The nurse's office is astoundingly bright white.
It feels like being a kid, staring off at the TV as static claws at the background. The white bits burn onto your vision: white plaster walls, greyish cloud cover from the pretty white window. Your hand thumps unceremoniously, as if to remind you not to get too comfortable.
The click from the doorway sends your head shooting up; her thick brown hair pulled back and eyes darting through your chart. She flips through blood work results as though she's working through an explanation. When her brow starts actively jolting downward as she taps a nail on one number, you start to feel a little tense.
"Would you mind if I ask you some questions?"
"Sure, of course." You try to flash a winning smile. Judging by the way her lip curves downward: it only works in part.
She takes a seat opposite you, tucking in her white blouse and fumbling for a pen. Your hand aches again, and you glare at it like it's screwing you over.
"You won't get in trouble" she swallows "this is all entirely confidential. But I need to know, miss, if you've been using any unprescribed hormone therapies."
Your blood runs cold.
What the f-
"I've-" you try to get the words out, but there's a lump in your throat the size of Jupiter "-no. I've never used...not anything. I mean, I'm not even on blockers-"
"-And you've never used any prescribed medications intended for use by another designation to alter, deteriorate or otherwise impact symptoms of your designation?"
Of course you haven't. Jesus Christ. What is this? You're here for a fucking allergic reaction to hand cream. This is absurd.
"Never." You shuffle uncomfortably, feeling sweat on your brow. "What's wrong with me? I thought I had an allergic reaction?"
The nurse looks like she's not entirely convinced. She scribbles something out, then jots down a note in the margin of your chart.
"You did. To Fluoxymesterone mixed into Sartarogen. It's a drug combination that's illegal to prescribe, with exception to very specific cases. In some female Alphas, it causes burning, skin degradation, early onsets of ruts and more long-term impacts if untreated."
"How...But I haven't..."
"You haven't come into contact with anyone you suspect could be using Sartarogen to scramble their scent, have you? Sudden increases in vasopressin can cause men to sweat it out and trigger its half-life, which could have rubbed onto your skin."
Contact. Scent. Skin. Illegal. Burning.
Ben. Ben fucking Solo. You grabbed his goddamn wrist five days ago.
WIth the same hand that now looks like you grabbed a red-hot poker iron.
Ben's office is in the much nicer, much fancier part of the law building that you've been in. One of the walls to the corridor is entirely made up of glass: from here, you can see a city sprawled forth like a rich tapestry of colour. It's a lot nicer than yours - hell, even the vending machines in the rec rooms of your building don't even work. You've got to rugby tackle them just to get one of those mini-Mars bars from the flappy dispensing bit.
Your boots on the carpet sound, in your ears, like the drums of war. You hope the whole floor can hear you pounding: wrath incarnate. Alpha Woman, here to take her prize and leave him dead in the dirt. Anger is your closest ally: it melts through the pores in your skin, even in the broken, red-chapped parts of your palm. It's feeling much better now - antihistamines have leeched the poison from your fingertips. But there's still the threat that it'll screw your cycle over, which is awesome. Super, super awesome. It's not like you need to schedule weeks off for that sort of thing well ahead of time; no, no.
You're going to rip his pretty Alpha dick off.
You give a rap on his door, knocking it as though it might fall off the hinges. A brief pause makes you wonder if he's already left for the day - but then the handle clicks.
Today, he's gone for all-black. Black t-shirt, black jeans. The shirt is practically indecent: it shows a myriad of sins as it sticks to his torso, flush against the muscle of his chest. Hair looking unkempt. Burgundy shoes.
He's a walking pin-up for Alphas. He looks like he could break your spine without breaking so much as a sweat in the process.
He runs his fingertips through his hair nervously; leaning against the door frame.
"What do you want?"
He can probably smell your hostility. Smell that you're pissed the fuck off. Smell that you want to be here about as much as he does. The guy's eyes look almost bruised from sleeplessness - worse than you've ever seen it. You've got to wonder whether the faculty cutbacks are taking a strain on his sleeping patterns, or whether there's something else keeping him up at night.
You swallow thickly. It crackles in your throat - the angry, bitter vindication you were feeling as you marched down the corridor dying in the wake of the man before you. He's not going to listen to you. He won't let you in. Not unless you're willing to play ball.
"Can I come in?"
Ben's face scrunches up at your question: scrunches up in a way you don't quite understand.
"I'd...rather you didn't."
Oh. La dee da. We'd all like a lot of things.
You make a hitched, frustrated noise.
It's not quite Alpha voice - but it's close. Close enough that Ben's body language stiffens like he knows he's being threatened. But he doesn't push the issue, even as he moves back from the door to let you in.
It's nice. Less neat than you'd expected. Piles of books on the counter; awards lining the walls. Framed publications. Who frames their publications? The guy must be reeking of self-confidence. The last publication you managed to get pressed ended up on the 'never look at again' pile. Various hot tea packets on a little shelf affixed to one of the walls. Almond milk. He's got a stack of papers to grade lined up on his desk neatly; and it makes you think of all the good reviews he gets from tutoring. He's more human than you gave him credit for.
But the smell - it's the smell that knocks you back to square one. It's overwhelmingly strong - syrupy cinnamon. Less plastic; so much less. It's warm on the roof of your mouth in a way that should make your stomach curl; but it doesn't. The artificial, sticky burning smell is all but gone. Ben's natural scent is so much less invasive than you'd have ever thought it to be. Almost comforting. Soft.
You go to close the door, to click it shut as is custom.
Ben almost growls.
So you do - you leave his door ajar and go to sit on the plastic seat on the other side of his desk. He must be worried you'll murder him, you think. Not off the cards at this point. He takes a seat at his desk; his cheeks flushed red. Chest barely moving. Like he's...waiting.
