Chapter 1: hemophilia
Life is one long gossip chain about designations, and as a Beta, it’s fucking exhausting.
I’m over it by senior year of high school, when everyone is going through the big change at the same time. Poe Dameron turns Alpha over winter break and comes back with a swagger in his step that somehow makes him even more insufferable. He triggers another guy who triggers an Omega.
Then we move on to the same freshman year of community college and it just keeps going.
And everyone laughs and chats and tries to guess who will be next. I try tuning it out and stick to the art room where I spend most of my days, anyway, and I’m in no danger of running across an Alpha.
They’re all those big burly jock guys like Poe. Athleticism and stuff is written in their blood, and there’s nothing they can do about it. It must suck to have so much of your destiny determined by a flip of the coin.
• • •
“I heard he’s gay.”
“Kaydel! Just because he’s an O doesn’t mean he’s gay.”
It’s a quiet lunch outside and I’m eavesdropping like I always do. I frown, distracted by the chatter about our new calculus professor and football coach. An Omega? And a man? Huh.
It doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does they usually end up in psych wards.
Poe trots across the grass to Kaydel and Bazine where they’re sitting on a ledge. Kaydel is still Beta and brags loudly about having sex with an Alpha, which I guess is a big achievement for a Beta. I don’t want the knot thing in my body. Health class said it can cause ‘irreparable damage.’
I turn back to the math homework I didn’t bother doing over the weekend. Whump. Maybe the new professor will give me an extension.
Lunch ends and I text my (sick) friend Rose about the new professor. She’s out from heat sickness and I try keeping her up-to-date, especially about other demi-humans and our Beta athlete friend Finn. He’s nice. He and Rose kind of have a thing but it’s hard now that’s she’s presented.
Things don’t… work.
But they still like each other and Finn’s adoptive parents said his dad was Alpha. It can take a long time before the genes shift the right way.
It’s easy to blend in in the sea of Alphas and Omegas. Well, not a sea, but it seems like there’s a lot of them floating around the campus. I keep to the edges and try not to attract the wandering, aggressive eyes of an Alpha with too much energy to burn. They’re awful: mean, aggressive, misogynistic.
Omegas just whine. They like being coddled and I’m always thinking, ‘grow up.’ Bazine drapes herself all over Aaron Hurley even though she’s on suppressants and she makes that creepy chirping sound like a bird with a broken wing.
That won’t be me. I’ll keep being normal and as bland as possible, just skating by the skin of my teeth. I’ll be an accountant when I graduate and move somewhere sunny. I like the ocean.
We all pour into the math hall and take our usual seats. I’m right up front where I don’t want to be and shift a little to hide further in the corner. Our old calculus teacher was a half-blind ninety year old woman with a lisp; maybe we’ll get that again.
The door opens and Kaydel actually gasps.
It’s not gasping material. He’s young and tall and broad, more like a linebacker than a math teacher, and he has black hair looped back in a bun. He does have some gnarly black tattoos coming out underneath his rolled back sleeves—and he has an equally gnarly black brand on the side of his neck.
I blink. It’s an Omega symbol.
He drops a messenger bag on the desk and doesn’t turn, but starts talking.
“I’m Kylo.” Couple pens. Calculus book. A registration bracelet clicks on his wrist. “Professor Ren to you. I’m not gasping material and if you ask about the brand I’ll break your legs.”
Everyone falls silent. Mr. Ren hangs his bag over the back of the chair and takes a drink from his travel mug, probably coffee but maybe whiskey, and I can’t help but stare. He’s an Omega? But how is he so big? And the tattoos? And a man?
There’s no mating bite, just the big brand. I read that it used to be done in some parts of the country because ‘aberrant’ presentations were so unpredictable. That’s why he has a registration bracelet, too. They get followed around.
He scratches stubble on his chin and dark eyes flicker up, brow furrowing—then snap straight to me.
I stiffen. What’s he looking at? What’s his problem? I’m minding my own business and staring just as much as everyone else is.
Mr. Ren narrows his eyes. I’m afraid he’s going to fucking punch me.
“Sir, do we have practice today?”
Poe attracts his attention and I’m set free. I redden and look down at my notebook and old iPad I bought off Craigslist. Holy shit. He can’t be an Omega.
Mr. Ren goes to the white board. “Yes, Dameron. Come by my office after class.”
“Well—I’m an Alpha, y’know.”
Kaydel groans and slaps Poe’s arm. I watch from the corner of my eye as Mr. Ren slowly turns to stare at Poe, still holding a red marker in his thick fingers. He raises his eyebrows.
Poe laughs uncomfortably. “I’m just saying. Since you’ve got that brand—”
The marker sails across the room and hits Poe right between the eyes. He yelps and scrambles for the door when Mr. Ren hurls a green marker next. Kaydel turns to watch him leave and giggles with Bazine. I blink at the scene and when I turn, find my math professor glaring at me again.
Jesus. What did I do?
He pushes up his gray sweater sleeves again and turns to the white board.
“Miss Elms is dead. Open to page sixty.”
• • •
I’m determined to keep blending in, so I move to the back of the classroom the next day.
There are extra seats and no one notices or cares. It gives me a great spot to avoid Professor Ren’s penetrating stare, but I figure he’ll move on to harassing Poe, anyway. Since Poe is an ass.
Our professor is already at the head of the classroom sitting at the desk. He doesn’t look up, too busy looking at something on his tablet, but I can tell he’s tired. His hair is messier today and his tie is loose.
Everyone shuffles in and sits. I give the room a glance and open up my book.
I’m suddenly the center of attention. Bodies shift and dozens of eyes stare at me, curious to why Professor Ren is calling my name. My heart pounds and I get a strange prickling sensation down my nape.
“…Yes?” I rasp. Clear my throat. “Yes?”
“Come here, please.”
Giggles wash through the room. I slowly get to my feet and wish I wore a nicer outfit to be stared at in. It’s just the same sweater I’ve had since high school and old tennis sneakers. I usually look like I just rolled out of bed.
Professor Ren’s dark eyes flicker to mine as I come to stop a couple feet away. He smells nice, like laundry; it’s the same way Rose sometimes smells during heat. But there’s an undercurrent of woodsy… something. It’s relaxing. Where does he get his cologne?
He picks up my assignment and I see it’s covered in red marks. My cheeks burn as he offers it to me, and I and try to hide the failing grade. He just leans back in his chair and gives me the same cold glare.
The prickling gets worse. My throat itches, which I figure is because I want to cry. People are staring. Why would he embarrass me like this? I haven’t done anything to him—I didn’t make offensive comments or ask stupid questions.
“You should find a tutor,” Professor Ren says, still staring at me. He points to the front corner desk. “Please return to your assigned seat, Miss Niima. It seems you need the extra attention.”
Humiliated, I scurry to the back and bring my stuff up to the front. People stare. I’m on the verge of tears.
He stands, red marker clenched in his fist. I don’t look up or directly at him for the rest of class, determined not to cry, but I still feel him eyeing me. I’ve never annoyed anyone in my entire life and this guy hates me after one day and one bad grade.
