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Oubaitori

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Inko Midoriya liked to consider herself to be a patient, dutiful person.

She believed wholeheartedly in traditional customs, in the stories of people crossed through time and space to form a connection that defied all odds. Red strings—threads woven upon dreams and standstill nightmares, fingers and invisible blades threatening to slice through only when the time was deemed incorrect by the rules of fate. And so she continued to believe, to lose herself in the fantasies that enraptured her youth and stole all logic from her heart. None of the rules she understood growing up, listening to her mother and father negotiate her fate as a woman, as a beta, prickled her skin or dashed her eyelashes in tears. She understood, and held these words close.

“I’m sorry to inform you of this, Ma’am,” said the doctor, ever the pristine image in an angular white coat, a thick paper folder clasped in her hands. The vase of wilting marigolds propped on the corner of her desk seemed to do little to distract Inko from the rapid pandering of her heart; each beat skittered into a confused rumble.

She truly was pretty, Inko mused, and young, with the fair skin and rosy complexion. She spoke kindly, but condescendingly—false reasons for Inko to relax when the previous words never sunk in. They danced in the air-conditioned atmosphere, particles flitting just out of her reach. For a moment, she spotted illusory wings speckling the back wall, where portraits of mundane coffee tables and crying puppies remained stagnant. Unmoving.

“I’m…” Inko huffed out a laugh, dryness crackling in her throat. In a catastrophic instant, her lungs were full with concrete disbelief. “I’m sorry. I must have… I must’ve misheard you. My husband would’ve told me if this was going to happen. He would have… he wouldn’t have let me come here to hear this from you himself, if he’d already known?” She shook her head, fingers twisting into knots and resting in her skirt. “My son can’t be… that.”

The doctor dipped her head, scrambling in her drawers. Inko’s teeth clenched, frustration building up inside her in a fury that seemed uncontainable. Her emotions became subdued once more when the younger woman pulled out a tissue box, the white cloth all the more inviting under a faint glint of the afternoon sun’s rays.

“I don’t need any tissues. Do you see any tears?” Inko’s knuckles rubbed against each other, skin peeling. Her nerves had rattled her to the core enough in the past to render her palms and the backs of her hands littered in marks. “I’m a little insulted that you—that you would just assume I would… that I would lose it. I can handle this, see?” She wiped at her nose, tears leaking in the corners of her eyes.

The doctor smiled softly. Knowingly. Full of pity.

Inko wanted to slap her.

“The results of the test are… incongruous.” She shrugged. “I’m sorry to inform you of this. We have counseling services for you and your husband, and your boy when he comes of age and is allowed to wander back in here. Since he’s barely old enough to talk, well, he’s going to have to wait a little for that kind of extensive therapy—”

“You don’t understand.” Inko shook her head, chest heaving in a solid, weighty breath. “My Izuku can’t be an omega. I—no. The results must be incorrect.”

“I assure you, Mrs. Midoriya, that they’re not. We put great care into our research—”

“I don’t care about your status. I don’t care about anything you’re about to say. I just want you to tell me that my ‘Zuku is not an omega.” Her lip was trembling, muscles constricting in her arms, her shoulders, her neck. She wanted to cry, and bawl out her growing anger in equal measures. “He can’t be. He can’t be.”

For the first time in years, she chose not to believe. Though the facts were there, printed in documents, signed in charts and symbols and explanations that she didn’t want to understand. The medical jargon meant nothing to her when the finish line meant only one thing: that her baby, her only child, her heart, her soul, her everything, was an omega.

Omegas were so incredibly rare. How was this possible? She’d mated with Hisashi, another beta to hers. She was fertile and ready to have a child, so eager to begin a family. Alphas were always gifted with natural strength, with determination and drive that set them apart from the other genders, but so reckless. So dangerous. And betas were neutral and calm, suited for quieter roles. They were more trustworthy. Known and kept as strong backbones, watching their partners and surrounding families from afar. But omegas…

“Muttering about it isn’t going to solve anything, Inko.”

Her husband admonished her coldly within moments of her breaching the threshold to their home. The table was freshly waxed, the floors mopped to a sparkling sheen, the blinds arranged perfectly set apart by two inches from one blade to the next, and yet, nothing was correct. The salt and pepper shakers were on the opposite side of the toaster oven, some stray particles littering the spice cabinet’s open doors. The refrigerator was cracked open. Hisashi’s beer can was a container of crinkled steel and alcohol that smelt and tasted like discarded gasoline.

Inko closed the door, shaking. She hadn’t stopped the moment the doctor asked her to leave, blankly handing her an assortment of folders. Information that would become disinteresting in minutes, ash scattered in the wind. She would pay no mind to this information. Maybe she could pretend it wasn’t real.

“It’s real,” said Hisashi.

Inko stopped, her purse softly set on the counter as to not disturb him. His scent, usually so subdued and tempered in the winter months, was coiled and springing, bridled in stress and anxious pulses. He moved his wrist skillfully, quietly, chopping through an apple on an old cutting board. She recognized it from one of many wedding gifts they bothered keeping less than five years ago.

