8 – invasion (pt 1 – when the sky is black)

Tate knows that Shae has found him. For real, now that he knows she’s not dead. Whatever let her do it has opened some sort of door, but it goes both ways. He can tell that she’s… waiting for something.

Ari doesn’t like it at all. They’ve closed the door between them for security reasons, but Ari has a metaphorical ear to it – ready to throw it back open, everything else be damned if Tate needs it.

But for now, all they can do is wait, and plan. Somehow, Max ends up running point on all of this. He’s visibly coming into his own in the pack. It’s a weird change, but there’s no denying that he’s probably the most equipped to handle this, given his background. Still, it’s uncomfortable in a way Tate hadn’t expected, to be something between replaced and sidelined.

Of course, it’s not like Max is leading alone. Everything is planned with Reuben’s guidance. And shockingly, Isaiah’s. He seems to know a shocking amount about demons. Tate scribbles as much on a note in a meeting. Catches the corner of Ari’s little smile, then lets him pluck the pen from his fingers.

Probably because he is one

Tate exhales a laugh.

After, Tate says something about it, when it’s just the four – five, because Max is there – of them.

“Do you really not know what my dad’s doctorate is in?”

“…law?” he guesses around a yawn. He knows Isaiah’s a lawyer, at least. Technically. Somehow.

Kyah sighs and Ari snickers.

“Philosophy,” Max says, getting him curious looks all around.

“Technically all PhDs are philosophy,” Ari says, circling back around to defending Tate. Always is, it seems like, but especially around Max.

“Religions and folklore, specifically looking at the dualities of good and evil and how different cultures approach their concepts of evil spirits, dark gods, and punishment myths.”

“So, demons,” Ari says.

“Demons,” Kyah confirms.

“You could’ve just said that,” Tate says, shaking his head.

“I really couldn’t. He’d like, spawn behind me, soapbox in hand.”

Tate laughs quietly and grabs her, not caring in the slightest that they’re not alone. Her discomfort at that fact is drowned out by her relief, always so strong anymore when he does anything like himself. He can feel it in the way she fits herself to him, not fighting the shiver when his teeth graze over the curve of her ear. Can feel it in Ari too.

But it’s the calm before the storm, he knows. Because that’s there, under, over, around everything.

It’s why he keeps the door closed.

Max pulls Astrid in close. She’s on edge, so close to her cycle. Doesn’t like the thought of not being there with everything going on.

He doesn’t like it either. This should be something they can look forward to. Something enjoyable and easy, not more stress. On top of which, he won’t be around to help either and he’s one of the only ones who can actually do anything. Him. Reuben. As much as he hates to admit it, maybe Tate, but he’s too fucked in the head to handle this specific situation.

Astrid sighs, ruffling his hair. She doesn’t like that that’s what he’s thinking about. The list of things she doesn’t like only seems to grow.

Then let me do something about it, he pleads silently, because he could.

She bites his hair this time, the interest obvious now. He can’t smell it quite as strongly as some apparently can, but he knows her. And it wasn’t what he meant, but he’ll take the opening. A hand on her jaw, he tilts her head back to mouth at her throat. To fit his teeth to the mark at her shoulder, then to leave another less permanent one on her chest. He sucks a nipple into his mouth, smiling against her skin when she moans and grabs his ass to pull them flush.

“What do you want?” he asks, lips brushing over her sternum.

In response, she grinds against him with a needy huff.

“You gonna be good for me and actually let me take care of this?” His voice is low enough that even Astrid will barely hear, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off to not risk anyone else hearing.

And hear, she does. She shivers, another hot breath tickling Max’s temple.

He’s gotten better at taking her to pieces over the last few months. It both had and hadn’t helped that she had radically more experience than he did. That from the get go she could tear him apart without breaking a sweat – frequently better than he could himself – while he floundered and apologized.

But now the results are much more consistent. Astrid actually has to fight back noises. He’d been looking forward to her upcoming cycle, even knowing that it would likely trigger his first. Knowing what could happen.

