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The heart that's meant to love you

Chapter Text

He was ten the first time he saw Bai Yu. Technically speaking, he only saw the outlines of two very short legs.

Zhu Yilong was surrounded by a group of friends as they made their way to the playground, loud and chaotic, as ten year old's were. They were headed for the basketball court when they noticed a group of five kids in a circle at the far corner of the field. He could make out a sixth one in between their arms and legs, and it was clear the group had cornered the last one. 

Not my problem, Zhu Yilong thought as his group began their game. 

Two days later he was pushing himself off the ground and dusting the sand from his clothes when the most scrawny boy he’d ever seen stood there staring at him, eyes wide with wonder. His glasses somehow still whole, just hanging a bit askew on his nose. The bullies were still laying on the ground, spread out and huffing and moaning. One was clutching his sides, another one his leg. 

Zhu Yilong looked at them and said nonchalantly: “At least pick someone your own size if you’re going to bully someone,” then walked away. 

They didn’t see the bullies after that, but the scrawny one kept hanging around the field. He would be there every time Zhu Yilong went there with his friends, and the boy would watch them play intently, eyes always focused on Zhu Yilong. 

The boy never said anything, never approached them, he just… sat there, looking at Zhu Yilong, sometimes with envy, sometimes with awe, sometimes with… with sadness? Zhu Yilong shrugged. Not my problem, he thought

After a while, it became creepy. 

Zhu Yilong lost focus from time to time because sometimes it was like he could feel the eyes staring at the back of his head. Finally, after losing five consecutive shots one day, Zhu Yilong snapped. He went over to the boy, who seemingly had the sense to try and run away, but Zhu Yilong was faster and he grabbed the other kid by his shoulder.  

“Where do you think-” he began, then stopped as the boy turned around.

That was the first time Zhu Yilong looked right into Bai Yu’s eyes and he forgot everything he was going to say, his annoyance of losing his shots gone. He just stared. They were too young to recognize the importance of this moment. The only thing Zhu Yilong knew was that Bai Yu had shown him everything with his eyes. 

After that they were pretty much inseparable despite their age difference. Bai Yu was two years younger than him, and when you were at that age you always opted to hang around the older ones, always wanted to be with the cool ones. 

Not the scrawny nerd with glasses.

His parents had never approved of this friendship. Being the offspring of a very successful couple always brought expectations, and in Zhu Yilong’s case, extremely high expectations.

His father’s business was important to the local community and his mum was a high-profiled Omega, often throwing parties to go with her husband's business. If you visited their house not a single cushion would be out of place, you wouldn’t find a single smear on any surface, the definition of a picture-perfect home. His family always balanced on the flimsy and shallow tip of success, popularity, and power. People were either envious or they'd be jealous, and when you were that successful people would be waiting for that crack, no matter how small, in the picture. 

It was the perfect storm, because it was no secret that the entire village expected him to become an Alpha.

Zhu Yilong’s profile matched. His attitude, his physique. Everything about him screamed Alpha. Zhu Yilong was regarded as a highly prized bachelor, and they weren’t going to run short of suitors any time soon. The year Zhu Yilong was about to turn 13 his parents started bringing a string of Omegas to see him. They hoped he’d take interest in one of them so they could begin training her to take over the household. 

Zhu Yilong would soon learn that biology trumped physical strength, training, and conditioning. In fact, it trumped everything. They had prepared him for this moment. And then, nothing happened. Nothing happened at all when Zhu Yilong turned 13, except that the string of suitors stopped coming. That was when other kids started avoiding him, when his father started to look at him with disgust and his mother with disappointment. 

Then he’d gone into his first heat at 14, and the entire village knew, because there was no way to hide the scent of an Omega in heat. That was when everything changed. 

A year after his first heat, like some twisted joke from fate, Bai Yu went into his first rut. He hit a growth spurt, he became stronger, wider around his shoulders and his attitude changed, and suddenly Zhu Yilong’s parents approved of the friendship when they had never before. 

Zhu Yilong hated the Omega within himself. He vowed to bury his instincts, to prove everyone wrong. He couldn’t wait to get away from the small town he felt stuck in, the same people he’d known since he was born who all knew that he was an Omega now, who all looked at him, waiting for him to settle down with an Alpha like every other Omega did. 

He had never wanted nor planned to be an Omega like that. He didn’t even plan to be an Omega in the first place. 

So the first thing Zhu Yilong did when he turned eighteen was to get prescriptions for suppressants, heat blockers and Alpha scents. Ever since… ever since everything changed , Zhu Yilong had been waiting for this. It was like his life came to a full stop at age thirteen and he finally, finally could start living again.