She drank in her husband, from the unruly dark curls and sharply angled jaw to the splash of freckles on his cheekbones, and wondered if her son would grow to look more like him. She hoped he would. Even if he was an omega, maybe he would inherit the undeniable handsomeness of his beta father.

She drew in a breath, shutting her eyes tightly. “Is Izuku asleep?”

“He’s napping, yes.” Hisashi popped a slice into his mouth, chewing contentedly. He still wasn’t facing her, body turned away. Angled. His natural scent, a musk that tangled in deep summer valleys and fresh grass, calmed and rattled her. 

He was furious.

But so was she.

“You didn’t tell me.” Her fingers quaked, blood drumming in thunderous claps in her ears. It was a miracle she managed to arrive here without careening her car straight into a building.

“It was best for you to find out on your own, Inko.”

“Was it?”

Hisashi paused, the knife half-submerged in a second apple.

“… Are you saying you’re glad about what our son has turned out to be?”

She wanted to laugh through the inevitable tears streaming down her face. Her lips quivered. She sniffed, holding back from rubbing her nose. The skin was red and raw, her nails shielding snippets of scratched-off skin.

“Does it look like I’m glad, Hisashi?”

Hisashi pinched the bridge of his nose, and set down the knife. With hands poised on the kitchen counter, he slowly—agonizingly slowly—turned his head. Large, almond eyes bore deep into her, carving out her most dangerous worries and concerns over the last bludgeoning journey of promising to raise a child together. Of exchanging their vows, wielding love that neither of their families agreed to or chose to believe.

But Inko chose to believe. She always did.

So why couldn’t she believe this?

“His life will be… unbearable.” She broke eye contact with Hisashi, unable to face the unreadable scrutiny in his sharp eyes. “Our son has been given the worst hand to live, and all you can do is stand there and look at me like it’s my fault? Hisashi, you don’t seem to really understand the big picture here, and—and school? No one will take him! And—and he’s an omega. He’ll be picked on so ruthlessly, none of the kids will like him, and colleges? Jobs? No one will want him as a mate—”

Hisashi slammed the knife on the counter. Steel clanged and echoed on marble.

“That’s enough, Inko!”

His voice shook her down to every bone and pulse. She flinched, heart racing emphatically under her ribcage. The floor was weightless underneath her, her body shifting, until her shoulder collapsed against the wall. She cupped her hand over her mouth, trembling, vibrating with tears she didn’t want to show. They made her weak. Made her less.

“Crying isn’t going to solve anything.” Hisashi’s voice cradled her, soothed her, like fingers stroking a cat’s pelt. His footsteps came closer, heavy and hollow, like anvils dropping from the sky. “We will set up a plan. You know what we have to do. Nothing can change the fact that Izuku is an omega.”

“We could do hormone therapy.” Inko sniffed, wiping at her nose. “When he’s older, can’t we? We can… we can get him special pills, and set up a plan that way, right? We could convert him into something different if we wanted. No one… no one should have to live their life like this. There’s a reason no one wants to be an omega, Hisashi. And our son? My baby boy?” She shook her head, palms flat against her skirt. Hisashi’s hand met the small of her back, stroking her in reassuring circles. His scent blanketed them both, channeled in spring rain and fresh soil.

“Which is why,” he said, calmly, “we will come up with a different plan. For Izuku’s sake.”

“And that’s not an option?” She stared at the portrait of the three of them hanging over the fireplace. Izuku was a newborn, held in her arms as a great treasure, their first blessing. She planned to have more than one child, but now, would any siblings have even less of a chance at starting life happily than her firstborn? “It’s the only practical one. We can’t support him if he’s an omega. His status will mean nothing. Already, you and I are—”

“I’ve already thought of this, Inko.” Hisashi kept his voice controlled, though it was slick with knowing. She could imagine him, sipping coffee, hunched over his desk and devouring research as if it were water. “To think, that our own son could already be set for such an unwelcome life…” he pushed up his glasses, the silence momentarily suffocating. “There are other options.”

His tone was one of finality, the ringing of a ceremonial gong. Inko straightened, fell into his words and replayed them like a prayer in the safety of her mind. She would prod around in her thoughts later, seeking alternatives to the discussion they were about to have. Her husband was staring at her to anchor her against the wall, to keep her from wandering to their son’s bedroom and crying into his crib.

“Inko, love.” He turned her chin, the harshly cut lines to his face softening into smooth planes. “Let’s keep an open mind, here. Does that sound good?”

He was so kind, she thought, placing her hand over his. He adored her; she could trust him. She always did.

“Alright, we can talk about it.” She studied him. “But nothing too extreme. He’s still just a baby.”

“On the contrary.” Hisashi grinned, cheeks dimpling. “This is the best time to talk about it.”

