Ari feels Tate coming before the sounds of his footsteps, his breathing, his heartbeat, his quiet, nervous, “Hey?”

Like he’s the one who isn’t supposed to be here. Like Ari isn’t the one in his office without an invitation.

Turning, Ari meets his eyes and is hit with the rush of hey hi mate mine. It’s overwhelming. It’s the reason Tate is uncertain in the first place, because for the same reason that Ari knew Tate was coming, Tate knows that they’re still… like this.

It’s ok.

Ari’s eyes close. They take a slow, measured breath that smells entirely like Tate. Warm and familiar, it pulls at something deep in their chest, but laced with something sharp. Acrid, almost.

Not quite guilt, and definitely not regret. But anxiety. Uncertainty.

It’s easier when they’re touching, somehow, so that’s what Ari does – folds into him and lets Tate pull them even closer, some of the tension dissipating instantly.

They haven’t talked about it.

There’s a lot they haven’t talked about. A lot of doors that were flung wide open when Ari sunk teeth into Tate’s shoulder, and Tate back into Ari’s. So many things that were carefully kept unsaid pushed into what now seems like shared space.

Neither of them knows what to do with it. And Kyah’s… not much help. Free time has been scarce for the past couple of weeks. She’s come over to Ari’s a few times, but only stayed for one of them and that time cooled rapidly once Ari’s shirt came off.

Yeah, Tate… doesn’t agree. But commiserates? It feels like a commiseration.

They’re still working out the whole communicating-without-speaking thing, and sometimes it’s easier than others. Most of the time they don’t seem to be able to control it at all.

It’s more like an unpredictable leak. Sometimes it’s a drip and others it’s a broken fire hydrant.

So they’re trying to figure out how to do this between three very different work schedules – including two different trips out of town thank you not at all, Reuben – and under the weight of all of the baggage and trauma that had very much all come crashing down at once.

God, the sex was good though, not that they’d even had time or energy for much in the way of that.

Ari doesn’t regret it. It wasn’t exactly an impulse decision, biting Tate. Wasn’t an impulse decision at all, actually, but it very much was one made before they could lose their nerve.

Because despite the fact that Tate still worries that the leak will stop and Ari worries about another flood, it has made things… easier. Better, in strange ways like Tate sneaking shirts or sweatshirts into Ari’s bag before they left or lunch showing up on Tate’s desk in the middle of a busy day.

Or this.

This not being alone when there wasn’t space for the massive, inexplicable feeling inside.

That they’re being moved is secondary to the thought of no from Tate. No, not alone. I’m here, you’re here-

Yeah. Ari exhales easily between the confines of the wall and Tate’s chest. Then Tate’s lips are on the top of their head. Their forehead, nose, mouth. And Ari doesn’t have to worry about intent or expectations because Tate is all mentally laid out. An open book.

So it doesn’t take searching to know that this isn’t that. That it’s just comfort and closeness without pretense. Tate might want, sure – he always, endlessly, uncontrollably wants – but it’s just there.

Something at Ari’s disposal, rather than any sort of obligation.

Something just as much on offer as this: the warm weight of Tate’s hand where it rests on Ari’s collarbone, fingertips light on their throat, his other hand on their hip. As this: a please, that Ari knows isn’t please give me more but please tell me what you need – what you want.

Something like, “Dinner?”

Ari noses at the underside of Tate’s jaw, whatever had been wrong now distant and vague. “Cooking or buying?”

The question makes Tate laugh, just a quiet little sound. “We can get something if you want.”

“Think I’m too tired to be useful for making anything. Honestly if it was just me I’d probably just… not.”

“I know. But ‘m pretty sure you also haven’t eaten anything today and I’m hungry. You ride over with the big boss?”

They nod. Once the meeting had ended, Reuben hadn’t even asked if Ari wanted a ride back to the other office or home, which was unusual. The answer would’ve been no. Probably. If they hadn’t worked themself up too much and chickened out, scared of exactly this happening while Tate was at work and in public.

But of course if they had, they wouldn’t be getting this now. Because even if Ari doesn’t know how to do this, Tate seems entirely unbothered. Wholly at ease in the area of semi-public intimacy.

He laughs again, his smile spread against Ari’s forehead. “Yeah I think that’s one to get used to. That whole idea that you’re supposed to turn off caring about someone because you’re in public and someone else might get like… offended? Never sat well with me.”

“I’m not used to people wanting to.”

Wanting to?

“Care, I guess. Public or not, but especially if it might like, fuck up their image. I don’t know what to do with-” people handling me gently.

Tate’s hand shifts to Ari’s jaw, tilting their chin up so their mouths can fit together again. It’s so soft that Ari thinks they might shatter. Might splinter into a thousand pieces and clatter to the floor. His lips migrate over a path along Ari’s jaw, down to the collar of their shirt, then back up. He nips at Ari’s earlobe, teeth catching on glass in what’s seeming like some sort of fixation and making Ari shiver.

“How many people have you seen walking around with piercings since you got here?” he asks, voice low.

“Uhh, not many?” Ari frowns, thinking now.

“Uh huh. And tattoos?”

Frown deepening, they count three including themself.

“Mmmhmm,” Tate hums, mouthing at the patch of skin below Ari’s ear now. “Heal too fast. Rejects. Scars wrong. I dunno, apparently it doesn’t work out. So we’re all squeaky clean canvases.”


“Yup. So yeah. It’s maybe a little bit of a thing.”

“Meanwhile in the normal world it’s a deterrent,” Ari replies dryly.

“Think we’re past that point of concern. Tacos?”


“They’re fast. We can eat there or take them back to…” He falters. A dry spell in the drip.

“Either way,” Ari fills in for him. “Can go back to mine or yours.”