The lecture starts. I doodle a little to keep myself occupied, at an odd mix of angry and mortified and not sure how to deal with it. I’m not angry a lot. I usually go with the flow so everyone will like me, but this guy is getting on my nerves.
What an asshole. I’ve never met an Omega who was such an asshole. They’re usually sweet and gentle and I have no problems—
“What did you find for question six, Miss Niima?”
My gaze snaps up at his voice and I find I’m being stared at again, faced with an unfamiliar proof on the white board. Shit.
I scramble. “Uh—I think I got it wrong.”
People laugh softly as I scan my homework. Question six: yes, got it wrong. I’m not very good at math. Or anything else, really.
My professor ambles to my desk, pushing and closing the marker cap with his thumb. I clench my jaw as he pushes aside my homework, which flutters to the floor, and turns my notebook around to face him. The classroom falls silent.
Long, calloused fingers flip through pages upon pages of random doodles. I like drawing, even if I’m not very good at it. Eyes, shapes, hands. I don’t draw cohesive things; I’m more of a small picture type of person. Here and now has been the only thing I’ve ever had control over.
I stare at the notebook until he stops. He lifts it to close the front and takes the entire thing away, turning back to the whiteboard. Before I can ask, he answers the question.
Mortified, furious, I grab my backpack and stuff my iPad inside. Poe laughs and Professor Ren snaps at him to get out, too, but I’m already halfway down the stairs before we can meet each other.
What a fucking asshole. Fuck him.
Chapter 2: thrombocytopenia
i spent a very long time editing the email part of this
“He’s such a fucking asshole!”
Rose is draped over her bed with a lollipop hanging out of her mouth. She nods along while I vent about my nasty new professor, texting Finn in the meantime about some mixer his frat is having for Halloween.
I’m mad. I want my notebook back and I want him to apologize for being so rude to me and embarrassing me like that. I’m eighteen years old; I’m not some little high school kid he can insult. I won’t stand for it. I’ve never gotten into an argument with an authority figure but I’ll ream his ass out.
Rose snickers. “What’s got you so pissed off, Rey? He’s just overcompensating for being a freak. You should feel bad for him, honestly.”
“Well it’s not my problem he was born—like that.” I sit on my bed and cross my arms. “You’re an Omega. Isn’t he supposed to be nice like you always are?”
“I dunno. He’s a dude. He shouldn’t even be an O.”
Exactly. That’s why he’s such an insufferable asshole; because he’s all genetically messed up and thinks it’s everyone else’s fault.
I don’t know. I flop on my back and rub my face, groaning. I’m not being very fair and I need to get that notebook back sooner or later. I’ll try harder on the next homework assignment and pay closer attention during lecture, even if Professor Ren is a dick.
Rose taps my knee. She’s almost done with the heat sickness from changing meds and our dorm room smells nice, like clean linen and cucumber body spray. She tidies up during the change and thankfully goes to Finn’s apartment for the rest.
“Wanna see an Omega dick?” she asks.
“You sure?” She laughs and taps harder. “Then you’ll get what he’s so pissed off about.”
“Saw that shit in health and never want to see it again.”
Rose laughs and laughs and sends a picture anyway. I’ve seen it all: Alpha dick, Omega dick, Omega vagina, Alpha vagina. They’re all weird in their own way and I’m not compatible with any of them.
But thinking about Kylo in particular makes me especially irritated. I don’t know why. It’s the kind of thing I’d usually let go, maybe show up with my tail between my legs to apologize: but thinking of his smug smile that I’ve never even seen—
I’m so angry that I can barely think straight. I delete the picture without looking and storm out to take a walk, leaving Rose calling after me to calm down.
• • •
It ends up taking my entire weekend, but I do manage to calm down. The itching goes away and I save myself an expensive visit to the doctor and only go through one blister pack of Zyrtec.
I’m fine. I’ll be reasonable when I see Professor Ren Monday morning to ask for my notebook back. I sent a polite email asking about his availability and everything. Maybe we just got off on the wrong foot—he’ll get that I’m not a math geek.
He doesn’t answer until Monday night. Peeved, I glare at his snippy response to check the syllabus, and snippily remind him that it’s in my fucking notebook.
That’s in my notebook. That you have.
Oct 11, 8:24 PM EST
It takes a few minutes for him to answer. I tap my fingers on my iPad.
7am tomorrow, 10/12/19
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 11, 8:30 PM EST
Wow, good for him getting so many stupid degrees. Glad he types that all out in his emails.
But it’s a little sad and weird that the signature has the Omega male thing tacked on. I stare at it for a few minutes before I decide not to send a snotty email back. I feel bad for him. Poor guy.
Rose is still dead asleep when I slip out of our dorm room the next morning. It’s six thirty or so and I’m ready to flop back in bed but hope Professor Ren will appreciate my attempt to be punctual.
I’m punctual. Sometimes.
I wander through the quiet hallways past torturous early lectures until I find his office. It’s down a deserted hallway, around a corner, then down another deserted hallway. I get the feeling the school wanted him as far away as possible.
It’s 6:50 but I knock anyway. If I get this over with by 7:15 I can take a nap before my 8:00 biology lecture.
The blind rattles on the door window as I open it, peering inside the small office.
Kylo is sitting behind a big desk and has his laptop open. There are a couple books neatly piled on the corner and some books stowed on a bookshelf, all organized, nothing out of place. It’s cold, but smells nice, like clean laundry. Nothing hangs on the walls and he has the small window behind him closed.
I close the door behind me and shuffle to the small chair in front of his desk. It creaks a little and I feel the cold bite of metal through my leggings.
He’s reading on his laptop and doesn’t acknowledge me. I try not to stare at the strange tattoos on his forearms underneath another thick sweater; maroon today. His hair is down and brushes his shoulders.
Professor Ren touches his glasses and opens a desk drawer, still not looking at me. He drops my notebook so it slaps on the desk and the drawer rolls shut.
“Don’t dick around in a class you’re failing,” he says.
“I’m not failing. I have a C.”
“…Right. Aim high.” He sets a paper with a bunch of names on top of my notebook. “Here’s a list of tutors. I suggest you pick one before your low C becomes a D.”
Miss Elms was never rude to me like this. I snatch the list, glaring at him.
“Why don’t you tutor me?”
“I’m an assistant professor at MIT, not a TA at a community college.” Kylo waves his hand in a vague circle. “Go find a community college TA.”
“Oh really? Thanks for clearing that up. Your email signature wasn’t comprehensive.”
That earns me the icy glare I’ve been striving for. Dark eyes flicker to mine and he raises his eyebrows, at which point I realize I’m poking an already irritated bear. He’s a prick. He’ll make snotty comments to me but I’m not allowed to throw it back at him.
I take my notebook. Whatever. I don’t feel like finding a stupid tutor. Finn is good at math; I’ll just ask him for help or pay someone to do it.
“Is that all?” I ask.
