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Quentin’s dad had always called him a city boy. But after his father died, he needed to get the fuck out of Jersey. Somewhere different, less stifling. Where he could breathe and maybe rebuild his life. So, here he is in Lake George, New York, keys in hand, moving into the Coldwater family farmhouse, gone unoccupied for more than twenty years. It’s across the street from the Sage Green Bed and Breakfast, which is, Julia tells him, run by two magicians.

One of them is a cute beta girl—and an alpha guy, Julia had said when she went with him to get the deed transferred from his dad’s estate. He’s super fucking hot, the alpha guy, she’d added. Like Quentin was always picking up super hot alphas. Like it was a thing he just did. Like, all the time.

He’d thought he wouldn’t see them at all, but there they were with fresh baked bread the day after he moved in, the two hot magicians. The alpha who introduced himself as Eliot was wearing fucking suspenders that made him look even taller than he actually was, and the beta, Margo, carried a sun umbrella and wore a crop top that would look ridiculous on anyone else but just looked natural on Margo.

Eliot had made sure to pointedly introduce Margo as his friend. And that was—interesting.

After that, Margo started waltzing in and out of his place like it was hers, and they became friends—like genuine friends, and Quentin has very few of those. And he adores Margo—she enjoys ragging on Brakebills—seriously, fuck that place—and talking with Quentin about what Eliot refers to as her “nerd stuff.” She smells clean and bright and citrusy-sharp, like Julia a bit, but shinier, and it’s soothing. Not that he’d ever call Margo soothing to her face.

Eliot—he thinks he’s friends with Eliot. But he’s not as sure. He comes around almost as often as Margo, but he usually waits to see Quentin in his yard before he stops by. It took him three encounters to ask for Quentin’s number, and his cheeks had gone rosy when Quentin entered it in his phone, the slightest purr in his voice when he’d thanked Quentin like it was somehow a privilege to have his contact information.

Like. Quentin must have hallucinated the whole thing because he’s always been a slut for tall alpha guys, and he’d secretly like to grab Eliot by the tie and haul him to his den and submit, bare his throat and bathe in Eliot’s scent—

At base, Quentin doesn’t really care if someone is an alpha or a beta or an omega, male or female. He’s lusted after—everyone he knows at some point or another. All combinations are welcome in his rich fantasy life. Just. Eliot is something special. And tall alphas. That is a thing. He has to admit, just looking at Eliot—it’s definitely a thing.

Eliot is objectively beautiful. Not the stereotypical muscle bound movie hero or the overbearing take-charge type, Eliot is all long, willowy lines and immaculate styling, arch comments and languid grace. For all of his sophistication, he also chops wood and bakes cakes, cleans gutters and tends the chickens at the inn, pickles carrots and cucumbers, cans beets, and makes jams.

And he smells unbelievably good. Like fire smoke and rain hitting dry earth and deep, piney woods—dark soil and life stirring in the ground. Naturally, Quentin talks Julia’s ear off about him when she comes to visit a month after Quentin moves in.

“You have a crush,” she says after opening a third bottle of wine.

“Well. You were the one who told me he was hot. You put it in my head.”

“He’s just your type.”

Quentin scoffs. “I don’t have a type.”

“Your alpha type. Your alpha guy type.”

Quentin shrugs. “Maybe. I think—I think like. Maybe it’s his scent?”

“Yeah. You mentioned.” She kicks him under the pile of blankets set up in front of the fireplace.

Quentin laughs. “But seriously He smells like—a fucking forest. Like a river. It’s absolutely—I don’t know how a single omega staying at their place gets an ounce of sleep. With Eliot just—looking like that. Smelling like that.”

“They live in a house behind the inn,” Julia points out. “And maybe other omegas just aren’t as affected as you are. You know, omegas are supposed to have that extra-heightened sense of smell if they meet their—”

“Don’t say it. I don’t believe in that stuff. It’s like—it’s biology, right—like some scents are easier to pick up. And—and—some people are going to smell more like, pleasing. To your fucking—olfactory senses.”

“Yeah, but it’s not as fun to think about it like that. You always loved talking about that romantic scenting shit as a kid. Fated mates.”

“We also pretended Fillory was real. So.” Quentin clears his throat and takes a long sip of wine. A thrill runs through him as he lets the thought of Eliot settle in his mind. It’s an indulgence to think of him, like something special and sweet, wrapped in an ornate package. Eliot, pristine and sharp in his vests and ties; grimed up delectably in the worker’s overalls he wears when he’s gardening. It’s been a long time since Quentin’s taken an alpha’s knot. Not that Quentin is thinking about that. But he’s not not thinking about it.

“You should ask him to see you through your next heat,” she says, sitting on the floor in front of the flickering fire.

Quentin chokes on his wine, coughing into his glass and nearly spilling it all over himself. “God, no—that’s not—you know I do them alone unless I’m in a relationship. Not since. You know. The whole fiasco with James.”

“Why’s that gotta keep being the rule?” She pours herself another glass of wine and reclines in the pile of pillows and blankets they’ve set up by the fire.

“Because that was a whole ass disaster. And I’m a disaster. And James doesn’t speak with either of us anymore.”

“Yeah. That was also like seven years ago. You’re almost thirty. You own your own fucking farmhouse. And—I see you’ve been working on a nest in that room right off of the master. Is that an old denning room?” She winks at him, and he throws one of the crackers from his cheese and cracker plate at her. “It’s pretty fucking cool. Seems like you oughta be able to share it with someone.”

Quentin blushes. She’s Julia—they’ve never shied away from talking about this stuff (even since the fiasco in question—when Quentin had spent a heat with James after Julia broke up with him and—apparently James thought that meant Quentin was his boyfriend. That had lasted from one heat to the next because—Quentin is a people pleaser and James was fantastic in bed. Just not the kind of person he wanted to be with long term. Poor James, twice dumped, hadn’t taken it so well—and Quentin had created the Rule. Heats are for serious relationships only. A rule not to be bent. Again, a quick flash of Eliot—naked, pinning him—pops into his mind.)

“The room. It’s—yeah. It was meant for heats and birthing and—like a nursery for right after birth.” Quentin’s cheeks go even warmer, which is likely because of the wine—but the whole concept of baby makes something complicated happen in Quentin’s chest. And the suggestion he spend the heat with Eliot—God, all of that. Quentin is feeling faint. “I’m making it a permanent den. So I can hang out in there whenever. So it’s for me.”

“Oooh. You deserve it.”

“I guess,” he says, humming a little, tapping on his wine glass.

“It’s coming up soon, yeah?”

“Yeah. A month. Maybe?” Quentin’s fingers twitch a little. His mom always told him to be modest, not to talk about this kind of thing. But his mom is his mom, and Julia is Julia. Still, she’s talking about this in the context of Eliot.

“Plenty of time to ask—”

And there it is. “Don’t fucking start,” he says. “Eliot’s my friend. I think. So. Leave it.”

But that’s what puts the idea in Quentin’s head. Eliot in his den. Eliot holding him and touching him and guarding him. The thought makes a warm, pleasant ache spread through his core.

In the morning when Quentin goes out to fill the bird feeder, he nearly trips over a package on the front porch—a wooden box containing a jar of honey, pickled radishes and red onions, fig preserves, six fresh eggs, and a package of homemade cheese crackers.

Quentin smiles and opens the little note in the bottom of the box.

Thought you and your friend might enjoy this. -El

~~***~~

Quentin sees Eliot that Monday morning when he goes out to weed the struggling little garden he started once the frost broke. Quentin is no gardener, but it’s clinging to life. He might have berries come June. It’s cool and dewy in the morning, and Eliot seems to be—doing yoga? —on the wraparound porch. Right out front where Quentin can see him. Has to see him in his like, expensive modal joggers and the textured cotton henley that he seems to own in four different colors.

Quentin knows Eliot’s favorite shirts now—the thin, cotton tees Eliot puts on with the fucking overalls. The henleys he wears with his yoga pants. (And Quentin knows the patterned button down he wears on Fridays when guests typically arrive, and the two sets of suspenders he favors and—Quentin hasn’t even been here five weeks. He realizes, as he watches Eliot, that he knows Eliot’s favorite yoga poses. God, he’s pathetic.)

Quentin keeps looking up from his weeding to see Eliot in downward dog, switching to warrior one or two—Quentin can’t remember which is which—showing off the long lines of his arms and legs, curls falling elegantly over his forehead. Quentin’s not close enough to see, but he wonders if Eliot’s wearing the gold-flecked eyeliner that brings out the coppery-brown in his eyes.

Jesus, that man should be illegal. The inn is probably so popular with tourists because they have repeats coming to watch Eliot do yoga on the porch.

Quentin wonders—just as, like, a thought exercise—how many guests Eliot has fucked. Not that Eliot would be so gauche, but Quentin wonders. And yeah he’s fantasized about it—being a lonely omega on the road, going into heat unexpectedly, pulling into the Sage Green Inn, desperate to get to a room—anywhere private so he can ride out his heat in peace. Eliot, obviously, checks him in, and he can see that Quentin is in need. He can smell it.

