Near the stable, Dr. Crescent and Fan had arranged outdoor seating made out of logs around a central table on which sat several books and a few tools of the trade including diagrams of pregnant omegas, their womb, and the channel the child inside must exit through.
It was three days after the events by the lake, and Janus was in the crowd rather than assisting because childbirth education was something Fan had long experience with and enjoyed doing. Fan stood by Dr. Crescent, next to the table as he taught the assembled group of omegas and alphas, demonstrating everything they would need to know with the models, diagrams, and occasionally, with his own body by miming the birthing process. This last bit was very dramatic and left many omegas and alphas laughing nervously, but Fan clearly had a flair for the theatrical, and so it went on a bit long.
“Now that we’ve covered the basics,” Dr. Crescent said, pulling his omega up from the examining table which was doubling as a ‘birthing bed’ for Fan’s lesson, “Fan’ll go over a few other issues pregnant omegas might face. Darlin’? Go on.”
Fan smirked and raised a dark brow. “Let’s discuss undue arousal.” He sent a considering look around at the crowd, his gaze catching on Janus before trailing around the circle to where Kerry sat alone, his hand on his stomach and his eyes wide with worry. “All pregnant omegas experience strong lust during pregnancy. The increased blood circulation to the womb inflames the genitals as a whole. Slick will be released. Erections will become erratic like during puberty. It’s all entirely normal and nothing to be ashamed of.”
The other alphas around the circle guffawed, and put their arms around their omegas, shaking them gently, murmurs of “little slut” and “that’s my sweet whore” rose up with a jovial, teasing enthusiasm. Janus saw Kerry’s face turn red and his gaze fall to the ground. He wrapped his arms more securely around himself, looking small and alone. Janus fought the urge to go to him, slip an arm around his waist and reassure him. But he’d been explicitly warned away and wouldn’t violate Kerry’s consent and autonomy. He’d court but never press.
“Oh, don’t pretend it’s all on them,” Dr. Crescent interrupted the teasing alphas. “Yeah, they’re eager as rabbits on a full moon night, but you’re all just as hot and longin’ for wolf-god’s so-called union o’ souls. That’s the way of it.”
Fan nodded in agreement, lifting a finger. “Now, can anyone tell me why?” His sharp, dark gaze met Janus’s. “How about you, Janus?”
Janus coughed. He was there as Dr. Crescent’s nurse. He wasn’t an alpha with a pregnant omega, so he didn’t know why Fan decided to single him out. “Pheromones.”
“Right.” Fan snapped his fingers. “That’s correct. Pheromones are always strongest between Érosgápe, undeniable in that case.”
Dr. Crescent laughed. “You’ll fuck and fuck a lot. Have fun with that.” Another round of laughter.
Fan, with a prim little lift to his chin, went on as if his alpha hadn’t spoken so crassly. “The next-strongest draw is between bonded and contracted pairs. There may also be a draw between an alpha and a pregnant omega who are friends. Well, if the alpha who impregnated the omega doesn’t suitably protect him, that is.” Janus noticed that Fan looked at every omega in the group but Kerry now, and that, in itself, seemed pointed and rude. Kerry was nearly disappearing behind his hair. “And then, yes, in extreme situations, even strangers may feel a sexual pull toward one another. If an alpha abandons his omega during his pregnancy, for example.”
This last Fan directed toward Kerry. whose eyes went wide before he hid behind a fall of his long, curly hair.
“That’s right,” Dr. Crescent said, nodding his agreement. “We’ve all of us felt something similar from time to time, isn’t that so?”
The alphas of the group nodded or carefully remained neutral if they had a jealous omega. Janus, for his part, looked at his fingernails rather than dare a glance toward Kerry.
Fan stepped in front of his alpha, still in small-professor mode. “All alphas will feel the call to protect a pregnant omega. In fact, recent research by Urho Chase and his new team in Virona has illuminated exactly why that is.”
Urho Chase. Janus rolled his eyes. Of course.
“Additionally,” Fan said, “they’ve outlined a few rare cases when a pregnant omega is less receptive to sexual congress than is usual and how to help them through pregnancy as well. If that’s a problem for your omega, don’t hesitate to come to me, Dr. Crescent, or Dr. Heelies. There is specific advice to follow for a better birthing outcome in that situation.”