Itchy tingling creeps down my throat and I scratch my neck, wincing. Don’t tell me I’m getting sick again. Must be hay fever—or I’m allergic to my asshole calculus professor.
Professor Ren eyes my hand. He’s resting his palm on the side of his throat and twists his neck like there’s a kink in it. His Adam’s Apple bobs.
“Yes,” he replies, clipped. He looks at his laptop, ignoring me again. “Email me if you have any other questions.”
I leave without another word, and leave the pleasant smell of his office behind me. I’m anxious and itchy and I think I might hate him.
• • •
Finn does his best to help me. It’s all I’ve got, since the other tutors are full up with math-failing students already and most have their own coursework.
He leans back in Rose’s chair, chewing a pen and still sweaty from football practice. She’s rearranging all the pillows and blankets in her bed, mumbling, because she needs her meds upped. I can smell it.
“Ren is a dick,” Finn says. He glances at Rose and pats her foot. “I know, baby. Want to go back to my place and—”
“I hate him,” I snap.
He shrugs. “He’s a hard ass coach, too. Smart, I guess; helped write a textbook or two.” His attention is totally on Rose, half out of genuine concern and half out of wanting to get laid. “Go tell him you’ve exhausted all your options.”
“I don’t know. Something about him makes me itch—must be that cologne he wears.”
“Maybe you’re an Alpha, Rey.” Finn bursts out laughing and slaps my knee. “Can you imagine?”
No. I watch Rose as she rolls over and cries and let Finn handle it, because I’ve learned I’m not what she needs. It’s scary watching her suffer the way she does, and I don’t want any part of it.
He takes her to his apartment and I’m left alone in the dorm room like usual. I struggle through the first half of my homework before I email Kylo.
SUBJECT: CALC200 Homework
I need help with the homework from Friday, if you have some time. Please.
Oct 13, 11:18 AM EST
RE: CALC200 Homework
tutor—also shouldn’t be doing your homework two hours before it’s due
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 13, 11:23 AM EST
RE: CALC200 Homework
I already cold called all of them and asked my friend Finn for help. He’s a quarterback. You might know him. I spent all day yesterday on it and want to make sure it’s right.
Oct 13, 11:25 AM EST
RE: CALC200 Homework
I know finn’s handwriting
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 13, 11:29 AM EST
RE: CALC200 Homework
Good for you. I’m just asking for help.
Oct 13, 11:32 AM EST
RE: CALC200 Homework
we’ll see in class in two hours
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 13, 11:46 AM EST
The prospect of being embarrassed in front of everyone again makes me want to cry. I chuck my iPad aside and curl up under the covers instead of continuing to agonize over my stupid homework. Why do I even need fucking calculus?
But 1:30 rolls around and I can’t hide anymore. I collect my things and head out, past people hanging up Halloween decorations on their doors and laughing and planning what parties they’re going to.
It’s up in the air with how sick Rose has been. I’m coming down with some upper respiratory shit and she can’t find a suppressant that works. We’re both messed up for our first year of college and I’m this close to dropping out. It kind of sucks.
I text Finn to see how Rose is feeling as I amble to the lecture hall for Wednesday. The classroom is only on Friday; here I can hide a little better.
But my thoughts of hiding go out the window when I walk in and find Professor Ren somehow already staring at me. He’s leaning on the lectern, tattooed arms on either side, and points with his marker to the chair dead center up front.
“Son of a bitch,” I mutter.
I’m marked for death now.
On my trudge down the stairs, Kaydel whispers my name. She’s giggling with Bazine and Poe.
“Rey,” she says, “Rey—does he have, like…” She laughs and looks back at the other two. “Does he have like, that Omega dick?”
“Since he’s super into you,” Bazine adds.
I redden and hurry to my seat without saying a word. They keep laughing.
Professor Ren locks the door right when 2:00 hits. It’s probably a fire hazard and I consider sending him another terse email about it.
He comes down the steps and brings up a PowerPoint about limits and derivatives. It’s the next thing we’re moving on to after logs, and I’m barely holding on. I squint at the whiteboard and flip to a clean page in my notebook, ready to pay attention and not doodle.
Oddly, the smell of his cologne distracts me again: soft and delicate like laundry and cucumbers. It’s nice, even if he annoys the shit out of me, and I relax a little. My lips part slightly and I take a shallow breath, even though I’m not sure why.
The roof of my mouth tingles and then it itches. I grimace and run my tongue along it while Professor Ren starts his lecture, and hand in my homework with everyone else’s. What the fuck? What kind of cologne does he wear?
Omegas smell nice, yeah; Rose always smells clean and fresh, but it’s never bothered me. Maybe it has to do with him being a man. It’s unnatural, after all.
I look up and realize I zoned out obsessing over the way Professor Ren smells. He’s glaring at me again and I feel… awful. Sick awful.
Sweat beads on the back of my neck. My mouth is so full of spit that I’m almost drooling on myself and I hurriedly swallow before it spills out. What the hell…
“Sorry—” I try to be friendly. “Sorry, what was the question?”
“Do you know the natural log?”
Shivering, I nod and flip through my notebook. Natural log, natural log… I know that. I remember writing it down while I was doing my homework.
Apparently I’m not fast enough.
Kylo saunters to the counter and stops my flipping with a palm on my notebook. His registration bracelet clinks lightly: RENKYL11031986Ω♂. What? What the fuck does he want now?
He goes back a page and points. “Natural log.”
“Sorry,” I mumble. I’m the center of attention again and I fucking hate it. “Sorry.”
The bracelet jangles as he taps the log and he speaks again in a softer, deeper tone.
“Are you sorry?”
I nod, gritting my teeth. Don’t make me hurt you. You can’t talk to me this way, fucking Omega—
His attention shifts. “Dameron. Since you’re having such a lively conversation with Miss Netal, why don’t you share your answer?”
Professor Ren moves away and I catch an odd shift of his wrist as he passes my backpack. I shudder and wipe off the sweat, relieved that he’s found another victim. For now.
But I’m picked out again after class. He lets everyone else go but tells me to stay, even though I’m about to pass out or throw up. I’m not even hungry for dinner and that’s the most concerning thing.
He sits at the lectern and I stand beside it, waiting, hoping he’ll set me free soon. My homework is out and has significantly less red marks but still a lot.
“Better.” Professor Ren is half-turned toward me, one broad forearm on his thigh and the other pointing to questions. He rubs his brand. “You weren’t able to find a tutor? Lily Potter is usually available on Tuesdays.”
“She said she doesn’t have time.”
“Ah. As you know—from my email—I’m from MIT, so I don’t know any of the TAs here very well.”
“I’ll just ask Finn,” I snap.
Fuck. I rub the back of my neck as Professor Ren lifts his eyebrows, more amused than annoyed, and I itch my throat and mutter an apology. I’m so agitated. Why am I so agitated? I’m never like this.
He taps his pen on the paper. “Fine. Email me if you need help.”
“Fine.” I snatch my homework when he offers it. “Not Finn’s handwriting, is it?”
“No—his is neater.”
Irritated, I snatch my homework and storm from the lecture hall. I can feel eyes on my back.