Quentin feels like a fucking pervert, a needy omega, absolutely objectifying Eliot and his knot—he shivers thinking about it now, even in the warmth of the morning sun—but fantasies are healthy, he reminds himself. As he watches Eliot dip into another pose, a low lunge, the highlight reel from the past few weeks of helpless jerking off plays in his head—Eliot offering Quentin their most private room, closing the door behind them and taking him in his arms with crushing force, kissing him hard and brutal, dipping down to nuzzle and lick at his scent gland, and—there’s a lot of porn Quentin’s watched to put together a nice montage of the next part—Eliot moving Quentin to his hands and knees, mounting him, fucking him and knotting him, staying inside

Yeah, Quentin should just let it go. Eliot’s a neighbor, a friend. And he’s way out of Quentin’s league. Like, not even on the same planet of leagues. He’s the type of alpha who should be dining at The Four Seasons or going to the Met Gala on the arm of someone distinguished and—possibly famous. He’ll stay in Quentin’s fantasies where he belongs.

He realizes he’s been staring when Eliot waves at him. Quentin’s stomach drops, a thrumming, nauseous pulse sitting low in the pit of stomach. He drops his head and goes back to his work, brushing off his hands and starting to put down the landscaping fabric that might allow the strawberries he’s planted to grow, unfettered by weeds. There are already little leaf buds, tiny white flowers. He tries to put his interest there instead of focusing on Eliot. He struggles with the second package of fabric, standing to try to rip it open and falling backward, nearly knocking his shovel into the beehive he’s trying to get started. Which would be exactly something Quentin would do and—he just fucking sucks at all of this, and he doesn’t know why he moved up here and he’s got a stupid hopeless crush on one of his only friends here. One of his only friends, period.

Fuck. Goddammit.” Quentin kicks the roll of fabric from where he sits.

“Bad day?”

When he looks up, Eliot is standing above him, still in his workout clothes, which, dear fucking lord, smell like the essential scents of Eliot, all thrown together, but so much more intense like this, under the sun. After moving his willowy, long body around.

“Uh.”

Eliot puts out his hand. “Looks like you could use some help.”

Quentin swallows hard and—he can be normal. He can act like a fucking person. Even though Eliot’s scent is overpowering from here—his sweat heavy and deep and earthen, like the rich soil beneath wet leaves, fragrant with life. Okay. He’s still weeks away from his heat, and he can fucking get a grip. “Oh. Um. Sure.”

Eliot takes his hand, his long fingers brushing against the scent gland on Quentin’s wrist. A shock, crackling like static electricity, jolts through him, dropping low and sitting tight between his legs.

“What is it that you’re trying to do here?” Eliot's words are tinged with good natured amusement; that should put Quentin on the defensive. Instead, his whole body relaxes, reacting to Eliot’s calm, steady scent, the slight rumble of his voice.

He leans toward Eliot, eyes wide, inhaling deeply and stifling the whine that starts to rise in his throat. Jesus fuck. Quentin is a hormonal nightmare. He shouldn’t be allowed in any public space. Ever. But certainly not within a few weeks of his heat. Jesus.

“Um. I’m—strawberry patch. The landscape fabric—”

A grin spreads across Eliot’s face, and Quentin just gives up. He can’t be expected to form a complete thought when he’s just the right height to focus on Eliot’s collarbones, his eyes wandering to the scent gland on Eliot’s right side, which—barely there, just a slightly darker patch of skin—sits just above the collar of his shirt. He takes a deep breath and lets it out, trying not to do what he wants to do, which is whine, bury his face against Eliot’s neck, beg Eliot to hold him and scent him and make him smell like that.

But Quentin is a person, and Eliot is a person, and they’re both people, and Quentin can function, for fuck’s sake.

“Mm, I see,” Eliot says, rumbling a little on the last syllable, which sends another jolt straight to Quentin’s dick. Is he doing that on purpose? “I could help you with that. If you like. I have some experience with this kind of thing.”

Quentin’s useless and still staring at Eliot’s neck; Christ, it’s a fucking long neck. Like, it looks physically impossible but also somehow completely suited to Eliot’s face and Eliot’s nose and Eliot’s long legs and his wild tumble of lush curls. “Oh. Sure. Yeah. I think—if it’s not too much trouble.”

Eliot steps closer, only inches between them, and stoops to pick up the discarded roll of landscape fabric. When he stands, Quentin hears him take in a long breath, the barest hint of a purr coming from his chest. Or it could be the buzz of bugs, the hum of the car pulling up to the inn. It’s probably just Quentin’s imagination.

Quentin watches, helpless, as Eliot rolls up his sleeves—Jesus—and starts rolling out the fabric between the rows of new strawberry buds. After a few shocked moments of watching Eliot’s muscles move beneath the thin shirt, eyes roaming down to his particularly nice ass, Quentin’s mind snaps back into focus, and he starts tidying up the rest of the garden, trying to push his mating porn thoughts completely to the side.

But it’s hard, seeing Eliot like this. It’s harder still when Eliot flaunts his forearms all over the place, doing chores for Quentin and teaching him about bees.

Two mornings after that, he finds a worn book about beekeeping by his door and packaged honeycomb, rich with dark gold honey, that he knows they sell at the inn.

There’s a little note along with the honeycomb.

Good for energy when gardening, good in tea. Also can be used for several spells. Remind me to tell you. -El

And in the following weeks, it only gets worse.

~~***~~

It starts with a text from Eliot—God, they’re like—texting friends now, or whatever.

Eliot offers to help him get the beehive set up. And he’s as good as his word, showing Quentin how to use the equipment and helping him extract the queen from the wild hive Quentin had found when he’d moved in—maybe a rogue from one of Eliot’s. He gives Quentin a lesson on what types of flowers to keep planted, tells him he’ll bring over seeds.

“I think you’re going to be great at this, really,” Eliot says, all sincerity, the full force of his gaze on Quentin.

Quentin doesn’t know what he’s going to be great at. Farming? Probably not. Like. Writing the book he’s been fiddling with for three years? Also probably not. Loafing around for the next year while the estate is settled? Maybe. “Thanks. I’m. Yeah. Thank you.”

They stand there, looking at each other for long moments before Eliot breaks the silence and invites himself inside for a drink.

After that, Eliot decides to make tea in Quentin’s kettle, filling a pitcher with ice and fat drops of honey from the honeycomb and telling Quentin he needs to stay hydrated as he tucks a stray lock of hair behind his ear. Eliot’s fingers linger just there, inches from Quentin’s scent gland, his heart beating in his throat as he holds the sweating glass of sweet iced tea.

He knows he must be releasing all sorts of inappropriately horny pheromones, filling the kitchen with their combined scent, his unmated omega sweetness melding with the earthy richness of all that is Eliot. And, holy fuck, Quentin can’t help thinking that this is what his den would smell like if—if they were in it together.

Eliot grins—wide and a little wolffish, Quentin can’t help thinking it even if there’s no real intent—and lets his hand drop to Quentin’s shoulder. “You refinishing your floors? I can help. I have an extra machine and a lovely dark stain that would complement the walls. And—” Eliot turns to look at the empty wall behind the new oven Quentin installed. “—I’ve got extra tile for a backsplash. If you’re interested. Perfect for the amateur cottagecore beekeeper aesthetic you’ve got going on here.”

“Oh? Is that my aesthetic?”

“Mm. Mmhmm,” Eliot says, alpha purr rumbling again in his chest. Which nearly makes Quentin sink to his knees in his work clothes. He imagines himself nuzzling at Eliot’s dick, taking it in his mouth, rolling his tongue over the head as he grows hard against Quentin’s tongue.

Inappropriate. So fucking—thirsty. He opts for a sip of iced tea instead of assaulting his neighbor. His friend. His friend. He says the word like a mantra in his mind.

“Uh. Is that good?” Sweat blossoms over Quentin’s forehead.

“Oh, yes. I’m a big fan.” He looks Quentin over, the same way he did when they first met, a smile quirking at the corner of his lips like he’s seen something—or decided something about Quentin. “Very big.”

That night, Quentin jerks off three times. He can feel the shift in his body—his nipples sensitive, his cock heavy, slickness gathering between his thighs late in the day. He’s a week out from his heat, and he probably needs to tell Eliot to stop coming by. But he doesn’t want to. And he doesn’t.

The next morning when Quentin goes out to weed the garden, he finds a bouquet of wildflowers on his front porch, tied together with a lavender ribbon, lying atop two packets of seeds. The paper packing of the seeds smells faintly like Eliot.

He texts Julia a picture of the gift.

Quentin: this stuff is from eliot. can someone explain alphas to me b/c i do not get what’s going on.

Julia: i can ask james

Quentin: please do NOT

Julia: lol don’t worry i’m just fucking with you—i think it means eliot would like to offer you his assistance with more than just bees. u should ask him.

Quentin doesn’t see Eliot that day, but the next morning, Eliot arrives with a canvas tote full of subway tile and—grout paste or whatever the fuck it’s called, along with a set of tools Quentin didn’t know existed. Quentin thinks of asking him then, about the heat. But he doesn’t. He gets too distracted by Eliot’s lips while he’s talking about tile.

Before he leaves that afternoon, Eliot checks Quentin’s fridge and sighs. “Do you even have any food? You only have mustard, three eggs, and a six pack of White Claw.”

