“Work, damn it!” Stiles started pounding his finger against the iPad, shouting, “Fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck, fuck.” He lurched back, knocking his shoulder into Isaac’s gut, making him tear the origami crane he was trying to fold.
“Pounding does not make technology work better or faster, Stiles,” Danny said calmly from where he was working on his laptop, a safe distance from flying Stilinski limbs or ranch-flavored Doritos.
“Besides the fact that I need you to shut up if I am going to finish this problem set,” Lydia warned, eliciting a loud snort from Erica.
It was final period Friday, and the five officers of Omega Rights Today were holed up in their usual headquarters. Nicknamed “the lair,” it was actually a make-shift tent constructed of blankets and lined with cushions and fleecy throws. A feature of every omega classroom, it was intended as a “safe-spot” where omegas could go whenever they needed to “self-soothe,” or as Stiles preferred to call it, plot world domination.
The ORT had taken it over at the beginning of the year with their teacher, Mrs. Papadakis’ tacit permission. Inside the lair, it wasn’t so obvious that most of the ORT members were not engaged in the official omega 12th grade curriculum, which emphasized the various ‘den-making’ skills: cooking, sewing, cub-care, and the oh-so-rigorous ‘household math,’ basically how to balance a checkbook and convert recipe measurements from metric to imperial. Even their art classes had a den-making slant, as today’s lesson advertised: “The art of origami, or creating special occasions on a budget!”
The lesson-plan reflected Mrs. P.’s omega love for practicality, since the origami cranes were in fact destined to serve as decorations at the first-ever Beacon Hills “Alpha-omega Mixer” being held at the Rec Center that evening.
It was being marketed as a modern, “egalitarian” way for Alphas and omegas to meet and get to know each other in an informal setting instead of through the traditional courtships arranged by the families. Isaac and Lydia privately agreed that it wasn’t the worst idea, except that their principal, Mr. Harris, had announced at the same time that all unmated omegas in their class were required to attend or face not graduating.
It was exactly the kind of message they’d all joined ORT to fight—that instead aspiring to go to college, omegas should find a sturdy Alpha mate, create a cozy den, and start popping out baby Alphas.
The mixer was the reason Isaac was currently folding his fiftieth crane. With Stiles occupied responding to questions on the ORT Tumblr board, and Lydia hard at work teaching herself the Alpha math curriculum so she could take the AP Calculus exam in April, as usual Isaac was left to make up his two best friends’ actual omega assignments.
Unfortunately, he was finding it tricky to fold cranes with Stiles curled up in his favorite spot on Isaac’s lap, while Lydia used his shoulder as a back rest.
“Fuck, these things are giving me a cramp,” Isaac muttered.
“How many do you have left?” Lydia asked.
Isaac looked at his pile of white sheets. “Maybe twelve.” He couldn’t help giving Erica a pleading look. Unlike the other ORT members, she was not engaged in anything more demanding than examining her nails.
“Fuck that, Lahey,” was her predictable answer.
“I really think that forcing us to make the decorations for our own executions is like hitting the Laurentian Abyss of uncool,” Stiles burst out.
“Don’t you think ‘execution’ is a little strong?” Danny said mildly.
“Execution, blood orgy, butchery, massacre—take your pick. Basically, they are taking 25 omega teenagers with less defensive skills than the average new-born kitten, and trapping us in a room full of hormonally-charged, ultra aggressive Alphas on the hunt for mates,” Stiles said, his voice pitching high. “I’ve been doing some research.” They all sighed. Stiles and research were a dangerous combination. “Were you aware that there have been seven cases of mass forced-matings in North American history?”
“And when was the last one?” Lydia asked.
Stiles’ eyes were wide and his mouth opened and closed a few times before he said, “A hundred and fifty years ago.”
“In other words, during the Beta Wars,” Lydia confirmed.
“And in other words, it could happen.”
“I have real problems to deal with right now, Stiles. Calculus problems. So I can take the AP and get into Stanford.”
“In other words, shut the fuck up,” Erica finished.
Stiles seethed, but returned to his iPad. In Stiles’ defense, it wasn’t complete paranoia. During the war with the Argents there had been several disturbing cases of non-consensual mating bites, which the all-beta local council had treated as no big deal, even arguing that they had no legal authority to interfere between an Alpha and his mate.
