossip, even though Louis is the collateral. At least you ladylove is safe, so no need to worry, Lottie is out of harms way.”

 

Dave glanced up at the Beta. Lottie, it was weird hearing Lady Charlotte’s name. For the last two weeks, the name never occurred to him.  All the days and nights the only thought he has, is the male Omega’s.

Zayn, seeing the confusion in the Earl’s eyes, frowned. “This is still about Lottie, isn’t it?”

I do not know.

“You fought because of Lottie, right? You challenge Harry because of her, right?”

She wasn’t even in the equation.

“You are still in love with Lottie, right?”

No, I’m not in love with her.

His heart took an extra beat, a swell of dread pumping in his chest. Shunting the sensation away, he forced his gaze at the Beta to stay.  

 

I am in love with her brother, Dave’s heart kicked in his chest, the realization crashing like a thunderclap inside his head.  He tried to rationalize, the more he grasped how true it was. Now everything seems so clear, the things he’d said and done over the past few weeks now made perfect sense. His moments of anger and despair, his temper, which had never before been unsteady, all originated around a certain blue-eyed Omega.

“I... I…”

Dave’s muscles quivered as the realization reverberated through his mind, a wave of deep emotion threatening to bring him to his knees.

 

Good heavens, he is in love with Louis.

 



 

 

“What in damnation were you thinking?! Being alone with an Alpha when you are near heat?!

Louis pressed his lips together and looked up, as if imploring the heavens. He had explained it a million times, but it seems Dave is having none of it. If it weren’t for their fragile friendship at the moment, Louis would have blasted him with witty sarcastic answers. “I told you, my heat came early unexpectedly. This is the first time it happened and caught me off guard.”

Dave narrowed his eyes at Louis and with gritted teeth he repeated his statement, “You were alone with an Alpha near heat.”

“I was not alone with him, Eleanor was behind the door outside while we were fencing. So, shush, someone might hear you and think I’ve been ruined.” Louis glared at the other man.

Dave eyed him warily, “Aren’t you?” Please, tell me you remain sweet and innocent.

Louis almost jumped and mauled the taller man. “I am not ruined.” Louis hissed, “Harry, is the one who called upon Eleanor when he thought something was amiss. He hasn’t comprised me.” Much.

Dave was still unconvinced, the rumors regarding the Duke was there for a reason. He believes in the saying that, if there is smoke there’s sure to be a fire. He thought that Louis also believed those gossip too awhile back, but it seems that something had changed the Omega’s mind.

Louis watched Dave walked in circles in a huff. It’s getting annoying to the point that he wants to throw something on the Earl’s head and be done with it. Setting his hands on his hips, his fingers tapped in impatience. “Look, I know we said before that Harry is a rake but, maybe we were harsh in condemning him. If he was, he could have assaulted me and blamed me for it because of my heat, but he didn’t. Not many Alpha could have stood against their instinct and do the right thing like he did.”

“He didn’t do anything?” Dave asked sharply.

Louis’ back straightened and his chin jolted back in a defensive manner. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” Lies. Full of bloody lies. Louis gave his head a little shake. “Just please give him a chance. For me? Please?”

“Fine,” Dave nodded, his brown eyes for once deadly serious, “But if he does the thing he did to you at the maze I won’t hesitate to put a bullet in his head.”

Louis sank dramatically onto an ottoman and buried his face in his hands, “Oh such a crude and violent friend I have.” He faked a sob a bit. Dave just rolled his eyes at the Omega’s antics, now totally dissipating the heavy atmosphere they have created a while ago. “I’m serious Lou.  I don’t like you being alone with him.”

 

Louis looked up and saw his friend in front of where he is sitting, arms crossed over his muscled chest, legs spread in a wide and implacable stance, and his eyes, that normally so merry and mischievous, were as hard as diamonds. For the first time he is conscious that his friend is indeed an Alpha, a very strong and influential Alpha. He is indeed one of the highest peers of the realm, alongside the Duke of Cheshire.

“Am I clear, Louis?” Dave’s voice was quiet, but it couldn’t soften the harshness of the blow or the hint of Alpha voice. Louis shuddered at that thought. “Yes.” Louis’ Omega whined distressingly.

“Good.”

“So, does it mean you’ll join us today for a picnic?” The Omega’s words were like a punch to his gut. Just thinking of the Duke near Louis makes his ears hot with anger. But thinking Louis alone with the Duke takes the cake. “Of course.”

“Thank you,” Louis said, sighing with relief. “Now give me a cuddle,” he said, voice suddenly shrill as he reached his arms up towards his friend.

 

“Finally!” Louis and Dave looked towards the opened door and saw Lottie hurrying towards them, “Good noon to you my Lord. It’s been a while.” she murmured, dipping into a shallow curtsey.

Dave turned around and faced the beautiful Charlotte, he bowed lowly, “Yes, it is indeed a while. How are you, my La –”

“Bradford. Didn’t know you are here.” The Duke of Cheshire suddenly materialized behind Lady Charlotte, cutting their short conversation abruptly.

Dave jaws hardened, same as his eyes. “Cheshire,” he said in neutral greeting, offering a slight nod. Anger coursed through him, turning his blood cold as he remembers the fleeting moment the Duke had Louis in his arms at the maze. Indignation stiffened his shoulders but sagged slightly as he felt a hand brushing against the small of his back, reminding him to make fake amends with the Duke for Louis’ sake.

The small movement did not escape Harry’s vigilant eyes, even though the small Omega is concealed behind his mammoth of a friend. Fisting his hand at his side, Harry waited for Louis to greet him, but none came. He was growing restless with another Alpha’s presence hence he gave in to his inner Alpha’s voice and acted. “Omega, a word please.” Harry tilted his head to the side to catch a glimpsed of the hiding Omega, who nodded in response. Harry reached a hand towards the Omega who tentatively accepted.

 

Omega. An unsettling feeling filled Dave’s gut as he remembers him calling Louis the same but was lashed out deeply, he was still leering from the aftermath. How come I can’t call him that?

 

Dave gaze flickered at their joined hands but said nothing. He watched the two strolled towards the corner of the library, a couple feet away where hushed words could not be heard. He was too destructed by the pair that he hadn’t noticed that Lady Charlotte had taken a seat behind him and now conversing with the Viscount of Mullingar and Earl of Wolverhampton, who he didn’t realized were also present, so is…

 

“What a bunch we are,” the beautiful Beta muttered silently.

Zayn.

“What do you mean?” Dave asked lowly.

“Louis, giving cow-eye at Harry. Liam giving cow-eye at Louis, you –”

“You are giving cow-eye at Liam.” “ – giving cow-eye at Lottie.” Both murmured at the same time, earning a grin from each other.

“Touché”

 

Louis pursed his lips, looking as though he were thinking very hard and avoiding looking at the Duke. “Omega, why are you avoiding me?” It was more accusation than observation. The Duke set his jaw, narrowing his eyes for a brief moment.

“I’m not. Honestly, I’m not avoiding you, your Grace. Could we go now? The sun is already up, and we need to hurry out.”

“Not until you tell me what is bothering you,” Harry said, an underlying hint of concern coloring the otherwise confrontational words. “You have called me your Grace…there’s must be something wrong. What have change, Omega?”

Louis smiled tightly, willing him to move on from the topic. This gentle side of the Duke he kept catching glimpses of unnerved him. He didn’t quite know what to make of the changes he saw in him this past few weeks. Now that the haze of the heat is gone, Louis could think more clearly. Knows that he got to stop and keep distance, for Lottie’s sake and his own broken heart. Surely the Duke has no idea what he is doing to Louis’ heart.  Deliberately or not, it is killing Louis bit by bit.

Glancing once at Harry’s face, Louis finally managed to swallow the words he wanted to say. “It’s really nothing, your Gra…I mean, Harry,” he said, working to keep his tone light.

“Are you positively sure?”

“Of course.”

Harry leaned in toward the Omega until his face was only inches from his, the clean scent of his shaving soap teasing Louis’ nose. Harry’s green eyes held the same challenge they always did when he’d set his mind to having his way. “Then I suggest,” he murmured, his voice low and deep, “that I escort you to this picnic.”

“There is no need. I will escort Louis, and you take Lady Charlotte instead. It is just proper for –” Dave strode to a hearing distance as soon as he saw the Duke leaning in.

“No, don’t worry about us Bradford and enjoy yourself with the fine Lady, I know you been wanti –”

“I don’t think it’s proper that I get between you and Lady Charlotte, when you two are –“

“You haven’t seen her for weeks, I know you’ve been miss –“

 

“ENOUGH!!” Lottie screamed. The two Alphas hadn’t realized their voices were getting louder and the rest of the library’s occupants are now overhearing their heated discussion. “I will be accompanied by Lord Niall, since the both of you seems to be repulsed by my presence,” She gritted her teeth, “then the both of you should accompany Louis. Any problem?” she asked, lifting a brow in challenge.

Both Alpha’s shook their heads, then glared back at each other.

 

Lord, this will be a long, interesting day.

Chapter Text



 

 

“How come Wolverhampton is not hovering over you?” Dave leaned forward and whispered to Louis’ ear, seating himself next to the Omega on the blanket one of the footmen had laid out for their luncheon picnic.

“Li?”

“Yeah. It’s weird that he hasn’t glance your way. He’s been conversing with Zayn the whole time.” The two of them, eyed the pair of gentlemen at the far end of the blanket who seems to be in deep conversation or some sort, likely about art.

“I know, but it’s actually liberating that he’s not always breathing on my neck like my mother.” Louis said, reaching for a biscuit in front of him without even taking his eyes off the pair. He watched as Zayn gently smiled at the young Earl who’s offering the Beta a sandwich on his plate.

 

Niall, unfortunately, caught the entire episode of gossiping between the two friends, and he rather brusquely insinuated himself between the two. “You two talking about Payno?”

“Niall, where did you came from? And don’t butt in to someone else—” Louis tried to scold the blond Irish man but was, rudely, interrupted. “It’s because a great responsibility is lifted off his shoulder.”

 

Responsibility? What responsibility?

 

Someone cleared his throat that made Louis snapped his head to his right side and saw Harry watching them, or rather him closely.

“What responsibility?” Harry asked Niall, although he didn’t take his eyes off the Omega.

Niall leaned over and glanced back and forth at Louis and Harry, with a mix of amusement and curiosity. “Seriously? You both don’t have any idea?”

He was rewarded with confused stares from the duo.

“Seriously? Hazza?” Niall shot a desperate look at Harry. He knows that his Grace is dense, but surely not this dense. 

Harry shook his head as Niall eyed him with bewilderment. Harry stared back at his friend, searching for some hint in his facial expression but came out with none. “No, I honestly have no idea on the subject. So, stop dodging the question and answer.”

“But you’re the Alpha.” Niall voice raised an octave from his usual happy-go-lucky tone which further irritated Harry. His friend is talking in riddles and he hated not knowing anything, especially if it concerns his friends, and yes, he considers Louis as his friend. It involves Liam and Louis, so he bloody needs to know what this ‘responsibility’ Niall is talking about.

“Your also an Alpha” Harry tried hard not to pout.

Niall's face turned into a face of disbelief as he jumped to his feet and walked away from the trio. “ARGHHHHH!!!”

 

Louis started to shake with laughter with their interaction and Harry couldn't quite suppress a smile as he nudged the Omega. “Stop laughing. You also don’t have an idea what he is talking about. He sounds like he is on his monthly pe—”

“– that’s what I thought. But he doesn’t have a sis –” Louis blurted out, finishing the Duke’s thought.

Harry nods his head as he took a sandwich from the basket in front and took it apart, “—right? He’s acting as though he has one, the way he –”

The Duke carefully took off the pickle and tomatoes inside the sandwich and put it on his plate. Dave observed the Duke deconstruct his meal and adds more ham and cheese to his sandwich, but he was surprised when Harry handed it to Louis who didn’t even blink in surprise and just accepted it.

The omega chewed his sandwich, swallowed, then continued, “—doesn’t even know how hard it is to have one –”

“I only have one, but you know how Gemma, your lovely friend, is during her –”

Louis hid a smile under his napkin as he looked at Harry. “True, and I have four.”  

 

Dave eyed the two curiously, waiting for each to finish whatever it was one wanted to say but the other would finish it instead. He wanted to say that he is baffled by this but having to experience to watch the same pattern of conversation with Louis and Zayn he got used to it. Sometimes, he and Louis does it, but unfortunately not at par with Zayn’s level. That took a life-long friendship to achieve, so that’s why he was wondering and kind of irritated to see Cheshire doing it with Louis like he’s done it for years.

 

Dave watched the two stares at each other which further infuriated him beyond belief. He nudged his friend gently and whispered, "You're blushing."

Louis took his eyes off Harry hurriedly and glanced at his sister opposite him, he chewed on his lower lip as he studies her facial expression. Luckily, Lottie was in deep conversation with Lord Niall that she hadn’t glance once at their direction. Louis gave a silent sigh of relief and gave an appreciative glance at Dave.

 

Harry scowled as Louis diverted his eyes off him as soon as Bradford muttered something to the Omega. He stared hard at the Omega’s profile as Louis watched his sister opposite them. He studied his face, his head tilting slightly as he took in Louis’ features. The wind had brought color to Omega’s cheeks and ruffled his fringe off his beautiful face. He looked rather handsome, specially as he smiles. He specifically loves the way the Omega’s eyes twinkle when he laughs.  It’s such a pity that the smaller man enjoys hiding it behind his fringe. It is such a crime to hide such beautiful eyes, in his opinion. There should be a law to make sure that Louis would always show his eyes. He wonders if Prince Greg would back him up if he came up with such bill. Surely, if he met the Omega, he would also pass one too.

 

“Stop looking at me like that.”

A flirty grin began to spread over his face as he saw some reddening on the Omega’s cheeks who still refused to look at him. “Why?”

“Because you look like you want to sneeze but holding it with a smile,” Louis bit his lower lip to stop himself from smiling, “besides, you look like a frog when you do it.”

Harry scooted closer to the Omega, he leaned down and tipped his head and looked at Louis with an expression that the smaller man couldn’t read. “You think I look like a frog? Not a prince?”

That tone—confident, flirtatious—made a sudden rush of electricity down Louis’ body and towards the part between his legs. He silently cursed the lingering heat he has, or at least he thinks he still have. His Omega is preening wildly.

“You don’t think I’m…” Harry paused, searching Louis’ face for any reaction. "Handsome?" He asked, his voice soft but heavy with an intent that Dave, who’s eyeing the Alpha warily, didn’t like. With a rather ill-tempered grunt, Allen made the two looks at him, Harry with a narrowed eyes and Louis with a guilty expression. “I think Lou is more attractive.”

 

“Oh, I do agree Bradford, but I think Harry is more on the manlier side and Tommo is prettier,” Niall regarded them with a mixture of suspicion and glee.

Louis face slowly transformed into one of utter perturbed as he grasped the Viscount’s meaning. “Oi, I’m manly enough!” Louis said, laughter in his voice.

 

As the Omega laughs, the wind catches a lock of hair off his face, he looked so enchantingly lovely that Harry nearly forgot to breathe as he watched him banter some more with Niall. His lips were caught somewhere between a laugh and a smile, and the sun shined almost like a halo above his head. Something stirred within him as he gazes at Louis. It’s a feeling that runs through him that gives him chills but at the same time warmth that clashes and merge to give him pleasures, a feeling that he just woke up from a dreamless slumber and that he is very much alive. It was a good feeling, an exciting, breathless rush of emotion but it’s a very conflicting sensation. A very confusing feeling.

 

Although Louis’ attention is no longer directed at him, Harry is quite content to just watch the Omega and his friend interact. Louis’ been quiet and aloof whenever they are in the company of other people of the ton, obviously trying to adhere to the standard that Omega should be perceived.  But he liked Louis far better when he is spitting fire and being rowdy together with his friends, being a meek and submissive Omega doesn’t suit Louis, unless maybe in bed.

 

Harry’s eyes widened a fraction with his line of thought. He aggressively shook his head to clear the image of Louis on a bed doing god knows what.

 

He then tries to just watch the Omega as he prepares his third tea of the day. The Omega moved with an innate sense of grace, and as he poured the tea his daintiness is getting more apparent. Harry smiles as he stared down at Louis’ hands. He then glanced down on his own and reckoned that his would definitely dwarfed Louis’ and like in a trance he took one of Louis’ unoccupied hand and put it on top of his to test his theory. A sudden heat coursed through his body as their palms connected.  

 

" My apologies," Harry admitted, though didn’t let go of the Omega’s hand. "My mind got away from me." Louis gave him an odd look whilst blushing, though the Omega didn’t take his hand away. How Louis managed to smile and nod, he'd never know.

“You have very dainty fingers.”

“So, they say, it’s the only reminder to other people that I’m still an Omega—”

"No," Harry cut in as he plays with Louis’ fingers. “You are very Omega in every aspect. Just a unique one, but definitely an Omega.”

 

Louis stared at the serene face of the Duke as he ran his fingers over Louis’ palm. The Duke acted as if he liked Louis and enjoyed his company. And maybe he did as a friend but that was the harshest twist of all, because he was making him fall more in love with him, making a small part of him think it is alright to be with Harry.

 

Louis shook his head, he had to remind himself of the truth of their situation, that Harry is not his, and it hurt so damned much because he can’t fight it because he’ll be hurting his sister, his father in return. He gently pulled his hand away from the Duke who seems to wake up from a trance as soon as their hands lost its contact. Louis felt cold as soon as the warmth radiating from Harry’s hand was gone. But his hand was not empty for long as, a rougher hand enveloped it. He glanced to his left and saw a scowling Dave who’s slightly squeezing his hand in agitation.

 

Louis had to smile at his supportive friend. He’s glad that he still has someone to lean on as his heart breaks in many pieces due to this unrequited love.

 

“Lord Dave, can you accompany me for a walk.” Louis shot his eyes up towards his sister who is looking down at their joined hands. There’s a glint in her eyes that Louis can’t decipher. “Your Grace, could you please accompany my brother while the Earl and I take a walk.”

Dave gave a shocked face at Louis at Lottie’s suggestion but stood up and held Lady Charlotte’s hand and put it at the crook of his elbow. Louis gave him a large smile and a nod as the Omega mutters a soft ‘Goodluck’.

 

Maybe Lottie is finally seeing Dave as a candidate. Maybe it just took a little bit of jealousy to make Lottie see Dave as a man.

 

“Did Lady Charlotte accept Bradford as a suitor?” Louis turned his head towards the Duke. He tries to see if there is some animosity in his facial expression, as seeing his soon to be fiancée is swept off by another man. “They look good together, him and your sister.” A small hope ignited within Louis with that sentence.

 

What if the Duke does not have feelings for Lottie? What if he’s only agreeing because it’s a gentlemen’s promise? What if it’s him instead? Would his father disagree?

 

What if their feelings are mutual?

 

What if?

 

“Your Grace,” Louis’ eyes turned up to a young beautiful man who’s standing near an exasperated Niall.  

"What are you doing here? I thought you’ll arrive much later this week." Niall asked but the new guest ignored his question and comment and instead smiles sweetly as Harry who now stood up to welcome the younger man.

“Lord Brendan,” Harry greeted with a slight curtness, a tone he usual use when he meets people of the ton. All eyes turned to Harry, then to Brendan whose eyes twinkling at the Duke’s greetings, even how lackluster as it sounds. “Have you come to visit your cousin?”

“Yes, Your Grace. But also, to attend the Prince Ball.”

Harry glanced at Niall over Brendan’s shoulder, scowling a bit at his friend, “I take it that you are to be escorted by your cousin?”

Brendan smiles dissolved into a pout, “I was hoping you’d be the one to entertain me. You know how my cousin is, in this type of setting. He’d be gone by my side as soon as we walked through the door, unlike you.” The young man then bit his lower lip and smile pleasantly at the Duke, “You wouldn’t want an Omega like me to be alone, would you?”

 

Zayn and Liam finally snapped out of their own bubble and joined the group. Liam and Niall exchanged glances—wary glances, ones that tugged at Louis’ chest. He also peeked at Zayn to gauge his reaction. As soon as Zayn saw the uncertainty in Louis’ eyes he went to his side and grabbed softly at his arm.

