Loid was something else.
He kept the house running so smoothly. Backlogged their marriage certificate. Helped them word answers for the interview. Cooked all the meals. Took down that mugger. His daughter adored him.
And he’d done it all by himself while working a job – one with frankly insane hours - for the last two years.
Her head hurt. Hungover. If only slightly.
She sat up and tried to remember what happened.
Loid’s friend Frankie had come over to celebrate Anya’s acceptance into school and.
She must have fallen asleep to some drama on television or something.
She picked up the clothing she’d tossed on the floor before climbing into her pajamas and bed. Whispering a grumbling scold to herself as she carried them to the hamper.
Her nose twitched. She stopped. Raising the sweater to her nose.
Red wine, what she’d been drinking, was the strongest. But under that was something else. Like cedar wood with the faintest hint of lilac.
She chased after it. Nose buried in the soft fabric. Seeking out the comforting and warm scent. She wanted to wrap herself up in it.
“Breakfast.” Loid called. Snapping her out of the haze. She tossed the garment in the hamper and scrambled to get dressed.
Loid had made breakfast again.
“Was that a joke? A wife who doesn’t cook?” Swan’s voice echoed in her head. “Alpha or not shouldn’t you be setting an example for your daughter by being stricter with yourself?”
He was finishing setting the table when she exited. He glanced back at her. “Hungover?”
Shook her head. “It’s mostly passed.”
He nodded. “You broke a heel last night.” She did not remember that. She didn’t remember much after the wine bottle opened. “And we should get Anya’s school supplies today.”
“Right.” He nodded and turned to grab the milk. “Ah!” He stopped and looked at her quizzically. “You got hurt.”
She reached out. Her thumb grazing over the pink scratch on his cheekbone.
Her blood boiled. How dare someone hurt my (fake) husband.
His eyes widened. Not moving in or out of her touch. With a small smile he explained, “Got it fighting a witch for custody of a princess. And the witch almost won.”
She cocked her head but he turned away. Anya stumbled into the room. Blearily rubbing her eyes.
They had things to do today.
Loid came home and Anya ran over to greet him. Hugging his leg as she always did. He leaned over and pat her head.
Anya’s nose crinkled. Loid’s face briefly twisted in mirth at it.
“You smell funny.”
He sniffed the sleeve of his jacket. “We had an incident at the hospital that I helped deal with. It’s probably that.”
She stepped closer and was hit with the wave of it. She covered her nose. Muffling the snarl twisting out through her teeth.
He stank of an alpha. An alpha in rut. An alpha in rut that wasn’t her.
They both blinked. Turned their heads to look at her.
She forced her teeth back under her lips and her fingers to relax. She didn’t want them to be scared of her again. Hated the curl of fear that snaked off them after she’d taken down the charging cow before the interview. If she never smelled that again it would still be too soon.
“You need a bath.” She managed to not growl. “Before you stink up the whole house!”
His eyebrows raised but he allowed her to herd him into the bathroom.
Once the door clicked closed and there was nothing more to do her nose still twitched.
Displeasure curled in her gut. “Anya you smell like it now too!” She shepherded her into her room having her change into something that didn’t smell so foul.
And then she wiped down the door just in case.
It was good to be thorough in her line of work.
Anya stepped out of her room. She picked her up and scented her until she started giggling and wiggling in her arms.
“Much better. Thank you.”
Loid stepped out. A towel draped over his shoulders in his night shirt and pajama pants. Rubbing the water from his fluffy locks.
“Better?” He asked with an indulgent smirk.
A twinge of annoyance tugged at her lips. She was not being ridiculous for not wanting him stinking up the apartment because someone got too handsy with her (fake) husband while he was at work!
She stepped closer and thoroughly checked him over. Slower than she needed to. Glaring up at him pointedly.
His smirk only grew the longer she took. There was a battle happening here and she was losing.
“Yes.” She straightened up and adjusting the fabric of her dress. “Much better. Thank you.”
“Of course.” His voice rolling with a barely contained chuckle. “Can I start dinner now Alpha?”
Her cheeks felt hot but she wouldn’t be cowed by him. She stepped to the side, sweeping a hand towards the kitchen. “By all means.”
“Are Papa and Mama going to kiss?”
If Loid’s ears had a tinge of pink to them as he walked to the kitchen it was probably just from the bath.
And if she preened a little at the idea it might have been from her. Well that was no one’s business but her own.
“Does your back hurt Pa?” Anya asked, looking up from her homework to him.
She caught his hand rubbing at the small of his back before it dropped to his side. He turned away from the gourd and other variety of things she’d purchased in her latest attempt at making dinner to face them.
