When Renjun was 16, he presented as an omega. Woke up one morning with slick soaking through his briefs, burning up from the inside out, his throat thick with tears.
It came as a huge surprise. Renjun had no clue he'd present as an omega, not when all of his peers had already presented back in middle school. He was an only child, and his parents were betas and so were most of his extended family. When he had made it through the first awkward tween years, when his voice had stopped cracking and his body had stopped growing, there were still no signs of a second gender, and his family and friends accepted it with a shrug - another beta. Renjun had been cool with that as well; he’d heard the way kids around him spoke about omegas, and growing into an alpha designation on the other hand seemed like a bit of a handful too, from what he could remember from his classmates’ mood swings. Being a beta though, that sounded chill. Unproblematic.
But then it happened, years after his peers had grown into their designations. One feverish morning, quivering in his mom’s arms and crying out that he was dying while she carded a hand through his sweaty hair, telling him with a smile in her voice “Oh no honey, you’re not dying, you’ve presented.”
His parents didn’t make a big deal out of it. The omega specialist told him he was simply a late bloomer, and his parents seemed to think that was a good thing; now he could settle into his designation with the worst of puberty out of the way. He had a very normal phone call with his grandma where she only passingly mentioned that oh by the way, she heard he was an omega now, who would have thought, and the only alpha among his cousins wrinkled her nose at him at her birthday party. "It's not that surprising," she'd said, in a tone Renjun didn't care for.
Renjun retorted to the interweb; posted anonymously on a forum late at night when he couldn’t sleep, only to wake up to a slew of condescending replies (“oh, so what if you have heats every now and then, big deal. i’m a beta girl and i have painful periods every month, get over yourself!!!”), and his thread having been downvoted into oblivion.
Renjun felt as if his entire world had changed, yet no one seemed to care. Or rather, acted like they had seen it coming. Even though his family had grown accustomed to him being a beta, they all embraced his new designation almost as if he had always been destined to be an omega instead.
While Renjun on the other hand--
There was no way around it: Renjun hated it.
Hated how odd and sharp everything suddenly smelled, hated now constantly feeling a little hot under the collar. Hated the slick, hated the heat cycle, hated the pills he had to take to muffle his scent and holy shit, he could now get pregnant, how fucked up wasn’t that? It didn’t feel right; he didn’t feel like himself. Huang Renjun the omega - that wasn’t him.
It frustrated him that everyone accepted it so easily - they didn't say it, but he knew what they were thinking; that he looked like everything everyone would expect in an omega. Slim, narrow shouldered and on the shorter side. But the truth was, he was nothing like the textbook omega, at least not on the inside. He wasn't a pushover, there was nothing delicate or sensitive about him. And alphas? He couldn't care less about them, and would often fight to not roll his eyes whenever a group of omegas in his school cooed over an alpha. So being an omega - nope, not for him, and the only thing that made it all bearable was that no one outside of his family knew.
After two weeks of staying home - one spent getting through his very first, traumatic but very anticlimactic heat, and a second one spent adjusting to his omega scent blockers - he trudged to school with his narrow shoulders up to his ears, expecting for all eyes to be on him the minute he swung the glass doors open, perhaps even having to wrestle a few alphas on his way to his locker.
But nothing happened.
Well, nothing unusual happened. Everything felt almost weirdly normal - in the matter of two weeks, Renjun’s world had been upended, yet as he made his way into class it felt like nothing had changed.
His friends didn’t react differently, other than rejoicing that he was back, and neither did his classmates. No one sniffed the air around him, no one gave him side eyes. It threw him off, but it did make sense; his pills diluted his scent, and mixed in a school full of students of all different designations, classrooms stuffy with perfume and hair products, he easily blended in.
He hadn’t planned to keep it hidden, but when the change in his designation went by unnoticed, it was easy to keep silent. His friends treated him the same as always - there were no inquiring questions, so there was nothing for him to explain. It seemed so simple at the time: if they wanted to assume he was a beta, he wasn’t going to get out of his way to stop them.
It started feeling more and more like a lie in his senior year.
A big, fat fucking lie.
He promised himself he wouldn’t hide his designation once he went off to college, repeated it like a mantra in his head to fend off the guilt that came from lying. He never actually claimed that he was a beta, tried to not spin the lies further, but would then always force a laugh when someone made a lewd, objectifying joke about an omega, and that, well, felt a lot like a lie.
He knew he was dishonest. He knew that probably made him a bad friend. He had known Kun and Chenle, both betas, since childhood, and keeping something like this from them felt like, well, betrayal, as they always shared big and personal news between them. And then Sicheng, who had been his first kiss. There had been attempts at something more, a whole lot of fumbling and tumbling before Sicheng realized he might be more into alphas; something that must’ve taken him a bit of courage to tell Renjun, as alphas getting romantically or sexually involved with other alphas was still something many in society frowned upon. But Sicheng had trusted him with that secret, and now Renjun couldn’t even tell him about his designation. And not to mention the rest of his friends, who’d surely be disappointed to find out he’d been keeping something so big from them.
Renjun could feel himself distancing himself from them, not only mentally but also physically, not wanting them to catch his scent if they got too close, and paranoid about anyone analyzing his behavior and figuring him out.
He avoided it all; hanging out with friends after school, dating and hooking up at parties. Always sat in a corner of their table during lunch, and tried to not get exerted during gym glass, always the last one to hit the showers.
Physically, he knew he fit the stereotype of what an omega was supposed to look like, and while that on its own clashed with the self image he had, it also made him paranoid that everyone were already suspecting something. That they were just waiting for his heat going off too early, slick trickling down his thigh while classmates pointed and stared - that was what his nightmares were made of.
So he took precautions, always acted with care so that no one would find out his little (big, fat fucking) secret. With only one year left of high school, what could really happen?
He’d be surprised.