Chapter 3: von willebrand
this is very slow
SUBJECT: CALC200 Homework
I need help with a question. Please.
Oct 15, 8:14 AM EST
RE: CALC200 Homework
please traditionally comes before the request is made
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 15, 8:18 AM EST
RE: CALC200 Homework
May I please get some help on question seven?
Oct 15, 8:19 AM EST
RE: CALC200 Homework
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 15, 8:31 AM EST
My lower eyelid twitches. No. How can he say no? He doesn’t have tenure, right?
I’m only left a minute to be pissed off before he sends another email to clarify the staunch, snotty refusal.
RE: CALC200 Homework
see me after class
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 15, 8:32 AM EST
I roll over and scream into my pillow, iPad forgotten at the end of my bed.
Rose is still gone and Finn says she might be all weekend. He’s busy with her and football and his own homework so he doesn’t have much time to help me with mine. I’m lonely without my two friends around and I miss Rose even more than usual.
At least I feel better: no fever or itching; less irritated. Good thing, because I don’t have the money right now for a sick visit, and I’m not interested in picking up more hours at my part time job.
I should. I’ll have more money and it will distract me from my asshole professor and his rude emails. It’s not hard, either, just cashiering at a drug store. Maybe I can get full time and they’ll give me the health insurance I desperately need.
I slip my iPad into my backpack next to the head of my bed, then draw up my blanket to take a nap. I’ve been sleeping a lot the past two days.
• • •
Rose calls me on my way to class. She sounds better. She’s on new meds and says they’re working great.
“I’ll be back tonight for that party—are you up for it? Halloween is in another week but I need to unwind.”
I dodge a pack of frat guys in the hall, peering over my shoulder at them. Finn is in a frat; Rose went to a couple parties but it’s not really my thing. It should be. I need to start living life instead of standing on the sidelines all the time.
“Maybe,” I say.
“Come on, we both just escaped death!” She laughs and I hear a laugh track in the background. “Then you don’t need to think about that douchebag professor.”
Yeah… that’s true.
“Okay.” I hesitate outside the classroom. “But you’re sure you’re up to it? There’re no unmedicated Alphas around there, right?”
“No, they’re all cool. Lots of Os go to those parties and Finn told me the athletes have to have their hormones checked anyway. It doesn’t turn into like Caligula or anything.”
“No orgies?! That’s the only reason I’d go, Rose!”
We laugh and laugh and I turn and see my worst nightmare about to open the door.
Professor Ren raises his eyebrows and I realize he’s been staring at me. He offers an uncomfortable half-wave and I give him an equally uncomfortable smile as he walks into the classroom.
I stare after him for a long minute and groan, covering my face while Rose keeps cackling on the other end of the phone. I mutter ‘gotta go’ before I hang up, swearing. Son of a bitch; now he thinks I’m a fucking sexual deviant on top of sucking at math.
I hurry to my desk front and center and try not to meet his eyes. His cologne is muted today, thankfully, so I don’t get itchy like usual, and he’s wearing a slouchy dark blue turtleneck sweater. His hair is half-up and the rest covers his ears.
He looks nice. I mean, he usually always looks nice, but he looks extra nice today.
“Your first test is next Friday, the twenty second,” Professor Ren calls. Everyone is still settling in but that’s never stopped him. “Logs and functions mostly. Limits and derivatives will be on the next test.”
“Next week?!” Poe complains from somewhere behind me. “That’s like… way too soon!”
“Can we have index cards for the formulas?”
“Miss Elms said we’d be able to write out index cards, Professor.”
Like with all tests, it turns into a lot of whining and pleading. Professor Ren ignores them and starts up PowerPoint, so I get my homework out and smooth it on my notebook. It’s nice and neat, just to spite his comment about my messy handwriting.
He pushes up his sleeves and rises from his chair. I don’t look up as he saunters to me first, shoes clicking on the floor, and he holds out his hand with the bracelet. The complaining has turned to muttering and groans but I stay quiet and hand him my work.
He ambles along. “Ninety percent of learning math is memorizing the formulas. So memorize them.” There’s a short pause. “Maybe refrain from any activities planned for the weekend and study instead.”
I shrink down in my seat and cover my face. Oh god.
Thankfully he doesn’t call me out during class. We take notes and I answer a question right, much to my shock, and between the problems I see Professor Ren correcting our homework.
But he’s gazing off into the distance, chin resting in his hand like he’s in a daydream. I watch as his fingers wander to his neck and rub through his collar, and I know he’s touching the brand.
I stare. My mouth waters and my jaw aches, and it feels like I’m watching something private. But I keep staring, chewing the cap of my pen. Omegas have glands on the back of their necks, I think, but males have them under their jaw.
I think. I’m too busy staring at him to remember correctly but I do know Alphas have no glands at all. Nothing to bite. They do the biting.
“Uh… Professor, can we go?”
We snap out of our daze. Kylo checks the time and nods, calling out the homework assignment as everyone packs up.
I pick up on laughter behind me and turn. Poe is pointing to his neck, obviously making a comment about Professor Ren staring off into space—and I’m suddenly, inexplicably angry.
Irritated, I glance back at the sound of Professor Ren’s voice. He’s sitting at the desk watching me and I see a slight smile touch the edges of his lips, but it’s gone so fast that I can’t be sure it’s real. What’s he doing calling me like I’m a fucking dog on a leash?
I mutter as I get up to see how bad I did on my assignment this time. He leans back and motions for me to come closer, snapping and crooking a finger.
“Better,” he says. He points to question 7 with his red pen. “The problem is with derivatives. Has Finn been helping you?”
“No, he’s busy. My friend has heat sickness.” I shift, folding my arms. “His girlfriend. My friend.”
Professor Ren glances up at me. “Oh. Sorry to hear that.” His eyebrows raise and I realize maybe I’m being a little possessive of Rose, and maybe it’s weird to say around an Omega. “I’m sure she’ll feel better soon. Omegas are very independent. Resilient.”
“Yeah. Sorry, I don’t mean—I’m not trying to say she’s helpless or anything. We’ve known each other for a long time and I worry.”
He looks down at my homework again. “What a good friend you are. I’m sure she appreciates having someone watching her every step. So, I’ll be available for tutoring on Monday morning if you’d like to stop by my office… around seven.”
Seven AM on a Monday? Is he insane?
I’m not in a position to say no so I just shrug and nod. He continues marking things off and I awkwardly fidget while I wait, thoughts wandering to his comment about me and Rose.
I don’t watch her every step. It’s a dangerous world for an Omega and I let Finn take care of her all the time. Before—yeah, I kept an eye out. So what?
My cheeks burn. Oh my god. How could I forget my orgy comment right before class? Oh my god. I want to die. Is he thinking about it? Why am I thinking about it? He must’ve forgotten.
Professor Ren stands as he hands me my homework. He towers over me and he’s big but I don’t want to back away. He smells nice. Clean. Warm.
“Come see me Monday if you’d like more help.” His dark eyes linger on mine. “Unless you have other plans.”
