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legs and limbs and lips
all open with your fingertips
you make holes in me
and little slits
you use as mouths
for you to kiss

close my plastic eyelids
you say this is the love we all hope to find
so don't cry, don't worry
you're supposed to bleed the first time

- Flowers of Flesh and Blood, Nicole Dollanganger

----

We hide in the places where mice make their holes

Our skin getting cold under moth eaten clothes
I feel my lips turn blue, i'd do anything to be held by you through the night
The doors are all closed, we peer through key holes
Tucked away in a place where flowers can't grow
Your skin turns to dust in my hands and i'm left holding onto a pile of sand

They say open up the window and stand in the sunshine

But you hide in the shadows cause the light goes right through you
You're a ghost, you're a ghost, you're a ghost, you're a ghost of my mind

- Fleurs Captives, Nicole Dollanganger


Over a week passes and my condition doesn't improve. If anything, it worsens, and my nausea seems to linger all the time, regardless of what I eat. It sits in my throat, on my tongue, and it makes eating unbearable. Even the thought of food makes me want to vomit most of the time.

My sense of smell intensifies as well, which only aggravates my nausea. Every scent is magnified to an excruciating degree; Damien's aroma, food, the roses. It's like I'm a bloodhound. Bebe cut her finger on a piece of porcelain from a dish that broke and I could smell the metallic heaviness of her blood from several feet away*.

Exhaustion seeps into me to the point where I'm napping several times a day, and I drop off very early in the evening; often while Damien is quietly reading to me. In the morning I wake up and i want to go right back to sleep, curling into the blanket and hiding until Damien has to force me to get up.

"You look pale," Damien says one morning at breakfast. He's studying me with a critical eye while I'm trying to choke down some food.

I glare at him, my mouth filling with wetness; a telltale sign that I'm going to be running to the bathroom soon.

"I'm naturally pale," I say icily. "Even more so now that I'm not allowed to go outside."

"And whose fault is that?" he asks in an infuriatingly calm voice. He lifts his orange juice to his lips.

I stab a piece of melon with unnecessary force before bringing it to my mouth, staring at it and trying not to smell its cloying, sugary scent; my stomach already clenching. I've had one pancake and a few bites of eggs but I already feel too full.

"I don't want to talk about this right now, okay?" I mutter. "I don't have the energy to argue with you... I'm using all my strength to keep my food down."

I place the melon in my mouth and immediately gag, bringing a napkin to my lips so I can spit the morsel out. I take deep breaths before drinking a few gulps of water.

"You don't really seem to be improving," Damien observes, which only adds to my annoyance. "You can't keep pretending this isn't happening, Kyle."

"This is bullshit," I snap, pressing my hands to my cheeks. I count to ten in my head to distract myself but it doesn't work; the nausea only grows. "All of it. You have no idea what this feels like, you never will, and the fact that I'm in this position against my will... it's taking everything in me not to attack you right now."

"Attack me and I bind your hands," he says simply. "And that sort of language is intolerable, by the way; I've been meaning to mention it."

I stare at him, a little muscle in my cheek beginning to twitch. "Excuse me?"

"Your penchant for using obscenities is beneath you," he replies. "I'm going to insist that you speak in a respectful way, especially now that -"

"Don't say it or I won't be able to keep my food down," I growl, clenching my hands.

"Even if we don't say it out loud we both know the truth, Kyle. Avoiding the topic doesn't change it."

"I'm just sick," I reply. "That's all. It has to be because of my conditions here... being a prisoner with you. Anyone in my position would start to break down after a while."

Crossing his arms, he gives me an incredulous look. "Now you're just being wantonly delusional. You know what you're saying can't be accurate."

"Maybe as far as you're concerned," I snap, my stomach jumping. I press a hand to it and close my eyes, praying for the heaving and turning to stop but it's relentless. "You're just so desperate to spawn that you'll clutch at any straw you can."

Eyes flashing, his irritation is obvious. I see his hand flex, the one with the garnet ring, but he doesn't make a move to strike. "One of the principle and most fundamental desires of mankind is to pass on its genetic material. It's wired into our DNA, alpha or omega."

I roll my eyes, still touching the slightly bloated curve of my belly. "Right, that's what it is... it isn't you on a power trip or trying to prove something to your father."

He's slow to respond but when he does his tone is low and deliberate, making the hair rise on the back of my neck. "I will overlook your obvious attempts to bait me because of your delicate condition, but just know my patience only extends so far."

"In any case," he adds, "there's no point in arguing about this when a simple trip to the doctor can clear up the whole situation. You can't dispute hard evidence, now can you?"

"I can try," I say stubbornly, even though my heart feels significantly lighter at the prospect of seeing Dr. McCormick and Karen again; they'd been so kind to me before. I just hate that I'll be reunited with them because of such dire circumstances. "You're taking me to the doctor?"

"Of course I am. It's a natural course of action, isn't it?"

Trying to keep the hope from my voice, I look down. "Are we going to travel to see him or is he coming here?"

Damien is silent a moment; long enough for me to look at him. He's studying me; eyes narrowed. "What would you prefer?"

I sigh. "I think you already know the answer to that."

He nods thoughtfully. "I suppose i do, but do you deserve what you want?"