 

The beautiful man is also a male-Omega.

 

A rarity like him. Now there’s two of them. Would he still be considered as unique?

 

Harry's eyes filled with a mild panic but before he could answer, Niall cut in before him. “Unfortunately, he is already escorting Louis. Isn’t that right, Lou?” Niall said with an amused smile directed at Louis who suddenly glanced at Harry who’s staring at him intently. The Duke had a way of looking at someone, his green eyes so focused and intent that you feel as if you are the only two people in the world and the surroundings are all just a blur.

“Lou?”

The Omega jerked out of his musings, “Sorry I just lost myself in my thoughts." He smiled at Niall and turned his eyes back again to the Duke, “Have you not ask my sister?”

“No, I have not.” Harry answered, wrinkling his nose in anxiety. “I believe, even if I would, Bradford may have beaten me to it.” The Duke added in an extremely beleaguered voice. “And it is my duty to accompany Lord Louis to the ball, since he is no longer required to chaperone her sister.” he hastened to add before anyone could interrupt, seeing the hopeful look of Brendan’s face.

 

He was an afterthought.

 

Louis felt his breath catch in his throat with Harry’s statement. He frowned, trying to decide what to do or say. He really needs to decline the unsolicited offer but before he could say something the younger Omega faced him and held out his hand for a hand-shake.

“So, you are the famous Lord Louis His Grace is always talking about.” Brendan smiles tightly as he shook the other Omega’s hand and then dropped it hurriedly. He let his eyes travel from the older Omega’s body, from head to toe, taking notes on the slightly unruly hair and overgrown beard for an Omega. His eyes also caught on the ill-fitted looking coat and breeches. If he hasn’t had sharp eyes for details, he’d missed that the linen is indeed of good quality, but the clothes is too ill-fitted that it looks cheaper than its true value. He glanced back at the older man’s face and tries to see pass the beard. He’ll admit that he does have a sharp cheekbone and in a brief moment he saw that the Omega’s eyes are indeed as blue as the clear summer’s sky, the way His Grace always describes.

 

In his defense he was never a snob but being compared to a fairy tale description of the older Omega, ever since he could remember, made him a bit bitter. Now seeing the real ‘Louis’ the young Duke always speak so fond of, he was literally disappointed and utterly gutted.

 

“You’re also an Omega like Lou-bear,” A thirteen-year-old Harry smiles at the ten-year old Brendan. “Hopefully, you’ll grow up as pretty as him.”

 

You call this pretty?

 

“Louis have a pretty smile.”

 

He rather looks gloomy.

 

“Louis’ eyes are like the clear blue sky of a cloudless summer, you’d get lost when you gaze at him.”

 

It’s no use if he tries to hide it.

 

“His presence calms me down. I hope you’d be a perfect Omega like him.”

 

He’s far from perfect.

 

“Why can’t Liam like you instead? You may not be Louis but still it would be better if—”

 

Why do I need to be compared to you?

 

Brendan gave Louis a rather superior look. He tried hard to be the ideal Omega the Duke had described when they were in their adolescence. Although the young Duke had stopped comparing him to Lord Louis when the Duke reached his seventeen years, Harry would still say Lord Louis’ name in fondness and such reverence whenever they talked about him. His efforts were always in vain and he somehow resented the older Omega even though he hadn’t personally met him.

 

Harry gave a rueful smile as he glanced back and forth to both Omegas. He cleared his throat to get their attention but the two stared passive-aggressively at each other. He gave a loud sigh in defeat, “Omega, Zayn, may I introduce you to Lord Brendan, son of Lord Murray of Tuam. A distant cousin of Niall. Lord Brendan, this is Lord Louis and his friend Mr. Zayn Malik.” Zayn just gave a small nod to acknowledge the new comer.

 

Brendan brows furrowed a bit as the Duke address the other Omega as ‘Omega’. It was the way Harry says it that sparks another jealousy in him.

“Charmed, I’m sure,” Brendan said, in a voice that suggested he was anything but. Louis gritted his teeth and smiles tightly.

Niall’s eyes darted between the two of them, as he feels a growing tension between the two Omegas. “Oh, for God’s sake,” Niall muttered, pressing his fingers into his forehead. “Now we know that Harry is escorting Louis, so we better find you another one, since you don’t want me.” Brendan narrowly eyed his cousin.

 

“Ha. Yes.” Liam jumped into the conversation, “May I suggest we ask one of Lord Allen’s friends.” He craned his neck, looking from side to side with exaggerated motions to look for the Earl of Bradford. He thanked the heaven above when Lady Charlotte and the Earl came into view. “There he is.”

 

When Dave and Lottie came into a hearing distance, the Earl looked over at the other gentlemen who seems to be quite excited to see him, well except for the Duke, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. “What are you lads doin—”

 

Brendan made a curtsy as Dave’s eyes fell on him. Louis watched as his friend tries his best not to flirt back at the younger Omega as Lord Brendan introduced himself and gives complements to the young Earl. Louis snorted in exasperation as the four Alphas crowd around the new male-Omega as he sweet talk them. “He’s flirting at them.” He hissed at Zayn who was also eyeing Liam like a hawk as they move further away from the group’s hearing distance.

 

“Yes,” Zayn answered, “But I don’t think it’s working except for Liam. Harry still looks with polite indifference, Niall looks stressed and Dave looks confused.”

“No,” Louis snorted, “Liam is just being polite, Dave is definitely flirting, and Harry is also flirting back.”

Lottie raised a hand to get their attention, “I think all of them are being polite.”

“Oh, my poor sister. You have not seen a rake in action if you think that those are just mere politeness.”

She tilted her head and looked up at him. Her lips flattened as if she were suppressing a smile. “Are you jealous, Louis? Though he does have a nice hair and he dress nicely.”

Zayn looked at her, a look of interest on his face. “I have to agree. He looks quite pretty for a guy.”

“Are two of you seriously complementing him,” Louis ground out, visibly furious with his sister and best friend for siding with the enemy, “You’re prettier than him Zaynie.”

“Well, no one is prettier than me.”

“Touché.”

“Although he might come close.” Zayn said with a devilish gleam in his eyes.

Louis’ mouth dropped open, and it was obvious to both Lottie and Zayn that he'd thought he just gone down in Zayn's estimation. Which would never be the case, but it’s more fun to see the confident Omega’s fur ruffled from time to time. “I’m the closest.”

Zayn tried hard not to smile as he hummed his answer. Lottie on the other hand had to turned her back to stifle a giggle.

“I am.” Louis burst. He knew that they were joking but seeing Harry smile at Lord Brendan makes something inside Louis boils. “I’ll show you.”

Zayn couldn’t hold out his snickers as he clutched his stomach to prevent himself from laughing out loud as his sweet Omega friend stomped down his foot like a petulant child. God, he missed this child-like innocent but petty Louis.  Jealous petty Louis is the cutest Louis.

"For the love of God," Louis exploded, “Fine, tomorrow I’ll let your hairdresser style my hair and shave my face. You’ll see, I’m prettier.”

With those words Zayn and Lottie finally lost it and laughed out loud, earning a confused stare from the Alphas. Louis scowled at both of them and refused to look at the Alphas who are now rushing to their side. He would have liked to have said something utterly witty to shut down their laughter, but he had a feeling that anything emerging from his mouth would have been quite the opposite and would further make them chortle, so he held his tongue and promised bloody murder to both Lottie and Zayn.

“What happened?” Niall excitedly asked, not wanting to be left out of the fun. Liam crowded over Zayn who’s now leaning at Dave and Lottie for support due to exhaustion from laughter. Brendan, attentively waited for someone to fill them in.

 

Louis refusing to be the butt of the joke moved slowly away from them, after a few steps he felt a hand softly grabbed onto his waist and took him further away from the group. “I heard you say that you’ll finally going to cut your hair? Finally, going to let us see your face?” Louis turned his back around to face his captor with a weary sigh.

"I don’t know why anyone would think anything funny about that but since Zayn and Lottie do, and others might too. I wa–“

“I don’t. I mean, I don’t think anything is laughable about your face—”

“—you say that now, but I know you think Brendan is prettier than—” Harry touched a finger to Louis’ lips. "Shhh," he reprimanded, shutting up the silly Omega. Harry then touched his cheek with one fingertip then glide it across his cheek to his temple, pushing his fringe off his face and traced his eyebrow and traveling down bridge of the Omega’s nose. "So pretty," he said softly, "like a fairy in children’s book. Sometimes I think you couldn't possibly be real." Louis’ breath hitched, they were in a reasonable distance, but Louis feels nothing existed between them and around them as they both gaze at each other.

“Lou, will you let me accompany you when you cut your hair? I want to be the first one to see your eyes released from its concealment.” Harry asked, his voice getting lower and huskier.

Louis nod. The Duke then smiled, it was a small, knowing sort of smile, one that sent chills right down the Omega’s spine. He feels like spiraling down.

 

Please heart, stop falling.

Chapter Text



 

 

 

Louis looked down at his glass of whiskey, which was, quite strangely, empty. And yet he had no memory of doing so. He didn't feel drunk, not even a bit tipsy as he should have been, or he hoped he should have been. The nerves are eating him out. The thought of him changing terrifies him.

He let his head hang and squeezed his eyes shut, the motion was meant to dispel his fear or at least calm him before the guests arrives for his so-called transformation.

 

"Never thought you drink, eh, Omega?"

Louis tilted his head up, cursing himself for having left the study door slightly ajar. Reluctantly, the Omega turned away from the window he was facing and opened his eyes to look at the worst possible person to see him being edgy. Though physically he seems to be as calm as a clam.

Well, at least, the whiskey is working.

 

“Aren’t you too early, your Grace?”

“Am I not allowed to be here this early, Omega?”

“No, not when Lottie is not around. You do know she went home to Doncaster to see our mother.” Louis mentally shook his head, aware that he sounded rude.

 

Harry stared at Omega for longer than it was necessary, this made Louis a squirmed bit on his seat, the Alpha’s eyes are unreadable, and then he said, “You did not answer my first question, Omega.”

“Because it was never a question, you have eyes, you see the whiskey. You see me holding a glass. What do you think I am doing? Praying?” Louis replied, cocking his head and blinking with those devastating blues eyes at Harry.

Harry arched a brow as he inclined his head to the side, wearing a fake shocked face as he leaned on the door frame, "Do I pay you for such insolence?"

The teasing tone did not escape the smaller man. Louis stared at him for a minute or two as he debates with himself, but something won so he gave him an inscrutable smile, "Definitely and rather handsomely, too, if I do say so myself.” He’s feeling rather giddy now that the spirit of the whisky is taking over his body add that to the playful banter from the Duke which the Duke himself initiated. “You even bought me a new pair of diamond earrings. "  

The Duke was shocked to get a playful sassy reply from the quick-witted Omega again after them going back to square one. The Omega usually either bit his head off, not in a good way, or totally ignore his attempt at a friendly banter. Their friendship seems like a dance, one step forward then in a snap goes back another step. It’s infuriating that he’s the only one left behind that the Omega is not letting his guard down. His two best mates are even constant callers of the male Omega which was bloody unfair if you ask him.

“And why would I do that Omega? Surely, I am crazy for showering you such gifts.”

“Because you have no friends.” Louis tried to give him a look that was decidedly unamused. “Seeing as this is such an early morning of a Sunday and you are visiting me,” the Omega tap his chin with his finger as though thinking, “Surely I have you wrap around my finger.” Louis finished, obviously winning the conversational battle.

Harry stared at him for several moments, then let his lips spread into a slow, satisfied smile. He suspects that the alcohol has something to do with Louis demeanor, but he won’t point it out, afraid that the Omega would revert back to his shell.

 

“Come, sit.” The Omega patted the empty space besides him in the settee he was sitting on. Harry’s brows rose in the sudden invitation. Nevertheless, he followed the instructions and made his way towards the smaller man, trying to walk slow, assessing if Louis would change his mind.

“Do you always walk like the way you talk?” The Alpha's entire face scrunched in thought, pondering the question. He flopped down beside the Omega and gesture with his hand for the Omega to further explain what he means.

“Like slow, you talk so slow. You sometimes loss me from the main point.” Not entirely true, he gets lost by staring at the Duke’s eyes, Louis thought to himself.

Harry should have said that he is just careful on what he wants to say, he minces his words carefully but what came out of his mouth surprised him, “We’ll your loud and talk too much.”

He looked at the Omega’s gaping face and felt the first stirrings of annoyance. “You even talked over me, so it is partially your fault I have to pause every now and then.” Honestly it wasn’t, Louis just had a knock of finishing his thoughts like he knows him like the back of his hand. Which is both irritating and fascinating. And really exhilarating for his inner Alpha.

Louis felt his mouth form an oval of surprise, no, of aggravation, "I beg your pardon?" he asked. He opened his mouth again, driven by a desperation to defend himself but felt that it would be just proving the Duke’s statement that he is indeed talk too much. He won’t give the curly gobshite the satisfaction.

“I believe you heard me quite clearly. You do have a good hearing?” the Alpha said, watching Louis with a slightly condescending expression mix with glimmer of amusement.

It was quite the sassiest tone of voice Louis had ever heard emerge from the Duke’s lips leaving him nearly gaping at the Alpha.

The Duke was even sitting in a much careless manner, his long legs sprawled in a manner that would not have been acceptable by the standard of the ton, much more with an Alpha of his standing. Though, the look on his face told Louis that he didn't much care that his manners is sub-par to the standard.

 

The ton always pictured the Duke as a man of easy charm, someone who possessed a dashing smile and always knew what to say in a very polite manner, in any situation, awkward or otherwise. This is a side of the Duke most never really had a glimpsed. It was a rare occurrence, he almost thought it was a myth created by Gemma whenever they are chattering about the young Harold. This made his Omega preen. It was their secret, their very own secret. And even though the prince charming persona was broken, it made Harry more human, more reachable. This is the Harry his sister Gemma is so fond of talking about. The real Harry, the unguarded Harry.

 

Then the Alpha turned fully to face him. Their eyes meet, and the Louis realizes that he'd been staring at the Duke, mesmerized by the planes of his face. Louis’ lips parted with surprise, and had wanted to look away, but he was hypnotized, breathless, and a strange heat spread across his skin. He blame the whisky for this situation.

Harry caught Louis’ eyes transfixed at him and he quirked an irritating half-smile, “You are staring at me far too much Omega. Careful I might charge you.”

The Omega pursed his lips. "I am not," he said, counting till ten in his head before adding, “I am merely wondering how anyone could call you the perfect Alpha. Surely, they are smack in the head when they’ve been born.” Harry only answered with a resounding laugh.

 

Harry was not perfect, and no, Louis didn't need someone perfect. He just needed someone perfect for him. And the Duke, in his opinion, is perfect for him. If only the Alpha could see him as someone perfectly fit to be his mate.

He knew what the ton is saying about him, that he was too demanding, worse than a fool. Acting high and mighty, when he is just but an Omega, a male Omega at that. He'd end up a spinster—no, they already declared him as one, which was closer to the truth. Still, it is wrong to believe in love, a true match, a love match?

If only.

 



 

 

“What style would you want to do?” Louis glanced at Zayn as he pushed his fringe to the side for the millionth time. He shrugged instead of answering. The quiver of his voice might give away what he is feeling, and he knows his best mate would pick it up quickly.

I’m afraid.

“Nervous?” Zayn asked, worry evident on his handsome face.

Louis heart skipped a beat, but he sucked in a breath, determined not to show his fear. “No. Why would I?” Louis groaned lowly as he rested his forehead on the heel of his palm, a silent message for Zayn to stop his enquiry.

I’m bloody terrified.

Zayn caught the ‘silent message’ loud and clear, he sighed loudly but gave up. “You don’t have to worry a thing. Monsieur Girolle is the best out there.”

I don’t want to do this anymore.

 

“Omega, a word please?”

Louis turned around and came face to face with the Duke of Cheshire. For a short while Louis couldn’t utter a sound, let alone answer. He nods his head in affirmation instead, he reminded himself to breathe as he tried to speak, but still no words came out. Silly little Omega, he chastised himself. Louis knew better than to allow his tongue to get tied every time so much as he looks at the Alpha.

They walked towards the unoccupied drawing room, Harry eyes narrowing at each and every movement by the male Omega. They left the door opened wide for propriety sake as Zayn watched them like a hawk from afar.

“You know you don’t have to do this, right?”

Louis knew it’d be rude not to answer his question, but it was best to keep the Alpha at a distance if his emotion is involved. Especially now that the Alcohol have subsided.

Dodge, escape, evade.

“What are you talking about?” ‘It’s not a concern of yours’ was hidden between the lines.

Harry gave a small growl of frustration as Louis tried eluding his question. “Omega, you have been playing with your fringe for the last twenty minutes. You been giving that stiff smile of yours to everyone.” Harry gave him a long look, his chin dropping so that his eyes were intent upon the Omega. Louis nearly squirmed under the gaze.

“What are you saying?” Louis can’t help being slightly breathless as he speaks.

“You been wringing your hands behind your back. It might be subtle, but you can’t fool me. You are nervous.” Harry mouth pinched as he began walking towards the Omega, closing the distance between them. He stopped a few feet in front of the smaller man as he gave Zayn a sideways glance from the doorway.

A little huff of breath escaped Louis’ lips. “How did you know?” Louis didn’t want a tug at his heart, but they did. He squirmed a bit and tried backing away from the Alpha.

The Duke stepped closer. Gently, he reached his hand toward the Omega and brushed back some fringe off of Louis’ face. “Omega, if you don’t want to you can cancel this.”

The Alpha’s proximity was creating a riot in the Omega’s body, it ached and fluttered, his breath coming in quick gasps. Louis knows it is wrong to feel like this, but his body kept on betraying him every time Harry is near. Every time the Duke shows some ounce of concern.

“But… I must. This is my first time going to the prince ball. And, with you…”

“You don’t have to…”

“It’s also for me… so, well, erm, I am just afraid that this would turn out towards something bad.”

“Like?”

Louis’ lips quivered slightly and in an instant Harry gathered him to his arms. Louis’ pulse fluttered rapidly at the base of his throat and then he lowered his forehead to the Duke’s shoulder, his breathing ragged. His defenses shattered. He felt so drained from all the conflicting emotions he is currently feeling. Too exhausted fighting his inner Omega, his heart. He welcomed the warmth the Alpha is emitting. “What if I look horrendous once my beard is gone?” he kept his voice even, “I have never seen my whole face for the last five or more years. I might have some blemishes or scars underneath. What if I’m actually ugly?”

“Stop that.” Harry’s deep voice rumbled through Louis’ chest, reverberating through him as the Duke’s strong arms held him tight. “You are the prettiest Omega I’ve ever encountered. Even prettier than most ladies. It won’t change that, with or without a beard.”

Louis huffed and tried to pull away from the Duke. Harry held him for a moment more before finally letting him go but did not increased the distance between them. “How could you know? But, what if?” Louis’ voice trembled, bordering to hysteric. He almost stomped his foot like a petulant child in aggravation. All the negative emotions spilling out, all the doubts.

Harry eyes twinkle with amusement at the Omega’s pout, his lips forming a wide grin. He leaned down and whispered close to Louis’ ear, “Doesn’t matter, in my eyes you would still be one of a kind. Flaws and all.”

Louis’ eyebrows drew together as his mouth turned down, but he didn’t argue further. Harry’s hand enveloped his, surprisingly, trembling hands. The Duke made some circling motion with his thumb against his skin making him shivers down his toes. “Take off your coat, Lou.”

Louis watched Harry’s face in confusion, his stomach twisted with all sorts of unfamiliar feelings. “Why?” Earning him a chuckle from the amused curly haired man.

Louis raised his brows as Harry let go of his hand and then proceed to remove his own coat. Once done the Alpha moved closer, much, much closer, “Here,” Harry put his own over Louis’ shoulder. “Wear this instead.” As soon as the fabric touched his skin, the Duke’s scent enveloped him. The smell felt familiar, but he cannot put a finger when and how. But it was calming. The Omega inside him is preening.

Stop. Stop please.

Harry caught him again in a moment of weakness, but he’d have to be far more careful. The Duke’s devilish good looks only added to his worries that the Alpha could slip past his barricades once more. He’s falling deeper into a hole he wished he could crawl out off.