Tate smiles and relaxes a little bit more, pulling Ari with him.

They end up eating there, with an absurd amount of food spread between them. By the time they give up, Ari is uncomfortably full and Tate can barely even try to lie that he’s fine. It means that they end up at Tate’s, his brain and body both on autopilot programmed toward bed and he only realizes it once they’re inside.

Ari laughs and toes out of their shoes, migrating to the bathroom. Unlike Kyah, Tate seems to know when Ari starts unbuttoning their work shirt and drifts into the room like it’s gravity. He doesn’t touch, but there is something focused in his gaze. In his attention.

“We showering?” Ari asks around a toothbrush that appeared one day, designated theirs.

Don’t wanna comes the impulsive mental grumble.

“Ok.” They trade places without words, Tate in front of the sink and Ari hovering in the door even though there’s no need.

“Does he need you for anything tomorrow?”

“Nope. Told me he didn’t want to see my face unless something was on fire.”

Tate breathes a laugh and spits, then laughs even harder at Ari’s reflexive thought of spitters are quitters.

Still chuckling quietly, he snakes an arm around Ari’s waist and drops a minty kiss to the top of their head. He doesn’t ask any of the numerous follow up questions one might in response to that. Just steps right up to Ari like he couldn’t get past otherwise and says, “Bed?”

Nodding, Ari turns toward Tate’s bedroom with him close behind. They strip to underwear and slide into their side of the bed. Because apparently they have that now too, sort of. Sort of, because Tate still insists on being a side anarchist and they both move. Sometimes the side Ari starts on and ultimately gets up on are very different.

Once Tate is under the covers, Ari scoots closer without even meaning to. Tate shifts, curling an arm around Ari, and says, “God I’m so full.”

“You ate like, eight tacos.”

His frown is dramatic. “They were good and I was hungry.”

“Eight, Tate. I had three and that was a lot.”

The frown intensifies. “But you’re small.”

Ari cackles at that and pokes him in the stomach. “And which one of us is suffering right now?”

It makes Tate whine dramatically, his discomfort palpable through their bond.

Sighing a little fondly, Ari scratches more gently through the hair just below his belly button. “Anything I can do?”

“Mm, like what?”

Ari can’t help but snort in response. The insinuation is there, however teasing, but they both know Tate couldn’t do anything about it if he wanted to.

You could get on top.

Ari snorts again. It’s… almost tempting. Not actually viable, but the memory of how it felt – of how it kept feeling across so many long, easy minutes – surfaces on its own and makes both of them shiver.


Their answer is something like a maybe. A little more uncertain, but considering. More than anything, they’re strangely glad for this. For the fact that the proximity no longer feels like a threat they can’t avoid because they want it too much.

They fall asleep like that, head still pillowed on Tate’s shoulder with one arm and a leg slung over him and one of his arms wrapped around their back.

But it doesn’t last for long.

Tate is awake already when Ari is jarred back to consciousness. His breathing is even, but forcibly so and betrayed by the frantic pace of his heartbeat. There’s physical discomfort still from too much food, but that isn’t what did it. Even without the mental connection, Ari would know that much from the physical space between them alone.

Swallowing, Ari asks, “You or me?” then tries not to think please say you so that maybe, just maybe, Tate won’t hear. And Ari doesn’t remember dreaming anything… like that. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t.

Tate makes a little whimpering noise that almost feels guilty. “Sorry.” It’s barely even a whisper, so much so that Ari isn’t quite sure if Tate actually said it aloud at all. He extends both arms toward Ari, and only has to make a little grabbing motion twice before Ari inches closer and is enveloped. Tate’s weight is somehow far more warm and familiar than it should be. He’s made a point so far to avoid things like this – to keep Ari from feeling trapped. But now, it’s like they can both breathe a little easier because of it.

The bite mark is even with Tate’s face, so he presses a hesitant kiss to the closest edge, hoping it will soothe Ari somehow. Despite his underlying urge to run, Ari does relax, which in turn makes Tate drop a bit more of his weight onto Ari. Press a little closer. Relax the tiniest bit more. So they return the gesture, dropping a fleeting kiss to his throat.

The next time, Tate just fits his mouth to the mark and bites down. Not hard. Certainly not hard enough to break the skin. But Ari lets out a whine and melts.

It drags them back to the present, which Tate seems to understand before Ari does. Tethers them to something they know exists, for all that it doesn’t make sense – that they know exists because it doesn’t make any sense.

But it does and you’re here and you’re mine, Tate thinks, pushing a hand into Ari’s hair. Tate’s breath is hot on Ari’s skin, coming in uneven little bursts where his face is tucked against Ari’s throat.

“Breathe,” Ari says, voice low. The anxiety trickles through the bond, for all that Tate is clearly trying to fight to keep it out. To keep the door shut so Ari won’t have to deal with his reaction to whatever he saw. “Is that what you’re really worried about?”

His jaw clenches.

So that’s a yes. Sighing, Ari scratches his scalp gently. “Tell me something.”

“What?” Tate asks, strained.

“Just something. Anything. Something I don’t know.”

“You’re literally in my head.”

“I mean, sorta. Not all the time. And it’s not like I can go digging.”

Or you would have already.

It’s an assertion, but not an accusation. There’s no judgment in it. So Ari just turns their head and kisses Tate’s temple.

“I don’t… know if I can right now,” Tate confesses.

This makes Ari sigh again, once more out of some bone-deep understanding. They can’t either.

What can I do to make you not, then? comes the involuntary response from Tate. So they can both sleep. So they won’t keep feeling like this.

They catch the edge of Tate’s initial thought before he can cut it off; entirely at odds with what Ari’s own reaction has always been in situations like this though it may be, it makes some sort of sense.