Gritting my teeth i know I have to tread carefully if I'm going to feel sunlight again anytime soon. "I honestly don't know. I'll let you decide for me."

"Hmm." He hums under his breath, tilting his head to rest his face against his hand. He's quiet, only heightening my anxiety - and he knows it.

"I'll defer to you," I murmur. "Isn't that what you want?"

"Typically, yes. I've told you that."

My stomach lurches again then, and I catch a whiff of bacon and it's all I can take. Swallowing thickly, I stand. "Excuse me, please. I need to use the bathroom."

Rushing from the table, I quickly find myself back in what is becoming a very familiar, hateful spot; kneeling before the toilet, the cold porcelain becoming slick from my sweaty hands as I heave and sob. I close my eyes and endure, because at this point it's really all I can do.

-----

Several days later, I'm napping on the couch when Damien wakes me, bringing my hands to his lips to kiss them softly.

"Have a nice day?" he asks, sitting beside me when I rise, slowly coming back to my senses. It's gotten to the point where i can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, not realizing I'd nodded off until I'm being roused.

"I guess," I reply, yawning and blinking to clear my eyes. "I finished my book."

"Oh, good, you seemed to be enjoying it," he smiles fondly, pushing my curls from my eyes. "I have some news for you."

I wait, trying to keep my eyes from slipping shut. My back aches and my bladder feels full even though I've had little to drink. I shift, attempting to get comfortable but that seems impossible these days.

"I've made an appointment for you with Dr McCormick. We leave the day after tomorrow."

My spirits lift, but they drop when he adds, "we'll be visiting my father's estate before returning home, though."

I'm instantly repulsed, pulling my hands from his. "You don't even like your father and you know how I feel... why are you putting us through this?"

"I don't have a choice, he insisted."

I want to tell him that he's a grown man and should have any choice he wants, but I don't. Knowing Damien as I do, this would only annoy him and cause problems for me down the line, and I don't want anything to get in the way of going to see Dr McCormick.

"I've already told Bebe so she can begin packing your things," he says, standing and removing his coat. He carefully sets it aside before he begins his usual coming-home ritual: rolling up his sleeves and unbuttoning the top couple buttons of his shirt. "Does that please you?"

"I get to go outside and see other people," I say, Damien's aroma so strong; stifling me. I delicately place a hand over my nose. "I'm thrilled, to say the least."

Giving me a look, he doesn't comment, but he doesn't seem irritated either. I sigh and lay my head against the couch, already ready to go back to sleep.

The next day I manage to pull myself together enough to compose a note to Craig, Tricia, and Ike; fully intending to somehow slip it to Karen or Dr McCormick during my appointment. In it I detail my apologies for how things turned out, my worries for them, and all of my love and longing. I reread it several times, changing certain parts, but it never seems sufficient...I have so much to say but one letter just doesn't seem like enough.

Still, I try, and when I'm somewhat satisfied I fold the pages as small as i can and hide them away; prepared to deliver them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

As the hours pass i become more and more excited at the idea of getting to leave this place for a while, and that almost takes away the dread that's filling me day by day; almost ignoring my weariness and aches; my near-constant nausea.

The morning of our trip i manage to wake early, going to the window to look out at the sun just rising; frail light breaking through the dim deep blue sky. I want to throw the window open and embrace the world; announce that I'll soon be back among the living. I'm smiling so widely that my face aches.

"Good morning," Damien calls, his voice rough. "You haven't been up this early in a while."

"I'm excited," I admit, turning from the window to see him sitting up and watching me; hair messy and eyes half-open. He always sleeps in just linen pants so he's shirtless, sleek and slim like a feline. "I haven't been outside in so long...I can't tell you how much I miss it."

"If you behave during our outing I may be able to give you some of your freedoms back," he yawns, stretching; turning his head and groaning when his neck pops. "But we'll just have to wait and see."

Breakfast is quiet and for once my stomach isn't just jumpy with nausea but because I'm excited. I drink some juice and eat half a bagel, resisting when Damien tries to coax me to eat some ham.

"You need to eat more protein," he admonishes gently. "The doctor will tell you the same thing."

"I'm sure he will," I say, taking a bite of ham to appease him. I swallow some nausea but it doesn't detract from my anticipation.

Damien dresses me in a red plaid pinafore dress with a ribbon around the collar and lace along the edges of the short, full skirt. There's even a red Alice band to go with it that keeps the curls from my eyes. I stare at myself in the mirror, turning covertly to the side to see if my belly looks different; it doesn't.

"You always make me wear such childish dresses when we go out like this," I remark, slipping on my lace-edged socks and black Mary Janes. "It's kind of ironic considering you paraded me around naked in front of a roomful of people."

"That was different," he replies, straightening his collar before pulling on his black suit jacket. "When I take you out i expect you to represent your dynamic with dignity. I want you demure and sweet, although with your tongue that's proving to be quite a challenge."

"I think you like that," I say cheekily, my mood so light that I can't resist the urge to tease him a little.

He gives me a passive look before he helps me into a light cloak, securing it beneath my chin. He pats my cheek gently. "I think we're just about ready."

When I'm finally reintroduced to the outdoors, I'm almost intimidated to step into the light again, but when I do I just stand for a moment, drinking in the wind, the aromas. The sun is barely above the horizon and filling the world with its orange-yellow light; the sky strung with gauzy clouds.