He glowed. With excitement or joy, she wasn’t sure, but it was misplaced. No matter the situation, he held himself high, a tower of impenetrable fortitude. He strode with confidence and silent understanding, and spoke to her in wispy patterns that left her knees buckling and, at times, her legs spreading and heart hammering and lungs caving for him.

“I made some tea before you came home,” he said, whispering over her temple. “Oolong.”

Inko fluttered her lashes. “Perfect.”


 

 

 


Izuku was sixteen months old. He was born prematurely, naturally small and light, though Inko had hoped it had nothing to do with his biological blueprint. His twitching fingers, nervously kicking feet, flailing hands, and ever-growing thick tufts of green-tinted hair made her think over her worries. These concerns shouldn’t have bothered her as much as they should have, right?

“Think about it, Inko.”

She chewed on her bottom lip. Her husband’s words were comforting and yet, so slick with silk and promises she wasn’t sure even he could keep. They were lucky, as two betas who chose to marry and devote themselves to one another without their families’ approval. They were allowed to make that choice, free within the grounds of law and society’s confines to walk about and openly speak, and act, on what she wanted. What she firmly knew she desired.

But Izuku…

“We can groom him, make him irresistible to any families who would want him. Financially we can’t keep him supported forever. You know how omegas are, how so many groups are torn apart from just one or two people somehow being born an omega. Divorce. Custody battles? Inko, the answer is right here…

She’d stared, blankly, into the touchscreen tablet, unable to register the embossed golden letters that told her her rights as a beta woman. Married, in her midtwenties, ready for the next chapter of her life, wherever it would take her. She wanted to be a mother and wife, and raise her son to be the best he could be. What if he wanted to become a doctor? A lawyer? A police officer?

No, no. Omegas were never those things. They were less than three percent of the entire population. So where did that leave them? As fodder for these laws and regulations that seemed medieval at best?

Izuku’s blankets rustled around him, swallowing up his upset groans. His tiny hands were balled up, clenching onto something only seen behind his tightly closed eyes. He wriggled back and forth, fighting off enemies Inko wanted to defend him from herself. But it wasn’t her job, when she was kept outside of his dreams, and forced to watch and wait.

“You want to pawn off our child…”

Her words tasted like ash on her tongue.

“Oh, no, of course not. Izuku will be in good hands, no matter where this takes him. But a contract is the best way to go. We just have to go through with the process, and put his name in a database. Maybe sign off a few more papers, and then we’re done with it. Our omega son is then guaranteed a beneficial future.”

It didn’t matter. None of it would, not with Izuku’s biology remaining unchanging. If only she could somehow alter him, change the pieces of him that would make society glance down at him with nothing but cold disdain, with suspicion.

Omegas were subjected to nothing less than common poverty, harassment, and constant declination from jobs that were worth their time. Would he be intelligent and quick-thinking like her and Hisashi? Would he be able to defend himself in the inevitable schoolground scuffles? Would other children bully him for who he was?

Of course they will.

Even in the privacy of her own thoughts, Hisashi reassured her. In his own way, he never seemed to leave.

“A contract… with an alpha family… this isn’t a debutante arrangement, Hisashi. We don’t have the kind of money for this—”

“But we will, Inko. Think of the rarity behind omegas. Our son will have a purpose, and a good one. Becoming a bond from one beta family to a well-publicized and respected alpha family could mean great things for us. Izuku is a true gem in this world; we will just have to convince the eventual arrangers of exactly that.”

Inko smoothed down Izuku’s hair, marvelling at the small details speckling his pale skin. He seemed so peaceful, and locked in a sort of mental battle that he didn’t want to share. As if he could take the entire world on his own, with just his two pebble fists as his weapons of choice.

She knew, from the beginning, that it was nonnegotiable.


 

 

 


The Hofferson Clinic for Intercommunal Gender Therapy was their first choice in finding potential candidates. Inko was only a little bit relieved, since the building was large enough to offer entry to many people she’d interacted with in the same neighborhood. She recognized a few mothers, scheduling their children for checkups and casual appointments. None of them had to know what Izuku was yet, not unless they were being considered for contracting.

Hisashi dressed sharper today. He was obsessive when it came to detail and colors, and always donned warm blues, greens and yellows on vibrant summer days. His curls were bouncy, thick with his calming beta musk. The thick-rimmed glasses enhanced his sharp eyes and bookkeeper smile. Inko felt lucky to be at his side, looping her arm in his and striding in white pumps and a sunflower-printed white dress, softer than silk and brighter than clouds. Her hair was even pinned back in two butterfly bobby pins—a gift from her mother, long before they stopped talking entirely.

“It will be fine, Inko,” said Hisashi, lips ghosting over her ear. He kissed her forehead, gesturing with a flick of his head towards Izuku, their four-year-old son, who was grasping at his mother’s skirt and struggling to stand straight in his overalls. He blinked up at them, green irises and freckles betraying any first perceptions of his gender. Thankfully, his scent hadn’t appeared yet, either. “Look, our little boy is already excited for this. He’ll be none the wiser.”