“I thought you were full?” Ari says as Tate’s lips drag across the hinge of their jaw again.

“I’ve still got room,” he practically purrs, hooking a leg around Ari’s to pull them flush.

“Do you always go from secondary distress to horny this fast?”

He huffs a laugh, nosing at Ari’s hairline. “Basically my resting state. Usually my own shit though, so it being yours is a little refreshing.”

Ari bites his chin, strangely satisfied by the shocked yelp he lets out.

“Doesn’t mean I like it.” Tate sighs and rolls onto his back once more. “I don’t… know how else to help. And I’m pretty sure I’m having more issues with the whole thing than you are right now which is only making me feel more like I have to be… I dunno. Normal.”

Exhaling a sigh, Ari presses closer. It feels right. “What um. What did you see?”

Tate’s fingers curl against Ari’s skin, but he doesn’t draw them closer again. After a minute he says, “Ari if I ever see him, I’m gonna kill him.”

And he means it. Not in any way that seeks or revels in violence, but in a settled, unshakeable one. “Yeah,” they say, “I think I might too.”

Then Tate hauls them close, grunting slightly when Ari’s weight settles on top of him.

“Still full?”

He hums a confirmation, brushing over Ari’s cheekbone with his thumb. Let me take care of you, comes the silent plea. Like that really is what Tate needs to feel better.

Ari sucks in a breath and gives in to the temptation to probe the bond between them, searching for any confirmation one way or the other. But no – it really is what Tate wants. Needs. To make sure that Ari is ok.

And oh, if that doesn’t make Ari throb with need.

Tate’s cock twitches in response, another reflex. “I don’t even need to- I just-“

To shut him up, Ari fits their mouths together. It still doesn’t work. He just moans against Ari’s lips instead, one hand slipping into their underwear to squeeze their ass.

What do you want? How can I-

It’s too much power. Too much liberty. Control. They need some semblance of balance or there’s no difference between them and him, and that’s-

A bitten-off whine disrupts Ari’s train of thought; it’s equal parts frustrated need and distress at Ari’s discomfort, which doesn’t make things any easier.

Tate kisses them again, greedier this time. “Will it make things better if I tell you how much I want any of this? That it’s all I’ve been able to think about since-“

They feel the memory of their teeth sinking into Tate’s skin and impulsively fit their mouth to the mark once more. He moans again and bucks up against Ari, finally seeking friction.

He growls, sinking his teeth into Ari’s bottom lip. “Yeah, ok, I also want you. All the goddamn time. But that’s not- I want more than that, especially if you don’t-“

Ari pushes every memory of that night into the bond. The way Tate felt. The way everything felt after. Since.

Fuck,” one of them – they think it’s Tate – growls. He drags their underwear to the side, shifting beneath them to shove his own down, and then he’s in.

It’s impossible not to drown in the feeling then. Ari’s wet enough that he slides home with ease, his breath hot and unsteady on their temple.

“So good,” he mumbles, one hand in Ari’s hair and the other on their ass. The motion of his hips is entirely lacking in rhythm or pattern, thrown off by his own need. His complete lack of defense against Ari. “I- can I-” he attempts.

Ari knows what he means, though. They can feel the almost suffocating urge to be buried deep, knotted inside of them. All it takes is a nod to set Tate back on track, spurring him into a steady roll that seems single-mindedly focused on getting Ari off.

It’s working, too. The growing swell at the base of his cock rubs just right and Ari knows that Tate will force himself to maintain the angle until they’ve come at least once.

One is enough, they try to assure him, uncertain if they can even form words right now. Any time their mouth opens to do more than drag a sloppy, wet attempt at a kiss across his skin, only gasps come out.

Tate groans, both at the feedback from Ari and the growing pressure at the base of his own spine. It’s then that Ari gets a flash – an unguarded, needy urge to flip Ari over and fuck them into the mattress. “I can’t- I didn’t mean to-” Tate says, faltering.

Sinking fingers into his hair, Ari kisses him firmly. They pick up the pace where he’d left off, grinding against him until they tip over the edge, whimpering into his mouth. It takes several long, fuzzy seconds before they can say, “Turn over.”


Ari feeds the image back to him, letting out a quiet laugh at the desperate throb of his cock that it causes. His knot hasn’t quite reached its full size yet, so Ari pulls away, slipping out of their underwear as they go.

Fuuuuuck,” Tate growls, shifting onto his knees and dragging a hand over Ari’s ass. His hips move of their own accord, seeking their goal even as he stalls, staring. He doesn’t ask if Ari is sure. Doesn’t protest. Just- admires. Lets his naked, easy, innocent want flow through the fledgling bond between them. Then he drops forward, fitting himself to the curve of their spine, and pushes back in.

This time, it’s Ari who hisses out a curse. Everything feels more like this. Like this is how they were made to fit together. With Tate wrapped around them, filling them until there isn’t space for anything else.

That’s the thought that cracks Tate’s restraint. He muffles a shocked whine against Ari’s shoulder, rutting against Ari one last time before his knot locks them together and he spills deep inside of Ari. Tate groans then, his forehead pressed to Ari’s spine.

With a pleased hum, he easily shifts both of them to their sides. It puts Ari on Tate’s side of the bed, but they can’t find a way to mind and he doesn’t seem to either, so they just relax into it. More importantly, Tate seems to have gotten over whatever he saw in the dream-memory.

“Still gonna rip his throat out,” Tate mumbles lazily.

Ari exhales a silent laugh, unsure of what else to say to that. It’s not like they have any objections.

In the end, they don’t say anything. Both of them just drift somewhere on the edge of sleep until Tate can pull out, and then it’s unclear who falls asleep faster.

