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“What am I going to do?” moaned 13-year-old Steve Harrington, head in his hands.

From across the tiny yellow room decorated with cute paper birds, Dr. Miller considered him silently. How humiliating, Steve thought, to need his PEDIATRICIAN to explain that he was going into heat. His mother had brought him in with a fever; she’d be back from the restroom any minute. He was an omega, and that changed everything. He sat on the stiff, paper-covered bed, his whole world about to collapse in on him. The facts bombarded him like a bee swarm.

He was an omega.

His parents were alphas.

Two alphas could not have an omega child.

He was going into heat.

Dr. Miller took a deep breath, and cleared his throat. “Well. You could lie.”

Steve looked up. “What?”

“Alphas go into rut, and it looks a fair bit like a heat for some, especially when young. Agitated, low grade fever, easily dehydrated and stressed. I can give you suppressants that will keep it that way.”

“You mean … birth control?”

“Yes. Though the off label use to reduce the intensity of heats is valid.”

“You … you wouldn’t tell my mom? You’d lie too?”

Dr. Miller looked very serious. “Steve, I can’t lie if she asks me directly, it’s the law. But neither will I expound upon it. It’s … a lie of omission. In this case, especially, your safety is more important.”

Steve hadn’t even considered that aspect. One more nail in his coffin.

Mrs. Harrington came back into the room, and their conspiracy discussion was cut short. “Good news, it’s not strep or the flu. Give him some aspirin and a couple of days of rest and he should be fine. But oh, um …” He handed Steve a pamphlet and another copy to his mom. Across the top it said “Your Changing Body: Heats and Ruts.” God, what he wouldn’t give to not be in this adorable little room.

“He’s a little young for that, isn’t he?” she asked, eyes wide.

The doctor shrugged. “Everyone’s body is different. I’d like to put him on a regulator, if that’s ok with you. It’ll make things more predictable for him. I remember being in school and kids going into rut or heat unexpectedly, it was so rough on them. Better to spare them the embarrassment, since we have the ability to do so.”

“Oh - yes, of course.” She took the paper with the intentionally difficult to read prescription.

Dr. Miller patted Steve on the back. “You can come to me with questions, Steve. You know, sometimes kids don’t want to talk to their parents about this kind of thing. With your permission, of course.”

“Of course he can talk to you without us,” Mrs. Harrington said.

“I’ll have my secretary give you a form to sign. Just to note your consent.”

“Yes, naturally. Thank you, Dr. Miller.”

“Thank you,” Steve said as they left, for entirely different reasons.

*****

Eighteen-year-old Steve had things figured out, and didn't need to ask Dr. Miller anymore. He didn’t date much, and when he did, he dated betas. They couldn’t tell an artificial alpha cologne from the real thing. Another omega or alpha might pick up on it not being quite right. He overcompensated; he was the most alpha of alphas, someone no one would suspect of being an omega. He played sports, got into fights, trained himself to not drop his eyes or bare his throat or back down.

He turned into a bit of a jerk.

But no one suspected he was an omega. That was the important part. He’d been on suppressants for five years, and it was easy enough to fake a rut when the time came. Just lock himself in his room and yell if anyone bothered him, and spray the artificial alpha cologne EVERYWHERE.

No problem. It was under control.

Then. Oh then. Life came completely apart. Not because of him being an omega, no. Because of the monsters. Big ugly monsters, and everyone’s little brothers, and a psychic girl, and Nancy Wheeler dumping him for Jonathan fucking Byers, and then MORE monsters -

And then a monster just for him, in the form of Billy Hargrove.

*****

It wasn’t that it was so unusual for an alpha to try to take the top spot in the complex hierarchy of alphas by going straight for the top. It’s just that it had been so long since anyone had TRIED with Steve. He was out of practice. Billy had to be older than 18; he carried himself like an adult.

I’m an adult too, Steve’s ego tried to insist, but he shrank back every time Billy came near. Which was frequent. The guy was up in his space, all up in his business. And … was attractive. Shit. No. Steve hated himself for noticing, for thinking about Billy every so often as he lay in bed.

That ended the first time Billy beat the shit out of him.

He found out later that Max had been the one to keep Billy from killing Steve in front of a bunch of kids, on Jonathan Byers’ living room floor. That was one hell of a thing. It was rather overshadowed by the whole “fighting demon dog looking things underground” that followed.

It didn’t stop Billy from giving Steve shit, though. He was, if anything, more persistent, determined. In hindsight, Steve should have seen the attack coming, should have seen the resentment and wounded pride festering. As it was, the moment he saw it coming was the moment Billy’s fist met Steve’s teeth.

