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     Jaebum was, by all appearances, a stereotypical alpha.

     Sure, he mightn’t be the tallest or most physically imposing guy, but there’s a broadness to his shoulders, resting coldness to his eyes, and firmness to his jaw that have made more than one passerby automatically dip their heads and shift to offer him a little more space as they approach him on the sidewalk. It suits Jaebum just fine...he’s always had a firmly entrenched sense of his own personal space, and close physical contact or skinship with virtually anyone was something in which he had never found particular comfort or pleasure. His temper flares too hot, too often, and he has been told his usually gruff and brooding demeanor can be intimidating and more than a little off-putting. He takes pride in his physique, in keeping active and fit, and its clear in the solidness of his frame that he could more than hold his own if someone happened to instigate a little altercation.

     So by all measures, to assume Jaebum is an alpha would be fair. Jaebum himself had assumed he was an alpha for the first sixteen years of his life. That is, until he woke up at 2:30 one morning, a few months after his birthday, to an unbearable heat, ringing in his ears, pounding between his eyes, and sheets soaked with sweat and...some other fluid.

     At first, he’d thought he was dying. He certainly felt like he was dying, felt like his room was a furnace and he was burning alive, when he could almost feel his blood bubbling and boiling him from the inside out. It had taken him a few disoriented minutes before he realized the harsh panting in his room was coming from him, was coming from the stuttering breaths that were ripping themselves painfully from his chest. He’d almost been ready to scream for help, until he had shifted in his discomfort and his dick had brushed against the mattress, sending the heat tumbling in his gut, his hips bucking for more friction, a moan ripping itself from his throat, and a trickle of something cascading down his thigh and....oh.

     Oh.

     He hadn’t known what to do. It had never occurred to him, nor to his family, that he would be anything but an alpha. Sure, his presentation had been delayed if not downright late for an alpha, who on average presented a few years earlier than omegas, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. So his parents had continued in their awkward coaching of how to handle that first rut, of the need for protection when he eventually found his omega mate, and other tremendously uncomfortable discussions that often culminated in Jaebum all but begging to be excused and trudging upstairs to flop face-down on his bed and just....try to think about anything other than what had just happened. The fact he would be an alpha had always been so expected, so certain, that he’d never felt the need to pay much attention in his dynamics class. Sure, he’d heard stories from classmates who’d gotten their heats, when they returned to school after a few days of absence looking exhausted, bags dug deep beneath their eyes, and smelling vaguely sweeter than usual, but the stories had always left him feely oddly nauseated and he’d become accustomed to tuning them out. So he’d never learned what to do when the first heat struck, as it always did, like a freight train.

     To Jaebum’s addled brain, then, the best option had seemed to be to simply get rid of the evidence, because maybe this was just a normal thing alphas went through when on the brink of presenting? He didn’t know. So he’d managed to crawl out of bed, which his spinning head had abruptly informed him was a terrible idea, and scrambled to rip the sheets from mattress and nearly fell as he stumbled down the stairs.

     His mother had found him like that, trembling on the floor beside the washing machine downstairs. He’d been sitting on the floor, propped up against the wall opposite the machine, more by necessity than choice because when he’d stood up from hastily throwing the sheets in the machine his head had just spun and his knees crumpled. She’d turned on the light, eyes squinting as they roamed from the machine to her son just sprawled out on the floor, face more ashen than it ought to be, face glistening with sweat, and eyes an odd mixture of dazed, terrified, and disbelieving as they’d stared at the sheets swirling among the bubbles. She’d just opened her mouth to ask what the hell he was doing on the floor, and why the hell he was doing laundry at 3:00 in the morning, when she breathed in and smelled him.

     Sweetness. Vanilla and sugar and something not quite like icing, but close.

     Omega.

     His family had been....fine with it. Eventually. His mother had gathered him up and thrown fresh sheets on his bed before tucking him in again and just...leaving him be. She hadn’t said anything, but her silence and the slight sheen in her eyes when Jaebum met them in the moonlight as she’d left his room had been telling enough. Disappointment. He couldn’t blame her, not really, when he was equally disappointed in himself. Both sides of his family were well-known in the local community for having proud and long-standing records of alpha offspring with alpha mates and alpha heirs. Jaebum was the first omega on either side of his family tree for generations, apparently symbolizing a weakness and corruption in what had been such a strong bloodline, and the knowledge of his failure simultaneously settled low in his stomach and rose high in his throat. It had taken weeks for his dad to be able to meet his eyes for more than a second, and when he started to, Jaebum recognized in his stare the same resignation.

