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The Maternal Instincts of Betas

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Scott was in third grade when he first noticed the picture of Sheriff Stilinski—a deputy then, and seven months pregnant with Stiles—getting a commendation for solving a big murder case. It hung in the hallway with other family photos, and Scott became fixated on it. He took it once after a sleepover, tucking it into his backpack when no one was looking. When his mom found it a couple of days later, she scolded him and made him give it back, but Stiles's mom was cool about it and made a color copy that Scott could keep. His mom asked him why he liked that picture so much, but he couldn't explain it.

He and Stiles played pregnancy together, baby dolls in pillowcases under their shirts. Sometimes they'd get one of their dad's shirts and wear it backwards, pretending it was a hospital gown, and deliver their babies in the living room accompanied by a lot of shouting. Stiles's baby was an alpha named Frannie; Janice belonged to Scott, whose mom had had to send away to San Francisco to get an anatomically correct beta baby for him to play with.

Sometimes Scott and Stiles sat around and looked at each other's private parts.

"How is a baby supposed to come out of there?" Scott asked, staring at his cloaca.

Stiles shrugged. "We'll be bigger so I guess it'll be bigger," he replied. "Or you can make your mate have the baby since you have a penis."

"No, I want to have the baby," Scott said. "Or do both."

Stiles said, "I have to have the baby."

"But you want to have the baby," Scott said.

"Yeah," Stiles replied. "I don't need a penis. I can still write my name on the snow with my pee."

"That's most of what it's good for," Scott said.

"Even alpha girls can't do that," Stiles said.

"Alpha girls like Lydia?" Scott asked, grinning.

"Shut up," Stiles said.

Scott's dad didn't like Janice very much, and on the occasions that they went someplace just the two of them, he made Scott leave her at home. Scott always made sure to get Janice a little present while they were out, though, like the paper placemat from the diner. Dad wasn't home a lot these days, and Mom and Dad didn't smile when they talked to each other, so instead of family time, Scott had more Dad-time. On Sundays when Mom was working Dad would take Scott to a restaurant that had really good french fries and football on big TV screens; Scott brought his coloring book and crayons. Aaron the bartender always made him a Shirley Temple, which Scott liked because it was red and sweet, and gave him a tiny paper umbrella to bring home to Janice. Aaron was an omega so he understood about dolls better than Dad did.

One particular Sunday, not too long after the whole stealing-the-photo incident, a large ruddy alpha man came up to where Scott and Dad were sitting and clapped them both on the back.

"Well!" he said. "I see the McCalls are having a boy's day watching the Niners! Haven't met the little one yet."

"Sir," Dad said, shaking the man's hand. "This is my son, Scott. Scott, this is my boss, Special Agent Stephens."

"Hello, Mr. Stephens," Scott said, and shook hands as well.

"Hello, Scottie," Mr. Stephens said. "Quite a cocktail you've got there. Start 'em young, eh, McCall, haha!"

Scott wasn't sure what a cocktail was. He also didn't like it when strangers called him Scottie, but he didn't want to be impolite so he just smiled and nodded.

Dad said, "He means your drink, Scott."

"Oh," Scott said. "I like Shirley Temples because Aaron makes them sweet and I get an umbrella for Janice," Scott replied.

"I see," Mr. Stephens said. "Is Janice your little sweetheart?"

"No, she's my baby," he replied.

"Your doll, you mean," Dad said, and his voice sounded tight, like when he talked to Mom.

"Yeah," Scott said. "Stiles has a doll, too, because he's going to have babies."

Mr. Stephens raised his eyebrows. "Your little playmate is an omega, I take it," he said. "Isn't that … modern!"

Scott wasn't sure what that meant so he didn't reply.

"Well, McCall," Mr. Stephens went on, "get him some alpha playmates and he'll know what's what, won't he?" He tousled Scott's hair.

"Yes, sir, he will," Dad said.

Later, in the car ride home, Dad said, "It isn't that I don't like Stiles, Scott. It's that alphas still run this world and the way to get ahead is to get on their side, so they think of you as one of them. Best to start early."

"Danny's an alpha and his best friend is an omega," Scott said.

"Alphas can do as they please. No one would think they're an omega."

"But I'm a beta just like you!" Scott said.

"Out in the world, especially in little towns like this, alphas will want to know which one you are. You don't want to have them treating you like an omega, do you?"

"What's so bad about that?" Scott asked. "Mr. Stilinski is awesome!"

"He's very accomplished for an omega," Dad said, "but that's most of what people say about him. I don't want that for you." He sighed. "I'm not saying not to be friends with Stiles, but you might want some other friends, too. Some alpha friends. Okay?"

Scott looked out the window at the forest. "Okay," he said, and he did not cry, because Dad didn't like it much when he cried, and besides, he was eight now.

Mom was home from work when they got back. She took one look at Scott and said, "What did you say to him?"

"Nothing!" Dad said.

Mom gave him the same look she gave Scott when he said he hadn't been doing anything when really he'd been eating all the cookies, and it made Dad sigh.

"Scott and I just discussed that it might be good for him to have some playmates other than the Stilinski omega," he said. "Maybe some of the alpha kids."

Mom turned to Scott. "Why don't we put on the SpongeBob DVD, huh? You can watch that while your father and I have a grown-up talk?"

Scott knew all about grown-up talks. They meant yelling and he felt badly that Mom and Dad were so often yelling about him. "Can I watch in my room?" he asked.

"Of course you can, honey," Mom said, and set him up with the little player they took on car trips and some headphones.

But even SpongeBob and Squidward couldn't entirely distract him from the voices downstairs. If it hadn't been dark, he might have tried to sneak out on his bike and go over to Stiles's house, even though it was kind of far away. Instead he put the covers over his head. He'd gotten through three episodes when the voices stopped, a door slammed, and he heard Dad's car driving away.

It was a little while before Mom came into his room, sitting on his bed and rubbing his shoulder through the blankets. He sat up then, and she slipped off his headphones.

"You should be friends with whomever you want to be friends with," she said.

"Even if they're not alphas?" he asked.

"Even if they're not alphas," she replied. "Some people have old-fashioned ideas, like Mr. Stephens, and sometimes it seems like the best thing to do is to go along with them. But trying to act something you're not isn't the best way. We'll just have to talk some more about what to do when someone wants you to change who you are so they don't have to change how they think."

"Like Dad?"

Mom sighed. "Your dad needs to make some decisions," she said.

Scott bit his lip. "Is he coming back?"

"Not for a while," she replied. "You knew he was going on a trip this week. So now, well, he's going a little sooner."

"He didn't say goodbye," Scott said, letting himself cry a little because this was Mom.

"Oh honey," she said, and pulled him close. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry, too," Scott said.

"But I want you to promise me that if anyone tries to make you feel bad about being a beta or anything else, or wants you to behave like someone you're not, you tell me right away."

"Even if it's Dad?"

"Especially if it's Dad," she said, and hugged him a little closer.

Mating season generally begins in early March and stretches through sometime in mid-May, depending on the strength of the winter and the number of alphas and omegas in the mating group. It need not be stressful if it is thought of as simply the culmination of several years of getting to know your peers.

For alphas and omegas claiming is never incorrect as it is guided by instincts. That this knowledge has simmered below the threshold of conscious thought does not mean that it is not rational. Let yourself to be guided by those instincts and your heightened sense of smell during your rut or heat; do not allow your mind to overrule what feels right to you. Also remember to be kind to your beta friends, who may be envious of the ease with which you find a lifetime mate.

Betas should make the most of their opportunity to observe this ritual. Note the complementary characteristics and shared world view that your alpha and omega friends find in each other. While the immediate sexual response is often remarked upon, if you ask your friends they will tell you that the connection runs much deeper. Even though you will not have instinct to guide you, keeping these things in mind will assist you as you seek your own mate among the betas you meet in the future.

Mating: A Classroom Guide for Teens of All Designations

"Wow, I didn't realize the beta community here was so progressive."

Scott looked up from his book to see a girl's head, silhouetted against the sun. He squinted and shielded his eyes. "Um, I guess?" he said, smiling. He flipped back the cover of the book he was reading.

The girl sat down next to him on the high school front steps, and now that he could see her features he recognized her as the new beta girl who'd started school that day—Allison, her name was. He'd lent her a pen that morning and she'd smiled at him, but by lunch she'd been snapped up by Lydia. Scott wasn't popular enough to have a chance with a beta in that crowd.

"Scott, right?" she asked, and when he nodded she went on, "Usually schools assign the Kurtz book on imprinting."

Scott grimaced. "Yeah, we read it last year in health class, but I hate that book. It says it's not statusist and I guess it isn't about omegas, which, that's great? But about betas …"

"Prehistoric," Allison said, shaking her head. "As if we only exist to keep alphas and omegas from being terrible to each other, and our lives are secondary."

"You can tell that Kurtz doesn't really believe in imprinting for betas. 'Certain rare cases'!"

"Carson's better," Allison said, pointing to the book in Scott's hand. "I read it last year; my aunt left me a copy when she—anyway, I'm surprised a small school like this is assigning it."

"Oh, I'm not reading it for class," Scott said. "I um ... I guess you could say, I have a connection to the beta community in Brooklyn? Someone there recommended it and then I got it through inter-library loan. I really like it so far."

"Wow," Allison said, her eyes lighting up. "So you're doing this on your own?"

Scott shrugged. "Pretty much? I mean, my mom's a beta and a nurse, so I had great books and toys when I was a kid, but it's not like she's up on the new stuff. Sometimes she reads the books I find after I'm done, and we talk about it. I think she'll really like this one."

"Your dad's a beta too?"

"Yeah," Scott said, looking off toward the parking lot. "But they split up. He's not really around."

"I'm sorry," she said, and put her hand on his.

He turned back to her, and she looked sad for him, so he smiled a little. "It's okay. It's better, actually. He's not that progressive. So."

She nodded. "My parents try? But they're older; they have to fight a lot of old ideas."


They sat there silent, staring at each other for long enough that it should have been awkward, but it wasn't. At all. Then they started speaking at the same time, and laughed.

He really liked her dimples.

"You go," he said.

"I was saying, I'd love to talk to you about the book when you've finished it."

"Yeah," Scott said, and he was grinning. "I'd like that a lot."

"What were you going to say?" she asked.

"Well, Different for Betas is finally coming to Beacon Hills. It opens next Friday, if you want to go next Saturday? Um, if you haven't already seen it. Movies about betas get to the cities a lot faster." He held his breath.

"No, I haven't seen it," she replied. "I'd—I'd love to go. I should probably talk to my parents first, though."

"Okay," he said, nodding. "Great!"

"Yeah." She pulled on a piece of her hair, and twisted it into her mouth. "So, do you always sit on the front steps after school?"

"No, I'm waiting for my buddy Stiles. We're hanging out at his house tonight."