No alpha sitting around the circle seemed at all worried about their omega not wanting to be fucked enough, and all the omegas except for Kerry seemed shyly pleased to be given medical permission to indulge in their every erotic wish.
“So, that there’s the real reason he wants to jump on my dick all the time, Doc?” an alpha named Lowsen asked, laughing when his omega, a tall man named Fray, rolled his eyes and said, “Me? What about you? Always wanting to screw me even when I’m busy napping.”
“Busy napping, he says!” Lowsen crowed, and everyone laughed. Even Kerry peeked out from his shielding veil of hair to flash a small smile at that.
“Napping is serious business for a pregnant omega,” Dr. Crescent said with a nod and craggy grin. “Don’t be interrupting him when he’s sleeping now. Wait until first thing after he wakes up.”
Everyone laughed again.
Fan snapped his fingers for attention, and when everyone was quiet again, he asked, “Can anyone guess what else Dr. Chase’s studies have told us about the reason why alphas find pregnant omegas arousing? And, no, Lowsen, it’s not because a pregnant omega is ‘just so hot.’ Anyone?”
Rubbing a hand over his sweaty forehead, the morning growing warm enough to make the scent of sweat and arousal rise in the air, Janus watched as Kerry shrank in on himself again. He could still feel the way Kerry had trembled in his arms, had come violently on his cock, and had clung to him as if his life depended on it. He still remembered Kerry’s tears. Maybe he’d fooled himself into believing they were tears of joy and satisfaction, but even if they’d been tears of grief, he wanted to be allowed to wipe them away, kiss his cheeks, and protect him from the future, whatever it held.
Clearing his throat, Fan caught Janus’s attention, and when he was sure Janus was listening, he went on in an almost scholarly fashion. “There are several reasons, some social, some biological for alphas to be attracted to pregnant omegas, and all of them are evolutionarily beneficial to our human race.”
“Get on with it!” an alpha named Tyson yelled. He’d been down to Doctor Crescent’s earlier in the week for a tonic to help with virility. “Else I’m gonna hafta drag mine off and fuck him now.” Everyone giggled, especially the very pregnant omega next to him.
“Stick around, Tyson. You need this information more than most.” Everyone chuckled again. Then Fan carried on with his lesson. “First, let’s talk about the biological function of this attraction—”
A groan went around the group. Fan spoke louder to cover it, “Regular sex keeps the omega’s passage loose and ready for birth. Some suggest fisting as a stretching technique if there’s concern about there being room for the baby to pass, but generally, a good, alpha-sized cock will do the trick of keeping an omega’s passage stretched and ready.” He rocked back on his heels, and Dr. Crescent stared down at him raptly, as if wolf-god’s divine grace laced every word he said. Oh,Érosgápe. They could be so annoying.
“Dr. Chase’s work shows that regularly penetrated omegas have a lower risk of trouble during delivery. It’s speculated that along with the stretching of the passage, the alpha’s sperm—long known to reduce inflammation and deaden pain during heats—also softens the ligaments and tissues, again preparing the passageway for the stretch of delivery. There is also a potentially beneficial emotional effect—”
Dr. Crescent interjected, “A well-fucked omega is a well-loved omega.”
“Yes, and a well-loved omega is one who can trust in their mate, their future, and the road ahead. Dr. Chase’s research shows that regularly penetrated pregnant omegas are more optimistic about birth, and report higher rates of joy and satisfaction, as well as decreased dread and fear. These all bode well for the delivery.”
Alphas grunted in gratification all around. There was a rising scent of lust, which wasn’t unexpected since everyone was horny and eager in the crowd. Being given permission by the doctor and his little omega to fuck to their heart’s delight definitely aroused them all.
“As for why alphas can develop the desire for pregnant omegas, regardless of relationship, that’s also evolutionarily beneficial, according to Dr. Chase. The human race was so close to perishing after the Great Death that the prior animalistic response of the Old World humans, negative emotions toward raising a child not his own, was replaced by an attraction to, and a desire to protect, all pregnant omegas, regardless of paternity.”
Fan’s eyes strayed over to Kerry and lingered before coming to rest on Janus for the next part of his speech. “Dr. Chase’s study went on to examine the few cases where an omega was left alone without an alpha to satisfy his urges and needs, and the outcomes were less desirable.” Janus shifted on his feet, the meaning of Fan’s words hitting home. Had everyone on the mountain assumed he’d fuck Kerry through his pregnancy? And why did he want to protect Kerry from that assumption? When that was, indeed, exactly what he wanted to do? Fan’s brow rose pointedly, and he said, “When an omega was left alone, incidents of omega and infant deaths rose.”