They wake up held firmly, comfortably, against Tate’s chest. His breathing is still slow and shallow with sleep, only part of him giving any sign that it’s morning. Breathing a laugh, Ari shifts slightly and closes their eyes against the golden glow of the sun filtering through the blinds.

It makes Tate grumble and bury his face behind Ari’s head.

They try to roll over, laughing still, but can’t.

“Nooo, you’re blocking the sun,” Tate whines.

“Giant baby.”

“Mhmm.” He presses a kiss to Ari’s shoulder, his lips impossibly warm on their skin. All of him is – warm and relaxed and impossibly unthreatening, despite the potential he holds.

Something in the thought triggers a memory that slips through the bond in fragments. A broken nose. His weight and size thrown around. The smell of Astrid’s anxiety hanging in the air, but not because of him. She’d hugged him after, his fingers in her hair as he’d promised that whoever came for her, he’d be there, between them.

Tate sighs and drops another loose kiss to the back of Ari’s neck. “A lot of them said that I was only defending her because I was uh-” he clears his throat, his uncertainty about saying it aloud – especially here, now, naked and in bed – almost palpable.

“Fucking her,” Ari says.

He nods and sighs again. “Yeah- you’re sure that doesn’t like-“

Ari’s eyes close, the feeling of their teeth sinking into Tate’s shoulder flashing behind their eyelids. It makes Tate shiver, but also relax slightly.

“Anyways, that didn’t have anything to do with it. I would have either way.”

Because you’re her second, and basically family.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “That last part gets weird when- yeah.”

Their laugh comes out a snort, which somehow makes Tate so inordinately, ridiculously pleased that it floods the bond. Ridiculous.

He just kisses the corner of their jaw. “C’n I ask you something?” he mumbles after several long, quiet minutes.

Long enough that Ari had decided he’d fallen back asleep and was on the verge of doing the same. “Hm?”

“Wh’s it like with her?”



Frowning, Ari shifts as much as they can in a fruitless attempt to look at him. “I dunno, what’s it like for you?”

Tate groans, his dick giving a meaningful twitch against Ari’s back. “We haven’t- I mean I’ve like, eaten her out, which was-” he shivers, mouthing at the back of Ari’s neck. “But there’s more… I dunno, history there. Figured it’d be easier for you. Didn’t know if you had any words of wisdom.”

“I don’t.”

“Fine,” Tate says, mock offended, “keep your secrets.”

“I’m not,” Ari protests, trying to shove that confirmation into the bond. “We haven’t- I mean I’ve kissed her a couple of times, but-“

The confession pulls a shocked sound from Tate’s throat. “Like, nothing?”

“Not shit. I dunno. Felt wrong to push since all of this is so… weird.”

“Not even-” Tate starts, the memory overpowering everything else before he can finish.

And god, if that doesn’t make Ari moan and push back into him. “No. The only time she’s even spent the night, well.”

Tate growls at the memory, rutting against them. “Bullshit. You might not notice, but I know what she smells like every time you’re around. You need to-” His meaning is clear even where his words fail, and there’s no ambiguity at all in his observations.

“Yeah. Yeah, I think I do.”

“Y’know, she’s probably up already. And I know she’s not doing anything today. Well like. Probably laundry and shit, but there’s plenty of time between loads…”

“You’re saying what, that I should just show up and jump her?”

He’s picturing it. That’s for sure. What’s stopping you from doing it?

Tate huffs. “Other than the fact that I still don’t know if she likes me? Do you have any idea what werewolf uhh virility? Is like?”


“Sky fucking high. Hence the whole platonically fucking my best friend for years, followed by-“

“Wait, what was that?” Because Ari caught a whisper of whatever Tate was about to say before he even cut the thought off, and-

“Look, you cannot tell anyone. Probably ever. Please.”

“I won’t, but what’s the big deal?”

“Werewolves and vampires uh… don’t associate. It’s a whole thing. Very like, taboo. But there was this guy, and like. Obviously not like vampires can get knocked up because they’re dead-“

“Uh, ok sidebar and question. You do know how babies are made, right? Because anal doesn’t generally work like that,” Ari says, laughing.

Tate sighs. “Yeah, obviously, but he uh. Well. You um.”

Somehow through Tate’s fragmented starts and stops, Ari figures it out. “You were fucking a trans vampire.”

“Yeah, and it was a good fucking time. Talk about a low-stress booty call. Not like I could hook up with whoever in college, with all the werewolf shit. Like. You do realize that condoms don’t even fit, right? They just straight up split. And it hurts.”

“Huh. The more you know.”

“So yeah, like. Options were super one-sided, Astrid, or Cole.”

“Fair. Was he hot?”

Tate chokes, and Ari can’t help the burst of laughter that follows. “Was- seriously?”

Shrugging, Ari says, “Yeah?”

“I mean yeah, I guess. Actually kinda cold which was weird getting used to, but the whole thing was, I dunno. Easy.”

This time, he lets Ari roll over to face him. Something about the conversation has him on edge, although Ari doesn’t quite get why. They reach up to touch the edge of the mark, smiling at the way his face goes soft as he looks down at it.

“So yeah,” Tate says quietly. “I’d like to, but even if she wanted to, it’s… complicated. And it’s weird to talk about even with you because she’s always been disapproving of what little bit she does know about and I don’t want her to be upset or you to feel weird or be in a bad spot between us, or-“

Hooking their leg over his hip for leverage, Ari stretches to kiss him. He lets out a shocked little sound, but recovers quickly. A shift of his hips has his cock resting on Ari’s thigh; his hand spreads to cover Ari’s lower back, not trapping but holding.