"Stiles," Allison said, and squinted in thought. "Is he an omega? I think he's in my English class."

"Buzz cut, plaid shirt?" Scott asked, and when she nodded he said, "Yeah, he can make a weird first impression? But seriously, he's great."

She smiled. "I'm sure he is."

Then a silver sedan pulled up and honked its horn.

"Oh, that's my dad." She picked up her bag and stood. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Yeah, definitely," Scott said, standing along with her.

"Cool." She hopped down the stairs to the car, and then, as she was opening the door, she called out, "Thanks for the pen!"

"Any time!" he said, and waved as she drove away.

A hand clapped his shoulder, which could only be one person. "Beta's got game!" Stiles said.

"Thanks? What took you so long, anyway?"

"Hey, man, I didn't want to interrupt what you had going on, so I hung out inside the door."

"And listened?" Scott asked, scowling.

"Dude, it's not like I'm doing any of that. I have to live vicariously through you."

Scott sighed. "Well, thanks, anyway."

"Hey, I figure, I bank up a bunch of favors now so I can collect on them this spring during mating season when I completely fail to claim anyone and become a giant social liability."

"Whether you claim or not, you won't be able to get rid of me."

"Right back atcha," Stiles said, smiling a little. "Not that you'll need it. She's hot."

"Yeah," Scott said, smiling.

"I won't even get on your case for taking her to a movie we were going to."

"Oh, dude!" Scott turned to him. "I'm sorry."

Stiles shrugged. "Derek's only been talking about it for a month, no biggie. I can go stag. You know, get used to it. Unclaimed omega hanging out with all the betas." Stiles glanced at him. "Which, I mean, if they're all like you it should be really cool! That's what Derek does and he seems happy. Well, for Derek."

Scott smiled and tried to look reassuring. It was tricky, and not just because Scott was a beta and Stiles an omega so mating was different for them. There were a few people who knew that Stiles and Derek had imprinted and that Derek was just hanging out in Brooklyn waiting for Stiles's mating year—Scott, Mom, Stiles's dad. Unfortunately, Stiles wasn't one of them, which meant he had no idea how often he talked about Derek.

It was a lot.

Aloud Scott said, "I guess I should thank him, since she came up to me because of this book he told me about. Well, you told me about, from him, whatever."

Stiles nodded. "He'd appreciate that. And hey, if she's going to be friends with Lydia? Maybe the next time a beta movie comes, you know, she'll want to go, support her friend, be an ally and stuff, and we can all go together?"

"Seriously, you're going to use being a beta ally to get closer to Lydia?" Scott asked.

"Not cool?" Stiles asked.

Scott sighed. "Let's just go?" He walked away in the direction of the jeep.

"Okay. But like, we could maybe read books together? Talk about statusism? I could recommend some blogs? No?"

They didn't talk about the book—at least, not for a while. Scott and Allison got in the habit of hanging out together after school until her father came to pick her up, sitting on the steps chatting like they did that first time. After a few days Allison introduced them, and her dad was straight-up intimidating, but he gave permission for Scott to take her to the movies, so Scott counted that as a win.

After the movie they hit the burger place, talking over fries and shakes. Scott and Allison had laughed in the same places, often in recognition of the ways alphas and omegas could forget about the betas in their midst. They quickly moved on to TV shows and other movies and the presence or absence of betas in their casts. Talking with another beta was a rush, or maybe it was just talking to Allison.

Stiles, true to his word, had come to the movie, but not alone; he was sitting in the corner with Erica and Isaac, a couple of omegas from school he'd been friendly with lately.

"Dad says now's the time people start sorting themselves out," Allison said, and Scott realized she'd seen him look over in Stiles's direction. "You know, pre-claiming."

"Yeah, I guess," Scott said, and wondered if he should try to make friends with other betas. Other than that summer camp Mom sent him to for a few years after Dad left, Scott hadn't spent much time talking with other betas his age. He knew the other beta kids in Beacon Hills, sure, but they'd never had enough in common other than just being betas to cement a friendship.

"It's weird, isn't it?" she asked. "This huge thing is about to happen to our friends, so huge that our school year is built around it, and we're supposed to just observe." She rolled her eyes.

Scott's eyes widened. "I know, right?" he said. "The Classroom Guide is the worst!"

"So condescending! As though we should watch alphas and omegas in order to know what we want, when for us it's totally different!"

"And they don't know what they're doing, either!" Scott said, thinking of Stiles and Derek's ridiculousness that had been going on for years now. "Why should we copy them?"

"How can we copy them? We don't go into heat or rut. We don't smell right or wrong to each other."

Scott grinned. "I don't know; you smell pretty good to me," he said, and made a show of sniffing at her neck.

Allison pushed him away, giggling, and then threw a french fry at his nose.

Before he could think he continued, "Maybe we could do something next week?"

Her face fell, and he regretted saying anything, was going to take it all back, when she spoke: "I'd like to, but my dad thinks I should be training. Olympics are in only two and a half years."

"I could help you train, maybe? Pick up arrows or something?"

She shook her head, squishing up her nose as she did.

"Or …." He tried to think; he wasn't a serious athlete himself. Not like Allison, certainly. "My mom has this salad she makes when she has an overnight shift, says it really keeps her going. It has like, seeds and sprouts and stuff in it. I could make you that?"

"Maybe," she said and took his hand. "I'll see what my parents say, okay?"

"Cool," he said, and hey, at least she was smiling again.

Allison's parents relented, deciding that if she trained all weekend and was home every other night, she could go out on Saturdays, and by October she and Scott had a standing date. Sometimes they doubled with Lydia and Jackson, which was always weird and made Scott uncomfortable. Most of the time, though, they were left to their own devices, like sitting in the Argent rec room marathoning all six seasons of CityBetas, which had been on HBO when they were too young to watch it. Seeing it now, they couldn't blame their parents too much for keeping them from it, as it was kind of racy. Scott wondered if his life would be like this, wandering around aimlessly in some city, lucky to have some good friends, hoping to find a mate, dealing with the clueless alphas and trying-to-be-helpful omegas.

Scott and Allison hadn't really talked about, like, if they were officially betafriends, though—or the book.

Then one night before Halloween they were back at the burger place—everyone turned up there sooner or later on Saturday nights anyway—only this time with Stiles and Isaac and Erica. With them was also Boyd, an alpha who'd been dating Erica on and off for a year or so. When the waitress realized they were all juniors she teased them, not unkindly, about the upcoming mating season.

"And you two," she said to Allison and Scott. "Can't imagine you won't claim each other."

"No, we're betas," Scott said.

"Oh my," the waitress said. "I never would have known."

"Oh my god," Stiles said after she left, and put his forehead down on the table. "Our lives are unfair."

"Yep," Scott said, and patted his back, inclined to be forgiving since Stiles was always a little more histrionic after Derek's annual October visit. "But you should sit up because Lydia's walking this way."

"What?" he asked, popping back up so quickly that he nearly spilled his shake.

Lydia saw none of this, or if she did, didn't seem to notice. She glanced at the others, seeming to note where Boyd sat before turning to Allison. "Can I talk to you?"

"Sure," Allison said, and shrugged at Scott before sliding out of the booth.

"Okay?" Erica said. "Was that weird, or is it just me? Does Lydia like, summon her friends now?"

Danny came up to their table next, which Scott was expecting to be awkward since Danny had dated Isaac for a while over the summer but hadn't spoken to him much since then, at least according to Stiles. But what actually happened was that Boyd suddenly perked up and stared at him, a little hostile, and Scott almost thought he heard a growl as Boyd slid a little closer to Isaac. Which Scott would have discounted except that Danny growled back. And when Scott turned to Stiles to make a joke, he saw that Stiles's eyes were unfocused and he was leaning ever so slightly toward Danny. Erica and Isaac looked a little out of it, too, but they were swooning in the direction of Boyd.

"Um," Scott said, because this was getting super weird.

Danny nodded to Scott, then said, "So, Stiles, you know Lydia's having a party next Saturday."

"Couples party, yeah, I heard about that," Stiles said. His voice sounded softer, a little strained, and when Scott turned to him he was looking up at Danny through his eyelashes and what was Scott's life now, anyway.

"You're coming with me," Danny said.

"Okay," Stiles said.

"I'll come get you at eight-thirty," Danny continued. "Don't wear anything stupid."

"Okay," Stiles said.

Danny nodded and then just walked away.

"What was that?" Scott asked.

"That was me getting asked out," Stiles said, "and I know it's basically never happened before but you don't have to sound so surprised."

"Dude, that is not—I am not surprised that you got asked out. I meant all the other stuff."

Isaac said, "What other stuff?"

Scott looked around the table and realized they actually had no idea how they had just acted. "Um, nothing," Scott said. "I was just confused, I guess."

Allison came back then, took one look at Scott, and asked, "What happened?"

"What happened was that I got asked out," Stiles said. "And if you could maybe come over before the party and help me not wear something stupid?"

Isaac grinned. "You might need to go to the mall for that," he said.

Stiles kicked him under the table.

Under the cover of the chaos that ensued, Allison leaned in close and whispered, "Seriously, what?"

"I'll tell you later," Scott whispered back.

Which he did, in Allison's car as she drove him home.

"Wow," she said. Then, "I was thinking about what you said a few weeks ago, about how they don't know what they're doing."


"Do you ever feel that way about Lydia and Jackson?"

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know, like maybe they're trying too hard?"

Scott thought about this, about if maybe that was why they made him feel so weird when the four of them hung out. "You don't think they're going to claim?" he asked.

Allison cocked her head. "Do you really think Jackson is enough to keep Lydia interested for the rest of her life?"

"Do you think anyone is?" Scott asked, because he'd had that conversation with Stiles approximately five hundred forty-two times.

"In the universe? Yes. In this town? I don't know. And Lydia doesn't show it, but she's just as worried as Stiles is about not claiming this year."

"Huh," Scott said, but not more because they were turning into his driveway and Allison really needed to make her curfew.

"So Lydia's party is basically a make-out party," Allison said. "That's what she wanted to tell me. And we're so not telling my parents that."

Scott laughed. "Well, um, goodnight," he said, leaning over for a kiss.

"You know that book we never got around to talking about?" she asked. "You should re-read chapter six."

"Okay. Text me when you get home?"

"Okay," she said, and after he got out of the car she drove away.

He stayed up late re-reading the chapter. Of course it was the part about how imprinting worked for betas and it read very differently now than it had seven weeks ago.

Then, generously on his part he thought, he waited until the morning to text her back.


I know!

DUDE. What?

Hahahaha I KNOW

What else was there to say? He looked at the checklist again, rough though it was: anxiety at being too long apart (Sundays were kind of horrible); mutual grooming (she brushed his hair with her hands almost constantly when they sat together); a need to be helpful (he was still making her that salad every week). They ticked almost all of the twelve major signs.

