A/N: I thought I'd try my hand at omegaverse. I tried to do something original but I hope I didn't stray so far that it's not enjoyable! If you're not familiar with omegaverse I'll just say it plays with Alpha/Beta/Omega dynamics in which Alphas tend to be dominant, Omegas tend to be submissive, and Betas are neither here nor there. If you'd like more info on omegaverse I'd suggest googling it. Enjoy! :)

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Rights go to the respective owners. Hetalia belongs to Hidekaz Himaruya.


Guardian

By Iggycat


"You're back," I grinned at Arthur as he stepped through the doorframe carrying two overstuffed shopping bags. Something green and leafy was sticking out of the top of one.

"At long last. It was a madhouse just before Valentine's Day," he sighed, putting the bags on the counter. I paused my game and got up to help him unload them. "All those alphas out buying chocolate box after chocolate box. I'm quite surprised more of us don't get diabetes from all the damn sweets."

I smirked at Arthur. He complained but it was common for omegas to have a sweet tooth and he was no exception.

"You're just saying that 'cause you wish someone would buy you a fancy box of chocolate," I said with a cheeky smile as I bumped Arthur's hip with my own. I reached above him and shoved a box of microwave popcorn into the cabinet. "Gettin' desperate, babe?" I teased.

"I should think it hurts your pride as much as my own to call me desperate," Arthur fixed me with an unimpressed look, though it didn't have the full effect with him holding a handful of Babybell cheese. "It would mean you've failed."

I frowned at Arthur. He talked like he was taking a shot at me but I could tell a portion of it was rooted in self-doubt. At twenty-seven, Arthur was pushing the limit, still being an unmated omega. It was rare for an omega to still be unmarried by twenty-five.

"I haven't failed, and I won't," I assured him as he rinsed off some strawberries. He didn't look up, but I knew he was listening. "I'm just taking awhile longer to make sure I get it exactly right."

Arthur said nothing. He shook the excess water free of the berries and poured them into a tupperware container.

"I trust you, Alfred," he replied, but his voice was laced with doubt.

I turned toward Arthur as he moved to the fridge but my throat and vocal chords failed me. I didn't have anything to say that I hadn't said a hundred times before.

All in time.

I won't fail you.

Good things come to those who wait.

I will make sure you're happy.

"Arthur," I put a hand on his shoulder as he finished up with the groceries and tried to bypass me on his way out of the kitchen. He shrugged me off but did turn and gave me his attention, well most of it. He was clearly partially lost in thought.

"Yes?"

"Just..." I nearly trailed off, distracted by his disinterested gaze. "Just don't lose hope, okay?"

Arthur nodded at me and retreated into the living room. I spent the rest of the night wondering if it was wrong to give him advice that I couldn't even follow myself.


Arthur was my omega. He wasn't my mate, or part of my family, but he was my omega and I was his beta. We'd made an omega-beta pact when Arthur turned seventeen, the way so many omegas and betas did. Before heats begin at around age eighteen when an omega is fully grown, they often make pacts with a close beta. It forces a strong bond, a sort of symbiotic relationship on both parties. The beta gains a general nurturer, someone who will make sure they're always well fed and generally happy, while the omegas in turn receive a promise. It's a beta's responsibility, upon signing a pact with an omega, to protect them.

The tradition of forging such agreements began years ago when there was an exponential increase in the number of young omegas who mated too early in the heat of their, well, first heats, and later regretted the decision. So that's where betas came in. It was decided somewhere along the line that a neutral party, one with no vested interest, could serve as a buffer between omegas and alphas. A beta would serve as an omega's guardian to assure they didn't make the same mistake as past generations. Omegas benefited from the partner who would keep alphas well away while they were in heat, and alphas too, for their part, respected the role placed upon betas. It was something to be proud of as a beta, to look after an omega and to ultimately give them away when they did find the right alpha.