It’s getting easier and easier to want. And so quickly. Too quickly. At this rate, Ari wonders how long it’ll be before all of their reservations are gone.

Is that really a bad thing?

They take a breath, thinking. No?

Tate smiles against their lips.

“I might have a couple of concerns about your complete lack of reservations, though.”

His grin widens as he noses at Ari’s ear, then disappears when he closes his mouth around their earlobe. “I won’t do anything you don’t want,” he promises in a low whisper. “Won’t try to stop you from wanting it either, though.”

The easy confidence of it makes Ari shiver and press closer, angling to try to line them up.

“M mm. You’ve got somewhere to be, remember?”

Ari stifles a whine, although it must still slip through the bond because Tate laughs.

“Tell you what. You can come back after, if you can still walk.”

“What exactly do you think we’re gonna do?”

He laughs again and shrugs. “Fuck if I know. But if I can even mention it after without her face turning red, we’re gonna have words.”

“It’s like you want her to be mad at you.”

“No. I want her to get over her shit. Everything she does is always worried about her parents and what they’ll think. She deserves to live. All three of us do.”

The words bleed into Ari’s brain like an ink drop on paper, as much weight held in the fact that Tate both said and believed them as there is in the way that Ari almost does.

“Ok,” Ari sighs. “I gotta go home and shower first, though. I feel like she’s not gonna react well if I show up smelling like-“

Tate’s groan drowns out the end of their sentence, and this time he tilts his hips just right so he can tease the head of his cock against Ari’s hole. “Baby I don’t think you’re ever gonna get that smell out,” he says, sounding pleased with himself.


“It’s another one of those things. ‘m just more-“

“Sensitive. Yeah. You said. Which makes me wonder who your offer to let me come back after was really for.”

He muffles a moan in Ari’s hair and lets the tip sink in. Fuck.

“Maybe later,” Ari says. They bite his collarbone then roll off of the bed, laughing at his expression. “I have places to be.”

With a dramatic whine, Tate flops onto his back. The sheet tents around him, only adding to the effect.

After locating their underwear and one of his shirts, Ari leans back over the bed to kiss him. Contrary to what Ari expects, he doesn’t drag them back onto the bed or even make any outward mention of the almost suffocating undercurrent of want. He just kisses Ari slowly. Lazily. Like he’s content with just that, even though Ari’s almost positive his knot is swollen under the blankets.

“Yeah. It’ll uh. Be a while. Before it’s not.”

“Even if you-“

He nods. “‘Nother one of those things. Makes ruts fucking awful when you’re on your own.”

Ari hums an acknowledgement, unsure of what to say to that.

“We’ve got a while before that’s a concern, though,” he says softly. Tate tilts his chin for another kiss and Ari stretches to meet him. “Talk to you later, at least?”


He smiles, his thumb brushing over the tip of Ari’s chin. They finish dressing and slip out. All of it is easy and quiet, and when Ari closes the door, they’re pretty sure the catch the whispered edge of a thought that feels like love you.

They take a breath, then make their way down the stairs and back to their own apartment.

There are three apartment buildings in town, and somehow they’re all separate. Probably by someone’s design, Ari thinks, although they couldn’t quite say whose. Either Reuben or Astrid, but one’s just as likely as the other.

Kyah’s is arguably the nicest. It’s near the edge of town, closest to the highway and therefore the city. The hospital where she and Jenna work.

She seems surprised to find Ari at her door, but pleased, too. “Thought you’d be at Tate’s,” she says as she shuts the door behind them.

Ari shrugs. “Wanted to see you. Feel like I haven’t in…” they trail off and shrug again, searching her face for some sign that she feels the same way.

“Yeah, I’ve just been-” Kyah sighs. “Busy, I guess?”

It’s a lie, and Ari knows it. Or not exactly a lie, but certainly an expansion on the truth. If anything, Kyah’s been working slightly less recently based on the timing of her texts, but she’s been consistently unavailable for weeks. An hour or so here and there, but there’s always been an excuse. A reason not to. Still, they say, “Should I go?”

Tate will probably give them shit for it, but whatever. They’re not going to push on this.

“No,” she says, quickly enough that Ari believes it. “No, I’m… glad you’re here,” she adds.

They nod and reach for her, pulling her slowly into their arms. She’s so warm and soft. Smells good. None of that’s unusual, but Ari’s always struck by it. They tuck their face against her throat, content to just stand there like that.

“I am in the middle of doing laundry and stuff though, if you don’t mind-”

“That’s fine. Not trying to throw off your plans.”

She smiles. “You’re not.”

Ari lets her go, fighting the urge to pull her that tiny bit closer and kiss her. Only after she’s turned away to go move loads between the washer and dryer do they remember what Tate said about how she always smells around them. They take a slow breath, trying to sift through the layers in the air. It’s her apartment, so the whole place smells like her, but there are things they can pull out a bit more clearly. The more recent surprise at their unexpected appearance, for one.

But nothing that they can place as that. Nothing even vaguely like the rolling cloud of want that they get off of Tate when there’s actual intent behind his interest.

Just Kyah.

Frowning slightly, Ari toes out of their shoes and follows her. If nothing else, showing up unexpectedly is nice for the novelty of Kyah not put together. They wonder how many people have seen her like this – just in an old tank top and sweatpants.

Not many, if Tate’s experience is to be trusted. In this, though, Ari is pretty sure it is since it so closely aligns with their own. Even the times they’ve seen her in more intimate settings, there’s always been that sign of preparation. Of display.

But now, it’s clearly just her, existing.

“So what are your plans for the day?” Kyah asks when they reach the bathroom.

“Uhh. I dunno. Not much. You?”

“You’re looking at it,” she says, nodding toward the growing stacks of folded laundry.