He was Allison's mate. And the more he said it in his head, the more true it felt.

He wondered what Mom would think.

"I can't say I'm surprised. You know you don't have to decide anything right now?"

"I know," Scott said, though he was pretty sure his mind was made up.

Mom sighed. "This isn't about Stiles, is it? And his whole thing with Derek?"

"What? No!"

"I always wished you'd had more betas around to be friends with."

"It isn't that. It's just Allison." He couldn't help smiling.

She patted his knee, but at least she smiled back. "Well, it takes a few months for the hormones to get to the testing level, so we don't have to make any decisions for a while. Or ever. It's a choice, no matter what the tests say."

"I know, Mom," Scott said, though it didn't exactly feel like a choice. It felt like destiny.

"So long as you do," she said. "By the way, I called Mrs. Martin about the party."

"Mom! Why?"

"Do you want you and Allison to be the only betas in a houseful of pre-claiming alphas and omegas?"

Scott thought of the weirdness at the burger place on Saturday, and shook his head.

"Of course you don't. But the older Martin beta—"

"Trish," Scott said.

"Trish, right, is going to be home from college, apparently, with some other beta friends of hers. So you'll have a little more time to just watch how best to handle things." She paused, smiling. "That is, if you're paying any attention at all."

He could feel his face flush. "It's just a party!"

"Mmm-hmm," she replied, her eyebrows raised. "But remember to treat Allison with respect, like you have been. Don't let those alphas sway you."

Something in the tone of her voice—a little sadness, maybe?—made Scott scowl. "When you were my age, did someone—"

"No, no," she said, "and don't worry about me. I've been at this a long while now. Just keep your eyes open, okay? And not just for Stiles's sake."

Scott nodded; the beta responsibility lecture was an old and familiar one that he'd gotten from both his parents since he was pretty young. He'd be just fine at the party, but if Mom needed reassurance, that was okay, too. "I know. I will."

"I can't believe that happened," Scott said.

"That was one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life," Allison replied.

They were quiet for a minute, sitting in the car, too shellshocked to head home quite yet. Trish had decided to break up the party a little early, before anything got too far out of hand, and Allison and Scott had helped her and her friends get the houseful of hormonal teenagers into designation-segregated carloads and on their way home.

"Four different fights!" he said.

"Five!" Allison said. "Lydia and that alpha girl Samantha from the lacrosse team got into it in the kitchen, because God forbid Lydia not be queen bee at her own party."

"Oh my god." Scott scooted down in the seat. "Wait, the one who brought Isaac? She's like a foot taller than Lydia!"

Allison shrugged. "My money would have been on Lydia. I'm so glad Trish was there."

"Can you imagine, if she hadn't taken the marshmallow sticks away from the alphas?"


"And the omegas didn't even notice! They just sat there eating s'mores like nothing was happening."

"Dad says it's really for the benefit of the other alphas," Allison said. "They're actually just as scared as the omegas about claiming, but they don't want it to show."

Scott made a face. "I'm so glad I'm a beta."

"Me too," Allison said.

He put his hand over where hers rested on the gear shift, and she turned it to grab hold of his. They smiled at each other, and Scott felt warm all over.

"Mom said not to act like they do," he said. "With you, I mean."

"Like hauling me off by the collar to make out with me on the couch?" she asked, because Danny had done that to Stiles at one point.

"I so wouldn't."

"I wouldn't, either."

"But Lydia Martin owes us a make-out party! I barely got to kiss you!"

"I'll make sure she knows that," Allison said, laughing. "But I don't have to be home for another hour."

Scott raised his eyebrows. "Mom's working the late shift."

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Allison asked, backing down the driveway and getting them to Scott's house in record time.

As Scott unlocked the door he suddenly felt very nervous. He really didn't want to be like an alpha, but he had about forty-five things in his head he'd like to do, only he and Allison had never really talked about it at all. He walked up the stairs behind her, trying to work out what to say.

"You okay?" she asked. "You're really quiet." She sat down on his bed and kicked off her boots.

Allison was sitting on his bed. He took a deep breath.

"It's just, I've never done—and I don't want to do anything you don't—and we never said—"

"Come here," Allison said, patting the bed next to her. He sat down, and she took his hand in hers. "How about I say no if I don't like something, and you say no if you don't like something, and we'll both promise to stop if we hear no?"

Scott smiled because hey, maybe it was that simple. "Okay, yeah, I totally promise."

"Me too," she said, and pulled off her top. He'd seen her in a bra before, a sports bra, one hot day when she finished practice a little late. But this bra was smaller, and he could see her dark pink nipples through the lace. He still found her muscles to be completely distracting, and ran his fingers across her flat stomach. "Your turn."

"Yeah." He pulled off his shirt, and shoes, too, and when she put her hand on his chest he kissed her. They fell back onto the bed, squirmed around until they were lying flat but never stopped kissing. He kind of didn't want to; just feeling skin to skin and their legs entwined was enough, maybe. Probably. They'd never really been alone, but now he wanted them to be alone all the time. He hooked a finger under her bra.

"I'll get it," she said, to his relief, and reached around to take it off. He let himself look at her, and when he slid a thumb across one of her nipples she gasped.

"So you like that?" he asked.

"Yeah," she replied, smiling, but then she was kissing him again. He kept his hand on her breast, feeling how her nipple hardened under his touch. He was getting so wet now, and hard, too, and she must have sensed it because her hand was between his legs now.

"Can I take these off?" she asked.

"Yes, yes," he said, and when she'd unfastened his jeans he lifted up his hips so she could slide them and his underwear down, and kicked them off his legs. He toed off his socks, too, because it looked dumb, and now he was naked.

Her hand was between his legs again, reaching behind his hardening cock. "You're so wet."

"Honestly? I'm wet a lot when I'm around you. Especially when we're kissing. I guess I just, I feel it more there."

She scowled a little, which had him worried for a second until she kissed him, hard. "That is so—" she began, then lay back and flipped her skirt up. "Oh god, help me get these things off," she said, pulling at her tights.

He complied, pulling them down her long legs and throwing them off the foot of the bed.

"This is what you do to me," she said, putting his hand between her legs. Her ovi slit was open, wet, and—that was her ovi, poking its head through. No wonder she'd wanted her tights off.

"Really?" he asked, stroking her with his fingers, and her pale pink ovi came out a little more, sliding into his palm. He couldn't decide if he'd rather look at what he was doing, or at her face to see the effect. "We should um, I mean, I don't want to get anything on your skirt?"

She nodded and unfastened the waist, and he helped her pull it up over her head. Now they were both naked and his sheets were already kinda dirty, whatever; he'd wash them later.

He leaned in closer then, supporting himself with his other hand. Her ovi was all the way out and squirming in his palm. "Do you want me to get you off?" he asked.

"Yes," she whispered in his ear. "And let me—"

"You first," he said, because he didn't want to be distracted for this. Her ovi was heavy, slick with its own wetness, and seemed to know what it wanted the way that it nuzzled into his palm and curved around his fingers. So he decided to trust his sense of touch and keep his eyes on her face, watching her expression every few seconds. She would gasp and bite her lip, and grab hold of his bicep like she was going to float away if she didn't. Her skin was flushed and covered in sweat, her muscles clenching and releasing, and he would probably never be able to watch her practice or work out again without getting super turned on. Her hips were thrusting and he imagined them thrusting against him, fucking him with the ovi in his hands, and if he thought he was wet before it was nothing like now.

She opened her eyes and looked up at him. "Oh god, I'm going to—"

"Do it," he said. "I want you to. You're so beautiful, Allison."

"Scott!" she shouted, and her ovi pulsed and squirted onto his hand and her leg and stomach.

"Wow," he said.

She laughed, though she was still a little breathless, and pulled herself up to kiss him. "You now," she said, thrusting her fingers into his cloaca and then wrapping them around his cock. "Not so different," she said, stroking him, and he found himself thrusting into her the way she had into him. It was maybe seconds before he came, whimpering, but she was grinning so he figured there was nothing to worry about.

Scott rolled over to grab some tissues and his phone. Seeing it, Allison said, "Oh my god, I should probably get going."

"Nah," he said, showing her the time. "That took like, fifteen minutes."

She giggled. "Fast."

"Uh, teenager!"

"Maybe that's why, so we can get it done before curfew," she said, laughing more.

They cleaned each other up, cool because he could touch her some more, and after setting an alarm on his phone (which, thinking about it, they probably should have done before) they lay down and cuddled.

After a bit Allison said, "We can get tested after Christmas."

Scott turned to her, surprised, because they hadn't really talked about it since they realized what was happening. He kind of liked that about Allison, that they only talked when they needed to and she gave him room to think. "Yeah, I know."

"Do you want to?"

"Yes," Scott said. "Do you? Can you? What would your parents say?"

"We're in our claiming year. They can't stop me." She bit her lip. "I think it would make them feel better about it, actually. If we've imprinted."


"But if we haven't—"

"We have," Scott said.

"But Scott—"


She sat up, her hands on his chest. "Okay?"

"Sorry," he said, sighing. "It's just—we have. Can't you feel it?"

"Of course I can. I also want to be ready for whatever happens." She glanced away. "I don't like being surprised."

Scott stared up at the ceiling, one hand still around Allison, stroking her back. Mom had said that imprinting didn't make things easier, just made you want to work harder, and he did want to do whatever it took to make Allison relax and have faith. But maybe faith just wasn't going to be enough for her. He took a deep breath.

"Okay, so if we haven't, that doesn't change much. We're betas."

"Dad's a little worried about how serious we've gotten."

"If we haven't imprinted it won't be hard to take a break."

"I really don't want to take a break" Allison grimaced at the thought.

"I don't either," Scott said.

They looked at each other. "Because we've imprinted," they said, in unison, and then laughed.

"All right, fine, you've made your point," she said.

"So did you, though," he replied. "If we haven't, then we'll be able to ease up. If we have, we won't have to. Whatever happens, we'll be okay."

Allison looked at him for what seemed like a long time, then nodded. "We'll be okay." She lay back down next to him, and even if she was just trying to convince herself, that was enough for now.

In early November Principal Donaldson called the betas in Scott's class—all ten of them—into his office for a meeting where he said a bunch of stuff about their ancient and noble role in making the claiming process safe for everyone, all the usual stuff that made Scott feel itchy and condescended to when he heard it from anyone who wasn't a beta. The principal was an alpha on the traditional side, so the meeting was about as bad as it got.

"Of course the faculty will do everything in their power and be on the highest alert," he said, "but you will all need to do your part, to warn them of any trouble. It's purely natural behavior of course; none of your friends will be punished. But we don't want any mishaps, now, do we?"

Then he handed them some booklets: How to Protect Your Omega Friends and How to Contain Your Alpha Friends, both obviously from the same company that published the terrible Classroom Guide.