“Oh. Uh. I usually just get takeout in town. But the eggs—thanks for leaving the eggs like you do.” God, Quentin is living off the eggs Eliot keeps leaving for him. Last week, he’d left a rasher of bacon with them, wrapped up in wax paper. His mouth waters, stomach rumbling.

“You’re hungry now, hm?” Eliot steps in close, cupping the side of Quentin’s face and wiping away a smudge with his thumb.

“Oh. Maybe a little?”

“You’ve got bread somewhere?”

Quentin nods and points to the bread basket by the toaster, unable to fully form words with Eliot’s touch sitting on his skin like a living thing. He watches, mute, as Eliot makes him an egg sandwich, garnished with mustard and a touch of parsley from the garden. “Ah. Thank you.”

“You gotta eat, baby.”

Baby. His brain threatens to quit entirely, shrivel up and fall out of his ear. “Yeah. I know. I’ll be better about that when I’m working.”

“Mm. You need your energy.”

Eliot smiles and pats Quentin’s shoulder, clearly ready to go but—not moving. Quentin’s body feels like a live wire, crackling and fizzing beneath Eliot’s gaze, his repeated touch. He tries to remember if James touching him had felt this way. If it was like a shot of photon-laced meth that went straight to his dick. He doesn’t think James ever made him feel like this, not even when he was pinned and knotted, writhing back against his lovely cock.

It was a lovely cock. He bets Eliot’s is better.

Eliot finally moves, but he pauses in the doorway and turns back to look at Quentin. His eyes look gold in the afternoon light. Leonine. “I’ll make you dinner tomorrow night.”

“Uh. Yeah. That sounds great.” Quentin is bright red when Eliot leaves, and he stands in his kitchen, staring at Eliot’s long form through the window.

There are more eggs on his porch the following morning, along with two greenhouse tomatoes and a pint of blackberries.

Eat more, the note says. -El

Quentin is beginning to think Julia might be right. (Julia of course tells him that she definitely is, and he’s an idiot.)

~~***~~

When Eliot comes over with supplies to make dinner, he has three full bags of groceries in his arms, and a backpack slung over one shoulder.

Quentin should bring it up. He really should. He should say—I know you can smell me. Five days, give or take. He knows Eliot can. He thought of like—ten different things to say to Eliot about how they should probably stop being in close quarters if they’re going to stay just friends, but they all vanish when Eliot bends over and starts stocking his fridge with bags of fresh fruits and vegetables, deli meat and gourmet cheese, three baguettes and several pints of ice cream.

Food to get his energy up. Before his heat.

And then Eliot mentions it first. As he puts a little container of the Sage Green Inn honey on the counter next to a box of fancy crackers and a jar of homemade sweet pickles, he speaks low and slow, his voice all alpha rumble. “You should have some meals made ahead of time. You need to make sure you take care of yourself.”

“Oh my God. Um. Yeah. I guess Door Dash isn’t a thing here.”

“No. This whole area passed on Uber Eats, too,” Eliot says, his tone casual but—he’s gripping the counter, knuckles white, and he takes a deep breath. “And you don’t want to be driving. Margo can bring over a few things from our kitchen. If you need.”

“Uh. That’s very kind but—”

“You have a friend coming to... help you?” Eliot turns, and Quentin sees that his cheeks are just the slightest bit pink. Other than that, he seems unaffected, but his scent—that’s what betrays him. There’s an undertone of wanting suffusing the air in the kitchen. That’s the best way he knows how to describe it. A note of desire.

“No. It’s been—a few years. No, I’m—I’m on my own.”

“Oh,” Eliot says, nodding, lips drawn into a line. He doesn’t say anything to Quentin for a while after that, opting instead to start chopping vegetables for a rich, tomato-based pasta sauce that fills the kitchen next to their mixed scents. When he sits down with Quentin at his little kitchen table, Eliot pours him a glass of red wine and heaps his plate with pasta and buttered bread.

Before Eliot disappears to the little cottage behind the inn, he places a chaste kiss on Quentin’s cheek. Quentin nearly melts into the floor and spends an hour on the phone with Julia, swearing up and down that Eliot doesn’t like him like that and she must be high if she thinks he does. She listens to his incredible bullshit. And tells Quentin to keep her updated on Eliot’s next big move.

~~***~~

Around the time Quentin usually sees Eliot the next day, he sees Margo crossing the street instead, practically gliding in her high heels, carrying a letter in her hands. She doesn’t even tell Quentin hello. She just launches into conversation as soon as he’s in earshot.

“So this fucknut won’t text you. Says it’s not traditional. But that he doesn’t know what to do. I can’t help it that he was brought up in some weird quasi-cult. He had to take classes or something at Sunday school about wooing omegas. Gift giving and letter writing and garbage like that. Fucking bogus-ass fundamentalist Indiana dicks.”

As soon as Quentin stands up and brushes the dirt from his jeans, she shoves an envelope in his hand. He looks over her shoulder, like he’s hoping to see Eliot stroll out onto the porch for his morning yoga. “Um. I don’t. What are you talking about?”

“Ugh. I give him shit all the time for his hormones turning him into an extra special himbo. But I think you’re even worse.”

“I mean,” Quentin says, examining the letter. There’s a fancy Q on it, written with a calligraphy pen. “You’re probably not wrong. But. What is this?” He holds the letter up. Quentin’s not entirely stupid, and he’s now two days out from his heat. So. It probably has to do with that.

“This dumbass has been courting you. He’s about to lose his mind. He’s embarrassed that he’s been leaving you eggs every damn day. Bouquets of fucking wildflowers. But he can’t help himself. I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve literally never seen him like this. And he’s fucked a lot of people. I mean, I’ve seen him fuck a lot of people.”

Quentin swallows hard, all that knowledge hitting him like a shot of bourbon, swirling in the pit of his stomach. “Oh, uh. Wow. He shouldn’t feel weird—”

“Yeah, save it for Eliot. And be speedy. If I have to hear about how good you smell again—eugh—I’m going to burn down the inn, take the insurance money and run. Okay?”

Quentin swallows hard, his cheeks burning. “Yeah. I got it.”

“You better text him as soon as you’re done reading. Tell him some shit to do, like stuff you need. He’s dying to go gather supplies and guard your pillow fort. Tell him you love this shit, even if you don’t. Okay? Tell him he’s doing a fucking great ass alpha job of doing it all right.”

Quentin would be offended but—he’s busy being half-mortified and half-elated. Mixed with kind of horny. Like maybe especially horny about the fancy stationery. Margo turns on her heels as he opens it, heading back for the Sage Green Inn.

“Hey, Margo! Wait!”

“Yeah? What?” She turns around, arms crossed. “You need me to witness you reading Eliot’s official what-the-fuck-ever—permission slip to court you? I really like you, Q, but I don’t wanna get these feelings all over me. I’ve already heard enough about it for two fucking months now. Just text him, and tell him you want him to fuck your brains out and—”

“Like—he really—wants me? Like—he could have anyone.”

“Trust me. I know. And he has. He was gone on you from day one, though. He says you’re different. So treat him like the goddamn jewel he is.” Margo sighs, rolling her eyes. “God, I can even smell how dopey you are. I’m going inside, getting stoned, and sitting in the fucking sauna so I can sweat this whole scenting situation out of my pores. I don’t wanna traumatize the guests.”

“Oh. Um.” Quentin holds up the letter, heart thumping wildly. “Thanks for this, then.”

“Don’t mention it.” She turns and walks toward the inn. “I mean literally. Don’t mention it.”

Quentin nods and looks down at the letter, holding it like it’s a precious artifact. He remembers learning about this in his history class—how the longstanding tradition in many cultures across the world involved lengthy courting rituals that involved an alpha proving their worth to the chosen omega. He knows that some of these things still happen, but Quentin thought of it as something distinctly outside of his experience. James had… he’d ordered Quentin pizza during his heats. And they’d fucked. That was the extent of it.

But Eliot—Eliot helped Quentin set up his garden. Helped him refinish his floors and put in tile. He’d gotten the beehive established, had taught Quentin a few spells for calming the bees and helping them produce more honey. He’d brought Quentin flowers and eggs, made him iced tea, stocked his fridge. All while building to this.

The handwriting in the letter is neat and loopy, slanted a bit to the left.

 

heartbeats letter

 

Dear Q,

I’m mortified that I'm doing this. You know I’m not some backwoods yokel. But my family is made entirely of backwoods and of yokels. And this is what they did. So, here we are. I felt my fingers itching to write this even as Margo literally yelled in my ear to text you.

I saw you from the porch that day the moving truck came. I’m not one to believe much in romance. My life has given me a lot of disappointment when it comes to lusting after cute omega boys. But there was something about you.

I’m not asking for anything more than you want to give. I just know it’s hard to jump into a new life, and I know you’ve lost a lot recently. I thought I’d offer my company in the next few days; I can stay as long as you need me. I’d like to take care of you. I’d be honored if you’d let me.

I’d be interested in more beyond this if you are. I’ve never done this before, but I figured I’d try to do it right since my body will not give me a break on the matter. Let me know.