It's gorgeous, and I want to run to the garden and visit the roses, but Damien urges me toward the limo with a hand on the small of my back.

"We need to go, darling. I don't want to be late."

The trip is uneventful but that doesn't lessen my enjoyment, looking out the window to see the trees and houses rush past. Damien keeps me close, his hand on my thigh. Every now and then he touches my belly gently; soft brushes of his fingers like he's afraid to hurt me; the secret i may be carrying. The look on his face is one of quiet awe, which makes my apprehension start to bloom.

By the time we've stopped for lunch (where I subsequently threw up most of what I'd eaten in the cafe's restroom), my anxiety is rising with every mile. I'd been so elated about going out that I'd neglected to truly confront the reason, and now that we're so close to our destination it's all I can think about.

"Everything will be fine," Damien assures me, stroking my nape. I pull away, my scent changing to one of nervous fear; my fingers tapping the armrest incessantly.

"Fine is relative," I say, my voice high with growing panic. "Your version of fine is significantly different from mine."

"I just meant he isn't going to hurt you," he says, tucking a curl back that's slipped from my Alice band.

"I can't say that I agree." Looking out the window, my already unsettled stomach is full of flutters. Terror is waking up in me and making me very quiet and still. I almost hope that if I'm silent enough the universe will forget about me and I won't have this horrible possibility confirmed.

It can't be true, I won't let it. This thought repeats itself as the sweat beads on my forehead. I mean, my mind hates Damien so my body has to as well... it'll reject anything that's even remotely associated with him.

I realize I'm being irritational but I maintain this line of thought until the limo pulls in front of the doctor's office. I'm clammy and cold at this point, my heart pounding, and Damien practically has to drag me out of the car; growling when I try to climb back in.

"You're being ridiculous, now come on, we're already behind schedule." Annoyed, he wraps a hand around my arm and jerks me toward the entrance.

Becoming desperate, I dig my heels in but to no avail, and soon I'm in the waiting room, huddled next to Damien as I begin to shake. Other Omegas and Alphas in the room politely pretend not to notice the meltdown I'm having in their presence while Damien quietly scolds me.

"You're embarrassing me," he says into my ear before pressing his nails into my arm. "Be still or I'll punish you right here. Don't test me."

"I don't want to do this," I whisper back, my bladder aching with anxiety and fullness; bile rising up my throat. "Please, I don't want to know."

He gives me a severe look, eyes glinting, and i shrink into myself; looking down at my lap. Tears rise in my eyes that slowly fall down my cheeks. The minutes tick by sluggishly as we wait, and Damien keeps a possessive hand clamped tightly on my arm.

When Karen calls us back we share a look of mingled sadness and worry, and she's extra patient and careful with me when checking my vitals and getting my weight.

"You've lost almost ten pounds since the last time we saw you," she says with obvious concern, writing everything down on her clipboard. She glances at Damien and her mouth tightens. "Was that deliberate, or...?"

"He's always been a finicky eater," Damien supplies smoothly, "and we've recently dealt with some upheaval that created a fair amount of stress, so I'm sure that's a contributing factor. Not to mention," he adds, smiling now, "he's been very nauseated. Haven't you, love?"

I nod, gratified to see the compassion in her eyes as well as her obvious dislike for Damien. "I'm throwing up pretty much every day... it's really hard to keep anything down."

She nods, noting this on her form as well before handing me a gown. "Undress and put that on, please. The doctor will be in shortly."

Lingering, she gives me another soft look before leaving, shutting the door behind her. Making sure the note I'd written is tucked deep and safe into my dress pocket, I begin to slowly undress with Damien's assistance. Soon I'm in the gown, shivering and filling the small room with the smell of my fear; trembling on the exam table. Damien stays near, rubbing my back.

"Calm," he murmurs, pressing my nape. "It'll be over soon."

Dr McCormick enters the room not too long after that, smiling brightly but it doesn't reach his eyes. He shakes Damien's hand and then my own, holding me a fraction longer than is customary, studying me with the same expression Karen had; emanating concern and compassion.

"So, what's been going on, Kyle? It's been a while since I've seen you," he says, covertly taking a hold of my arm to inspect the wrist I'd broken. He nods as if he's satisfied with how it had healed.

I glance at Damien, waiting for him to intervene because he always does, and this time is no different.

"Kyle has been feeling sick lately," he starts, taking my hand. "Vomiting, lack of appetite... he's tired and run-down even though he sleeps all the time. Is there anything else, darling?"

Clearing my throat, I look at the tiles on the floor as I speak, my voice muted. "My sense of smell has gotten a lot stronger and I have to pee all the time. Oh, and my back aches and so do my hips. I feel bloated."

The doctor slowly nods while he listens before looking over the clipboard Karen had handed him. "It says here you recently went through a heat. When was that?"

"Almost a month ago," Damien says.

Dr McCormick glances at him, his bright blue eyes narrowing. "And I take it Kyle wasn't using any suppressants or protection  when you..."

"No, he wasn't taking anything."

"I see." Pulling on a pair of gloves, he asks me to lie back on the table. I obey, whining softly when he parts my gown, his hand sliding over my side where he'd stitched it up. Our eyes meet, and I think he can see how afraid I am. "This won't hurt, I promise," he says gently.