She wasn’t completely sure what half of the things she’d bought were if she was honest. But Loid never complained about her grocery store habits. And the food never went bad. He always seemed to know exactly what to make with it before anything expired.
It was a little exciting. Not knowing what he’d make but knowing it would be delicious.
He shrugged. Fluffy hair falling into his face. “Just slept funny last night. The perks of getting old.” He joked.
She smiled in sympathy. Somedays felt every one of her 27 years.
Anya stood and walked over to him. She couldn’t see her behind the counter but she imagined she was hugging his leg like she did every day he came home.
He blinked owlishly down at her and bent down. Stood with Anya tucked into his shoulder. She nuzzled into the scent gland on his shoulder and she watched tension drain from him. Watched as he tucked his nose into her hair and breathed.
She could almost hear them purring from across the room.
100 Points. Top score.
She couldn’t help drifting towards them. He worked so hard and Anya loved him so much.
She could understand why.
Loid’s eyes were almost closed as he slowly scented his daughter. She hadn’t seen them do it just for the sake of it before. He’d hold her hand and he’d carry her when she attached herself to his leg and gently rest his hand on her head. But aside from before the interview and before Yuri came over they hadn’t. She’d assumed it was just something he didn’t particularly enjoy.
She wanted to wrap her arms around Loid and squish Anya between them until absolutely no one would question their little family.
I wanna be with them forever.
Loid’s spine straightened. His eyes widened. The purring in his chest ground to a halt.
“I need to make dinner.” He stated. Passing Anya to her. The rumbling in Anya’s chest fading alongside hers.
When had she started purring too?
It didn’t matter.
But she felt bad for interrupting. Loid and his daughter.
She was just a fake wife. Interrupting their lives together.
Anya wiggled in her arms. Snuggling into her shoulder.
“Love you Ma.”
The rumble restarted in her chest with a ferocity. Anya giggled.
Her hair smelled like Lilacs and cedar wood.
Oh. She realized. That’s Loid.
“Don’t let her distract you like that Yor. I know you haven’t finished your homework.” He scolded. Carving the gourd of unknown name. “If you don’t hurry you’ll miss spy wars.”
“Come on. I’ll help.” She assured.
As much as she could anyway.
“Can we feed the birds?” Anya asked as they walked back from the bathroom to the Rhino exhibit where they’d left Loid.
“I think the canary cages do feedings. We can see if they’re still hungry when we get there.”
Anya’s head snapped forward. Her little hand tightening in hers. “Papa!” She called out.
Loid looked up at them from where he stood next to the railing. Carrying the slightest tension in his stance. Three women surrounded him. Back to the railing.
A growl started in her throat and her steps lengthened.
“Is Ma going to kill them?” Anya asked as she stumbled after her.
She slowed. “No. Course not.” Forcing her freehand to relax. “Loid!” She called out. Pushing through the women. An Alpha and a beta even a damn omega.
She could compete with an Alpha. A Beta. But if he wanted an omega she stood no chance.
They were pretty and had children running around and probably knew how to make an edible meal.
And they were all smiling and flirting with him
He could have anyone he wanted. Any designation. They’d all be lucky to have him.
But he’d chosen her. Illusion or not.
“Anya was hoping to feed the Canaries.” She told him. Matching his polite smile with her own. Letting her Alpha run just a little bit freer. Making her claim clear. “Do you know when they do that dear?”
Loid’s eyes were fixed on her. He opened his mouth to respond and shivered as her scent hit his tongue.
My mate. No one else’s. The alpha in her purred.
He swallowed. Raising his arm to his face to hide the pink tint to his cheeks as he pretended to check his watch.
I did that. That’s mine.
“We should hurry then. It’ll start in about fifteen minutes.”
“Great!” She beamed. Letting her satisfaction roll off her in waves. Loid looked lost, head swimming in her alpha scent, even as a soppy grin curled onto his face.
He didn’t look away from her. Not at any of the other women.
He shouldn’t. He should only have eyes for me.
Anya took his other hand and tugged. He broke eye contact but the alpha in her only purred louder as Anya complained her legs were tired.
He scooped her up with a sigh. “Excuse us ladies. It was nice talking to you.” He said.
They smiled back at them as they departed.
“What a shame. All the good ones are taken.” She heard them lament.
That’s right. He is.
The canaries were lovely.
Loid was glaring at the sauté pan when she got up that morning.
He glanced up at her. Expression softening to its standard stare. “Morning. I think I’ll be late again tonight.”