Although, even with alarming bells going off, he can’t help but sniff the enchanting scent.

 

Dave let out a small huff to break the pair. Louis’ eyes darted towards the newcomers and then widened as he realized the frown on Dave’s face. Guilt consumed him.

Dave gave a stiff nod at the Duke and then walked towards Louis with the promised hair dresser. The Omega refused to look at him and it irritated the Earl more, but he knows he have no right. He instead looked at Styles, giving him the best glare he could muster which the Duke also answered with the same intensity.

If only he didn’t promise Lady Charlotte that ‘thing’.

 

Sensing the heavy atmosphere Monsieur Girolle clapped his hand and ask, “Is this the young Lord Omega you mentioned, my lord?”

“Yes, Monsieur Girolle I like you to meet Lord Louis, son of Lord Mark Tomlinson of Doncaster. And, of course, I know you are already acquainted with his Grace.” Harry nods as Monsieur Girolle curtsey at him.

The tall man dressed in a well-tailored coat and breeches then turned towards Louis. Angling his head, he conducted a bold inspection of the Omega’s coiffure. “So what style do you want my Lord?” The hairdresser tapped a pair of fingers against his lips and stared at Louis from head to toe.

“I…” Louis ran his hand through his hair and gave a confused glance at the Beta hairdresser.

Hurried footsteps were suddenly heard from the hallway. “Shave all of his hair.” Niall piped out of nowhere, his cousin and Zayn in tow. Everyone glared at his direction for the suggestion except for Louis whose eyes narrowed at Brendan.

What the hell is he doing here. Spying the enemy?

The Omega gave a sideways glance at his friend, a silent question why the other Omega is here but Zayn only shrugged and pointed at Niall. He too was at lost at the other male Omega’s presence.

Scrunching his face at Zayn and Brendan one last time, Louis turned to the hairdresser.  He gave a falsely cheerful grin, “Whatever you think is best, Monsieur. I am under your care.”

 

Someone clears his throat and every eye fell on the Duke. “May I suggest something Omega?”

Louis’ gaze darted to his and can’t help but nod. Monsieur Girolle focused his attention at the Duke, slightly confuse and sort of amuse with the turn of events. He hasn’t heard any news about who is the lucky Omega the ‘elusive’ Alpha is courting but it seems like the gossip columns are going to have a field day once they heard that a rare male Omega is the auspicious one. He can’t wait to tell Rochelle every bits. Many ladies would probably faint from this chinwag. Brilliant!

 

“A swept over look is best for him that featured his long locks on top of his bonce and definitely short sides.” Harry cocked his head to one side as his eyes remains on Louis face. His eyes soften as he let it roams from the Omega’s eyes down to his lips. “He needs longer fringe because he likes playing with it, but it needs to be swept to the side as not to hinder his beautiful eyes,” His lips were full and curved seductively as his green eyes stared at the Omega with an intensity that left Louis breathless, “the sides should be clean-cut to see his cheek bones and his cute ears,” his voice had dropped low and soft, “and show his enticing slim neck where his bond mark would be proudly displayed.”

The room went silent, everyone felt that they are invading a very private, intimate conversion. Even the stoic Zayn blushed with each titillating complements directed to his Omega friend.

Louis mouth opened, then he shut it, then he opened it again. Then he slowly shook his head. His heart squeezed in his chest as the words spoken by his unrequited love soaked through his whole being. Louis pressed his lips together, but it didn’t quite hide a smile. He drew in a shaky breath. “Ah, yes. I think I want that…what he said.”

Glares from two other occupants was thrown towards the oblivious pair. Dave watched as Louis’ face turned to something resembling a tomato. He wanted to say something but refrain from causing a scene. He glanced at the other Omega in the room who’s also seething with jealousy. At least he has a comrade. They should probably team-up.

Nah.

 

“Marvelous!” Girolle exclaimed, raising both hands in excitement, “Come on we must hurry, and I will create the greatest hairstyle you’d ever see. Come along now.” Louis was forcibly ushered by helpers, who emerged from nowhere, towards the Omega’s bedchamber.

 

As the next three hours passed, everybody was bored and antsy. Polite conversation with each other could only do so much. Harry in particularly was on the verge of storming towards the room where they kidnapped the Omega when Monsieur Girolle glided into the room and loudly presented his work of art.

“Perfection!”

Louis stood in front of his friends and shyly swept his fringe off his eyes. Too conscious of the sudden bareness of his face. They have also shaved his face. If before there had been a sickly, almost grim cast to his complexion, there now lay now a fresh, unexpected radiance on his face. His skin surprisingly was glowing almost luminous now that there’s no single facial hair in place. His cheek bones now stood prominent from his face, no longer partially shadowed by his over-grown beard. His fringe, although still long, was layered for texture and swept to one side, unleashing some great weight away from his beautiful eyes. His ears are now showing which is, at the moment, is pinkish due to embarrassment. His slim neck is now also exposed making two of the of the three Alphas in the room lick their lips with want.

Niall, unexpectedly, run towards Louis and hugged him and continued to do so, it was near obscene to the onlookers. It took nearly all Harry’s concentration not to rip his friend’s hand away from the Omega’s body. Niall turned around and gave the Duke a sly look.

The Irishman was ribbing him. Styles gave Niall a fierce glare and then directed his gaze toward the blond man’s arm. Niall chortled but let go.

“Thank you for your help, Monsieur Girolle.” Harry handed the hairdresser a large bag of coins while glancing every now and then towards the Omega who is now wrapped in Zayn’s hold. The Earl of Bradford a few inches away. Something in him growled at that thought.

“It was a pleasure. I just created a master piece.”

 

“Time for your measurement, my dear Omega.” Louis looked over at the Duke, Harry had to hold back a growl of frustration as Louis luminous blue eyes so innocent gazed at him in question. If before he thought that the smaller man’s eyes are beautiful, now that they are out of their confinement, Harry is now realizing how truly magnificent they truly are. Louis expectant look was completely childlike as he turned to him. “Is the dress maker here already?”

 

Suddenly a hand grabbed his wrist and took him away from the Omega. “Dress maker? Why?” Zayn asked, brows in a scrunched.

“For his attire for the Prince’s Ball of course.” Was the Duke’s deadpan answer.

“But why?”

“Why what, Malik? We are going around in circles with your type of questioning. Spit it out lad, what is it you want to know.”

“Why does he need to be fitted? He already has something to wear.”

“Although I have no problem with Louis’ dress or fashion,” Harry tried to be composed and not be annoyed by the Beta’s line of questioning. He doesn’t know what the big deal is if the Omega wore something that is well-fitted for him. It does not mean that he’s changing the entirety of Louis’ character, so the questioning has a bitter taste on his tongue. “It is imperative to have something well-fitting for this Ball. It is the Prince’s after all.” he said, his voice rough and curt.

“Oh, you’re going to be sorry once you see him.” Zayn said, with a trace of humor in his eyes. “You’ll going regret ever suggesting a tight-fitting pants.”

 

Chapter Text



 

 

The Style pack was universally adored and respected by many. To those outside the pack, they occasionally feared due to the power they have. They were indirect descendants of the throne and never branched out far away. Many believed that they are the ones controlling the throne and the current King is a mere puppet. Des Style was a kind, wise man but a ruthless one if you ever cross him. He’s cunning and intelligent. The current Duke appears to inherit all his traits and got his mother’s charm. It was a lethal combination, and many acknowledge his power even as young as he is.

Unfortunately, Dave was not a fan. He believes in hard work. He came from new blood. He’s not going to bow down to the old blood just because they have the power.

If only he has the guts to apply that in his love life. He snorted at the thought.

 

"No, I have not," Dave ground out, wondering if Lord Horan was trying to see how red his face could get without actually collapsing on the floor in a furious convulsion. He had answered him for the nth time, but it seems that the Irish Lord refuses to have ‘no’ for an answer. He glanced around in search of someone who might save him from Lord Horan.

Then Louis looked up from where he was sitting with Zayn and Liam on a large picnic blanket, blinking those devastatingly blue eyes at him and smiled. He too smiled back but was rudely interrupted when a punch hit his left shoulder.

“Bloody bullocks!” Dave made a face at Niall. “What is hell is wrong with you, mate? Why the bloody hell did you hit me?”

Niall also made a face, somewhere between a scowl and an eye roll as he replies, “Because you are not listening, lad. I need you to get my cousin an escort.”

“Why should I be the one doing it?”

“Because,”

“Because, what?”

“Because you’re outside of our pack, so it is so much easier to get someone to pair up my cousin with someone outside the pack. He has a knack of convincing a lot of the Alpha’s that he will be Harry’s Omega.”

Pack. Pack. Pack.

Lottie also mentioned about the pack and it seems like a big deal to them. Who still believes in the fated ones? Who the bloody cares about who would be the Luna of the Styles’ pack?

 

He then watched as the Duke of Cheshire grinned devilishly towards a group of giggling ladies who approached the Duke during their usual morning walk. Despite Styles teasing and humor, not once did he falter in his gentlemanly behavior in front of the Omegas, Dave regretfully noted.

But a rakehell behavior is still a rakehell behavior even it was done in finesse.

He could also see the smoke coming from Louis’ ears out of jealousy when he glanced at his Omega friend.  Maybe it’s about time he saves his friend from murdering the big bosom Omega and her friends who are blatantly flirting with the young Duke.

“Excuse me Lord Horan but I think I have—need to talk to my friend.” Without waiting for a reply he stood up from where he was sitting and treads towards the fuming Omega.

 

Before Lord Dave could reach him, Louis spotted his friend walking towards them. He stood up abruptly as the young Earl signaled him with his hand to escape in the direction of the labyrinth. He gave a last fleeting glance at the Duke and the giggling Omegas and sighed in defeat. He waved at Zayn to motioned where he is going, the Beta just nods at him and Dave. Liam, on the other hand, gave a judgmental scowl at Allen and Louis but said nothing. Louis couldn’t care less. He jogged towards the Earl and took his offered hand.

 

Harry stiffened when he felt a sudden movement behind him. He turned around and saw Louis sneaking away from their group with none other than the Earl of Bradford. This is the type of circumstances that he wished he could be rude enough to someone and just walk away from them in the midst of a conversation. Alas, he was raised to be a gentleman and he can’t seem to find the right sentence to end the nonsense chattering around him. He could only follow the Omega with his gaze as the pair walked off. A sudden surge of annoyance emanated from him when he realized that the two were headed towards the Labyrinth. A growl from his inner Alpha tried to escape from within.

 

Louis clasped his friend’s arm and cuddled a little to his side once they’ve entered the labyrinth, his Omega maid a couple of steps away from them for propriety sake. 

“Hey, do not be downcast. You know you are way better than those silly Omegas there.”  Dave smiled at the light blush that stole across his friend’s cheeks. “It is dumb that Styles doesn’t see you as one, but, someone does.” Dave abruptly stopped their walk and took Louis’ hand away from his arm and held it between his. “You are beautiful, you are unique. I don’t just mean just your appearance, all of you, every piece of you are beautiful. You are perfect in every sense of the word. Do not let others make you think less.” Louis nodded with everything the young Earl said. Dave sometimes spoke things that makes Louis heart flutters.

He pursed his lips; his thoughts again wonder to the enigma that is Harry Styles. He was in so much confusion. He feels the pull from the Duke then push when he was not expecting it. His hope is fluctuating. He really does not know where he stands in Harry’s heart. “He is beautiful outwardly, but he is good at heart too. I know I don’t have the right to be jealous but I am. He is charming with the other Omegas, but I know it in my heart that he is showing me something that is just for me and me alone.”

Dave shook his head to disagree. “He is a rake Louis, he will make you feel that you are the one, the only one. Every rake does. I hate to see you heartbroken when you finally see that truth.”

“But—”

“There is an Alpha out there with your name written on him. You’ll make a beautiful Omega groom someday and a perfect, loving mate. Any Alpha will be lucky to have you.” I will be happy to have you.

“Unfortunately, there is only one Alpha that I want, and he doesn’t even know how I feel. I’m simply the brother of his betrothed. I do not want anyone except him, I will not marry anyone simply to produce and do my duty as an Omega. I want to marry because of love, and he is the love of my life. He still is and will always be.” He lives in hope that the young Duke’s interest will turn towards him, even though he knows he has no chance. If only he could curb his passion towards Harry and see other Alphas for their worth maybe Louis’ life could be less painful. But he will never settle for a marriage of convenience.

“You can’t live a spinster’s life! You need an Alpha to—”

Louis grimaced and took his hand off from the young Earl. Dave knew his answer before his friend uttered a word. “I don't need no Alpha! I can stand on my own.”

“No, no. That is not what I meant.” He tried chasing Louis’ hands, but the Omega backed away from him. “Please, it is not what I meant. I simply—”

“What? You are implying that I am weak that I need some—”

“No, no. You are strong, I know that you are. I simply meant that you need someone to cherish you, to love you as you deserve. Someone to kiss the ground you walk on. To bathe you with kisses because you worth every praises and devotion an Alpha can offer.” Louis stopped his steps as Dave approached him. The Omega let his friend pull him into a hug. “You, you are everything I ever dream—”

 

“Bloody hell! Unhand him you rogue, or I will bloody shoot you in the head!” Louis’ maid gasped loudly at their sides and Louis’ jaw dropped as he saw Harry cock the revolver over Dave’s temple. The Duke’s green eyes turned in darkest shade Louis had ever seen. The Omega was frozen momentarily with the fury that Harry was emitting. “Omega, get behind me.”

Dave arms loosed around him as Louis slowly obeyed the Duke’s command, wiggling his body to take Dave’s paw off him. “Alpha, please. Dave means no harm. Please. We are not doing anything.”

At hearing the plea escaped from Louis’ lips, anger and fear tightened Dave’s gut. He curled his hands into fists. “You don’t need to apologize to him, Lou. He does not have any right over you—”

“Like hell I do!” The Duke of Cheshire growled cuttingly.

“You listen here, you scoundrel. You are not Louis’ bloody Alpha. He is not your Omega. He is unbonded, an unbonded Omega.” Dave countered, his voice an anguished growl.

“Dave stop—just stop. Please, leave us alone for a minute.” Dave stared at Louis, whose blue eyes dark with fear. “Lou—”

“Please.”

“As you wish,” the young Earl muttered through clenched teeth. He turned his attention at the Omega maid a couple of feet away and gestured for her to stay and watched his young Omega Lord. 

 

Harry sat back on his heels as soon as the Earl was no longer in sight. His long fingers raked through his curly brown hair, which fell back into neat waves. “He is right. I overstepped. I am sorry Omega—I mean Louis. I do not know what took over me, I just saw red when his arms went around you.”

“Please, you can call me Omega if you want. I do not mind.”

“You should, but I am happy you are not opposed to it. But Allen is right, you are not my mate, I should have not been calling you that—but I want to, it seems right to do so.”

“And I feel the same. It is just a name.” A very possessive name.

 

“Oh, my damnation!” Harry gazed downward when it dawned on him what he had done a few minutes ago, his mind grappling with the horror on what could have happened. He could have killed a man. “I—this is the first time I pointed a gun at anyone. Please, do believe me. I do not intend to hurt nobody,” Harry rested his head in his hands, as the feeling of hollow pain and sense of loss permeated his whole body. “But I saw him engulfed you, your face shows sadness and my Alpha,” Harry touched his chest, “My inner Alpha saw blood. I saw blood.”

Louis swallowed hard, simultaneously intrigued and confused with Harry’s confession but did not question the Duke. He waited for Harry to continue although he can’t seem to placate his inner Omega.

Harry released a long breath, “I know you are not mine. My protection might not be warranted, but please do know that I do care about you and would not hesitate to do it again if you are hurt.”

Louis wanted to reach down and comfort the Duke, but he refrained himself from doing so, “I know Haz, it is in your nature. The responsibility to protect, you have always been a leader and a protector.”

“You give me too much credit, Omega. I’m afraid what I did just now is something—” Harry shook his head as memories of Bradford’s hands all over Louis invaded his mind. He abruptly stood up and placed an arm around the Omega’s shoulders and drew him close. The muscles on his arms were hard with tension. “I don’t understand,” Harry then pulled away and cradled Louis face in his hands. “What are you doing to me Omega?”

 



 

 

Finally, he heard footsteps coming down the grand stairwells as he waits a couple of feet away from the bottom. Harry doesn’t know why his heart pounded hard. The footfalls came slow and deliberate, and he waited to see the Omega. This is the first time he will be seeing the attire they ordered for the prince ball. He exhaled sharply, his nerves rattled when he finally saw Louis and Lady Charlotte descended from the stairs and the footman announced their names.

“Good evening, your Grace.” Louis murmured, curtsying in front of the Duke when he arrived in front of the taller man. Harry smiled at the Omega and nodded in greetings. Lady Charlotte copied his brother as she too curtsied then searched around to locate her friend Britanny. She dashed away upon seeing her friend leaving Louis as he was soon bombarded by Liam and Zayn. The duo pulled the helpless Omega to a nearby corner to better inspect the male Omega leaving Harry gawking at their antics.

 

Harry surveyed the Omega from head to toe as Zayn and Liam fussed over Louis. He noted the well-tailored wine-colored tail coat that reveals the skill of the tailor. The dark gray, double-breasted waistcoat looked to be of fine silk. But what caught the young Duke’s attention is the tight-fitting, tan-colored breeches. Harry muses that Louis is really quite elegant for a man, the shape of his hip and thigh rather thick, feminine like.

Harry fought the irrational pull of attraction as he studied the Omega’s slender neck, the nape where the future bond mark will be shown. He had to gaze away but was frozen as he watched Zayn examined every inch of Louis’ clothing. Then all hell broke loose when Zayn lifted the back of the Omega’s tail coat revealing the ample derriere.

Bloody hell! No one mentioned the curves fit for sin was hiding underneath those hideous clothes for years.

He shook his head to clear the dirty thoughts away. He soon smells a lot of Alpha pheromones surrounding their group. Harry took in the room’s reaction and frowned, not liking the fact that most of the gentlemen present were now admiring the male Omega from a distance, some with a hunger that matched his own. He had never been interested in a man’s body, so these feelings were very strange to him. He blamed those hips. Those luscious, curvy, tempting-beyond-sanity hips. Oh, damnation! That behind, that round, perky derriere.

 

Louis felt the wave of pheromones coming from the Duke and he instantly glanced a worried look at his escort for the night. He wanted to smooth out the wrinkle on the Duke’s brows. He wonders what suddenly fouled the curly man’s mood.

Louis was soon distracted on how beautiful Harry as he stared longer at the taller man. The young Duke is wearing a black tailcoat, small white tidy bow tie, a white low-cut vest with shawl lapels and black trousers, with a white, heavily starched shirt. He looks very princely with his chosen attire and Louis had the urge to kiss him. Every time he looked at him, he forgot to use his head as his body began to pulse with want.

Now, Louis feels inadequate. He began to self-doubt again and feels uncertain with their pairing from the night. Sure, he looks presentable outwardly, but he is the infamous male Omega. The Duke might seem untouchable by tawdry gossip, still, won’t it hurt the Duke’s reputation if he escorts Louis to this important ball?

 

Louis might be born a gentleman, but his manners or lack of knowing when to speak and when to hold one’s tongue made it debatable. His only true fault, his very bold, knowing speech that many of the ton hates. “I know what you are thinking. Do not take any heed of what the rumor mongers are saying about you.” Harry said, making his way towards the Omega, who is surprisingly left behind by his two friends. Harry leaned down at Louis with a gleam in his eye, “You look amazing Omega, beyond perfect.”

Louis gave a lovestruck sigh at the Duke’s beauty. He’d almost forgotten how to breathe because Styles green eyes were so distracting. “How are you, your Grace?” he asked, a wave of shock traveling down his body as his voice squeaked out.

Harry let out a low chuckle that coursed along Louis' nerves sending shivers of pleasure down his spine. Bloody hell, he is acting like a sozzled giggling girl.

“I am fine, Omega. Better now that I have seen you.”

Louis ignored Harry’s statement. His heart won’t make it if he thinks about it further, “You look rather ravishing, your Grace.” Harry gave him a grin, looking pleased with the compliment. “And so, do you, Omega.”