Max backs toward the bed, pulling her with him. She comes down on top of him, situating herself between his legs out of habit. That’s fine. She can have it for now. He can feel her, rubbing up against him. Needing it as badly as he does. After the endless stress of the past several weeks, it’s not surprising. Most nights they’ve just fallen asleep in an exhausted tangle of limbs.

So now he has lost time to make up for. She comes twice before he lets her touch him, as much as he wants her to from the start. It means that last time, they c in tandem. Gasp into each other’s mouths, then collapse in a sweaty, sticky mess.

“I love you,” he mumbles, face pressed into her hair.

She relaxes back against him and slots their fingers together. “I love you. We’ll… get through this. It’ll be fine. Not like dad didn’t handle shit on his own before, y’know? It’s just one of those things.”

“Yeah,” Max says, “as long as you’re ok.”

“I have to believe in my family. In my pack.”

Max fights to keep his reactions to that to himself. His own deeply-internalized doubts about family and trust. It’s not that he’s lying to her, or even trying to hide it – she knows that it’s hard for him. But she doesn’t need to worry about that. More. Now.

So instead, he kisses the back of her neck and says, “I know they’ll do all they can.”


“Ari please,” Reuben groans.

From inside of his office, Isaiah murmurs something Ari can’t quite pick up over the music and the tap of his pen. His attention focuses on his hand and it stills.

It wasn’t intentional; it was just anxiety. He’d come in for the meeting – had to come in for the meeting since half the fucking pack leadership was indisposed – and hasn’t made it out yet. Things don’t seem… done enough for him to leave again yet. Like since the two of them are still here, Ari has to be.

But he doesn’t like being away from Tate. Yeah, he said he’d stay awake and yes he still seems to be awake. It’s just a thing now, apparently.

Whatever Reuben says in response, it’s displeased. Ari can tell that much. Like even the air changes.

He hears Isaiah stand. Reuben doesn’t.

“I’ll follow up with you later,” Isaiah says before closing the door to Reuben’s office.

Ari barely glances up at him. Not even when he pauses in front of Ari’s desk.

Not until he picks up the pen, taps it on the wood a couple of times, and says, “I wonder. Were it my daughter going through this and not Tate Hansen, would your reaction be the same?”

Leaning back in his chair, Ari swallows back the immediate, sparking anger and forces something more even. It’s one he’s been working on, especially since Reuben pointed out how it even works on humans to a degree.

He doesn’t expect it to work on Isaiah, but the lack of visible emotional response seems to catch him off guard. With Tate, there’s always a flash. Always the glint of an edge before he represses it into something cold and silent.

Ari’s gotten good at nothing.

“How do you mean?”

“Putting everything else by the wayside. Your job. Your duties. Even your own health and appearance. Even when you’re here, you’re there. Listening. Keeping tabs.”

“You mean doing my job?”

Isaiah doesn’t spark. Doesn’t flash. He just perpetually smolders. A constant churn of lava. But his jaw twitches slightly. His nostrils flare, and not at all in the same way Tate’s do. Not tasting the air to plan accordingly. An automatic, emotional response.

“Your job is to-“

“Act as a liaison. Between the alpha and the alpha to be. Between the alpha and anyone, as the situation may arise. I am eyes and ears. And given that Tate is the second of the alpha to be, yes, his physical and mental well-being are part of my job. And by nature of their shared position, the exact same would be true of your daughter.”

“Shared position,” Isaiah echoes, the hint of a disbelieving laugh slipping into his words.

Ari arches an eyebrow.

“As seconds, perhaps, but the last I checked, only one of them is your mate.”

The control slips to something liquid and dangerous, a snarl that isn’t Ari’s whispering through the bond as Tate picks up on what’s happening. “Is that so?”

“I understand that you haven’t been a wolf your entire life, but you can’t have two. It’s unprecedented. Unnatural. Impossible. Surely even you know that.”