She pulled the plates out. “Again?” He’d come home in time to make dinner and fall asleep and that was about it every night for the last two weeks.
“We’re short staffed.” He pulled his shirt collar up and tried to discretely sniff it.
“Are you out of laundry?”
He grimaced. “Is it that obvious? I ironed it before I put it on.”
She leaned in. Inhaling.
“No. I can still barely smell you. You have a very faint scent.”
Fainter than almost anyone. Which was a shame because he smelled lovely.
His shoulder eased slightly. Flipping the omelet over.
“I can wash them for you?” She suggested. His spine went ridged. “Or take them to the cleaners?”
She already washed her clothing and Anya’s. It wouldn’t be much extra trouble.
He frowned at the pan for a moment. Turned sheepishly to her. “If it’s not too much trouble?”
“I wouldn’t offer if it was.” She assured.
“I won’t make a habit of it.” He promised when he handed over a basket. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She said instead of I wouldn’t mind if you did.
And then there was the problem of actually doing it.
Because the basket smelled heavenly.
Lilacs and cedar wood pressed into the fabric of his clothing all bundled up in front of her.
It made her mouth water. She wanted to climb into the basket and roll in it until she smelled like Loid and Loid smelled like her and everyone would smell that he was claimed. That he was hers.
She didn’t. But her traitorous hand still raised one of her mate’s shirts to her face.
They just smelled so good. Like Loid. Like safety and warmth and the gentle pats on the head he greeted Anya with every time he came home and the memory of the meals he’d made them and-
Oh. The quiet revelation came as her chest rumbled joyfully. I called him mate. She nuzzled into the soft cotton of his shirt. I might be a little in love with Loid.
It was almost a shame to wash the clothing. But she did.
If she handled them a little more than necessary while she was folding them, pressing her own scent into them, well. That was between her and any god nosy enough to be paying attention.
She left it outside his door for when he came home. Picked up a meal after it became clear he wasn’t coming home early enough to cook.
The clock ticked by as Anya finished her homework and spy wars came to an end. They took Bond out for a quick walk and then finally. Finally, the door clicked open and he limped in.
He took off his hat and jacket. Stifling a yawn. He looked around, vaguely confused.
“Saved some pasta for you.”
He nodded. Smiled. “Thank you Yor.” He peered around the couch. “Did Anya go to bed already?”
She hid her smile. He wanted his welcome home hug. “No I don’t think so. She’s probably in her room.”
He disappeared down the hallway with another tired nod.
He chuckled. “Yor.” He called. “Come here for a moment?”
She rounded the corner and had to cover the soft gasp that escaped.
Anya was curled up in the basket of Loid’s laundry. He crouched, petting her hair.
“She missed you.”
His hand reached under the shirt Anya was asleep atop and effortlessly scooped her up into his arms. She snuggled into his chest as he carried her to bed. He plonked her down with the little blanket of his shirt tucked around her. Throwing another blanket causally over top her.
His hand squeezed her shoulder as he exited the room. “Thank you for doing my laundry and getting dinner.” Those blue eyes. Half lidded. Stared at her. “I’ll make it up to you.” He assured.
His lips were right there. Soft and pink and she wondered what they’d taste like right now. Not lemon. If he just leaned down and kissed her.
His hand left her shoulder. It left a lonely cold in its place.
“It wasn’t a problem.”
Helping support him was a task she was happy to take on.
“Do you think papa is home yet?” Anya asked her. Her little hand safely held in hers.
“He should be home today so he might be!” Loid had gone to a medical conference in Munik this weekend.
She pushed open the door and was instantly on edge. Her hand caught Anya halting her dash into the apartment and her hopeful call of “Papa!”
Her nose twitched. It smelled wrong. It was wrong in a mouthwatering way. Wrong in the same way the house smelling of a chocolate raspberry torte would be wrong. Wrong in a wonderful way.
It smelled sweet and delicious and the oven was definitely off.
Omega. Her gums itched. She wanted to track down the omega that smelled so lovely and claim them and-
Why was there an omega in heat in their home?
“Mama? I wanna welcome papa home.” Her little nose twitched. Yanking on her hand insistently. Trying to wiggle free.
“Peanut I’m not sure-“
“His coat is home!” She pointed at the coat Loid had indeed taken with him to the conference. “I can smell him too!”
Lilacs, cedar wood and the sweetness of a baking cake.
There was an omega in heat in their home because the omega was Loid.
Anya broke free of her grasp and raced down the hallway calling out for him.
She closed the door behind them. Not taking her coat off. Should I get a hotel for the next few days? She didn’t want to intrude on his den while he was in heat. If he didn’t want her here then-
Oh her chest ached at that thought.