It had been a natural decision back in high school, when I got down on one knee, as was the custom, and asked Arthur for the privilege to be his beta guard. At first he was reluctant, always the resilient, feisty, little omega, but in the end he conceded defeat. He knew as well as me that it was in his best interest to let me be his safeguard; alphas tended to look more favorably on omegas who had guards, they were said to be more respectable.

So a decade ago I forged a pact with Arthur in which I vowed to be there for him until he found the right alpha, until he was married, mated, and happy. I've been working at it but slowly the job has gotten harder over time, not because Arthur has become more unruly or less desirable, no, rather the opposite. There were quite a few alphas who were more than interested in Arthur but I never let them near him. I might not have been able to smell alpha pheromones but I could basically see them dripping off the men and women, like beads of sweat. It was wrong to hold Arthur back from what he was rightfully entitled to, I knew that. I knew I wasn't doing my job justice at all but I couldn't help it. That agreement I made with Arthur when we were just teenagers would screw me over for the rest of my life. By the time I'd realized what I'd done, it was too late.

I was in love with the beta that it was my duty to give away.


"I want you to want me.

I need you to need me.

I'd love you to love me."

I belted line after line out into my shampoo bottle-microphone. I was a beast armed with my pink Herbal Essences bottle, as I serenaded the showerhead. It was too bad my live performances never took place anywhere but beneath a spray of warm water. Arthur had never been fond of my singing after that stunt I pulled in college.

I put down my microphone as I sung the chorus one last time and instead picked up a new bottle. This one wasn't pink, no, far from it. It was sleek and jet black, just a tiny splattering of red on the front. It spoke power, I thought, as I flipped open the cap and took a sniff. It smelled of power too even if I didn't get the full effect. I reached for my washcloth and squeezed a fair amount of the blood red cleanser into it. I thought back to when I'd bought the stuff last week. When the beta cashier had given me a real questioning look. But that didn't matter, I assured myself as I started rubbing it into my pores. All that mattered was that it served its purpose.

There was curt but loud knock just as I was soaping up my junk. Damn this stuff really works, I thought as I quickly rinsed off, wrapped a towel around my lower half, and nearly tripped over my own feet in my rush to answer the door.

"Yeah?" I tried not to let my eagerness show as I threw open the door. Arthur was standing there, tapping his foot. He looked over at me impatiently.

"I am sorry to disturb you, Romeo, but-"

It was about halfway through Arthur's prepared intro that his eyes went wide and his ears perked up. He sniffed the air a few times, and I tried to look casual, pushing my dripping hair back behind my ear.

"Are you wearing Axe?" Arthur asked guardedly. He stepped back and my confidence took a hit. He wasn't supposed to move away, he was supposed to come closer.

"Yeah, I mean it was on sale so I thought 'what the hell?'" I lied easily enough.

Arthur shook his head. He tried to glare at me but with his nose wiggling every few seconds he looked much too cute to be angry.

"Alfred, you realize Axe is made for alphas, do you not?" he questioned crossly. "It has a blend of synthetic alpha pheromones, among other things meant to," here he briefly paused but did not look away. "Meant to entice omegas."

"I must smell pretty good then," I saddled him up with a smirk but his glower only intensified. My smile instantly vanished and this time I genuinely asked, "Does it bother you? You want me to stop using it?"

For only the briefest of seconds, when Arthur blinked, I saw the war being waged inside of him. It was a battle very swiftly won, for by the time his eyelids lifted he was already shaking his head.

"You needn't do that. No need to waste it," he replied though his eyes seemed unfocused. I couldn't tell if he was still sidetracked by the scent of the alpha body wash or something else. "I only ask that you don't use it while I'm in heat," he tacked on at the end, almost as an afterthought.

"Sure," I grinned, reaching my hands above my head to stretch, partially because I was sore, but mostly because I'd ladled my underarms with the soap and I liked messing with Arthur. His eyes did brighten, if only slightly this time, but the satisfaction was ruined when he cocked his head down the hallway and looked away.