Inko nibbled on her lip, nodding. “I… I suppose that you’re right.” She entered the building, marvelling at the paintings strung up along the walls, the living room space complete with deep moss-colored loveseats and reclinable chairs, and the broad assortment of magazines she would have to flip through while Izuku was waiting for his appointment. “We’re just here to check if things are fine.”

“Exactly.” Hisashi’s lips curled. “Many alphas are here, as well.”

Inko brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. The thought of engaging in conversation with any alpha strangers made her entire body prickle. She wished this wouldn’t be the case.

“We’ll receive guidance on exactly what we need to do for Izuku’s eventual contract,” Hisashi said, “and from then on, we can figure it out. Even though this plan is, of course, on the side of brilliance, we have to consider all of our options. Think of the details that can slip out about our son. If we’re not careful, however,” he wagged his finger, “things could go awry. Our names in the tabloids, all proclaiming the status of our son’s gender.”

Inko tilted her head. “Oh, no, I wouldn’t want that…”

Izuku tugged at her skirt, whimpering. Quiet, as he usually was.

“Be patient, Izu.” She smiled tenderly. “There’s a lot more that we need to do before we move along with any of thse plans. Alright, baby?” He paused, and glanced away from her, big eyes shining. She followed his stare, and laughed. “Oh, do you want to go over there and look at the fishes?”

“I want to see the fish,” he mumbled, hypnotized. “Can we go over there, Mama?” He stuttered, unable to glance up at his knowing father’s profile. Hisashi cocked an eyebrow at Inko.

“He can wait until after the appointment.” Inko’s shoulders drooped.

“That’s hardly necessary, Hisashi. A few minutes won’t cost us the entire visit—”

“I said, he can wait.” He squeezed her wrist, a gesture that both reassured and chained her. “Wait here with Izu. I’ll go speak to the attendant.”

“Of course. You always do.”

He strode ahead of her, ever the stable presence. His scent traveled far, a wispy smell that would calm strangers without them even knowing what the cause was. Their beta pheromones often reacted instinctively to atmospheric change, like rashes breaking out in allergenic conditions or weather changes. It wasn’t as controllable and wasn’t usually provided with suppressing medication, since being a beta was hardly considered disruptive towards the other conflicting genders.

“Mama?” Izuku tugged on her, impatience growing. “Can I go?”

“Not now, Izu.” Inko folded her hands together. “We’re going to wait for your dad, alright?”

“But…” He squinted, nose scrunching up. “But the fishes are right over there, and they’re so pretty…”

“I’ll make sure that we go look at them before we leave.”

“But why not now? Dad’s not looking…” He trailed off, turning his head to, once again, focus on the impressively wide tank of swimming fishes. They drifted in the bubbling waters in streaks of rainbows and glistening scales.

“Patience, Izuku.” She sighed, scratching her thumbs with her nails. “Patience.”

Izuku’s grip tightened, but he kept his mouth shut.

Then, a shockwave of combating, ruthless scents slammed into Inko all at once. She recoiled, visibly stepping back, heel clanking onto tiles. Time seemed to slow, her senses overwhlmed with the stench of scorching woodsmoke, nitroglycerin and tire-screeched asphalt. Her nostrils flared, a defensive spike soaring through her gut. She shielded her son, chest puffing out on pure instinct as the smells grew stronger. Hisashi noticed as well, broad shoulders going stiff as a board and his body turned towards his wife and son.

The screams, and the myriad of sounds echoing through the building were all that wrinkled her receptors like crumpling a ball of paper. Glass shattering, doors slamming shut, shoes squeaking on polished floors, objects being thrown, clanking on heavy ground—it rattled and stormed, carrying it with the intense aggravating stench and the unbridled aggression clouding up the area without a stop in sight.

“Security! Security! Yes, that alpha kid—”

“Again? You’ve got to be fucking joking.”

Inko blinked.

A child?

“Fuck all of you! You’re the ones who provoked my son!”

A woman wrenched herself around the corner, a maelstrom of a human being with beauty that should not have struck Inko speechless with simultaneous envy and admiration as it did. Her pink-knit sweater, white skirt and black high heels gave a sharp edge to her, one that was strangely fitting given the high slope to her cheekbones and perfect slimming fit around hre nose. Explosive ash-blond hair, boiling reddish-brown eyes, and a scent that struggled to intertwine with the scattered tendrils of scent that had to have belonged to someone young, if only for how reckless and emotionally charged it was.

And dragging behind her was a child that looked almost like a clone of hers, but he was not facing her. He was barking, screeching, veins pulsing through his neck and forehead, hands scrambling and legs kicking. His tantrum nearly shook the entire first floor, and the closer he became, the louder and thicker his scent grew.

She hated this scent. She hated every single thing about it.