A light blush stole over Louis’ cheeks making him prettier than Harry thought possible. He is beautiful with an interesting character. Louis is smart, smarter than most Alpha he knows, but the Omega is rather opinionated and quite bossy. They weren't the sort of things men usually looked for in an Omega, in a mate.

 

What about me?

 

Harry shook his head. That was a dangerous question to ponder. It was not a time for that, he was here to escort Louis. The duke craned his neck, looking about and nodding in acknowledgment to those who tried to gain his attention. “Stay close to me, Omega. Do not wander too far.”

“And if someone asked for a dance?”

Over my dead body. “Have you filled your dance, Omega?”

“None yet, no. Even Zayn and Liam have not written their names in mine.” Good and it will stay that way.

“Then it is settled. Give me your dance card.”

Louis reluctantly took his dance card from where it was hidden in his secret pocket and handed it to the Duke. Harry took it and listed his name on each set of dances.

“Your Grace, what about my friends who would love to dance with me?”

“Then, they should have written their names before I did,” Harry said, his jaws shaking a little in wrath and annoyance. He knows he sounds childish, but he can’t help it. The need to dominant Louis’ whole world is consuming him. The want to protect the Omega from all the hungry gazes the Alphas are throwing his way. The Duke gritted his teeth unconsciously as his mind conjure different images of the pretty Omega in the hands of another Alpha. “Do you not want a dance with me?”

Louis smiled as he tries to quell the butterflies taking flight inside his stomach, “It will be my pleasure your Grace.”

Harry then clasped Louis’ hand, placing it onto the crook of his arm, “Then, shall we?”

Louis nodded and let the Duke walked them out onto the floor where people are now gathering. Upon reaching the dance floor, the Duke swung him into his arms and as Louis met Harry’s gaze the Duke grinned at him as the Duke’s other hand slid down to his narrow waist.

There were women who turned their gazes their way, starring daggers at Louis but he simply directed his attention to his partner. “It’s been a long time since I’ve danced, except for that one impromptu we did in Lord James' ball.”

“As I have too. Funny, because you might be the last person I have escorted to a dance, around Gemma’s wedding. Do you remember?”

“Very vividly, yes. You were reluctant to be my company for the rest of the evening.”

“I remember quite differently, no. I was quite nervous, to be honest, but definitely not opposed to it.”

“To be dancing with me, a male Omega, in a very large gathering?”

“I have no problem with you being a male Omega, no.”

“Many does. We are a rarity. Do you not prefer a woman?”

“I do.” Louis’ heart sank. Disappointment stabbed at Louis’ that his grace’s view had not changed.

“Well, I thought I do. But I do find a lot of males attractive. You specifically.”

“You just fibbed, your Grace. You don’t have to, I won’t think less of you.”

“I am no liar, Omega. Have I not told you a million times how beautiful you are?”

“Now, yes. But when we were kids—”

“Is this about what I’ve said years ago of not wanting to marry you?”

Louis blushed and cast his eyes downward.

“I cannot fathom how hurt you must have been. But—” Harry gave a loud exhale, “You came in at the wrong time, at the wrong instance. I might have said it because Li—” Harry shook his head, “I am sorry. It was very rude of me then. I ask for your forgiveness.”

“Then forgiveness is what I shall give you.”

“I thank you, Omega.”

With elegance and ease, Harry guided Louis into the steps. They were silent for a time before he said, “I have no problem with you being a male nor of your age.” He pulled the Omega closer than he should but the smell the Omega is emitting is doing wonders to his body and he does not want anyone having a whiff of it.

Louis smiled up at him, and he caught his breath. Blast it! He was so beautiful, so kissable that it hurt to deny himself of wanting to touch the lips of the Omega with his once again. But he was not for him to have, not yet. But he will soon be his once their times runs out. It is a nobleman’s duty to marry and secure his lineage. It will be a marriage of convenience.

 

But what if Louis finally finds an Alpha for him in this ball? What if Liam finally asks for Louis’ hand?

 

Something in him felt infuriated with that notion. He didn’t want the smaller man thinking of any of the gentlemen of the ton in that way—a possible match for a mate. It is best for Louis to remain a spinster for the remainder of his days or to be tied to him forever in a marriage of convenience. He was being selfish but he can’t seem to feel an iota of guilt with it.

“You seem displeased, your Grace. Is anything the matter?”

“Just a wrong thought crossing my mind. No need to worry.” Harry saw Louis’ disbelieving lift of his brows but did not rebuff his statement. They continued to dance the remainder of the set, focused on each other presence. Too entranced with each other that they have lost their connection with their surrounding that is until someone tapped on Harry’s shoulder jolting them to reality.

 

“I believed the set has finished and the band is now preparing to start the next, my dear ole cousin.” Harry looked over his shoulder at the grinning man, Prince Greg. He swept his eyes at their surroundings and true enough people have stopped dancing and now gathering at the edge of the dance floor gawking at their pair at the center.

“And you must be the fabled male Omega—Lord Louis Tomlinson?” Prinny walked around Harry and stared down at the blushing Omega. “The rumors don’t do you justice. You are way beautiful than they’ve said. May I have this next dance?”

“Greg—”

“Ah, just this once Harry. And do call me Prince Greg, you know the council might hear—” Prince Greg winked at the scowling Duke and whisked away the smaller man before anyone could protest.

 

“I am sorry that I hijacked you from your Alpha, Lord Louis.”

“He is not my Alpha, no. There is no need to apologize your highness.” Louis fumbled and racked his brain for some etiquette he learned when meeting with the heir to the crown. “It is I who should be apologizing. I am at lost on what to do—I should have curtsied."

“Now, now. No need for that, you will soon be a family. My cousin Harry and I are close. So, an Omega of his is a family to me.”

“I am sorry my prince, but I am really not the Duke’s Omega. I don’t think I ever will—”

“I know you both want to keep it under wraps, and surely half of the Omega’s population will cry once you two mated—still, it was inevitable. My cousin is so besotted with you that I even thought he would marry you as soon as he reached marriable age—”

“You might have heard the wrong news, my prince. That could be farther from the truth. A mistaken identity, I hazard a guess—” Louis harrumphed, and he refused to look at the prince. He scolded himself with the way his cheeks heating up. Surely, by now he looks like a tomato and worse that he is in front of the heir to the throne. Nothing could top this embarrassment.

“Surely, I am not mistaken. I have seen him radiate like the sun whenever he so much as says your name. He might not have mentioned you that many when he reached his eighteenth but it does not change the way he smiles whenever he hears me ask for you or the way your name rolls down his tongue. He does call you Omega, does he not?”

Louis stuttered, unable to respond straight away. “He does, yes. But that is irrelevant—”

Greg raised one brow in disbelief, “Yeah, maybe I am mistaken,” he then shrugged, “then it is his lost. If I am sure that I am not stepping on someone’s toes, I would court you myself.”

Louis pouted and scowled at the prince. “Now I am sure you’re fibbing your Highness. And I hate liars.” This made Greg laughed, a rich, booming sound that almost undid his years of strict decorum. He now knows why his cousin is so smitten with the sharp-tongue male Omega that ton is talking about. The Omega has a backbone and will surely make up with every dull moment of a royalty’s life.

He hopes that his cousin clears up whatever misunderstanding the Omega and him have or else the Omega will be surely be swept off his feet by some Alpha, seeing the way the gentlemen at the ball eyed the petite male.

Or he’ll take him instead.

He’d go down in history to have a pretty male Queen. A very pretty male Queen Omega.

 

He glanced over Lord Louis and saw his fuming cousin who is glaring daggers at him. He then frowned down at Louis and then chuckled to himself when realization dawned on him.

Stupid oblivious fools.

Chapter Text



 chap 13

 



 

 

“It seems like we need not look any further. Your cousin seems to have taken a liking to that Omega of yours.”

“Nicholas. I didn’t realize you have already arrived,” Harry commented, not taking his gaze off Louis and his cousin.

“How could you? When you were plastered at Lord Louis’ side since he steps foot in this palace.” Nicholas arched a brow, a slightly sardonic smile slanting his lips. Harry laughed, pulling his friend closer to him for a hug and so that only they could be heard, “You put so much meaning to it. I am but here to accompany Louis and see to it that no harm will befall him.”

Grimshaw stared at the Duke for a moment when they pulled apart before his eyes narrowed just the slightest, then a thought crossed his mind, “Then you have nothing to worry then. He is at the prince’s hand, no one would dare to touch him once the prince courted him.”

Harry scoffed, a little muscle in his jaw flexed, “Greg will do no such things!” He shook his head as though it could erase the thoughts inside his brain that Nick put in.

Anger and disappointment surged through Nick’s veins. “And why not? Please do tell.”

 “They do not match. I doubt that Greg even liked Louis in that way, he is merely entertaining him since he is with me.” Harry frowned at his cutting words that he didn’t mean to be so abrupt, but still.

“I beg to disagree. They are on their second dance now. Surely, the prince is interested enough to warrant more time with him.”

“The council will not agree.”

“I thought you view that puny Omega in high regards?” Nick looked at him with contempt, and that intensified his annoyance, “I do. Greg and he just don’t match. I won’t allow it.”

“Are you hearing yourself? You’re are ruining our plan.” Nick almost stomped his foot in agitation. Unbeknownst to them, two pairs of eyes watched them as they argued.

 

“They are arguing. This is a rare one for my dear cousin. He is such a people pleaser, I wonder what Mr. Grimshaw did to warrant such a rare act?”

Louis snorted loudly, “Maybe that gobshite just rubbed Harry the wrong way.”

“You seem to have a hidden grudge with Mr. Grimshaw.” The Omega refused to look up at the Prince who’s staring at him with amusement that made the Omega’s hairs rise and his cheeks to heat. He blames his sharp tongue on his sudden outburst in front of the Prince.

Greg frowned when the Omega did not divulge anything, he studied him for a moment then sighed, “Come along now, I will bring you back to my cousin once they simmered down.”

“I do thank you, your highness, but I already took too much of your time. I believe you are needed now to take around and greet all your guests.” Louis had a certain spunk about him that Greg couldn’t help but admire. “You are a sharp one. Yes, I do but it is ungentlemanly of me if I leave you here to fend for yourself.”

“I am also a man, my Prince. I don’t think I need to be protected. I am also a spinster; my reputation does not need—”

“Alright, alright. It seems like my presence is no longer welcome here.” Greg’s mouth pinched, and Louis gave a small apologetic smile at him. “That is not—”

“Ah, it is a joke, my dear Louis. Do not fret. I know you are itching to get back to your Alpha,” Greg kissed Louis’ hand, “it is a pleasure meeting you my dear.”

Louis curtsied his goodbye, moved on and ignored the light chuckle he heard coming from the prince behind him. Greg didn’t follow, but Louis could feel the heat of the prince’s gaze on his back. It was an exhilarating feeling knowing the prince, the heir to the throne, was watching him. It gave him a lot of confidence boost as it had not passed his notice that a lot of guests had thrown him curiously, if not annoyed, glances his way. He wonders if it’s out of jealousy that the prince himself danced with him or his attire that is too colorful compared to the usual black and white attire of most gentlemen present.

From the corner of his eye, a flash of black caught his attention. Turning to look, he observed Niall’s cousin stumbled in a hurry going out from the ballroom, three men hot on his heels. One man, he recognized and soon he was on his feet hurrying towards them.

He must save his ‘arch nemesis’ from the hands of an eviler villain he had faced in his life. There is no one spared from the wild and naughty antics of Ben Winston. A little shiver ran over the Omega’s skin at the thought of the Marquess unwelcomed touches.

 

“Enough! This is not up for debate.” Harry growled, flicking Nick a glance that spoke of annoyance more than anything else, “I need to get back with Lou—where the bloody hell is, he?”

 



 

Brendan made his steps quicker as he hears footsteps following him. He was so agitated that he did not even think as he takes turns after turns and now, he is lost. He can no longer hear the music from the grand hall. He must have gone to the other side of the palace. A part that no guard seems to be present at this very moment.

His breath hitched, and he swallowed the nerves that took flight in his belly when he reached a dead end.

 

“Why are running away, dear?” Lord Winston asked, “You know it is impolite not to say your greetings when it is asked by an Alpha, such as myself.” his voice sounded like the hiss of a snake to Brendan’s ear. The Marquess of Cider grinned, all teeth and friendliness at him, but it only made the Omega uneasy upon hearing him flirt.

This could not be happening.

Fear runs down his spine as the Alpha and his two companions advance towards him. Brendan almost screamed for help when in the corner of his eye, a red flashed, darting towards them. A savior has come to his aid. Though he was certain that the Duke was wearing black attire with a white shirt.

 

“Get away him, you fool. Do you not know he is Lord Horan’s cousin?” Louis yelled at the trio, determination dripping from his voice. His step almost faltered when Ben turned and glared over his shoulder at him. Louis resisted the urge to fold his arms across his chest for the fear that it would show his shivering fingers on his side.

The ugly green vein in the Marquess’ temple swelled and pulsed as he saw the infamous Lord Louis, “Well, well, well. If it isn’t Lord Louis Tomlinson. Getting braver I see?”

Louis held his dainty chin high, his shoulders straight, “Always been brave for the likes of you.” Brendan can hear the nervous tremble in every word Lord Louis uttered.

Ben’s lips curled into a sardonic grin, “Of course, when you have that kind of protection. Anyone would be brave enough. But this lovely Omega here is beyond your jurisdiction.”

“Like hell, he isn’t. You’ll be sorry if Horan heard about this.”

“You make me laugh. Who cares about Mullingar? Back off now or I won’t even keep my promise on keeping my hands off you,” The Marquess chided.

“What do you mean by that? I can take you here and now like I did years ago.” Louis smirked as Ben’s eyes clouded with fury. Like he did when they were but ages eight and ten, respectively. Both of them has not yet fully presented at that time. The Alpha in Ben had not given him much strength that one punch from the Omega had him clean off his feet. The younger Omega was aggressive that the future Alpha came home crying with a shiner on his left eye, scratches on both cheeks and bruises on his left knee.

Ben eyes narrowed as he remembered his most embarrassing memory. If only the Cheshire did not meddle with his plan, the Omega should have been ruined beyond redemption by now. “Do not push me, fool,” Ben’s lips curling in contempt.

Brendan stared at Louis, dumbstruck. He’s getting irritated that Lord Louis is making their situation worst. No Omega would be able to fight an Alpha even if the Omega is a male. There’s no way they’ll be coming out here unscathed.  Reputation ruined beyond repair. But he can’t do anything but place both their lives in the older Omega’s hand.

 

The tension in the air was palpable. Louis knows he’s in a disadvantage. He was taught how to fight at a young age. He was even taught a few boxing tricks by Dave. Unfortunately, physically it was not possible to take down an Alpha and two Betas. If this was a duel, there is no doubt he could win them all. He knows he is one of the best shots in England. Alas, the only way he could do this is by using his brain and his swift feet. Or Ben could just let them both go, obviously wishful thinking on his part.

 

“May we proceed, my lord?” the Beta—Mr. Naval—shook his head, impatience evident in his tone as he turned at his master for instructions. Louis looked down his dainty nose at Ben, waiting for Ben’s answer.

“Go back inside Tomlinson and you won’t be harmed. Hide behind Cheshire like you always do.” Winston said with a menacing undertone. He hoped to scare the Omega enough that Louis might drop his bravado and flee the scene. He honestly does not want one Duke to retaliate if he ever harms the petite Omega. But by god, the Omega is making him lose his wits. Draining the remaining patience, he has.

“When have I ever?” Anger flared inside Louis for no rational reason. The Omega gritted his teeth. The remark made him sound like a dog eager to do his master’s bidding. He was not a frail Omega in need of an Alpha’s protection. “Stop making excuses. Fight if you want.”

 

Brendan found Lord Louis’ courage baffling. Fascinating but utterly stupid.

He gasped when one of the two Betas reached out to Lord Louis in annoyance. But the male Omega was fast as lightning, grabbing the wrist of the man while his other hand grips the middle and index finger and proceed to bend the Beta’s wrist forward. A yelp escaped the Beta’s lips as Lord Louis hit him with a fist between the collarbones upon releasing the Beta’s wrist. The Beta became disoriented and stumbled backward. To Brendan’s horror, Louis kicked the Beta’s groin before he hit the floor. He can’t help but groan and shudder on what he just witnessed. It was brutal.

 

The other Beta saw his friend got knocked down on the floor, in retaliation he grabs Louis from behind, pressing the Omega’s arm on his sides. Louis quickly realized his opponent’s move and as soon as the other man’s arms went around him, he swiftly squatted. He shifted his body towards the left and used his open palm to strike his attacker’s groin region. In a succeeding motion, he then stood up quickly, shifted his body to the right and threw his elbow at the Beta’s nose. In an instant, he was released from the Beta’s grasps as the other man clutched his bleeding nose.

Before Louis could move from where he is standing, Ben locks his arm around the smaller man’s head from the side choking the male Omega. Louis tried to fight but an Alpha’s strength was too much for an Omega. He tries to elbow the Alpha but the other did not even budge, instead, his hold grows tighter.

A loud growl was heard and suddenly the arm chocking Louis disappeared. When Louis looked at his side, his heart pounded in his chest, wild and erratic as he saw Harry pinning Winston by the wall, one hand gripping the other man at the neck. His eyes widened when the young Duke lifted the larger man a good two inches off the ground. Ben’s face contorted in agony and Louis dashed towards the two to stop the Duke from killing the rakehell.

All the air left Louis’ lungs, his heart slammed against his ribs as he saw Ben’s face turning blue, “Alpha, let him go.”

The calm, charming but sometimes emotionless man had vanished, replaced by a ranging animal, a murderous animal thirsty for blood, “You dare touch him?! Haven’t I told you that you will die by my hands if you dare to touch even a strand of his hair? I should have ended you years ago.” Harry shook the other Alpha with one hand still tight around the other’s throat. Ben made a gagging sound, gasping for air as he tries to claw the grip around his neck, tries kicking the relentlessly Alpha.

“Please Alpha, don’t kill him. Please.”

Panic squeezed the air out of Harry’s chest as he saw Winston had Louis in a headlock. A primal urge to kill took hold of his whole being. For a man who is usually so composed and most of the time disengaged, such disturbing emotions were all foreign to him. “We had a deal. I am not someone you should have crossed.”

“Alpha! Please. Please let go Alpha.”

Like Ben weigh nothing Harry threw him to the side, his back hitting the floor near Brendan’s feet. The younger Omega shrieked as Ben stood up in an unsteady foot. A venomous curse burst from the blackguard’s mouth as he stumbled back.

The Duke glared Ben, raw masculine energy emanated from every fiber of his being, “Get lost! You have been spared once again but don’t even think this is the end of it. I will end you for this.” As soon as those words left Harry’s lips the three scoundrels took flight leaving the three.

 

Brendan collapsed on the floor; his knees suddenly buckled from all the fright of the night. He looked up and saw Lord Louis coming to his side. The Duke looming over the other Omega.

Harry glanced at Niall’s cousin, “Where? Where did they touch you? Were you hurt?” Brendan almost cried in frustration with the detached questioning of the Duke. It lacks the warmth, panic, the irrational emotion that he heard as Harry fought for Lord Louis safety. “I am not hurt your Grace. I—we thank you for your aid.”

“You should have not roamed the castle by yourself,” Harry tried to hide his irritation as he chastises the young Omega. Because of his foolishness, Louis was almost hurt. His eyes flickered back at the older Omega who’s fussing over Brendan and his eyes widen when he saw blood on Louis’ gloved hands as he helped the other male on his feet. He hurriedly snatched the older Omega’s hand and glared at the smaller man. 

Realization struck Louis as he stammers for words, “It’s—it’s not mine. I promise that blood is not mine. It’s that Beta’s blood, it’s not mine, Alpha.” Louis tried to shrug his hand off Harry tight grip.

The statement sent a wave of relief washing over Harry as he subtly inspected any bruise or blood on the stubborn man. “Why the bloody hell did you left the ball unaccompanied?!” Anger infused Harry’s tone that a shiver runs down Louis’ spine.

“Because I saw him being tailed by those morons.”

