Pete still feels like he can’t breathe properly.
It had been two weeks since the mission. Since he and Bradley had survived. Since they made it out of that hell hole in a barely functioning F-14.
But Pete still woke up feeling like he was in the snow. Body cold, dragging even more blankets around his frame as he tried to go back to sleep. Nest now littered with blanket upon blanket. Anything to keep the chill in his chest away.
They say it’s a mental phenomenon. You bond with those you survived something terrible with.
It’s why you always see those dumb teenagers falling in love in horror movies. The fear is a common enemy.
At first, Pete had tried to put it down to just familiar love. They had been family for so long. They were just rebuilding that bond right?
That was the lie he had tried to tell himself anyways.
Penny had seen the truth before he did. She had kissed him on the forehead and wished him all the happiness in the world. But she wouldn’t play second fiddle to his emotions again. Though she had promised to stay in his life as his friend and for that he was grateful. Not sure if he could lose anybody else right now.
Tell him how you feel . She had urged but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.
Because he wasn’t going to have Goose haunting him. Yelling at him about how scummy he was. A nearly 60-year-old omega falling for a 30-something Alpha. For the boy, he helped raise. That he rocked in his arms when Bradley was born.
Goose and Carole would be so ashamed of Pete.
So every day he woke up and pulled on his clothes and pretended that he wasn’t the lowest of the low. That he wasn’t in love with Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw and that his smile didn’t make Pete’s stomach feel like jelly.
Some part of him at least hoped like a coward that he could escape the man when they shoved Bradley off to somewhere else. Pete knew he could at least handle the long distance. That texts weren’t going to send him into a tailspin but life had once more kicked him in the balls.
The team on leave for a few months. As a thank you for potentially saving multiple countries. Somehow all of them deciding to hang around this hellscape. Seeming to enjoy the heat and the ocean and being around each other.
A pack bond forming over the course of those two hard weeks of training. Of having each others back. Of knowing it was your wingman that would get you home.
The first real pack Pete had since Carole had left him and Bradley had punched Pete at her funeral. Telling him never to come near the Alpha again.
It was Bradley’s first alpha command and it had shattered Pete’s already barely held together heart to pieces.
Pete’s heart full of many little holes from years of loss. One for his father, his first alpha. One for his mother when she had left him too. A crater for Goose that still sat in his heart, When Carole had joined Goose. Pete had thought maybe he would just keel over then and there himself. It had only been Iceman from keeping him tipping over and shattering like a china plate.
The bonds never really went away. It was impossible. Once a pack was forged, those bonds remained forever. Even if the person at the other end could no longer receive your signal or tugged back.
It had been a habit of Pete’s for 12530 days to tug at Goose’s bond and get the dull echo of nothing back. No loving comfort that used to accompany the man’s every move.
And for 6000 days Pete had fought the temptation to pull on his bond between Bradley. Knew he would only get hatred and a cold front back.
That was until Bradley had saved him, had shot down the helicopter and crashed and Pete had tugged on that bond to find him. It was the only shining beacon he had in that bleak moment.
For a single second Pete was truly and utterly alone. That everybody he had ever loved was dead and it was going to be another bond line that lead to nothing. But he had felt that reassuring but frightened brush in return and he had taken off running.
Smelling the ocean that had embedded itself into Bradley’s skin as he had pushed the Alpha. Smelling home on his skin as he had for 17 years before he fucked up both their lives.
Once Pete shakes off his head fog and pulls himself from his nest. He prepares himself for the day. A coffee first, the crisp tones warming up his tongue and turning on his brain. Then he watches the morning news as he gets ready.
Going through the habit of checking his phone and pushing the hurt away when there’s still no new notification from Iceman. Not wanting to focus on that right now.
Before he can put his phone down, he gets a text about the children heading to the beach for another day of messing around in the sand and watching the water brush up against the bay.
Throwing out an offer for him to join them.
So Pete grabs his beach towel, sunscreen and straps his cooler onto the back of his bike. Filling it with beer and soda. Throwing in a few ginger ales for the only other omega in the pack. Bob loving the stuff.
And as much as Pete had fought for years against his nature. He had found a pack of his own again and he couldn’t help but want to take care of them. Make them happy. Make them smile.
Just like he used to buy Carole fruit gushers whenever he saw them in-store or grabbed Bradley a new toy plane every time he found a new one.
No matter how much the military had tried to beat the omega out of him, some of it had always remained.
Javy is by his side the second he's slides off the bike, moving to unstrap and carry the cooler for him. Pete throwing out a thanks.
Happily taking up his normal chair in the sun. Letting it warm his bones as he watches as the others either run around playing some variant of tag. It mainly just seems like an excuse for the Alpha’s to tackle each other.