-Eliot

 

 

Quentin is actually weak at the knees by the time he finishes reading, the paper trembling in his hand. The pressure that’s been building in his hips pulses and expands, sweat beading up on his brow. He brings the letter to his nose and breathes in. Dark, loamy earth, pine and cedar, fresh rain. Eliot had scented it. He’d written this, and he’d dragged it over his wrists, thinking of taking care of Quentin—giving him what he needs. Making his heat not just tolerable but good.

Quentin takes out his phone and shoots off a text to Eliot before he can think too much and chicken out.

Quentin: Just to be clear, you’d like to spend my heat with me? And be more than friends?

The bubbles that indicate his typing pop up right away.

Eliot: If that’s what you want. Otherwise I’ll need to stay away for a while because it’s all I can think about.

Quentin looks across the street, wondering if Eliot is in the cottage or if he’s working inside. God, he’s never said something so forward to an alpha, not even James. They’d always skirted around the details and fallen in bed together.

Quentin: That’s what I want.

Eliot: Thank fuck.

Quentin laughs and bites down on a grin.

Quentin: I rly like the gifts. And I appreciate your help. Like so much.

Eliot: Glad to know I haven’t totally humiliated myself.

Quentin: Not yet. Lol. It’ll start soon. I’m feeling it. Come over tomorrow night?

Eliot: Looking forward to it. I’ll bring some more groceries by today.

Quentin: I’d really like one of your yoga shirts.

Quentin feels a whine starting in the back of his throat, his face flushing hot. He tucks his phone away like it might actually light on fire—he’s never asked for something like that. He kind of kept one of the sweaty lacrosse shirts James left in his room after Quentin’s first heat with him, but he’d tucked it under his blankets, and he’s not sure James ever knew. And when Quentin had broken it off, moving out of the apartment and back to on-campus housing, he’d shoved the shirt in the laundry bin when James was at class. So. This is. New. Forward.

He got a letter from Eliot. It’s like he’s in a historical romance. An omega on his own, finding his fortune on his—ranch. Or whatever the fuck. And Eliot is—the well-to-do tavern owner or—

Quentin’s phone buzzes and he nearly trips over himself getting it back out of his pocket, turning in a half-circle and catching himself on the porch railing.

Eliot: Whatever you want.

God. That’s the thing, isn’t it? For once in his life, he’s getting exactly what he wants. And he has a feeling he won’t be disappointed.

That afternoon, Eliot brings by a bag of groceries, hesitating before he steps inside. “I have a few loaves of fresh bread in here. You can freeze two of them.”

“Oh, uh. Yeah.”

Eliot bustles by him, barely looking at him, his scent giving off a hint of anxiety, as he stacks more food in Quentin’s kitchen, including more ice cream. He must have been reading Buzzfeed or something to find a listicle about what to bring an Omega going into heat. It’s not like he’s wrong. But. It’s cute.

“It’s cute,” Quentin says, stepping up behind him. “All the things you’ve done. I mean.”

Eliot goes still, hands resting on Quentin’s countertop. “Oh?”

“Well, it’s not just cute. It’s sexy. Like. I can’t stop thinking about you. I’m really glad you sent me that letter or I might have gone crazy. Thinking about you, you know.”

When Eliot turns, Quentin seesand he can smell—the same kind of cracked-open wanting that exists within him, mirrored on Eliot’s face. “It hasn’t been too much?”

“It’s a lot. But. So am I. I like it.”

Eliot gives him a shy smile, and it’s like he’s all at once shedding the mantle of confidence he’s worn for weeks, his shoulders relaxing, tension draining from him. “I was worried. That you’d hate it.”

Quentin shakes his head. He steps up to Eliot and presses up on his toes to kiss him, their lips sliding together awkwardly at first. But when Eliot’s palm cups the back of his neck, it’s like pieces slotting into place, an answer to a question Quentin didn’t know he was asking, had been asking since they met. Like they fit.

He places his hand against Eliot’s chest to feel his rumble, slow and sensual and pleased, like he’d been waiting for this. This, exactly. He pushes Quentin back against the counter, crowding him into the corner and lifting to sit him on the countertop. His legs fit neatly around Eliot’s waist. When Eliot lifts his shirt to run his fingers through the fuzz on Quentin’s belly, a shower of sparks falls through his body, filling him with warmth.

They kiss for a long time, lips brushing together soft and sweet at first, then harder and hungrier. Eliot nibbles on his lower lip and slides his tongue into Quentin’s mouth. When Quentin sucks gently on his tongue, Eliot growls and grips Quentin’s waist, fingers digging into flesh. The scent of Eliot’s arousal hangs heavy in the air around them, thick and sharp; his cock is hard against Quentin’s inner thigh. But he doesn’t push; he doesn’t try to get his hands on Quentin’s stiffening cock, doesn’t check to see if he’s getting slick. Quentin can sense Eliot’s restraint, his pulling back, his need to savor his omega. Eliot wants him when his heat begins, wants to do it right, and so he kisses Quentin, slow and thorough.

He lets his mind drift, thinks absently about how good it will feel to take Eliot into his den right when his heat begins to rise. When Quentin needs him most.

He’ll make the very best nesting material of all, Quentin thinks, and he laughs against Eliot’s soft lips.

“What’s so funny?”

“You’re just unexpected,” Quentin says. “Thanks for making me feel—not so alone.”

“Mmm. Same,” Eliot says, diving back in to kiss him again.

Quentin is practically floating when he closes the porch door behind Eliot.

The rest of the day, Quentin readies his house—vacuuming the bedroom and living room, cleaning the bathroom, tidying in the kitchen, dusting the shelves and hanging pictures that had been sitting around neglected since moving in. When his house is passably prepared for company in the form of a very refined alpha, he enters the denning room and—he stops for a moment. It holds significance now, like no nest Quentin’s ever made before.

The room itself is special, a space set aside just for the omegas in his family, something he’d never be able to afford—or even find—in the city. Windowless and cozy, the room has a recessed nook in the hardwood floor to hold blankets and bedding—and now Quentin’s queen-size denning mattress.

It’s deeply satisfying on a primal level to have a place set aside for his heat, and even more so now that Eliot has promised Quentin his assistance. Quentin doesn’t remember feeling this way about any nest. He considers it as he arranges the pillows and brings in bits of soft fabric—he’s been an independent omega for a long time, and he’s weathered many heats alone. He’s always made a nest just for that purpose, a soothing ritual. But now, he nests with intent. His nest will be a refuge not only for him; it’s also for Eliot. Someone who could one day maybe be his mate. It feels wholly different. Primal.

He feels… proud when he surveys his work. He doesn’t have a fancy boudoir with silks and velvets like he sometimes sees on HGTV; that’s not his style. But what he does have, he loves. A soft patchwork quilt his grandmother had made from scraps of old clothes, passed down to Quentin. A thick, fuzzy comforter from Costco—soft on both sides and stuffed with thick polyfill that feels satisfying to grip and hold when he’s in heat. A bevy of memory foam pillows with soft flannel covers, worn paperbacks on the little bookshelf, strands of soft yellow lights strung across the low ceiling, muslin blankets hung along each wall, sheepskin rugs from Ikea softening the bare floor.

It’s set up to perfection, and a deep sense of belonging settles over him. He’ll sleep in here tonight, he thinks.

Before he heads downstairs to grab some food and his book, he spots a bag on the porch. When he steps outside, he immediately detects the rich, earthen smell of Eliot. Inside the canvas bag is Eliot’s cornflower blue yoga shirt, the one he’d been wearing when he came by. Next to the bag is another bouquet of wildflowers.

~~***~~

The next morning, he wakes up in the denning room, huddled in his nest of blankets. His cock is iron-hard, his hips and low back buzzing with the achy sensation of impending heat. Normally, he’d be moping right now, avoiding his nest for as long as possible. But now, he pulls Eliot’s shirt from its spot next to his favorite pillow, burying his face against it as he jerks off, slow and thorough, coming with a shout, spilling over his hand as he imagines Eliot’s cock in his mouth, pushing to the back of his throat. Before he gets up, he checks his phone.

Eliot: Don’t shower.

Quentin’s entire mouth goes dry, and he stares at the ceiling, his body pulled taut and thrumming, his inside aching where he so desperately wants Eliot to fill him up, his cock half hard again after Eliot’s suggestion. His demand.

Can it be a demand if Eliot didn’t really intend it that way? Because—Quentin’s pretty sure Eliot will still come over if he showers. And Eliot—apart from the whole courting thing—laughs in the face of stereotypes. He loves dressing up and showing off, wearing touches of makeup while he tends his herb garden, decorating the inn while Margo takes care of the financials. He’s not a strapping lumberjack alpha or an ice road trucker alpha or whatever—he’s Eliot. But this feels a little like a demand, and maybe Quentin wants to see it that way because—

It’s hot. Eliot is tall and broad and strong, and Quentin can’t shake the thought of Eliot grabbing his wrists so hard they bruise, pinning him and prying his thighs apart as Eliot scents him, marks him up with his teeth, slides into Quentin and knots him so he can’t move.

Quentin’s already jerking off again before he realizes what he’s doing, his cock oversensitive but hard again, and all he can think of is Eliot’s knot swelling inside him, Eliot’s warm voice next to his ear—Don’t shower. Don’t move. You’re mine.