She laughs. “You know it.”

Smiling, they take a step closer. Take another breath that just smells like Kyah. Always, Tate had said, and his freaky knowledge of those things didn’t seem to be wrong. So Ari takes another step and fits themself to her back, settling their hands on her hips.

They can feel the catch in her breathing and the uptick in her pulse and decide to test things slightly further. Ignoring their own doubs, Ari presses a kiss to the back of her shoulder. Then another, closer to the join of her back and neck. It makes her shiver, her folding forgotten.

“Ari-” she starts, their name coming out slightly breathless.

“Mhmm?” they hum. This time, the kiss they drop to her throat is wet, dragging – just the hint of teeth in another hesitant test.

Kyah exhales another shivery breath and relaxes slightly against them. She doesn’t smell different, though. Just more somehow. But she doesn’t seem to be protesting in the slightest, so Ari does it again, slightly higher. They grow a bit more confident with each passing second, letting their fingers creep under her shirt to find skin.

Something like a growl slips out of their throat as they follow the same path back down, biting down a bit more firmly at the join of her neck and shoulder this time. It draws a moan out of Kyah, the shock enough to stop her from silencing it. One of Ari’s hands inches further up her shirt while the other wanders down to her waistband, asking and teasing all at once.

She presses more of her weight back into Ari, forcing them to shift their own to counterbalance. That’s fine – they’re more than willing.

“You were about to say something?” they murmur, nosing at the curve of her ear.

“That this is-” another hitched breath, “-the opposite of not distracting.”

They let their lips drag over the shell of her ear as they ask, “Do you want me to stop?” Their hands inch further in opposite directions. Her legs shift further apart, accommodating. Ari smiles against her skin and lets their hand drop even further as the other seeks out a nipple and pinches it lightly.

Kyah gasps and shakes her head.


She shakes her head again.

“No?” They pull their hands away from her skin; it’s a rude game, but they want confirmation.

“Are you going to make me say it? Fuck,” she breathes, clearly frustrated, “don’t stop.”

Grinning, Ari kisses the soft patch of skin at the hinge of her jaw and lets their hands find their intended targets. The effect is immediately obvious. Even without Kyah’s fractured whine, the wet slide of their fingers and the way she seems to push into every touch act as solid evidence of their success.

And god she’s sensitive everywhere. Her collarbones, her hips, the smooth skin at the inside of her thighs. Ari wants nothing more than to spread her out and take her apart. They easily sink two fingers into her to the knuckles, eliciting another needy moan. Now is when Tate would be ready to carry them to bed, but this is different. Tate isn’t here.

“If I’d- If I’d known you were coming, I would’ve done sheets first.”

Laughing, Ari kisses her spine. “Your bed disappear when there’s not sheets on it?

It makes Kyah laugh, which is more pleasing than it maybe should be. “No, but-”


She tenses slightly. Inexplicably.

“Hey,” they say softly, nosing at the curve of her ear again.


“What has you so worried all of a sudden?”

“I don’t- decisions.”

“Well I can take care of that.” After all, Ari’s used to managing their sexual encounters. They let their fingers circle a few more times, teasing, then return their hands to her hips. “C’mon.”

Kyah allows herself to be steered to her bedroom with remarkable ease, although nothing in it contains any hint that she’s anything other than interested and willing. She feels present, instead of shut down or distant. Hungry for it, even, now that she doesn’t have to think about it.

It’s a strange approach, but Ari has no room to judge.

She pulls them down to the mattress after her, and they go readily. Like this, they can finally kiss her; for something so simple and relatively tame, it’s still novel and exciting with her. Especially like this. Having her stretched out on the bed beneath them is entirely new. It’s an opportunity they’re determined to neither waste nor ruin.

They migrate from her lips to her jaw, trailing slow, open-mouthed kisses across her skin. First, to the patch behind her ear, and then down her throat, across her collarbone and back, then down. They follow the curve of her breast to the top of her tank top and the next crossroad it brings. Cautiously, they adjust their weight to one arm and tug her shirt down in order to keep going. Another worthwhile gamble, as it turns out. Kyah moans and arches up against them, her fingers clenching in Ari’s shirt when they smile and suck a nipple into their mouth.

“Take this off for me?” It’s more a command than a question, but Kyah blinks at them then nods, shifting beneath them to pull her shirt off.

Of course, that still leaves a layer to contend with. Ari just gives her a pointed look, which makes her laugh before reaching behind her back to undo the clasps of her bra and remove it as well. It’s the closest to naked Ari’s gotten her, and god, they just want to stare. Another time, because there would be if they played their cards right. After all, Tate’s already gotten her in bed. There’s been progress. No reason they shouldn’t-

Dropping back down to one hand, Ari kisses her greedily before resuming their exploration. It’s difficult to determine exactly where she’s sensitive because at some point, the noises don’t stop. Every brush of their lips or fingers results in a moan, or a gasp, or a whine. It does wonders for their ego, but makes it hard to know where to focus their efforts.

Eventually, they reach her waistband. They curl their fingers around the fabric and tug it down just enough to drop a light kiss. Another silent question, that gets another silent answer when she lifts her hips. And again, Ari can’t help their victorious grin. Wasting no time in pulling her pants and underwear off, they drop both over the edge of the bed before settling on their stomach.

Kyah keeps her knees raised, her feet planted beside Ari’s ribs. That’s fine – they still have plenty of metaphorical ground to cover before really getting to work. Much like her chest and stomach, Kyah’s hips and thighs are astoundingly sensitive. Here, though, things are a bit clearer. Attention paid to the soft skin at the inside of her knees and just over her hipbones makes her stomach tighten and jump, while the highest point of her inner thigh leaves her dripping. That discovery is what does Ari in. The next stop for their lips is a wet, filthy drag, their tongue teasing her open.