Was his first wife an alpha? Would he think she was trying to replace her?
Would he ask her to stay and comfort him though his heat?
Oh she wanted to. To hold him and feed him and take care of him until it passed.
The pillows on the couch were missing along with the soft fluffy blanket that usually was folded over the back.
She waited at the far end of the hall as Loid opened the door to his room. She could see a nest forming on the bed through the door.
He picked her up and snuggled her into his shoulder right away. She melted into his side. The hard lines of tension in his shoulders eased as he purred in relief.
She wasn’t surprised. She hoped he wasn’t upset by her scent clinging to Anya. An alpha scent that wasn’t his mate’s covering his pup during his heat. An overly familiar alpha in his den during his heat.
She half expected him to attack her for being here.
“Hungry!” Anya declared, giggling as he squished her closer.
If Loid got this cuddly when he was in heat it was probably one of Anya’s favorite times. Her Papa home for a few days snuggling her.
His head raised, looking directly at her. She jolted slightly. Awaiting bared teeth and a demand that she get a hotel for the next few nights.
She wouldn’t be hurt by it. She was his fake wife and she wouldn’t be hurt by it. It made sense. She was just his fake wife and that didn’t mean she was welcome next to him at his most vulnerable.
She braced and he gave her half a smile. Sheepish and apologetic. Which was somehow worse.
Don’t feel bad for not wanting me here. I understand.
Anya’s tears at the interview. Her quiet Mommy.
I’m not your mate and I can’t replace her. It’s okay if you don’t want me here acting like I can.
No matter how much I would like to be your mate.
“Can you pick up something? I’m not up for cooking right now.” He said instead.
“Oh! Of course- do you have something in mind?”
“Rhien Haus!” Anya insisted.
Loid’s smile cracked a little wider. “You read my mind.” She tensed as he set her down. “It’s getting late you should grab a bigger coat.” She nodded and ran to her room.
She opened her mouth to offer to find somewhere else to stay while he rode this out but he spoke first. “Sorry.” His eyes stayed locked on Anya’s bedroom door. “I know I should have just gotten a hotel room but-“
“What- no this is your home Loid!” She didn’t want to imagine the misery of an omega holing up in a unfamiliar hotel all by themselves. Trying to make a nest out of unfamiliar scents and suffer through the ordeal in place that reeked of strangers without any of the comforts of home. She couldn’t imagine Loid doing that. The very notion crushed her chest. “I was going to say I’d get a hotel if it would make you more comfortable!”
He began to respond and stopped. Gritting his teeth and forcefully breathing. Eyes trained on the floor until it had passed. “I wouldn’t mind the extra hands to help with Anya.” He admitted. Eyes flicked up to her. “But I know this is more than you signed up for.”
“I don’t mind!” She said a little too quickly. “But are you really comfortable with me being here- since…” Since I’m an alpha. She couldn’t force herself to say. He knew that.
An alpha and an omega sharing a space during a heat. The expectation of what would happen, accurate or not, was mortifying.
His head cocked to the side. Like he was struggling to follow the thought. His cheeks were already flush but she could feel her’s coloring to match.
He snorted when it clicked and leaned back against the doorframe with a sly grin. “Are you going to jump me Yor?”
“Then it’s fine.” He waved off her concerns. “If it gets too much for you at any point your welcome to rent a hotel. I’ll pay for it.” He promised like that was her main concern.
Anya stepped out of her room, dragging Agent Penguin out behind her. She pulled him to Loid. “For you!” She declared. “While we get dinner so you won’t get lonely!”
He blinked in shock. Pat her head. “Thank you.”
He picked the massive penguin up with its Frankenstein stitching and hugged it to his side before they shuffled back out the door.
“I didn’t know Loid liked Westalian food.” She commented, adjusting the bag in her free hand.
Anya nodded very seriously.
“Maybe I should learn how to cook it then...” She mused.
“Nope!” Anya shook her head frantically.
Her shoulders fell. Opening the door.
It was still quiet when they entered. Anya ran to Loid’s room and started opening the door.
She caught her wrist. Loid was a stickler for privacy normally. She didn’t want them walking in on anything accidentally. She’d heard omega’s couldn’t stand clothing during heat and she didn’t imagine any of them wanted to walk in on a naked Loid. “It’s important to knock first”
Anya’s eyes were wide, face coloring slightly. She nodded seriously. “Papa dinner!”
She heard him shuffle off the bed. The door opened.
He looked worse than before. Hair sticking to his forehead. Half asleep and groggy.