“Nope. Nope.” I take my homework and laugh nervously, shrinking under his judgmental gaze. Jesus. “Rose and I were just kidding around. I don’t…” I set my backpack on the edge of the desk to file away the paper. “It’s just a mixer. Not… I don’t—I don’t go to things like that.”
“Ah. Too busy babysitting your friend, I presume?”
“I don’t babysit her. I’m only making sure she’s safe. Alphas are gross.”
Shit. I freeze, then try to backtrack, and it becomes garbled nonsense. Professor Ren nods along and reaches past my backpack for something but doesn’t look directly at me. Oh god.
Fresh dried sheets. That’s what he smells like: when they’re right out of the dryer and you just want to wrap yourself up in them and never get out of bed.
I blink, swaying back a step. What the… fuck? My train of thought is all over the place; I can’t even keep up with myself. What do I care about how my professor smells? He’s in his thirties and not at all my type. Not ugly but nothing to write home about.
“Gross?” Professor Ren echoes.
“Well—I guess that’s not fair, but every Alpha I’ve known has been a creep. Not Omegas though. You guys are always so nice.” Except you.
“You think so?”
“…Yes?” I hesitate, wracking my brain, weirdly invested in getting him to like me. “Smart, too. Rose is smart. Bazine is an O but she’s—I mean, she’s nice, but a little vapid. You know? Not mean, though; I think it’s just… I don’t know. Heat thing?”
Professor Ren snaps his messenger bag closed. I’m staring at his neck again, mesmerized. He smells nice. Like home. But his about-face to a new topic tells me he’s annoyed and I don’t know why. I said Omegas are all nice. I’m trying to be nice.
Why isn’t he receptive? He should be. He’s being fucking rude and ignoring my compliment. Heat makes Os act crazy; Rose gets annoying when she’s around her cycle. Big deal. Sucks to be him. But he should like me. I’m a very non-abrasive person.
“My number is in the staff directory,” Professor Ren says. “Give me a call Monday morning so I know you’re coming.” He slips the messenger bag over his shoulder and pats the top of my backpack as he walks past it. “Enjoy your weekend, Miss Niima. Don’t drink and drive.”
Then he walks past me and out of the classroom. I’m left staring at the door, and take a small involuntary step after him like the desperate orphan I am.
I grit my teeth, shaking my head as I pack up my stuff. What an asshole.
Chapter 4: sickle cell
i'm too lazy to answer comments today so have another chapter!!!!
The party is Saturday night instead of Friday, so I spend all of my free time Googling facts about male Omegas. Purely research.
I sit propped up in bed while The Great British Bake Off loops on the TV. Rose is staying with Finn again and I have our dorm room all to myself. Typical Friday: I’m wrapped up in a baggy hoodie and leggings, chewing my nails while I read.
THE MALE OMEGA & FEMALE ALPHA: QUANDARIES OF THE BIZARRE DEMI-HUMAN WORLD
The habits and biology of traditional demi-humans are well-studied and well understood. However, in very rare situations, this traditional presentation can flip, resulting in Omega males and Alpha females.
Ugh, boring science article shit. I scroll down to the biological descriptions, leaning in closer.
Various physical attributes have been found in male Omegas (OM). The mating gland of an Omega female (OF) is always located on the nape, while it is more commonly found under the jaw in OMs. It can be located on the nape as well and has been discovered near the clavicle.
These glands are Alpha-receptive in either gender to either Alpha gender. OMs can be mated, but their relationship to their Alpha counterparts is highly complex and not well understood.
Like an Omega man, I’ve never seen an Alpha woman. They have a hard time fitting in, I think, and usually don’t. I’ve heard the talk of how they end up in group homes or psych wards.
The author says these ‘aberrants’ are less than one percent of the demi-human population—combined. No wonder I’ve never seen one before.
I scroll down and almost throw my iPad when I see a picture of a dick. Hesitant, I look around my room before I scroll a couple inches until I can see it. Research. Purely research.
Normal dick, except it has some bumpy things near the base where a knot would be. I squint and zoom in to see the nubs better but they’re not that interesting. The caption says it’s a ‘typical’ Omega penis. It’s circumcised and looks like a dick.
The ‘barbs’ of an Omega penis are analogous to those found in some felines. However, in OMs these are understood not to cause pain, and function to:
- Stimulate ovulation
- Prevent the female Alpha from fleeing
- Provide lubrication
OM barbs do not ‘lock’ in the way a knot does, but early removal can be painful. The female Alpha (AF) exhibits aggressive, sometimes vicious behavior to avoid mating, making offspring from this pairing extremely rare.
Also of note: female Alphas have an analogous knotting capability like their male counterparts. Like a knot, it relies upon orgasm to occur, and causes the vaginal muscles to swell, ‘locking’ together the two partners. OM orgasm is protracted during this phase and the AF redirects her aggression to anyone who comes too close.
As with male Alphas (AM), females (AF) are triggered into rut by the presence of an Omega. While this presents as a dramatic event in males it is typically more subdued in AFs, occurring over a length of time. It may not occur at all if the AF does not encounter an OM. It can sometimes be triggered by the presence of an OF.
“That’s gross,” I mutter, lingering on ‘keep the Alpha female from fleeing.’ It must be terrifying to be physically bound to someone like that.
The article goes on to say that female Alphas have no ‘heat cycles’ like female Omegas and stop having periods when they present. Male Omegas cycle if they’re unmedicated and seek out FAs during each of their three cycles throughout the year. They’re usually not successful.
It’s weird and gross. I shudder as I lean over to put my iPad away, too creeped out to read any more tonight. The image of the Omega dick is seared behind my eyelids and I’ll never be able to unsee it.
• • •
Rose and Finn pick me up Saturday night around eight, even though Rose knows my bedtime is a strict ten PM. She’s excited and asks Finn all kinds of questions during the drive over to the frat.
“Is Poe going to be there?” she asks. She shakes her head, eyes rolling. “He’s such a douche. I don’t know why Kaydel is still dating him.”
“Yeah, he’s gonna be there.” Finn glances back at me in the rear view and grins. “Poe told me Ren likes you, Rey. You getting on that for the A in calc?”
I redden. “No! And he hates me!”
Rose puts on some pink lip gloss. She looks nice in a pink dress and I look… okay in a skirt and blouse. It’s too cold for either.
“Love looks a lot like hate sometimes,” she says.
There are already a bunch of people out on the lawn when we arrive. Finn parks near the sidewalk and leads Rose and I down to the gate, then he’s pulled away by some guy in a wife beater before anyone can blink. It’s late October and chilly, but I guess you don’t notice when you’re drunk.
Rose brings me in through two white doors to utter chaos. The music is so loud it thumps through the floor into my flats and I pick up on all kinds of odd jumbled smells that make me dizzy. People are close. I need a football field of space.
It smells like booze and sweat and everyone is so damn loud that I can’t hear myself think. Rose pulls but I pull back, scowling, eyeing the throng of people.
“We should find Finn,” I call over the music.