     Still, to this day, Jaebum’s omega-ness is something that goes undiscussed in his family. It had appeared in one conversation, after Jaebum had suffered through his second heat, in a very awkward and humiliating discourse in which he’d been assured his parents would - very discretely - obtain some toys to assist him in his future heats, and introduce him to his mother’s friend’s son, Jinyoung. A beta born with nearly, if not quite the same, humiliation into a similarly long-standing alpha line, the boy would help him with his heats, they said, to offer the physical contact needed to minimize their length without risking the....unfortunate possibility of pregnancy. He’d help until Jaebum lived up to his new expectation, of finding a strong alpha mate who’d not only ensure the Im line lived on, but re-introduce into the family bloodline an apparently needed infusion of potent alpha energy.

     Jaebum had been bitter, bitter for a long time to a point that probably hadn’t been healthy, bitter to the point that his first dozen or so heats had been absolute hell because he’d refused to let Jinyoung touch him in favour of just lying there stewing in the misery of it all. Jinyoung had eventually pulled him from that, rolling his eyes and scoffing and crossing his arms in a way that had set a pre-heat and thus already irritated Jaebum ablaze with a fury that had quickly sizzled when he finally, finally, broke down. Jinyoung had held him then, Jabeum’s face wet with tears and tucked neatly into the beta's neck, nosing over the scent gland that was emanating vanilla and musk, stability and softness and comfort. Jinyoung had started helping with his heats then, too, hands gentle yet firm as they ran over Jaebum with a kindness and reliability that had him aching from relief.

     There wasn’t anything romantic between them. There never had been. Jinyoung would later, under the influence of far too much soju while they camped out in Jaebum’s room watching some American movie with subtitles, tell him he had accepted the request to help Jaebum with his heats because he’d been lonely too, and figured being in the company of a fellow “disappointment” like Jaebum might help ease that. He’d been right. Once Jaebum had got over the awkwardness of being in the company of someone his age who, 1) knew he was an omega, and 2) had seen his dick, they’d settled into a companionship and genuine friendship that Jaebum treasured more than he could ever convey with his halting words and poor capacity to express himself emotionally. Jinyoung didn’t put up with anyone’s shit - especially not Jaebum’s - and was sarcastic, brash, occasionally crude, and absolutely adamant on not letting his friend devolve into self-loathing. He was full of bright ideas of equality, of gender not meaning a damn thing in terms of one’s worth, and so dragged Jaebum up every time he saw his best friend trying to drag himself down.

     So when Jinyoung had approached him a few months before their graduation - Jinyoung, though younger, had advanced a grade because he was stupid like that - proposing they room together at university, Jaebum hadn’t thought twice. He’s glad he didn’t. Getting out of his parents’ house had done wonders for him, because as much as he loves his parents, and as much as he knows they love him, despite everything, living there and being confronted daily with all the reminders of what he should’ve been, what he wasn’t, had been more damaging and hurtful than he’d care to admit. Getting out of his parents’ house had done wonders for him, too, because it had led him to move in with Jinyoung, and, after a few years, led him to meet his current neighbour, who Jaebum thought to be possibly the loudest kid he’d ever met. Bambam was the poster-boy for accepting and loving oneself. Although the Thai omega got on his nerves more often than not, helping himself to copious amounts of their food and laundry detergent and virtually anything else he needed to the point it often felt like Jaebum had a third roommate, Jaebum had to admit he deeply respected the kid. He did whatever he wanted, without the slightest regard or care for whether it was “omega-like,” loved himself, and flirted with anything that moved. He flaunted himself in ways that completely contravened the socially acceptable “omega” behaviour, with legs more often than not sheathed in black leather and heeled boots, eyes framed in liner and shadow, and torso usually only minimally covered in glittering jewelry and fabrics Jaebum couldn’t identify if he wanted to. He took what being an omega was and simultaneously upended it and embraced it, in a way that left Jaebum both reeling and intensely proud.

     Jaebum....wasn’t quite there yet, not to the point of embracing his omega-ness. There were still days he caught himself swirling into his old bitterness. There were still times it made him angry, furious really, primarily because of the shift he continually saw in how people treated him. Thinking him to be an alpha, others would automatically treat him with deference and respect, yet the moment they got close enough to smell the omega, that deference and respect would shift to lewd glances and crude comments about knots and heats and “wouldn’t you like help with your next one, little omega?” It made Jaebum’s blood boil, made a growl surge in his chest and crawl up his throat, made his jaw jut out in a way that Bambam always mimicked for days after and made his eyes flash green before Jinyoung would drag him away to prevent him from throwing a fist.

     But he’s come to terms with the fact that he’s an omega. He has. He doesn’t mind it, most of the time, until his heat rolls around and he’s suffering for a few days, but aside from that, he’s fine with his omega-ness.

     Correction: he was fine with it.

     Until he met Jackson Wang.