"You'll also be planning the afterclaim ceremony, and your advisor, Ms. Blake, will be in touch with you soon to begin that process. Just our way to keep you betas a little more invested in mating season. I'm pleased that here at our school you betas haven't segregated yourselves, and we hope to see that continue even after your friends are in their mate-pairs."

Scott raised his hand. "What about beta mating?" he asked.

Donaldson chuckled. "Plenty of time for that when you've got a bit larger pool to draw from, don't you think? Let's focus on one thing at a time."

"But what if a beta pair imprinted?" Scott continued. "Would they be able to—"

"Mr. McCall, claiming is for alphas and omegas only," he said. "You'll have your equivalent week off after the dance at the end of claiming. Until then, you will do nothing to take away from the solemnity of the occasion."

Scott scowled. "But since beta imprinting is recognized by the state now—"

"Then we will cross that bridge when we come to it, which I very much doubt will be this year, or among our juniors. Perhaps you'd care to reread Kurtz and reframe your question in detention this afternoon?"

"No sir," Scott said, sighing.

"Good, then, if there are no other questions?"

Of course there weren't, and he dismissed them with a wave of his hand. Scott expected to just slink down the hallway with Allison, but as soon as the door to the office shut behind them he was being poked in the chest.

"If you're planning something, I want in on it," said Matt, who was kind of a weird loner kid who always had a camera, destined to be editor of the yearbook or something.

"Is Donaldson always liked that?" asked Kira, a new girl at school like Allison.

"Um," Scott said.

Greenberg, one of Scott's lacrosse teammates, stepped forward. "If we're gonna talk beta shit, we should probably not be doing it outside the main office."

"He's right," Allison said, making eye contact with Scott, who nodded.

"Come on, I know a place," Caitlin said, and of course she did, because she hung out with all the kids who never seemed to go to class.

She led them to the media room at the library, which was just big enough for all of them and conveniently sound-proofed so people could do multimedia research. Scott expected the conversation to pick back up but everyone just sat there and stared at him. Allison jostled him with her arm, and nodded.

He cleared his throat. "I wasn't planning anything?" he said. "But since the afterclaim ceremony is ours, we could maybe think about ways to make it less annoying? And talk about that next week?"

"Ways like what?" Kira asked.

"Well," Scott began, "like, there's always some students that don't go into heat or rut and so don't claim, and they're pretty much left out of the whole thing. Which isn't cool, because they're people too, never mind that they've just already imprinted on someone who isn't of age yet or whatever. So I'd like to find a way to include them in the afterclaim without making them feel even weirder."

Caitlin cocked her head. "You mean Derek Hale?"

"The ones in our class, though," Scott said, because he had no time for any sort of "Derekster" nonsense. "And then, I don't know, whatever we want to do for ourselves."

"Like, make it not just about them?" Matt asked. "Can we really do that?"

"Why not?" Allison said, smiling. "Donaldson just said we could."

"So think about it," Scott said, "and maybe we can talk about it more later?"

They all nodded, but they were also still staring at him.

"Yeah, so. I guess, with claiming? It's not like we've all been hanging out with each other, so maybe we should work out if we have everyone covered across our class. Like, if enough of us are friends with the omegas or the alphas to keep an eye on them? And then we can split up the rest."

The conversation turned practical after that, which was a lot easier on Scott. Greenberg drew up a chart of the various cliques at Beacon Hills High—not that it could be too cliquey since it wasn't that big of a school to begin with—and it looked like with a little effort they'd be able to watch all the alphas and omegas. That was a relief, because Scott had absolutely no intention of letting Stiles out of his sight until Derek showed up.

As they packed up to go, Kira asked, "So, is the principal always like that?"

"Pretty much," Matt replied.

"The teachers are cooler, especially if they're betas," Caitlin said. "Ms. Blake doesn't have the best boundaries, but at least she gives a shit."

"Coach is pretty great, too," Greenberg added.

Allison gave Scott a ride home, and as they drove he said, "The other betas seem cool."

"They do. I think we'll be fine, right?"

"I hope so. I don't know why they were all looking at me!"

"Because you were the only one who talked back to Donaldson!"

"And that makes me their leader or something?"


"That's kind of a dumb reason."

"Why? I thought you did pretty well."


"Absolutely," she said, nodding.

"Huh." Scott sat back in his seat and smiled. "Cool."

Scott had expected the weird behavior of the alphas and omegas to get steadily worse until the spring, but luckily that wasn't what happened. Lydia's party was the last social event, Scott suspected because all their parents were trying to avoid any incidents. There were no holiday parties, not even a school dance, and anywhere else they went there were enough other people around to keep things calm.

And since Stiles was dating Danny, mostly they went dancing. If Scott had thought it was awkward going on double dates with Lydia and Jackson, who probably weren't claiming, it was ten times worse going on triple dates with them and Stiles and Danny, who definitely weren't claiming. At least Scott didn't need to keep a careful eye on Stiles, not because Danny was chill but because a group of drag queens at the club had all but adopted Stiles. While the alphas among them were happily playing with gender, they were firm on their designation, and easily rebuffed any of Danny's growly reactions to their taking Stiles away from him on occasion.

The odder thing was that Danny only got all alpha over Stiles when Jackson or Lydia was present; otherwise he'd just let Stiles do whatever. Scott was fairly sure that if Stiles were in his right mind—that is, not hopped up on hormones—he wouldn't have put up with any of this nonsense. But then, that was precisely why Scott wasn't inclined to let Stiles wander off on his own.

"I think it's Jackson and Danny," Scott said to Allison, one day before their weekly beta meet-up.

Allison cocked her head, and he could see her thinking about all that had been going on over the past few weeks. "Wow, I think you're right." She shook her head. "Oh Lydia."

"I know it's a whole thing, that betas can see clearly when alphas and omegas can't," Scott said, "but seriously: how can they not know?"

"It's a myth," Kira said as she walked into the room.

Allison and Scott both looked up.

"I read about it at my old school," she continued. "I can't remember all the details, but it's called selective vision and it's not actually true. Like, all the stuff around claiming, all the movies and cultural assumptions and peer pressure and stuff? That's what confuses them, not the hormones."

Scott squinted, thinking. "So it's actually the opposite? Like, their brains get ahead of their hormones?"

"Hormones are never wrong," Allison said, "but it's really hard to trust them." She looked at Scott, and he was pretty sure she wasn't talking about Lydia now.

"People second guess what their hormones are telling them all the time," Kira said. "It isn't until they just take over that most people get it."

Allison nodded. "Well, thanks, Kira. I think you've just given me my mating paper topic."

"Cool. Glad to help. I think I'm doing mine on the position of betas in rural communities. It's so different here than it was in the city."

"You should totally talk to my mom," Scott said. "She's pretty much always lived in small towns."

"I will, thanks! What are you doing yours on, Scott?"

"The maternal instincts of betas, and how it's treated by society and how it's different than omegas. Like, I've known I wanted to be the one who carried the baby since I was pretty small? But I learned not to really tell people. Alphas obviously, and other betas are weird sometimes, but omegas can be kind of jerks about it, too, even though they don't mean to be? Like, that's their role and betas shouldn't be messing with it."

"Omegas can be more than that nowadays," Allison said, "or Jackson wouldn't be talking to the Sheriff for his paper."

"I hate it when people say 'pregnant omega' instead of 'pregnant person,'" Kira said. "Like, hello, people other than omegas can carry a child."

"Or all that 'who's the alpha' stuff," Allison said.

Kira scrunched up her nose, and in a softer voice, said, "Matt says that kind of thing, especially about you two."

"He has a lot of internalized alphanormativity to work through," Allison said, rolling her eyes.

The others arrived, including Matt, so Scott changed the subject. "Yeah, so this is our last meet-up before the holiday break. From everything we've found and shared, it looks like any chaos is going to stay at this level until someone goes into heat in March. So, I don't know if you want to keep meeting when we get back from break—"

"I'd like to," Greenberg said, and when he saw everyone turn to look at him, he blushed. "I guess, like, it's been cool to read all this stuff we've been finding? My parents aren't betas so I didn't really know most of it."

"Not like they'd teach us anything like it at this school," Matt said. "But yeah. I'm in."

Scott looked at him, surprised, because Matt had never said anything enthusiastic or even particularly helpful at any previous meeting. The others were nodding, too. "Okay. Since spring semester is all independent study we can probably start meeting during the school day."

"I'll ask Ms. Blake about it," Kira said.

"Cool, thanks. Then I guess, I'll email everyone in January."

As they left, Emily, a quiet girl who had started dating Caitlin, stopped Scott. "I'm glad we're going to keep meeting. It's nice to have a place that's just for us, you know?"

Scott thought about how they'd started, how it was all about the alphas and omegas and claiming, and now, it really wasn't. "Yeah, it is nice, isn't it?"

"It's just a week," Allison said.

"I know, but we can't even talk," Scott replied.

They were standing in her driveway, less hugging than clinging and leaning on each other. The night before, after the last day of the fall semester, they'd been at the hospital to set their hormonal baselines for their imprint testing. Allison and Scott held hands as they went from room to room, test to test, smiling when the technicians commented on how young they were and how much they seemed like a newly claimed alpha-omega pair, because they did mean it as a compliment even if it was sort of ... frustrating. Now they had to endure a week with no contact, after which they'd have another round of tests separately. Then they would spend three days not leaving each other's physical presence, followed by a final round of tests.

Allison said, "It's for the greater good. And just think about those three days at my house. My dad won't even be able to say anything."

"True," Scott said, tucking his nose into her neck to breathe her in and hoping he'd remember how she smelled. Then he pushed back. "Okay. Have a good Christmas in France."

She pursed her lips. "I probably won't, but my relatives are mostly betas so hopefully they'll understand."

"Hey, it's for the greater good!"

"Shut up!" she said, and punched him lightly in the shoulder. "Try not to kill Stiles. I'll call you as soon as we're back."

"And we'll have an awesome New Year."

"Definitely," she said, pulling him back in for a last kiss.

Scott felt a little dizzy as he walked over to his bike, though that was the kiss. Plenty of time for separation problems to set in over the next week. Allison came with him to the bottom of the driveway and gave him a last quick peck on the cheek, then waved until he couldn't see her anymore.

Stiles, buddy that he was, was waiting for Scott on his porch. "Hey dude," he said. "Pizza's on its way. All the meat and onions, none of the peppers."

"You're the best," Scott said, sitting down next to him.

"Nothing you wouldn't do for me," Stiles said. "Well, will do for me, probably. The stuff I've read said that keeping you fed and distracted helps. So when you get the shakes too bad to play games we'll just go to the movies." He put his arm around Scott's shoulders. "And anyway, the worse you get, the better for the tests, right?"

"I guess." Scott blew air from his mouth, trying to relax. "Just … nervous, you know? Like, I don't even know what's going to happen."