Harry pushed his hand through his mop of curly hair and growled in frustration, “Then why did you not call for me?”

“You were conversing with Grimshaw.” Anger flared inside Louis at the Duke’s remark. He knows that the overzealous need for gallantry was not the problem here, it was the thought that he was just another responsibility of the Alpha. The Omega’s annoyance emanating from the knowledge that Harry was just being his chivalrous self. That the Duke is only doing his Alpha duty and not out of love for him. That he’ll do it for anyone who’s in need. That Louis is nothing special.

“And?” Harry growled.

Louis sighed not too subtly. Chivalrous men were far too assertive. There should be a fine line between protective and controlling especially if the Alpha feels he has the obligation to do so.

Harry sense the growing irritation from the smaller man, he also sighs but this time in defeat, “Look, do not do that again. I can’t—next time this happens, someone’s blood will definitely sully my hands. Do you understand me, Lou?”

Doubt crept into Harry’s mind as he glanced down at the scowling Omega. Perhaps he was domineering, he knows he has no right to interfere, but— “Omega?”

Louis breathed as he struggled to find his voice, “Yes, Alpha.”

“You don’t understand, Lou. If something happens to you—heavens! I saw red, I saw everything in red and I lost it. I cannot control it. Something here—” the Duke admitted in a tone sharp enough to draw blood but soft enough not to further aggravate the Omega’s mood as he touched his chest, “—inside me is clawing, trying to escape. My inner Alpha is thirsty for blood. I can’t help it. It is in my nature.”

Harry gripped Louis’ elbow when the Omega refused to look up at him, “Omega, please understand. My inner Alpha is protective of you. I cannot rationalize with my inner Alpha when it comes to you. Please, realize, I have no intention of demeaning you and your capabilities.”

“Very well, I apologized. But I can take care of myself,” Louis whispered through gritted teeth. He tried tugging his arm free from the Duke’s grasp.

“I know.” Harry’s voice was thick with barely contained anger but he needs to trudge slowly to not heightened more the Omega’s growing ire.

“I do not mean to appear ungrateful, your Grace. Your concerns are welcome and duly noted and I am glad you came to my assistance at the right moment,” Louis shook his head and inhaled deeply to gather his composure and shake off his unreasonable frustration, very unreasonable frustration, “How did you even know where we were?”

“I don’t know. I mi—I might be hallucinating but I heard you. I followed your voice.”

Damnation! This was downright ridiculous, Harry thought as he again runs his fingers through his hair.

“Oi! I might be loud but there’s no way that I am that loud that you could hear me against the loud music. Besides we’re on the other side of the palace.”

“That’s not what I meant. I can’t explain. Just—I really heard your voice.” He can’t bloody explain to the Omega that as soon as the Omega was out of sigh hot blood raced through his veins like lava and like the earth’s magnetic pull, he slipped stealthily through the crowd following an invisible rope. It was odd that he knew exactly where to find Louis. The deafening pounding of his beating heart drowned out the shrill music and loud conversations around him, the only sound louder than his heartbeat is the boyish, angelic voice of Louis beckoning him to follow.

 

Brendan felt once again invisible as the two argued in front of him. His shoulder sagged as he once again heard the panic, the concern, the anxiety seeping from every word the Duke uttered. Never, in all the time Brendan had known the young Duke had he heard a thread of fright in Harry’s voice as he did just now.

The Duke is a very private man who guards his emotions with lock and key. Only a few know what he feels and truly thinks.  His voice usually bears relaxed sophistication, his countenance spoke of calm self-assurance. The qualities that endeared the Duke to him.

It was the first time Brendan saw the young Duke lost control. Getting in touch with his inner animal. He was savage, he was ruthless, a far cry from the persona he habitually shows the ton. The Omega doesn’t recognize this vicious Alpha. And quite frankly it frightens him more than the Marquis of Cider did.

 

“Are you sure they did not hurt you? You are shivering like a leaf.” Louis’ voice brimmed with concern as he brushed a few wayward hairs off Brendan’s face. The younger Omega nod slowly. He wounds his arm around himself to fight the shivers off. “Maybe I just need to sit for a while and collect my wits. It has been a truly exhausting night.”

“Truly tiring,” Louis agreed as he smiled at the other male Omega. “Come let us get back inside so that you may rest.”

 



 

 

An arm came about his waist and pulled him into a small sitting room opposite the retirement room that Louis was about to enter.

The Duke turned the Omega around to face him as soon as they’ve entered the sitting room. Harry clasped his chin and brought Louis’ blue eyes to look up at him. Hell, the Omega was pretty, with a mouth that begged to be kissed, and damn it, he wanted to kiss him again. “Where do you think you are going?”

Harry leaned in closer and Louis caught the scent of mint on the Duke’s breath. Annoyingly his gaze took in the young Duke’s lips that looks so soft and well looked after. One of the Duke of Cheshire’s hand reached out and brace against the wall, trapping the Omega partly within his hold.

The duke was seething at what he had witnessed a while ago and now the Omega wished to be alone with another man, it does not matter if the other male is an Omega. His inner Alpha is fighting furiously to be let out and kill everyone who had so much as eyed the Omega differently. He would start with that Bloody Winston. Harry should have torn that slippery bastard into pieces years ago when he suggested that he would take Louis as his bride for future gains. And now that bastard had once again touched his Omega.

 

The Duke had Louis’ body humming even as his mind screamed for him to step away, “I really need to talk to him, calm him. He went to such a traumatizing experience, he needs someone right now. He needs an Omega’s presence.” Louis jutted his finger out, but Harry moved close enough that it poked him in the chest. “Just for a moment, please, Alpha.”

“Alright, but I will be waiting by the door. You gave me too much of a fright, I will not let you out of my sight from now on.”

Louis gave him a grin, looking pleased with what the Duke had said. He pushed gently away from the Duke and turned away while the Duke watched his back in contemplation.

Harry groaned inwardly as soon as Louis went out of the room. Louis produced a lovely view for him from behind, the cut of his tailcoat didn’t take away from the small waist and delectable bottom that swayed a little with each step.

He could not tear his gaze away from the soft curves imprisoned within those damn breeches as he watched the Omega dance with the Prince. He has eyes, so does a lot of the gentlemen present in this very ball. No wonder, his cousin, the prince came in and swept in for a dance or two.

Harry groaned in frustration while exiting the room.

 

Once Louis was safely inside the other room, a relieved sigh burst from his lips. Only now could he release the anxiety he had kept at bay during their ordeal. How he had held his nerve, he would never know.

At least it was over.

“A gentleman doesn’t hobnob with such as him,” Louis started as Brendan glanced up at him, “He is a leech and a rake. Do not associate with him if you don’t want your name to be forever tarnished.” Louis nodded at him like a queen.

Brendan inwardly snorted, "I am delighted that you came to my rescue." It would probably be impolite to point out that Niall’s cousin sounded anything but delighted, so Louis just stood there trying to decide what he could say without insulting the other male Omega.

“I know you wanted the Duke to be the one to save you. I’m sorry that I have ruined your dream of being the damsel in distress.” Louis shook his head, aware that he sounded silly and spoiled. And very jealous and petty.

“And yet, he came to your rescue instead of me,” Brendan scoffed.

A blushed spread on Louis’ cheek as he tries to wave Brendan statement off and change the topic, “That man—Ben Winston—is the most vexing, arrogant, too high in the instep man you will ever meet in your life. Not to mention one of the dumbest. So, please so stay away from that wrecked man.”

“You should not say harsh words to anyone, not in presence. It is unbecoming of an Omega like yourself.”

“Pfft. I don’t care a fig if it’s not becoming of me, he is a mug. And must I remind you that I did save your life there?” Louis pointed, earning a small smile from the younger man.

“I think you are a fool in doing so.”

“A fool who had saved your virtue from ruin,” Louis said as he watched the other Omega keenly.

“An Alpha could have done the same without you doing such savagery.”

“Why would I call an Alpha if I can do it myself? I am also a man, me being an Omega does not limit me to stay behind an Alpha’s back for protection.”

 “Perhaps. But you must agree that we lack physical strength like the Alpha’s.”

“What I lack in strength I make up with brains. They may have brawn, but they lack the agility we possess. It’s a matter on how and when you’ll put it into good use.”

Brendan eyed the older male and studied his features. He was still in awe with the sudden revelation of the Omega’s beauty underneath his bush. He was indeed a beauty like the Duke described him to be. He was also set apart from the rest of the Omega.

The older Omegas also had guts. Everyone was gossiping about his outfit that is not befitting of the Prince’s ball, but it seems that it did not faze the older Omega one bit. On the contrary, many gentlemen were curious about the rebel Omega who’s dancing with the Prince. His wine colored tailcoat is very catchy to the eyes.

Maybe he was quick to judge the older man.

He thought that he was uncultured when they first met, and he was proven wrong. If anything, the older male Omega had an air of intelligence that Brendan hadn’t thought Lord Louis possessed. He was an educated, worldly Omega who seems to read Alpha’s like a book. And he is not afraid to call out on them.

 

“I had never witnessed the Duke lost control. It was scary.” The younger Omega suddenly blurted out, startling Louis. The look of uncertainty on Brendan’s face was a sight to behold, he was probably unused to Harry’s bout of childishness and tantrums like Louis does.

Louis snorted, “Dominance has always been in every Alpha’s the blood. Arrogance is spoon-fed from an early age so is the unsolicited chivalrous need to protect an Omega. You will see more of that.”

“He has always been a pacifist. He was always calm, even at the face of a pistol. I have seen it once,” Brendan scrambled to recall a particular memory when they were robbed by highwaymen during one of the Duke’s visits to Ireland, “He never conveyed what he was thinking, never showed fear.”

“You put Harry in too much in a pedestal,” Louis walked over to where the younger man was sitting and sat beside him, “He is also but a man.”

Brendan gave a tight smile at the older man and nodded. Louis glanced at the closed door before continuing, “Harry looked up to his father. He aspires to be the kind of leader his father was. When uncle died,” Deep furrows appeared on Louis' forehead, his gaze turned thoughtful, distant, as if witnessing a scene long since passed, one that had caused great pain, “Harry was forced to take responsibility at a young age. He was forced to grow up fast. He seemed so strong, so self-assured. A man wholly in charge of his own destiny but it is because he has too. The clan needs him to. But he is still a man, vulnerable to feelings--”

Brendan cocked his head and smiled at Louis. “And the only time he feels vulnerable is when it concerns you.”

Louis arched a brow and gave an odd hum, “You put so much meaning to it. Might I remind you he was saving the both of us.”

“The Duke acted on your behalf, not mine. Any fool can see that.”

“Funny, you are the second person this night that expresses such view.”

“Did you not see the Duke’s reaction? It is very unlike him to deviate from the usual moral stance, but here he is cursing like a sailor. Hurting people like some notorious rogue,” Brendan exhaled a weary breath, “For a man who prides himself on his calm composure, he really is struggling tonight to keep his calm and we both know why. You do know why right?”

“But it does not mean he lo—no,” Louis breathed as he struggled to find his voice, “It does not mean that he likes me.”

“This whole growling and marking his territory would tell you otherwise.”

Louis summoned a smile, “I am the brother of his betrothed, he needs me on his side.”

“He has a fiancée?”

“A soon to be, yes. My sister.”

“Are you sure, my Lord?”

Louis gave a weak nervous chuckle, “I am quite positive.”

The Brendan stared at Louis, his brows drawn together in curious inquiry, “Positive that you heard it from his own mouth?”

“Well if you put it that way, no. But he only has a month before my father demands a proper proposal, then you will know I have not lied to you.”

“There’s likely a misunderstanding. His Grace had adored you since adolescent. He has not lost the reverence when he so much as says your name.”

“You are very kind, sir. But alas, only a few men are willing to take a male Omega who even behaves so unconventionally such as me,” The lump in Louis’ throat made it hard to talk, “But I will not deny that I would be over the moon if he does.”

Louis put a hand on Murray’s back and rubbed affectionately. He gave a small smile at the younger man, “Come on, let us not concern ourselves with sad thoughts. You want some tea?”

Brendan’s expression brightened at the mention of tea, “I do.”

“Very well, I’ll ask a footman to serve as some refreshments.” Louis stood up and made a beeline towards the door where he was sure that the Duke was still guarding.

“My lord, I really am grateful that you have come and rescued me.” A coy smile formed on Louis' lips as he glanced over his shoulder at the younger man. Perhaps he has found another friend. Maybe they can lick each other’s wounds once Harry’s engagement is pronounced. “I am glad that I did.”

 

Chapter Text



Chapter 14



 

 

“How do you find the venison?”

“Umm—quite good.” Louis watched the others as they started to glide through the graceful movements of the waltz, focusing on one particular couple.

“And the turtle soup?” Harry pushed on, his hands tightening a bit at Louis’ waist to keep the Omega from glancing over his shoulder as they dance.

“Too salty but refreshing none the less.”

“Are you quite bored dancing with me?”

Louis looked up at the Duke, his steely gaze locked on to him. It did odd things to Louis’ stomach having Harry’s attention at him. He turned his attention back to Niall and his cousin to escape it, “I’m not bored, no.”

“You seem to be distracted and kept glancing around. Do you not want to be in my presence, Omega?” Harry narrowed his eyes to the couple the Omega kept glancing to.

 

“I’m sorry. It—it’s just that Niall had been scolding Murray ever since after dinner. My Omega can feel his distress.” Louis bit his lip, frowning in thought. Louis’ stomach performed a somersault at Harry’s intense stare. He tried to focus on Niall and Brendan but could still feel the heat in Harry’s gaze.

“Well, Niall has every right to do so. You both could have been hurt,” he said tightly as he waltzed Louis to the edge of the dance floor.

“But— oh! Switch!”

 

Before Harry could understand what the Omega meant, he was being shuffled to another partner while Louis stepped away from his hold. He was surprised to come face to face with Horan. “What the bloody hell?”  the Duke growled, throwing daggers at the two Omegas as they made their way through the center of the dance floor.

Louis chuckled as the Duke muttered some curses.

 

“Argghh! Unhand me, Niall,” Harry barked, casting an irritated glance at his friend, “This is all your fault. You should have kept your eyes on your cousin.”

Harry was glaring to the point his brows almost joined in the midline, making Niall smile in amusement. “I don’t know if I would be happy or sad for my cousin. This is the most you have shown notice of him.”

“Oh, shut up Mullingar.” Niall’s lips twitched, and he fought not to giggle but it was really amusing to see the great Duke stepping off his high horse and acting like a normal guy again.

Ah, maybe he is not lying to himself anymore, Niall thought to himself.

 

“My Lord, they are staring at us.” Brendan gave a nervous chuckle as he glanced over his shoulder at the ton gawking at them as the older Omega twirl them around the ballroom. A small smirked graced Louis’ lips and Brendan found his attention riveted on the spot and he was annoyed at himself that he would be so pathetic as to look at the older Omega’s mouth at such a time.

Louis grinned, holding Brendan tight and not letting the younger Omega remove his hand from his grasp as he surveyed their audience, “Let them. Some of them are just thinking that what I am wearing is too outdated and ostentatious for this ball.”

“I—I think they are looking because we are both Omegas. Male Omegas.” Brendan met Louis’ gaze and glared at the older man, all the while his body fought for control. The older Omega was so close, looks so dainty up close even more so than him, he begrudgingly admitted.

Effeminate but not overly so. His grip was strong, but his hand is the softest he has ever felt in a man’s.

It’s really irritating that he seems intelligent, cutting and utterly witty. And he seems to have an uncanny knack to get under Brendan’s skin.

Maybe because of the jealousy, that’s the only explanation at this point.

 

“Ah, the rarity of the rare. Let them talk, we have done nothing wrong.” Louis chuckled and steered them at the edge of the ballroom floor where fewer people could gawk at them. Louis smiled at the uptight people who looked on at them, some down their button noses, but Louis simply allowed their disapproval to roll off his back.

What did it matter what the ton thought anyway?

 “Still—” Louis pulled Brendan further into his arms before the younger Omega could continue, twirling them once again into the fray of dancers as if nothing was amiss.

“Just enjoy the evening. The night is young.” Louis said jovially. That earned an appreciative smile from Brendan.

 

“Can I ask a question?” Brendan paused, thinking if it’s appropriate to ask. He held Louis’ gaze and for what felt like the hundredth time, picked his words wisely lest he offended the older man, “How did you learn to fight?”

“I have been taught to fight by at a young age. I am the only male in the children of five, all Omegas. I am responsible for protecting my sisters.” Louis mouth slid into a sly, conspiratorial smile, “Why you want to learn?”

Brendan blinked in surprise, he took a calming breath, blood thumping loud in his ears. The older man’s proposals went decidedly out of nowhere, so he brushed aside his remark as best as he could. Surely, it is not appropriate for an Omega to train for combat. He was sure it is frowned upon by most, “And about your father—”

Surely, the Earl of Doncaster must be livid if he had known that his Omega son is getting fist fight with some unknown man. His own father would surely do for he is known to be a stickler for the rules.

Rules that they need to abide since they are Omegas after all.

 

“He’s the one who suggested it,” Louis answered, fondness seeping from every word.

“Oh—that’s kind of him,” Brendan said quietly, Louis could feel a hint of envy on those words but did not comment instead he laughed again, this time with more gaiety, and Brendan found himself mesmerized by the older Omega’s laughter.

Brendan could see Louis blushing slightly, trying to hide it with a laugh. The color was barely noticeable in the shadowy candlelight, but Brendan had been watching the older man closely, “You were so cool when you were fighting.”

“Thank you,” Louis fought another blush and lost, face red as a tomato, “If you want, I can really teach you a few tricks.”

This time the younger Omega smiled genuinely and accepted his offer, “Please. I am forever indebted to you.”

 

Three other couples spun and danced around them as soon as the music change that to a cotillion without them knowing.

The pair then found themselves changing partners, twirling, then finding each other again. A nagging feeling blossomed within Brendan’s every few seconds he was away from Lord Louis and quenched once the older Omega’s gloved hand was interlaced with his.

It probably is due to indigestion.

 

 



 

 

“Louis, can I have this dance?” Dave took Louis’ gloved hand and laid a scrupulously polite kiss on his knuckles earning a rather ugly scowl from the tense young Duke beside his friend.

“Bradford, I am afraid that Louis’ dance card is already full,” Harry proclaimed with an arrogant lift of his head at the burly young Earl. Dave’s head turned rather sharply in Duke's direction, face sullen.

Louis opened his mouth to retort, but Dave cut in before he could say anything, “And who might be the lucky guy for this next dance?” He matches the glare the Duke was sending him; tension was running high around them.

The muscle in the Duke’s jaw worked, a sign that he was fighting to remain civil. Keeping his temper as not to hit the impertinent Earl in front of Louis.

 

“Alpha,” Louis leaned over slightly to the younger Alpha, and whispered in his ear, “Just this one.” His Grace looked down at him and their gazes met. The pit of Louis’ stomach clench, cheeks flushed from the inspection Harry is bestowing on him. Louis gave a small reassuring smile at the Duke and Harry could only do was groaned in resignation.

“Fine—” Harry finally said between clenched teeth, casting an irritated glance at Allen.

“Thank you.”

 

The music of the waltz started to play, and Dave was grateful for it is a perfect dance for talking intimately. He nodded graciously at the smaller man as the dance started and then tightening his hand slightly at Louis' waist, they swung around in a graceful arc.

 

“I saw you been dancing around. You are making my sister jealous?” Louis tipped his head to the side, eyeing his friend.

Dave had a sudden vision of gaggle of chatty females, all talking over the other about particulars he couldn’t begin to care about, much less understand, he inwardly shuddered at the memory, “She’s been making me go rounds with all of her friends.”

Louis found himself smiling at his friend’s discomfort. Surely, a roundabout with the giggling Omega’s of the ton would be too much even from a rake like Dave. Louis chuckled at his friend, amusement clear in his voice, “She has a lot of pretty friends.”

“But none as beautiful as you.”

Louis answered that with a slight scowl, “Pshh—have you been drinking, my Lord?” He tried slapping a hand on the Earl’s arm before they made another turn.

“Only to keep my nerves from what I am about to do.” Dave cocked his head and gave his Omega friend a rather assessing glance, analyzing the Omega’s mood and decided the timing now might just be accepted for what he is about to do.

