When Laurent’s cleared by Paschal to walk the palace, he turns to Damen the following morning and kisses his shoulder. “Morning, sweetheart.”
Damen hums, a smile coming to his lips. He wraps his arms around Laurent’s waist and pulls him close. Skin to skin from head to toe. “Good morning, sweetheart.”
He kisses Laurent’s nose.
Auguste whines in his bassinet, and Laurent chuckles. “Someone’s going to be hungry soon.”
He leaves Damen’s arms, even as Damen gives a whine of his own and tries to hold on to Laurent. “Can’t I have a taste after him?”
Laurent gives a look over his shoulder that has Damen flopping back over on the bed with a defeated sigh.
Auguste squirms, his hands in little fists. He blinks up at Laurent when he wakes, then proceeds to wail. Laurent can’t help smiling as he lifts his pup into his arms. His calming scent quells the tears to a whimper as he rocks Auguste back and forth.
Auguste was born with blue eyes as Theo had been, but his skin and hair are lighter. He may even keep the blue eyes as he grows older. Laurent brings Auguste to his chest so he can eat, and turns to Damen.
Damen has shifted onto his stomach, with his head tucked in his folded arms. All dark, muscled skin against soft, white sheets. Laurent bites his lip. His husband looks very appealing in that position.
“Damianos, I was thinking,” Laurent starts, taking a seat on the bed.
Damen doesn’t bother turning his head, so his voice is muffled as he says, “You’re always thinking, sweetheart.”
Laurent gives a half-amused hum, then continues. “Why don’t we take the pack out to the gardens for lunch today? No court. No council. No onlookers. Just us.”
Damen does turn his head then, his eyes soft. He smiles, reaching out so Auguste will wrap a tiny hand around his massive finger. “I think Nikandros and Nicaise would like that. I know Theo would.”
Laurent smiles, then looks down at Auguste. He’s nearly two months old now. He’s small; smaller than is healthy. Being born a few weeks early will do that to a babe.
Damen rolls out of bed and walks to the door. “I’ll ask a servant to inform the kitchens.”
Laurent hums, his focus shifted to his pup.
Nicaise is almost surprised when Nikandros tells him they’ll be having lunch in the gardens. His brows furrow. “Why? We never do that.”
Nikandros doesn’t slow his stride. “Damen called it a ‘pack picnic,’ but he was holding Auguste; I don’t think he was paying attention to his words.”
They step out to the garden, and find a large blanket laid out. Laurent and Damianos are already sitting on it, Theo running after a butterfly, and Auguste tucked in Damianos’ arms.
Laurent is too weak to hold Auguste for long periods of time, especially as he gets heavier.
Nicaise walks up and sits across from Damianos, busy cooing at the pup like Nikandros said, while Nikandros grabs Theo and swings him up in the air.
“Hello, Nicaise,” Laurent says, smiling. He’s still shallow cheeked and slight of form from all the weight and muscle mass he lost. It makes Nicaise’s stomach turn to think of how much worse it could have been.
It hurts to look at him for too long.
“Hello,” he says, eyes shifting to Auguste. The pup is staring intense eyes at his sire, like he’s hanging on to his every word. And Nicaise doesn’t feel quite right about asking to hold him right now.
Nikandros takes a seat with them, sitting a laughing Theo in his lap. “Daddy!” he giggles.
Damianos and Laurent both smile at him.
Two servants step out onto the lawn, carrying with them two trays each, then setting them carefully down on the blanket. They bow and depart without a word.
Laurent holds his arms out. “Let me take him. You feed Theo.” And as simple as that, the alpha of an empire obeys his omega with only a smile on his face and love in his eyes.
As they eat, Laurent is fed bits and pieces by Damianos, mostly fruit, and hardly any at that.
Nicaise wants to ask, but he figures Laurent’s stomach is sensitive right now. He drinks plenty though, and staying hydrated had been a major concern as well.
Nikandros seems to pick up on this too. Though with two pups between them, Damianos and Laurent themselves are oblivious.
Nikandros picks up on the signs before anyone else, but by then it’s too late. Laurent is tugging at his shirt and covered in a thin sheen of sweat. His pupils are dilating. “Laurent,” his voice low and cautious. “When is your heat due?”
Damianos goes very still beside them.
“Heat?” Laurent asks, brows furrowed.
Then the smell comes, and it’s very sweet and titillating, and Nicaise can feel his mouth filling with saliva.
Damianos hands Theo to Nikandros quickly, and then Auguste, now wailing, to Nicaise.
“We need to leave, Nicaise. Now,” Nikandros commands. Nicaise nods, his stomach tingling and mouth full. He rises and follows as Damianos tries to get Laurent to his nest.
Laurent smells…really good.
Damen paces anxiously outside the door. The guards have been dismissed, but Laurent remains locked inside anyway.
The handle rattles once more, growing weaker as the days pass. “Alpha! Please!” he cries on the other side.
Damen is hard, his mouth is drooling, and he desperately wants to throw open the door and give Laurent the care he needs.
But he’d be doing more harm than good in Laurent’s state. He sneaks in while Laurent sleeps to make sure he’s safe, rubs his wrists on every available surface so his own scent litters the room, then retreats again when Laurent stirs.
He only trusts himself to enter while Laurent’s awake when he’s more in touch with himself, for a few brief minutes. He has Laurent drink water, eat fruit, and go to the bathroom. When his heat haze starts to settle in again, he helps Laurent to the bed, then leaves.
“Alpha,” Laurent sobs, lying on the floor now, blocking all light from under the door. Normally sheets would be stuffed on this side to keep his scent trapped in the room with him, but Damen is the only one here, and Laurent is his mate.
Laurent will only feel better if he has alpha hormones to counter all the omega hormone overwhelming his system. Even if Damen were in there, kissing and bringing him to orgasm would not be enough. It would only make Laurent more insistent on his knot.
And Damen can admit to himself that he is weak to Laurent’s heat and begging after being together so long.
He presses his forehead to the cool wood of the door, grits his teeth.
“It’s a normal reaction, Nicaise,” Nikandros tells him.
They’re watching the pups while their pack leaders are tending to Laurent’s heat.
Nicaise scowls, his lips peeling back to show his disgust. “I didn’t see you choking on saliva,” he hisses.
Nikandros sighs, laying Auguste in his bassinet. “I wasn’t as close to Laurent, nor on the ground with him as long as you. You were hit with a higher dose.”
Nicaise glares at the floor. His fists curl. “I don’t think of Laurent that way,” he mutters.
Nikandros shrugs, closing the door to Theo’s room. “I didn’t like him at all when we first met. Didn’t stop my cock from showing interest at the first whiff of heat.”
That doesn’t help, not really, but Nicaise is glad he at least isn’t alone. “Laurent is bonded to Damianos. Why are we still affected by his scent?”
“It takes years of being bonded for a heat scent to shift that way, Nicaise. They haven’t been together long enough yet.” Nikandros sits heavily onto the couch, his arms thrown over the back and head tipped forward, covering his throat. He makes a waving gesture with his hand. “Give it another year or so and we won’t feel it.”
Nicaise sits on a chair across from him. “At all?”
Nikandros looks at him, then raises his head. “Laurent’s scent will adjust to Damen’s hormones, specifically. His body will try to appeal itself to its alpha, and only its alpha.”
Nicaise nods, feeling somewhat relieved. Laurent smelt amazing, but…he’s Laurent.
If he’d bonded to him as a child, Laurent would smell like a parent, would feel like a parent. His heat wouldn’t affect Nicaise at all.
He’d never wanted that before, until now.