It happened on a warm day late September; when the trees had started shedding but the sun was still shining brightly throughout the day. The air was fresh and crisp, and this Renjun would remember, because whenever something horrible happens to you, the memory of it sticks with you in vivid detail. The date, the hour, the minute. What you were wearing and how you were feeling.
They had moved very recently, his parents finally thinking it would be wise to downsize to a smaller house since Renjun only had a year left until university. While it was sad to say goodbye to his childhood home, the change of scenery was welcomed; a nice little house in a nice little neighborhood.
Sunday, and Renjun and his parents finally had a chance to unpack what was left from the move.
“We’re heading to the grocery store in five, is there something you want me to pick up?” his mother asked when they were done, as jotting down something on her shopping list. Renjun, ever the neatfreak, collected all the empty moving boxes left behind, thinking of leaving them in the garage for his dad to take care of.
“Not really,” he called over his shoulder, getting the door open and then almost immediately walking right into somebody standing on their porch, boxes toppling to the ground.
“Shit, sorry, ” he grumbled, finding himself face to face with a familiar one. In Renjun's head, there was something like connect the dots happening next; the broad shoulders, brows pulled together in a worried frown over big, black eyes, and a beauty mark.
A friend of a friend (that friend being Jaemin, who were friends with Donghyuck, who were frenemies with Yukhei, who in turn were friends with Renjun. Who were friends with Chenle, who were friends with Jisung, who were friends with Jeno. Wait what?) and someone Renjun, to put it mildly, wasn’t very fond of.
When Renjun was in middle school, he was wrestling with Jeno in the front of the classroom when the other boy presented. He was one of the first ones in their year to do so, which was why it turned into a whole debacle - Jeno being the butt of many jokes for many months, and of course, so was Renjun; the kids in their class weren’t quick to forget that he was the student who’d put Jeno in a headlock and made him pop a knot.
“Good, let it teach you a lesson. You’re getting too old to playfight with your classmates,” Renjun’s cousin had said when she heard of it. But Renjun had blamed Jeno, and it was also in that moment he decided that alphas? Disgusting. They were dumb and gross and ugh, cooties.
Now years later, not much had changed. Renjun still didn’t like Jeno, and had a lot of opinions about that very topic - Jeno was nothing but a bad copy of Jaemin; they seemed tied together by the hip, but Jeno was much less suave, and a lot less funny. Because he was an alpha and would flex whenever an omega was near, he was still popular in school, but Renjun found him annoying and made a habit of shutting down any attempts at conversation whenever their friend groups would hang out. Renjun didn't think they'd have anything in common, and didn't see any point in trying to force a friendship. Since they had the same friends, it was impossible to avoid Jeno - the alpha was everywhere, but that didn’t mean Renjun had to be nice to him, which was why Jeno remained something of one of those people he would see around in school, but never talk to.
And now he was standing on Renjun’s porch, very uninvited.
“No, this was my fault, sorry,” Jeno said, and helped Renjun stack the boxes back on top of one another in the matter of a few seconds. When he straightened up, he had stopped frowning and was now giving him a smile Renjun thought was a little too bright. Would he have to remind Jeno that they weren't friends?
"What are you doing on my porch?" he said instead. If he sounded accusing, good.
“Oh. Uh, I live down the street?” Jeno said and jerked his thumb towards the row of houses nearby. “My mom said someone from my school had moved in here so I thought I'd say hi.”
Jeno lifted his hand in a wave as if to illustrate (or maybe he was doing jazz hands, Renjun wasn’t sure) and Renjun gave him his best look of disinterest, hoping it would be enough to scare Jeno off from stopping by like this again. But Jeno's stance was confident, eyes unwavering, despite the blotches of red on his cheeks. Typical alpha behavior.
Renjun was starting to feel less irritated and more awkward the longer the silence dragged on. Maybe a beat too late he realized Jeno was staring at him because it was his turn to speak.
“Uh. Ok. Well, nice. Now you know it's me,” he said stiffly, pursing his lips. In his head he chanted ‘go away’ repeatedly. It didn’t seem to work. He hated himself for being so bad at social interactions, and then realized, no, he just hated interacting with people he didn’t want to interact with.
Jeno wasn’t smiling anymore, and opened his mouth to say something when Renjun’s mom spoke behind them, her voice echoing in the hallway.
“Say Renjun, I noticed you have almost run out of slick liners, do you want me to buy some more? I know you just had your heat but I figure it’d be smart to… oh, hi there.”
She stopped herself next to Renjun, one hand buried in her purse, car keys dangling from the other.
Renjun's heart must've done a full stop. Blood started rushing to his face; he looked on as Jeno introduced himself to his mom but didn’t catch a word, frozen in thought while simultaneously wishing for the ground to swallow him whole.
The mention of his name eventually put his mental breakdown on pause. He watched his mom give them a wave as she headed for the car her husband had pulled up to the curb, mouthing an apology to Renjun over Jeno’s shoulder with a cringe, before she ducked into the vehicle.
There was no need for crickets when the sound of the car driving off was hysterical on its own.
Neither of them spoke; Renjun too mortified, face aflame. He could even feel his eyes burning. He always teared up when he got angry or awfully embarrassed, and couldn’t really do anything but stare up at the sky and pray that Jeno would turn around and bolt home.
They went to the same school, hell, were friends with some of the same people - not only did Renjun hate for his secret to get out, but the talk of heats and slick, well, he could have gone without a kid from his school knowing about his heat cycle, an alpha no less. That alpha being Jeno. Wow, his life really sucked, didn’t it?
“Well I’m gonna…” Jeno broke the silence at last, and Renjun could see him moving in his peripheral vision. But he didn’t finish his sentence. Got quiet for some time, and the next time he spoke up it was a lot softer. “Hey, it’s cool, ok?”
That made Renjun look at him.
