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When Lucas was thirteen his mother was torn from him and put into long term care. They said she was too volatile, too dangerous to herself and to others. They said that an omega like her needed constant supervision, that without his alpha father she’d be too vulnerable to the world, sharp as it was.

When Lucas was fourteen, just a year later, he presented as an omega and told no one. He faked the flu and spent two days in bed until he could sneak out and buy suppressants from a dealer he’d seen in back alleys and dark corners on the walk home from school. Of course no one checked on him, and he’d never been more grateful for his lacklustre housing situation than he had been in those two days. He’d spent the last twelve months in a foster home while they tried to track down his father. His foster family were neither cruel nor loving, they fed him, clothed him, expected nothing from him except manners and obedience.

It didn’t matter though.

He hated them simply for the crime of not being his mother.

When Lucas was sixteen, almost seventeen, his foster father caught him smoking weed in his little back bedroom. The walls were white and pristine, the carpet was white. Pristine. Everything in that room had been as clean as snow apart from Lucas, who could feel the black tar on his heart growing thicker every single day. Lucien, the foster father, had called child services that night and demanded a quick removal. Like Lucas was a couch or a table they’d decided didn’t fit into their colour scheme.

His child services agent was a woman called Alice, a nice beta who always looked at him with sympathy. Lucas kind of hated her too. She’d been the one to come and collect him and she’d been the one to tell him that the foster system was currently under an unprecedented amount of strain and that they were struggling to find a replacement family, and was he sure that there was no one else, no other family who could take him in?

Lucas had met Mika only a month before. He’d been out past curfew, having clambered down onto a garden shed that he could use as a halfway point between the first floor and the ground floor. Mika was an alpha, which in itself was stupidly important in the eyes of the state, but more importantly he was over eighteen. Lucas used an impromptu toilet break to call and beg Mika to lie for him, say that they’d known each other for much longer. Mika had been understandably stubborn at first and hadn’t relented until Lucas had told him that he was an omega and he was scared that the next foster family he would be placed with wouldn’t be as accommodatingly bland as the last.

And so Lucas moved into Mika’s flat with the approval of Alice and a half a dozen spot checks scattered over the next few months. His bedroom was small, square, with wooden floors and wispy curtains. He plastered the walls with posters of varying colours; the more they clashed the better. He let himself be a little messy, draped clothes on the back of his desk chair, took his socks off in the living room, left his mug of hot chocolate on the side of his bed for long enough that it started to develop sentience. Little things like that. Although Mika disagreed with his definition of ‘little.’ He didn’t really appreciate the new life form taking up residence in the cup and promptly made him throw the whole thing in the trash when he found it.

Life was slowly starting to feel more normal, less like he was walking around barefoot on a floor covered in glass.

And then he met Eliott. Eliott the alpha, who smelt of warm cinnamon milk and chocolate chip cookies, whose gaze caught his with laser precision. That first day, at the meeting in the foyer, Lucas couldn’t have repeated a word that was said but he could tell you exactly how many times Eliott laughed (4), how many times Lucas looked at him (approximately 13) and how many times Eliott had looked back (1).

Up until that moment being an omega had been, for the most part, a small section of himself he was aware of in only a detached fashion. He didn’t quite understand on a bone deep level exactly what it meant. Despite the numerous articles and papers he’d read online when he’d first presented, and despite the numerous health classes, his secondary gender hadn’t really reared its head, especially with the suppressants working to cover his scent and minimise his heats. He had known the general facts; that out of the three (alpha, beta, omega) omegas were the only subgender group to be able to carry children, that in general pregnancy wouldn’t occur unless in heat 99% of the time, and heats themselves tended to average every three months and lasted for between 2-3 days.

His own heats were few and far between, since the suppressants elongated the gaps so that they fell twice a year instead of four times. The body needed at least one heat a year in order to regulate itself, even if that heat was spent locked up in his bedroom with nothing but his own hands to get him through it. Two was generally seen as more healthy though, and so twice a year he would miss his daily dose two days in a row and stew in unhappiness until it was over.

He also knew that it wasn’t like in porn. Even with his general lack of experience he knew that the portrayal of an omega in heat as desperate was almost always bullshit created to entice the audience.

Yes, he got a little desperate for physical contact, though this wasn’t always sexual in nature, and yes he definitely experienced a heightened sex drive, but it wasn’t high enough that it would force him to throw himself at the first alpha who he came across. In fact more often than not the idea of anyone being around him while he was in such a vulnerable position made him more violent and less likely to tolerate anyone else in his space.