Ari exhales slowly and stands, picking up his laptop bag. “Oh, I understand more than you think. See, you were lucky that you’ve gotten Tate all these years and not me. Because he’s way more concerned with like, formality and rules and shit. Me? I’m uh- what’d you call me? Just some low-end criminal from the streets? So I have no issue telling you that your fancy piece of paper doesn’t make you smarter than me and it definitely doesn’t mean I care what you have to say. Decency is given until it’s lost, but respect is earned. And so far, you haven’t done much for the latter and you’ve whittled away the former. Which leads us to now, when I get to be the one to tell you that you don’t understand. Not in some dumb, childish Romeo and Juliet bullshit way. In an astonishingly narrow-minded, ill-informed, white, western way that has you convinced there’s only one way to be a good person. So if you don’t mind, Doctor Stone, I’ve got mates to get home too. Plural. Because your daughter may not have my bite on her neck, but that’s entirely her decision to make. Either way, she’s just as much mine – and his – and we’d both do as much or more for her than we would for each other. And trust me, there’s outlines of my teeth in plenty of other places on her at any given point in time,” Ari adds with a wink before stepping around his desk and walking out.

He’s just pulling in at the house when his phone vibrates twice.

Reuben Waczik > Ari why must you antagonize my second?

Reuben Waczik > This is not a debate over whether or not you’re right. Let me know how they’re doing when you have an update.

Ari sighs and sends back an apology and a promise of news soon, then gets out of the car. He toes out of his shoes, then follows the faint sounds of life to the kitchen.

“Hey,” he says, pausing to stare at Kyah openly before she turns her head.

“Hey,” she replies. The flash of her smile is genuinely pleased; Tate must not have told her, then.

Crossing the room to wrap his arms around her waist, Ari presses a kiss to the back of her shoulder then asks, “Shower?”

“Mhm. He knew you’d be home soon. He’s tired, Ari. Like. Worse than he has been.”

“Yeah,” Ari agrees quietly.

“And I’m not sure that a regular rut would’ve helped exactly, but I think not really having one is throwing him off even more.”

He sighs, turning his face into her like a cat. “No. You’re not wrong. He seemed like he was getting better for a bit, and then…”

Kyah echoes his sigh, turning fully to kiss him. “You holding up ok?’ she asks, even though she knows the answer.

“Yeah, I- you might not feel the same way, but uh. Your dad and I had a conversation today and I feel pretty alright about it.”


Ari tilts his chin and kisses her. She takes a moment to react, which isn’t unexpected, but then she deepens it.

She pulls away and Ari chases her lips until she stops him with a finger to his. “What’d you two talk about?”

Pressing a kiss to her fingertip, Ari says, “I thought we were past this conversation?”

Kyah smiles and shakes her head. “Nice try, though.”

“Rude.” He frowns, debating how much to give her. A little help?

What, suddenly you don’t have anything to say? The thought is followed by a yawn and the sound of the water turning off. It’s all muffled, but Ari can feel him at least.

Ari sighs at Tate’s unhelpfulness. “Oh, y’know. Demons. The usual.”

“Uh huh.”

“What, we did! And then he got in my face about you and I might have, well…”

Again, Kyah echoes his sigh, but she doesn’t pull away. Instead, she lets her forehead drop to Ari’s shoulder. Lets herself be pulled closer.

“He said we wouldn’t be doing the same thing if this shit was happening to you instead of me. That Ari wouldn’t be,” Tate says from the living room. A moment later, he steps into the kitchen in only his underwear. Hi.

Ari twists to meet his mouth, one hand leaving Kyah’s back to settle on the broad expanse of his chest, still warm and slightly damp from the shower. Hi.

Even though Ari makes no attempt to slip away, Kyah releases him. In tandem, both he and Tate turn their attention back to her, twin confused expressions on their faces.

And then, twin looks of horrified understanding as they realize – first Tate, then Ari – that she doesn’t believe that they would.