Natasha, Harvard and Halo had cornered Fanboy and were currently trying to bury him in the sand. His body packed in as they laughed at him.
Bob hiding under the umbrella with Pete, a book in his hands. Both content just to watch the rest of them be idiots.
Pete eventually calls them in with the promise of food. Holding out the cash for Payback and Fanboy to go get them some hot dogs and buns and soon enough Pete is happily feeding his pack. Dumping the hot dogs onto the grill that Penny had let him steal and turning to count heads.
Realising then that two are missing.
He should have noticed really but he was still on his ignoring the squelching in his heart every time he saw Bradley bender and hadn’t even realised the boy wasn’t among the pack and neither was Hangman.
“Where’s Hangman?” He calls out. Knowing Javy would know the answer.
“Uhh said he wanted to sleep in. That he had a hangover. He’s a pussy Mav” Coyote snickers as he helps Omaha butter the buns.
“Says the man who pissed himself at the sight of a bee the other day,” A voice says. Pete turns to see Hangman and Bradley walking toward them.
Already in their board shorts, shirts still in place. Both smiled like they owned the world. Ahh to be a cocky 30-year-old again.
“It was a wasp!” Javy bites back.
“And you call yourself an alpha” Hangman barks. Laughter filtering through his voice.
“I’m more alpha than you!”
And so sets about a small stand-off between the pair. The others watching a little wary. Knowing how quickly a joke can turn into a real fight but after a few seconds both Alpha’s start laughing.
Javy pats Jake on the shoulder and that’s the end of their ‘tiff’. Pete calls for the children to line up for food. Laughing a little when Bob is pushed to the front of the line.
Pete has already set his own aside, handing Bob his before he steps back and he watches the Alphas turn into true animals. Shoving each other out of the way to get to the food.
Bob rolling his eyes, only to smile when Natasha brings him over another hot dog atop her three. Setting it on his plate with a haughty smile on her face. Bob pressed a kiss to her cheek in return.
While she might be the least likely to think with her knot. It didn’t stop her from being an Alpha and wanting to treat her mate right. Pete unable not to smile at the sight.
His own Omega poking its head up, wondering why he had left it alone for so long.
Pete just quashes it down and sets about eating. Before one of the alphas tries giving him those horrific puppy dog eyes and he's giving up the last half of his hot dog.
“So Brad. Where were you all morning?” Harvard asks just to make conversation.
“Bronco decided to throw a tantrum again, had grease up to my pits trying to get Beasty working” Bradley explains.
“I think it’s time for you to let Beasty go Roos” Someone else points out.
Bradley stared at them in agape horror.
“Never. Not until she literally can’t move another mile.”
“Surely she’s had to do like a million miles now, what with your dad owning her before right?”
Pete trying to keep his eyes away from Bradley, away from the mustard he has yet to lick off his moustache. Fighting every fibre of his being not to reach out and wipe it off. Or god forbid lick it off.
Begging himself to get it together. That he can’t keep doing to himself.
That he had made his choice a long time ago.
And yet as the sun continues to move towards the water. Sinking beneath the waves and casting its beautiful glow out across the water. Pete feels like he's going to be physically sick if he doesn’t say it out loud.
The worst Bradley does is laugh it off and think it's some joke but at least it’ll be out there. At least Pete won’t be obsessing over it day and night. It might quell the ache in his hands, the need to reach out and touch the bronze alpha. To hold him close and never let him go again.
The others clear off slowly as tiredness takes hold. Full of beer and food and warm from a day in the sun. Until finally, it’s only five of them left.
Jake is closest to the water, watching it with quiet fascination. Trying to skip what rocks he can find into the crashing waves.
Bob and Natasha curled up together and talking quietly amongst themselves.
So it’s just Bradley and Pete sitting on the sand and watching the sunset. Occasionally stealing looks at each other but both refuse to say something. Bradley has made himself a tiny little sandcastle. A fortress with a moat.
“Hey, can we talk about something?”
“I want to tell you something”
They both end up speaking at the same time. Bradley let out the softest laugh and that's when Pete sees it.
Mouth going dry and his hands turn to fists as he takes in the mating mark on Bradley's neck, Bradley pulling down his shirt collar just a little to show it off. Fresh as a daisy and when Pete breathes in he can smell it.
Soft fields of wheat now come from the Alpha. Where there once only been ocean.
“Go ahead” Pete whispers, dreading those words.
But they come out of Bradley anyways.
“Me and Han...Uh, Jake and I are mates, we kinda overslept this morning. We don’t want to tell the gang yet but I thought you should know first. You know being our leader”
Two weeks, three days and 19 hours after figuring out that Pete loved Bradley, his lungs stop working. His heart stops beating, instead crumbling to dust between his fingers and all he can muster up is a smile.