 

It was now or never.

 

“And what—” Louis found the experience somewhat unnerving. Although he has seen Dave being serious, there is something in the way his friend focused on his face that quite alarmed him. It gives him a feeling of unease, it was a suspicious sort of unease, and—then the realization hit him hard, “No, please Dave, no.”

“Louis—” David said, his voice calm, his demeanor sober even with a five glass of brandy. Perhaps to sober for him to remember Louis’ heartbreaking answer.

 

“Please, I don’t want to hurt you, it’s the last thing I want to do,” Louis searched his friend’s eyes hoping to get a clue that he was mistaken, that his assumptions were all wrong.

Dave's eyes became glazed with hidden sorrow, Louis got his answer, “– but I can’t love you like the way you want me too.”

“How?” The young Earl swallowed a lump on his throat.

Louis tensed, “Zayn—he is very intuitive,” Louis confessed, “Please don’t get mad at him. He does not want to see you hurt nor I.” Dave watched as Louis’ lips trembles as he pleads, and his eyes were wet and threatening to spill over at any moment.

 

Dave swept him into his arms and looking about he pulled the Omega from the dance and whirled him out of the throng of elegantly clad couples and escorted him onto the terrace before the tears fell out of Louis’ eyes.

Seeing an array of couples, he turned away from them all and started toward the stairs at one end that led to the garden, he waited for them to be out of anyone earshot as they strolled out. They walked along the side of the palace, “I am leaving for tomorrow for America.”

Nerves fluttered in Louis’ gut, and the strong, determined line of Dave’s jaw left his mouth dry, “No, no, please don’t do this.” The news dumbfounded Louis so gravely that he faltered, Dave held him and pulled him into step again.

“No, Lou, don’t be upset. This has been always in my plans, to venture to America to seek other opponents for boxing.”

“Dave—” Louis slowed his steps, now openly sobbing.

“Shush—please don’t weep, my Lord. It is only for a year.”

A year. Louis’ heart ached at the thought. A year is such a long time to be apart.

 

More than anything, Dave Allen wanted to hug him and tell Louis that everything was going to be all right, and he didn’t have to go if the Omega didn’t want him to, but when all was said and done, he has too, for his sake, for Louis sake, and for their friendship’s sake.

Only time could heal a broken heart.

 

The lump in Omega’s throat made it hard to breathe, “Is it because of me—”

Dave could not take his eyes from his friend’s tearful face. Nor could Louis take his eyes from him, eyes gone wide with dread, tears falling freely.

The pain he read in Louis’ gaze tore at his soul, and Dave wanted nothing more than to reach out, encase him in his arms and assure him all was well. But it has to be done. He can’t lie to himself any longer. “It has been laid out for months, no. I confessed my feelings because I don’t want to have regrets when I leave. My plan does not change whatever outcomes this talk would produce.”

“Dave—”

 

A warning bell sounded in his mind as the Omega whined his name. He wanted him, damn bloody hell he wanted to kiss Louis so desperately, but he could never, ever so much as touch him. Because to do so would be to shatter their fragile friendship and he was certain he could not live with himself if he did that.

“You are so beautiful, Louis. I just hoped I had learned my feelings for you before Cheshire swoops in.”

“He does not—”

Louis could see Dave’s lips trembled, his face took on that expression one makes when one is trying to appear brave and actually thinks one might be succeeding, “I want to lie to you so that I could keep you to myself but—I hope this would end up in all in your favor.”

“Please, don’t—”

Dave stepped back, his face trying to be calm and strong, but his eyes, they were pools of hurt and Louis knows he was the one who put that pain there, “I promise I will return. I cannot be away from you even if I want to. You’re one of my best friends.”

“Dave—”

“Goodbye, sweet Omega. I will see you again.” The young Earl bent over the Omega’s hand and kissed it. Straightening his back, he turned around and never gave a backward glance at the crying Omega.

 

Louis plastered his hand over his mouth for fear that other people might hear him crying out in the open. He does not know how long he was standing in the middle of the garden under the light of the moon. He was so lost in himself that he failed to realize someone approached him from behind.

“What happened?” Louis swung around and came face to face with a very concerned Duke.

Louis was frozen for a moment upon realizing that Harry has seen him in his most vulnerable state, his mouth agape with no sound, before he jumped up instinctively, throwing his arms about him and hugging him tightly, crying openly, “He’s leaving. He’s leaving because of me.”

“Omega—" Harry pulled away from the smaller man’s grasp to face him properly. He put a hand on Louis’ arm and rubbed affectionately, “Lou, please tell me what happened?”

“I’m the worst kind of friend,” Louis hiccupped the words.

Harry stroked his hand on the Omega’s forearm and came down to the older man’s hand and curled his fingers around it. “No, you’re not, do not say that.” He then brought the smaller man's hand to his own and cupped it between both his hands, “Please do not say such a thing.”

“But he’s leaving because of me—" Louis looked at their joined hands, but even that could not quench the sadness inside his heart.

“There’s must be a reason that may not involve you—” Harry tried to reason out as he traced little circles on the back of the Omega’s hand with his thumb.

“I’m the worst—” Harry lifted Louis’ hand to his lips and kissed his palm before the Omega could continue his self-hatred. He smiled softly as he heard a soft catch of the other man's breath and the sniffling stopped.

 

At least now Louis is no longer crying, it is a win for him, Harry thought to himself.

 

The Duke shook his head, and he felt the tiniest of smiles tugging at his lips as he then touched the Omega’s cheek wiping the wet trail of tears. “You’re the most caring person I know. Please, I might not know the whole story but bear in mind that I do not think you have done anything wrong.”

 

Harry cupped Louis’ face, and as if in a trance the Omega watched as the Duke closed the distance between them. Their eyes met and held. A shiver of expectation ran through Louis as the Duke leaned towards him. His Grace’s gaze dropped to his mouth, and the most delicious shudder rolled about in Louis’ belly.

The Duke angled and leaned down his head and gave him a chaste kiss on the lips. Unable to deny himself, he gave himself up to the Duke of Cheshire as their mouths blended and melded together.

Louis tries to steady his heart as Harry took control of the kiss and turned it from a chaste peck to something so much more. A kiss that was molten, full of need and ownership. Louis gasped when Harry’s tongue slid against his, an odd but enjoyable sensation that pooled heat at his core.

 

Harry drew back a bit, his eyes lust-hazed as he regarded Louis through his lashes, “You’re the best Omega I know. The kindest,” he said, his lips feathering kisses down Louis’ throat, “the most beautiful,” the Omega clasped onto Harry’s shoulder for support, a gasp escaped his lips as Harry tongue ran against his neck up to his ear and whispered, “most precious.”

 

Louis felt weightless, and it was like the time he’d fallen from a tree, except there was nothing below, just an empty expanse of space. Falling kept falling. Something light and luminous began to rise within him. A feeling of content. This time he really is going down. Going deep into subspace.

 

Unbeknownst to the couple, a pair of widened curious eyes were watching their every move.

 

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text



Chapter 15



 

 

Brendan squirmed at the intensity of the glower directed at him, “He’s staring this way again.”

“Eh? Isn’t that a good thing?” Louis smiled at him, a wide, radiant grin that somewhat annoyed Brendan. They were still rivals, as far as he was concerned, but the older Omega has someone mellowed towards him.

“Not if I’m the subject of a glare, no it isn’t.”

Louis glanced across the room at Harry who’s beaming at him, he smiled back then turned his attention back to the younger Omega, “He’s smiling actually or at least that’s how he usually smiles.” Louis tries to replicate the Duke’s smile, scrunching up his face, deliberately making his nostrils flare larger than it ought to be. Brendan almost laughed at how uncanny the older Omega was imitating the Duke’s fond-face he usually reserves for Lord Louis.

Brendan glanced back at the Duke who replaced his smile with another scowl, “Definitely glaring.”

“Don’t be absurd. Come along now, let’s play a game instead.”

 

"Come on!" Niall exclaimed excitedly, "How about a game of blind man's buff?"

Everyone nodded enthusiastically except for the young Duke who gave a hesitant, "Alright, but—" after carefully considering the matter. There were three Alphas, two male Omegas, and one Beta, surely a game with a possible touching is bordering to inappropriate in the tons’ eyes. The devilish gleam in Horan’s eyes is not helping in his concern.

"Fine," Harry said, trying to keep the wariness out of his voice once he glanced at Louis’ disappointed pout. “Blind man’s buff it is. But you, Horan, shall be It.”

 

Niall opened his mouth to protest, but at that moment, the other participants started yelling ‘hurray’ and started looking for a scarf in earnest.  Niall knew that protesting was useless and let out a long-suffering sigh of exasperation. He then turned around so that Liam could fasten a scarf over his eyes and carefully spun by his friend around several times. He could hear Liam running away after followed by sounds loud scrambling of feet.

 

He took baby steps forward and reach out to something that he could hold on to when someone prods on his right side. He tried to reach that side, but he was too slow to catch the perpetrator. Someone tapped Niall on the shoulder, and he swung around too quickly and almost fell over. A couple more prodding followed, some of which are harder than the others, but he failed to catch anyone.

He again tries to grope around attempting to touch the other players with no avail until someone shoved him from the back. He almost got the culprit until he trips on his own feet, landing him on his knees.

He felt someone rush towards him attempting to help and he seizes that moment and grabbed onto the person looming over him. “Got you!”

 

The person he caught stood very still, he grabbed his captive’s arm for support in standing up. Niall then proceeds to grab the person’s hand and examine it by touch.

“No rings? It is not Hazza.” Niall debated on touching the person’s face or chest first but smirked when an idea hit him, “Can I touch your derriere?”

A menacing growled came from behind Niall and a sudden shiver of fear run down his spine for a moment, “Ah, Louis then!”

“What?! Wait! That’s cheating!”

“Nope. Blame it on Hazza.” Niall answer in a singsong tone as he took off the blindfold off his eyes. His eyes twinkling in merriment at the Omega he suspects is the one who has shoved him and prodded hard. Everyone, except the prankster Omega, was merely just tapping and lightly poking at him. This is will be retribution on his part.   

 

“If you want, I could take your place instead, Omega. I am in the wrong.” Harry solemnly approached the Omega and Niall as he took the scarf from Horan’s hand.

“This is just a game, no. I—"

“Oi! Quite flirting and let’s start this game.” Niall shouted earning a blush from the Omega whose eyes keep glancing around, avoiding the Duke’s face.

 

“Can you put it on me?” Louis asked breathlessly, breath halting altogether as the Duke raised his hands and placed them on either side of his head.  Harry stood so close beside him. So blindly attractive. He needed to close his eyes.

 

Harry watched as Louis closed his lids as soon as he lifted the scarf over the Omega’s eyes, the Omega’s lips slightly parted.

The Omega’s skin felt soft and smooth upon touching as his hand brushed against Louis’ temple. His hair feels silky beneath his touch as tucked in some strands of hair over the Omega’s ear before tying the scarf around, careful enough that it is not too tight to hurt the Omega, “It is tight enough?”

“Yes,” Louis nervously moistened his lips.

“I will spin you now, okay?” Louis nods in agreement.

 

With the blindfold secure, the Duke carefully spun Louis around a few times. Louis could feel the gentle caress on his arm before he was let go. It took a moment for the Omega to keep his balance and then gropes around with stretched arms in front. Someone touched his arm and then darted out of the way before he could catch it.

A fog of confusion filled Louis’ head as a sudden invisible pull took hold of him. He made several unsteady steps towards the left, ignoring the several pokes and nudge on his shoulder. He feels a powerful tug towards his chosen direction as he stretches his arms further expecting to touch something, someone.

He was not disappointed when his hand felt a hard surface—a hard chest once he roamed his hands on it. A vice-like grip suddenly wrapped on his upper arms to steady him as he continues to wander his hands.

Vanilla and cigarette.

Louis blushed as the hands started caressing his arms, “Hazza—”

“Yes, it is I.” Harry’s warm breath breezed over Louis' neck, and a deep chuckle burst from the Duke’s lips.

 

Louis did not dare get rid of the scarf immediately for dread of swooning under the scrutiny of those mesmerizing green eyes of the Duke. He tried to step away from the Duke’s hold but a hand at this waist suddenly kept him in place.

"Hazza?" Louis whispered as he fumbles with the knot at the back of his head. Harry only cleared his throat in response—an awkward sort of sound but did not let go of Louis' waist.

 

All the players had gone silent, staring at the pair with open mouths and widened shocked eyes.

“Bloody hell! Can we move on? What the devil is the matter with you two?”

"Shut up Horan," Harry bit off as he reluctantly released his hold on Louis’ waist and proceed to work on the knot of the scarf around the Omega’s head.

Niall walked over to the duo and snatched the offending cloth before Louis could tie it around Harry, earning a low growl from the younger Alpha.

Louis walks away a couple of feet as Niall tied the knot tightly and spun the Duke around several times before bolting away.

 

Once Harry regains his balance, he walked towards a straight line, slowly, but his footsteps determined as if he could see his way. There was no doubt in his mind where to go, his sense of sight might be gone but his Alpha’s senses are heightened.

 

Louis was frozen on his spot as the Alpha stalked towards him. His heart flew to his throat at the sight of the Duke warm smile directed at him. He wonders if the young Duke is cheating. His eyes narrowed with that thought.

 

Harry took another assured step towards Louis and reached out and took Louis’ hand between both his, “Caught you, Omega?”

"You did," the Omega said, voice wavering a bit, “Are you cheating?”

He smiled disarmingly and shook his head, not even bothering to take off his blindfold. Contentedly rubbing circles on the back of Louis’ hand with his thumb.

Harry’s smile, Louis noted begrudgingly, had been charm personified and it grew more heated with every hitch of breath Louis takes. “I’m never going to forgive you if you cheated.” Louis wanted to say more, just to fill up space, so that he could forget the intoxicating presence of Harry.

The Duke’s smile was bewitching and to Louis’ complete mortification he felt himself blush, “I would never, Omega.”

 

“Good God!” Niall cried out, “This game is rubbish. I forfeit.” He glanced at the pair with narrowed eyes, “You two are insufferable, just so you know.”

Everybody nods in agreement.

 



 

 

“Do you think Liam is courting Mr. Malik?” Harry asked as he stealthy watches the pair who are animatedly discussing something across his lawn.

Louis curiously glanced at the two, “I don’t know, do you?” he asked, as he sat back in his lawn chair and sipped a cup of lemonade to refresh himself.

Harry shook his head and shrugged.

“I have no idea actually, but they do stick together quite a lot these days I reckon,” Louis continued, whispering under his breath even though there wasn't a soul nearby who might hear, “I even missed my best mate ever since they have this routine museum hunting every other day.”

 

The young Duke tried to stifle a laugh, but a little snort made it through as he glances at the older Omega’s pouting face, “Are you bored?”

“No—yes, I had finished reading all of Dave’s letter last week. He should have given more before he took off, that rakehell.” Louis pulled a face, but fondness could be heard seeping from his words.

“Thought he specified that you should read his letter one at a time to last you until he could reach America and send some more?” Harry commented slowly. Hating himself that he was mildly irritated that the Earl of Bradford’s presence is still lingering.

“Pfft. As if I would do that.” Louis snorted, “He knows I can’t handle the suspense, I bet that he has instructed his butler to send some more letters to me after this coming week.”

Harry looked over at Louis, staring into his blue eyes for just a moment before gazing down to a patch of grass beside him, “He sure is a good friend.”

Louis swallowed the lump on his throat, “Yeah,” he could feel his eyes slightly burning, tears threatening to form. But he tried to remain calm, at least in front of the Duke of Cheshire.

“Do you still feel sad?” Harry raked his hand through his hair as he stole another glance at his companion. He is feeling guilty that he might be the reason why the Earl took off but at the same time elated that he is gone from the Omega’s side. This is quite a predicament on his part.

Louis let out a nervous laugh, his eyes glistening with unshed tears, “Sometimes, it’s been a fortnight now. I missed him terribly.”

If only—

Harry started to say something again, then stopped, then looked at the Omega rather directly and said, “I might not replace him, but I want you to know I am here,” he continued, his eyes clear with earnest, “I will not leave you alone.”

Louis faced the Duke with questioning eyes, “Yeah?”

Harry nods solemnly.

“I deeply appreciate that, Alpha.”

 



 

“My boy, you have come up early. Have you come into a decision?” Lord Mark Tomlinson said, sitting behind his desk as he gestured the young Duke onto a vacant sofa.

“Yes.”

“I see.” A very brief melancholy painted the old Tomlinson’s face but was soon replaced by his famous warm smile, “No matter, what you have decided I know it will be for the best of you and Charlotte.”

Harry visibly startled, his entire body jerking slightly as he stammered, "What... I... I beg your pardon?’ Harry then schooled his face to hardened and his voice to sound even and controlled, trying to mask the sudden confusion on his handsome face after the initial shock, “What does Lady Charlotte have to do with this?”

“Because she will be your betrothal if you adhere with the promise.” Lord Mark Tomlinson raises a brow, “Is there anything wrong?”

“No—well, yes.” Harry looked at the older man with patent disbelief. This time no longer pretending he was at lost in their current situation, “I thought I was offering for Louis.”

 

“Oh, no. No.” The old man shook his head furiously, “I have no intention of doing that to you, your Grace,” he said, focusing firmly on the young Duke’s confused face, “I won’t do that to you. I know that marriages amongst the ton are rarely made for love, but you are still young and at the peak of your bachelorhood.”

Harry remained silent. Too shocked in the misunderstanding that he is still trying to process it all.

Mark's lips pinched slightly at the corners, as if he were frowning despite himself, “Unfortunately, my beautiful son being an Omega, even though he is just a few years ahead of you, is a spinster in the tons’ eyes,” he gave a defeated sigh, “I cannot shackle you with that. That was never in my mind.”

 

“With Lottie, you can have a long engagement, you can enjoy your youth before getting married.”

“But what will happen to Louis?” Harry slumped forward, smacking his hands against his knees in slight irritation to their predicament.

“Ah do not fret, Your Grace. It is just a matter of time until the ton will lose their prying interest with my beloved son. He’d be free of those rigid constraints the ton unfairly put on him.  That child had endured so much that I only wish for his happiness,” Mark send the duke a small smile, “Besides, I know that Zayn will take care of him.”

He had never seen a bond of friendship quite so deep as that between his son and Zayn. He knows his beloved son is in good hands if the time comes that he cannot protect his child from the harsh British society.

Truly his precious child is secure for the coming years because of the Malik family.

 

Harry was quiet for a long moment, then he asked, “What do you mean?”

“Oh, they have promised each other to wed once they reached their thirtieth. My son may lose the title, but I know he is in good hands.” The old Earl of Doncaster replied, pride brimming within him.

Harry eyes narrowed, “No.” He jumped to his feet, too restless to remain still, and began to pace.

“Excuse me?” the Earl asked, staring at the Duke in disbelief.

Harry stopped, turned to face the old Tomlinson, “I mean—” Harry replied, crossing his arms over his chest to prevent from shaking, “I won’t marry Lady Charlotte, no. I’m sorry, Sir.” he said, the even tone of his voice suggesting that he was trying very hard to keep his temper in check.

 

The old Earl hadn't been aware that the young man, sired by his good friend—the late Duke of Cheshire—possessed a temper. And it has confused him immensely that he is being the recipient of such mood, “I have told you, whatever your decision will not be held against you. Your father and I just wish you happiness and security. I just hope you would find your suitable mate.”

“Yes.” Harry bit off, hating the childish tinge in his voice but completely unable to edit it out, “I must depart now, my Lord. Good day to you.”

He hastily departed before the old Earl could answer, his sharp mask of control was beginning to crack.

Mark jaw went slack as he stared at the young man briskly walking out of this parlor, shock, and disbelief crowding in his eyes.

Interesting.

 



 

 

“Where have you been?”

“I have no desire for a chatter Niall. I have a long exhausting day, I need to gather my wits.” Harry replied, giving a rather irritated look at his friend, “So if you will excu—”

“But you need to—”

“Shut up Mullingar. Harry does not want to be bothered so let hi—”

“Beta, know your place—”

“For the love of god, enough!! I am tired, please will you let me be alone?”