Thankfully dressed in his black sweatpants and white shirt.
She pulled out his meal and offered it to him. He accepted it although he seemed confused for a long moment on its contents.
“Blanket fort!” Anya cried out. Dashing around his legs to jump into the nest he’d made of all their spare pillows and blankets.
“Anya!” You can’t enter an omega’s nest without permission!
She screeched to a halt at the edge of the bed. Wide eyed staring back at them.
Loid watched her placidly. “You’ll have to promise to eat very carefully. No spills.” He told her.
Her eyes grew impossibly bigger. Nodded enthusiastically. Leaping into the nest and making herself at home.
He smiled warmly. Softly. She could see Agent Penguin standing guard against the headboard. Loid turned to her and raised an eyebrow. “Coming in?”
Her heart quickstepped in her chest. Nodded. Crossing the threshold nervously.
He closed the door behind her and climbed into the nest. Shuffling the blankets slightly.
Loid’s room was nice. Simple. It smelled wonderful. Smelled the way his shirts smelled but instead of having to chase the scent it was wrapped around her. Comforting. Warm. Safe.
She stood at the edge of the bed and hesitated. “May I enter?”
Loid was laying down on his side and stopped to look up at her. Bemused confusion coloring his “Yes Yor.”
Her heart leapt as she tried to climb in without disturbing the fabric walls.
He let me into his nest. He let me into his nest. She marveled.
Nests were for family and mates and he’d let her in.
He opened Anya’s take out container. Settling on his side. “How was your weekend?” He asked pulling out a potato dumpling from his meal.
She told him all about the game she’d made up at the playground and what they’d eaten and how Bond had carried her home and he told them about the medical conference and the lectures he’d gone to until Anya fell asleep between them.
He carded his hand through her hair and she rolled into his chest.
“She loves you.”
He grimaced. Curling a little tighter around her.
She collected the leftovers. “Still cramping?” Crawled out of the bed carefully.
She returned with a hot water bottle and passed it to him. He cracked his eyes open and slowly reached out to take it. Tucked it behind him, against the small of his back.
“Anything else I can get you?”
His brow pinched and he closed his eyes. Sinking into the pillows.
“Alright- I’ll be next door if you need me.” She started towards the door when a high pitched whine stopped her.
She turned back to him. Confusion as he stared at her.
“Do… You want me to stay?”
She took a step to the nest and he started purring.
“May I enter omega?”
He shuffled closer to her. As close as he could without disturbing Anya.
“You’re really out of it aren’t you?” She asked pushing his hair off of his fevered brow.
He pushed into her hand and the lilacs grew stronger. Hummed indistinctly.
“Well then let me say,” She whispered to him. Settling down next to them. “I’m honored to be allowed in your nest. It means a lot to me.”
“Course.” She jolted. She’d thought he was out off it.
“I- I just mean most of the time nests are just for mates and families not…” She shoved her face into the pillows but she couldn’t escape Loid. Couldn’t escape how good he smelled and how much she wanted- “Fake wives.” She concluded.
“You are family.” He grumbled sleepily. “You and Anya.”
“Oh.” She wouldn’t start crying into his beautiful nest. She wouldn’t. “That’s. Good.” She choked out. “You made a beautiful nest.”
“I don’t usually make them. Not." He yawned. "Worth it. But this is… nice.”
It was nice. It was lovely. Warm and cuddled in Loid’s bed with him and Anya.
Her eyes drifted to the base of his shoulder. She wanted to bite it and make this forever. Not that mating bonds were for forever but she wanted to.
Loid was smirking at her.
“You want to claim me.” He accused without any of the heat of accusation and too much self-satisfaction.
“I didn’t say that!”
“No. You’re just acting like it.”
Her face turned bright red and her fist clenched in preparation of being overwhelmed.
He closed his eyes. “I don’t object but I’m going to insist on at least one kiss before.”
“I’m not going to-“
He cut her off. “Then settle in. I’m exhausted.”
She shifted. His face still tense with pain in front of her.
“So long as you don’t kick me out after.”
“Haha.” She leaned in. He stayed still.
She kissed him.
A soft press of their lips together and then she pulled back.
It wasn’t earth shattering. It wasn’t magical. There was no chorus of angels.
But it was warm. Soft. Gentle. It was nice.
It was all the things that made Loid, Loid.
She pulled one of the loose blankets over them.
His lips pulled up into a smile. Instead of tugged downward with the discomfort of heat.
It was nice. It was with Loid. In the home, the nest, he’d built them.
As far as first kisses went, she wouldn’t trade it for anything else.