A security guard rushed over to the woman, waving his arms, his attempts at placation failing almost immediately. “Ma’am, please, we need to ask you to remain careful with your child—”

“Oh, fuck off!” the woman snapped, rolling her eyes.

She yanked her arm back, and the child was still screaming unintelliglble phrases, kicking wildly and emitting such a horrific stench

“Hey, you got something you want to say about me and my son?”

Inko clamped her mouth shut, sweat building on her temples. She felt the atmosphere shift, immediately dipping in favor of this clear alpha woman’s presence. She locked eyes with her, the static intense and draining of whatever senses were raised to alert. If she were omega, she would have been immediately tempted to subdue to this stare, this natural aggression that seemed sorely reserved for more primeval statuses.

“I… no, of course not.”

“Let me go, old hag!” shouted the little boy, still screaming at the top of his lungs and swatting at the security guard. “Don’t touch me! I hate all of you!”

“Shut up, brat.” She spoke in a bored voice, drolling with a heavy timbre despite how thin she was.

The little boy struggled, swiping and punching left and right. He stopped, short of breath, cheeks and ears burning ferociously pink. His eyes darted up to Inko, and instantly she froze.

“Alright, that’s enough.”

Hisashi stepped between them, hands held up. He broke the spell between the angry little boy and Inko, though she rerfused to let loose her grip on her own son. Izuku was suspiciously quiet, though the tremors that caused his tiny arms to shake while he held onto her skirts was not going unnoticed.

“Then tell your mate that I’m not going to be pushed around, especially when she can barely hold her own.”

“My wife can speak for herself, mind you. And we did not antagonize you or your son.”

“Oh yeah?” The woman sneered, sizing him up from head to toe. “And you want to prove that, beta?”

Hisashi flared up, standing impossibly taller and quickly bridging the gap. He kept his clenched fists at his sides, the normally calming scent wafting from him transforming into a corrupted mist that rapidly took hold of Inko’s senses. She was still frozen, perplexed by the wild—animalistic, broken, nature of the boy’s stare. Why was he looking at her like that? Such intense, undeniable hatred and venom in one look…

But the screaming, strangely enough, had stopped. Like a leaking faucet quelled by an abrupt towel thrown over the nozzle. No one expected it, and the conflicting scents in the room spoke of immediate tension and silent alarm.

Hisashi stepped back, bracketing her and Izuku.

She looked down, ready to comfort her son, and that foreign nagging sensation in the back of her skull rushed to the front of her mind, throbbing and rushing and swirliing. A whirlpool of utter denials and reluctant realization.

Izuku was completely focused on the other woman’s son.

The angry boy was watching him, eyebrows lifted and nose scrunched up in a blatant gesture of suspicion. He released a low, threatening growl, one that vibrated through his chest and flickered in the air like the crack of a whip. He was sizing Izuku up slowly, and then quickly, pupils running about in a rhythm that resembled a black orb caught in a broken pinball machine.

Izuku tilted his head. His curiosity seeped through her skin in oily droves.

No.

She refused to let him be attached to a boy this young. And a disgustingly abhorrent, reckless alpha no less, who could barely keep a leash on his own hormones. How dare this boy target her baby as if he was meant to be used already? They were only children, and Izuku’s scent was still a mystery. This other boy, however, screamed and sounded as if he was constantly caught between a growl and a roar. An entitled, typical alpha.

“We need to leave, Hisashi,” she bit out.

Hisashi turned to her, eyebrows risen. “Inko—”

“No. We’re leaving.”

“Mama?” Izuku dug his heels into the ground, and looked frantically between her and the alpha boy.

“Come on, brat,” said the alpha woman, tugging on the little boy’s arm and ignoring his screeches of disapproval, “they’re not worth our time. Spineless betas.” Their combined, violent scents remained clouding the area long after the doors closed.

Izuku simpered into silence, a sound that shouldn’t have slipped between his lips.

“Mama, I wanted to talk to him…”

“No, baby. No you didn’t.” She gritted her teeth.

Hisashi sensed her. He read her quietly, though the way his eyes bore into her held many emotions she would have to face later. This type of gaze he often held with her long after an argument, or in the stark beginnings of one about to unfold.

It wasn’t until they were back in their dainty little apartment, when Hisashi grabbed a chair and tossed it to the other side of the room. The legs snapped on impact, the fragrant smell of grass burning assaulting Inko’s senses. She braced herself, straight as a board, eyes tight, as chaos happened around her. Furniture breaking, plates being smashed on the ground, and the sound of Izuku scuffling and desperately trying to hide in their living room space, clutching his own clothes to his chest with no other vice in mind.

“You embarrassed me.” Hisashi’s voice was wintry, too frighteningly cold to approach.

Inko exhaled shakily. She kept herself quiet, avoiding Izuku’s eyes.

“Hisashi. Please. Quiet down—”

“He needs to see this.”  He was towering above her now, his musk slamming into her like a battering ram. “Look me in the eye, Inko.” She breathed, unable to move. Not even twitch a finger. She clenched her jaw tightly when Hisashi grabbed her face and forced her to look up, up, up into eyes that shifted in gunmetal gray. “I said, look at me.”