Steve hit the asphalt beside his car in the school parking lot. It was dark, after a football game, and he’d had to park way out to get a spot. There was no one around now. He scrambled away from Billy’s foot, narrowly avoiding having his neck stomped. There wasn’t much room to maneuver between cars. Billy grabbed him by the front of the shirt, and Steve sucker-punched him. Billy’s head rocked back and blood streamed from his nose. Steve thought he might have won a slight advantage, but it only seemed to enrage Billy, and he let fists fly.

Steve was only ever good in a fight if he could end it quickly. This did not end quickly. Billy laughed, and pain erupted in his head and guts over and over. No strike that Steve landed did any good.

Fuck, Steve thought, he’s going to kill me. Steve only had one ace left up his sleeve, and it was a shitty ace.

He went limp and bared his throat. He made a whining noise in his throat, a stereotypically omega sound. He’d never let himself do it before. Billy hesitated. Steve looked up at him through swollen, blurred eyes.

“Please, Alpha,” he said, “you win. You win.”

Billy let go of his shirt. “What the fuck did you just call me?”

“You win, Alpha.”

Billy was back down in his face. “Harrington, you son of a bitch, you tell me now - Are you a mother fucking omega?”

Steve gave him a weak, gap-toothed smile. “Tah dah,” he said raspily. “Hell of a trick, huh?”

Billy scrambled to his feet, staring down in horror. Steve could imagine what was going through his mind. He’d just nearly beat an omega to death. If he’d killed Steve, and they’d found in the autopsy that he was an omega, no court in the country would show Billy mercy. Hell, he probably wouldn’t even make it to his court date. Accidents happen, most egregiously to alphas who killed omegas. Especially young, healthy, pretty, white, American omegas.

Billy ran, Steve bled, and the stars turned above him. Someone found him, eventually, but it hardly seemed to matter. He was alive, but life was over.

*****

When Steve came back to school a few days later, still horribly bruised and with fresh dental work, he expected a day of hell, of people adding insult to injury. It didn’t work out that way. Everyone was nice, extra accommodating. Like …

Like they didn’t know.

Steve was on his way to the cafeteria when Billy stepped out in front of him, blocking the sidewalk. Steve stopped cold, and gauged whether he ought to start hollering. But Billy looked … contrite. He hesitated.

“I’m so sorry,” Billy said. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and hunched his shoulders.

“You didn’t tell anyone,” Steve said. “About me.”

“Yeah well. You didn’t tell anyone I beat the shit out of you either.”

“You satisfied at being the top alpha now, or do you think you still have to kill me for it?”

“It wasn’t about that.”

“Oh?”

Billy scuffed his feet. Actually scuffed his damn feet. “It was … well it’s complicated. Mostly it was about Max and our shitty family. I took it out on you and I shouldn’t have. M’sorry.”

Steve nodded. “For some goddamn reason, I think I accept the apology.” Mostly so he could potentially never speak to Billy again. Shit like this was always to make the aggressor feel better, not the victim.

Billy looked like he wanted to say something else. Steve waited.

“Well?”

“Can I buy you dinner?”

Steve laughed, a laugh of sudden, hateful rage, and his bruised ribs twinged. He kept laughing as he walked away.

*****

Steve had thought he would miss high school. He did not. He worked in an auto shop, kept his head down, avoided Billy Hargrove and Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers and, miraculously, monsters.

Until he got recruited by the Small Fry Patrol.

Apparently there were still traces of monsters, so he found himself tromping around in the woods with a radio, checking the tripwires to see if anything big had gone that way, looking for tracks, or … well he wasn’t sure what else he was looking for but he felt sure he’d know it when he saw it.

Which is how he found himself, for the third time, on the ground, on his back, with Billy Hargrove on top of him, fist pulled back. But this time Billy stopped.

“Steve?”

“Jesus, Billy! What’re YOU doing out here?” Steve sputtered, trying to decide if diplomacy or fists would be better. Billy had been so fast, Steve hadn't seen him before he was already hit, with stones digging into his back, the canopy above only slightly darker than the black sky, and Billy a pale blue specter in the dim light.

“No, I - sorry - I’m -“ Billy lowered his fist. “I was expecting someone else.” He didn’t get up. “Hey, while I’ve got you here -“

“Oh my god, really? Get off.”

“Can I ask you something?”

Steve glared. “You gonna put me back in the hospital if I say no?”

“No,” Billy said, with all the guilty denial of someone for whom the answer might have been yes, if they hadn’t been asked directly. “Steve - why were you pretending to be an alpha?”

“It’s complicated, and sums up as ‘living as a male omega sucks.’”