It’s the kind of deranged fantasy that doesn’t really add up to sense, all spawned from a two-word text that definitely falls in the category of innocuous heat request. But Quentin has exactly zero regrets as he spills over his fist again, his body snapping and jerking from the back of his neck to the meat of his toes.

God. He’s spending his heat with Eliot. How is his life fucking real?

When he finally gets up, he towels off but doesn’t shower, the thought of Eliot’s demand sending thrills through him as he has his coffee and dutifully eats his eggs and toast. Throughout the day, he looks back at the message at least twenty times. Eliot wants that. Wants his scent. Wants everything that is Quentin.

By the time Quentin hears the soft knock at the door, he’s nearly crawling out of his skin, his thighs and back aching with need. The knock comes again, along with, “Hey Q, it’s me.” A wave of arousal, heady and swift, hits him, running through his body like wildfire. He has to grip the back of the sofa to keep his knees from actually buckling because— He can smell Eliot through the screens on the windows—the same scent of rain and woods and wet earth, mixed with something that suggests eagerness, a sharp edge to his calming scent that signals his eagerness to mate. Taking a deep breath, he steps forward and tugs the door open, stepping back to his spot by the sofa.

Let it be said that Quentin put no thought into his attire. He never does. Eliot, even in his work overalls and athleisure clothing, always plans his appearance. Not only did Margo tell him that early on; he’d also observed it in action.

If anyone had asked Quentin what one might wear to a heat, he’d have said—first of all, what a stupid question—and second, like… sweatpants? But Eliot—Eliot isn’t wearing a tie or a vest or any of the trappings of his usual semi-formal defected nobleman attire. No, Eliot is dressed in fewer layers—a simple dark green button down, open at the throat, skinny gray pants, polished shoes. His curls are soft and glossy. No eyeliner today. Just his hazel eyes, the frame of his long lashes, infinitely kind and sharp, full of hunger when he looks at Quentin.

Quentin stares at him, rooted to his spot by the sofa. He should say something. There’s probably some formal thing that would be clever, a callback to Eliot’s weirdly traditional letter. Which was hot. It was so hot.

Eliot’s holding another bag of groceries and an entire bouquet of flowers, like flowers from the actual florist. Lilac. Narcissi. Hyacinth.

“Let me put these in some water,” Eliot says, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips, which takes his breath completely away. Like. He forgets to breathe.

“Running out of room for all the flowers,” Quentin chokes out, trying to laugh but just squeaking instead.

Eliot chuckles and steps up to Quentin, bending to brush their lips together, the barest hint of a kiss. This close, his musk is almost overpowering, invading Quentin’s senses. Everything is suffused with Eliot, his thick scent undoing all of the tangled cords at Quentin’s center. He realizes he’s panting a little when Eliot pulls away and makes himself at home in Quentin’s kitchen, housing the flowers in a vase and filling his kitchen with more food.

“Hey, Q?”

Quentin’s pulse picks up at the sound of Eliot’s voice. He clutches the edge of the couch even harder, knuckles white. Why can’t he move? “Yep?”

“Have you eaten?”

“Um. Actually. Not since breakfast.”

“I’ll whip up something quick. I have some things for a salad. Something light. That okay?”

“Yeah. I can—I can help,” he lies. He can’t even move.

“No.” Eliot appears at the door of the kitchen, meeting Quentin’s gaze. “You’ll be sitting down wherever you’re most comfortable.” His voice is deeper than usual, a thrumming purr behind his words. It plucks at something in Quentin, reverberating through him.

“Oh. Yeah I think I’ll. Sit down.” Quentin lets out a deep breath. He finds himself walking over to the overstuffed sectional and tucking himself into the nest-like corner, sitting almost between the cushions so there’s a bit of pressure pushing into him from both sides.

Eliot reappears holding one large bowl of salad, two forks, and a bottle of water. “Can I sit with you?”

Quentin nods, his head spinning a little at how his world has shifted in the past few days. He’d been expected to spend his first heat here entirely alone, aided by a few of his favorite knotting dildos and some heat porn on his laptop. Now he has Eliot waiting on him, sitting down next to him and slipping an arm around his shoulder.

“Thank you,” Quentin says. Blood rushes in his ears as Eliot’s thumb makes circles over his shoulder. There’s something so strange about this—even though he knows, like, bonded pairs do this all the time in the day or so before heat begins. Relaxing together, eating nutritious food and, like, chatting. Quentin realizes he doesn’t really know how this goes. He’s never done this. “I’ll put something on TV, I guess.”

“Wait,” Eliot says, a hint of nervousness clouding his scent for a moment. “We should talk.”

“Yeah,” Quentin says. “Yeah, I guess.” He knows he’d be out of his mind with anxiety if it weren’t for the warmth of Eliot’s arm around him and the steadiness of his scent. He doesn’t know what they’re supposed to talk about, but there are probably—things. He settles back against Eliot’s arm, reaching up to pull Eliot’s hand down over his chest.

Eliot laughs, warm and low, like he’s pleased with Quentin snuggling into him, which is good because that’s what Eliot makes him want to do. “You done this with an alpha before?”

“Yeah. Twice. Not, like. A lot. We didn’t exactly talk much.”

“I see. I’ve been with omegas during heat. Just not with someone I really liked. As much as I like you.”

Quentin nods and attempts to absorb that information. Eliot liking him. A pleasant, warming buzz hums in his bones. “I. Uh. Like you, too.” He stifles the impulse to put one of Eliot’s fingers in his mouth.

“Mm. You’re on birth control? I have a spell if you aren’t.”

“Yeah. Implant.”

“Good.” Eliot’s fingers brush against his, and he rearranges to take Quentin’s hand, holding it tight.

“Someday, though,” Quentin says, clearing his throat. He figures if this is going to be a thing, he should probably put it out there. Just to cover his bases. “I’d like to try for a pup. I mean. Just in general. Not like—”

“I know. You’d be a good parent,” Eliot says, his words sending a bolt like lightning through Quentin, lighting up all the hidden wants he’s kept tucked away. “And you’d be so sexy all filled up.”

“Oh, my God.” Quentin bites his lip, his cheeks flushed, body going liquid against the warm press of Eliot’s long limbs.

“You like that? Want me to tell you how pretty you are?”

“Um. Yeah. It’s really—it’s really nice. I like that. And it’s hot—it’s definitely really hot. That’s fine for—”

“Dirty talk?”

“Yeah,” Quentin breathes. “It’s... hot.”

“You have a nest, sweetheart?”

Sweetheart. No one’s ever called him ‘sweetheart’ before. “Upstairs, there’s like a whole room for one. I think it’s—it’s really nice. I think you’ll like it.”

“I know I will.” This time when Eliot kisses him, it’s filthy, filled with longing. A searing, crackling heat ignites between them; the smell fills his nostrils—rich and earthy like Eliot’s usual woodsy musk, but something in it has shifted, a vein of steady arousal, fresh and raw like split-open wood, creeping in and making its home beneath Quentin’s skin.

They get lost in it, kissing, on and on, tasting each other as Eliot takes Quentin in his arms, boxing him in against the corner of the sofa, a low rumbling purr coming from deep in his chest. It feels almost like Eliot is vibrating through him, like a part of him is making a home in Quentin, leaving his mark with more than scent. Something greater even than a mating bite because Quentin feels it within, a clicking together of connection that he’s never felt with anyone.

It’s silly to think this way. He knows that fate is meant only for fairytales, and while he might once have been an idealist who believed in such things, he’s no longer that person. Still, now, he slips into letting himself believe that Eliot holding him here is something that was meant to happen, that this moment is his reward for making it this far in his fucked-up life, and maybe it’s the same for Eliot, too.

Eliot is wrecked when he pulls away—pupils blown, cheeks ruddy, his curls a little wild. “You smell so good. Like wildflowers,” Eliot says, burying his face against Quentin’s neck, lips so close to the sensitive scent gland where Eliot could one day mark him.

Even the feathered touch of moving breath against Quentin’s neck sends ripples of bliss through him; his omega senses are responding to Eliot, telling his body that there’s an alpha here to take care of him, that he can let go. Submit. Let Eliot take over—and—take what he needs from Quentin. He’s dimly aware of Eliot moving a few strands of hair away from his neck, shivers running down his spine as Eliot’s fingers draw close to his gland.

“Can I?” Eliot’s voice is soft, but there’s a ragged edge to it.

It takes a moment for Quentin to realize what he’s talking about, for Eliot’s words to sink in. But as soon as it clicks in his mind, his stomach swoops, sweat gathering on his forehead.

“Yeah. You can do… whatever you want. I trust you.” Quentin tips his head back further and bares his neck, a shiver rippling through him at the thought of Eliot’s strength and his own vulnerability.

Eliot lets out a deep, guttural sound, pressing his nose against Quentin’s neck and inhaling. A soft, high pitched whine rises from Quentin’s throat, his body turning liquid beneath Eliot’s hands as he presses him into the corner of the sofa. “This okay? Just wanna feel you close.”

“Mm. Yeah, s’nice.” Heat pulses in his cheeks as Eliot crowds him, lips brushing along his collarbone, and higher up, just below his gland. Really, no one’s paid attention to him like this. James wasn’t into scenting. He liked pinning Quentin and fucking him—he’d never cared much about Quentin’s scent. There was, on occasion, a mumbled, “you smell good,” but only when Quentin was on his knot. So this—this is new. Eliot taking him in with reverence, panting against his shoulder.