“You’re saying my slick liners are cool?” he deadpanned, mortified but not enough to let himself be pitied. But Jeno laughed at that, amused for some reason.
“It’s normal, it’s no big deal. Literally nothing to be embarrassed about,” as if he could sense Renjun literally dying inside, he chuckled a little and added, “You wanna hear something that’s actually embarrassing? Well one time I popped a knot in front of the whole class.”
That made Renjun bark out a laugh.
“I know, I was literally there,” he said. But hearing Jeno mention it so casually threw him on a bit of a loop, because they hadn’t brought it up in years. What was even more baffling, was that he’d done it in an attempt to comfort Renjun. Shoulder some of the embarrassment. And this time the smile on Jeno’s lips - a little wry, eyes twinkling mischievously like they were swapping secrets - felt genuine.
It had Renjun feeling stumped.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you around. Maybe in school, yeah?” Jeno said. “Welcome to the neighborhood.” And with one last smile he was jogging off, leaving Renjun there with boxes by his feet and head swimming with questions.
Renjun came to his senses later at night when he was kicking at his sheets, unable to fall asleep. Despite being an alpha, and despite being frankly hella annoying, Jeno seemed like a decent guy. He was loud and always surrounded by equally loud friends. Harmless but annoying, and as Renjun tended to ignore annoying things, he hadn’t paid much attention to him in the last few years. He had paid enough attention though to know that Jeno was the type of student who was liked by a lot of the student body, and would never be caught in the library or reading through notes during lunch break, but still somehow maintained good grades. The type who played pranks and lived for breaking rules, but was still the teacher’s pet. Overly ambitious and an overachiever, without even trying, and (this being something he heard other students say all the time): he was really nice.
It flustered Renjun, like anything did whenever he pretended to not care and then have it rubbed in his face that maybe he did care. But what flustered Renjun even more, or rather sent him into mini panic, was knowing that since they went to the same school, it definitely meant word could get around. Could, and probably would - with Jeno being a social butterfly, Renjun could easily imagine how it could come up in a conversation even if Jeno didn’t mean to bring it up - wait, you guys didn’t know Renjun was an omega? This was high school after all, and high school was a breeding ground for gossip. Even if it wasn't, they had the same friends. Jeno could tell Jaemin, who would tell Donghyuck, who would tell Jisung, who would tell Chenle, and on and on in a vicious circle known as the rumor mill.
Call him over dramatic, but it felt inevitable, and Renjun only had so much time to come up with a good excuse for hiding his designation for so long.
Needless to say, he didn’t get much sleep that night.
He had a great plan.
A great plan that he had spent better part of the night perfecting (or not really, he'd thought about how much he hated Jeno and his stupid face and then went out like a light) and he was ready to put it into motion already the next morning. Monday morning, which meant school, which meant Renjun had to do it before Jeno could leave home and find his little devilish friends.
Renjun liked being in school on time, and always got up early without a fault, no snoozing. This morning he got up even earlier, ate his breakfast and brushed his teeth. He waited on the bottom of his stairs until it looked like both Jeno's parents had driven off, and then crossed the street to Jeno's house. Taking a deep breath, he rang the bell.
Thankfully, it was indeed Jeno who opened the door. Squinting sleepily, black hair sticking out in various places, but already dressed and with a toast in his mouth.
"Renjun?" he said, and then almost stumbled on his own feet as Renjun invaded his space, forcing him to walk backwards into the hallway.
Renjun shut the door behind him, made sure no one was around (he knew Jeno had a sibling, but didn't know how he knew that) and then tried to look as intimidating as he possibly could. It might've been working, because Jeno had gone from sleepily munching on some toast to staring at him with big eyes.
"Have you told anyone that I'm an omega?" he said.
"I. What. No?"
Renjun wasn't sure he could believe him, but he did feel a weight lift from his shoulders.
"Ok, good. No one knows, and I want it to stay that way. So I need you to not tell anyone, ok? Not even Jaemin."
"Because I say so," Renjun said. "Don't tell anyone. If you do… well, you don't want to know what'll happen then."
Jeno stared at him. That didn't really help Renjun, so he glared some more.
"Well?" he prompted.
"I-- yeah, ok. If you don't want me to, I won't," Jeno said.
Renjun stared at him until he decided that he'd have to take Jeno’s words for it. There wasn't really anything else he could do, unless he started threatening violence. So he nodded, reached up to awkwardly pat Jeno's shoulder (or really his pec, which made it all that more awkward. It was a miscalculation though, nothing else), gave him something that was an attempt at a thumbs up and then headed out.
He heard Jeno following him out though, and turned around to see the boy stuff the rest of the toast into his mouth, shouldering his backpack.
"Why are you following me?" Renjun said.
"I'm… walking to school?" Jeno said.
Renjun made sure they walked ten feet apart all the way to school.
Now that Renjun had been reminded of Jeno’s existence, he was once again reminded that the guy was practically everywhere. They didn’t have any classes together - their high school was a big one, tutoring thousands of students - but if Renjun’s eyes seeked him out he was surely there; walking down the hallways, a table away during lunch, or making quite a racket with his noisy friends in the auditorium.
They may have been neighbors now, might have shared an embarrassing interaction, but within the walls of the school they were still practically strangers. Not friends, but associated. It would happen sometimes that Jeno would catch his eye and give him a tiny, friendly smile, but after Renjun never responded in kind, he stopped.
It wasn’t that Renjun was a hostile person, in fact, he prided himself on being quite likeable (he stuck to the same group of friends, but never beefed with anyone) but Renjun hadn't seen any future for a friendship between them before, and now whenever their eyes met, a wave of embarrassment would also wash over him as he recalled his mom's slip up. With his face burning and heart beating out of his chest there wasn’t really any way to force a smile, so if Jeno was disappointed over their budding friendship never blossoming, all Renjun could do was move on with his day.