Janus’s blood ran cold, and he darted a glance toward Kerry who hid behind his hair again. Janus couldn’t make out his reaction to this statement at all.
Here, Dr. Crescent interjected, “So follow your instincts. Have plenty of sex. Don’t deny yourselves for any reason.”
Alphas and omegas around the circle glanced toward Kerry, and then their gaze drifted speculatively toward Janus, but seeing him staring coldly back, quickly skittered away. They were plenty eager to stare into each other’s eyes and contemplate fucking as soon as possible instead.
The meeting broke up with everyone lining up to make their next appointments with Dr. Crescent or Janus for checkups. Most of them requested that Janus or the doc visit them on their rounds since they preferred to be in the safety of their own home while the doctors looked them over, especially if any intimate areas needed to be manipulated or checked. Alphas, in general, didn’t like their omegas exposed for all and sundry to see, and the privacy of the homestead gave them a bit more peace and security when standing aside to let another alpha, doctor though he may be, touch and prod their beloved.
Janus looked around for Kerry as he said goodbye to the last of the couples who asked him to come by and check on them, eager to walk him home and ask his opinion of the lecture. But he didn’t find him anywhere. Disappointment welled.
He started toward the path as well, his bag hitched over his shoulder, when Fan grabbed him by the arm. “Come with me,” Fan said, glancing over his shoulder to see that re-doing the dressing of an alpha’s injured shoulder while his pregnant omega cooed and watched closely still occupied Dr. Crescent. “We need to talk.”
Janus didn’t see what they could need to discuss. He’d taken Fan’s advice and kept his mouth closed about everything to do with the abortion attempt, and Kerry rewarded him with weeks of silence, followed by confusing intimacy of both the personal and sexual kind, followed by silence again for the last three days. All he wanted to do was find Kerry, and for once make him do the listening.
“You have to convince Kerry to let you handle his needs,” Fan said as soon as they were clear of the stables enough that Dr. Crescent and his patients wouldn’t overhear them. “He’s stubborn and afraid to trust anyone, but an omega shouldn’t be alone through his pregnancy. He should be cared for and well-tended. You heard what this Dr. Chase has discovered in his studies. Kerry’s chances go down the more alone he feels.” Fan leaned close and hissed, “You must seduce him. For his own sake. And the babe’s. It’s your duty.”
“As a doctor?”
“As an alpha!” Fan rolled his eyes. “As a doctor, please. No. That’s not what doctors do, Janus.” He huffed again, glancing toward Crow, where he was still helping the omega learn to change his alpha’s bandages. “But alphas must think of the future of our species, and the health of omegas in their midst. Besides, do you want another alpha from the mountain getting it into his mind to help Kerry?”
Janus bristled at that. “He wouldn’t allow it.”
“Wouldn’t he? If he was alone and feeling vulnerable and needy?”
Janus thought back to the lake and the beach, the way Kerry had given in and urged him to ‘get it over with’ as if he’d needed it—wanted it, maybe—but didn’t truly trust in Janus wholeheartedly. Kerry himself had called what they’d done the result of pheromone delirium and made it seem as though Janus’s personal volition in the act was less important than their biological draw to fuck and be fucked. Janus rubbed a hand over his face, scratching at the beard that he’d failed to shave that morning in his hurry to make it to the lecture on time. He’d wring the neck of any alpha who touched Kerry. He’d throttle them, and beat them, and rip off their manhood, and—
Wolf-god, what was he thinking?
“I see,” Fan said with a hint of smugness. “You’ve already fucked him. That’s good.”
Janus growled softly, annoyed that Fan could see through him so easily.
Fan laughed softly. “Ah, protective. That’s even better. It means you’ve also become emotionally attached. But, to be completely frank, that’s also a bit problematic. As I’m sure you know, he’s contracted to a wealthy and powerful man who’s also a brutal criminal.”
“They force him to share heats with that monster,” Janus croaked out, sweat breaking out on his lower back and nausea filling him. “They give him no choice. Isn’t that rape?”