The last time Mika hadn’t knocked before entering on the second day of Lucas’ heat, Lucas had thrown his alarm clock at Mika with such force that, if he hadn’t had the good sense to duck, it would have sent him to the emergency room. As it was it left a hefty dent in the wall by the door frame that was still there even now, and it meant that Mika never ever forgot to knock again.

Seeing Eliott though, smelling him, being in the same general vicinity as him, it had triggered something. A dark room that had never known the sun suddenly housed a star. His fingertips had trembled where they’d been pressed into his jean-clad thighs, nails digging in through the material in what he would never admit was a concentrated effort to resist the urge to turn around and reach out for him, this boy whose name he hadn’t even known at that point.

Later on he’d been at the bus stop and Eliott had been stood with his back to Lucas, gazing into the vending machine like it held the answers to the greatest questions in life. Lucas had talked himself into and out of approaching Eliott at least five times until he’d finally given in and just walked up behind him. Being so close to him, even closer than he’d been at the meeting, had sent such a shiver down his spine that he’d almost stumbled. And when Eliott had opened his mouth to speak and his voice had such a soft rumble to it, the sound had moved like an ocean wave over his body.

“I’m sorry,” Eliott had said, “I didn’t see you there. I don’t know which one to choose,” and then he’d listened to Lucas’ suggestions. He’d bought two of the same bar specifically so he could give one to Lucas and that little omega voice inside of his chest had screamed “provider!” so loud that Lucas had worried for a moment that Eliott would be able to hear it.

Then when Eliott had sat next to him under the shelter, instead of in the third seat of the row, it was only a herculean force of will that had prevented him from turning and shoving his face into the sweet smelling gap between Eliott’s jaw and his shoulder. Their eye contact had been electric enough that at one point he had wanted to glance around and check to see if they’d managed to start any fires, but that would have involved looking away.

It has been days since that moment. Lucas has seen Eliott around at school since then, has caught his scent on the breeze when crossing the courtyard, but they haven’t spoken. It gnaws at Lucas through almost every waking moment, following him deep into the nights, most of which he now spends laying awake in bed and staring at the ceiling, wondering what Eliott is doing. Wondering how Eliott would lay if he were next to Lucas right now. On his side maybe, or on his back? His mind jigsawed their pieces together, worked out how Lucas would fit into his side so perfectly. These were the thoughts that made him blush whenever he caught sight or scent of Eliott and it was the blush that pushed him to avoid Eliott like he had the plague even though every atom of his body urged the opposite. If Eliott took one look into Lucas’ eyes surely he would know.

And then it doesn't matter anymore. He is back in that very same bus stop, in the same seat, and in the next moment Eliott is right there with him, close enough to see the pulse at the side of his throat. This is the first time Lucas has ever wished that the suppressants didn’t dampen his scent because god, he wants to know if Eliott has the same reaction to him, he wants to see if he’s alone in this or not. He thinks he isn’t. There’s a certain intensity between them, Lucas can see it in Eliott’s eyes, can feel it in the attention Eliott bestows upon him. Having a true scent would make things so much simpler. And yet, so much more complicated.

He can’t come off of the suppressants. He can’t. He went on them for a reason, it just so happens that whenever Eliott is around he can’t recall what that reason is. It is only when his scent has cleared from Lucas’ mind that he remembers; he doesn’t want to be owned. He doesn’t want every break down he might have to be seen as just another omega succumbing to their emotions. He won’t let himself become his mother, someone to be taken away and medicated into submission.

But, that small voice pipes up, you’re in a different position now. You don’t live with people who could hurt you just because they wanted to. You’re older, you can stand up for yourself. You are not your mother.

He beats that voice down until it is quiet again.

Eliott is saying something and Lucas realises he has zoned out while staring into Eliott’s eyes and there’s that blush again, heating his cheeks, the back of his neck. It takes an almost physical effort to pull his gaze away, to look at the floor, the road, the sky, anything but Eliott. Eliott is still looking at him though, Lucas can see him from the corner of his eye.

“So, what do you think?” Eliott prompts, tilting his head and smiling a slow, slow smile. It is treacle, sweet and sticky. Lucas wants nothing more than to taste it.

“Ah-” Lucas clears his throat. Shit. What had Eliott been saying? “Yes?” he hopes to god that ‘yes’ is the right answer. That Eliott hadn’t been asking him something stupid like “do you agree with brexit?” to which the answer would have been a resounding “fuck off.”

A bus pulls up in front of them. “Cool,” Eliott stands as the doors open. “Come on then,” Lucas stares after him, blinking. Shit. What did he just agree to exactly? Eliott looks over his shoulder and laughs at whatever he sees on Lucas’ face. “You want that beer right? It’s not far to my place.”