“Living as an alpha sucks too, sometimes.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. There’s all this pressure to be the best, you always have to make the first move -“

Steve scoffed. “Yes, definitely comparable to the life threatening danger of being an omega. Look, I’m not in the mood to go into my personal history or the socio-political ramifications of designation.” Hey, he’d learned something from Nancy.

“Do you like other omegas then?”

Steve pursed his lips. “No. I like betas just fine.”

“You ever had an alpha?”

This was taking a turn. “No. Because they definitely would be able to tell that I was an omega. Betas don’t always know.”

Billy nodded, and leaned over him, palms on either side of Steve’s shoulders. “You ever wanted to try it out?”

Yes he did, he’d always wanted an alpha. Wanted someone to hold him down and fuck him hard and bite his neck and fucking CLAIM him. Never mind the thought alone set back omega progress twenty years. And Billy was still hot, even if he was a class A asshole and violent and -

“Get. Off.”

Billy shoved his nose against Steve’s neck, under his ear. “You can use that cologne all you like, but I can still smell the omega under all that. Shit you smell good. Like you’re about to go into heat.”

He was. Actually. A few days away. Billy scraped teeth over skin and Steve jumped. He started to try to sit up, but Billy grabbed his wrists and pushed him back down.

“You just be a good little omega for me,” Billy crooned in his ear. “I want you.” He pressed his knee between Steve’s, trying to get him to open his legs.

Oh shit. He was wet. Why? Why the hell was he creaming his pants over this shithead who was blazing right over every boundary he had, holding him down on the ground in a super scary rapey way?

Because it’s the first time anyone’s wanted you like an omega, his brain supplied.

Besides. Between fighting him and relenting, which was more likely to get him out of this alive? He might not even have a choice. Can’t rape the willing. Maybe the way through hell was straight on out the other side.

And sweet Jesus did he want sex.

Billy stared down at him, an alpha glare daring him to disobey. Steve edged his legs apart, and watched pleasant surprise bloom over Billy's face. He let go of Steve’s wrists, and Steve … left them there. Billy yanked off Steve’s running shorts one handed, and Steve toed off his shoes because it felt weird to do this with shoes on. Billy’s hand felt good sliding over his (mutinous) hard cock … but so much better when he pressed his fingers against the wet hole behind his balls. Steve couldn’t help but moan.

“Ohhh, baby, you’re all wet for me,” Billy purred. Steve gasped as Billy pushed two fingers into him. “I knew you’d want it.” He watched Billy undo his fly and push his jeans down enough to take his cock out. Then he was back between Steve’s legs. Steve relented, moving his legs apart, and he heard Billy whine “oh fuck yeah.” Steve was glad he didn’t have time to think before he felt Billy pushing inside him. Steve didn’t have any toys; had never been the one with his legs spread. Fingers only did so much. He didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like from this side of things, but he didn’t expect it to feel so immediately good to have a cock entering him, filling him, pressing on all the spots inside him that ached like a bruise for pressure and friction.

Billy grabbed Steve’s hair and pulled to expose Steve’s throat. Steve closed his eyes as Billy’s mouth closed over him, rough and almost hurting as he bit and sucked, just short of that knot of muscle where a real claiming mark would go.

“There’s a good omega,” Billy said. “Going all soft and pliant for me, letting me mark you up. I’m gonna make you like it, baby.”

Billy was not exactly a fine, delicate lover of finesse. He fucked Steve hard, rocking his hips back and forth, stopping every few minutes to put another mark on Steve’s neck. God, he was going to be a mess, he’d need to stay home til they faded in a few days. But right now the cock moving in his pussy and the teeth in his throat felt too good to stop.

Then something he didn’t expect. Billy kissed him. It was awkward, all tongue and teeth, and Steve felt more claimed than kissed - which was probably true. Billy made desperate noises against Steve’s mouth, and something about it sent Steve over the edge. He came on Billy’s cock, his pussy pulsing with a kind of pleasure he’d never been able to get by himself.

Billy pulled back, smiling. “Was that you climaxing, baby?”

“Yeah,” Steve gulped, unable to form much more out of words.

“Good, cuz I’m about to fill your pussy,” Billy said. He pulled out, flipped Steve onto his stomach, and pulled his ass up. Then Billy’s cock sank back into him and Steve forgot to protest. It felt good, he wanted sex, God he’d been like a fucking monk lately, and he didn’t care who the cock belonged to, he just wanted it -

Billy sped up, fucking him hard enough to start to hurt, then Billy cried out, and a few strokes later, collapsed against Steve’s back, shaking.

Please don’t have any STDs, Steve thought. Way too late.