Baby-” they protest as one, Ari dropping his hand from Tate’s chest to drag her closer. Tate folds himself against her back and presses his face into her hair. It means they both feel her breathing catch. The way she tenses, like she can’t quite decide what’s happening.

“Kyah,” Tate murmurs. His hands settle on her hips, knuckles brushing against Ari’s in the process. “You should’ve heard it.”

Ari brushes his nose against her cheek. He doesn’t say anything. He can’t. Not now, when she’s upset because of something he did.

One of Tate’s fingers moves to hook in his belt loop. It’s a reassurance, but also a silent command. To pay attention. To not drown this out – to disappear into his own head – like he knows Ari wants to.

“There is not a single thing that either one of us wouldn’t do for you.”

“But I don’t-“

“You do,” Tate says firmly. Softly, but firmly. “You deserve every single thing this world has to offer. I’ve never met anyone more competent. More dedicated. More willing to give everything they have to the people they care about. And I don’t know where we’d be without you. Any of us. Me, Ari, Astrid- fuck, the last time Jenna dragged me in to check me out, I swear she spent more time bragging about you than anything. Everyone knows it. So if your dad can’t fucking see it, if he thinks you’d put up with the amount of bullshit you have from us for nothing – that he thinks you’re that much of a pushover or that blind or stupid or-“


“Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?” Kyah says dryly, but there’s a hint of a laugh there and she relaxes slightly.

Because of course he knows. Ari should know better by now.

Twenty years of practice, Tate reminds him. “Like if you move I’ll probably fall over which is bullshit because there’s a long list of things I’d rather be doing than sleeping right now,” he says, his voice dropping.

Kyah’s breath catches again, but not the same way as before. Ari’s sure his does too, given the pointed way Tate tugs at his belt loop.

“‘M sure you’ll manage without me. I hear Ari’s mouthy today. Maybe you can find a good use for it.”

Tate,” she says, laughing now.

Smiling, Ari nips at her earlobe. It pulls a quiet, breathy little sound out of her and something hungry and approving from Tate. Ari can feel the exhaustion though. Even with the new semi-routine they’ve settled into, Tate still isn’t sleeping enough. He can’t.

One of his hands leaves Kyah’s hips to cup Ari’s jaw. You’re mine either way. Maybe when I wake up, if you still want-

Yeah. Yeah. Because even if he does get Kyah now, which still is hardly a sure thing, Ari always wants Tate too. He’d rather get both of them at the same time, but-


Shut the fuck up.

Tate snorts, which gets Kyah’s attention.

“What?” she asks, on edge again.

“My cue to go to sleep. I’ll leave y’all the bed,” he says, disentangling himself. He ducks around Kyah to kiss Ari – a filthy, teasing thing – then turns Kyah around.

Ari can’t see the way his fingertips just barely settle on her skin, his thumbs angling her chin up , but he can feel it. Can feel the way Tate goes all soft and still inside, not paying attention to a single thing in the universe other than her.

He smiles, and feels the way the expression echoes across Tate’s face.

“See you when you get home,” Tate says, pressing his lips to her forehead before he turns and goes, padding quietly down the hallway to his room.

Before Kyah can get too far, Ari snags her and drags her in so her back is to his chest. It’s a little bit easier like this. Not as easy as it was with Tate here, but easier. “You remember when I first got here?”

Kyah hums an acknowledgement and relaxes back against him. If she’s still upset, it’s less obvious now. “It wasn’t that long ago. But which part?”

“That very first night. Day. Whatever.”


“You walked in and a part of me thought I must have died. Didn’t even matter that I don’t believe in heaven or whatever, that was like. My first thought. The second was that I maybe believed in hell but that if you were the one who was going to torture me for the rest of eternity or whatever, there were still worse things because damn.”

She laughs and tries to turn to face him, but Ari tightens his grip.