And move on he did; once it really sunk in that no one would find out he was an omega the anxiety faded and he could relax, and thus, he stopped thinking that much about Jeno, and stopped seeking him out with his eyes.
School kept Renjun occupied. Quizzes, essays, group presentations, and Jeno became one student among others again; the kind of student who Renjun would recognize when they passed by in the hallways but never really speak to. A friend of a friend.
October rolled around, with its gray skies and fallen leaves. Lots of rain, and the gloomy weather affected Renjun too. He took more naps, and misplaced things a lot. He lost his home keys one day, the only pair his parents had given him, and he and Yukhei spent a good 45 minutes running around in school trying to find them. Renjun eventually found them in the locker room, probably having dropped them after phys ed earlier in the day. Relief flooded him - his parents wouldn’t behead him and everything was suddenly great, and perhaps that was why there was an extra bounce to his step, and why he was a little more careless.
It happened in a split second; the door swung open with such force he stepped back just in time for it to miss slamming into his face, at the same time as he breathed in a lungful of worked up alpha. He didn’t even think, didn’t even notice until it was too late; how he instinctively bared his neck.
The action seemed to stop time. The alpha stood frozen in the doorway, the door never swinging shut. Renjun quickly jerked his chin down with a sharp inhale, staring at the alpha in front of him.
And oh, as if all the bad karma he had accumulated so far was finally raining down on him, the alpha was Jeno.
He was staring back at Renjun. Hair tousled, an empty water bottle dangling from his hand, the other hand still holding up the door. The taekwondo uniform he was wearing was either about to come undone, or purposely designed to hang off his frame just so Renjun could track a drop of sweat traveling down the valley of his pecs and disappearing into the folds of fabric.
His face was a little flushed, maybe from exercise, but also maybe from having an omega submit to him out of nowhere, and Renjun? Renjun’s own face was burning so hot he must have been steaming. There was no way for him to excuse what he had just done, or even begin to explain it. He had acted on instinct, which itself both baffled and embarrassed him; it wasn’t because Jeno had startled him - it wasn’t a sign of weakness or fear. An omega wouldn’t bare their throat to someone they didn’t trust and respect, which was the very reason he now felt, well, incredibly humiliated.
Jeno continued staring at him in silence. But he had every right to think he was a weirdo, submitting like that to an alpha he was barely friends with. Talk about desperate.
“Uh, sorry, I don’t know why I…” Renjun pinched the bridge of his nose, just barely stopping himself from tearing his own hair out. His eyes darted around in a search for an escape route, or maybe just to avoid eye contact, but then his eyes landed on a mirror instead, and yeah, great, tomato red.
He could hear Jeno’s throat working to swallow, and Renjun finally dared to meet his eyes. Unlike the last time, Jeno didn’t attempt to make light of the situation; seemingly at a loss for words.
“Um, I’m gonna…” Renjun pointed past Jeno’s shoulder lamely, desperately wanting to get out of there.
Realizing he was blocking the way, Jeno’s eyebrows inched up, and he suddenly took a quick step to the side, holding the door open for Renjun.
“Ah, yeah, sorry,” he said, voice thick, and Renjun didn’t look him in the eye again as he headed out.
He was shaking as he sent a message to Yukhei telling him he could stop searching for the keys. He was pretty sure he didn’t stop shaking until he got home, and even then, it was impossible to stop thinking about it.
He wanted to scream into a pillow, throw some things around, maybe punch a wall. But instead he dropped in his bed like all the air had escaped him, staring unseeingly into the wall next to him for what felt like an hour.
Rain started bouncing against his window, and for a while, he just lay there listening to it. Pity party.
Once Renjun had gotten over most of the embarrassment, he started wondering why he had submitted to Jeno. Maybe it had been instinct. Trust and respect was vital when it came to an omega submitting to an alpha, and although Renjun neither trusted nor respected Jeno, he did look like the stereotypical alpha. Big, broad and kind. If one went by appearances, trustworthy. He had also smelled like an alpha, and Renjun could admit he had smelled… not bad. Ok. For an alpha, good. Not all alphas smelled good in Renjun’s sensitive nose. Not enough that Renjun could see himself submitting, but enough that he might want to maybe steal his blankets. Or used sweatshirts. And never ever give them back.
He wanted to tear his hair out again.
He thought about it, about Jeno’s scent. Started thinking about why he thought it’d smelled so good. Why it had been so strong. Thought about if it was because Jeno had exercised, or maybe because he was close to his rut. He did not want to think about Jeno's ruts, but once he started thinking about it, he couldn’t stop. He thought about it through his homework, thought about it through dinner, thought about it when watching Netflix and taking a shower and then when he was trying to sleep, couldn’t make sense of the day’s events or the dumb alpha he’d known since middle school.
One thing was for sure: this was new. Renjun didn’t care much for alphas. He often found them arrogant and immature, privileged for a fact. And Jeno had never seemed any different; sure of himself, always preening around omegas. His friends were loud, and he often tried to be louder. But Renjun had never witnessed Jeno being a douchey alpha though, and never heard him misspeak about omegas. While he did seem like the proud type, he was also friendly and hardworking, and when Renjun really thought about it, thought about how Jeno hadn’t hesitated to trade an embarrassing tale to ease Renjun’s embarrassment, he realized that Jeno was maybe an alright alpha after all - Renjun did keep hearing how kind and considerate Jeno was.
He couldn’t sort out the thoughts in his head, and when Renjun finally fell asleep that night, it was to the memory of Jeno’s eye smile, his heavy scent, and his heart maybe feeling like it did the Grinch thing where it grew a little in size.