When Eliot’s lips touch the gland, swollen with his impending heat, Quentin’s body jolts, a shockwave running through him, twining up with the ache in his hips and the tenderness in his cock. Eliot’s teeth scrape against the sensitive flesh, and he moans, rumbling and filthy, as his tongue darts out to lick at his sweat-damp skin, tracing up over his gland. Goose flesh blooms over Quentin’s body, and he whimpers.

“Q,” Eliot says, still kissing his neck, nibbling at the pink skin around his gland, “Tell me if it’s too much. You just—you taste good. Been thinking about this so long.”

“It’s good,” Quentin says, helpless, dragging his fingers through Eliot’s hair. “You should. Scent me. Make me smell like you. Please.”

Eliot responds with a low rumble. “I’m not usually like this. I was going to make sure you had dinner.” He’s kissing over Quentin’s neck, making deep, pleased chuffs as Quentin tips his head back. A desperate whine nescapes Quentin’s throat as Eliot drags his wrist over Quentin’s neck, leaving the evidence of Eliot’s smell, earthy and masculine, against Quentin’s skin. It gives him a primal pleasure to think that anyone who smelled him right now would know that Eliot had claimed him for the duration of his heat. No other alphas need apply.

God, he’s barely dated alphas—one alpha—and here he is, high on Eliot’s scent, considering the concept of fated mates the way he’d done in junior high. He’d inwardly cringe if he could focus on anything other than Eliot’s lips.

Eliot’s just—different. Maybe. Maybe that’s the reason.

They calm down a little after that. Quentin puts on old episodes of ‘House Hunters,’ which he’s always found weirdly comforting in the lead up to heat. And Eliot feeds him—actually feeds him, like he’s the lead omega in a BBC regency romance and Eliot’s a defected lord who just came into a small fortune. Eliot gives him little bites of tomato and bacon from the salad, kale and goat cheese and honeyed almonds. Three quarters of the way through the salad, they get distracted and start making out again like two teenagers just discovering what it feels like to weather a heat together.

Eliot pulls away, panting and hoarse and halfway hard, around nine. Quentin feels like a puddle of molasses, slow and heavy and drained of any desire to move. But the nest is upstairs and he’ll be going into full blown heat sometime in the middle of the night. So they need to. And Eliot is so good—he’s such a good alpha—he’s going to make sure they get there.

“I’m gonna—gonna—” Eliot pants and scrubs at his face. “I’m going to. Make us a bag of supplies. There’s a bathroom up there?”

“Yeah,” Quentin breathes. “About ten steps from the denning room.”

“Why’s it so hot that you’ve got a room all set up? A whole room.” Eliot leans in to brush his lips against Quentin’s again, but he gets up and makes his way to the kitchen, utterly unconcerned that his cock is very clearly straining against his fancy slacks.

Quentin smiles, a little giggle rising from his throat. “Nature. I guess.”

“I guess,” Eliot echoes. He can hear Eliot stuffing food and drinks into one of the many canvas bags he’s brought to Quentin’s house over the past few weeks. A frisson of excitement—anticipation like he’s never felt before a heat—runs through him. Usually, heats are lonely. And Eliot represents the diametric opposite of that.

“I’ve got a mini fridge in there.”

“So fucking classy, baby. All ready for me.” Eliot appears in the doorway with two bags slung over his shoulder, beckoning to Quentin. “Come on. Get up before you can’t anymore.”

Quentin half stumbles toward the stairs, Eliot following behind him like he’s—watching Quentin, guarding him, an arm slipping around his waist as Quentin shows him to the bedroom and leads him to the den.

A heated flush crawls up his body. It’s strange how this simple act, showing Eliot into his den, sends a feeling of arousal rushing through him, settling in his hips, burning in his thighs. Eliot steals another kiss before sitting down at the end of Quentin’s real bed, taking off his shoes and socks and then stripping, methodically, out of his clothes.

Quentin can’t help staring at Eliot—and he can stare, so he does. When he steps out of his boxers, Quentin’s eyes are drawn to Eliot’s cock—huge and heavy between his legs, the tip already wet. His knot is deflated, but Quentin can see it, the loose skin at his base, and it sends another jolt through him, another sharp burst of wanting in his core.

“Like what you see?” Eliot steps up to him and tugs at the hem of his shirt, making quick work of Quentin’s clothes. Quentin’s too doped up to do it himself, and it’s like an extra high to let Eliot take care of him like this.

“Yeah, I like it. A lot,” Quentin mumbles, pressing into Eliot for another kiss, rubbing his heated skin against Eliot’s body.

“C’mon. Tell me I can come in.”

“You can come in.” Quentin takes Eliot’s hand, leading him inside, the canvas bags forgotten by the door.

“Like the lights,” Eliot murmurs, as Quentin pulls him down onto the denning mattress with him, his mouth already on Eliot’s chest, grazing over his nipples, hands roaming over his ass. “I wanna see myself when I slide inside you. For the first time. So the lights are a nice touch.”

“Oh my God.” Quentin laughs and pushes himself into Eliot’s lap, kissing and kissing him as they rock together, cocks slippery with precome, Quentin’s inner thighs wet with slick.

“Baby, you’re making it really hard for me not to just—pin you and fuck you already.”

“Mm, s’a good idea. You should do it. I’ll order that off the menu.”

“I wanna do it when you need it most. Give you a perfect first knot when your body is screaming for it. You need some sleep right now.”

Quentin bites at his collarbone, groaning. His cock is so hard, and he’s pressed tight against Eliot. “I’m not gonna be able to sleep unless I come,” he whines, his tone petulant and needy, and not at all like the very nonchalant omega he’d say he strives to be. But Eliot’s here, and he’s so big and beautiful, and his cock is perfect and it’s just right there. And he doesn’t seem to care about Quentin’s whining—God, he likes it. Quentin can tell from the pleased scent coming off of Eliot’s skin, dark and heady.

“Oh, baby. Of course. Let me take care of that. You just lie back and spread those pretty thighs for me.”

Quentin lies back in his perfect nest, head against his favorite pillow, content. Eliot, this beautiful man, is working his way up Quentin’s legs, kissing along his tender, aching thighs and—fuck—lifting one of Quentin’s legs over his shoulder as he settles in, darting out his tongue and licking at the slick gathered between his legs. Hot breath spills out over his perineum, Eliot’s tongue laving over the underside of his cock, and down lower, tongue darting out over the deeply sensitive flesh just above his hole, all swollen and slick. Quentin lets out a breathy whine, pressing his calf against Eliot’s back, heat rising in his thighs, cresting and rising through his hips.

“Gonna taste you,” Eliot mumbles, planting his thumbs on either side of Quentin’s hole and spreading him open, kissing him there and licking, soft and gentle against Quentin’s entrance. It’s gentle, so infinitely gentle and soft, Eliot’s hot tongue circling his hole, pressing inward and retreating back as Quentin’s back arches against the mattress, fingers brushing against his sensitive nipples as Eliot goes deeper, grunting as he licks and spreads Quentin’s thighs so they burn with the stretch.

A contented alpha rumble fills Quentin’s ears as he tips his head back and keens, his heel digging into Eliot’s back as he kisses and licks and sucks, pushing the tip of his tongue inside him. His cock jerks, leaking against his belly as Eliot works his tongue, shivers rolling through Quentin’s body when his tongue presses against the sensitive places inside that so desperately want the screaming pleasure of Eliot’s knot filling him.

The air in the den feels charged, like the light buzzing in the atmosphere before a storm, heavy with ozone. Replete with possibility.

Please twists and curls inside his hips as Eliot eats into his throbbing, aching ass. Quentin thinks—with what little capacity for thought he has left—that this is the first time anyone has desired him in this state; sweaty and needy, his scent cloying with aching want, his body not yet ready to give the succor of an omega’s heat. But Eliot takes all the vulnerable pieces of him and holds them with care, worshipful—in a way that feels more tender, more appreciative than simple, base wanting.

A little yelp rises from his throat as Eliot goes deeper, gives him more, his tongue undulating, pressing in and pushing against his sensitive edges, licking inside with the simple purpose of Quentin’s pleasure. Focused solely on him, on his scent, playing to the nature of his need—not yet fully formed into heat, but pulsing with the persistent ache that just precedes it. So Eliot just gives and gives, making the muscles in Quentin’s core shift and shake, his thighs trembling as Eliot takes him closer and closer to that inevitable edge.

He wants to draw it out, this sensation of openness, the intoxicating combination of their scents as the sparks in his body swirl and rise, his cock throbbing almost painfully and dripping in a milky pool against his stomach, the filthy slurping of Eliot’s tongue against him where he’s all wet and sloppy, Eliot’s pleasure at this act almost palpable in the humid air of his den, an inner sanctum that Eliot has succeeded in making truly sacred, made whole with his touch and care.

When Quentin grips his cock, his whole body shudders. Almost over-sensitive after keeping himself on the edge, Quentin’s voice comes out needy and thin. “I’m so close, El. Wanna come.”