“Just- gimme a second?” Once Kyah nods, he continues, “I didn’t have to know you to know that you were something special, but the longer I do, the more I know how big of an understatement that is. I chose you then and I’d do it a million and one times over.”

“Even if I can’t…” she sighs and says against him, her head tilting back onto his shoulder. “I know what he said. Maybe not verbatim, but it was something about one mate and bites and all?”

“More or less.”

“I don’t still believe it like he does. I mean, Ari, you took a bullet for me. Not even the regular kind. A fucking silver one. And that’s-“

“I’d do that again too. So he doesn’t get to tell me what I wouldn’t or wouldn’t do for you.”

She exhales slowly and nods. Just once, but he feels it. They stand there for several long, silent minutes. It doesn’t happen often. Kyah is generally worse at receiving affection than Ari used to be. But now, she seems content to stand here, pressed up against him.

Then eventually she says, “But if you still wanted to apologize, I could probably find a way for you to make it up to me.”

Grinning, Ari turns his face into her hair. “Oh yeah?”

“Mhmm. I’ve got some time before work.”

“What were you thinking? Ping pong? Monopoly?”

Kyah laughs and finally turns to face him. “Hilarious. It’s like you want me to be mad at you.”

Still smiling, Ari brushes his nose against hers. “Maybe I’d let you win this time.”

“You’d- wooow.”

He laughs as he kisses her, making the whole thing messy and uncoordinated and perfect. And then he picks her up, because god if werewolf strength isn’t good for something. It’s still awkward since they’re basically the same height, but Kyah always seems to get a kick out of it so he carries her to the bedroom.

Getting Kyah alone is always something. Tate can multitask in bed. Only in bed, but goddamn if that doesn’t count for something. Ari… can’t. Not when it’s the two of them. Everything just becomes a scattered, needy mess of Ari wanting everything at once.

Maybe everyone calling Ari some variation of greedy has a point. Whatever. Further evidence that he has two mates for a fucking reason.

The thought makes him huff a laugh against Kyah’s skin.

“What?” she asks, this time without any of the concerned edge of before.

“I just- can’t believe I get you. Both of you, but especially-” A whine that feels a lot like Tate slips out; Ari smothers it against her skin, kissing a trail from her jaw to her collarbone. He lets his teeth scrape on the last one, making Kyah shiver and arch against him.

“Not sure if one person could keep up with you, although I’m sure Tate tries,” she replies, slightly breathless.

“That’s kind of what I was laughing at. Like yeah I guess it’s kind of a dumb thing but also like, everything that’d potentially be a problem if it was only two of us isn’t because it’s not.” He kisses her again, as close to claiming as he can get. “Everything works because it’s three of us and if that’s not evidence that it’s supposed to be like this, I don’t know what is.”

Kyah breathes a laugh and drags him back to press her lips to his. “You really are mouthy today,” she says after, smiling.

“Is that what you want?” Ari asks seriously. Far more seriously than the situation demands.

She lets out a quiet huff. In lieu of an answer, her fingers begin to make quick work of his buttons. The second they find skin, it’s like Ari’s brain shorts out. Like this has never happened before. Kyah exhales another laugh and stretches up to kiss his chest. Then, without giving him time to catch up, she moves on to his pants.

By the time Ari’s brain catches up, she’s teasing at the waistband of his underwear. Another whine slips out as he catches her wrist. “At least like-” he starts, tugging at her shirt. “Otherwise I’ll- and you won’t even-“

“Hmm, I’m worried Tate might be rubbing off on you.”

“Oh he’s definitely done that bef- oh.”

Kyah cackles and tugs Ari down for another kiss.

“Not fair, doing that now,” he grumbles, sneaking a hand under her shirt.

Whatever she intends to say is lost, replaced by a hitched moan as Ari pinches a nipple. The tides turn then. Ari hurriedly pulls his own clothes the rest of the way off, then moves on to hers.

He gets his answer. Not directly, because that would require Kyah to talk about something uncomfortable, but the evidence is there when he tugs her underwear off. “Look at you,” he breathes.