"You have a visitor," he said calmly, before walking back down the way he came. "I'll keep them preoccupied while you," he paused again, looking me up and down. "Make yourself decent."

"Great. Thanks, babe," I smiled and leaned in to kiss him on the forehead. It wasn't unusual for beta-omega pairs to display platonic forms of affection, but I knew that Arthur wasn't especially fond of it. He didn't push me away, but his cheeks had taken on a rosy hue by the time I pulled back.

"Ugh, just go put on some clothes, would you," he remarked with fake disgust and it just made me smile again.

"You got it, hun."

I clapped him on the shoulder and paddled off to find something relatively clean to wear amongst the wardrobe I had scattered around my bedroom floor. Five minutes later I'd pulled on some fresh underwear, a semi-fresh t-shirt, and some jeans covered in cheeto dust and god knows what else that quite honestly, really needed to be washed. I slipped on some mismatched socks and made my way to the living room to greet our visitor.

"It's hardly any of your business," I heard Arthur grumble out as I turned the counter and found a well-groomed, well-dressed alpha reeking of cologne sitting across from him.

"What's hardly any of your business, Francis?" I smiled at him and sat down next to Arthur. Francis was an old high school friend and about the only alpha I fully trusted. Arthur never understood this. "Of all people, you put your faith in the flirtiest alpha to walk this earth?" I couldn't really explain it myself but I knew Francis, and I just had this feeling that he was a genuinely good alpha, winks and blown kisses aside.

"Nothing," Arthur cut in, crossing his right leg over the other so the tip of his penny loafer just barely scraped my knee. "It is none of Francis' business nor yours, Alfred."

I raised a brow but Francis just let out a soft sigh and sank a bit further into our couch.

"Always the secretive little one, weren't you?" Francis grinned devilishly but Arthur did little more than 'tsk' at him in response. Francis seemed to bow his head in defeat before recovering easily enough and turning his eyes toward me.

"And how are you, Alfred?" Francis asked with a wave of his hand, like he didn't truly care for the answer. Good thing too, since I was about to lie through my teeth.

"Great!"

I'd long stopped questioning how easy it had become for me to fake my mood each and every day. No one really cared how my day was anyway. It was just a formality.

"Art and I are fantastic," I grinned, laying my arm across Arthur's shoulders.

"Grand," Francis, smirked in response, and Arthur seemed rather uncomfortable under the combined weight of my arm and Francis' gaze. He started to squirm.

"Well, now that you're settled in, I think I'll take me leave." Arthur stood and looked toward Francis. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out," he said pleasantly. Francis simply winked at him as he silently padded down to his room and closed the door. That left me alone with the alpha.

"What can I do for you?" I started, deciding to cut the crap. I was usually way more patient with people, Francis particularly, but as it neared closer to Valentine's Day, my patience was waning.

Francis blinked at me, but did not falter in his air of nonchalance.

"Ah, you see right through me, mon bĂȘta," he said, winding a piece of hair through his fingers. I didn't say anything but I hated it when he called me that. I knew bĂȘta had a double meaning in French. I wasn't as foolish as he liked to play me for.

I didn't reply to Francis. I sat back and laid my arms across the top of the loveseat.

"I need to speak with you about Arthur," Francis said at length and seemed to deflate slightly. I cocked a brow at him.

"What is it?" I asked, trying not to let my concern show through.

"I can smell something on him," he started, then looked at me. "Speaking of, I can smell something on you as well. Axe, mon cher?"

I blushed a bit forgetting I'd bathed with the alpha body wash and still smelled of it.

"Forget about me. What's wrong with him? Is he sick?"

Francis unfolded his legs and leant forward towards me.

"Of a sort. But not in a way that you could mend with a pill," he responded ambiguously and I wanted to yell at him.