“Consent for heat-sharing is considered a given at the time of the contract,” Fan said with a grimace. “Omegas can’t change their mind when in heat. You know that. Legally, Kerry must do as his alpha wants when it comes to his heat, criminal or not, so long as the contract is binding. And if not his alpha, then whoever has taken over his alpha’s concerns. The parents, most likely.”
Birdsong rose from the depths of the green forest. “There has to be a way out of it for him.”
Fan tilted his head, deliberating. “Have you considered taking it up with a lawyer? Several omega freedom groups are looking for test cases like this one to push through the court system. Kerry is a good example of people misusing the current system in horrifying ways that abuse omegas and restrict their rights in unfair ways. One could argue this could damage the omega’s chances at successful reproduction. You know how the courts feel about that.” His eyes flew to somewhere over Janus’s shoulder, and he smiled widely, with only a brittle hint of worry. “Crow! C’mere, love, and say goodbye to Janus. He’s trying to talk me into making berry pie for next week.” He turned to Janus again with a tension in his face that Janus hadn’t ever seen there before. He went on with his lie, “I’ve heard good things about Zeke’s cooking, but I know he’s never made a decent pie in his life.”
Janus turned to Dr. Crescent with a fake chuckle in his throat. He wasn’t sure why Fan was hiding their conversation from his alpha, perhaps the mention of omega freedom groups was more liberal than an older, devoted Érosgápe-bonded alpha like Dr. Crescent could stand. Or maybe he feared what Fan, still barren, might do if omegas had more rights—Érosgápe or not.
“I do love your Fan’s pies,” Janus said with a shrug, playing it off. “I’m thinking snowberry? The last time he served snowberry tart it was so tasty, I almost cried. And they’re ripe all over the hills out there. Surely a pie would be even better.” He shifted his gaze back to Fan. “I’d be happy to gather them for you, Fan, if it makes things easier.”
“No, I’ll do it,” Dr. Crescent said possessively, putting his arm around Fan’s shoulder and gazing down at him with that sickening Érosgápe devotion that made alphas want to be the ones who got the credit for doing every last little thing for their omega, right down to tying their shoes in some cases.
In fact, the father of one of Janus’s former lovers had tied his disabled omega’s laces every morning as part of some elaborate dressing ritual, because he couldn’t bear the thought of beta servants touching his Érosgápe. It’d been both devotion and possession, and Janus hadn’t known how he felt about it.
Thinking of Kerry, if he were in a wheelchair and unable to tie his shoes, Janus would want to be the one to do it. He’d want to kiss each toe and Kerry’s slim ankles, too, before slipping on the socks. He’d want to run his hands up Kerry’s strong, lightly haired calves and…
Wolf-god, he was losing his mind.
Since when had he felt this way about any omega other than Caleb? And even with Caleb he hadn’t been willing to sacrifice, had he? That’s how he’d lost him in the first place. He’d wanted it all, and at Caleb’s expense. And afterward, he’d never allowed himself to ask anything from an omega except for the one thing Caleb hadn’t been able to give him: sex.
But with Kerry…
Wolf-god, with Kerry, Janus felt like he might sacrifice nearly anything to be allowed to care for the man. That was easy to say, though, given that they’d already fucked, and he knew Kerry had a strong interest in it. Sex was important to Janus or had been until he’d determined to give it up to improve the state of his character. But if Kerry didn’t ever want to have sex with him again, then so be it. There were other ways for an alpha to care for a pregnant omega.
No matter what, Janus would find a way to be there for Kerry in those other ways. He’d court him, show him what it meant to be fawned over, appreciated, and revered the way every pregnant omega should be treated. And he’d do more than that, too. He’d contact an attorney. See what their options truly were and if there might be an eager omega freedom group looking for a test case.
Kerry could benefit from having other men on his side, even if he rejected all of Janus’s carnal desires going forward. Yes, there had to be something he could do for the quiet, prickly man he’d come to feel the urgent need to protect and soothe.
He cleared his throat, took his leave of Fan and Dr. Crescent, and started back down the hill toward Monk’s House, wondering if he should feel irritated or used by the fact that Zeke, and now Fan, were clearly planning to involve him in a situation that was way above his pay grade and complicated beyond measure.
But when he reached the door of the house, opened it to the scent of berries and musk, and the low tones of Kerry singing to Kiwi in the attic, he no longer cared. He just wanted to bottle this feeling of coming home and uncork it daily. He needed to find a way to make Kerry his in truth.
If only Kerry would let him.