It makes her cheeks flush pink – very nearly the same color her skin is always littered with once Ari’s gotten his mouth on her. Tate won’t do that. Won’t mark her even temporarily, and Ari can’t really argue that he thinks it’d be fine. Truth be told he’s not sure how he gets away with it, but he does.

His fingers ghost over the inside of her thighs, one coming to rest on her hip and the other going deeper. Teasing.

“Ari,” she chokes out, shifting on the mattress.

“Hm?” Ari waits until she opens her mouth to respond, then easily slides two fingers inside so all that comes out is a moan. Laughing, he drops forward onto one hand and kisses her.

And then, he gets to work.

Every so often, Ari makes a point to check on Tate. To make sure that he’s still sleeping and dreaming of nothing of consequence, if anything at all.

He kisses and sucks and bites a wandering path across Kyah’s chest, belly, hips, thighs. Works her up until she does little other than whine and beg for more. He’s just settling down between them with Kyah’s fingers in his hair when he feels it.

Like being tugged underwater.

Ari pulls away, listening.

Ari,” Kyah whines, trying to tug him back down.

Absently, he drops a kiss to the wiry patch of hair just above where she wants him, his attention still several rooms away.

There’s another whine, but this one is sharp and panicked and definitely not from Kyah.

Fuck,” he hisses, trying to pull away. Still caught in the moment before, Kyah tries to pull him back. “Kyah, you’ve gotta let me-“

She blinks, confused, and releases him all at once.

Ari rolls off of the bed. “Tate?”

can’t hide can’t run

“Tate!” He takes off toward Tate’s bedroom, frantically trying to wake Tate up through the bond.

going to find you this time

He’s still asleep when Ari shoves the door open, shifting and twitching restlessly.

soon soon soon

Tate!” Ari yells. One second he’s in the doorway and the next he’s on his knees over Tate, desperately trying to shake him awake.

His eyes snap open, but wrong. Still rolled back in his head like he’s asleep. “Too late,” a voice that is and isn’t Tate’s growls through his mouth.

And then he goes slack in Ari’s arms.

“Well?” he asks, looming over her. He’s always looming – they all are. She’s not sure if it’s part of what they are or something else. Something she’s not.

Shaelynn grins, baring her teeth. “I told you I would find him. And even better, the new moon is coming up. They’ll be at their weakest.”

“Good,” he says in his voice like smoke and grating stone. He turns back toward the shadowy hallway and the stairway beyond. “It is time. Little wolf,” he calls back, “come with me. It is time to meet your command.”

“I’m going?” She tries to keep the shock from her voice, but she can’t quite manage it.

“Of course. You have proven yourself to be a worthy asset. Unless you want to stay down here with Baathin forever?”

She chokes on a laugh.

“What about me, My Lord?” Baathin asks in his wheedling tone.

The Archduke turns, one ridged eyebrow lifting. “What about you?”

“Well I-“

“Have yielded nothing for ages. A mortal has accomplished what you could not. Tell me, Baathin, do you know what I do to failures and disappointments?”

Like a dam broken, the murderous rage that Shaelynn fought back for so long wells up. Claws slip from her fingertips, and before the question can even form on Baathin’s lips, she strikes.

His blood hisses and sizzles as it meets the air and drips to the ground, faintly audible even over his screams. The demon clutches at his face, stuttering out attempts at spells to try to repair his ruined eye.

Taking a step closer, Shaelynn whispers, “Don’t worry. You are part of a greater purpose. You should feel comforted knowing that even a being as low and meaningless as yourself might ultimately contribute to something significant.”

Behind her, the Archduke laughs like rolling thunder. Sniffing dismissively, Shaelynn turns on her heel and strides, leaving Baathin whimpering and pleading behind her. When she’s a few places from him, she lets her body shift and drops onto all fours, bounding across the space and following the Archduke up, up, up and out.

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