Oh. Oh! He had been telling Eliott about his issues with finding alcohol and Eliott had been offering some of his own. Lucas jumps up without thinking and follows him onto the bus. The doors are closing behind him and the vehicle has started moving before he realises that he’s going to be in Eliott’s home, a place where Eliott’s scent is so embedded into the furniture that Lucas will be able to smell him on everything. His legs are wobbly at the thought. Whether this is down to trepidation or fascination, Lucas has no idea.

The bus ride is quiet. The seats feel smaller than usual, with Eliott pressed against him. When the bus takes a turn a little too sharp and Lucas almost slides from his seat it is Eliott who quickly wraps an arm around his shoulders to yank him back. He leaves the arm there, too, over the back of the seat but not quite holding onto him, even when the bus is going slow enough that there is no chance Lucas could fall out of his seat. He can feel the hot brand of it through his clothes, all across his shoulders. He inhales, a shuddery shivering breath, and tries to force his body to relax. The arm lies almost directly over his scent gland. For the most part his scarf prevents them from really touching but every now and again the shifting of fabric allows some skin to skin contact and every time that happens he shivers hard. It’s the one thing his suppressants can’t do anything about. Once the scent gland is formed it is formed. It’s why he still has a scent, though the pills mute it down so it isn’t as intense as an omega’s smell should be. Betas and alphas have them too, though betas don’t tend to be sensitive to the touch, so at least he doesn’t have to worry about it being seen, though having someone touch it and see him react would be pretty revealing, enough to make most people ask questions. Thankfully Eliott either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

They don’t speak but the silence isn’t an awkward one. He feels more comfortable here, with a boy he barely knows, than he’s felt in a long time, around people he’s known for years. He follows him from the bus when it pulls up at their stop like there’s a leash between them with Lucas attached at the end like a dog.

Is this what they mean by puppy love?

He can smell it before Eliott even opens the door to his apartment. Thick, spicy vanillary goodness permeates every fibre of everything . It dances the line between too much and not enough. Lucas accepts the drink that Eliott hands him after abandoning his coat on the side, and looks around. The apartment is homely, full of little touches which make it feel lived in. There is a piano in the corner which calls his name, and drawings cover the walls. A record player sits against the wall and Lucas can see a stack of vinyl albums on the bookcase. He takes it all in and then goes back to focusing on the drawings. He sips at the beer. One or two won’t have an impact on the suppressants at all, but any more than that and he might start to smell more like Lucas the omega rather than Lucas the beta.

“Are these yours?”

“Yes,” Eliott has come up behind him and even though Lucas could sense his approach he still jumps a little when Eliott speaks and it comes from so close to his ear.

“Is it a badger?”

Eliott laughs, shakes his head. “A raccoon. It’s my favourite animal.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. They’re cool. They’ve got a mask,” he makes a hand gesture across his face and grins. Lucas smiles back. A mask. Yeah, he gets that. He feels like he wears a mask constantly too. He wonders if that’s why Eliott likes them, or if it really is just because they’re cute, like Eliott. Wait, no. Cool. Eliott had said cool . Lucas is projecting.

“What about me?” He asks it before he can stop himself. “How would you draw me?” He glances from the wall to Eliott, looking up at him through his lashes and as their gazes meet his breath catches in his throat. He feels all of Eliott’s attention focused on him, zeroed in like the most powerful searchlight. He thinks Eliott can see into his soul in that moment, as Eliott turns his body to face Lucas head on, as he tilts his head to the side in consideration. He kind of regrets asking, but not enough that he would hold back the question if he could do it all over again. It’s in this moment where he realises how tall Eliott is. He’d known it, of course, in a distant way, but here he is looking up into those eyes, that face. He swallows hard and bites at his lower lip, unconsciously noting how Eliott’s gaze drops down to his mouth at the movement.

“I don’t know,” Eliott finally admits with a half shrug and a half smile. “I’ll have to think about it.” Lucas can’t prevent the smile that finds its way onto his own mouth, he wiggles his eyebrow. He likes that Eliott will be thinking about him. He probably likes it a little too much.

Eventually they move to the couch. Lucas can feel his skin prickling with the urge to scoot down and press his face into the material, to inhale deep enough to singe the scent onto the inside of his nose and throat. He resists. Barely. It gets both better and worse when Eliott sits next to him as they share a joint. There is an awareness between them of how their mouths are both touching the same thing, being passed one from the other, and a hot shivery part of Lucas takes particular joy with meeting Eliott’s gaze as he wraps his lips around the joint. He blames it on the high but whether that’s the high of the joint or the high of Eliott’s presence is anyone’s guess.