"What the hell does that mean?" I asked in an angry whisper, all attempts at matching Francis' gracefulness abandoned.

"Calm yourself," he commanded as he put a hand on my shoulder. "I'm not trying to worry you." He paused and squeezed my tense shoulder. "I think Arthur will feel better when he is mated."

"What? Why? Is it related to his heats? You can tell me," I said exasperated, not the least bit calmer.

Francis sighed at me as he withdrew his hand.

"No, Alfred, you misunderstand. I shouldn't have said anything. Do not worry, there is nothing wrong with him that you can fix."

"But a mate could help him out?" I tried not to sound as desperate as I felt. If Arthur was sick I wanted to help. I wanted to be there for him.

"In more ways than one, yes, I think so."

Francis stood and I followed his lead.

"So, what? Are you just here to tell me to get a move on?" I asked, not wanting to sound too annoyed. I was grateful for Francis telling me something Arthur would not, but it also wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear. "I'm doing the best job I can. I don't wanna just give Arthur away to any old alpha."

Francis' face took on a pained expression, not physical pain, but the sting of a mental struggle.

"I know that, Alfred, but you do realize the longer you wait, the more Arthur's chances of finding a worthy mate decrease," he said gently. "I did not come to criticize you, I just wanted to put a spark in your step, as they say."

I frowned at him, still confused and upset by whatever he was trying to get across.

"So I should basically do exactly what I've been doing, is what you're saying."

Francis sighed for the third or fourth time since the beginning of our conversation.

"Perhaps it would be best if Arthur explained it to you himself."

He took a step toward the door and I fetched his coat from where Arthur had hung it in the hall closet. Just before Francis left he turned to face me and spared me a small smile.

"Don't be too harsh on Arthur or yourself. It is clear how much you love your omega."

I didn't know what to say to that, but it didn't matter. Francis stepped through the doorway and I immediately turned on my heel. I knocked on Arthur's door and was inside the moment he opened it.

"Yes?" At this point, Arthur was used to me barging into his room. When we'd first started to live together in college it had bothered him, but now he took it in stride. The only time when that didn't apply was when I'd once walked in on him during a heat.

"Are you feeling alright?"

Arthur raised his brows as he looked up at me.

"I should ask you the same."

"I'm serious, Arthur. Anything hurt? Anything?" I put the back of my hand against his forehead and he appeared perplexed for only a moment before he peeled it away.

"I'm quite alright. What brings this up all of a sudden?"

Arthur took my hand and led me across his room to his bed. His bed was a nice affair. Green, silk sheets, always nicely made. It was quite the contrast to my bed, if you could even call it that. I slept on a mattress covered in a paper plates, dirty clothes, and a blanket somewhere if you looked hard enough.

"Francis said something was up with you," I told him when we were both settled. "He said he could smell something on you."

Arthur visibly tensed and it worried me.

"Oh shit, he was right. What's wrong? Are you sick? I'll take you to a doctor."

I stood up, but the moment I did Arthur pulled me back down. He'd stilled himself and the panic that had appeared for a millisecond in his eyes was gone.

"I'm not sick, sit down."

I was already sitting. Arthur had a pretty strong grip. He looked at me and I noticed small blotches of red had appeared across Arthur's cheeks.

"Alfred, it's nothing. My heat is just drawing closer," he said quietly. Fifteen years of knowing Arthur, ten of those years spent as his beta guard, and he still felt awkward talking to me about his heat cycles. He seemed ashamed of them. They were the one part of being an omega he couldn't really resist.

"Oh," I said stupidly. Was that all Francis has meant? He got me all hyped up for something as simple as that? "When?"

"It should start this Friday."

"Valentine's Day?" I asked, just to confirm, and Arthur looked away, the blush on his cheeks still visible.

"Yes."

"Aw man that sucks, I was gonna take you out for a movie or something," I mumbled and Arthur glanced up at me with a strange expression. Had I said something wrong?