Niall glared at his friend as he crossed his arms and, in a tone of voice that probably would have been more at home on an exceedingly stubborn toddler, he proclaimed, “Fine! Be that way, I hope you won’t regret this once Louis and Liam’s engagement is posted in newsprint.”

Harry turned to his friend with a seething glare and hissed, “What did you just say?” His hand closed over one of Niall’s upper arm with painful force.

Niall jerks his head at Nick’s direction, “Ask him.”

“I’m just trying to help,” Grimshaw said, his chin rising, his bearing was almost regal. He gave a pointed look at Lord Horan, “Your Omega friend would be ruined either way—”

“What the bloody hell are you talking about?” Harry’s voice became voice low and deadly.

“Psshh, that one rumor that is circulating the palace right now. Someone saw that Omega doing the unthinkable in an open garden. She did not see who the other man is, but she did not divulge this for fear that it was the prince himself who is with that Omega at that time,” His mouth twisted with distaste as he remembers all too clearly the way Lord Louis dressed during the ball and how besotted Harry and the prince was, “But on investigation, there are witnesses that could attest that it was not the prince because he was mingling with the other guests. It would probably hit the news this week once they have secured that it will not drag the prince’s name. I just nudge Liam to save your Omega friend from ruin.”

 

“Where is he?” Harry's voice was urgent, his eyes blazing that Niall was frozen on the spot and could only mutter ‘Hyde Park’. Nick’s mouth curled disdainfully as Harry took a step back and out of the drawing room.

Several choice curses were grumbled under Harry’s breath, all of them self-directed as he hurriedly rushed out of his abode towards his carriage—that he thanks God for— still waiting outside his house. He didn't know what he was doing. This wasn't him. An insane fury engulfed him. It was pure fury, an outrage, and horrible, dark feeling that he'd been betrayed by the someone dear to him. He swears to god his eyes bled with images of his dear old friend dying in his own bloody hands.

 

What is this fire burning in his soul? Is it—?

Jealousy?

 

Nick tried to keep up with his friend’s hurried steps. The Duke looked completely unlike himself. The easy smile that always plastered on his friend’s face, the good humor residing in Harry’s eyes—all gone, vanished, swapped by a cold, dangerous aura, “Harry!!!”

 

He didn't know who this man was anymore. The man he knew, the man he adores—everything changed. All because of this wrecked Omega.

He’ll pay for it! By god, that whore will pay for ruining his Harry.

 

 

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text



Chapter 16



 

 

“I think he really likes you,” Eleanor who’d been drafted as his companion—who remain behind in town when Lottie was again summoned to go back to the house—became one of his confidants about his worries about the Duke, “He looks at you like he can’t breathe, like the way Mr. Malik looks at Lord Payne.”

“You are reading to much, my dear Eleanor,” Louis snorted at his maid friend, “Surely you been reading to many romantic novels to corrupt your mind. Though I am glad that you’ve learned to read fast now.”

“Yes, and I thank you my Lord and your sister for that. You have saved me from my desolate life, and I am forever grateful that your father decided to take me to serve you and Lady Charlotte.”

“She’ll reprimand you again when she hears you call her Lady,” Louis tilting his head slightly to the side to look at his companion, “and I have told you to call me Louis or Lou, if I do remember. We are friends after all.”

“Yes, my Lor—I mean Lou,” Eleanor smiled at the young Lord at her side, “and that is why I am telling you to open your eyes and see how much the Duke likes you, loves you even. I rather think he had loved you since we were young—”

“Heavens!” Louis exclaimed as he steers the maid towards the exit of the park where their carriage awaits, “you are out of your mind.”

“Am I? Am I the only one who has told you that the Duke likes you?”

“Well—”

“I am going to be crude, but as you say we are friends. He looks at you like he wants to bond you. He looks at your derriere likes he—” Louis’ eyes widened when Eleanor stopped and blushed, clearly getting what his maid just implied.

“He likes you,” Eleanor said quickly, albeit still blushing, “I hope you’ll realize that.”

“I don’t—”

“Louis.”

 

Startled by the call, Louis glanced over his shoulder and saw his friend standing behind them a couple of feet away. He looks like he was in a hurry to get to them. Something is amiss, Louis could see that in his friend’s face.

“Li? What’s wrong?” He motioned Eleanor to tell the driver to wait for them for some more minutes, “Where is Zayn?”

“I—well he is at home. I mean, his home—” Liam stuttered, clearly was caught off guard with the question, “Can I talk to you?” He glanced over Louis’ shoulder towards the maid Beta, “In private?”

“Sure,” Louis nodded. He instructed Eleonor to take the carriage home since it was getting dark and he doesn’t want the female Beta to walk home on foot. Eleanor reluctantly obeyed.

 

After ten minutes or so, the two of them finally came to the edge of the park, Liam paused, leaning forward and took Louis’ hand, which he enfolded securely inside his own. “I’ve always thought you as a friend, even when we were young. Always admire your character, your strength, your independence.”

Louis could only stare for a moment at his friend.

“This may seem very unexpected,” Liam continued, “but I assure you I have thought this through, and I think it is the right time for me to finally ask this.” As Liam move closer, he began to rub his thumb on the back of Louis’ hand.

“Li—what are you doing?” Louis began, words sounding strangled.

“Louis William Tomlinson,” Liam said, “Will you do me the honor of consenting to be my bonded Omega?”

“What?” Louis blinked once, twice, thrice, “But you don’t love me.”

“I do.”

“You don’t, not me. You love Zayn.”

Liam's eyes widened and for a long moment, he could barely think as he tried to digest what the Omega had just said, wondering if he was truly serious with his statement.

Why would he even say that?

Over the past weeks, his emotions had been jumbled and unsure whenever he is with the very pretty Beta. Liam wanted to say, “yes he loves Louis,” but something is holding him back. A tiny frown furrowed his brows as he shook his head. He shouldn’t be this indecisive, he had been holding a soft spot for the Omega for years. Surely, with that years his fascination for the Omega would have developed to something akin to love, right?

Right?

So why does his heartthrob whenever he thinks of a certain Beta’s sad face?

 

Louis scowled at Liam’s dumbfounded face.

Undoubtedly, Lord Payne possessed all the traits every Omega admired in an Alpha: intelligence, loyalty, and kindness. He would be a bloody fool not to accept such a proposal from a very powerful man of the ton. But he knows Liam is making a big mistake. He does not love him, his infatuation for him was long been gone. He’s deluding himself thinking he is in love with Louis when all their friends know that he has fallen for their quiet but pretty Beta friend.

 

“I’m just trying to do what’s right,” Liam said finally after careful consideration, he looked pained as if he did not want this but is being forced to. It was such an uncharacteristic expression for the young Earl that Louis was taken aback.

He doesn’t want to see that expression on his friend’s eyes. Hate to see the look of Zayn’s if he hears Liam proposing to him.

He needs to make this right. He does not love Liam. Liam does not love him like he tries to convince himself he does. This feels like an arranged marriage between their two families rather than a love match.

A marriage of convenience.

Louis knows Zayn loves Liam and would probably step back to see the Earl’s happiness fulfilled. Louis does not want that. He knows the only option for a happy ending is Zayn and Liam, together.

He needs to make this right for both his stupid, dense friends. Oh, they’ll have to thank him for this.

He needs to make this right.

 

He instinctively brought his hand up to touch Liam’s face. The young Earl’ eyes went wide but didn’t pull away. Louis felt his own heart speed up, hating the plan that is running inside his mind. But he needs to do this. He needs Liam to realize where they stood.

Where the Earl’s heart really stood.

They were alone in a corner of Hyde park behind large bushes and trees, invisible to any passersby, but Louis glanced hastily over his shoulder anyway before he did the unthinkable.

He kissed his friend on the lips, merely brushing their lips together. A sudden feeling of dread run down his spine. And even though only their lips touched, Louis felt dirty like a whore.

 

They stood that way for a full minute, both catching their breath until Louis finally let his arms drop, and they each took a step back. Liam lifted a hand to his mouth, a feeling of disgust settling inside him. His Alpha is raging.

Betrayal.

Infidelity.

He wanted to throw up.

But why?

Why?

 

Louis fidgeted, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he waits for Liam’s realization, “Do you see now?” He took a tentative step toward his friend who visibly flinched from his closeness “Surely, you felt it or the lack of it?”

Liam’s eyes widened, “I—I don’t understand,” he lied, even though he knows exactly what the Omega had been saying. He knows exactly what the kiss meant or how his Alpha is affected by it.

 

“You don’t feel anything for me,” Louis said, capturing Liam’s attention, “You felt it right? There’s no spark. You just convinced yourself that you like me, but you don’t.”

Liam nodded, his mouth firmed at the realization, still processing the information slowly, his brain tries to shove the idea away, but in his heart, he knows the whole truth.

It was a hard pill to swallow.

Was he lying to himself all those years, as Niall implied a while ago? Is he really just using Louis to hide the fact that he likes a male Beta? A Beta that has no place in their strict society? A society that would strip him of his Earldom if he bonded with a common Beta—even a pretty one.

He wanted to say no. His heart wanted to say yes, his Alpha is clearly roaring with a yes.

Bloody hell is he a terrible, terrible man.

 

“Lou, I—” Liam eyes suddenly widened as he felt someone grabbed him from behind and his feet lifted from the ground as he flew to a nearby bush.

“You bloody rascal!!”

 

 



 

 

Harry wanted to punch somebody, he was furious, and he didn’t even have the satisfaction of knowing who he was furious with more, himself or Liam. Or if he was angry at life and wasn’t that a stupid thing. He wondered if it was true and there were nine circles of hell, because if it so, then he must be at the center because he was swearing now like a God damn sailor, even if only inside his head when he saw Liam kissed Louis. If really had descended into hell, he is going to drag his friend—no, a former friend with him to hell as he rushed towards the two.

 

Unable to restrain his anger, Harry smashed his fist into the other man’s jaw. The young Earl cried out as he stumbled back, whimpering in pain.

“You bloody cad! Stand up and fight me!” Harry bit out in a voice that sounded deadly cold even to his own ears, his eyes trained at the shocked expression of the traitor he calls as his friend, “Stand up, you blackguard!” he pounded one balled up fist into his other hand. His Alpha is raging to let out. Liam, too surprised by his friend’s rage, just touched his sore jaw infuriating the young Duke more as he proceeds to attack the slump Earl on the ground.

Blood had buzzed like angry bees inside Harry’s head, a lump of bile rising in a sickening wave within his gut as the images of Liam kissing Louis repeated in a loop inside his brain, “I’m going to kill you!”

 

Louis’ breath caught in his throat, all thought suspended, as he stared at the young Duke who came out of nowhere drag his friend by the throat and threw him to a nearby bush then proceed to tackle him once more when Liam refuses to fight back. He was awakened from his stupor when a hard punch connected to Liam’s gut, on which he countered with a hit to the Duke’s cheek. Harry’s head snapped back as he absorbed the punishing blow. Liam own fists instinctively came up as he shifted stealthily out of the way and readied himself for Harry’s counter.

 

Louis runs towards the two and tries to pry both from the other. Louis laid a restraining hand on Harry’s arm. “Stop it, Harry!” Anger burned within him on Liam’s behalf as Harry continuous to put a hit on the Earl.

Harry gave a low grunt of frustration but ceased his struggles as he hears a whimper from the small Omega. Louis’ inner Omega must be reacting from this all and it seems frightened by it.

“Enough, please, Hazza.”

Harry glanced over his shoulder as the older Omega squeezed his arm tightly, “He almost compromised you,” he retorted, his voice a few degrees colder than ice, “he needs a good back beating”.

Liam’s skin paled, his gaze shooting at Louis as the situation dawned on him, “Louis, this is not my intention. I don’t want your ruin—I, I am saving you from—”

“Enough!” Harry ordered in a hard, modulated voice, not waiting for his friend to continue his apologies. He tried to inhale slowly to disperse his anger, his Alpha is reacting to Louis’ Omega who is whimpering in fear. All he wanted to do now is take hold of the Omega, “Leave now, Li. Leave now before my Alpha kills you,” he intoned after a long pause, his jaw tight, eyes snapping fire as he tries to pacify his inner Alpha.

Liam wanted to retort that leaving the two of them is the same situation—Louis’ reputation being compromised—that Harry was adamant about. But seeing his friend’s blazing eyes he could only submit, “Yes, Alp—Harry.”

Liam stood up, tries to take a glimpse at the smaller Omega who was being shielded by his friend from his view. He gave a curt nod, released a sigh of resignation, then whirled on his heels and fled away from the couple.

 

Trembling, Louis let Harry draw him close, inhaling the Duke’s scent to calm his whimpering inner Omega. Dusting a kiss over Louis’ cheek, Harry stroked a palm in soothing arcs across Louis’ back. They remained silent as Harry scent him to calm his Omega.

Louis feels conflicted on what had happened. His brain tells him to lash out at the Duke for what he has done but at the same time, his Omega is preening from the attention the Alpha is bestowing him.

The Duke was far too controlled in Louis’ honest opinion but when he was angry, truly angry like he is now, there came a fire in Harry’s eyes which spoke of a wilder and more passionate nature beneath that controlled demeanor that the polite society dictates. His Omega is happy and content from the Alpha’s clear territorial tendencies. So he has conflicting feelings about this.

He is rebellious, outspoken, and obviously had a tendency towards sassing another Alpha who like so much as looks down on him, but this, this Alpha, his Omega feels ready to submit. And he doesn’t know how to feel about it.

 

Harry turned to the small Omega, “I think,” he murmured, slipping his arm through Louis’, “that we ought to consider moving out of sight.” And before Louis could answer he proceeds to guide the Omega out of the park.

Harry’s steps were long and purposeful, and Louis almost stumbled to keep up with the Duke until he found his stride. “Where are we going?” the Omega asked, hurrying along.

“My home,” he pointed out, not breaking his pace, even for a second.

Hurrying home so that he could take the older man out of anybody’s sight.

 

 



 

 

Everything was a whirlwind; he didn’t even realize that they had arrived at the Duke’s abode. Greetings were given and he had a vague recollection of smiling and nodding in greeting at Harry’s Butler as the Duke dragged him upstairs to the Duke’s own bedchamber.

He was only awakened from his stupor when Harry closed the door and locked it, then proceed to crowd him. He took a sniff at the air around them and could distinctively smell vanilla with a hint of tobacco. His Omega felt, surprisingly, comfortable with the smell.

 

Harry reached out a tentative hand to place it beneath Louis’ chin and lift the Omega’s face. Louis’ pupils were completely blown, leaving only a thin circle of sky blue, Harry noted. The anger Harry was feeling a while ago had fled and been replaced with want. Instinctively, he touched Louis’ cheek, feeling the rasp of tiny stubble against his fingertips, and heard a groan coming from the Omega.

Harry threaded his fingers through Louis’ hair unconsciously, bringing his hand to cup the back of the Omega’ head.  Harry leaned forward, let his lips brush against Louis’. He felt a contented sigh come out from the smaller man’s mouth and then the Omega’s body was against his own, and Harry felt something like the feeling of relief as he drapes his arms around the male Omega.

Harry turned the embrace into something more, tilting his head so his lips pressed into Louis’ neck. He held Louis’ chin with his hand so he could see the man’s face and get some idea of what he was thinking.

And then, before Louis had a chance to ask a question, Harry’s mouth swooped down and captured his in a searing kiss. The Duke’s lips were demanding, and a fire glowed within Louis.

Louis gasped as Harry arms wound around to his back and pressed him harshly against his arousal. Louis sagged against Harry’s body as if it were a relief to be close.

 

“We are safe here,” As Harry spoke, he threaded his fingers through Louis’ hair, pushing it off his face and then brushing a too-gentle kiss to Omega’s soft lips. When Louis felt Harry’s tongue touch his lips, he parted his to allow the Duke’ entry, his own tongue shyly flicking out to taste the corner of Harry’s mouth. At the first stroke of Harry’s tongue on his own, Louis felt desire unfurl in his gut, something fierce and hot.

“You shouldn’t do this to me,” Harry whispered against the Omega’s lips. “—this is absolutely wrong. But my God—"

“Please, Alpha.”

“Do you feel it?” Harry fervently asked, voice ragged as his lips move across Louis’ cheek to the underside of his jaw, then run feathery kisses along the smaller man’s throat, “Do you even understand what you do to me?” He then nibbled the tender skin of below Louis’ jaw earning a loud gasped from the Omega.

Louis lifted his chin to give Harry more room to work as the Duke’s trailed lower. He tried to shove his own cravat out of the way but found his hands weren’t steady.

“Take it off,” Harry pleaded, his voice gravelly and desperate as Louis unknot his cravat and shoved it all away, exposing his delicious collar bone for his eyes to feast.

 

Their lips met with more urgency than finesse as he steered Louis backward, so the backs of the smaller man’ legs hit the edge of the bed. They landed on the bed in a tangle of limbs, Louis’ Omega welcomes the heaviness on top of him with a purr.

Louis groaned in pleasure at the weight of the taller man on top of him. The Duke was as hard as an iron rod and Louis feels the friction of Harry’s hardness whenever he tilted his hips up. He buried his face in Harry’s neck and ground his hips against him, chasing the pleasure with each friction, nearly mewled in pleasure.

Harry then began tugging Louis’ shirt off and he was damned grateful for the lamp that sat on his desk because Louis is a vision, half-naked and on his bed.

Harry skimmed a hand over the Omega’s nipple and saw the shudder pass through Louis’ body. Harry closed his mouth over the other man’s nipple and Louis bucked beneath him. He licked lower, feeling hard muscles and coarse hair beneath his lips, he dragged his lips lower at the level of the waistband of Louis’ breeches, where the Omega is straining against the silk fabric.

He pressed his face against the hardness and heard Louis groan and the Omega’s hands slid down, opening his own breeches. He watched at the dainty fingers fumbling on the buttons one by one until the Omega’s cock was released from its confinement. Harry’s fingers immediately close around the silky hardness of Louis’ already wet cock, earning an inarticulate sound of pleasure and need as he glides his hand along the other man’s erection.

“Can I suck you?” Harry whispered he had never said those words, never thought he would, ever, “Will you let me, Omega?”

“Please,” Louis breathed, thrusting helplessly into Harry’s fist.

 

Harry hurriedly got to his knees and tugged on the Omega’s breeches off to give him better access. For a moment he sat on his heels and admired Louis’ body. God, he was lovely. Louis was golden and seemed to glow under the glow of the candlelight. Harry could have worshiped at his feet.

Would kiss those dainty ankles of his.

 

The Omega watched in fascination as Harry knelt between his spread legs, he took a shaky breath and bent his knees up to accommodate the Duke more to his presence. Louis swore under his breath and fisted his hands in the sheets when Harry took hold of his cock once more, bracing himself with an onslaught of pleasure.

“God, you’re so beautiful,” Harry said, as he wraps his fingers around Louis’ cock and forming a channel with his fist. It took Louis a moment to figure out what he was meant to do, then he started thrusting into the Duke’s fist, pumping his hips slowly, feeling every drag of Harry’s hand, “Do you know how many nights I have dreamed of you ever since we’ve kissed at the palace. Hoping to have gone further than that?”

“Please, more. Please, Alpha.”

Harry could have watched him like this all day, all night— lips parted, hand gripping the bedsheet as if it were keeping him afloat from turbulent waters, hips rocking ever so slightly into Harry’s fist. Harry touch him in a way he had never been touched before, made his cock pulse. It was thrilling and terrifying all at once, Louis wondered if he is doing the right thing or not.

 

Harry leaned closer, bringing it to his lips before licking the head with the flat of his tongue. The smaller man’ hips bucked towards him.

Louis had to stuff his fist halfway into his mouth to muffle any noises he might make, noise that would arouse suspicion by maids’ downstairs. He bit down hard as Harry swiped his tongue across the underside of his cock.

Harry was working the Omega’s cock with his hand and his mouth, his eyes half-closed, purring with pleasure. His brow furrowed in concentration as he took Louis’ cock deeper, almost choking from the intrusion.