It’s Friday evening, and he technically has places to be but everything outside of this room is distant in his mind, whereas Eliott is so, so close.

When Eliott changes the music to dubstep, lets loose a little to dance to it, Lucas wants to laugh because Eliott is acting like a complete idiot but Lucas finds it so intensely endearing that he kind of wants to wrap Eliott in a blanket and smoosh his cheeks. His brain is turning to mush in his head. There’s no other excuse for the “I like new things,” that somehow works its way out of his mouth when Eliott asks if he wants him to change the music to something more familiar. Eliott practically makes bedroom eyes at him.

The next time the music needs changing Lucas forces himself to his feet, but finds he strays more towards the piano then to the record player. He sits, asks permission to play, and takes a moment to decide if he wants to actually go for it or just mess around with some notes. In the end the strength of Eliott’s appraisal behind him is strong enough that after pressing a few random keys he lets himself settle into the flow of a melody.

The music builds inside of him. The only way he can describe it is to compare his body to a cup and the music to a jug of water that is slowly being emptied into it. There comes a moment when the cup is full and it begins to overflow and Lucas plays through it, lets the music splash down his sides and into the room. When he turns to glance at Eliott the look on his face is. He doesn’t even know how to put it into words. There are no words. Lucas has never had anyone look at him that way before. There is a sharpening in the air as Eliott’s scent spikes and Lucas can’t help but inhale deeper. He knows the flare of his nostrils hasn’t gone unnoticed as Eliott continues to gaze at him, transfixed.

Focusing his gaze back on the piano helps. He doesn’t need to look at his fingers as he plays, It’s all muscle memory at this point, but having something to focus on that isn’t Eliott’s face is grounding. When his mother practically bribed him into piano lessons as a kid he’d never expected to actually connect with playing but something inside him had clicked.

There is the same kind of resonance here too, between Lucas and Eliott. The same kind of muscle memory even, as if his entire body, his whole being, already knows exactly how to act and react around Eliott, even though they’ve never been through these paces before. He knew the dance before he even knew there was a song to dance to .

When the song draws to a close he can’t resist turning to look at Eliott again, only to find the exact same expression on his face as before. He wants to kiss that expression. Quite literally, too. When Eliott licks his lips Lucas is on fire. He barely hears the compliment, “that was amazing,” through the blood pounding in his ears. He feels it though, that’s for sure. It zings through his body, sparks nerve endings in places he never knew could react like that. He tries to joke it off.

“It was no Star Wars theme…”

“You’re surprising.” Eliott says. “I like surprising people.”

I like you, he wants to blurt. He might have gone through with it too if it weren’t for the text that pings on Eliott’s phone at that very moment.

And then they’re leaving.

Eliott is going to meet with friends and Lucas remembers that oh yeah he does have plans. Whoops. And just like they they’re separating. Lucas feels it like it is a physical thing although they haven’t even touched since the bus, apart from the odd brush against one another on the couch. Eliott says they should do it again and Lucas says “anytime,” and means it so thoroughly that it scares him a little. He turns to leave but pauses when Eliott calls to him, and then Eliott’s fingers are in his hair, tugging gently. He doesn’t know why, maybe there was a piece of fluff, but the feeling of it mushes his brain for a moment and he hesitates imperceptibly, watching Eliott for a moment too long before he can convince himself to leave properly.

He lingers outside, messing with his phone, and when he scents Eliott again he is confused. He glances up to find him leaving the building and walking fast towards something. He follows the journey with his eyes and wishes he hadn’t.

She’s a beta, he can tell it even from here. A proper one too, not the fake that he’s pretending to be. Stable, reliable, not over emotional or over attached. She’s probably everything he isn’t. Everything he would never know how to be. When Eliott kisses her Lucas goes cold from his head to his toes all at once.

Of course.

Why would Eliott want him when he can have this beta girl? Someone who isn’t fucked up and lying to everyone about her presentation. This entire night has been an exercise in futility. He was deluded to think that there could have been anything between them, that Eliott could have been meant for him. Maybe he has more in common with his mother than just his subgender. Fuck. Fuck.

He barely remembers the rest of the night. He goes home eventually, at some point, somehow. Settles himself into his bed with too many blankets and not enough Eliott and lets himself cry a little bit. Not too much, just enough to unpack some of the pressure behind his eyes.

Tomorrow will be better.

It has to be better.