The second thing he did was to apply for university in a city far away from his hometown where no one knew him, where he could have a fresh start. When the time came he also signed up for the school’s basketball team. He’d played his entire life, and made up for his height handicap by being fast and strong on defense and extremely good shot on offense. His score rate was near perfect and within a year he’d been promoted to team captain. 

His team was the country’s best, taking home win after win, record after record. They were first page news on the sports section along with the professional players, and Zhu Yilong had garnered quite some attention as a celebrity. 

For two years, Zhu Yilong got a taste of his dream life.

Then a competing team started to get traction, and there were whispers of another star player that was as good as he was. In the beginning Zhu Yilong didn’t pay too much attention. There would always be promising competing players and if Zhu Yilong let that get to his head then he wouldn’t be the top player he was.

Soon enough, it became clear that they would face the other team in the finals, and one name from the team stood out: Bai Yu.

Bai Yu was the star player of their rival team.

The smell of leather and trees filled Zhu Yilong’s nostrils even before he saw Bai Yu physically. It was like a gust of wind from a past that was long gone. 

Zhu Yilong could barely keep himself together, but after the first quarter he had to ask for replacement. He ran off court before he could be questioned, and he was fined a hefty sum for the way he handled the situation. 

He was paranoid for next year’s match, knowing he’d most likely face Bai Yu’s team again.

But when they finally met, it seemed to go well at first. Bai Yu might be wiry and slip easily between the players, but Zhu Yilong had always been quick and strong, his shots perfect, even from across the court. The match was even and for a while it was impossible to tell which team would bring home the trophy.

 

***

 

They were just about to start the third quarter when Bai Yu smelled it, the distinctive smell of an Omega going into heat, and he didn’t need to see to know who it was. Then something made the hair in Bai Yu’s neck raise: if he could smell it, then all the other Alphas in the entire hall could too. It stopped Bai Yu in his tracks, his heartbeat doubled in speed as he feared the worst. He snapped his head around to Zhu Yilong and he could see the other man on the floor, face pale. His coach was bent down next to him, hands gesturing frantically. 

Medics rushed to him, but Bai Yu could see Zhu Yilong wave them off. 

For Bai Yu, nothing else mattered in that moment. His entire being was focused on one person alone, all senses narrowed to that corner of the court, his body ready to leap any second, knowing in the back of his mind that he shouldn’t. 

Knowing Zhu Yilong wasn’t his. Knowing Zhu Yilong wasn’t anyone’s, knowing he was up for any Alpha to claim. It made Bai Yu feel sick, and he had to force himself to stay still. One, two, three. Breathe in, breathe out. It wasn’t helping, why wasn’t it helping? It always grounded him, to remember what Zhu Yilong wanted, or didn’t want, and yet all he wanted to do was to fuck his Long-ge, right there on the court, in front of everyone. Bai Yu had never wanted to succumb to his instincts more than now, to sink his teeth into Zhu Yilong’s flesh in front of everyone as if to say; “you all back the hell off, he is mine.” 

Bai Yu couldn’t let that happen, but it was like something else was controlling his body, his movements, his mind. It wasn’t him anymore, and he wasn’t entirely sure it was his Alpha instincts that controlled him either. 

To his horror, the judges allowed the match to continue. 

It was clear to everyone that Zhu Yilong wasn’t at his full capacity the second half of the game. He kept missing shots and he kept misstepping, and Bai Yu was equally worried and distracted. 

When they faced each other with Zhu Yilong dribbling the ball in front of him, Bai Yu couldn't focus. It was as if Bai Yu was there, but not really, and everything that drove his movements were his instincts, his lust for the Omega in front of him and everything else in Bai Yu’s brain just… blanked out .

Bai Yu couldn’t think, couldn’t remember there was ever a time his instincts were this hard to control. Something wasn’t right, but he had no idea what. The hall smelled like almost sickly sweet, overly ripe peaches and sour milk, and at least a dozen other Alpha’s scents had intensified, including his own. Bai Yu would rather be someplace else entirely than the basketball court right now, except he knew he couldn’t. His instincts told him he had to protect Zhu Yilong, consequences be damned. 

Bai Yu made a critical mistake last minute. It was a stupid rookie mistake, he couldn’t remember last time he’d dropped the ball, and he didn’t even have the chance to turn around before Zhu Yilong’s team was all the way on their side of the court and scoring, tipping the match point. 

It caused his team to lose the match, much to the chagrin of everyone except Bai Yu himself. He was racing against time and he took off from his teammates as quickly as he could. Slipping through the crowd, he took full advantage of his agility. Bai Yu followed the scent of peaches and milk, and cold went through his heated body when he realized that Zhu Yilong was located somewhere in the locker room of his own team.