Jeno didn’t speak to him after Renjun’s locker room blunder, but Renjun did feel like the alpha started at him a little less subtly when they crossed paths in the hallways. It made him antsy. Ever so often he’d feel like he was being watched, and heat would rise to his face, but as long as his big omega secret didn’t get out, he considered himself safe.
And then came Halloween.
Renjun was too introverted to go to parties - a real homebody who preferred binging a good TV series opposed to staying out all night.
Getting carelessly drunk also seemed like shitty idea when you were trying to cover up part of your identity, so avoiding parties all together was something he had become good at. Ever so often though, it did happen that he gave into his friends whining, which was how a very resigned Renjun showed up at Kim Yeri’s house for Halloween
It felt like half the school was already there, but he found it a relief, knowing the little of his scent people could pick up on would get buried under all perfume and sweaty teens. It also gave him an easier escape from his friends; he loved them and all that, but he knew they would drag him into the dancing bodies and there was no way he was about to grind on his friends, close enough where they could smell how much of an omega he was.
After some unavoidable mingling and selfies, he parted with his friends. There was a line to the bathroom, so he snuck into the kitchen instead, but got overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people squeezed into such a tiny space and quickly grabbed a cup of lemonade before he escaped to the patio.
The late October air was refreshingly cool; the silence welcoming. He had only been there for half an hour but already wanted to leave. He took a sip of his lemonade and then tossed it over the railing after realizing it wasn’t lemonade at all but alcohol, and decided he would try to hide out there for half an hour and then leave; his friends probably wouldn’t make much of a fuss as they had already gotten their obligatory group photos for Instagram.
He only lasted ten minutes on the patio, the silky tunic he was wearing not warm enough for the night air. He dreaded walking all the way home, but he looked even less forward to spending more time in this house.
He entered the house again to search for his friends and found Hendery by chance, his Captain Hook wig askew, and let him know about his plans. He listened to Hendery whine and pout over it before he decided to make his exit. He was only a few feet from the hallway; so close to freedom when he caught a whiff of something familiar. Something that had his stomach doing flips and caused him to knock over a sequined jack-o'lantern.
Renjun hadn’t known how long he’d last before he’d go make a fool of himself again. He felt like a ticking bomb, something that was amplified by how he quickly realized he’d now would search both Jeno’s scent out subconsciously when in school. He felt a bit like a creep, looking the other way with blood surging to his face whenever they crossed paths in school only to sniff him out, or peek out from behind the curtains in his bedroom window, fearing or maybe hoping to catch a sight of Jeno across the street.
Besides receiving a few judgy looks from Ten, nothing else had happened though, because he had kept himself in check. But here he was, staring at the back of Jeno's head and had the perfect opportunity to just walk out of there without being noticed. And he’d bet his ass he stood rooted to the spot, hand hovering over the door handle like some fool. His heart started to race, hands quickly getting clammy as if his body already knew he would make a fool out of himself.
His unabashed staring caught the eye of one of their friends, and domino effect: Jaemin looked in the same direction, which caused Jeno to turn around and quickly lay eyes on Renjun.
He seriously contemplated swinging the door open and slamming it shut behind him. Run all the way home. Oh, Jeno, you were there? Didn't see you! But before he could indulge in that fantasy Jaemin called out his name excitedly and started striding towards him.
“Let me guess, Santa’s little helper?” was the first thing Jaemin said to him, and Renjun had to take a deep breath to calm himself.
Jaemin was someone he could maybe consider a friend, but much like Jeno he was annoying and tended to wear down on Renjun's patience. He also had this weird habit of sniffing people, and Renjun sometimes wondered if the sparkle in his eyes meant he had figured Renjun out. Another thing that made him want to avoid Jaemin too was that wherever Jaemin went, there was a chance Jeno would be. Like now, when he snuck up to Jaemin's side, peering at Renjun from over his shoulder.
“What?” Renjun said, trying to focus on Jaemin.
“Your costume?” Jaemin said, eyeing his prosthetic elf ears and green outfit.
"I'm Peter Pan, dumbass. Why would I have a Christmas costume for Halloween?"
Jaemin laughed in response. Renjun looked at Jeno again, and was startled when their eyes locked. He suddenly felt a little hot. Had his throat been this bare the whole night?
He felt stupid for getting flustered. He bet his face was red right now. It was stupid, this was just Jeno. Jeno, Jaemin's friend. Jeno who he'd seen and talked to many times before. Jeno who was an alpha. Who knew he was an omega and who smelled kinda good. Oh shit.
“My friends made me do it, they went as Wendy and Captain Hook. They thought it’d be funny, or something,” Renjun added quickly, eyes back on Jaemin.
Jaemin hummed in understanding, and Renjun took note of his costume for the first time, but nothing about it stood out to him. He wore a simple tee that said I <3 HENTAI in big print. Renjun didn’t know who Hentai was, but he knew he’d heard about them before.
“What… what are you supposed to be?”
“Oh this? Eh, inside joke. I went as one of my friends,” Jaemin shrugged.
“Oh. Who’s Hentai, a Pokémon?”
Jaemin started laughing at that, loud enough to make Renjun feel like they might attract attention.
“Jeno here’s supposed to be a vampire. Boring, right? He’s no fun,” Jaemin chuckled, but Jeno only smiled at Renjun, eyes turning into half moons.
Renjun scrambled for a reply, but all he could think about was the previous two times he embarrassed himself in front of Jeno - and truth be told, he didn’t even know which one of the times were more embarrassing.
“I’m gonna… leave. Head home, I mean,” Renjun said, then cringing. He might as well have said I don’t want to talk to you anymore, bye. Maybe he should? It didn’t sound like a bad idea, he liked being straight forward.
“This soon?” Jaemin said. Jeno was quiet. Renjun tried to read him, but his expression gave nothing away. It made him think about how Jeno was like this a lot - quick to smile, but very careful with expressing other emotions.
“Yeah, I’m not really... Big on parties, you know,” Renjun said.