She moans, her legs tightening around Ari’s head. They breathe a laugh against her skin and relocate their hands to her thighs, pushing them out of the way. Immediately, it becomes clear that that will take more effort with her than anyone Ari’s been with in the past. Werewolf strength clearly doesn’t stop in the bedroom, not that they’re complaining. It could even be something worth exploring later. For now, though…

It doesn’t take long, nor does it require more than Ari’s mouth. At some point Kyah stops trying to suffocate them and instead redirects her efforts into making sure they don’t stop. The entire time, she’s a steady stream of soft, needy sounds. When she comes, the noise reaches a crescendo and then drops off entirely as she pulses against their lips.

Ari wipes their mouth off and pushes up onto their elbows, watching her curiously. For several long, quiet moments, all she does is breathe.

“Well that was-” she says, each exhale still harsh and loud.

Again, there’s no fighting the grin. “You need a break, or?”

Kyah opens her eyes and finds Ari’s, her eyebrows lifting. “Depends on what you’re planning on doing.”

They crack their neck and shift their jaw from side to side, testing. “That. Something else. Up to you.”

Fuck,” she says, laughing.

At that, they make an involuntary little face. It wasn’t what she meant, they know, but it still does create a slew of potential complications. “Depends on what you’re looking for there,” they respond literally. “Might not be the right person for the job, although I know a guy.”

She laughs again, tugging at them until they move to kiss her. “Nah, that’s pretty take it or leave it for me, honestly. At least for the most part. When I uh- yeah it gets different that time of the year but otherwise-” Kyah shrugs and kisses them again.

“Good to know,” Ari breathes against her lips.

For a while, neither of them move beyond the easy slide of their lips against each other. Rather than feeling like a deescalation, though – like the moment has died and Ari has missed their chance – it just feels like the next stop on their journey. Like they’ve both been set to simmer, anticipation for the next point building in the background as they kiss.

Kyah instigates the shift, her hands beginning to wander over Ari’s arms and shoulders, then down their back and chest. When her fingers sneak under Ari’s shirt, they jump slightly; she freezes, pulling back to look at them.

“It’s fine. I just didn’t expect- It’s fine,” they say, forcing themself to relax and ducking to kiss her again.

Her fingertips ghost over their skin, barely touching at all. It makes them shiver, their next breath coming out a faint moan that’s muffled by her mouth.

Hoping to encourage her to do more, Ari adjusts their weight to one hand again. They tweak a nipple, smiling when she lets out a shocked whine, then venture lower. It starts teasing, but it isn’t long before Ari decides to push on. One finger slides effortlessly into her, so they add a second, smiling again when she clenches around them. Then they let their thumb drift down to swipe through the mess before finding her clit.


“Mhmm?” they hum, mouth busy on her throat.

“I’m- you’re- I’m not gonna last if you keep-“

“Who’re you tryin’ to last for, hm? And why do you assume that’s not exactly what I want you to do?”

Kyah shivers, stretching under them in an attempt to work herself impossibly further against their knuckles. When that doesn’t work, her own fingernails drag down Ari’s spine to their waistband. She pauses again, then lets one hand slide around to Ari’s front. “Can I?”

They push back up to look at her, then down at her hand. Back to her face – her expression one of hesitant anticipation. “Yeah, of course.”

Arching up to kiss them, Kyah slips her hand under Ari’s joggers and underwear. Her nails scratch gently over skin and hair, her fingers shifting at the last second so it’s the soft skin of her fingertips that tease between Ari’s legs.

There’s no point in fighting back the groan. Ari wants more. Wants her hands and her mouth. Wants to be so tangled up in her that they can’t even keep track of who starts and ends where. They want Tate, too, his warm weight pressed against their back and inside of them. It needed to happen sometime soon.

Later – quite a while later, after they’re both sweaty and fucked out, legs tangled together and their heads both halfway on the same pillow – that’s the thought that sticks with them: that all three of them have barely been together since Ari bit Tate.

“What’re you thinking about?” Kyah asks, watching them.

They hum a thoughtful acknowledgment and shift closer to kiss her. “You. Tate.” Kyah stiffens slightly, but Ari pays it little mind. They run their fingers over the curve of her spine, smiling when she still shivers. “How it’s-” another kiss “-a real shame that we don’t have more free time together.”

Kyah sighs, her eyes closing, and rests her forehead against Ari’s. “And why is that?” she asks, her tone skeptical.

And sure, her assumption is part of the reason, but it’s hardly all of it. “C’mon, Ky – don’t tell me you don’t feel it too. How things get all… y’know? When we’re apart for too long.”

She sighs again and shakes her head, although that seems to be more at herself than at Ari. “I don’t- My whole life, the correct response has been to hate him. Or at least to try to beat him. To keep him at arm’s length and do whatever I had to to ensure my own place. I don’t know how to do anything else with him, even when I want to. Especially when I want to.”

“But you’ve like. Spent time with him one on one before. Even since we’ve been…”

“You wanna know the truth?” she asks with a sharp, humorless laugh.


“I kinda just. Ended up there most of those times. Like maybe once was planned. But Astrid was there, so that doesn’t really count.”

“Oh, did Astrid wake up there too?”

They can feel Kyah’s cheeks heat before she buries her face in the pillow. Her “No” is comically muffled; Ari laughs, pressing a messy kiss to her shoulder. “Shut up. I told you, not planned. I was supposed to leave when Astrid did, but then I just… couldn’t.”