"You don't say? Well, how unfortunate."

"Hey, it's not so bad. I'll make you my famous eight cheese ziti sometime this weekend. I know you always get a craving for it when you're in heat."

I winked at him and he looked away with a small smile.

"Thank you, Alfred. I appreciate you going out of your way to make me comfortable."

I wrapped an arm around Arthur and brought him close.

"It's no trouble. I like making you happy, okay?" I gave him a one-armed hug and he laid his head on my shoulder.

And wasn't that the truth. I just didn't like making myself sad in the process.


I don't know how I wound up in the thrift shop. It wasn't for the reasons my mind was supplying. I only bought the antique bomber jacket because it looked cool. It wasn't because I knew it had to have belonged to an alpha. Betas weren't allowed to join the air force. We were only used as infantrymen, and even then, only at times of war.

I definitely didn't buy the jacket for the same reason I'd bought the body wash. I didn't wear it the whole ride home in a futile hope that it might rub off on me. No, it wasn't that at all.

"What is that monstrosity?" Is the reaction I got from Arthur when I got home, but not the reaction I'd expected or wanted.

"Ya like it?" I grinned at him, stretching my arms out and turning around to give Arthur a full 360 view.

"It smells," he said primly, wrinkling his nose.

"Of the badass ace of an alpha that it belonged to?"

"Of the dust that it's been sitting in for the last half century," he replied sarcastically as he slipped it off my shoulders and onto a hanger. "I'll take it to the cleaners tomorrow."

I smiled and nodded, trying not to think of how poorly that had gone over.

"Won't you be, uh, busy tomorrow?" I didn't want to make Arthur uncomfortable by talking about his heats so I tried to get around it.

"Oh, no, well, yes," he looked at me as he hung the jacket in the closet. "Yes and no. It shouldn't start until late evening."

"Alrighty," I hummed in approval, sliding out of my shoes. I was about to slip upstairs when Arthur stopped me.

"Alfred?" he asked, sounding a little nervous even through his best attempt to disguise it.

"Yeah?" I turned around and gave him my full attention.

"I was wondering if when you get home tomorrow, we could possibly look at some potential profiles?" My eyes widened and Arthur very quickly backtracked. "Or not. Of course I know you know best and it's up to you. I'd just... I'd just like to see if I can make some progress by the time my next heat rolls around."

"Oh, uh, sure," I said as deadpan as I could. "Anyone in particular you're interested in?" I managed to get out, against my own wishes.

Arthur paused. He stared at me, but his eyes were unclear. He always got that way when he was thinking.

"No," he answered a moment later, and I'm not sure if I was grateful or dismayed to hear that answer.

"Alright, I'll print out a few alpha profiles and we can go over them tomorrow," I said taking two stairs. "If anyone, suits your fancy," I attempted to imitate Arthur's accent. He rolled his eyes at me. "I can set up a date for after your heat."

"Fantastic. Thanks, love."

That pet name usually made me feel better but it didn't do much for me today. If anything it made me feel worse.

"No prob, babe."

I climbed the rest of the stairs, dreading turning on the computer and looking up interested alpha after interested alpha. I shouldn't have felt this way. This was the job I'd signed up for, and the same one that I'd been avoiding for the past six years.


"Art?" I called out from the hallway. I had a box of chocolates in my right hand and a plastic bag full of trinkets in the other. I quickly shoved the bag in the closet with my coat as Arthur appeared out of the kitchen. He eyed the box of chocolates cautiously, but when I willed him forward he took a step towards me and I handed him the heart shaped package. I'd picked it up on my way back and hadn't even removed the "For your extra sweet omega" tag with the price on the back.

"I thought I could be your alpha for today," I suggested with a smile but Arthur looked mortified. My smile instantly dissolved. "...Or not."