Steve couldn’t hold them both up like that, so he sank down onto the ground with Billy on top of him, still inside him. Billy finally pulled out, and rolled off to the side.

He stroked Steve’s hair. “I wanted you so bad,” he said.

“Ok,” Steve said, at a loss for anything else.

“And now I got to have you. Damn, you were so good. Fighting me and cussing at me then opening your legs for me and taking my cock. You were such a good little omega, Steve, letting me fuck you like that.”

“... Thank you?”

Billy chuckled. “I’m gonna take care of you, ok?”

What? “What?”

“I’m gonna be a good alpha for you.”

Steve stood up on shaky post-orgasm knees and retrieved his shorts. God, he wished he had a washcloth. As he pulled them on he said, “Billy, you were really great just now, but that’s all it was, just sex.”

Billy stared at him, and stood up, brow furrowing and mouth open. “I never agreed to that.”

“We never agreed to anything else, either.” Where were his shoes?

He zipped his fly back up. “Ok, look. You’re an omega. You can’t hide it forever, Steve. You’d be a lot better off coming out with an alpha beside you. Besides …” Billy grinned, flashing teeth. “I’ve never met an omega as tough as you. I need an omega who can handle me, you know? And my pups are sure to be fucking handfuls.”

Shit. He should just say ok and walk away and deal with this later. He found his shoes and put them on before he answered. “Pups, huh? I don’t know that I even want pups.”

“You’ll come around. I mean, you might even have a belly full of a little bastard right now.” He laughed.

That’s not how it works, Steve thought. He’d have to be in heat to get knocked up, and he was several days from that. Did Billy even know how heats worked? He decided to skip the Health 101 lesson. “Billy. We just had a spontaneous, ill-advised fuck in the woods. We’re not anything else.”

“Maybe not yet -“

“We’re not GOING to be anything else.”

Billy’s expression turned dark and dangerous. “WHY?”

He definitely should be smiling and nodding until he could get out of here, but his mouth ran off without his brain. “Why? Well, there was that time you put me in the hospital -“

“When I didn’t know you were an omega!”

“Billy, you’re gorgeous and an amazing lay and charismatic and I’m drawn to you in a way … but you’re dangerous. You will never. Ever. Put a claiming mark on my neck. Is that clear?”

That, he thought, had been the wrong thing to say.

Something shifted in Billy. Steve saw the darkness take over in his eyes. “We’ll see about that.” He started towards Steve.

Steve was glad he’d gotten his shoes on. He turned and bolted. He knew these trails well; he’d been all over them with the kids in tow, hunting monsters, and before that, just for fun, for years. Billy didn’t know them. Steve pulled ahead as Billy stumbled on tree roots and shifting rock underfoot.

He stopped to rest at the top of a rise where he could see down the trail behind him a long way. No sign of Billy as Steve leaned on his knees and panted, catching his breath and easing the stitch in his side.

He heard Billy’s laughter, from somewhere far off in the woods. Then he started yelling.

“Think you can get away from me, little omega? Even if you make it out of here, you think I’ll stop? You’re mine! I don’t want to hurt you … but I will.”

Goddammit, Steve thought, shut up, you’ll attract the …

He had a desperate thought. He took out the little pocketknife on his keychain, a little 2 inch blade. He sliced his arm, deeper than he meant to, and it bled down his wrist and dripped onto the pine needles under his feet. He took off down the trail again.

It was a sick plan; leave a trail for the monsters, and as long as Billy was still behind him, they’d find Billy first. Don’t have to be faster than the bear, Steve thought, just faster than your friends. Or the crazy alpha you decided to bang because you wanted dick that fucking bad and was also kind of afraid of the consequences of saying no. Note to self: raise standards of dick, and say no anyway. Assuming he lived to fuck another day.

The trails were all big loops that connected to three different parks, and he was almost to a road when he turned a corner and ran into a huge bear of a man. His feet went out from under him and he landed on his ass. The man shone a flashlight in his face.

“Steve Harrington?” said Sheriff Hopper’s voice.

“Oh, Sheriff, I have never been so happy to see you. There’s a guy out there chasing me, we gotta get outta here, where’s your truck?”

“Back at the road - Are you bleeding?” He grabbed Steve’s arm, which was a bloody mess now. He might have overdone it. “If there’s monsters from the Upside Down out here, they’re going to come right for you!”

“Exactly! Let’s go!”

“Evening, boys!”

Hopper turned the flashlight on Billy. He flashed a grin at them. “Hopper, you’re just the man I was looking for when I ran into Steve here! A sweet piece of ass, isn’t he?”

“You’re not endearing yourself,” Hopper said.