He examines me the way he did last time, having me raise each arm so he can rub my chest, soft around my nipples. I groan because it feels different this time; more sensitive. He frowns before moving down to my belly, touching and prodding carefully, and his frown deepens. Damien watches closely, a rare look of apprehension on his face.

"Is everything okay?"

The doctor nods, touching my pubis now, my privates; reaching between my legs, making me wince when he brushes my overly sensitive glands.

Karen enters then, and Dr McCormick takes his hands away, sighing softly. "Do you have his urine results?"

"Yes, right here," Karen replies in a subdued way, handing a slip of paper to her brother. She gives me a quick sorrowful look before turning away, making my heart plummet.

Silence fills the room as I reach to cover myself, sitting up slowly; everything spinning for a moment.

"Well? What are his results?" Damien asks, his tone bordering on aggressive. I close my gown more tightly, hands shaking and breath coming faster.

The doctor looks up, unsmiling, before heaving a pronounced sigh. Damien's hand tightens on my shoulder until I wince.

"Congratulations," he says mildly, holding up my results. "Looks like you two are expecting."

Damien is clearly over the moon as he draws me close, kissing my hair and praising me. I just stare blankly for a moment that feels like a hellish eternity before I begin to cry, great heaving sobs that make my looming nausea even worse. Damien hugs me tighter, shushing me.

"Oh, my love, my love... he's only confirming what we already suspected," he says gently. "And this is a good thing, a wonderful thing... you'll have someone to care for, a family of your own. Doesn't that make you happy?"

I'm crying too hard to answer, covering my face with my hands and wanting to simply slip into the darkness and disappear.

"Is this a normal response?" Damien asks the doctor, a thread of concern in his voice. He almost sounds nervous.

"It can be," the doctor replies. "I'm afraid Kyle's going through a lot right now... the hormones can make him weepy, despondent, and feeling sick and tired all of the time can certainly take an emotional toll." He sighs again. "Not to mention this is a huge change... being scared is perfectly normal."

"What can I do to help?" Damien asks.

The doctor doesn't answer for a moment and I look up, eyes wet. He's looking at Damien with an expression i can't interpret, but it doesn't seem particularly friendly.

"You can help by being supportive and understanding while he adjusts. And it's imperative that you keep his stress levels low... stress can be incredibly detrimental during a pregnancy."

Fighting the impulse to jump off the table and hide behind the doctor, I clear the tears from my eyes; still shaking. Everything feels so horribly surreal.

"I'm not allowed to go outside or talk to anyone," I say, cracking through the invisible barrier that's been constructed around me; created by Damien's need to control and intimidate. "I'm alone all the time and I hate it."

"Kyle," Damien says, his tone telling me to shut my mouth.

"And he uses force when he's angry with me," I add defiantly.

Dr McCormick looks at Damien, eyebrows raised. "Is that true, Mr Thorne?"

Drawing himself up straight, Damien squares his shoulders, unflinching when meeting the doctor's eyes. "I didn't realize I'm on trial here."

Shaking his head, the doctor pulls off his gloves and goes to wash his hands. "No one said you were, but I'm obligated to take Kyle's concerns seriously, and he doesn't sound happy about all of this."

Damien squeezes my nape so hard that I almost cry out, biting it back at the last moment. The message is clear, though: keep your mouth shut or you'll regret it.

"Kyle's acting out because he's being punished," he says carefully. "He ran away and had an illicit affair with another Alpha. My response is appropriate in this regard. Anyone would agree."

Turning, the doctor leans against the counter and crosses his arms. "I suppose, given the circumstances." He flicks his focus to me quickly as if to convey that he doesn't believe what he's saying for a moment.

"As for using force, Kyle, like any omega, needs and craves discipline and structure. That's been well established, and I'm not going to apologize for being devoted to a traditional mindset. Kyle knows this, but he's often petulant... as you can plainly see."

"Fine," the doctor replies, his tone suggesting that Damien needs to be silent and listen. "I'm not in any position to tell you how to run your home, Mr Thorne, but I will tell you this. Given your history, I know how much you want this pregnancy to be successful, and the best way to make that happen is to create a healthy environment where Kyle can thrive."

"I completely agree," Damien says firmly, still holding my nape.

"That means he needs to be calm," the doctor adds. "His stress levels need to be low and controlled. He needs fresh air and exercise and sunshine. In short, you can't keep him confined indoors if you want this to work, and you certainly can't use corporal punishment either. That's a disaster waiting to happen."

I give Dr McCormick the most pronounced look of gratitude that I I'm allowed given the circumstances, but he's focused solely on Damien. I can tell he wants to say more but he refrains, waiting for Damien to respond.

Damien, meanwhile, is rigid and his scent is rife with aggression and quiet fury. It's extremely unusual, almost unheard of, for someone to dictate Damien's actions or make suggestions as to how he should correct his conduct. I think that's a huge part of why he turned out the way he did.

"I will make sure that Kyle is comfortable in any way I can," he bites out, every word harsh; his tone abrupt. "His needs are my needs as far as I'm concerned."

"Then treat him the way you'd treat yourself," the doctor says without skipping a beat. "In fact, you might want to treat him even better than that, if you truly intend to get what you want."