"I need to know, Ben."
He doesn't look at you; brown eyes in his lap as he sucks at the inside of his lip nervously. Pheromones dart around him - they're too sticky with plasticky drug residue for you to have a read on. Something's blocking your ability to actually sift through his emotional state, you now realise. It's subtle, very subtle - subtle enough that you expect, if you weren't looking for it, it'd go totally unnoticed.
You huff a laugh: leaning an elbow on your knee as your flex your fingers.
"I know you're on Sarta-whatever. When I grabbed your scent gland, I got an allergic reaction. You're lucky I don't sue."
Ben shoots up from his chair; staggering backwards towards the wall of glass. His fingerprints push against it as though he's trying to sink back into it.
"No, no no" he chants under his breath, dark eyes rimmed red with swallowed tears "Christ, no...I can't be...That's not..."
You're so stunned that it's hard to focus on the way his panic taints the air; the way it tastes like bitter lemon and wild discomfort. Somehow, all notions of anger fly out of the window: all of it. All of the legitimately directed feelings that he's conjured up just...dissipate. It's unnerving, really. How quickly his tone snapping back pushes you into unfamiliar territory.
You don't know what to say. Your mouth stays firmly clamped shut: watching as Ben's chest tries to take in air. He looks like a caged animal: pupils wide, scrambling in his office like a cornered cat, looking to claw out of its skin.
Shakily, he paws at his hair: thick black locks running through his fingers. His eyes squeeze shut; with one shaky breath, he pulls himself together just enough.
"I've got a prescription" he says, licking at his cracked lips "I've had one since I was fifteen. It's not...Shit, you must've thought I..."
He pauses, biting at the words.
"Was abusing it or..." he groans, running his hand over his face, the crook of his nose. "Oh fuck, that's why I've been so lightheaded. I thought it was just the weather but it's not, it's not, I knew this would happen sooner or later and it's happening now and I don't know what to do!"
You palm at your hand; watching as the ridges of healing skin pucker at your touch. It's not his fault. He's not abusing it. It's not his fault. He didn't know.
It's not his fault.
"How..." you swallow "...Ben, what does it do?"
Ben stills. Stills as his eyes fall to yours; fall to yours with such intensity they feel as though they're burning through you. Dark chocolate against the palest white of his skin. Somewhere on the wall, a clock slowly ticks off, plastic on plastic as the cogs click into place.
His movements are slow - they're so slow. Slow as he moves on shaky legs across the room, clasping and unclasping his palms. With a soft push, he closes the door; pushing his muscled back to it. The guy's 6ft 3; an Alpha. And you're suddenly acutely aware he's got you caged in this little office-
"Don't" he says quietly "I'm not going to hurt you. I just need to..." he chews his plush lip. "See. See if this is just a momentary lapse. Look, I know you hate me. You have every right to. But I want to try something. I'm not going to touch you at all."
Alpha voice. It shudders over you in waves; he's telling. And you're fine with that: you genuinely are. Ben Solo might be a dick, and he might've caused you incredible annoyance - but now you just want to know. You have to know.
"No funny business" you warn, stumbling to your feet. Your boots feel clammy: heart all up in your ears. Nervous. He's making you so fucking nervous.
Ben doesn't laugh. His approach is cautious: his scent rising, burning on your tongue as his shoes scuff the carpet. His dark hair drifts in wafts as the air conditioner moves through the room: soft waves on the ocean. Midnight black and shining.
Freckles dust the bridge of his nose; the sound of his breathing just lightly wisping through the space between you. His lips tremble just enough to pull you closer; gravity bringing you to him, drawing you in. You're suddenly, acutely aware that beneath the layers of taut muscle and hard bone, there's something...beautiful. Soft. Intense.
"Ben..." you swallow cautiously; his forehead dipping lightly as he stands a hairs breadth away. Being in this proximity, so close to another Alpha: you should be fearful. Should be. But you can't help yourself; you dip your head lightly, letting him catch the spicy scent at the join between your neck and shoulder.
"Shit" he whispers - so quietly you're not even sure he's said it at all. "Oh God."
He's unstable - so unstable on his feet. Vibrating like a live wire as he takes in your scent: sipping it like it's soothing an ache so acute that there's nothing else for it.
And it's like wildfire. Wildfire as it careens through you: sudden and hard and blisteringly warm. In the wake of your presence, the chemical fragrance is burned away to nothing - burned away as it has been over the last few days, ever since you grasped his scent glands. And fuck, fuck: Ben Solo smells like heaven incarnate. Cinnamon buns, warm chai lattes. Hot chocolates on cold nights. Log cabins and warm firesides and cider at Christmas.
It echoes through your bones: your whole being shuddering as you lock eyes with his. Deep black pupils, framed by lashes; cheeks dusted with blush.
It's chemistry. It's biology.
Like pieces falling into place.
"Who else knows?" you tremble; fingertips reaching out to skim the trace of his bicep in his shirt. His eyes stay locked on yours: lips slightly parted at your ministrations. You just...need to touch him. Need this to be real. It's more biology than conscious want by now - it's reactionary.
A whimper hits the back of his throat.
"My parents. My doctor. A few close friends. I've..." his eyes flutter shut; swallow cracking at his throat "...had an ex-girlfriend. A Beta. She knew. I've never met..."
A female Alpha my own age.
You laugh quietly; taking in his scent. Fuck. It's getting stronger the more you skim his shirt: the more you let yourself be taken by the moment.
"Me neither. That is, I've never met an..."
Ben's eyes squeeze shut. Anxiety - he's anxious.
"You can say it" he breathes, brow furrowing. "I want you to."
And you want to - you do. It's like your brain knows; knows that if you say it, it'll give him something intangible. Something just out of his reach.
"Omega. Like you."