“It’s fine; I’ve been here before!” Rose points to where Poe Dameron is playing pong with some other guys. “He’s a dick, but he’s strict about what happens here! We’ll be fine, Rey!”
She pries her arm free and I grab her again. This time she shoots me an acidic glare and I quickly let go. Okay. Maybe I do hover too much.
Rose wanders off to Kaydel, so I try to occupy myself somewhere else. I’m having a hard time letting go of her and finding new friends, and I do worry, because people are mean to Omegas. It’s normal to worry about a friend. Professor Ren is just a dick.
But I don’t stay away for long. I find the snack table and help myself to chips and dip before gravitating back to where Rose is playing pong. What? I gave her space. Maybe Finn should pay more attention.
I’m happy with my chips and leaning on the wall watching her failing spectacularly. I smile a little while I eat, scanning the room, and notice Finn making his way over to us. Good. He needs to watch his fucking girlfriend. He should know how tempting she is.
I stop chewing. Tempting. That’s a weird word.
“Rey, come play!”
Rose is sagging against Finn and motioning for me to come over. At first I wave her off but I see Poe Dameron bouncing the ping pong ball and smirking at me, and it triggers my latent competitive side. Fine. He wants to lose, then he can lose.
His eyes are glassy, tracking me to the other end of the table. I’ve had beer plenty of times before, mostly from raiding my foster dad’s fridge and pounding them out of boredom. I’ll kick his ass. It takes at least six beers for me to get drunk.
Poe bounces the ball to me. “Go for it, champ.”
I bounce it once to myself before flicking it across the table, straight into a cup in the back corner.
Finn bursts out laughing and claps me on the back. Some other muffled laughter follows. Poe huffs and drinks, squints, and aims for one of mine up front.
It lands, so I drink. They must be expecting me to take sips but I’m so intent on beating Poe that I chug it and chug another just to show him I can. I cough and bounce the ball on my own side again, studying the cups, and land it in the one in the other corner.
In middle school I played basketball for a bit—until it got too competitive. I hate competition because I hate setting myself up to lose, but I’ve missed that frustrated expression people get when they’re losing. Especially people I don’t like.
I’ll put ‘good at pong’ on my resume. That’ll really tighten things up.
“You’re so good at this!”
Soon I’m a couple drinks deep of my own volition, just spiked tea and stuff to spite Poe. Rose is hanging out next to me and really psyched about my hand-eye coordination, and I have to admit I don’t hate it.
More people gather to watch and they cheer or laugh when I hit a cup. I’m not missing any. Poe is, but I drink when he misses, and I see it slowly pissing him off. I bounce the ball to myself and smile at him across the table. Vague dislike has become hatred.
He rubs his mouth, swaying. “Getting extra help for that calc test, Rey?”
“Dude,” Finn interjects, hasty. “Don’t.”
“Hey, if she likes Omega dicks, that’s totally fine. I’d suck his dick for an A, too.”
Rose grabs my arm but I yank away from her. I’m hazy, delirious, and I fucking hate Poe Dameron.
“Fuck you!” I snap. I slam my hands on the table and Rose jumps. “You want to take this outside?! I’ll kick your fucking ass!”
Everyone laughs except me, Rose, and Finn. Poe won’t fight a woman, Beta or not, but I’ll fight him. I bet I’ll win; wipe that smug smile off his face.
I jerk toward him but this time Finn helps Rose hold me back, and Poe walks off with his friends. I know I’m unreasonably angry but I feel like I can’t control it. I feel like I have to punch Poe before it kills me.
Rose guides me to a couch. “Relax, Rey. He’s just drunk and stupid.”
Finn has chips. I stuff my face and feel a little better with Rose next to me, where I know she’s safe and not being attacked or anything. The room swims and I take out my phone to scroll through Facebook, looking up random people from school to add.
“You know what would be—hilarious?” Rose giggles.
“What?” I grumble, pawing for pretzels. I shovel them in my mouth and raise my eyebrows to Finn and Rose. “Me decking Poe?”
“That would be fucking hilarious,” Finn says.
Rose glares and he sighs, then gets up for more snacks. I chew with my mouth open and stare at Rose when she looks back at me. She smells weird. Bad. The alcohol messes with the Omega smell.
She shows me her phone. “Check it out: Professor Ren is in the directory—you should call and leave a message.” She elbows me, laughing harder. “Tell him… tell him you defended his dick!”
“He should know,” I agree.
“Definitely. Definitely. He should know.”
We huddle together, laughing, and I type out the number on my phone. Finn comes back and groans when Rose swats him away. It rings and rings and we hold our breath while we wait.
A generic voicemail clicks. Please leave a message.
Rose grabs my arm. “Hey! Be nice to Rey!”
I push her and try to hold back more hyena laughs, whispering for her to shut up. Finn asks who we’re calling with all the concern of a single parent.
“Poe Dameron said stuff about your dick,” I slur. Finn tries snatching my phone. “Was gonna fight ‘em—Finn Raynalbeads wouldn’t let me. Also you should be nice to me.” I shove Finn, laughing again. “Good luck with your dick, sir.”
It’s not the entire voicemail. I carry my phone around for a while, supplementing with random conversations and requests for pizza rolls, until it finally clicks off and ends. Finn tells me I’m an idiot so I call Professor Ren twice more with increasingly hysterical voicemails as I get drunker.
I sit under the snack table, buried in popcorn, crying my eyes out and eating so fast I can’t breathe.
“I’m very nice to you!” I sob. “You send me mean emails and I’m a very nice person! I even looked up Omega dicks and I don’t think they’re gross!” My lower lip quivers and I cry harder. “I’m a very nice person! You’re mean to me!”
Then I leave my third of fourth voicemail apologizing for the last two. I think it catches a conversation I have with one of the guys about where the bathroom is. It’s too long of a conversation.
I sway down the hall, sniffling. “I grew up in foster care, y’know. I had a very hard life and I’m a very nice person. You have—” I run smack into the door and groan, stumbling, then open it. “Shit. Fuckin’… doors. Should leave them all fuckin’ open.”
“You have eight degrees and you’re very mean to me. I’m sorry I yelled. But you’re very mean.” I lock the door and paw at my skirt. “Hang on, gotta pee.”
Then I hang up. I manage to pee but don’t call Professor Ren’s voicemail again because I wind up puking my fucking brains out instead.
Rose and Finn bring me back to the dorm, only leaving when they’re sure I’m not going to aspirate. I take a shower before they go and Rose keeps hesitating until Finn drags her out. I’ll be fine. I’m already sobering up from vomiting up the gallons of alcohol.
I pass out for a bit—and wake up in a weird state. Itchy. Confused.
“Is that what you want, Miss Niima?”
The last bits of a dream fade away into a muddled haze. I’m lost for a minute as I try to bring it back, clawing for the strings slipping from my fingers, when I realize I have a hand down my pants.
I rip my hand free and glance at Rose’s bed, relieved to see it’s empty. It clicks that the voice I heard was Professor Ren’s. I was having a sex dream about him and apparently I was very into it.
