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the morning after the night before

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Anton wakes up half naked, with a headache like a jackhammer and a taste like stale puke in his mouth. It’s like being hungover, except he's also chained to a tree and bleeding in several different places all at once, which means he didn't even get to have the fun night before. Hangovers are a piece of piss compared to the night after full moon.

 

Such is werewolf life.

 

Anton takes a deep breath, and peels his eyes open. Its barely dawn, the light grey and the air fucking frigid, and he needs to wake the boys up before they all freeze their tits off.

 

His hands shake as he undoes his chain, and he doesn't have the strength to hold it up once it comes loose. A bad night then. As if the blood wasn't enough of a clue about that.

 

Anton stumbles towards his van, parked just out of the clearing. The door is unlocked, and he rolls his eyes. Nathan G was the last one in it, of course. The little shit better not have lost the key. Muttering, Anton takes out a hoodie and a bottle of electrolytes, downing it almost in one as he pulls the sweater over his head. He should probably do something about the blood, but it's oozing rather than gushing and he's too tired to think about it. It wouldn't be the first time he passed out from blood loss.

 

Yawning, he shuffles back into the clearing holding an armful of sweatpants. Dion is awake and struggling with his chains, so Anton just drops the pants in front of him and carries on. Declan and Stu were the only ones who remembered sweats themselves, so there's more than enough naked idiots to see to.

 

Nathan M is stirring when Anton arrives at his tree. He's also bleeding, although not as badly as Anton is, and he grins when he opens his eyes.

 

“You alright, mate?”

 

“Yeah,” Nathan says, fumbling for his key. “Got me some pants there, Ant?”

 

“Course I do, you bloody egg. I don't want your ballsack rubbing all over my van seats, do I?”

 

Nathan just laughs. He's usually high after a transformation, crashes later than everyone else.

 

“Alright then, guys,” Anton calls, wincing as his own voice drills through his skull. “Hurry up. Time to go home.”

 

He manages to climb into the driver’s seat and finds that Nathan thoughtfully left the key in the ignition, just in case anyone fancied an easy hijack of the van overnight.

 

While the boys scrabble around and pick up their chains, Anton peels up his sweatshirt to inspect the cuts on his stomach. Just marks from his own claws, bleeding less now. He can't see the ones on the back of his neck, but they'll be the same. Werewolf healing powers are one of the only benefits; the cuts will be all healed up by the end of the day. Like they never happened.

 

“Anton, can we get Maccas on the way home?” Dion asks, leaping into the front seat. “I'll pay.”

 

It's the last thing Anton wants to do, but the boys in the back are already cheering, and he isn't a bastard. And he isn't their dad, although he feels like it a lot of the time. If they want to fill themselves up with shit, it's up to them.

 

“Fine. But if anyone spills their coffee on my upholstery again, it'll be a lifetime Maccas ban in this vehicle.”

Dion buys him a pile of hotcakes and a caramel latte, and although Anton doesn’t really want the food, it would be a shame to waste it. And the coffee perks him up just enough that driving all of the boys home doesn’t seem like quite a hard job after all.

*

He gets home just before seven, having just carried a passed-out Nathan M into his house and dumping him into bed so that Anna didn’t have to try and drag him up the stairs.

“Thanks, darling,” Anna said, kissing Anton’s cheek. “You’re too good to this idiot.”

Even as she said it, she was looking fondly at her husband, flat on his back and snoring his head off. Anton had just smiled at her.

And now he’s home. Alone.

Still, it doesn’t do to dwell.

He drags himself up the stairs to his flat, perched right at the top of a ratty old piece of shit building in Te Aro. Most of the other residents in the block are students and they don’t know any better, just want to live where the action is. Anton lives here because he’s almost right in the middle of a circle made up by the places that the pack lives, and he always wants to be as close to all of them at all times as he can. Just a wolf thing.