"Right there with you, bro," Stiles said. "And alphas are the same. When Derek went into rut he was kinda freaked out. I mean, for Derek, which means to the naked eye there was no discernible difference, but yeah. He got super antsy and stand-offish."

"Derek went into rut?"

"Oh, yeah, I didn't mention? Yeah, when he was here in October. Last day of his visit. So he'll claim someone our age, which is cool. Like, I'll probably be able to relate to them more and stuff like that, right?"

Scott blinked at him, because seriously: Derek went into rut in Stiles's house and he was still in denial. Well, at least this was a distraction. "Yeah, probably."

Stiles nodded. "Anyway it's also kind of cool that like, in the fall Derek went into alpha rut, and now it's winter and you're doing the beta separation, and in the spring I'll go into omega heat, all in the same house. Hopefully, anyway."

"I'm pretty sure you will," Scott said. "And then by the summer we'll all be mated."

"Sure," Stiles said, as usual refusing to actually count on any of it. "Come on, we'll get the pizza and go watch cartoons or something. First night of our awesome holiday break!"

"Yeah," Scott said. "Yeah, it's going to be awesome!"

It was not awesome.

The imprint specialist said that Scott shouldn't be alone during the separation, and since Mom had work he was staying with Stiles, the two of them sharing Stiles's room while Mom stayed in the guest room. When Mom and the sheriff and were home at the same time they had family meals around the Stilinski table. Scott wasn't used to being such a focus of attention—from Mom, sure, and from Stiles too, but rarely both at once. With the sheriff added in, it was kind of a lot.

That self-consciousness disappeared the second day when the anxiety set in, and he was glad to have all of them around. Mom said physical activity would help so he and Stiles went running in the late mornings, and hey, that kept them in shape between cross country and lacrosse so it wasn't for nothing. He either ate everything or didn't want to eat at all, and his hands started to shake a little—not so much that he couldn't use the Xbox controller, but still. It was unsettling.

Early morning Christmas Eve he woke up from some kind of weird dream about Allison fighting monsters (he was trying to get to her but she kept moving) to see Stiles at his computer, headphones on and microphone right up to his mouth, skyping with—

"Is that Derek?" Scott asked, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

Stiles startled, ripping the headphones off and turning around. "Hey! Um, did we wake you?"

"Nah, had a nightmare."

"Oh man, I'm sorry. Want me to turn the light on or something? We can watch a movie until you go back to sleep. I was almost done anyway."

"Finish up. It's cool."

"Dude, you're the priority this week." He put on the headphones again and said a few things, then turned to Scott. "Hey, you want to talk to him?"

Scott shrugged. He was feeling a little more awake and a little less creeped out, but he wouldn't mind getting out of the bed for a bit. "Sure."

Stiles unplugged the headphones and they switched places, Scott sitting in the chair and Stiles just behind him on the bed. Scott hadn't actually seen Derek since Stiles's mom died, other than the weird Facebook pictures the Dereksters had in their lockers. He definitely looked like a grown man now, with a shaggy beard and longish hair.

"Hey man," Scott said. "What's up?"

"Beta separation, huh?" Derek said, sympathetically. "Helped a friend through it last year."

"Yeah? That why Stiles has actually been helpful?" he asked, and Stiles shoved his shoulder.

"Probably," Derek said. "Um, my friend, I guess—don't try not to think about your mate. It doesn't make a difference in the tests and thinking about her will make you feel better."

"Okay, cool. I kind of can't not, anyway."

"Yeah. My friend wrote like, this long letter to his mate, since they couldn't talk? He put down everything he'd been thinking about and wanted to tell him. It made him feel better about it. I think he gave it to his mate afterward."

"Cool idea," Scott said, nodding. "Maybe I'll ask Lydia to email Allison about it?"

"Lydia Martin?"

"Yeah, she's like, Allison's best friend?" Scott sensed Stiles tensing up next to him and wasn't sure why so he decided to wrap it up. "Anyway thanks. And thanks for all the stuff you've sent like, through Stiles and stuff."

Derek shrugged. "I have a lot of beta friends who helped me out when I moved here. Guess I just wanted to pay it forward." He paused and looked away for a moment, then said, "And for, you know, taking care of Stiles."

Scott said, "Not this week!" at the same time Stiles jumped up and said, "Hey! I don't need taking care of!"

Derek chuckled, but the way he said, "Stiles," made Scott think this was an old argument. "You guys should get some sleep. I'll let you go. Talk to you tomorrow."

"Yeah, talk to you tomorrow," Stiles replied, and ended the call.

Scott swiveled around in the chair and watched Stiles tapping his fingers on his knee.

"Wanna watch something?" Stiles asked.

"Nah," Scott said. "I'm okay now. Let's just go back to bed."

Stiles put the computer to sleep and they crawled back under the covers. It was comforting having Stiles so close, warm under the covers in the slightly cold room.

But he was burning with curiosity. "So you guys talk every day?"

"Pretty much. But you know, don't worry. You're still my bro. He's just … Derek." Stiles paused, and then added, sadly, "No matter what people at school think."

And all at once, Scott realized why Stiles didn't act like he knew Derek was coming for him—those stupid Dereksters had him convinced that Derek wouldn't be satisfied with him. Scott wanted to say, "Did you see how he was looking at you just now?" but he knew it would fall on deaf ears.

Instead, he changed the subject. "Dude, you can have more than one friend. You do now anyway, like, your little omega club."

"You're like, king of the betas, dude, so whatever."

Scott laughed, though thinking about that made him think of Allison. Derek had said thinking about her was okay, so he was letting it happen, but it still hurt. Just, hurt less than trying not to think about her.

Aloud he said, "You don't have to like, wait until I'm asleep to call him, you know."

"Eh, it's fine," Stiles said, a hand on his shoulder. "Like I said, you're the important one this week."

Scott felt his breathing even out again, comforted by the physical contact. "Thanks," he said, and let his eyes close.

The sucky part was that Allison and Scott's big reunion happened in the hallway of the hospital. But he was too busy hugging her and smelling her hair to worry about it too much.

"Well," Mr. Argent said, "if anything was going to convince me these two have imprinted it was watching Allison this week."

"Had it bad?" Mom said.

"Couldn't hit the side of a barn she was shaking so much," he replied. "Scott?"

"Nearly ate the sheriff out of house and home, then ran it all off in the wildlife refuge."

"Well, we'll take him off your hands for a few days." He paused. "Maybe they'll do something other than make out?"

"I doubt it," Mom replied.

Which should have been embarrassing, listening to their parents talk about them like that? But Scott seriously didn't care.

Also they did so do more than make out. The specialist said they shouldn't have mating sex—which they hadn't yet, anyway—as it might mess up the test. And since neither of them wanted to go through the beta separation again, avoiding that was easy even if they were spending three days not leaving each other's sight. There were plenty of other ways to have fun.

Like, you know, oral.

But they also talked about the future, now that Allison was more sure theirs was going to be together.

"Are you going to go to college?" Scott asked on the second day when they were wrapped up in each other on top of Allison's bed. "Can you, and still train?"

"I want to," she said. "Maybe not full time. There are colleges with archery teams, but Dad doesn't want me to get confused by someone else's coaching." Her fingers slid through his hair and he closed his eyes—he'd forgotten how good that felt. "What about you?"

"Yeah, I wanna go, but—I guess, I'd been thinking maybe biology and go be a vet?"

"And now you're thinking about something else?"

Scott's hand rested on her waist and he stroked, feeling her warmth and solid muscle under her t-shirt. "I keep thinking about what Greenberg said, about how his parents are alpha-omega so he'd never read all the things we had? Never mind our school. And even my dad, he's a beta, but … ." Scott shook his head. "And like, if I didn't have this weird connection to the beta community in Brooklyn I wouldn't have some of this stuff either. We might not have even figured out we imprinted, never mind all the things you have to do to get tested."

"And our parents needed help," Allison said. "My grandmother had all these folk remedies for me, and your mom's a nurse."

"Betas shouldn't have to like, luck out with their parents or know someone to find this stuff for themselves. It isn't even that easy to find online, not if you don't know what you're looking for."

"Or don't know to look for it."

"Yeah, exactly. So, I know there are some colleges with beta studies programs? And after that—I just want to make it easier for other kids. Adults, too. I don't know how, but hopefully I can figure it out?"

Allison didn't say anything, just smiled at him.

"What?" Scott asked, suddenly feeling self-conscious.

"You will be so good at that, Scott."

"You think so?" he asked, smiling back.

"You already are. You keep thinking about what Greenberg said, but he was also happy for what you'd already shown him. And that's just you working on your own. Imagine what you'll be able to do with more connections and more knowledge."

"Not on my own," he said. "You've helped a lot."

"And I'll keep helping. Even more reason to win the gold, right? Olympic champion talking about beta issues in her interviews?"

"You'd do that? Your dad would let you do that?"

"He doesn't have a choice," she said, jutting out her chin.

Later, at dinner, Allison's mom asked, "So, Scott, have you given any thought at all to what you'll be doing after high school?" She looked not angry, but resigned, and Scott realized that both of Allison's parents had probably realized that yes, he and their daughter had imprinted at sixteen. Which probably wasn't what they'd had in mind for her.

"Actually," Allison said, "we were just talking about that this afternoon. Scott might get into beta activism, and I think he'd be amazing."

Her dad raised his eyebrows. "That's an interesting choice."

"Or maybe beta education?" Scott said. "Something like that, anyway."

"Then you'll want to go to college," Mrs. Argent said.

"I do, but Allison's training is more important," Scott said. "After all, I have time to go to college and meet people and all that stuff, but the Olympics are in two and a half years."

"Well," Mr. Argent said, and for once he wasn't scowling. "You've always been enthusiastic about Allison's training, but I'm still relieved to hear you say that."

Scott shrugged. "Mates support each other, right? Allison needs my support first, that's all."

Allison took his hand. "Maybe we can find a school with beta studies and archery facilities. That would be good, wouldn't it?"

Her parents looked at each other, and then they actually smiled, which Scott wasn't sure he'd ever seen. "Yes," Mrs. Argent said. "That would be very good."

Scott and Allison spent New Year's Eve out at the club, with Stiles and Danny and Lydia and Jackson as usual, but also some of their new beta friends and Boyd and Erica and Isaac and whoever else was around. Scott had been in isolation long enough, first away from Allison and then with her, and he was ready to be in a public place where he wouldn't have to be on duty. They'd gone in for the final round of tests that afternoon and either way, now it was over.

The kiss at midnight was good enough that Scott didn't even notice the confetti cannons going off all around them.

Allison drove him home. There were plans to meet up for breakfast at the diner, so it was only going to be a few hours, but it still felt weird; he hadn't slept in his own bed since the start of the holiday break.