“Jesus,” I hiss. I throw back the sheets and get out of bed to wash my hands. “Jesus Christ, Rey!”
I’m frustrated but there’s no way in hell I’m getting off to him. It’s bad enough that I have to look him in his eyes Monday morning, like I wasn’t masturbating in my sleep from dreaming about him, and he has those eyes that make you think he can see right through you. He’ll know.
I crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head. Why him? Why me?
I roll over on my side and shudder. The dream is there in the back of my head and I don’t know how I’ll ever look Professor Ren in the freaking eyes again.
Chapter 5: envenomation
Sunday is so full of suffering that I don’t even think about the voicemails. Rose brings Gatorade that I don’t even sit up to drink: I lean over the edge of my bed and sip through a straw, watching The Office, praying for the sweet release of death.
Rose complains that the room smells like Alpha and spends her Sunday washing everything. I watch, bored, in and out of naps and snacks.
“It’s fucking Poe,” she mutters. She slaps my calf. “Up! Washing time!”
“You’re hungover, Rey; now get up.”
Annoyed, I roll out of bed to lie on the floor instead, stretched out on my blanket. Rose peels my sheets and hisses so loud that my head snaps up.
She’s wincing, shaking her head. “Did you have a guy over?! This can’t just be from Poe. This smells like unmedicated Alpha.”
“Well I don’t hang around Alphas, Rose.”
“I know, but this can’t be from just… brushing by one. It’s a lot of pheromones. Can’t you smell them?”
I shrug. “No.”
“Ugh.” Rose shudders and backs away from the bed. “I might stay with Finn. This is going to trigger me again and I have midterms coming up in a few weeks. You know this can trigger me, right?”
“I wouldn’t bring that around if I could help it. It must be from the party.”
“That’s way too much to be…”
Rose trails off. I peer up and see her staring at me, eyes wide. She’s a mess in a sloppy ponytail and old pajamas but she smells nice again.
I raise my eyebrows. “To be what?”
She grabs my pillow and smells it, which gives me the heebie jeebies, but then she proceeds to smell more of my stuff. I watch without commenting until she comes around and grabs my wrist to smell it.
It irritates me more than it should. I rip my hand away and scowl, squirming under my sheets left on the floor. What’s her problem?
Rose keeps staring at me.
“Rey… how long have you been sick?”
“I’m not an Alpha,” I snap. I roll into a ball and bury my face in the blanket. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You fucking reek. You need to go see the nurse and get medicated.”
“I’m not an Alpha. Go get your fucking head checked—and your meds.”
Rose guffaws. She puts her hands on her hips and shakes her head, glaring at me, then turns away. I glare while she packs a bag. Awful rude to just accuse someone of being a demi-human like it’s no big deal. She’s been so crazy lately. Maybe she should be in a psych ward.
She talks with her back to me. “You need to go see a doctor, Rey. I can’t stay here if you’re an A and unmedicated, and you’re going to get sick.” Her hangers rattle as she pulls down clothes. “You’re making me sick. This is your fault.”
“My fault?! How is it my fault that you can’t handle being within fifteen feet of an Alpha, and none of the pills work?! How is that my fault?”
“Because you’re ignoring the obvious and it’s making me fucking sick, Rey, and I’m exhausted and I don’t want to go back to the hospital!” Her voice lifts like she’s going to cry. “I can’t do this. I’m so tired, and—you don’t give a shit.”
“You’re being crazy, Rose,” I say, rolling my eyes. “Go take a nap or something.”
Me, an Alpha. That’s absolute nonsense.
She stomps around filling her duffel bag and calls Finn to come get her. Rose leaves in tears and I stare after her, dumbfounded. What did I do?
• • •
“She just doesn’t feel well, Rey.”
Finn calls me back Monday morning while I’m getting ready to see Professor Ren. Rose won’t text me so I’m going through Finn to make sure she’s okay.
I brush my hair into a ponytail, running my tongue along my fresh brushed teeth.
“She needs to go see—”
“Who? Who is she supposed to go see?”
I scowl. “I don’t know, Finn. I’m a Beta, but I recognize a sick person when I see one.”
“There are only so many doctors and so many meds.” He pauses, then sighs. “She’s staying with me for the time being. I’ll stop by to get her stuff later.”
It stings, but I just mutter in agreement and hang up.
The hallways are empty, with it being quarter to seven on a Monday. I shuffle along to the quiet corner where Professor Ren’s office is, somehow still nauseous from Saturday night, and rub my face before I knock on the door. I’m so exhausted.
He calls for me to come in. As I’m opening the door and happen to meet his dark eyes, I remember.
Professor Ren is reclined in his chair with his hands folded in his lap, and doesn’t look angry or annoyed. He gestures to the chair before his desk and I shut the door before I sit, looking literally anywhere except at him. Shit. Dream. Voicemails. Shit.
His black hair hangs down to his shoulders and he’s wearing a charcoal gray dress shirt that puts the brand on full display. He taps his pen on the desk and stares pointedly at me while I look around.
“…You should get a plant,” I suggest. I wring my hands in my lap, literally sweating. “Would be nice.”
Professor Ren doesn’t reply. He keeps staring at me and tapping his pen on the desk. Tap… tap… tap…
We lapse into increasingly awkward silence, clock ticking the minutes by on the wall. It’s too early for this shit. I should be sleeping or checking on Rose but here I am embarrassing myself half to death instead.
“Did you enjoy your weekend, Miss Niima?”
I don’t look, just nod. His voice is that odd soft tone like when he asked if I was sorry in the lecture hall.
He reaches for his staff phone. I examine my hands as he turns it and presses buttons. Oh god. Someone please kill me. Strike me down with a bolt of lightning.
“On Sundays I like to come in to work on research,” he says. “It’s quiet here, of course, and there are no distractions; no nonsense.” Buttons beep. “And I take the opportunity to check my voicemails.”
I cover my face with both hands as my own laughter echoes in the small office. Professor Ren leans back in his chair, long fingers woven together, and resumes staring at me. I catch a glimpse through my fingers.
“Kelly—Kelly! Hey, Kelly!” Muffled laughter. “Kelly, you bitch, get over here! No, here! Tell Finn I need more pretzels and—well, I’m busy leaving messages for Mister Ren so someone else has to feed me!”
It goes on like that for a bit. He doesn’t blink or look away from me as it rolls into the next voicemail, in which I’m crying hysterically.
“You’re very mean to me and—and I’m very nice to you! I’m a very nice person! I’m sorry. You’re not mean. Rose gets emotional during her time of the month, too.”
“Jesus,” I mumble.
“You have a very weird dick but I defended… defended it, even though Poe said I’m blowing you. I’d never put my mouth on that. No offense. I’m sure you have a very nice penis.”
Jesus. I risk a peek and see Professor Ren still watching me, resting his temple on a fist, relaxed in his chair. He raises his eyebrows and meets my gaze until I blush and look away again. I don’t want to think about what his dick looks like.