At the sound of my voice, Arthur seemed to snap out of whatever awful thought had taken him. It hurt to think the idea of me acting as Arthur's alpha was that repulsive to him, but there was nothing I could do about that.

"Oh, no, Alfred, that's very sweet of you. Thank you." He held the chocolate close to his chest. "You've always been such a thoughtful beta."

I wondered why I had to be a "thoughtful beta." Couldn't I just be a thoughtful person?

"Of course, Arthur," I smiled at him and pressed a kiss to his temple. "That's 'cause I love you." I ignored the churning feeling in my stomach as I said those words. I shouldn't feel so guilty for saying something truthful. Maybe more truthful than intended.

"Ya want me to make dinner?" I said, breezing past him, into the kitchen. I opened the fridge and did a mental inventory. "Um, let's see. I could do French toast or," I reached in and pulled out a tube of crescent rolls. "I could make pigs in a blanket." I glanced at Arthur for any indication of what sounded good but noticed he was still staring at the chocolates. His bottom lip was caught between his teeth and he looked adorable even if he was worrying about something.

"You okay?" I asked, leaning out of the fridge, the can of Pillsbury rolls still in my hand. Arthur seemed a bit off when he caught my eyes.

"Actually, Alfred, if it's all the same to you, I think I'll retire early this evening," he said, placing the chocolates gently on the kitchen counter. He averted his eyes and started fumbling with his hands, not knowing what to do with them. "I'm not quite up to going over the profiles today. Could we delay it?" The until after my heat went unsaid, but I understood. Truth be told, I was more than happy to delay the inevitable. I'd already been doing that for half a decade.

"'Course. No worries." I reached back into the fridge and popped one of the strawberries Arthur had bought a few days earlier into my mouth.

"I am sorry to trouble you."

"It's no trouble, Arthur. Really, don't worry about it," I replied around a mouthful of fruit. "Go rest."

He nodded, but did not move. When I raised a brow he opened his mouth, but no words came out.

"Arthur?"

"I'm sorry, Alfred," he muttered quietly before padding down the hall to his room.

I did my best not to think about it as I started preparing dinner. I needed something to busy myself with and distract me from my less-than-kind thoughts.


Forty-five minutes later I had a plate full of smiling French toast in my hand, a sliced banana on top of the bread shaped into a grin and two dollops of whipped cream as eyes. Hanging off my other arm was the plastic bag I'd shoved into the closet earlier.

Arthur opened the door a crack just as I was about to knock.

"Oh, wow. Hello," I greeted, a bit surprised.

"I could smell you right outside," Arthur said quietly. "My senses always intensify right before..."

"I gotcha." I wasn't gonna make him needlessly explain himself to me when I already knew. I shoved the plate into his hands, which he readily took. I slid the bag off my arm and handed to him as well.

"I got you some stuff," I told him as he opened the bag and blushed. There was a toy or two. Some lubricant. A scented candle. Stuff I knew Arthur always needed during his heats but was too embarrassed to ask me to buy. "No need to thank me."

I took a step back then, not wanting to make him any more self-conscious than he already was, but to my surprise, Arthur reached out and stopped me.

"Come in."

I blinked at him.

"What?"

"Alfred, I know you're dense, but you're not that dense," he replied, tugging me inside. He sat me down on his bed before walking over to the dresser and setting his dinner on top of it. He came back and took a seat next to me.

"I think we need to talk."

Arthur reached for my hand but I moved it away. Suddenly I was unnerved. I was nervous. I was the one feeling sick.

"About what?" I forced myself to say.

Arthur looked me up and down and frowned slightly.

"The Axe. The bomber jacket. The countless stories you seem to love to tell about heroic alphas," Arthur started. "Not to mention the box of alpha sized rubbers I know you have hidden in the washroom closet. You realize those are made to accommodate knotting don't you?"

If Arthur was blushing slightly at that point, he had nothing on me. He tried for my hand once more but again I maneuvered it away. He sighed quietly and set his tender eyes back on me.