I stop trembling then, and the look the doctor sneaks me tells me that he's trying to save me in his own way; maybe not from what's growing inside of me, but at the very least from Damien's myriad of cruelties. I touch my mouth, overcome, once again, at his kindness.

Damien, however, seems less receptive to essentially receiving a lecture, but he nods anyway, still holding me tightly. There almost seems to be a new level of possessiveness creeping into his bearing already.

"Yes, of course, you're right," he says easily, the only indication of his displeasure by the way he squeezes me so hard. I keep my face blank, already spent from my newest revelation. "I'll handle him like he's made of glass and why shouldn't I? Kyle is my entire family... everyone i cherish is right here." He softly nuzzles my temple.

"I have no doubt you'll do exactly that," Dr McCormick replies, turning to me and he slowly becomes grave. We regard one another the way we had when I'd run away and he'd put me back together; my broken state and his deep desire to help.

Who knew we'd find ourselves in this place again, and in this sort of situation? It's enough to truly break my heart, but right now it feels like it's being crushed - slowly.

"Take care of yourself and eat well," he says softly. "Rest when you need to but make sure to move as well... go for walks, go outside." His eyes flick to Damien momentarily. "Try to go easy on yourself and listen to your body. If something feels wrong, and I mean anything, please tell Mr Thorne so we can help you. Okay?"

I nod, unable to speak at the moment because I'm afraid I'll cry if I try. I'm just so grateful he didn't call Damien my Alpha, but I think he knows that would hurt just as much as the news of my pregnancy.

"You'll be doing a sonogram today, won't you? Just to make sure everything's as it should be?" Damien interjects.

"Yes, of course. Let me jot a few things down, make a few notes, and then we'll get a look at your little one."

Pressing my hand to my mouth, I make a small sound to get their attention. They look at me, Damien concerned and the doctor wary.

"I think I'm going to be sick again. May I use the bathroom?"

The doctor nods, speaking before Damien can. "Sure, Karen can help if you'd like. And you can get dressed."

"I'll go with you," Damien says.

"Oh, Mr Thorne, I actually need you for a few minutes, if you don't mind," Dr McCormick speaks up. "Don't worry, Karen will take good care of Kyle. Won't you, sis?"

"Absolutely, and we can get your blood work out of the way, too," Karen smiles, having watched silently through the whole exchange. "What tests will you need, Kenny?"

"The standard set for now, I'd like to check his hCG levels," he replies, "and later we can do genetic testing if you'd like, Mr Thorne."

"Anything you think is for the best, do it."

"Come on, Kyle," Karen says, helping me down from the table. I quickly gather my clothes and go with her, Damien watching all the while. Dr McCormick begins asking him questions immediately.

Once in the small bathroom, Karen hugs me tightly as soon as the door is closed. "Oh, Kyle, I'm so sorry," she whispers. "When Tricia and Craig came back and told us Damien found you -"

"They were here?" I ask in a harsh whisper, pulling away to look at her. "Is Craig alright? Did they have a little boy with them?"

She nods, wiping her eyes. "Kenny removed the bullet from Craig's shoulder and said he'll be fine, and there was a boy with them. They said he's your brother."

"Ike," I say, so immensely relieved to know that they're okay, at least physically. "Did they say where they were going?"

She shakes her head. "They didn't want to tell us in case anyone ever finds out we helped, to protect us, I guess, but they did say they'll be coming back soon to see if we've seen or heard from you."

"Then give them this, please." Reaching into the pocket of my dress i pull out the letter and hand it to her. "And tell them I miss them every day... and that I love them so much."

"I will," she promises, slipping the article into the pocket of her scrubs.

"And please," I add, my voice brittle, "tell them I'll find a way to be with them again... I'll never stop fighting until I do."

-----

After I'm dressed and I've had my blood taken, I'm led into a room full of dimly familiar equipment. I've been here before, the first time I was brought to the doctor, so I know what to expect, but that doesn't mean I'm not afraid.

I'm just afraid for a much larger, more terrifying reason this time around.

The doctor tells me to lie down on a long padded chair as he starts readying for the exam. Damien stays close the whole time, adjusting the pillow under my head while Karen places a blanket over my hips and legs.

"Just lift your dress a little," she says softly, helping me with my skirt. "We have to be able to see your tummy."

I stay quiet through all of this, numb from the shock of the news. Yes, I had known on an intellectual level that there was something different about me, but all of this is making it so utterly real; like the bitter pill of my reality had been sitting on my tongue but now it's being forced down my throat.

Damien takes my hand as the lights are turned out, the glow from the sonogram screen casting eery shadows; bathing the doctor's face in white. He's on my right and Damien's on my left, hovering, and I suddenly feel so trapped that i want to scream.

I stay silent, but I'm screaming myself raw inside my head.

"Are you alright, love?" Damien asks.

I nod, not turning to him. Dr McCormick comes over to adjust my dress and the blanket before picking up a bottle that he vigorously shakes.

"It's going to be a little cold," he says apologetically. "You ready?"

"Yes," I say so softly my voice is barely audible. I wince when the clear gel is squeezed onto the warm skin of my stomach. Just seeing it feeds my nausea.

"Let's see what we have here," the doctor murmurs, lightly pressing the wand to my belly and rolling it through the gel, spreading it around. Instantly, my insides are on display on the screen, black and grey and white. Damien's grip tightens on my hand.