“You don’t have to justify it to me,” they say, still laughing slightly but entirely serious. And then, “I still don’t- I mean I can understand the complications with him, but I’m not-“

Kyah turns her head, her expression guarded when she meets their eyes. “Ari, it’s-” she sighs and reaches up to run her thumb along their jaw. “None of my answers are good.”

“Yeah, I mean I kind of figured.”

“Gee thanks,” she says dryly. “My parents. My position. Expectations. Tate. And then I get caught in my own head, and it’s not like you don’t have him, so what difference does it make, and-“

Ari cuts her off with another kiss. They manage to roll her onto her back, ending up on their hands and knees above her. “I need you to listen to me.”

She blinks. Swallows. Nods.

“All the difference. It makes all the difference because you two aren’t even vaguely the same person and I-” the words feel like they’re too much, even for Ari, but they’re there and Ari means them. “Kyah, it’s both of you. It’s all three of us. Very literally all or nothing. Tate literally left so he wouldn’t come between us. I won’t come between you two – the two of you and Astrid, even. And then here you are, still acting like you’re still second to him and you’re not. He’s not second to you, either. Like I’m pretty sure if I asked Astrid she’d say the exact same thing in a completely different way, but. Kyah. Your… position? Value? Whatever? Isn’t in any sort of danger. At least not to anyone whose opinion matters.”

Kyah just stares, seemingly stricken by something they said.

“I don’t know how to tell you that you’re very seriously one of the two most important people in the world to me right now. Anymore. Whatever.”

The corners of her mouth quirk up slightly. “The whatever really sells it.”

“Fuck off. English is only sort of my first language.”

“Wait, really?”


“What’s the other one?”


“No fucking way.”

“Yes? My dad’s uh- my dad was Puerto Rican.”

“My mom’s family’s from the Dominican Republic.”

Ari breathes a laugh. “Small world.”


“You ever been?”

“Couple of times. Not in a while though. You?”

Ari swallows, the question tugging at something deep and raw in their chest. “I um. Not since I was really little.”

Seeming to sense that something is wrong, Kyah cups their cheek and pulls them down gently. She wraps her other arm around their ribs. Doesn’t say anything – just presses her face to Ari’s hair and waits.

“It’s fine. It was uh. It was a long time ago. I just- no one ever asks, so I don’t really. Y’know. Talk about it.”

“Well, if it’s any sort of consolation, this’ll win you some major brownie points with my mom?”

“For real?”

“You still speak it?”

“Yeah. I mean I haven’t in a while because I haven’t had a reason to, but. Yeah.”

“She’s gonna lose her mind,” Kyah says, laughing into their hair. “And you wanna see Tate pop the fastest hard on ever-“

Ari snorts. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. It’s a little ridiculous. One time there was this um-” she clears her throat, her pulse speeding up slightly, “-this guy at this bar when we were in college. Speaking like, Danish or something. And I think he might’ve had to go clean himself off in the bathroom.”

They can’t not laugh at that; it’s one they’ll have to ask Tate about later, and certainly not one they’ll let go. “So, do you?”

“Huh? What, know Spanish? Barely. Some from school and that handful of words and weird colloquialisms you pick up, y’know? But nothing useful.”

Ari hums and acknowledgement, feeling strangely better now that she knows. Like it’s relieved some pressure they didn’t realize they’d been under.

“I’ll try,” she says. “To be less… weird. Probably won’t actually do it, but I’ll at least try to be around more.”

They nod and kiss her jaw. Relax against the comfortable, soft warmth of her. Breathe in the already familiar smell of her skin, her hair.

“Think my laundry’s done yet?”

Breathing a laugh, they take the hint and roll off of her. “Might be by now.”

She reaches over to brush her knuckles against Ari’s hip before she rolls out of bed. They watch her go, openly taking her in. It would be impossible not to – she’s the sort of woman people made statues and paintings of. Wrote songs and poems about.

When she returns, she’s carrying stacks of neatly-folded clothes that she puts away before turning her attention back to Ari. “As much as I’d like to get back in bed, I’m supposed to be having dinner with my parents.”

“Yeah but that’s like-“

Kyah picks up her phone, the screen illuminating to display the time.

“Oh shit.”

“Yeah,” she says, laughing. “We um. You were very. Thorough.”

Ari grins, extending a hand toward her. She takes it, and despite her earlier comment lets them pull her back onto the mattress. “Is that your way of saying you liked it?”


“Can’t just give a straight answer, can you?”

She rolls her eyes, then tilts her chin to kiss them. “What happens if I say yes?”

“I do it again. And gloat really hard.”

It pulls a shocked laugh from her, the puff of her breath warm against Ari’s lips. “Fine. Yes, I liked it.”

“Mm, I know. Won’t lie and say I don’t like hearing you say it though. Almost as much as I like-“

“Oh my god,” she says, clamping a hand over their mouth and giggling. “Stop, I have to shower and go. I can’t-” She lets out a frustrated little whine and replaces her hand with her mouth.

“That’s fine. You know where to find me.”

“Yeah, but-“

“No buts,” Ari says softly. They let the tips of their fingers ghost over her throat, eyes flicking involuntarily to the spot where they’d bite her. “You can do this on your terms, but you’ve gotta actually do it. Both feet in the door or not.”


“Have to get ready for dinner. We can talk about this later, yeah?”

She nods, kissing them one last time before she stands again. “Do you think… Will he? Be ok with that?”

“Kyah, he’ll be over the fuckin’ moon if you do.”

Another small, determined nod, and then she starts getting ready. Ari kisses the tip of her nose before they go; already, they’ve messaged Tate. Already, he’s answered.

Tate > No fucking way. Come prove it.

Ari grins. Maybe they can find a way to work this all out. It’ll be messy. Take some trying. But it’s starting to feel ok.

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