“Oh, that’s cool,” a shrug and a smile. “Wait, do you have a ride?”
Renjun contemplated if lying was necessary - the last thing he wanted was for Jaemin or Jeno to offer to give him a ride and stink up a car with omega pheromones. The pills he took were supposed to not let that happen, but you never knew. Omegas weren’t supposed to present long after puberty either, yet here he was.
“Uh, one of my friends got a ride for us, but I don’t think they want to leave yet. It’s ok though, I’m gonna walk,” he said.
“Walk? That’s like a 30 minute walk,” Jaemin tutted, voice loud even though they both could already be heard over the music playing. “And it’s like, freezing.”
How did Jaemin know where he lived? He wanted to send Jeno a glare for that, but wasn't sure he'd get it.
“Well, 25 if you walk fast. And I’ll get warmer the faster I’ll walk, it’s ok really,” he said. Translation: leave me alone.
“Oh, I know! You can borrow Jeno’s jacket,” Jaemin said and clapped Jeno on the back, before he winked at Renjun and then proceeded to leave Renjun alone with Jeno. Which honestly? Renjun had no idea what the fuck was going on, but he knew he’d have to extract some type of revenge on Jaemin.
“Ah, yeah, you can borrow my jacket.”
He looked up hearing Jeno speak, and found the alpha shrugging out of the blazer he was wearing. He held it out for Renjun to take.
“Here,” he said.
Renjun gaped at him.
This was inappropriate on so many levels. Sure, between friends sharing was second nature, but they weren’t friends. Jeno was an alpha, and he knew Renjun was an omega. Wrapping yourself in the scent of an alpha you weren't on friendly terms with wasn’t something you did on a daily basis, especially not as an unmated omega.
“My blood runs hot, so I’m fine. You’re short sleeved, take it,” Jeno said, misunderstanding Renjun’s hesitance.
"I. What. Thank you, but no thanks."
"Why not?" Jeno said a little louder.
Renjun looked around. Although they were alone in the foyer, he didn’t want to bring attention to himself by making a scene over this. Miffed and speechless, Renjun didn’t see any other choice than to take it. Jeno didn’t seem to think it was anything out of the ordinary, smiling at Renjun. It was better to gracefully accept it. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal at all. No one else knew Renjun was an omega.
“Thank you,” he mumbled, taking the blazer from Jeno. When the alpha kept looking at him expectantly he slipped his arms inside the blazer and pulled it on.
It was almost too much. The second the fabric dragged over his bare forearms and settled around his body it was as though he was cocooned in Jeno’s scent. The scent of alpha. The blazer was heavy and warm, and too big for him. The sleeves covered his hands, his fingers peeking out, and his shoulders were not even close to as wide as Jeno’s. It had been the perfect fit on the alpha, but was baggy on Renjun. With trembling fingers he smoothed the blazer out, and forced himself to meet the alphas’ eyes.
He didn't seem to have noticed Renjun’s inner turmoil. Even had the balls to give him a tiny satisfied smile. Renjun couldn’t make sense of it, why Jeno was being so friendly, even though Renjun shot him down time after time. But maybe that was it. Maybe he just wanted to be his friend. Jeno seemed to have a lot of friends in school, and they were already sharing a lot of friends. And now he and Jeno were neighbors too. Hell, maybe his parents had told him to make friends with the new kid in the neighborhood.
Renjun didn’t know how to feel about it.
This might keep Renjun up at night, and now he had Jeno’s jacket. Now he was wrapped in Jeno’s scent and did Jeno know that? He had to know that, that Renjun would be walking home smelling like him, smelling like an alpha. And that, well, that went beyond friendship.
He startled when Jeno’s hand moved in his direction. The alpha reached up and fixed the collar of Renjun’s shirt where it had been squashed under the blazer; fingers accidentally brushing Renjun’s neck. Warm, warm fingers leaving a tingling, invisible trail over his scent gland.
“Sorry, it bothered me,” Jeno cluckled, oblivious.
Heat crawled up his nape, up to his face, the tips of his ears burning. Jeno’s touch had him shivering. He stared down at the space between their feet, took a shuddering breath which was a bad idea because his nose was flooded with Jeno’s scent, neck tingling from where his skin had brushed against Renjun's. His face burned, stomach clenched and oh.
With utmost mortification he felt himself get slick.
It wasn’t supposed to happen - he was usually safe, only needing to use slick liners when he was closer to his heat. But he also wasn’t usually talking to alphas he didn’t know while wrapped up in their scent.
He glanced to his side. They were alone in the foyer, people milling about further away and paying them no mind. He shifted, almost visibly cringing at the wet feeling and then dared to peek at the alpha in front of him, strongly wishing for him to remain oblivious.
Jeno had stopped smiling, staring at him now expressionless, ears tinted red.
Of course he was able to smell it. They were standing close enough, no other alphas or omegas nearby to throw off the scent.
Well, at least now Renjun knew which moment had been the most embarrassing one: this one right here. It took the fucking cake, and unlike the other two times when his reaction had been to want to tear his hair out, he was paralyzed now.
What could Jeno say to lighten the mood this time? Renjun was so mortified he almost started to laugh. Honestly, there was nothing that could top this. He would never be able to talk to the alpha again, much less look his way, unless the could bleach the memory of this moment from his brain.
“Are you sure, uh,” Jeno said. shifting his weight from one feet to the other, shoving his hands down the pockets of his slacks. For once he was the one to avert his eyes. Renjun was hanging by a thread, but before Jeno could finish the sentence, someone called his name.
Donghyuck and Mark stumbled towards them, nearly doubling over as they tried to retell something “so hilarious, you’re not gonna believe this,” that had happened. Renjun didn’t stay to find out, staring down at his feet as he mumbled a “gotta go” and darted out through the front door and into the cold night.