"Alfred, are you having an identity crisis?"

I scoffed.

"What? No."

"Then why?" Arthur looked at me, not understanding. I almost wanted to laugh.

"It's complicated."

"Is it?"

No, not really. It wasn't that hard to wrap your head around. I looked away from Arthur and moved to stand up, but this time when he reached for my hand, I faltered, and Arthur pinned his palm to my own sweaty one.

"Why are you trying to be someone you're not?" he spoke quietly, gently. It was his nurturing voice, the one he only very rarely used on me. It was effective, but not as much as it might be on a mate or on Arthur's future children. It only managed to calm me slightly.

"Because being a beta isn't good enough," I said in a whisper. Arthur was running the pad of his thumb over my hand in a soothing gesture but it was only making me feel sick. "Because being a beta will never be good enough."

Arthur looked saddened by this admission, and it made me angry. How dare he get upset. He had no idea how awful it was just being the intermediate, the useless, the nature no one really gave a fuck about.

"Alfred, that's not true. There's nothing wrong with being a beta. You're perfect the way you are, love."

The pet name did me in. I couldn't take it anymore. I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't handsome enough. I was never enough. I shook myself free of Arthur's grip and stood up.

"I'll never be what you want, Arthur," I cried.

Arthur stood then, and in a fit of nerves, I took a step back. Arthur took another step forward, and I took another one back until I'd backed myself into a wall. That was pretty symbolic of my life, actually.

"Alfred. Alfred, listen to me," he said delicately and I could barely hear him over the ringing in my ears, the frantic voice of a younger version of myself making Arthur all kinds of promises that my current self would never be able to keep. Arthur squeezed my hand and I nearly wet my pants.

I shouldn't have said that. Now he knew. He had to know.

"Alfred," Arthur started anew, and when I looked at him, I did actually wet my pants a bit. He was smiling sadly and I hated the fact that he was smiling through this. He wasn't allowed to be so happy while I was so...while I was so...

"Alfred, stop frowning. There's no reason to be so upset," he said putting a hand on my cheek, but that only infuriated me.

"No need to be upset?" I growled at him. "No need to be upset? I'm a beta in love with an omega and you tell me there's no reason to be upset? I'm a living taboo, Arthur!"

I didn't say anything more as Arthur pushed me against the wall. For an omega, Arthur was strong. I guess each one of us had traits that didn't match up with society's expectation of what we were.

"Alfred, do you know what Francis smelled on me when he came to visit?" he asked in a fury, and now our roles were reversed. I was the one staring wide-eyed and uncomprehending. "It was desire, Alfred. A longing, a wish, a craving for something I could never have." He let his arms loosen a bit, and in return my shoulder's slouched slightly. "It was for you, you stupid, lovely beta."

We stared at each other a moment. Had that really just happened or was I in some sort of sick wet dream?

"What?" Was all I managed to mumble out and Arthur only let out a wispy exhale as he moved his hands from my shoulders to either side of my face.

"Alfred, don't confuse what the world wants with what I want," he said, much softer now, much sweeter, in his nurturing voice. "Do you understand?"

I thought I did, but I had a test just to make sure. So I reached out and pulled Arthur toward me. His lips were thin, and smooth, and I hoped he didn't mind how cracked mine were as we met. It was short, and sweet, blissful, and beautiful. It was like the first moment when a firework goes off, when you're so mesmerized by the color that everything else just fades away. It was like that with Arthur. Everything else just faded away.

When I pulled back, Arthur was smiling, and this time I couldn't chide him for doing so. I wanted to smile too but there was still something eating away at the back of my mind.

"But what about this?" I said, motioning between us. "I failed you as a beta guard."

Arthur gave me an unimpressed look as he reached a hand up and into my hair.

"Do you honestly think that?" he asked, drawing me close and kissing my forehead. "Alfred, you found my mate long ago. You just never realized it."