Louis shallowly thrust his hips up, chasing the pleasure of Harry’s cavern, his hand slid down and grasped some of Harry’s hair to anchor himself from the pleasure. Harry moaned around his cock, and that was what final straw that broke the camel’s back. Spasms of lust hurtled through his body. He reached up to grab the bed frame, steadying himself and he came undone with a flick of Harry’s pink tongue on the sensitive head of his cock, spilling his come all over Harry’s mouth.

Harry tentatively traced a finger lower as he played his tongue along the underside of Louis’ shaft, he traces his finger much lower as Louis calms down from his high, skimming along the crease of Louis’ buttocks, collecting the slick that started pooling out and taking it to his lips for a taste.

Holy heavens above.

The Omega tastes the sweetest nectar he had ever tasted. Possibly, anybody ever tasted.

Another rage blossomed from his chest as he recalled that Liam almost got to Louis first. He hated that notion. Wanted to quash that thought.

Louis is here. With him. Not Liam. With him.

His Alpha felt smug with that thought.

 

Harry pulled away from the omega as he straightened his back to pull his own shirt off in one swift movement.  Louis watched with interest as the Duke began to unfasten his breeches, sliding them down around his lean hips and exposing his already hard cock.

“I’m still hard,” Harry mumbled, as he palmed his erection and cast a deliberate, hungry glance at the Omega’ naked body, now glistening with sweat and cum.

Louis’ Omega instantly purrs in happiness as he glanced down at the Duke’s endowment. He instinctively reached out and touch the growing knot.

Harry scoot over closer, his cock at the level of Louis’ face. The Omega looked up at him, eyes blown with want, the Duke nods his answer to the nonverbalized question, his hand reached down and tread through Louis’ hair as he guides the Omega to where he wants him.

Louis gave an experimental suck on the head of Harry’s cock before taking him deeper. Hallowing his cheeks as he tries to take on at least half the length of Harry’s cock. He tries not to choke at the large girth of the Duke.

 

Louis’ fringe shaded his face, Harry brushed those strands away with his free hand. “You’re so good,” Harry murmured, “Keep doing that.” He pushed a lock of hair off the Omega’ forehead, wanting to see his entire face, needing to watch for any signs of hesitation or distaste from the smaller man.

Harry didn’t know what had gotten into him. This wasn’t how things were done. He had gotten his cock sucked a few of times before by widowed ladies of the ton and some actresses, and his general posture was detached gratefulness. He had never wanted to seem too enthusiastic, lest the person on the other end of the transaction think that they have something akin to a relationship. But now, all he wanted right now was for the Omega to know how damned much he liked this, how much he needed it, how good and necessary this was.

 

“God, so good,” Harry groaned, “So bloody God damn good.”

Louis moans in response, which made Harry even harder. He opened his legs a little wider giving Louis more access.

The sensation of Harry’s hard and thick cock on his tongue and between his lips was enough to make Louis almost delirious with want. It took him a few minutes to work his way into anything like a rhythm, to learn how to make his hand and his mouth work in tandem.

Harry’s head fell back in pleasure, exposing the strong lines of his throat. Harry mumbled a warning, but Louis didn’t want to stop. He wanted to experience Harry’s pleasure as fully as he possibly could, so he swallowed and sucked until Harry pulled him away, dragging him in for a kiss.

 

They lay there, sweaty and sated until their hearts returned to normal and Louis started shivering. The Omega thought he should probably ought to leave now if he wants it to keep his name from ruin, but instead, the Duke pulled the covers over both of them and held him tight. “Tomorrow,” he said, almost apologetically, “I’ll go ask for your hand tomorrow,” Harry said.

“Would you really?” Louis asked.

“You make me want things I shouldn’t, Omega.”

“We will marry next month,” Harry stated. Louis could hear the Duke’s voice that it was firm and clear, but otherwise devoid of emotion—and that’s what worries him, “We will marry as soon as possible,” the Duke said simply, his voice that of the ideal aristocrat, tolerating no objection and expecting to be obeyed.

Louis, even though he was elated by the sudden twist of fate, felt a nagging feeling of something he can’t seem to name. He nods his head in agreement as Harry laid kisses on his hair.

“There is no choice but to wed.”

Louis’ brow furrows with that last sentence, the nagging feeling grows stronger.

What about love?

The Duke said nothing of such tender emotions. Louis’ heart clenched at the thought. Surely the Duke loves him enough to ask him for his hand, right? Surely that must mean he felt a degree of love for him, right?

Right?

 

 

Louis didn’t know how long they were lying on the bed, his head buried in Duke’s neck, his heartbeats finally returning to normal and their breathing becoming less ragged. His consciousness slipping away until sleep claims him.

The niggling feeling dissolved into nothingness as he was lulled into slumber.

 

Harry had been stroking his hand up and down the Omega’s back, as if soothing him, because something about the way Louis was almost clinging to him told him that the Omega needed whatever small comfort, he could give him. He kissed Louis’ forehead, he wanted to ask whether Louis was all right but hesitated.

Now that the adrenaline was wearing down, the same anger that had plagued Harry earlier this evening was seeping back into his consciousness. His mind played flashback of what happened earlier, and his mood turned sour.

They need to wed.

They have to.

It is his responsibility to save the Omega from ruin.

 

 

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text



 

 

 

 



 

“Why can’t you tell me what happened?” Niall matched Harry’s stride as they walked the road of London’s jewelry district of Hatton Garden, stopping occasionally to greet people of the society they passed by.

“It is not of your concern, Ni,” Harry told his friend, his tone resigned and strangely sad, or guilty, Niall can't decipher.

“Bollocks! My two best mates are fighting, you are suddenly marrying Louis and you are telling me I should not be concerned?” Niall saw Harry drew a breath and sigh as he keeps on walking towards a shop, a jewelry shop. “And why the bloody hell are we going here?”

“You followed me,” Harry drawled as he pushed the door of the shop, bell ringing to notify the shop owner of their arrival, “and I have no desire to further this discussion if you don’t mind.”

“But—” Niall’s sentence was cut off by the greeting of the owner, an old fellow with a very curious beard.

“Your Grace, you are here. I’ll just get the rings you’ve ordered. That one came out perfectly—” The jeweler's voice faded out as he hurried inside his shops behind the counter. Horan’s brows raised in confusion as he shoots the young Duke a questioning glanced, of which, was purposely ignored.

Deliberately being ignored.

 

“Here it is, your Grace. It is such a beauty,” the jeweler appeared, and eagerly handed Harry a blue velvet box on which the Duke cautiously opened, “It was a hard find, but alas, all these years and money has certainly paid off.”

Curious Niall peered down as Harry opened the box which appears to be a classic style diamond solitaire ring, with delicate four claw setting, except, the stone is red. So, maybe it is another stone.

“A ruby?”

“Oh no, a diamond my Lord. A red diamond. Super rare.”

“Oh, lucky you have one,” Niall whistled in amusement, “especially with such short notice.”

The older man’s mouth gape, “I beg your pardon, my Lord. It took four years to search for that stone and a year to make it. I even had to commission someone to travel throughout Asia to look for it when his Grace approached me when he was just a mere eightee—"

“Thank you so much, Anthony, for your explanation,” Harry shot the older man a quelling look, he has a mind to add ‘completely unnecessary’ to his sentence but he refrained from being unkind. Even though it was annoying to see Niall’s enjoyment at the unexpected revelation.

 

“I’m sorry, your Grace,” Anthony flustered, eyes wide with guilt.

“And the wedding rings?”

“Yes, of course, here they are your Grace,” Anthony tentatively handed another velvet box to Harry’s awaiting hand, “Double snake rings with sapphire and emerald stones for the heads and diamonds for the eyes, just like you wanted.”

Niall’s eyebrows arched as he gazed down at the snake ring, he bit back a laugh at the meaning of the shape of the ring, Ouroboros. Eternal love.

Cheeky.

Niall smirked at the owner, “And this, how long does this take to make?” The older man stuttered as he gazed at the Duke, panic written all over his face.

“Five months, give or take.” Harry sighed; it was no use hiding that fact with Niall. The young Viscount will eventually wring the answer out of him eventually.

A slow smile spread over Niall’s face as he did the math.

 

Interesting.

 

Even though it has piqued his interest, Niall did not further ask about the rings which were Harry was grateful for. No words were furthered uttered as Harry thoroughly inspected the rings and paid the remainder of the purchased.

Remainder. Niall catalog that to his brain for later.

They had said goodbye to Anthony who was beaming with pricy purchased as he bowed down at the two members of the peer of the realm.

 

As soon as they were away from anyone’s’ hearing Niall turned to face his friend and smiled innocently, “Pray do tell, Hazza, why red? Is it rather uncommon, don’t you think?”

“It’s his favorite color.”

“His what? Aren’t blue his favorite color?”

“No, it’s always been red.”

“How did you even kno—”

“Enough with these impertinent questions. Let us make haste. I am expected to be at the Tomlinson lodging at 3 in the noon.”

Is that a blush creeping at Harry’s cheeks? Niall’s eyes brightened.

Peculiar.

Very peculiar.

 



 

 

Louis fidgets a lot as he sat next to Harry on the sofa in the Tomlinson’s house drawing-room. His eyes moved from his father’s face and to his fiancé.

The two men exchanged looks, the older Tomlinson’s face masked with confusion, “I don’t understand—” He fixed his gaze on his precious friend’s son with a look of speculative appraisal, as he couldn’t quite be certain of what he’d just heard.

Mark stared for another long moment at his lovable son and the son of his beloved friend before his hesitancy vanished, “Of course, I’ll give you my blessings. It is a surprise and quite a turned of events—” Mark glanced at his soon-to-be son-in-law who’s eyes never wavered from watching his son’s face.

 

Is it a love match?

Is he making the right decision?

 

He must admit that he wants to say no. He knows how unforgiving the ton is. It has not escaped his notice that his son is isolated by a large portion of the ton merely because he does not act like the typical Omega. And also, that he is a rare one.

A male Omega.

 

Will he be making the right choice on allowing his son to marry someone of higher standing? Someone who has greater responsibility, someone who is high up in the house-of-the-Lords. A close relative to the throne. Someone who many look up to as a leader.

His son will be watched closely. Every action will be scrutinized, fodder for the gossip mills.

The ton was a piece of complex machinery, driven by scandals and gossips, constructed upon ruthlessness. They do not care about the truth, they only want something to keep the boredom at bay.

His future son-in-law had been trained by father since at a young age. He was prepared to be subtly merciless that the peer of the realm eats out of his hands. Harry has a mask, an emotional one, unlike his beloved son.

 

Will it be too much responsibility for his son to be the next Duchess of Cheshire?

Will the title protect him or will further ruin him?

 

Mark stared at his expressive son who’s stealing glances and smiling adorably at his fiancé. His chest squeezed as he stared for a long moment at Louis before smiling at his beloved son, “I just wish you happiness, love.”

Louis hurried into his father’s arms, almost crying with joy with his father’s blessing as Harry watched with fondness on his face.

 

The three of them talked for several minutes, but after a while, Mark stood left the couple for some privacy as Harry requested. Although he did give Harry a warning not to tarnish Louis’ reputation, much to the embarrassment of the Omega.

Harry turned his attention back to his betrothed’s profile as soon as the older Tomlinson was out of sight. Admiring his Omega’s perfect nose, high cheekbones. The freckles on his cheeks that looks like so much as a constellation up in the night sky. The way Louis’ eyebrows curved perfectly. All those years and he still at awe at how beautiful the Omega is. How lovely his Omega, how alluring he became?

Tempting.

Innocent and pure, his Omega is, but when he touched him…

Someone needed to brain him, for that was the only way he could shake the images of Louis’ wanton face.

 

“So?” Louis questioned as soon as his father was safely out of earshot, “You have something to tell me?” he said, interrupting Harry’s musings.

Thankful for the distraction, Harry fiddled with the small box in his pocket before showing it to Louis. Louis tentatively reached for the small box his eyes fixated at the young Duke’s face. Once clutched on his hand Louis smoothed his fingers over the blue velvet covering before flipping the box open.

“It’s gorgeous,” Louis exclaimed, unable to take his eyes from the betrothal ring once his eyes fell on them.

Harry smiled in triumph as he reached out and removed the box from Louis’ hand, “May I?” he asked as he plucked the ring from its confinement.

Louis held out his trembling hand, as Harry grasped his hand with his left and he used the other to slip the ring on Louis' dainty finger.

“I know it is a day late. But I want it to make it official with the ring. Will you Louis William Tomlinson, marry me?” Harry asked, still holding Louis’ hand with his. Noting how his hand dwarfed Louis’ one.

Louis looked up and nodded. Eyes glistening with unshed tears. Harry moved closer, bringing Louis’ hand to his lips. “My Omega.”

Mine

The unsettling thought from deep within Harry crept slowly, surprising him.

Mine. My Omega. 

Harry rather liked that thought as his eyes fell on Louis’ lips as he inches more towards the smaller man.

 

A knock on the slightly opened door and the announcement of refreshment from a footman interrupted their near kiss. Harry could only groan with frustration as the footman laid on the table the tea, a pitcher of lemonade and biscuits in front of them.

Louis bit his lips to stop the grin forming on his lips as he saw Harry’s unmanly pout directed at the footman who seems to be unaware of the heated stare the young Duke is shooting at him.

 

Louis, after giving the Duke his requested beverage, picked up the pot of tea to pour into his cup, frowning as Harry began to pour some milk before he could even ask the Alpha to hand him the milk, “I don’t even know how you know how I take my tea.”

Harry frowned, confused at the statement but felt one corner of his mouth tipping up slightly, “Tea made in Yorkshire, a special blend they specialize. Milk. No sugar.”

Louis absently nodded, tipping his cup for a sip. He didn’t say a word, just stared at his cup, fighting the blush on his heated face.

“Isn’t that a thing your Alpha should know?”

Louis heart sours a bit but schooled himself not to swoon. Sometimes, well many times now, Harry would say things that makes Louis' heart clenched a bit.

Harry stared at the Omega’s hands holding his teacup and saucer. So dainty like the delicate porcelain he is holding, his fingers curved over the handle. Handling it delicately, like how he held a certain part of Harry’s body. His little body between his legs agreed with a small jolt.

 

“I will do my best to be a good Alpha to you,” Harry continued, “And, as long as that you do not withhold me from your bed, I shall be faithful to our vows.”

Bed.

Louis’ eyes widened.

They might have done something that only marital couple have done but they haven’t breached…

Oh, heavens.

 

“Are you thinking about our raunchy rendezvous?”

“W-what?” Louis stutters but kept his attention diligently on something else, on everything else except the Duke. He knew he was not making a straight face as he sucked in his lips, then pursed them. He could feel the temperature on his cheeks rises, his eyes glazing from the memory they’ve shared.

Harry fought the bubble of mirth that was rising in his throat. This absolutely wasn’t the time to laugh, but the Omega was so damned innocent. He’d never made love to any Omega like him before; he was finding it surprisingly delightful.

“You are, aren’t you?” Harry whispered, drawling with the most devious sort of mischief.

“I’m not!” Louis growled, “And stop making that creepy face of yours. I don’t know if you want to eat me or kill me with that stares of yours.”

“Definitely eat, my Lord.”

Louis choked on his tea and stutters. Clearly, have nothing witty to retort. Harry claimed it as a win for him.

For a moment the young Duke did nothing but look at his betrothed. It was a rare sight that the active Omega was lost for words, face still with blush atop his prominent cheeks and the Alpha was enjoying it, especially the show of emotion on the Omega’s pretty face. His eyes just beheld at Louis, committing to memory the way Omega’s long eyelashes flutters delicately, how his lips thinned out as he tries to hide a smile, how his ears reddened, how he plays with his dainty fingers on the delicate china.

This, this is his soon to be bonded pair.

A feeling of pride spread throughout his body as Louis tentatively glanced up at him behind his lashes.

His Omega.

His body seems to have a mind of its own as he once again shortened the distance between them and took Louis’ face in his hands and lowered his mouth to his. The Omega’s lips were soft as he remembers. He waited for the smaller man to relax and part his lips, for his body to soften against his. Until Louis is ready to fully accept him. All of him.

“I can’t wait to marry you.”

Louis would make a fine Omega. Not for most Alpha of the ton, but for him, and that was all that mattered.

 



 

 

Louis was over the moon. The more time he spent with Harry the more he fell in love with the Duke.

Louis had soon learned the many facets of the young Duke, the one he refuses to show to the public. Harry was surprisingly odd but witty. He also fancies himself funny with his bland jokes that makes Louis cringe but fond at the same time.

One thing he is sure is, that the Duke was kind, selfless even. He listened to Louis to speak his mind, he never attempted to belittle his view or him being an Omega or even berate him for talking over him. He makes Louis feels special and cared for.

 

And for a man who was rumored to be a rake, the young Duke had done a grand job of being a proper fiancé to Louis. They’d been forced to attend an astounding number of parties and balls, even forced to go to the opera and the theatre. But the Duke accompanied him to every ball without much complain and danced with him, sometimes more than twice, which to the eyes of the polite society was improper. Even to couples who are married, apparently, as Louis had learned.

 

He also learned how more vicious the ton can be.

Once the Duke had announced their engagement at supper with their families and friends, following a rather swift betrothal, Louis hardly has a chance to breathe between all the congratulations and interrogations by his close friends and nosy neighbors.

And once the news of the engagement was printed in newsprint speculation went rampant. Every single member of the ton seemed to think that Louis did something to trap the most elusive and sought-after bachelor of the ton. Although no one was rude enough to say as much to his face or rather they are coward enough to face Louis’ wrath—or Harry’s.

And perhaps every gels hoped that the betrothal might still prove to be a sham.

 A fleeting madness that a few brandies would cure, a common phrase Louis heard in between snide comments and fake smiles.

His mother could only pacify his Omega son by telling him that the sooner he and Harry were married, the sooner it would die down with the protection of the Duke’s name. Or so they hoped.

Both his mother and his future mother-in-law distracted him by dragging him from shop to shop, buying everything from well-fitting pantaloons, shirts, cravats, and God forbids—nightwear.

 

And here they are standing at a gilded mirror in the Dowager Anne’s dressing room, watching as the Eleanor donned a sheer, ankle-length white veil onto Louis’ head as the Omega stood still. The maid then stepped back to study the results, “Oh, my Lord, you look like a proper dream,” the maid declared as she started clapping her hands in excitement as she studies his friend’s attire.

“Doesn’t he?” Anne clapped her hands in glee as well with an enthusiastic smile, “My son’s eyes will bulge like saucers when he sees you.”

“Do you really think so, my Lady?” Louis blushed, casting quick glance at his reflection before turning to face his own mother and future mother-in-law.

Johanna nodded wiping a tear off his face, “Harry won’t be able to look away. I can’t believe he finally asked for your hand.”

“I am glad too. That son of mine is very hard-headed and a stickler to the rules,” Anne remarked with an indulgent expression, “but I’m glad he chose his heart more than his responsibility this time. I just wished he made a long engagement. A month, it will be a whirlwind wedding. But I guess he is too afraid to lose you.”

Louis gave her a confused look, but the Dowager just gave him a knowing smile.

Johanna sniffed back another tear before Louis could move forward to hug her, “I’m glad that this is a love-matched wedding. That we are sending you off to Harry.”

A smile curved Louis’ lips, nerves making the inside of his stomach quiver. Anne gave an enthusiastic nod in agreement.

A love-match.   

This is a fairy tale.

This is his happy ending.

 



 

 

“What the devil were you thinking?! Marrying that insipid tramp—”

 “Cease talking,” Harry interrupted, his ire evident in his heavy drawl, iciness seeping from his voice, “I have not asked for your permission and I am merely relying on the news to you as I still considered you as a friend, Nicholas. But I will not tolerate you dragging my Omega’s name through the dirt. Consider this your last warning.”

Nick Grimshaw stared at his friend with disbelief. His friend is actually threatening him to cut ties all because of a wrecked Omega? 

“You wish to marry him,” he repeated slowly, “Are you willing to bow and sniff like some lovelorn swain? To seriously pretend to be smitten by him, in public. All because you want to save that imp from ruin. All because of your sense of responsibility?”

“Again, I have not asked you for your permission nor thought on this matter,” Harry’s rebuttal was smooth, cold.

Nick’s hands snapped closed into tight fists, the knuckles showing white.

This is not happening.

Not on my watch.