In the old days, Talia Hale could have overridden the bite, effectively setting the omega free, but she’d been murdered four years ago by Kate Argent during what was supposed to be a peace negotiation. The new Alpha, Laura Hale, was still struggling to consolidate her power after the destruction of the war. Anyway, it took a really powerful Alpha to override a mating bite, and it wasn’t even clear Laura Hale had grown into her full power. The last thing any of them in the ORT wanted was to test it.
The real reason Stiles was freaking out was that they’d just had too many set backs recently. The war had been a disaster for omegas. With the Hale Pack leadership preoccupied with fighting, the council had taken advantage to chip away at the limited freedoms omegas had managed to gain for themselves during the Dynamic Revolution of the late 1960s.
They’d started slow, with little changes that they’d managed to market as “pro-omega,” like requiring “unaccompanied omegas” to sit in their own “omega-safe” sections in movie theaters or restaurants. The major omega-rights groups all opposed them of course, but a lot of omegas actually liked the new sections, feeling safer in them. The ORT would probably have supported the special sections if they’d not been mandatory, since their whole philosophy was that omegas should not have to apologize for their needs or try to pretend they were anything but what they were. But, and it was a huge but, the point was that omegas got to decide for themselves. It was not for the other classifications to define omega needs or omega goals.
But it turned out the restaurant rule was just a test case, because then two years ago, the council had passed the driving rule. Omegas could no longer get their drivers license until after they’d had two heats and their schedule was established. It was already illegal for omegas to drive during heats, which made sense, and certainly omegas breaking that law did cause their share of traffic fatalities. But the idea that an omega might suddenly fly into full heat with no warning while driving a car? The whole idea was ludicrous. Stiles could not find a single instance of an unexpected first heat causing an accident. And yet this totally specious reasoning was being used to take away something as essential to independence as driving. Since most omegas didn’t have their first full heat until after they were mated, the main effect of the law was that now only mated omegas could drive a car. Meanwhile, as Stiles had exhaustively demonstrated in several long blog posts, the well-documented risks of Alphas shifting while driving due to road rage, which caused had caused 1443 accidents and 337 fatalities in California as recently as 2010, were totally ignored.
Isaac kept reminding Stiles (and himself) that they really had accomplished a huge amount. Their little five-person group currently had its own Tumblr board with 20,000 followers, and they’d helped start a network of high school omega groups throughout the California territories, with contacts with all the major adult omega-rights groups. And it was all thanks to Stiles.
But their incredible success organizing other omegas had not translated into success with the other two classifications, both of which had a stake in keeping omegas powerless and under control. Alphas wanted the same thing they’d always wanted, a submissive omega mate to keep the den. Betas had been the overwhelming beneficiaries of the Dynamic Revolution, overthrowing the old intermarriage prohibitions and winning access to most of the Alpha power bastions in government, higher education and business until only the military was still totally Alpha-dominated. The problem was that as soon as betas had won rights for themselves, they mostly stopped fighting, and a lot of them even joined forces with the more reactionary Alphas to make sure omegas stayed disempowered, opposing efforts to integrate schools and colleges, or policies like mandatory heat-leave that would make it easier for omegas to work outside the den.
The set backs to the cause were taking a toll on all of them, but they all knew it was worst for Stiles. He was the most passionate, the most relentless in trying to help omegas. Despite everything Lydia or Isaac could say, he took each failure personally—like if he’d just worked harder, thought of some better argument or person to lobby, it wouldn’t have happened.
Hardest for Isaac was the way Stiles seemed to turn on his own nature, as if it wasn’t the outside world betraying him, but his omega traits. Stiles was adamant that he’d never mate, never have cubs, even talking about going on suppressants, which would totally kill his mating drive.
The strategy might have worked for some of the other members of the ORT— Erica, for example, who’d presented as omega, but showed an alarming number of Alpha traits, or Danny, who played the sweet-tempered omega to perfection, but possessed a steely determination and self-sufficiency that was unusual for their classification.
But it shouldn’t have been like this. The whole point of the ORT was that being an omega was good—it was amazing. They were not going to apologize for their needs or try to pretend they were anything but what they were. There was nothing wrong with liking soft things or needing physical contact from other omegas; there was nothing wrong with having your goal in life to be a den-maker and a mate—any more than it was wrong to want to go to college. The point was that omegas got to decide for themselves and they should have the same opportunities and rights as betas and Alphas to pursue their dreams. That meant not holding them back through a dumbed-down curriculum or discriminatory policies.