“Mama…?”

Inko swallowed. “Go to your room, Izuku.”

But she knew he wouldn’t.

He was reckless. Brave. Not like her at all.

Hisashi’s skin pulsed red with anger. He held her so delicately, weighted with conflicting strength and a love she knew that lied beneath the surface. But he was not acknowledging Izuku stepping closer to them, cautious and moving despite being afraid.

“No, baby, please go to your room. Okay? I’m alright.”

She didn’t dare break eye contact with Hisashi until Izuku’s footsteps scampered down the hall. The relief that flooded through her was mostly owed to Hisashi’s hand breaking off her skin, nails having sunk lines into her cheeks. She stared at her husband, unable to process him for who he was when he let himself loose in these episodes.

Hisashi stepped back. The air tossed and turned, a contained storm in a glass bottle.

“I knew you were going to do this.”

Inko’s chest bubbled with anger. “Hisashi—”

“Inko, we are going to meet many alpha families. That’s the entire point of this.”

“I…” She bit her lip. “I know that. I’ve accepted that for years. Izuku is—”

“You cleary haven’t accepted it.” Hisashi stretched himself over the counter, hands gripping the edges with intensity that none would expect from a beta. And a father, no less. “They could’ve been candidates.”

“Are you insane?” Inko wanted to laugh. He couldn’t be serious, could he? “Do you hear yourself? Did you not see that boy? He was horrible. Completely uncontrolled, throwing a tantrum in the building like that. And his scent? No young boy, alpha or not, should hever have a scent that strong or defined that early. He was clearly there for treatment, and not for consulting like we were!”

“Does that matter?” His back rolled, muscles clenching and unclenching. The tension was obvious. Her inner beta wanted to massage her fingers into his scalp and stroke his spine until he unwound and fucked her into submission, but none of those urges came to light, not when he was like this. Not when he screamed and held her by heavy words and little action. “I want you to contact her directly and apologize. That boy had strength. The mother… I agree, she’s a bit heavyhanded.”

“I don’t believe this.” Inko shook her head, slowly. “I won’t do it, Hisashi. Our son is not going to ever be involved with an angry, mishandled little boy like that—”

“Does he frighten you?” Hisashi turned to face her, eyes wild. “That child?”

“No, of course not!” Inko’s fists clenched. “But Izuku needs someone who—”

“Is strong, and capable of protecting him.” Hisashi’s upper lip curled into a sneer. It screwed up his handsome face, twisted him into the detestable image that left her weeping in the privacy of their own bedroom. “He needs an angry vice. Someone to keep him in line. That boy is superior in his blood because he is raw alpha material. And his mother?” He studied her carefully.

Inko held back from spitting on the ground. “If you’re implying that… that I somehow didn’t know that she was clearly wealthy, you’re mistaken.” She glanced away, unable to grasp onto this. She felt her feet turning to her bedroom, seeking an escape. “This is ridiculous. We are not contacting them and we are not proposing a marriage contract with that typical alpha rascal. Not my Izuku. Not my—”

“We are, Inko.” Hisashi was leaning against the wall now, broad arms folded over his chest. He scrutinized her, paralyzed her every muscle and sense. Was it his scent? Or the way he still held an iron grip over her heart? “We are. And we will convince them to meet with us one more time.”


 

 

 


“So, this place is where you chose to meet up and apologize?”

Inko flashed a fake smile, her fingers tightly clasped around her teacup in the comfort of the humble teashop that was less than two blocks from her apartment.

The blond woman was frustratingly perfect in appearance, even more so than two weeks ago, where they met in the clinic. She looked as if she stepped out of a fashion magazine, her leather skirt and white, sleeveless blouse ruffled in impossibly flattering angles. Her sweeping curves, luscious eyes and butterfly eyelashes only accented the image. Her hair was less and less tame, most likely in tune with her insane temperament. Today, her scent was quelled, presumably under suppressants and not let loose like that of her reckless son.

“More or less.” Inko cleared her throat, self-conscious in her dress. It was a lovely one, a piece that Hisashi chose for one of their most romantic dates. Orange mimosa blossoms patterned the side, leading to spaghetti straps and her hair swept up in a comparably ratty ponytail.

She struggled not to radiate with jealousy at this woman’s natural beauty.

“Mitsuki, by the way.” The woman shrugged, setting down her purse and pulling out a small, cylindrical mirror. “Do you mind?”

Inko blinked. “Oh, uh, no. Of course not.”

“Thanks,” Mitsuki said, with a click of her tongue. She popped open the mirror and applied a fresh layer of makeup to her face, further accentuating the rosy blush. Inko’s grip around her cup tightened. “So.” She put away her pallet, and propped her elbows on the table. Her eyes flickered to Inko’s hands, to her handwoven bracelet, to her hair. “What’s all this about? Clearly you wouldn’t just somehow find my phone number and leave a message asking for a simple grace of action.”