He was home in 20 minutes, and tore off Jeno’s blazer as though it was on fire, throwing it in the direction of his closet before peeling the rest of his clothes and diving in under his blankets. He stared up at the ceiling for an eternity, heart beating rapidly. Utterly mortified.
He didn’t move until his phone buzzed with a shaky selfie his friends sent. That was when he curled up into a ball and felt his eyes burn with tears.
Renjun told his parents that he was feeling like he was coming down with something, and then had an excuse to spend the weekend in his room, moping. The whole situation didn’t stress him out as much as it frustrated him; he wasn’t fearing that the Jeno would expose him for being an omega anymore; no, what really frustrated him was that he knew he would have to avoid Jeno until graduation. Avoid him (and by extension his friends) like the plague, unless he wanted to be reminded and mortified whenever he laid eyes upon the alpha.
In fact, it was also for Jeno's sake. Hell, getting wet over the mere presence of an alpha was almost more indecent than an alpha telling you he’d just popped a knot for you. Renjun couldn’t believe how uncomfortable Jeno must have been, and how desperate he must have come off.
Tl;dr: he'd have to avoid Jeno the rest of his life. Which was a little easier said than done, considering, well, they were practically neighbors.
Renjun always got up early in the mornings on school days, and the following Monday was no exception. He always left for school earlier than Jeno (he was pretty sure the alpha overslept every other day) but this morning, Jeno was waiting for him by their mailbox.
It was drizzling; gentle but cold November rain, and Jeno was standing there holding a transparent umbrella. He looked up when he heard Renjun ambling out on the porch, his black hair ruffled by the wind, bangs combed back. He looked a little sleepy, but relaxed and confident, shoulders pulled back and eyes fixated on Renjun.
Renjun who very much wanted to get struck by lightning and pulverize at the spot.
He wondered what would be more awful: making up a blatant lie that he suddenly felt sick and had to stay home, or walk up to Jeno and hear what he had to say.
Making up a blatant lie would require him to talk to the alpha anyways, so Renjun squared his shoulders and walked up to Jeno, heart beating like a mad drum.
“Morning,” Jeno said, voice rough with sleep but a smile on his lips. “I thought we could walk to school together.”
Renjun blinked. What now? Jeno was holding out the umbrella for him, probably to indicate that he could step under it, but Renjun felt a twinge of annoyance and took it from him. It made more sense for Jeno to carry it since he was taller, but Renjun wasn’t going to let him think he couldn’t even carry an umbrella just because he was an omega.
Jeno let him take it though, with a smile nonetheless. It made Renjun a little miffed. A lot of alphas had these stupid ideas, that you weren’t alpha enough if you carried an umbrella when it was raining, or that you weren’t alpha enough if you washed your face or used sunscreen.
And then there was Jeno, whose skin glowed like he moisturized and who wasn’t only carrying an umbrella, but was ok with an omega holding it.
“I’m. Uh. Ok,” Renjun stuttered, following Jeno with the umbrella when he started walking. He didn't like that Jeno was suddenly in charge of the situation. He was used to the alpha being the bumbling idiot out of the two of them.
They walked in silence at first, nothing but the rain bouncing off the umbrella keeping the silence from being unbearable. Renjun was very aware of how close Jeno was walking while simultaneously going out of his mind trying to figure out why the hell he was sharing an umbrella with this alpha on the way to school, after he so spectacularly embarrassed himself.
“Did you have a good weekend?” Jeno said. Renjun took a deep breath. He knew he’d have to address this. Taking a deep breath meant he inhaled a big gulp of Jeno air, and that made him lose his focus a little. He hated that the alpha smelled good.
“Not… really. Look-- I’m sorry about, you know, on Friday, I’m usually not… I don’t really know what happened-” he started a sentence he didn’t know how to finish. God damn it. Why was he blabbering? Why even bring this up? Why not pretend like it never happened? Jeno hadn’t brought it up, he’d just asked about the weekend, so why did Renjun, the blundering idiot bring it up? He wanted to toss the umbrella at Jeno and dive head first into a puddle.
“Oh, that’s… It’s ok, don’t work yourself up over that. You know, I felt kind of bad for not saying anything, I hope it hasn’t bothered you too much,” Jeno said, ever so easygoing about these kind of topics. He laughed softly, a sweet sound Renjun was sure was popular with the omegas, but it only made Renjun feel like he was being pitied.
“It’s… No, it’s not ok. I’m sorry, really, for making you uncomfortable,” Renjun said. And there, now his face was on fire and he was maybe dying a little, but now he had at least apologized. Maybe he wouldn’t have to avoid Jeno for all eternity after all. Maybe they could put it behind them.
“Uncomfortable? No, that’s… so far from the truth.”
Jeno’s words had Renjun looking at him for the first time since they left the driveway. His cheeks were rosy, hair windswept. He smelled good, but this time it wasn’t enough to distract Renjun. He stared at the alpha, feeling how his own eyes bulged stupidly.
“Ok, ok. Here we go,” Jeno said to himself, smiling sheepishly. “You’re not dating anyone right now, am I right?” Jeno then decided to say out of nowhere, causing Renjun to step in a deep puddle. RIP his sneakers.
“Uh. What? No I’m not. Why are you asking?” he said, defensive.
His heart started beating so fast again that he almost didn’t hear Jeno. Why was his heart beating so fast? Probably in horror of what was to come.
What the fuck. Good? Why was that good?
Renjun stared at Jeno, but the alpha didn’t look at him, instead staring straight ahead as they walked. If Renjun’s eyes weren’t deceiving him, it looked like Jeno’s face was getting really red, and oh boy did Renjun just know he was about to say something stupid.
“Hey, so what do you think of me?”
And there it was.
“What?” Renjun said.
“You know,” Jeno shrugged. Renjun could tell he was trying to sound casual, but was trying so hard it had the opposite effect.