"Oh, um, wait here," he said, and dug into his duffel bag for an envelope. If they were going to spend a night apart, then he figured she should have something to remember him by. "It's a letter I wrote you last week, during the separation? I don't know if Lydia said—"

"She did," Allison said, and reached into her bag. "I wanted to give it to you but …"

"Yeah," Scott said, taking her envelope. "Well, um, good night?" He leaned in and gave her a kiss.

"You mean, see you in a few hours," she said, and backed down the driveway.

"Text me when you get home!" he called after her.

He tore into the letter as soon as he got to his room, and quickly realized that she'd already told him all of these things. Or at least, he knew them even if she hadn't actually said them. It still made him feel better, certainly about everything that was in his letter, but also about spending this night apart from her.

And then he got to the very end of her letter and saw one thing she'd never said, and he hadn't realized until then how much he'd needed to hear it:

I can't wait for you to carry our baby. You'll be so beautiful, and so excited, and you've wanted it for so long. I'm lucky that I'll be the one to give that to you, and hold your hand, and raise our children with you—betas or omegas or alphas, it doesn't matter, because they'll be ours.

Scott decided his eyes were watering because he was so tired. Yeah, that was totally it.

Stiles and Lydia came to the hospital with Scott and Allison to get the results. They wanted support, but not from their parents. Not yet.

When the imprint specialist came into the room she saw them, huddled together, and smiled. "I've rarely seen results this definite in betas this young," she said. "I'm sorry for the testing methods. With levels like this, your beta separation week must have been very difficult."

"It's positive?" Scott asked. "We've imprinted?"

"Of course," the specialist said. "Didn't you already know that?"

Allison turned to Scott and she was grinning. "Yeah," she said. "We did."

"So now," the specialist continued, "you'll need to make some living arrangements." She handed each of them a small flat case and a prescription. "Contraception," she said. "Once a day, and try to take it at the same time every day. They'll take about a month to be fully effective so while I know it will be difficult, you should hold off just a little longer."

It seemed a little weird, talking about beta mating in front of an alpha and an omega, but hey, they were modern betas and their friends were working on being allies so whatever. Outside the room they texted their parents; they'd planned a dinner together, no matter what the results were.

"Dude, I'm so happy for you," Stiles said, giving them both a hug.

"You aren't jealous?" Scott asked.

"I can be both!" Stiles said, and while Lydia smacked him on the back of the head and scolded him, all Scott could do was laugh. Allison took his hand and kissed the back of it, smiling at him and looking like forever.

At the first beta meeting of the spring semester, Scott and Allison discussed the idea of announcing their imprinting at the afterclaim ceremony with their fellow betas.

"I know some people think it's alphanormative," Scott said.

"Why?" Kira asked.

"Because it makes beta mating like alpha-omega claiming, instead of its own thing," Matt said.

"What do you think?" Allison asked.

He shrugged. "I mean, when people enact the whole ritual, like, walking into a room and kissing each other with the hand on the cheek and getting applause? I think that's kind of weird. The ritual has nothing to do with us."

"But just announcing," Caitlin said. "That makes them take notice and respect our mating as equal to theirs. It doesn't have to be the same to be equal. Or would you rather go back to the days of not mentioning it in mixed company?"

"I didn't say that," Matt said.

"I don't know why we care about what other people are doing," Greenberg said. "If that's what they want. I wouldn't want to recreate claiming either, but if someone wants to does that really set other betas back?"

"I agree, but we don't want to do that anyway," Scott said.

"No," Allison agreed. "Just a simple announcement."

"County records?" Caitlin asked.

"Automatic after testing," Scott said. "So we're already there."

"Then technically you're the first mated pair of the year?" Emily asked.

"Well, California isn't that progressive yet," Allison said. "It's a separate record."

Matt made a noise of disgust.

"Are you going to kiss?" Kira asked.

"Oh, I think you have to kiss," Caitlin said.

"Makes some people uncomfortable to see betas kissing," Matt said. "Of course, those people can go fuck themselves."

"What if those people include Principal Donaldson?" Greenberg asked.

Scott looked at Allison. "He said it was our ceremony to plan," Scott said.

Allison smiled at him. "If it's all right with the group, it's all right with me."

Except for Advent when he was a kid, Scott had never literally counted the days until some event. Of course since the results of their test in early January he and Allison had been practically living together, spending nights at the McCall house when Mom was home, and at the Argents' when she had a late shift. And it wasn't the first time they were fooling around, of course. But their contraceptives would kick in around Valentine's Day—conveniently a Saturday—and he wanted to do it up right, which mostly meant asking Allison what she wanted.

"No big meal," she said, scrunching up her nose. "Or dressing up. Can't we just have as close to a normal day as possible? After all, I do intend to make this more than just a special occurrence." She grinned.

Scott raised his eyebrows, playfully. "You mean, betas can have sex more than once a month?" he said, and she laughed.

"We will, anyway," she said. Then she paused, head cocked, and added, "Maybe some nice underwear?"

"I can do that," he replied. "Also, Mom's going to be out that night. Not all night, but dinnertime and stuff."

"She has a date?"

"Yeah, actually."

"With the Sheriff?"

"How did you—"

"He already arranged to stay at your house during Stiles's mating week," she said. "When they were telling us, I don't know, it was like there was something else they weren't talking about."

"I guess I didn't think about it."

"Because they're beta and omega?"

"Well, I mean, my dad's a beta and Stiles's mom was an alpha, so I guess I assumed they'd stay with those designations? And all the other people she's dated since Dad left have been betas, too."

Allison shrugged. "Ancient role of betas," she said, referring to betas being able to mate with, or at least satisfy the heats and ruts of, unpaired alphas and omegas. "Can't get much more traditional than an omega whose alpha has died."

"But they're both so progressive. It's weird to think of them in those roles." He paused. "And mostly, why now? Why not before? It feels kind of like he's always been around. I don't know what changed."

"Maybe they wanted to make sure you and Stiles were okay?"

"I wouldn't have wanted her to wait for me," Scott said, feeling suddenly sad. "I'm glad she isn't anymore, at least."

"It was her choice," Allison said. "So … anything else about Saturday night?"

"Um," Scott said, and it took him a second to change gears from Mom's romantic life back to his own. "Well, actually?"


"If you wouldn't mind, I guess, um." He didn't know why he was so shy to say; probably dumb betas-should-be-alphas stuff leftover from his dad. "Topping? At least the first time? I'll totally go next, but—"

Allison put two fingers over Scott's lips. "You always pictured it that way?"

He nodded.

"Then of course I will," she said, kissing him. "The first time, anyway. I mean, we do have all day."

"No training?" he asked, kissing her again.

"Dad gave me the day off," she said, and they were talking between kisses now.

Scott sighed. "Man, Saturday is so far away."

"Well," Allison said, "we could practice now."

"Yeah, let's do that," Scott replied.

Stiles drove Scott to Macy's on Friday after school, and after Scott settled on some dark green briefs that seemed pretty junk-hugging from the picture on the package, they went over to the omega section to get some for Stiles's own upcoming mating day. Good thing, because when they went to the register there were Allison and Lydia; they must have just missed them in the beta section.

Scott quickly put the box behind his back. "Hey," he said.

Allison turned to stand in front of the register and hide her own box, but Scott wasn't even looking. He wanted it to be a surprise, too. "Hey," she said. "Hey, Stiles. You got something?"

"Yeah, you know, just, thinking ahead?" He held up the box. "Black seemed like the best."

"They look very nice," Allison said.

"Lydia?" Stiles asked.

Lydia shrugged, her arms crossed. "Classic, I suppose."

"Cool. Guess you aren't getting anything?"

Scott turned to him because, seriously?

Lydia tapped her foot. "I thought I'd wait until a little closer to the date," she said.

Allison grabbed her receipt and the bag. "Well, guess we should be going. See you at dinner?"

"Yep, yep, definitely," Scott said, and they kissed before she and Lydia walked away.

Scott put his box on the counter and the clerk looked at it and said, "Aren't you betas a little young, to be so serious?"

He hadn't heard that one, but then, the clerk had just rung up Allison's beta briefs and now his, so there was no mistaking it. "We're imprinted, actually," he said, swiping his card. He looked back at her. "Is that a problem?"

"Didn't know it could happen. Never seen it, myself."

"Well, now you have," Scott said. "Stiles, I'll meet you in the food court?"

"Yeah, man, it's cool," Stiles said.

Scott was about halfway through his angry slurping of a strawberry Julius when Stiles appeared. "What took so long?" Scott asked.

Stiles handed him a Macy's gift card. "Twenty bucks and an apology from the manager of the intimates section," he said, then pointed to Scott's cup. "I'm getting an orange one and we'll hit the road?"

"Sure. Thanks?"

Stiles shrugged. "Least they could do. She was an asshole."

Scott didn't even have the heart to tease Stiles about the whole Lydia thing on the way home. He'd forgotten, in all this lead-up to mating season, how often Stiles had stood up for him in the past, too.

They were quiet for a while in the car and then Stiles said, "So, your mom and my dad. Kinda unexpected?"

"Yeah. But good, right?"

"Definitely, sure. I mean, my mom isn't and your dad shouldn't and," he paused. "I guess, it's good, they don't have to be alone. Being alone's a drag."

Scott nodded, looking out the window.

"Big day for you tomorrow, too," Stiles said as they pulled into Scott's driveway.


"You get one week to be obnoxious," Stiles said. "After that I'll stop talking to you until I claim. Well, if I claim."

"Dude, you had your pre-heat. You're totally claiming." Scott pulled his backpack out of the backseat.

"Whatever," Stiles said. "Go get 'em. I'd say call me but I kinda really don't want you to."

Scott shut the jeep door behind him, laughing. "You're an asshole," he said.

"You love me," Stiles replied, grinning as he pulled away.

Despite their attempts, Saturday wasn't just like any other day. Scott's mom was working the day shift, so she'd be home around four to change for her date with the Sheriff. Scott left the Argents after breakfast, riding home on his motorcycle so he could take a shower and clean his room, including new sheets on the bed. He thought about the candles that Allison liked, but she'd said she didn't want anything special.

Allison arrived about an hour later, and she was freshly showered, too. Her hair was super wavy, which thanks to getting up every morning with her for the last six weeks Scott now knew was what happened when she was impatient with the hair dryer. He liked it better that way anyway.

"Hey," she said, putting her stuff down in the corner.

"Hey," he said, moving to get up from the bed.

"No," she said, walking to him. "Why don't you just stay there?"

"Yeah, why don't I," he said, watching her.

She pulled her shirt off over her head and she wasn't wearing a bra.

"Wow," he said, because it wasn't like he hadn't seen it before but, still. And there was just something about her, the way she was walking toward him, deliberately, that was totally different. He was getting wetter just watching her.

"Aren't you going to take off yours?" she asked, her hands resting on the waistband of her jeans.

"Um, definitely," he said, pulling off his own t-shirt and kicking off his jeans and socks because why wait.