“Grace of action,” Inko repeated.

“An apology.” Mitsuki’s lips quirked. Amusement shined there, biting. Sarcastic.

“I…” Inko sighed. “Well, I am sorry. For… that scuffle, that happened. I was taken off-guard.”

Mitsuki held up her hand, cutting her off. Irritation flared under her skin, but it was soon replaced with confusion when Mitsuki tilted her head and shrugged her own shoulders, eyes once again flickering around the room. The scent of jasmine tea and pine riddled the teashop.

“I overreacted. My son is a total brat. We take him there for counseling. He presented at two years old so his pheromones and instincst are already through the roof. God, I thought dealing with one alpha in the house was enough.” She huffed, smirking crookedly. “The other alpha is me, by the way. My husband is a beta.”

Inko stilled, shock sinking into her veins. Her inner temperature dropped from boiling to controlled. Content.

“I…” she laughed faintly. “I wasn’t expecting you to be sorry.”

“Oh, I was a total bitch.” She rolled her eyes. “Masaru was all nagging me when I got back. Telling me that the clinic called him again about our bratty little son. Jesus. I don’t blame him for being all wrapped up in my business even when I tell him to fuck off.”

“O-Oh, I see.” Inko giggled. “That’s… I actually have a very clear picture.”

“Oh, honey, you don’t know the half of it.” Mitsuki studied her, turning from joking to serious rather quickly. “Why were you and your husband there anyway? Your kid didn’t look like he had anything up with him. Other than being totally scent-less.” She pondered for a moment. “Well, I guess Katsuki’s got his own issues and spirals out of control the moment you tell him he can’t watch any more television. But, hey, maybe his brain’s already rotting from how many times fucking Masaru lets him watch those goddamn cartoons…”

This woman spoke so easily, so joivally, and despite her harsh words and foul language, she clearly loved her husband. It was clear in the crinkle around her eyes and the whimsical glow in her grins.

How could this be the same woman she wanted to rip into shreds only weeks ago?

“Well… hah.” Inko shrugged, stirring her spoon into her tea. “That’s actually why I wanted to talk to you today. Or, at least, maybe start a consistent discussion? Oh, my name is Inko. I realize that I forgot to mention that. That’s so rude of me. Oh dear. Um, anyway, my Izuku is…” she stopped, glancing around the shop. It was a paranoid practice, but one she valued. Anything was worth leading to less stares and hushed whispers. “He’s an omega.”

Mitsuki’s eyebrows raised to her hairline.

“… Really.” She snickered. “Damn. That’s rare. What the fuck.”

Inko spat out her tea, and laughed.

“Hah, well. That was pretty much my reaction at finding out…”

“I bet. Kid drew some unlucky cards, huh?” Mitsuki leaned back in her chair, tossing one leg over the other. She focused on Inko carefully, as if unsure of what to piece together about her. The lack of pity in her eyes was pleasing, to say the least. “So, he’s an omega. You invited me here for tea. You met my bratty son. Clearly there’s some underlying agenda here. Probably should’ve brought my husband if you were going to be so formal about it.”

Inko sighed, hesitating. “This is a bit complicated, yes. But I didn’t want to put you and your husband on the spot.”

“Mm. How consideate of you.” Mitsuki snorted. “And where’s yours?”

“What?” Inko’s lips pulled into a frown.

“Your husband. That beta bulldog of yours.” She rolled her eyes. “Masaru’d kick his ass, by the way. I don’t underestimate betas. That shit I said back there was all out of anger and nothing personal. Hope you can understand.” She shrugged. “Anyway. You know. The hubby. Housemate. Love of your life. Father to your kid. Soulbond victim.”

“V-Victim?” Inko held a giggle behind her hand, shocked. “I-I wouldn’t call him a victim to my soulbond!”

“Sure, sure.” Mitsuki grinned, glancing around her in a circle. “You get what I mean, though.”

Inko was seconds away from telling her everything. The proposition of offering another chance, a way to start completely from the beginning and somehow make it possible for the contracting arrangement to take place. But she didn’t expect this, or for Mitsuki to be the first to apologize. Or, for this entire meeting to appear more like a discussion between old friends than a supposedly formal introduction.

“If you’re worried about where this is going, I already have an idea on what you’re going to ask me.”

Inko’s mouth fell open. She flushed pink.

“Y-You—hah, I sincerely doubt that—”

“My son isn’t pawning material.” Mitsuki’s gaze turned hard, like shards of granite concrete. “I don’t mind you at all, Inko. But don’t mistake me for a naive degenerate. Katsuki has been sought after by betas since he was born. People have asked to groom him for me for hefty prices. Omegas? Incredibly rare. Marriage contracts are a bit out of the spectrum for me. But…” she tilted her head, gazing at Inko expectantly. “You noticed it too, right?”