“No, I don’t know.”
“You… D’you think I’m a good alpha?”
Renjun blinked. What.
“Do you think I’m a good-”
“No, I heard you! I’m just. What. I guess? Why are you asking me this?”
“No, I’m just… wondering,” Jeno shoved his hands down the pocket in the front of his hoodie, gave him another shrug. “Do you think I’d be a good alpha?”
Renjun mulled over the question. Wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly. Jeno was already an alpha, why was he speaking in future tense?
“Literally what do you mean?” Renjun said.
For some reason, Renjun’s reaction made Jeno face scrunch up in an embarrassed smile.
“I’d like to think so. That… That I’d be a good alpha. For you know, you,” he said.
Renjun’s eyes must’ve bulged out of his skull. What now? Oh wow, this guy. He had quite the confidence. Renjun stared at him, completely stunned into silence. But Jeno didn’t look cocky, didn’t seem like he was bragging. What was going on?
“For me?” Renjun let out a laugh, amused at the bizarre turn this conversation had taken.
“Oh, hell,” Jeno ran a hand through his hair, exhaled noisily. Then stopped walking, causing Renjun to slow down as well. In the middle of a sidewalk, so close to school they could see it.
“Look, I’ve been meaning to ask you: can I court you?” Jeno said.
Renjun let out a loud “Ha!” causing a few pedestrians to look their way. He shrunk into himself, and then stared at Jeno wide eyed.
“Is this a joke? Please tell me this is a joke,” he said.
Jeno didn’t say anything. Pinched his mouth shut and shook his head back and forth, face red.
“Oh my god. No. I’m walking away now. I’m walking away with your umbrella,” Renjun somehow commanded his legs to start moving.
“Wait-- why not?” Jeno hurried after him.
“Why not? Why--” Renjun stopped again, causing Jeno to almost careen into him. “Court me? Why would you want to court me, do you want to mate me?” he spat the words out with as much disbelief as he could possibly muster.
Courting wasn’t really something you did anymore, at least not in their age. Even Renjun’s own parents had dated normally and then later mated. Kids these days didn’t officially court, not unless they were very conservative and/or religious. Courting was too serious, in the age of Tinder no one wanted to commit to that - courting led to mating. It was so different from just dating around to see if you clicked and if you had a future together. Courting meant you were dating with the very firm intention of getting mated. From the very first day an alpha started courting a beta or omega, the eyes were set on mating.
Renjun was stunned. He stared at Jeno and Jeno stared back at him. He looked flustered, a little deer caught in headlights, but there was also a certain determination in how he didn’t break the eye contact. Renjun couldn’t put his finger on it, but then he did; Jeno was being serious.
And that only made Renjun even more confused.
“Why… why would you want to mate me? I don’t understand. We don’t even know each other.”
Jeno made a noise in protest. He stepped a little closer, chest puffing out a little.
“What is that supposed to mean? We’ve been friends since middle school. I’ve literally had a crush on you for years,” Jeno said. All of this was news to Renjun. “I’ve tried to get closer to you but you always shoot me down and like, get out of your way to not sit next to me, so I thought you wanted to make it obvious you weren’t interested in me that way. And I mean, I got over it, but then it felt like you were always sneaking glances at me and then you bared your throat for me and I was like wow, maybe he doesn’t actually hate me? And I’d never been able to smell you before, you smell so good, at the Halloween party when you-”
Renjun had to physically stop him from running out of breath by placing a hand in front of Jeno’s mouth.
“Oh my god,” he hissed and looked around to make sure no one from school had heard them. Jeno grabbed his wrist to bring it away from his mouth. His hand was warm. Renjun quickly shook it off.
“Ugh, I’m sorry. But I can’t stop thinking about you, and I’ve thought about it, how it’s like, it’s always come down to this? Ever since middle school, I always somehow start thinking about you,” Jeno admitted. “I’ve tried to do something about it but nothing has changed, so my friends told me to be straightforward and just say something. So…,” Jeno smiled at him hesitantly, as if saying ta-dah.
Renjun was not convinced.
This was so out of his expertise, and he wished a typhoon could come and sweep him away. He had no idea Jeno had been feeling like this, always just thought Jeno was being overly friendly. He’d even seen him with girlfriends. Caught him flirting with other omegas. And now he was suddenly saying how he was interested in Renjun, and that meant Renjun would have to turn him down.
But wait a minute.
“You’ve talked to your friends about me?” Renjun said. Suddenly Jaemin’s amused glances made sense. When he thought about it, there had been many instances when their respective group of friends had interacted and Donghyuck or Mark had herded, shuffled and elbowed him in Jeno’s direction (one time Donghyuck literally picked him up and put him down next to Jeno like he was a mannequin, gah!). He always thought it was because they knew he found Jeno annoying, but now it took on a whole different meaning.
“I-- yes? But I promise I haven’t told them you’re an omega,” Jeno said. It earned him a glare, but Renjun did believe him.
The wind picked up a little, and the umbrella shook in Renjun’s grip. The rain wasn’t falling that hard, but Renjun realized Jeno had been standing in the open air, and stepped a little closer so the umbrella was providing cover for the both of them. But with that things suddenly felt a little too intimate, so he shook the umbrella again.
“Take it,” he said.
Jeno did, watching him with his round eyes.
“Listen, I can’t-- you’re a nice guy, ok. But I’m not really… looking for anything like that. Honestly, I just kind of want to focus on school right now,” Renjun said.
He almost expected Jeno to argue, to go on about something even more absurd than what he’d already dropped on Renjun this weird morning. But he didn’t. Just nodded, giving Renjun a smile.
“Ok, yeah,” he said. “That’s ok.”
The drizzle had stopped, so Renjun told him they’d probably see each other around and then hurried on ahead, his head spinning.