Zhu Yilong’s team consisted of only Alphas, and in his current state... 

Bai Yu prayed, hoping that he wasn't too late as he ran between a couple of unsuspecting ball boys. When he came across a guard he didn’t even have the time to think before he’d elbowed the man and ran past as he fell to the ground, squirming. 

An empty locker room stopped Bai Yu in his tracks, and fear crept on him. Had his senses tricked him? He tried again and then the unmistakable smell of ripe peach and sour milk, mixed with at least five other Alpha scents, filled his nostrils. They were in the shower! A warning growl escaped him before he could stop himself. He was running on instinct now and nothing could stop him until his Omega was safe. He barged in baring his teeth to see four Alphas turning around, clearly expecting him. Bai Yu couldn’t make out Zhu Yilong’s body behind them, but he knew Zhu Yilong was there. 

Four on one wasn’t exactly the best odds. Bai Yu swore there were five in addition to Zhu Yilong, but he couldn’t see the last one. He had never been the tallest, biggest or strongest Alpha, his strength had always been his stamina and stubbornness, but right now that didn’t matter. The only thing which mattered was Zhu Yilong, his Long-ge, and getting him to safety. 

“Where’s Zhu Yilong?” he growled. 

“You're not his Alpha, get lost,” one of the Alphas said.

“I don’t care, I won’t let any of you hurt him.” He grit his teeth and the other Alphas laughed. 

“This little Omega bitch is team property, get lost unless you want us to break your bones too.”

It was the playground all over again, when Bai Yu was a scrawny kid and everyone thought he was an Omega. “What are you doing here freak, we don’t need Omega weaklings soiling our playground,” the older kids had sneered. 

Bai Yu shook himself out of the thoughts, each word he uttered was a growl: “ Get away from him!”

Suddenly another voice behind them breathed out: “Enough! Stop this madness!” 

The four Alphas in front of Bai Yu hissed. It took a while, but finally they relaxed their stance. 

As they were walking past Bai Yu, the one who’d spoken earlier laughed at him. “A slutty Omega bitch isn’t worth it.” 

Bai Yu wanted to punch him. He probably would have too, if it weren’t for the other voice that caught his attention again. 

“Don’t. Long-ge needs help.”

The last Alpha to walk out deliberately bumped against his shoulder and he had to pull on everything not to kick him back, but then he saw a figure in the corner of his eye and everything else faded away. Bai Yu rushed to Zhu Yilong, one arm around the Omega’s shoulder, hissing when he realized the water was cold. The shower above them was still running, and Zhu Yilong was drenched. Bai Yu let his free hand reach out to turn off the water, but it was so cold he retracted his hand like he’d been burned on a hot stove. 

“Who are you?” the other voice asked. 

Only then did he realize that the guy next to Zhu Yilong was an Alpha, and he almost bared his teeth again until he noticed the man’s condition. He was bruised, battered, but it didn’t look like he’d broken something. 

He had… protected Zhu Yilong? Why?  

Bai Yu grit his teeth, reached out his hand again and turned the water off. Carefully, he moved behind Zhu Yilong, settled his back against the cold wall as he cradled Zhu Yilong in his embrace between his thighs. Bai Yu finally drew a breath. Zhu Yilong was naked except for his boxers. He had wrapped his arms around himself, his head buried in them. Bai Yu nudged him ever so slightly, and let Zhu Yilong’s head rest on his chest, while he took Zhu Yilong’s hands into his own. Zhu Yilong was always the stronger one between the two of them and for Zhu Yilong to be this weak and defenseless, something was wrong .

“I’m Bai Yu, we grew up together,” Bai Yu offered.

“I’m Peng Guanying. These bastards...” the man’s voice trailed off, choked.

Bai Yu quietly added: “Thank you for protecting him. If not for you, I might have been too late.”

“If you didn’t show up at all, I probably wouldn’t be able to do much to protect him anyway,”  Guanying said, and coughed.

Bai Yu gave him a once over: “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

He fell silent as Bai Yu let one hand run carefully over Zhu Yilong’s body, checking for any broken bones, and he let out a sigh of relief when he couldn’t find any. At least he wasn’t hurt. And he was still unmarked, his Alpha mind supplied. Shut up, Bai Yu told his own mind, and he was clear headed for a second. 

“Long-ge?” the nickname slipped out of him before he could help it, and Bai Yu was only vaguely aware of the other Alphas' eyes staring at him.

Zhu Yilong’s eyes snapped up to meet his, eyes glazed over, voice hoarse. “Bai Yu, you’re here, need you, I need you Alpha.”

A faint gasp had Bai Yu look to the man next to Zhu Yilong, eyebrows raised in question. 