Stiles was an omega to the core. He was driven to take care of others and he needed pretty much constant cuddling and touch, and if he didn’t get it, the restlessness started and then flailing arms and falling bodies, usually degenerating into what Lydia had labeled “hamster-on-crack syndrome,” which involved frantic lurching from one increasingly unhinged theory to another. Those almost always resulted in a confrontation with their beta principal, Mr. Harris, who did not appreciate “unruly” omegas, and who’d been at war with Stiles since they were all in seventh grade.
On bad days like today, paranoia would take over and it wasn’t always in Isaac or Lydia’s power to talk Stiles down. “Look, I’m just saying this could get really bad. I keep seeing images of that goat in Jurassic Park being raised up in the little cage for the hungry T-Rex.”
They all groaned and Lydia snapped, “Jurassic Park? Will you listen to yourself, Stiles? It sounds to me like you and Scott were playing Dead Space again, hmm? I thought we talked about this.”
“We might have played a few rounds last weekend,” Stiles said nervously.
“Sure it wasn’t Care Bear Quest?” Erica snorted. Stiles gave her a sarcastic smile.
After a brief pause, Danny quipped, “LEGO Batman, Arkham Asylum.”
Stiles’ face went blotchy and his mouth gaped open for a denial when he caught the knowing looks of his fellow officers. “Traitor,” he grumbled at Danny. He looked down at his iPad as if to continue responding to comments, but they all knew Stiles was just drawing breath for another round, which came ten seconds later. “Look, all I’m saying is that I really think this is something the ORT should take a stand on. If I were to boycott….”
That was met with a chorus of “You’re not boycotting, Stiles,” “Don’t even think about it,” “Not this again,” and “Fuck that, Stilinski!” from Erica.
“It would totally make a statement….” he started shouting them down, only shutting up when Lydia gave him a sharp cuff on the ear.
“I am not arguing about this again,” she said firmly. “If you boycott, I do.”
“No, Lydia, how can you even say that! What about Stanford?” One of the major goals of the ORT right now was for Lydia and Danny, their two best students, to become the first omegas to attend the old Alpha citadels of Stanford and Cal Tech.
“And what about Berkeley?” Lydia demanded, not even looking up from writing out her proof. “You’re just going to toss out Scott’s application for you?”
Stiles hunched over grumpily, not wanting to admit defeat. Though Stiles loved to boast about Danny and Lydia as their “omegas for a new millennium” in truth he was almost as good a student, and as founder of the ORT was practically a shoo in at politically liberal Berkeley, which had been the first school in the UC system to accept omegas during the 1970s.
Isaac tried to look busy with his origami. Mated omegas almost never went to college, and anyway, no one would even discuss it with him without his Alpha present. He’d fended off Stiles’ efforts to turn him into a cause, one of the few times he and Stiles had argued over anything, but this was so not something they needed to debate today—or ever.
Thank the Moon for Danny, who had a gift for defusing Stiles’ melt-downs. “Stiles, do you need me to go tonight?” he asked.
Stiles of course looked miserable. “Oh, no dude, I know you totally have shit to do.”
“If you’re sure?” Danny said.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
Right then Lydia snapped her textbook closed and said, “Well that’s finally done.” She gave Isaac a crafty glance that signaled it was time for a little omega intervention. “Oh Stiles, does someone need a hug?”
Stiles made a grumpy shrug, wiping his nose and muttering “course not” in the least convincing manner in the history of the omega classification.
“Isaac, what do you think?” Lydia said.
“The man says he’s fine,” he said, putting the last folds on his origami creation.
“Well maybe a little one,” Stiles snuffled.
Isaac tossed the crane with the rest of the pile and held out his arms. Stiles immediately sank into him pulling Lydia in at the same time, until the three of them tipped over into an omega puppy pile. That of course devolved into a brief tickle war, which had Erica swearing at them and Danny scrambling to protect his precious laptop. Once Stiles was giggling madly, Isaac and Lydia switched to rubbing his tummy, just like they’d been doing since their first ever puppy pile back when all of them were in sixth grade.
Isaac could feel their friend relaxing as their omega pheromones worked their usual magic, thank the Moon. Isaac couldn’t help touching the scarf he always wore to cover his mark, feeling horribly guilty that he was a huge part of the reason Stiles was so afraid of going to the mixer.
After all, Isaac was exhibit A on the dangers of being force-mated.