And anyway, he’s lived here long enough that his own flat, four tiny rooms, is actually an alright place. He’s made it his own. He has a nice bed, a bathtub, a couch where the boys can stay over. He doesn’t need much else.

He’s still a floor down when he stops dead, lifts his head. Sniffs.

Viago.

He’s here. Anton would know his scent anywhere, even in a crowd of vampires.

He shouldn’t be here. It’s morning, practically, the sun almost up. Anton’s blood feels like it’s fizzing, a burst of energy that carries him up the stairs at a run and through the front door almost as though it doesn’t exist at all.

“Viago!” he calls. “What are you doing, mate, the sun – where are you?”

Then he notices the flat is very dark. His heart is pounding as he skids to a halt in his lounge, peering at the heavy towels hanging from the curtain rail. He didn’t put those there, did he? Seems a weird thing to have done, but then he was out of his head on wolf yesterday. He’s reaching out to touch the towels when there’s a noise behind him and he whips around.

“Hey, hey, Anton. it’s me. It’s Viago.”

Viago’s voice is a soothing sing-song, the voice Anton has heard him use when Deacon needs calming down, or Vlad is losing his mind over that girlfriend of his.

“Viago? What are you doing here, mate?” Anton asks, looking over his shoulder at the window. “Did you – are the windows safe? What’s going on?”

“I am very clever sometimes, you know,” Viago says, brushing past him and lifting the corner of the towel. Underneath it, black paper has been taped to the windows, covering them completely. Anton just stares at them, brain too slow to catch on. He’s so tired.

“I did it to the other vindows too. I hope you don’t mind,” Viago says, anxious that Anton hasn’t said anything. He drops the towel and steps into Anton’s space, puts a gentle hand on his jaw. Anton leans into the touch.

“Why?”

“So I could stay with you today, of course,” Viago says, like it’s obvious. Like they’ve ever discussed it. “I vant to look after you.”

“Why?”

“Vhy? Has the moon broken your brain or something?”

Viago’s voice is teasing as he leans forwards, presses a kiss to Anton’s forehead, and wraps gentle arms around his shoulders. Viago is always so careful, like he could break Anton if he lost control. Which, like, he probably could. But Anton wouldn’t complain about it.

“You take such good care of your pack,” Viago says. “And now I am going to take care of you.”

It’s fucking embarrassing, but even the idea of that – of someone being here for the day after a transformation – is enough to bring tears to Anton’s eyes. Christ, he must be more tired than he thought if he’s getting all mushy about it.

“Oh, please no tears,” Viago scolds, although he also brings his thumbs up to wipe beneath Anton’s eyes. “You’re already leaking enough fluids. I can smell them from here. Are you alvays this disgusting the morning after?”

Anton coughs out a laugh and shrugs.

“If you’re gonna complain about it, you can take you chance with the sun.”

Viago smirks, and pulls away. It’s only then that Anton notices how casually he is dressed. Well, casual for Viago anyway. He’s just wearing a shirt, no waistcoat or cravat, and he has his sleeves rolled up to the elbows. He’s also not wearing shoes, and Anton can see his bright green socks with bats on them. They were a present that Anton wasn’t ever sure he’d actually wear, and the sight of them is enough to put a new lump in his throat.

“Come on. Time for a bath, I think.”

While Viago swans through to the bathroom like he owns the place, Anton goes to the kitchen and downs three glasses of water from the cold jug in the fridge. There’s new food too, stuff that definitely hadn’t been there yesterday; Viago must have been to the twenty-four-hour dairy across the road. Anton can’t stop himself from tearing open a packet of ham and eating the whole thing in one go. The wolf still has a lot to say the morning after, and Anton has to listen to him. He has no choice.

He can hear Viago singing in the bathroom, the splash as water pours into the bath. Anton always craves a bath on these mornings, but he usually doesn’t have the energy to do much more than rinse off in the shower and crawl into bed. And now Viago is here, running the bath for him, singing in German, and Anton’s stomach feels tight.

This might be what he’s been missing all along.