Peng Guanying said: “Even when they got me out of the way, he did everything he could to resist the other Alphas that were here, he kept murmuring a name. I couldn’t make any sense of it, but…” his voice trailed off, but they both knew what name Zhu Yilong had been whispering and Bai Yu’s breath caught. 

He looked down at the Omega in his arms and couldn’t take his eyes off him. Zhu Yilong had called his name. Bai Yu’s heart thumped, but for a different reason than when they were on court. This didn’t make sense. Bai Yu hadn’t smelled anything on Zhu Yilong when they first arrived. 

Think Bai Yu, why can’t you think?  

“Were you supposed to go into heat now?” Great question Bai Yu, really great question, he mocked himself. The smell of a ripe, unpicked peach was so enticing Bai Yu could barely keep his hands still, his need to breed the Omega in front of him was overwhelming. 

“What? No, I don’t think so? I… Yu-ge…” the nickname surprised him. Zhu Yilong had rarely, if ever, used it, and now he almost purred it, a hint of begging and whining mixed with it. Bai Yu let a hand trace softly over Zhu Yilong’s wrist. Bai Yu felt the slight shiver running through Zhu Yilong’s body as if it had run through his own. It made his cock twitch and Bai Yu bit his lip so he didn’t moan.

He looked at Guanying. There were evident questions in the other man’s eyes, questions Bai Yu knew he wouldn’t answer. It was like a silent match, a rapid exchange of eye expressions, and Bai Yu struggled to keep himself together. He knew .

On one hand he was grateful Guanying had protected Zhu Yilong, but he was about to lose control of the Alpha in him. Bai Yu knew that Guanying was too weak to tackle him head on, but no Alpha ever gave up an Omega without a fight. Truth be told, Bai Yu didn’t want to fight the one person who had protected Zhu Yilong when he wasn’t there

In the end, it seemed like Guanying relented. “Why don’t you take him back,” he said.

Bai Yu sighed a little with relief as he heard the words, and he moved to get up. The movements seemed to stir the Omega in his arms. “Xiao-Bai…” the voice was weak, breathy, and it trailed off as if it had cost him to say these two words. His heart clenched to see Zhu Yilong like this. The Alpha in him wanted to go hunt for the others, to find out who did this. He took a sharp breath, to ground himself more than anything else. Right now, Zhu Yilong needed him more.

Then another breath, more carefully this time as he stood up and whispered, “Long-ge, we need to get you out of here, can you walk?”

“We’re staying at Four Seasons.”

The voice made Bai Yu turn his head and something must have shown on his face, because Guanying quickly followed up with: “He insisted and paid out of his own pocket,” his hands gesturing towards Zhu Yilong. Bai Yu shook his head. It was so typical of his Long-ge. 

His ? No, Zhu Yilong wasn’t his. Bai Yu knew he could never forget that truth, that reality.

As he slowly made his way out of the locker room with Zhu Yilong gently propped against his side, he stopped when they reached the door and turned around. “Thank you,” he said. Guanying had looked back with a small nod, the sign of a silent match turning into a silent agreement between the two Alphas, and then Bai Yu was out the door.

The ride to their hotel wasn’t long, it just felt that way. 

Bai Yu’s heartbeat was so loud he was afraid the driver would hear it too. He knew he didn’t need to, but he had his arms wrapped around Zhu Yilong tucking him against his side. The Omega had dozed off again, and Bai Yu knew he could have propped him against the car window on the other side. Just this once, he said to himself, as he let himself be wrapped in the sweet scent of peaches and milk. 

Just this once and it will be enough. It had to be enough. 

It wasn’t enough as he gently laid Zhu Yilong down on the hotel room bed, dropping off the necessary toys he’d picked up on the way. Things he knew the Omega would need. It wasn’t enough when he gently kissed him on the forehead. Nothing was ever going to be enough. As he looked over Zhu Yilong’s curled up frame all Bai Yu wanted to do was lay down next to him, kiss him and fuck him until the Omega couldn’t even remember his own name. 

Bai Yu didn’t know how he did it. 

Some time later, peach and milk would surround him, making him dizzy. The desperate sobs and moans that seeped through the door as he sat on the floor in the hallway, unable to leave, yet unable to go back in, nearly destroyed him. There was a headache building, it was as if his heart was torn from him, inside out. His vision was blurry when he saw a figure slowly limping down the corridor, and he almost sighed with relief when he recognized Guanying. He knew then that Guanying would be the Alpha in Zhu Yilong’s life. And Bai Yu… Bai Yu would just be some distant memory, the way it was supposed to be. The way his Long-ge wanted it. 

It took Bai Yu all he had to walk away.