"There's your uterus." The doctor points before moving away to measure it; using the cursor to gather dimensions, moving rapidly and clicking away. "It looks good, just the right size at this point... nice thick lining, but not too thick. And there are your ovaries." He points again, at two black shadows in a sea of grey. He measures these as well.

Sliding the wand around, he clucks his tongue. "You have a tiny cyst on your right ovary but we'll keep an eye on it."

"Will that cause issues?" Damien asks.

"Most likely not, but I'll check on it the next time, just to be on the safe side," the doctor replies, shifting the wand again. He sighs deeply. "And here," he adds, more subdued now, "is your little one."

Pointing, he indicates a tiny object settled in my uterus; bean-shaped and deceptively innocuous in appearance. I suck in a breath, hardly able to believe that that thing is inside of me right now; growing, feeding on me.

I choke back a sob.

"Oh," Damien nearly sighs, drawing closer. "Oh, Kyle..."

He clears his throat. "How far along are we, doctor?"

"Well, based on the size of Kyle's uterus and the timing of his last heat, I'd say you're just a little over three weeks at this point. See that flicker? That's the heartbeat."

I whimper. There's another heartbeat inside of me...thrumming along. I shut my eyes for a moment, trying to understand what I'm seeing.

"Can we hear it? The heartbeat?" Damien lifts my hand and kisses it. "Wouldn't you like that, darling?"

Opening my eyes, I'm frozen, but I nod just a little.

Dr McCormick glances at me before adjusting the wand. He flips a switch and then the room is filled with a rapid thump, and it's all I can do not to vomit on the floor beside my chair.

"It's healthy," he says. "Right on target, in fact."

Damien seems to be overcome for a moment before he kisses my hand again, leaning to kiss my temple; nuzzling my curls.

"What a perfect sound," he says softly, more vulnerable than I've ever heard him.

"Everything looks good so far," Dr McCormick comments, flipping the switch and silencing the heartbeat; the sound having already driven itself into my head to nest deep in my brain. "Here, I'll print some pictures for you to take along."

Damien is positively euphoric in the car afterwards, poring over the pictures he'd been given and talking endlessly about them.

"The doctor seemed pretty optimistic," he says at one point. "Of course, it's still so early and anything can happen, but I don't know. This time feels different to me, like it's meant to be... maybe i was just being tested before, to see if I'd give up. But no, I found you... and I'm starting to think that's how all of this needed to happen, in just this way. What do you think?"

I'm gazing out the window where the sun is just beginning to set, trying to empty my head, so I don't answer for a few moments. Truthfully, I don't want to talk at all, especially to him, and listening to him spew this sort of nonsense isn't helping with my nausea.

"I don't really have an opinion," I reply, not bothering to look at him. We've been on the road for hours by now, drawing us closer to Lucifer's estate, and the fear is strong inside of me; the dread. This is just another battle in a seemingly endless barrage of battles that I'll have to meet and overcome.

He lets out a long breath, the rush of the wind outside loud in my ears; the drone of the wheels endlessly turning. "We both know that isn't true. You have an opinion about everything, Kyle."

I shrug, still watching the window. The sky looks like it's catching fire where the sun is sinking, flaring orange and blood red. "What does it matter what i think? It won't change anything, will it?"

"It matters because I want to hear your thoughts," he says stiffly. I can hear the anger resting in his words, still small, but it'll grow quickly, knowing him.

I finally look at him, this dark creature with the handsome face and severe moral deficiency. How strange he looks to me right now, with the uncertain frown on his face and sonogram pictures in his hands. I stare at him, making sure my face is an unreadable mask.

"I don't have to share them with you. You've already taken over my body, I won't let you have my mind, too."

As expected, his rage is swift, and he raises a hand, the dying sun catching the garnet ring. I give him a cool smile.

"I wouldn't do that, Damien. Remember what the doctor said about physical punishment?" I place a hand on my stomach. "Think of what you stand to lose if you can't control your impulses."

Growling, I can see the war of conflict on his face; his desire to keep me in line, his dependence on violence, but there's a vague, soft doubt there; his desire for offspring so strongly rooted in him that I can imagine he's being torn apart inside.

Good.

He slowly lowers his hand and it's all i can do not to laugh.

"It looks like you didn't really think things through, did you?" I ask, still touching my stomach. "You were so focused on the goal that you didn't think about the sacrifices you'd have to make along the way."

His eyes flash, becoming as shiny and crimson as his ring, and I can feel the rage drifting from him in waves. I bask in them.

"I always knew you had a vicious streak in you," he replies in an acidic tone. "Maybe that's why you caught my interest, not just to fuck you but to actually crawl into that head of yours and take a look around."

"I think you'll see that, in my own way, I can be just as cruel as you," I say airily.

"Oh, I have no doubt you are... you made that apparent when you ran off to spread your legs for someone else. How'd it feel, Kyle; lying on your back while another Alpha fucked you? Did it make all your dreams come true?"

It takes everything in me not to scratch his eyes out, but I keep my voice even when I reply; my tone sugary but my words poison. "It felt wonderful because I actually love Craig, Damien. He didn't have to wait for my Heat to start in order to make me want him, but you, well...I only begged you for it because I wasn't myself, and you knew it. The only way I'll ever want you is if I'm so far gone I can barely remember who you are."