"Nice choice," she said, eyeing his briefs.

"Glad you like them," he said.

She moved her hand to the front of her jeans and—holy shit, her ovi was out, he could see the bulge of it.

Her mouth curled up, not a smile exactly. "Are you ready for me?" she asked. "Because I'm ready for you."

He spread his legs so she could see the growing wet spot on his briefs. "Been thinking about it. Guess you have too."

She nodded and undid her jeans, revealing deep blue lacy beta panties that were straining to contain her ovi.

"Come here," he said. "I wanna take those off myself."

Allison straddled him on the bed, kissing him. "Go right ahead," she whispered.

He palmed her ovi through them, first, though, because it was out and getting stiffer all for him. Allison was going to be fucking him with it in a minute and the thought of that gave him the jitters in the best way. He still managed to get them down off her hips so her pale pink ovi could spring free. She did a little push up above him so he could slide them down her legs.

He loved how strong she was. He'd spent hours touching every single muscle on her body. He thought of what that meant when she would be fucking him and got a little distracted; when he was paying attention again she was pulling his briefs off.

Her fingers slid into his wetness. "Is it okay if I just—"

"Please." He sounded kind of desperate, but he didn't care—he was desperate for her, and she might as well know.

"Okay," she said, and her voice had a little quaver in it, too. She helped him spread his legs out around her, then she was guiding her ovi, which was floating around like it knew where it wanted to be.

"Oh my god," Scott said, feeling her enter him.

"You okay?" she asked, pausing.

"More than okay," he said. "Keep going."

She nodded.

He had been a little worried if it would go as the books said it would—specifically, the All New Designation-Neutral Joy of Sex that his mother had given him when he was twelve, that said that all the bits fit into the slots. He was going to give that book to his kids now, because it was true. She fit, and he felt so stuffed full, and it was everything.

Well, almost. He wrapped his hand around his cock.

Allison glanced down. "You want me to—"

"No, just fuck me," he said. "I want to come while you're inside me."

She bit her lip, and then she kissed him, hard. "Okay," she said, and then she was pulling back and pushing in, putting her muscles to work like he'd hoped. "You should—you're so tight, Scott, I can't last long."

"Good," he said, and he was panting even though he didn't feel like he was doing anything except letting her inside him. And really, he'd been doing that since he met her. "Because you feel so fucking good."

"I am going to fuck you so much." She was working him now, fucking him fast and hard, shaking the bed with her thrusts. "And someday, someday I'm going to—"

She stopped talking, but he knew what she was going to say, and he didn't care if it was a cliche and maybe statusist because he wanted to hear it, because the thought of it made something inside him clench in the best way. His hand sped up. "Say it. Fucking say it."

Allison looked him in the eyes, and she was so gorgeous above him, wavy hair like a curtain cutting them off from the rest of the world. "Breed you," she said at last. "Gonna fucking breed you someday."

He came then, spurting all over his hand and muscles tightening around her. He opened his eyes and she was coming, too—at least her expression was the same, even if everything else was different and new. He couldn't feel it, because it was all so wet, but she was coming inside him, and fuck he wanted that.

She collapsed on top of him, breathless, her face buried in his neck. He put his arms around her, and after a bit his legs, too, stroking and soothing her. In a little bit she turned, laying her head on his shoulder.

"You have to do that next," she said, "because you absolutely have to feel what that is like."

He grinned. "So do you."

She was right, and so was he—it was just as amazing the other way around.

"I'm so glad we're betas," Allison said when they were done. Scott could only nod in agreement.

They showered, and then Mom came home and got ready for her date, which meant Scott got to dress and sit in the living room and give the Sheriff the eye, sort of.

"I promise I'll get her home by curfew," he said, and Mom giggled.

"Just have a nice time," Scott said.

"Oh, and I suppose congratulations are in order," the Sheriff said.

"Um," Scott said, but Allison nodded and said "Thank you."

"Good night, you two," Mom said as she walked out the door. "Promise I'll make plenty of noise when I get home."

"Melissa, they're not going to hear you," the Sheriff said, shaking his head and shutting the door behind him.

"Oh my god," Scott said, his face in his hands.

"What's there to be embarrassed about?" Allison asked. "Everyone knows what alphas and omegas are doing after they claim, and that's for a whole week!"

"I suppose," he replied. Stupid leftover cultural statusist bullshit.

She put her hands flat against his chest. "Why don't we run out and pick up a pizza," she said, "and after that we can go up to your room and do it all over again?"

"Both ways?"

"Definitely. But no onions on the pizza." She scrunched up her nose.

"I can live with that," Scott said.

Caitlin was right—Ms. Blake had no sense of boundaries at all. They met during her free period on Wednesdays, because she was their advisor for the mating paper, but what she mostly wanted to discuss was who was claiming. She even openly wondered if this was the season Derek would return, which made Scott feel sort of sick, especially since Ms. Blake always just happened to have some bit of confiscated Derekster paraphernalia on her desk. Just because claiming was public didn't mean they wanted to discuss their friends with an over-invested teacher.

So, after some emailing among the group, they all just pretended not to be sure, and kept the focus of discussion on their mating papers. That part was actually really cool since Ms. Blake had even more access to resources than Derek did. Plus she was encouraging of their very beta-centric papers; Scott wondered if one of the other teachers might have guided them toward something that was more about alpha-omega claiming.

Ms. Blake also helped Scott research beta studies programs, because now that he saw what was out there, he was actually starting to get excited about college. He'd even decided to do all three independent studies on beta topics, which took some doing to convince his advisors of, but since it wasn't actually against the rules, they had to allow it.

Near the beginning of March, Ms. Blake handed out a sheet of paper. "This is the list of the alphas who haven't gone into rut and the omegas who haven't had their pre-heat," she said, "so they won't be in the mix this year."

"Is that something we should have?" Kira asked.

Ms. Blake shrugged. "You might be able to get them to help you keep order once things get going. They'll be a little less hormonal than the others."

Scott couldn't help but look down. There were eleven names on the list—no one he was friends with, but one was Samantha, that lacrosse player who'd dated Isaac for a while. He could understand the practicalities of it all, but then he thought of Derek and wondered if Kira wasn't right.

"It just seems ... private," Scott said.

"Your problem is that you're all thinking like betas," Ms. Blake said, shaking her head. "Our mating traditionally had to be secret, so we think of mating as private. But claiming is public."

Caitlin shrugged. "Doesn't bother me," he said. "We'll probably need help when people start not lining up the way they think they're going to."

Ms. Blake raised an eyebrow and smiled. "So you're starting to have a sense of that?" she asked.

"Um," Caitlin said, blinking.

Quickly Emily said, "No, but doesn't it always happen?"

"I suppose it does," Ms. Blake said, and scowled.

After that close call, Greenberg started a chart on Google Drive of all of the students available for claiming that season. They pulled it up on the screen in their library meeting room after school.

"The weird thing is that the numbers aren't even," he said.

"Not everyone claims in their own school," Scott said, because he knew at least one reason why and he still felt uncomfortable saying anything about it, even to his fellow betas. But at least now they had a place to record their suspicions away from Ms. Blake's prying, and so they did, including Jackson and Danny. The rest of their friends, Scott still wasn't sure about.

That was, until a few days after mating season started, when Jackson and Danny claimed. Lydia had walked right up to the edge of the circle, but when Danny claimed Jackson she turned and left the cafeteria.

Stiles and Erica jumped up to go after her, and Scott moved to follow them, but Allison held him back. "Wait a minute," she said. "I think something's going on."

Scott waited until they were out in the hall, and he could just see Stiles and Erica following Lydia into the bathroom. "Yeah, something like Stiles letting Lydia confuse him."

"Not that," Allison said. Scott hadn't yet explained to her why he was so sure that Lydia wouldn't be claiming Stiles, but since she agreed he hadn't had to. "Remember at Lydia's party, when she got in that fight with Samantha?"


"They were fighting over Erica. Who of course completely didn't notice, just ate the s'more Samantha had made for her."

"That's what started the fight?" he asked. "Wait—where was Boyd? Or Isaac?"

"Boyd and Isaac were just sitting in the corner," Allison said, slowly, and her eyes widened.

"Man," Scott said. "Boyd and Isaac?"

"This is going to be messy," Allison said, shaking her head. "Well, I should go get Lydia."

Scott stayed behind to make sure Stiles was okay, which he was, for him, which meant the same level of anxiety he'd had since mating season had started. And now that Allison had said something about it, Boyd was awfully solicitous of Isaac in a way he wasn't, exactly, with Erica—who'd jumped up to take care of Lydia. It was like dominoes falling.

Less than a week later, Boyd and Isaac claimed, and Lydia made Stiles take her, Allison, and a disappointed Erica to the mall. Scott met up with them at Lydia's place later—or really, in the driveway, where he was bringing Allison her car.

"Lydia just helped Erica give herself a makeover," Allison said. "And then Erica scolded Lydia for ordering Stiles around and Lydia actually listened to her."

Scott raised his eyebrows. "They are so claiming."

"How's Stiles going to react?"

"I don't know," Scott replied, mostly because he was still hoping that Stiles would claim before that. Seriously, where was Derek?

"Hey dude," Stiles said, popping his head around the car, and his face was covered in glittery makeup. "Ready for some Lego Star Wars?"

"Wow, Stiles," he said. "Lydia make you do that?"

"Nope!" he said, cheerfully, and swung himself into the jeep.

Scott turned back to Allison, who shook her head, wide-eyed. "Maybe he'll be okay?" she asked.

"I hope so," Scott replied.

Over the next six weeks Scott and Allison focused on helping their other beta friends with their alpha and omega pals, as Erica and Stiles didn't seem to be going into heat any time soon. Greenberg's chart was filling up, and it was a relief to know that claiming drama was breaking out all over. Lunchtime was very tense and hormonal, with several confused and disappointed alphas and omegas needing the comfort of their friends.

Then in late April Derek was spotted in town and all hell broke loose, because what no one had anticipated was that the Dereksters, even the ones who weren't junior omegas, would lose their collective shit. Scott tried to keep the chaos from Stiles as much as possible, tried to keep them away from him. Danny brought up Derek at lunch, though, and Allison knew a ton less than Scott had thought. But he was focused on Stiles, who shrank down smaller and smaller in his seat while Erica told the whole story of how Derek's family died in a fire, and then he moved away before claiming, but the rumor was that he'd imprinted on someone in town and was waiting for them to hit maturity. And of course, Allison totally figured it out.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she said, cornering him as soon as they walked out of the caf after lunch. "We're imprinted! We're mates!"

"It just—it's such a weird situation! I don't know!" He shook his head, because he wasn't sure he could explain it.

"I told you about Lydia! Why couldn't you tell me about Stiles? Is this going to be a thing? Is Stiles a special case?"