Isn’t that a scary thought.

He plods through to the bathroom, finds Viago inspecting the bottles on the side of the bath.

“I vas expecting a dog shampoo,” he says, and Anton chuckles. His ribs ache with the movement, and he wraps his arms around himself.

“Only when I’ve got fleas,” Anton says.

“Makes sense,” Viago nods, then turns off the taps. The bath is steaming, and Anton would quite like to fall into it headfirst. But before he can do that, Viago gets to his feet.

“Okay. Can I help you? Are you hurting?”

“Always hurts,” Anton shrugs. “Used to it.”

There’s soft hands on his, still wrapped around his stomach, and Anton looks down, then up into Viago’s kind face. He’s so beautiful, inside and outside.

“Hey, Anton,” Viago’s voice sounds faraway. “Can I help you?”

“Why do you want to? I stink. And I’ll get your shirt dirty.”

Anton doesn’t mean to say any of that. But he feels – weirdly vulnerable. Like any moment he might blink and wake up, realise this is all a dream. Viago didn’t sign up for this when they started messing around together. At any moment he’s gonna realise that, wonder why he’s here when he could be tucked in at home.

“Oh, silly boy,” Viago says fondly. “I’m here because I vant to be. Now, can I help you before the vater is cold?”

Anton nods, because he can’t talk, and lets Viago ease the hoodie off over his head. Viago tuts at the sight of the bloody cuts, fingers brushing over them.

“Vhy are these like this? You don’t clean them?”

“They heal fast.”

“Still, no reason to be not taking care.”

Viago made it clear pretty early on that he doesn’t much care for the taste of werewolf blood, and he proves it by wiping his bloody fingers on the already ruined hoodie rather than licking them clean. Then he bends down and eases Anton’s sweatpants over his hips and off. It’s so different to the frantic moments they steal together, when Viago can’t get his pants off quick enough, and suddenly that seems so funny that Anton starts giggling.

Viago clambers to his feet, and if he could blush, Anton is sure he would be right then.

“Now is not the time, Anton,” he says. “Get in the bath before you embarrass us.”

The water is pretty hot – maybe this is how warm Viago likes the water? – but Anton finds that he doesn’t mind it. He sinks down until just his nose is above the water and closes his eyes. it’s like being boiled alive in a lobster pot, and it’s really nice. He hears Viago kneel down next to the tub and cracks an eye open.

“You don’t need to be in here, if you don’t want to. This is enough.”

“Vhat if I am vanting to?” Viago asks, touching the bottle of shampoo. “I am here to look after you. Let me.”

“Alright,” Anton mutters, watching as Viago flips open the lid of the shampoo. He pours out way too much onto his hand, but Anton doesn’t say anything. Viago is trying really hard, and he is going to stop being an argumentative prick about it.

Just this once.

“Lay your head back,” Viago says, and sets to work washing Anton’s hair. Despite his exhaustion, Anton feels a shiver go down his spine. Viago knows full well that the wolfy part of Anton loves having his hair stroked, his scalp scratched. It’s just not usually this gentle. Viago’s long fingers work the shampoo through sweaty hair, and Anton can’t help it. He groans, more of a growl in the back of his throat than any human noise.

“Feel good?”

“Obviously, mate.”

“Vonderful.”

Viago’s fingernails scratch delicately, working over his scalp and behind his ears. Anton’s spine goes to jelly and he almost sinks under the water entirely.

“Ah ah. No drowning, please,” Viago says, sticking his hands in the water and pulling Anton up to sitting as though he weighed nothing at all.

Anton doesn’t know if he’s more disappointed or relieved that Viago stops with the head massage and rinses the shampoo out with the showerhead. He puts his hand over Anton’s eyes as he does it, to protect them from the suds, and Anton finds that actually, he does feel quite like crying after all.