"Whore," he snaps. "You dirty little whore."

"That doesn't seem to bother you," I reply indifferently. "You still wanted to have a child with me, didn't you? Besides, you have multiple omegas that you're screwing... you're a much bigger whore than I am. At least I wanted to be with Craig because -"

"You are going to shut your mouth right now," he says quietly. "Do you hear me? Right now, or I'll -"

"Or you'll what?" I interrupt. "Remember, I'm not just Kyle anymore, right, so what can you really do?"

"I should've figured you'd pour out a sob story to the doctor," he retorts. "Why wouldn't you? But, oh, if he only knew what you've put me through, the way you delight in getting to me in any way you can. I've done things for you that I've never even considered doing for anyone else. I feel things for you that I don't even understand, and you're still aloof... it's like you're filled with venom; like you enjoy it."

"I can only wonder why. You've tormented me from the moment we met... and that's after you bought me. I'm just property to you. Admit it."

Reaching, he takes a hold of my chin even though I try to avoid his hand, yanking me close. "You may think this attitude of yours will put me off loving you, but you'd be wrong. One of the main reasons I'm so attracted to you is because you're never boring. You challenge me, and as much as I despise your disrespect, I can't help but admire it, too. You intrigue me, Kyle. I've had many of your kind and they all bow eventually, but not you. I don't think you're even capable of it."

Sinking his fingers in, he smiles when I whimper softly. "You should want this child as much as I do; for your own good. Don't forget what's at stake here. If this pregnancy isn't successful my father will take you, and rest assured he's far worse than I could ever be."

Pulling, he still won't let me go, and I can see pieces of the old Damien meeting with the parts of him that seem to love me in their own sinister way. Against my will, I start to tremble, the sweat gathering on my forehead. It's almost like I'd forgotten how savage he can be when push comes to shove.

"Worse than you? That's hard to imagine," I lie, my courage failing me but I still keep the ice in my voice. "You're a living nightmare."

He smiles before kissing my lips softly, nipping gently before pulling away. "Nightmares don't create themselves, my love. They always have to start somewhere."

------

The first word that comes to mind when I finally see Lucifer's estate is "palatial", the immense mansion easily five times larger than Damien's impressive home. The brick residence is a sprawling collection of columns and sloping roofs lost in acres of fields as the limo carries us closer.

"My father has amassed a great deal of his wealth through the wine that he makes and sells," Damien explains dryly. "What you see are his vineyards. People from all over the world purchase his products... and they don't seem to mind the ungodly expense."

"He grows grapes even in cold weather?" I ask, staring at the sea of fields, the spaces in between the rows flashing by as the car rolls onward. "I mean, I know it's spring now but it's still so cool outside."

"Yes, he's especially known for the ice wines he creates. The grapes have to be harvested at just the right time and at a very specific temperature." He laughs humorlessly. "It's actually a huge risk, that sort of harvest, but my father thrives on risks. They're his life's blood, I think."

When the limo pulls in front of the mansion, Damien is still for a moment. "I'll warn you now, the attitude you've displayed this afternoon will not go over well with my father. You've met him already but that was only a hint of what he's capable of. Do you hear me?"

"More or less."

He sighs. "Where do you think I learned to love challenges, Kyle? Show him your teeth and you'll only be driving the nails into your own coffin."

Clyde opens the door then and Damien steps out, adjusting his coat before offering me his hand. I take it reluctantly and climb out as well, staring up at the majesty of Lucifer's home.

"You grew up here?" I ask faintly.

Damien regards the home with a sullen indifference, nodding. "Yes, when I wasn't being packed off to boarding school. Come along."

He pulls me to the front entrance; a rounded door situated under a large glass dome that's lit with golden light. On either side of the door are bushes perfectly shaped into cubes, nestled in ornate porcelain pots of blue and white. The door is comprised of blonde wood and shiny panes of glass, affording a glimpse of the majestic foyer within.

He rings the bell, which puzzles me. "You can't just walk in? Isn't this your home, too?"

"It was never a home," he mutters, running a hand over his hair, his coat; smoothing everything.

Soon the door is opened by a pretty young girl with soft orange hair in a braid over her shoulder. She's wearing a white blouse and a black pencil skirt, her nose splashed with freckles.
"Oh, young master," she smiles at Damien. "Your father said you'd be paying a visit. It's nice to see you again."

"Hello Sophie," he replies, pulling me closer. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"

"Much too long," she says, glancing at me. "And you've brought someone. How wonderful!"

"Kyle," he says curtly. "My father, where is he?"

"Oh, where he always is at this time of day. Drinking absinthe in the den. Well, come in, come in. It's cold out there...you'd never know winter is over."

We're ushered into the foyer where a fountain is bubbling quietly; made of marble with three women in flowing togas holding up a large rounded bowl in the center. A chandelier made of thousands of teardrop crystals seems to drip overhead, washing everything in brilliant light. Sophie's heels click on the floor as she leads us down a winding corridor.

The "den" is enormous, filled with firelight and dark, heavy furniture; the fireplace marble with a large clock ticking away on the mantle; the pendulum swinging back and forth. Above it, like most of the homes I've been in, especially those of well to do Alphas, is a gigantic painting. The subjects are Lucifer and the same woman whose likeness hangs above Damien's fireplace; ebony hair and pale skin, with large green eyes. She's in another white gown that accentuates her fragile, willowy figure; her hand in Lucifer's as they gaze at the onlooker.