"No? I don't know? Maybe?" He sighed. "I'm sorry."

The bell rang then, the seniors and underclassmen who were still in regular classes flooding into the hall. Stiles's locker wasn't far from the caf and he was putting some things into it when a group of sophomore Dereksters crowded around him.

"Oh my god, you're the one who knows him, right?" one of them asked.

"Knows who?" Stiles said, his jaw jutted forward and his mouth in a firm line.

"Derek Hale, of course!"

"He's back in Beacon Hills!"

"He's totally going to claim someone this year!"

"Do you know who?"

"Do you know who?"

Stiles sighed. "No, I don't know," he said, looking suddenly defiant. "But I'm sure it isn't any of you!"

Not that they weren't paying attention. "Oh my god, do you think it's that Erica Reyes?"

"Maybe she knows he's coming and that's why she started dressing like a slut?"

Stiles slammed his locker door. "Don't call her a slut!"

"Sorry," the omega said, holding up her hands but not sounding sorry at all. "What, are you going to claim her? Aren't you both omegas?"

"It happens!" Stiles said.

Scott went over then, because while Stiles could handle himself, this was ridiculous. "All right, get to class, all of you, and leave him alone."

"Ugh, bossy betas, no thank you," said another, and found himself pinned to the locker next to Stiles's by Allison.

"Stop making trouble and go to class," Allison said. "What Derek Hale does or doesn't do is none of your business."

"Fine," the omega said, rolling his eyes. "Stilinski's always useless anyway, whatever."

The crowd moved into the cafeteria for their lunch period, and Stiles just shook his head.

"Thanks," he said.

"That's what we're here for," Allison said.

"Not really, but thanks anyway." He sighed and picked up his backpack. "I think I'm going to go to the library; Erica said she'd be there. Can you believe they said that about her? Dereksters are the worst. Fucking internalized omegaphobia." He turned and walked down the hall.

Allison turned to Scott. "So that's why you didn't tell me," she said.

"Yeah," Scott said, relieved that she just understood. "But, I'm sorry."

"It's okay. Just don't do it again. Whatever weird stuff happens, we'll handle it together."

He nodded.

"Because when Derek does show up?" she said, shaking her head. "It's going to be a circus."

When Stiles texted Scott the next day to say he was in heat, Scott was determined not to let Stiles out of his sight because of those fucking Dereksters. But Stiles was hiding out under the bleachers, and it took a little while to convince him to let Scott join him and his omega pals. Scott kind of understood—he'd definitely shifted into serious protector mode—but still.

Derek arrived at noon, but the Dereksters freaked him out so much that instead of coming into the caf, he stayed outside by his car and made Stiles go to him. Which enraged Stiles, but then Derek did some other shit to make up for it like growling at Lydia and yelling at the Dereksters to applaud his claim of Stiles, so it kind of evened out.

Lydia was, of course, pissed. Erica found her reaction hilarious.

"I am so glad that's over," Scott said.

Allison rubbed his shoulders. "Now we just have to wait for my best friend to get her head out of her ass."

Erica went into heat about two weeks later. Lydia claimed her, and the whole thing was actually a lot sweeter than Scott was expecting. Erica brought out a gentleness in Lydia that Scott had never seen before, and certainly she hadn't shown it since mating season began.

The last omega went into heat a few days after that, and just like that, it was over.

Double dating with the newly claimed couples was infinitely better than it had been before claiming. The alphas weren't growling at each other anymore, the omegas weren't swooning, and everyone seemed to have calmed down. Derek hung back and slowly worked his way into the group, apologizing to Lydia for calling her out and laughing when Erica would tease him mercilessly. Lydia helped Scott keep the disappointed Dereksters away from Stiles and, along with Derek, came up with the idea to force Stiles to buy some clothes that actually fit him so they'd treat him with more respect. (It was superficial, but then, so were the Dereksters.) Derek even offered advice for the afterclaim ceremony, especially how to handle the alphas and omegas in their year who'd failed to claim, for which Derek said the better term was "off-sync."

One day Allison brought a book to their lunch table about "role discomfort" that she'd found while she was researching her mating paper, now that everyone might be more open to it.

"Oh, yeah," Stiles said, nodding. When he realized they were all looking at him he glanced around, seeing it was just Scott, Allison, Lydia and Erica at the table, and whispered, "Derek."

Lydia picked up the book. "But how is this different than being transdesignation?" she asked.

"Derek's an alpha," Stiles replied. "He's comfortable in his designation. The role stuff is like, society? He gets anxious when other people expect him to act a certain way."

"But you don't like it, either," Erica pointed out.

"Yeah, but an omega who doesn't want to act like an omega is modern and progressive, like my dad. An alpha who doesn't want to act like an alpha gets shoved into lockers, like Derek. Or my mom, apparently. Thank you, omegaphobia!"

"According to this book, sometimes it goes the other way, too," Allison said. "Sometimes people take the expected role further because they have discomfort and they don't want anyone to know."

"Huh," Lydia said, picking up the book and looking at Erica. "Well, I'll read it and see if there's anything in here that reminds me of you, sweetie," she said, and slipped the book into her bag.

"Thank you," Erica said, with more sincerity than usual, and kissed Lydia on the temple.

But Scott was pretty sure that everyone at the table, including Erica, knew what Allison meant. Scott leaned back and whispered, "Should I be afraid of how well you managed that?"

"Maybe," she said, and smiled.

Ms. Blake had supported all the beta team's plans for the afterclaim ceremony, and had even got the principal to sign off on the changes they'd made. Donaldson wasn't thrilled about it but the law was the law, at least in California. After the ceremony would be a dance and then the betas and the off-sync kids would get their own week off. Scott didn't mind too much that they had to wait until the end because it meant that all their independent studies were finished and handed in, and they could have this vacation with no work hanging over their heads.

The team had also decided that they would take turns doing the announcing, which they figured would be better than Donaldson or Ms. Blake, so a bunch of them were standing on the stage while the others sat in the auditorium. Once Ms. Blake got everyone silent, Allison walked up to the microphone.

"Hello, I'm Allison, and I'm a beta. As you can already see we've changed some things for this ceremony and we're hoping to keep it pretty short so we can leave early to get ready for the dance tonight." She paused at the smattering of applause. "First, we thought since the entire class went through claiming together, we should all sit together for the afterclaim, instead of being separated into claimed pairs and betas and then off-sync. What do you think about that?" Allison paused, and the crowd applauded.

Kira stepped up next. "I'm Kira, and I'm a beta. I'm not going to read out the names, but can we have another round of applause for the off-sync alphas and omegas who didn't claim this year, because they're our friends and they are super awesome!" Everyone clapped for that, too.

Greenberg took over then. "I guess most of you know me as Greenberg, and I'm a beta." Someone in the back shouted, "Do you even go here?" and everyone laughed, including Greenberg. "Thanks, Coach, appreciate that. So as for you alphas and omegas who did claim: you each had your day in the caf—or in the parking lot for some of you—" and here everyone laughed while Stiles sank down in his chair and Derek had the good sense to look sheepish— "so we're not going to do the whole calling out of each pair and all that. A big general congrats to all of you." More applause then, and a sense of relief that the afterclaim really would be a lot shorter than usual.

Now it was Scott's turn. "Yeah, I'm Scott and I'm a beta. Now's usually the part where an alpha and an omega give the betas some kind of gift for helping to keep claiming safe, like a cool pen or something. But the beta team talked about it, and we'd like something a little different. You all had a pamphlet on your chair, and I want to tell you a little story about it. When the beta team had our very first meeting with our principal back in the fall, he gave us these two pamphlets." Scott held them up. "This one's called, How to Protect Your Omega Friends and the other one is How to Contain Your Alpha Friends. All due respect, Principal Donaldson, but they're super old-fashioned about designation roles. Also they weren't that helpful. You guys are our friends, and we'd look out for you anyway, just like you look out for us. So we asked Ms. Morell for her help looking for some other pamphlets, and we found the one on your chair, The Truth About Beta Mating. It has a whole bunch of info on what beta mating is all about, including imprinting, which happens for some betas and not for others. Honestly? If you guys would read that pamphlet and think about it, that would be a much cooler present to us than some pen or whatever. And if you have any questions there are a whole bunch of resources in the back, or you can ask Ms. Morell. Thanks."

Most of the crowd was looking at the pamphlet—some of them even had it open—so Scott counted that as a victory and handed the microphone to Caitlin.

"Good morning, everyone. I'm Caitlin and I'm a beta. In that spirit, there's one last announcement before we let you guys go. Sometimes betas do imprint, which is a scientific fact—there's medical testing to prove it. We have one beta couple in our class who have already imprinted and were registered with the county in January, and we think they deserve to announce in front of the school. So I'd like to present Scott McCall and Allison Argent." She stepped to one side and Scott and Allison held hands, stepped forward, and kissed.

There was silence, and then suddenly Scott heard Stiles shout, "Yeah, you did!" He turned and there were Stiles and Lydia, standing up and applauding, followed quickly by Erica, Derek, and their fellow betas who were in the audience. The betas up on stage were clapping, too.

And then, it actually caught on. Danny and Jackson and Boyd and Isaac he expected, but then the lacrosse team stood up as well (maybe because Coach was shouting at them). It was slow, but after a minute or so everyone was at least applauding.

Emily took the microphone from her betafriend. "Wow! I'm Emily, and I'm not just a beta, but today I'm really proud to be one. We'll see you all at the dance tonight!"

The applause died down as everyone left the auditorium, and Scott turned to Allison. "Did that really just happen?" he asked.

"It did," she said, grinning.

"I could not have done any of that without you," he said, putting his arms around her.

"Well, I'm pretty sure that we all couldn't have done it without you. You're the one who inspired everyone."

Matt patted him on the shoulder. "Yeah, man, what's the next plan?" He hadn't wanted to be up on stage, but with the others he placed the pamphlets on all the chairs.

Scott turned and realized that all the betas were standing on the stage now, looking at him expectantly. Just behind Greenberg was Samantha, the off-sync alpha who'd brought Isaac to Lydia's party back in October.

"Um, well, what's next is that we go to the dance, and then we have a week off," he said. "When we get back I guess we'll meet and decide? Maybe make some plans for next year?"

That seemed to satisfy them, and after some handshakes they went their separate ways. "Told you," Allison said as they headed for her car.

"Maybe," Scott said. "Oh, by the way, Mom said she's going to stay at the Stilinskis' for the week."


"Yeah, something about 'fair's fair' and we should have some alone time, but I dunno."

"You think she needs some sheriff time?" Allison asked, grinning.

"Yeah, but that is super weird! Don't ever say that again."

She laughed. "Okay, well, instead of thinking about why, let's think about what. Like, what are we going to do in the house all by ourselves for a whole week?"

He kissed her, and said, "Oh, I'm pretty sure we can come up with something."