“I…” Inko was too shocked to comprehend what was being said to her. “I… noticed what…?”

“The kids.” Mitsuki rested her chin in her hand, gaze lost and forlorn. “Katsuki is a loud, noisy little brat. But after we left the clinic he was totally silent, all angry and pissed off at nothing as usual. Saw your kid staring at mine and kind of put two and two together. The fact that your son is omegan makes more sense this way.”

“It was coincidental, I’m sure. Instinctive.” Inko’s hands trembled. “I doubt that it was anything serious—”

“Look.” Mitsuki huffed. “You want me to consider this, or not?”

Inko pictured Hisashi’s stone-cold expression before he watched her leave their apartment. He held her, soft and tender at first, lips on hers, hands weaving around the small of her back. And then nails pressed into her flesh, marking her for others to see. Teeth nipped at her, cautioning her before she left their doorway. It was a warning for her and her alone, not to strangers who would attempt to latch onto her like leeches. She was desirable, she knew this, but even her beta husband called attention to her own pheromones being the blame.

She snapped out of her daydreaming with the harsh slapping of Mitsuki’s hand under her nose. She looked down, between perfectly slim fingers and manicured scarlet nails, to find a piece of notebook paper.

“See that address?” Mitsuki leaned back and started to inspect her cuticles. “If you’re really into having a discussion about this with me, bring your husband and kid to that address on Friday. We’re having a luncheon.”

A luncheon?

Inko swallowed. “This address is in…” She squinted, unbelieving. “You live in Gracepointe?”

Gracepointe was a wealthy gated community in the spiraling hills more than twenty miles from her apartment complex. Most alpha families from elite statuses lived in those complexes, painting the picture of modern suburbia with ease. Private golf and tennis clubs and gym memberships populated only with celebrity lookalikes and well-funded volunteers. Fresh-trimmed lawns and topiary shrubs carved perfectly into swans and herons. Beautiful people, all powerful and upstanding. Groomed to perfection.

The exact opposite of everything Inko stood for.

Izuku would never fit…

“It’s a pretty sweet place.” Mitsuki grinned. “Not everyone there is worth being friends with, though. Part of the issues with living in high society. Alphas have such a preening problem, you know? Get the alpha kids together and they start a riot.” She leaned forward, her demeanor changing from playful to serious in another instant. “Listen, my son is everything to me. He’s a little punk and has a ton of issues that I can’t elaborate in this dinky teashop, but he’s still my baby. My only child, and the only one I plan to have. Every part of him reflects me and my husband, whom I also love dearly. I’d kill for them.” Her eyes narrowed. “So if you take this invitation as a reason to slander me, my husband, or, some deity help you, my child, then you won’t make it out of there in one piece.”

Inko remained steadfast, though her spine shook. She would be wise not to misunderstand this woman. Yet, with the harsh glow in Mitsuki’s eyes, and the way she spoke about her son…

She could understand. In a different way, maybe, but she did.

“So you’re considering meeting, then…”

“Kids are smarter than they look.” Mitsuki straightened, a chuckle whistling out between her lips. “They can be the judge, if anything. And I like stirring things up. If there’s one thing Katsuki understands, it’s his instincts. I don’t believe in fate or any of that bullshit, but I do believe that there was something about your kid he liked.”

Inko’s heart stuttered. It was a terrifying—and yet, somehow so relieving—thought.

An alpha, one from a wealthy family, desiring her son… and this mother was not the person she thought she was.

Would there be a chance for her son to be the same way?

Inko swallowed, and nodded.

“I understand.” She dipped her head. “So, we will start meeting on Friday, then.”

“Friday is more of a consultation. Just to test the waters.” Mitsuki crossed her arms. “Make sure you prepare him. I don’t handle anything half-assed, so my boy will be ready to meet yours and give his assessment. If it goes well, we’ll see what can happen. Just to let you know, you’re not the first person to offer a marriage contract.”

The thought wasn’t surprising to Inko, but it was another arrow of caution, nonetheless.

There was hope in this. A dismantling, overbearing desire, but it existed.

“Alright.” Inko drew in a long, shaky breath. “I… I agree to these terms. And this schedule. I will tell my husband, and make sure to clear my schedule for this Friday.”

Mitsuki was silent for a moment, but her pleased smile was unmistakable. A twinkle flickered in her eyes.

It struck Inko as mischievous. An action that told far more than she believed.

“Good. Glad to hear it.”

Without warning, MItsuki reached over, and grabbed Inko’s hand. She shook it, unwilling to bend to the weight of a beta’s natural stabilizing nature. Inko spluttered even after their hands released.

“Damn, you never shake on any business deals?” Mitsuki shook her head, gathering her purse. “Interesting.”

“This—this isn’t just a business deal. It’s—it could be about our children’s futures.”

Mitsuki’s face smoothed blank. She stared into the opposite wall, shadowed in something undetectable.

“In today’s day and age,” she paused, one shoulder lifted in apprehension, “what’s the difference?”