Tears are running down his face when Viago takes his hand away, This isn’t how the alpha gets treated. The alpha looks after the pack. Anton takes spare clothes and he drives the boys home and he brings the electrolytes and he takes them to Macca’s and he carries them inside when they’re too tired to move. And then he comes home and crawls into bed and sleeps it all away. By himself.

That’s just what the alpha does.

And now here’s Viago, protecting his eyes from soap suds as though Anton might deserve something like that too.

No wonder he’s fucking crying.

“Oh, Anton,” Viago says softly. “A long night, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Anton says, voice cracking. He wipes fiercely at his eyes with his palms, until Viago eases his hands away and kisses his cheeks. Anton whimpers and clutches at Viago’s shirt for support. Viago lets him hold on tightly, leans right over the edge of the bath and chases the tears with his lips.

“Your tears are more tasty than your blood,” Viago whispers, when he finally pulls back. “But I still vill not be bottling them for a dinner party.”

Anton laughs wetly, which must have been Viago’s aim, and his grip loosens on the shirt. He’s messed it up pretty bad, but Viago doesn’t even look at it, so Anton decides he won’t feel guilty about it. Not right now, anyway.

“Let’s clean you up and get you off to bed,” Viago says, all business all of a sudden, and where Anton usually gets a kick out of Viago bossing him around, right now he just feels safe. Loved, even, which is dangerous, but also true. He won’t mention that though. Safer not to mention it.

Viago sponges the dried blood away from the cuts, finds that underneath the skin is already closing up, a shiny pink that promises more scars for Anton to inspect later. Or for Viago to kiss. He likes to do that, for some reason.

When he is cleaned to Viago’s liking – “I can barely smell the dog now.” -, Anton is helped from the bath and wrapped in a towel. He dries himself off while Viago goes hunting for pyjamas. He comes back with a pair of shorts and a basketball vest. Anton just takes the shorts. It’s going to be a warm day and he’ll likely end up losing the shorts too.

Viago helps him into them, face dangerously close to dangerous areas, but Anton’s hit the wall now, and his only thought is bed. Viago leads him into the bedroom which is also pitch black, the window treated with the same paper and towel trick. Anton’s bedside lamp casts shadows on the walls as he falls into bed. There’s a glass of water and a pile of pill boxes next to the lamp. It looks like the whole contents of his medicine cabinet.

“I did not know vhich ones you might need,” Viago explains, as Anton removes several from their package and swallows them with the water.

“These are fine. Next time, you can leave the allergy meds and the indigestion stuff in the cupboard.”

“Next time?” Viago asks, tidying up the boxes. “Who says next time?”

Anton’s voice catches in his throat, heart dropping. Of course, this is just a one-time thing. Of course. Stupid, stupid –

“Hey, I am joking. Ja, sorry. You are too tired for my very funny jokes,” Viago says, smoothing Anton’s damp hair back from his forehead. “Lay down now. Time to sleep.”

“What are you going to do? You can’t go home.”

“Vell, I did think – I von’t sleep here but I could – I could lay down with you. If you vould like that.”

Viago sounds nervous for the first time all morning, as though Anton is going to turn around and kick him out after everything he’s done for him. Anton lifts the covers and pats the space next to him.

“Sounds good to me.”

Viago grins and sheds his pants. His long flouncy shirt is enough to keep him decent, just about, and he climbs into bed.

They’ve laid together like this before, but Anton’s never slept. He turns on his side, gripping a pillow over his new, tender scars. Viago shifts behind him, and then a cool, heavy arm sneaks over Anton’s middle and anchors him. Viago’s face presses to the back of his neck, kisses him there softly, lips barely brushing his skin.

“You smell nice,” Viago mumbles, and he certainly sounds like he could go to sleep. “For once”

“Cheeky bastard,” Anton says, and strokes the hand that rests on his stomach. “I’m too tired to kick your ass and you know it.”

“Save it for the evening, Liebling,” Viago yawns. “I’m just going to close my eyes.”

Anton sleeps like a log.

With Viago’s hand resting over his heart.