Lucifer is sitting in an impressive armchair, legs crossed as he reads, a glass glowing in his hand with green liquid inside. I'm nauseated to see a pretty omega resting at his feet, propped on an embroidered cushion and leaning his head against Lucifer's leg. His eyes are glassy and vacant.

Blinking, Lucifer looks up when Damien clears his throat. He touches the omega's head softly, as if trying to wake him from a nap.

"We have company, honey child," he murmurs. "Remember your posture."

Suddenly a loud screech erupts from behind us and I almost scream, clinging hard to Damien.

"Remember your posture, Bradley! Your posture!"

Turning, I see a parrot sitting on a perch next to a huge golden cage. It's bobbing its head and turning just so to stare at us with one beady eye. It squawks and opens its wings to flap them; its plumage a collection of reds and blues and yellows.

"Quiet, you horrid thing," Lucifer calls, but he sounds amused. "You're frightening such a pretty guest. That's unforgivable."

Turning back, I see that the omega is still kneeling on the floor but his posture is rigid now; head up, back carefully arched, thighs slightly parted -

Cringing, I can recall sitting in the very same way; next to Damien's chair as others bore witness to my humiliation.

Lucifer strokes a hand through the boy's flaxen hair as he regards us; brazen red eyes so similar to his son's. He's elegantly dressed in a white button-down and dark slacks; hair slicked back and stubble gracing his sharp jaws.

Lifting his nose, he scents the air and his smile grows until i can see his glistening canines.

"You have news for me," he says, discordant voice plucking all of my nerves at once.

"News! News!" the parrot screeches.

Ignoring the bird, Lucifer continues. "Important news. Isn't that right, son?"

Damien nods but his eyes are cold, even for him. "Do we have to discuss this here? I'd rather do this without that disgusting bird repeating everything we say. Christ, why hasn't that insufferable thing died yet?"

Lucifer sips his absinthe slowly, still fondling the omega. "Very well. We can attend to matters over dinner. That'll give you two a chance to clean up and dress yourselves in attire befitting the occasion." He glances at me, eyes raking over me and seeming to settle on my belly. I move so close to Damien I'm practically standing on his shoes.

"You'll do, Damien," he adds dismissively, "but you know what I expect from an omega that has the privilege of dining at my table."

"Privilege!" the parrot shrieks. "Damien! Filthy brat! Keep your fucking mouth shut!"

Damien whirls around then, radiating rage when he shouts at the parrot. "Shut up before I snap your worthless neck!"

The bird stares at him before it starts talking again, "Filthy brat! Filthy brat! Learn your place!"

Lucifer begins to laugh uproariously, the sound mixing with the horrible taunts coming from the parrot with the dead eyes. I turn to look at him and he's all cruel smiles and mirth. He gestures to Damien and the bird.

"As you can see they've never really gotten along."
-------

Our room is generic and lacking personal touches, almost like we're staying in a high-class resort instead of someone's home. I look around, still unsettled from Lucifer's greeting; my stomach rebelling already. Damien is quiet but still ferocious as he opens our suitcases, glancing at me when I don't move or speak for several minutes.

"Is the room not up to your standards?" he asks sharply. "Make sure to tell my father, he'll love that."

"I just thought we'd be staying in your old room," I reply, realizing now that that had been a stupid expectation.

Damien snorts. "My room was gutted as soon as I left home for good. The old fucker couldn't wait to change it into a guest room or whatever the hell it is now. Unless you couldn't tell, my father isn't exactly the sentimental sort."

"I'm beginning to see that," I reply softly. Stopping before a full-length mirror, I turn and touch my stomach, relieved to see that it's still flat. How long do I have, though, before I begin to see the changes that are already happening inside of me?

"You'll need to change," he mutters, making me start; almost thinking he's managed to read my mind before I notice him holding up a long white gown.

Coming over, I study the garment. It's made of frail fabric, reminiscent of what I'd worn in Lucifer's presence before. "Why do I have to wear white? What's wrong with what I'm wearing now?"

"He has his preferences," Damien replies simply. "He likes omegas that he's not fucking to wear white for him... he covets purity, probably because he's never been innocent a day in his contemptible life."

"I'm hardly pure anymore, Damien. Not after what you've put me through."

"You are in his eyes," he says, "until he's had you, at any rate. Not that he ever will. Now stop arguing and get ready, please. I just want to get this evening over with."

The gown clings to me, hugging my body until it widens into a full skirt, right at my knees. It drags the floor. It's very modest in the front but I blush to see the back, which is practically nonexistent; the fabric dipping low, exposing me to right above my backside.

"You look lovely," Damien breathes in my ear, standing behind me as I study my reflection in the mirror. He slides his hands around to settle them low on my belly, kissing my shoulder, my neck.

"Regardless of how you feel, I couldn't be happier about the news... you just need time to adjust, I think. Even if you hate me for now you can't hate what we've created," he whispers again, kissing my nape; biting softly. 

"Keep telling yourself that," I say, turning my face away. Closing my eyes, I don't want to imagine what's waiting for us downstairs; the blank eyes of that vacant omega haunting me already.