He lets the voicemail peter out before lifting the phone and hanging up. His chair creaks as he shifts his weight, now sitting with his ring finger curled over his mouth and two fingers resting near his temple. Thankfully he seems more amused than pissed off.
I clear my throat. “So, I found a couple problems I need help—”
“Say you’re sorry.”
I pause, glancing up at him. Professor Ren nods, imploring me to continue, and I grit my teeth. Can’t we just move on? It’s not like I shot his dog.
“Sorry,” I mutter.
“Look at me.” He snaps his fingers, drawing my attention from my lap. I glare at his chest. “Tell me exactly what you’re sorry for.”
“…For leaving stupid voicemails.”
He stares at me, unyielding. “Now string that together into an apology, Miss Niima.”
“…I’m sorry that I left stupid voicemails on your machine, Professor.” I pause. “But I was drunk.”
“No—apologies don’t have addendums. Commit to apologizing for your actions, or don’t do it at all and face the consequences.”
Commit to my actions. I hate commitment.
Professor Ren has me squirming and he knows it. I mumble the same apology without adding on the important note that I was very drunk, and he seems satisfied. He shakes his head as he pushes the phone back to the corner.
“You should exercise more caution when you drink,” he says. “Underage.”
“The drinking age is twenty-one last I checked.”
“Who cares? It’s three years.”
He rolls his eyes, thumping the heavy calc book on the desk, and puts his glasses on. I’m less embarrassed and more annoyed now. Like he didn’t drink underage. Everyone does.
“It’s bad for your brain,” Professor Ren says. He opens to the exact page and takes out of piece of paper. “And while I don’t think you’ll be solving a Millennium Problem, you’ve shown improvement over the last week that will be dampened by binge drinking.”
“Don’t you go out with your friends?”
I frown, cogs turning in my head. No? Why not? Is it just because he doesn’t have any, because he’s such an insufferable asshole?
So I ask. “Why not?”
Professor Ren turns the book toward me. He offers a pencil and I have a realization as I examine the problem on the page. Oh. Right. Omega.
“But you’re a man,” I say to the unspoken reply.
“Let me know when you finish that problem and we’ll move on to the next section.”
I’m not going to push, even if I’m confused. Professor Ren is about twice my size and three times the size of Poe Dameron. Omega or not, he’s big, and I wouldn’t mess with him if he’s had a few beers. Or otherwise.
I scribble for a minute or two before he reaches over and turns on the voicemails again. When I look at him he just shrugs and continues reading his book.
“You left twelve. I’ve listened to nine so far.”
God. I shrink down, looping an arm over my head while I write. My shrieking laughter fills the small office once again.
• • •
Rose is doing okay staying with Finn so I try to give her space. I clean our dorm room and wash all the sheets twice until the Omega smell is gone, hoping it will entice her to come back. I miss her. We’re never apart like this.
Maybe I need to find new friends. Maybe I should. I can’t move in with her and Finn. Right?
All the alone time gives me too much time to think about Professor Ren. I drift around aimlessly until Wednesday before class, caught up in his weird sad side note that he doesn’t go out drinking with his friends. It shouldn’t bother me so much.
I scan my homework but stare right through it. He’s an Omega but he’s still a man, and most Alphas are men. They wouldn’t want anything to do with him. He’s being dramatic; trying to make me feel bad for him. I don’t. He’s a grown man.
Curious as I am clueless, I send him an email.
Can I ask a question before class? It’s easier in person.
Oct 20, 12:07 PM EST
No one else knows the ins and outs of male Omegas like a male Omega. I’ll just ask.
His response takes a bit.
no i’m busy you may ask after class
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 20, 12:49 PM EST
Oct 20, 12:58 PM EST
Kylo Ren, Ω♂
PhD, MSE/MBA, MS, MEd
Oct 20, 1:00 PM EST
Suddenly his lack of friends doesn’t seem so shocking. He’s covering it up, I bet. He doesn’t go out ever, and it’s not because he’s afraid of Alphas.
I pack up my things and head to lecture around quarter to two. Don’t want to be late but I don’t want to risk being early, either.
The lecture hall is almost full when I pop in. I slink down the steps to my desk, half hiding my face behind my hood, and avoid Poe Dameron attempting to meet my eyes. Not today, Satan. Not today.
He glares at the back of my head—I can feel it, and it annoys the shit out of me, but I ignore it. I shuffle my books on the counter as Professor Ren strides down to the lectern, determined not to let Poe get to me. I have enough problems.
Kylo looks tired today: tapered sweatpants, slouchy hoodie pulled over his head. Dark circles ring his eyes and my scalp prickles as I pick up on his cologne, stronger than usual, so pungent that my mouth waters. I’m fine. Sick again.
He sits and draws the strings to tighten his hood until only his nose and mouth stick out. We all wait in silence.
“Just test prep today.” His voice is raspy, soft. “If you’re ready then you can head out.”
That clears out half the class immediately. I turn and watch them go, narrowing my eyes at Poe, who glares back at me. He wraps an arm around Kaydel as they leave with Bazine, and a couple people come down the steps to ask Professor Ren questions.
But they leave soon, too. We’re left alone in the lecture hall and I’m itchy.
He folds his arms over his M.I.T. hoodie. “So what’s your question?”
Somehow I know he’s sick, beyond the obvious signs, and I’m betting it has something to do with heat. That’s not a subject I want to broach. I don’t even like broaching that subject with Rose.
“Nothing important,” I reply. “I’ll go study.”
“Then why did you email me?”
“I thought it was important but it isn’t.”
“Then don’t email me.”
Jesus Christ. I glower at his half-hidden face and sling my backpack over my shoulder.
Professor Ren doesn’t say anything until I get to the top of the stairs. He clears his throat, and I almost don’t turn to look, but something compels me to.
His hood is down and his long, pale face is gaunt and tired, all dark circles and down turned mouth. He rubs his throat and studies me with red eyes. It looks like he got hit by a fucking truck.
“I’ll be out until next Wednesday,” he croaks. His fingers keep rubbing under his hood, across where the brand is. “So refrain from stupid emails.”
“Fine. Hope you enjoyed my voicemails.”
He turns slowly in his chair to face the wall. What a drama queen. Am I supposed to feel bad for him?
Because I do. Guess it’s working, or I’m just weak; might have something to do with the watery puppy dog eyes and raspy voice. And he smells nice. It’s literally making my mouth water, which is a confusing mixture of emotions and pointing toward Rose being right about me.
But she can’t be right. No fucking way.
“The last one was a bit sad.”
He shrugs and keeps staring at the wall. It’s weird and sad and I get a tight sensation in my chest, like a compulsion that I need to go… hug him?
“I don’t discuss my personal life with students,” Professor Ren calls, raspy and soft. He turns from side to side. “Voicemails are personal.”
“…Fine. Feel better.”
I pause with my hand on the door. “I’m not sick.”
Kylo slowly pivots to face me, face hidden again in his hood, and it’s a little eerie.
“You will be.”
Nope. No. I’m fine.
I tear open the door and hurry out. God he’s weird.