Eliot pulls away breathing hard, leaving Quentin’s body vibrating. “You wanna come with your hand, or you wanna use my mouth?”

Quentin whimpers, closing his eyes and trying to process the question. Eliot wants to know—something. Wants to know what Quentin wants. “Your—I wanna. Your mouth. God, I wanna—I feel empty.”

“I’ve got you, baby,” Eliot murmurs, slipping three fingers inside Quentin, right up to the base of his fingers, his knuckles dragging against Quentin’s rim, pushing him open. It’d probably be more work to take Eliot right now, to take his knot, but God, he wants it. Wants Eliot inside him whether he’s loose and achy and needy, keening and pushing back against his hand; wants him when they’re both at even keel, wants Eliot to lick him open, stretch Quentin on his fingers, get him used to that big cock so he can take it every time.

Quentin’s shaking against Eliot’s hand, pressing down against him, squirming on his hand and sobbing with twinned frustration and euphoria. It’s not enough. But it’s like Eliot already knows, like he can read it in Quentin’s scent, and he slides a fourth finger inside, letting Quentin grind on his knuckles. He barely registers the slick heat of Eliot’s mouth when he swallows Quentin’s dick; his thoughts catch up to the actions of Eliot’s mouth when Quentin’s cock hits the back of his throat. It’s almost too much, his nervous system lit from within, pathways of pleasure all lit up at once.

Quentin’s orgasm hits him like a riptide. Howling the announcement of his release, he arches his back and bucks into Eliot’s mouth, an answering groan around his dick telling him just how much Eliot likes this—needs Quentin’s taste, his scent. Quentin’s toes curl, pulsing against the soft nest of blankets, fingers clutching at jersey sheets and velour blankets, all the well-worn pieces of comfort that he can now share with someone. With Eliot.

It lasts. Not as long as some orgasms he’s had during the height of his heats—it hasn’t even really begun, for fuck’s sake—but the unspooling bliss is sharp and clear, sounding on a different frequency than his solo missions. There are tears on his cheeks as he comes down, his breath hitching as Eliot climbs up his body, tutting out a cleaning spell before Quentin can even open his eyes.

Eliot’s cock is hot and hard against his thigh, but he doesn’t do anything beyond tucking Quentin into his side and moaning as he presses his nose to Quentin’s neck. “You taste amazing, baby. Fucking farm-to-table gourmet.”

Quentin giggles, tucking his nose in Eliot’s armpit. “You’re weird.” He inhales deeply. “But I like you.”

“The feeling is entirely mutual.”

He paws at Eliot’s shoulder. Eliot smells like him now, and God, they do smell so good together. In Quentin’s little sanctuary. Quentin is about to fall asleep, high on Eliot, but his alpha wants to fuck—and he can rally for that. “I can get you off,” Quentin says, stifling a yawn.

“No, baby. I’m gonna get that gorgeous mouth on my cock, but not right now.” Eliot croons, a deeply calming noise that filters through his depths, quieting the little voice that says he’s doing this all wrong. A sound that tells him that he’s more than enough, that Eliot is happy, here with him.

“You sure?” Quentin’s eyes are already closed; he moves so he can use Eliot’s chest as a pillow. Really, he’s the very best den accessory. They should sell an Eliot pillow at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

“I’m sure. You need some sleep.”

“‘Kay,” Quentin mumbles, his mouth pressed to Eliot’s skin.

What Eliot doesn’t say is that he’ll be guarding Quentin. Quentin knows that’s what happens with some alphas. They don’t sleep much when sharing a heat with an omega. They stay awake, bowing to the instinct to guard, to protect (James had just slept—more than Quentin, if he remembers correctly). In this century, that mostly means that Eliot will drag him to the bathroom when he needs and make him drink one of his fancy homemade beverages—orange-peach and mango nectar, lemon and honey red tea. So fucking fancy, his alpha.

He feels Eliot sitting up, and he grumbles, but he can hear Eliot dragging in the bags and stocking the little fridge, his hand still on Quentin’s thigh. Quentin drifts to sleep to the sounds of Eliot taking care of him, content and warm and safe, sharing this with him.

~~***~~

It’s dark besides the fairy lights strung up on the low ceiling of the den when Quentin wakes. The door is closed, so all Quentin can sense surrounding him is Eliot—Eliot’s hand slung possessively over his waist, Eliot’s woodsy-loamy scent, Eliot’s breath hot against his neck. A peppered thrill rolls through him, his nipples crinkling hard and tight as his body comes to waking, piece by piece. His pelvis, the muscles in his hips, his core—everything aches. When he moves his hand to his belly, his skin is hot to the touch, covered in a slight sheen of sweat. His cock, already half-hard, is fattening up from Eliot’s scent. This is it. Quentin can feel it rising within him, the bone-deep knowledge that this is where he’s supposed to be, waiting for Eliot to mount him and breed him.

Eliot stirs behind him, his hand gripping Quentin’s hip bone reflexively as Quentin shifts. “You okay? Do you need anything?”

A whimper rises from his throat, an answer to the rumble of Eliot’s voice. “It’s just—it’s time.”

Eliot breathes in deep, tongue flicking out just below Quentin’s gland, making a pleased chuffing sound deep in his chest. “Almost there, pretty baby.”

Quentin blinks, his head pleasantly fuzzy like he’s had one too many wine coolers and a hit of Julia’s weed, his thoughts blurred and fizzled out, all the hard edges of his anxiety melting away. His brain and body pulse together, echoing the beat of Eliot’s heart. Just Eliot. Eliot needs to be—kissing him. He pushes himself into Eliot’s arms and seeks out his mouth in the dark. “You need to be on top of me,” Quentin murmurs.

“You’re pretty fucked up already, hm?” Eliot brushes his lips against Quentin’s and goes in for a deeper kiss, pushing past his lips and sucking on his tongue. Which obviously sends all the blood in his body straight to his already throbbing cock. He’s aware of warm slickness on his ass, the backs of his thighs.

“I’m all ready. For you to fuck me. Gimme your knot. C’mon,” Quentin says, making a little humming whine that feels natural, even though—he doesn’t think he’s ever quite made that sound before.

“Hold on there, cowboy. Let me take care of you.”

“I went to junior cowboy camp. I know how to take care of myself,” Quentin says, the words tumbling out as he tries to clutch at Eliot, to make him stay put.

But Eliot is laughing and pushing up on his haunches, pulling something out of a bag, opening the fridge, the dim fluorescent glow of the fridge highlighting the curve of his—Quentin would say—abnormally beautiful ass.

“Come back.” Quentin slips his hand up Eliot’s thigh, fingers playing over his hipbone.

“Okay, junior cowboy. I’ll come back if you drink this.” Eliot slips back down next to him and puts a straw to his lips. Quentin sips and tastes a bright burst of mango and orange, draining the cup in a few gulps. Eliot slips his arm around Quentin’s shoulders and puts the juice aside.

“Good. That was good.” He presses a kiss to Eliot’s lips, and Eliot moans against him. “Taking such good care of me.”

“Open,” Eliot instructs. Quentin parts his lips, and Eliot slips a piece of honeycomb between his lips. “Safe to eat. Good for energy.”

“Mmm,” Quentin hums, biting down on the chewy wax, the honey sweet and fragrant against his tongue, fresh and lightly floral. Like—morning in Lake George, sun rising over the trees. Eliot feeds him another piece and watches Quentin, smiling as he chews.

“So pretty in your pretty nest.”

“Prettier with you here,” Quentin mumbles around the honey in his mouth. But he smiles, preening a bit. He knew it was a good den. That he’d done a good job.

"Here, one more.” He pops another piece into Quentin’s mouth and lets Quentin lick the pads of his fingers, one by one. Arousal collects, deep in the pit of Quentin’s belly, a seed stirring in dark earth. His cock is heavy and leaking, nipples pebbled even in the humid warmth of the den, slick rolling down one thigh. He takes Eliot's wrist and draws his index finger into his mouth, licking over it, swallowing all the traces of honey, along with the salt and bitterness of Eliot’s skin.

Eliot is grunting, almost distressed, like he’s holding back—like he doesn’t quite know what’s next. Like the extent of his planning stopped at feeding Quentin, and there’s nothing beyond this beyond—just breed, mate.

That’s about the extent of Quentin’s thinking, too. Quentin barely knows what to do during a heat when he’s actually with someone; most of his experience revolves around high quality silicone and cheesy porn that involves a lot of growling and yelping and deep-fucking and dirty talk about making pups.

Eliot drops his fingers from his mouth and moves his hand to the back of Quentin’s neck, which makes Quentin go limp against him, opening his mouth so Eliot can lick into it, crowding into him so Eliot can run his hands over Quentin’s back. This is a good plan, he thinks. A start, at least.

“You’re really ready, hm? Aren’t you?” Eliot’s voice is a little shaky, which is cute, so cute.

“Yeah,” Quentin says, gasping. “Need it.”

“What do you need?” He’s steadier now, and he licks into Quentin’s mouth again, wet and filthy. “Tell me.”

“Your knot. Need you.” Quentin breathes out the words, a whimper in his voice. “Fuck me and knot me.”