Billy laughed. “Naw. But you should know, I intend to put a claiming mark on that little bitch of mine. If you’d kindly stand aside, Sheriff.”

“Steve, you want him to do that?”

“Fuck no!” It came out a little squeaky. Stupid fear.

Hopper gave a long suffering sigh. “Billy, you’re not putting a claiming mark on him. Time to go home.”

Billy was still smiling that predatory, dangerous smile. “You want a piece of him yourself? You’re messing with the wrong alpha.” He pulled a knife from his back pocket. Hopper unsnapped the cover on his gun. Steve wished he had that baseball bat with the nails in it.

It happened too fast to really see in the dim light of the flashlight. The demidog struck Billy from behind, and his screams were cut short by a burst from Hopper’s gun. The demidog didn’t even seem to feel the bullets.

Steve ran, with Hopper on his heels. They reached the big police SUV, jumped in, and Hopper floored it to get out of there.

They rode in silence for a few long minutes, before Hopper said, “There’s a first aid kit in the backseat. Stop your arm bleeding.”

Right. Steve pulled the white box to the front and was relieved to see blood stop powder. He doused him arm in it, packed it with gauze and wrapped it with an ace bandage. Hopper blessedly waited until he was done with this to start asking questions.

“So. You and that guy … ?”

“It was just a fling,” Steve sighed. “It wasn’t supposed to be anything.”

“He didn’t seem to see it that way.”

“No.”

Hopper gestures to his arm. “He do that to you?”

Steve shook his head. “No. I did it to myself. To get the monsters to come out.”

Hopper gave him a look, and was silent a moment, before he said, “Damn." Another long silence before Hopper said, this time more gently, “You’re an omega, then.”

Steve wilted. “Yeah.”

“Sure thought you were an alpha.”

“Everyone did. That was the point.”

“But Billy knew.”

“Yeah. I told him I was an omega to stop him killing me once before.”

Hopper’s hands tightened on the wheel, and his voice came out hot and tense. “He the one who put you in the hospital before?”

Steve vaguely remembered an interview with Hopper in the hospital. “Yeah.”

Hopper made a noise between anger and grief. “And you wouldn’t tell us who he was because he’d tell everyone you were an omega.”

“Yup.”

“Fucking hell, son, and you hit that anyway?”

“It was a really terrible impulsive decision and I was really, really horny!” Steve barked. “What, you never banged somebody knowing it was a stupid ass thing to do?”

“Ok you got me there.”

“Besides, it … it seemed safer to go along with it. I didn’t deserve what happened.”

“No,” Hopper said firmly, “you absolutely did not. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Steve’s throat tightened. He was shivering all over; shock, or adrenaline, or just overwhelmed. Quietly he said, “Do you think Billy deserved …?” He tried not to think of the demidog, of Hopper putting a bullet of mercy in his head.

Hopper patted Steve’s shoulder in a rare gesture of comfort. “I don’t think anyone gets what they deserve, good or bad, and my whole life is about trying to balance those scales.” With a crook of a smile he added, “I think he attacked the wrong omega, is what I think. That was ballsy, what you did. And listen - better him than you. It sounded like it was, in fact, him or you.”

It might not have been. It might have been.

Steve leaned against the door. The cold window against his forehead felt good. “Everyone’s gonna know now.”

“How’s that?” Hopper said.

“His parents will have to know he died. Could say it was dogs. Close enough to the truth. But then everyone will wonder why I was out there with him, and there’s a big long blood trail, and there’s marks on my neck … not hard to figure out.”

Hopper sighed. “Well. Doesn’t have to be direct. I can put in some reports of a feral dog pack. It’s supposed to storm tomorrow, that’ll clear up much of the blood. I can “find” his car after the storm. They’ll bring the dogs out, they’ll follow what’s left of the trail, right up to where he died. Won’t be anything left but traces of demidog tracks.”

That wasn’t bad. It didn’t involve Steve at all. Except … “My neck is still marked up.”

Hopper nodded. “Yeah, well. I got a place you can lie low for awhile. Tell your boss you got the flu or something. You can go on pretending to be an alpha.” He looked over at Steve. “Or. You can come out as omega, and you can stay with me til people get used to the idea. Nobody’s gonna mess with someone under my roof.”

Steve started. “You’d … do that?”

“Sure. I mean, you’re part of Team Upside Down, right?”

Steve was silent. He’d never had someone stick their neck out for him. He didn’t know how to respond, except. “Both my parents are alphas.”

“Son of a bitch. Well. It’s up to you. You need protection, you got it.”

Steve couldn’t think of anything to say. “Thank you.” No, he could think of one other thing. “Think I’ll take you up on it.”