Eliot grasps his hand and pulls it down to his cock, placing his fingers at its base. It’s hard, petal-soft skin hot beneath his touch, the barest swelling around his knot. Eliot shudders, a deep rumble in his throat. “Been dreaming about putting this inside you. Will you present for me, sweet thing? Show me how wet you are?”

Quentin swallows hard, anxiety hitting him—Eliot must smell it on him because he answers Quentin’s nerves with crooning as he takes over and rolls Quentin onto his hands and knees. His body fits into position without having to think about it, generations of muscle memory taking over. Present, his brain supplies. Show him.

He feels Eliot’s fingers glide between his cheeks, dipping inside him with ease. “So slick, baby. Got all wet for me?”

Quentin moans, pushing back against Eliot—his body needs more, more inside. “Yeah, you smell so good, got me all wet,” Quentin mumbles, writhing against Eliot’s hand, shameless.

“Shh. I’m gonna mount you and knot you—don’t worry, baby. Just enjoying the view.” Eliot’s fingers move in and out with slick sounds, Eliot grunting as he pushes deeper, massaging in circles inside. Quentin’s cock is already jumping and leaking, his hole aching and tender, muscles jumping beneath Eliot’s touch.

His voice comes in desperate gasps. “Please. Please.

“Okay, okay, Q. I know you need it.”

“Need it,” Quentin repeats. “So much. Thinking about your knot for—” Eliot pets around the sensitive inner edge of his hole, touching him with reverence, sparks of heat blooming in the cradle of his hips. Quentin pants against Eliot’s discarded shirt, breathing in his scent as Eliot explores inside him with two fingers, going deeper and finding that sensitive little bundle of nerves that sends a shockwave through him and makes his whole body go slack, back arching, his ass pushing higher.

“How long have you been thinking about my knot, baby?”

Months. Since the day I met you.” Quentin chokes out the words.

“Gonna give it to you,” Eliot says, a ragged edge to his voice. “You just—look so good. Wanna remember this. First time I get to have you.”

When Eliot withdraws his fingers, Quentin hears his own desperate whimper like it’s separate from himself, feels the blunt head of Eliot’s cock as he presses against Quentin’s entrance. The head slips inside with no resistance, and Eliot makes a strangled sound, fingers digging into Quentin’s hips. With a low, rumbling growl, Eliot sinks inside, filling Quentin inch by inch until he bottoms out, the base of his cock flush with Quentin’s ass. Quentin’s fingers dig against the covers, nose pressed to the shirt Eliot gave him. He’s crying out, rocking back against Eliot’s dick as Eliot shushes him and rubs his thumbs in circles over Quentin’s ass.

Quentin expects Eliot to keep up his litany of filth, dragging it out longer because he’s a filthy tease. Instead, Eliot grunts, pulling back and driving into him hard, jolting Quentin’s body forward. He holds himself there, making almost pained groaning sounds, breathing hard and heavy like he’s gathering himself, even as his hips twitch like he’s aching to move. “You—you okay, Q?”

“S’good, c’mon and fuck me.”

Eliot laughs, but it’s swallowed by a groan, and he pulls back again, fucking into Quentin with steady thrusts. Quentin’s legs are shaking from it, his own cock tight and hot, as Eliot sets a brutal rhythm that Quentin can feel in his blood and bones, the stretch and ache fulfilling his primal need to be stuffed full and bred how his alpha sees fit. Eliot’s tenderness isn’t gone—but it’s been transformed into something frantic and wild. Eliot dips down, chest against Quentin’s back, moving his hand to splay out over Quentin’s middle, and he nips at the back of Quentin’s neck, sending shivers down his spine.

“My sweet omega, taking my cock so well. You good, baby boy?”

“Y-yeah—” Eliot rolls his fingers over each of Quentin’s nipples; Quentin sobs, the touch striking through him like lightning, his cock jerking.

“Good. So good,” Eliot murmurs, “God, I’m—I’m close, sweet thing. Just a little more and I’m gonna give it to you, give you what you need.”

Through the haze of arousal, his cock dripping against his cushion of blankets as Eliot fucks into him, Quentin knows this is absolutely what he needs, his body thrumming with the release of endorphins, his skin covered in a sheen of sweat. He hasn’t even come yet, and he’s high on it—the slap and squelch of it, the hot, silky feeling of his own slick, Eliot’s rolling growls and pleased alpha chuffs as he plunges into him, all sharp staccato thrusts. Eliot lets out a long, low moan that gives way to a rumbling purr as his hips stutter against Quentin’s ass, fingers spasming as he pushes in deep and his knot swells.

“Fuck, oh fuck.” Eliot grinds his cock, pulling back so the base pulls against Quentin’s rim. It burns, the stretch and pull of Eliot’s thick knot. But it’s—oh fuck—so good, the heavy ache in his hips appeased.

“Hnnn—so—big. So full.” God, Quentin sounds just like one of those porn omegas, but Eliot doesn’t seem to notice as he grinds and pushes, moving only a centimeter at a time now, but holy fuck it’s good—it’s even better this way, all the pressure where he’s most sensitive, where the heat has made him all pink and wet and flushed, where Eliot licked him open and dipped his fingers inside.

“Goddamn, sweetheart—you’ve been so perfect. Fit me so good.” He hears Eliot spit in his hand, feels him lean forward again and grip his cock, stroking his dick and sweeping his slicked thumb over the head as he thrusts his hips in little circles.

“Oh, oh—” After being on edge for so long, after finally getting fucked—no, bred—like he needed, Quentin’s body snaps all at once, a rubber band pulled back and released, his core muscles tensing as he bears down, rutting forward into Eliot’s hand. Pleasure crests and rips through him all at once as he spills over Eliot’s hand, squeezing tight around Eliot’s knot as his body jerks, the palms of his hands and balls of his feet tingling, eyes fluttering shut as he comes and comes, whining and yelping, Eliot kissing over his nape and panting in his ear.

Eliot’s still moving against him, slower and softer now, pulling against his rim and grinding his knot as Quentin whimpers. He’s wrung out, but somehow his body knows Eliot needs him. He clenches down against Eliot’s knot. Clutching at Quentin’s hips, nails digging into his skin, Eliot shudders and cries out, driving forward and nearly pushing Quentin down as he comes, hips jerking and knot tugging as Eliot fills him with come. Eliot makes a noise that sounds almost like a whine as he pulls Quentin down to the mass of blankets and tangles their legs together, still shuddering and pulsing with his own release, bound to Quentin where he’s all sensitive and needy.

They stay like that for a while, Eliot breathing hard and hot against his neck, his fingers playing over Quentin’s scent gland, sending thrills over his shoulders, through his ribs, down his spine. It feels so good to have Eliot like this, to feel him this close and present, hard and swollen because of him.

Eliot fondly pets over Quentin’s low belly, rubbing circles beneath his navel. “Filled you up so good,” he murmurs, kissing the juncture of his neck and shoulder.

“So good,” Quentin breathes. “Thank you.” His body feels loose and warm and achy in a good way, the same way he feels after working outside in the sun.

“Pleasure’s all mine,” Eliot mumbles, slipping his hand back over Quentin’s cock.

“Oh, Eliot.” A shock runs through Quentin, and he whimpers, his ass clenching down again. He squirms, wriggling down against Eliot’s knot, and to his surprise, he’s growing hard again in Eliot’s hand.

“Let me get you off one more time,” Eliot murmurs, “and then we’ll go to sleep for a while. I’ll get you some juice when we wake up, and I’ll fuck you again.”

“Ah!” Quentin looks down to see Eliot’s hand engulfing his now fully hard dick. His body throbs with sensitivity, not just from Eliot fucking his absolute brains out, but from the progression of the heat itself. His nipples are so hard they’re almost painful, his ass pulsing around Eliot.

“How do you want me? Next time?”

“Oh—Jesus. I don’t know—dunno.” Quentin tries to gather his thoughts, but Eliot’s pulling lube from the air with a tut and expertly working over his cock.

“How’d you imagine it before? Tell me.”

“Face to face,” he blurts out, rocking his body down against Eliot’s cock as Eliot strokes him. He’s on the edge already, so close—and this never happens. It never happened with James, or on his own. But Eliot clearly knows what he’s doing, pulling the threads of pleasure through him, twisting them up. “Wanna kiss you.”

“Yeah? I’d like that. Bury myself between your legs and—fuck, baby, you’re close again, hm?” He works his hand faster, thrusting forward and tipping Quentin over the precipice with the stretch of his knot and the movement of his fingers.

“Mm, yeah—holy shit—” Quentin whines, jerking forward as pleasure rolls through him. His orgasm is different this time; he comes dry, his body tensing and releasing in a shorter and softer way, a draining of the remaining tension he’d been holding. He goes limp in Eliot’s arms, his head lolling back against Eliot’s shoulder, exposing his neck. Eliot tugs him closer and scrapes his teeth over the delicate skin, sucking a mark next to his scent gland. He likes it, he thinks; not quite a bite, but something to show anyone who sees him that he’s been—not mated, maybe—but claimed for the time being.

He never considered he’d have either of those things. Eliot’s making his world shift, he thinks, and that’s good. He needed it, something new after his life took a different turn. Maybe he can even thrive in a new way here, life born of sun and earth and fresh, clean air. Everything in his body unspools, and he finds himself drifting off, safe and contained in the space of Eliot’s arms.